RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Thanks To The Internet, Racing Seems To Be Going On & Other News…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The threat of coronavirus continues to cripple our country.

Its amazing things have got so bad. People are hoarding everything from toilet paper to dog food and there appears that current conditions will continue for a while.

Try to keep your distance from others, don’t get carried away at the grocery stores and hopefully in a few short weeks things will return to normal.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, life will not be boring.

Because of the efforts of Paul Arute the Stafford Speedway joined the list of tracks and series that have moved online since the season delays relating to coronavirus. The first Stafford Speedway iRacing event was set for Friday, March 27th at 7pm and streamed live on Stafford Speedway YouTube channel.

Participants included Stafford Speedway drivers who competed in an event in 2019 or who have registered to compete in 2020. “Unfortunately, the start to our 2020 season has been delayed, but we are making the best of the situation,” explained Paul Arute.

The Stafford Motor Speedway iRacing event was won by Teddy Hodgdon. Glen Reen finished second.

During the off season the management of the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway announced that purses for all classes would be slashed and only the first ten finishers in each division would be paid.

A group of Late Model competitors, called Save the Purse went out and beat the bushes for race sponsorship. Late last week Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Save The Purse jointly announced that competitors in the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Late Model division will have three, 50-lap feature races in 2020 as part of a new Late Model Mid-Summer Challenge.

A group of competitors joined together over the off-season to form Save The Purse, a group that has come up with additional purse money through sponsors and have put it towards these special events. The group is run by recognized racing crew member Brad Martel.

Each of the three events will pay $2,000 to the winner, $1,000 for second and $750 for third. A full purse will be distributed to the top 25 competitors. The races will take place as part of the three standalone NASCAR Weekly Racing Series events scheduled for June 3, July 8 and August 5. The NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Sunoco Modifieds, SK Light Modifieds, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks will join the action running for a short purse with only the first ten getting paid..

In some good news, Area Auto Racing News reports that the erection of the 3500 seat grandstand at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl is about to begin provided the state of Connecticut or the federal government doesn’t invoke work restrictions. Additional plans include office buildings, an emergency medical center,a police sub-station and a banquet hall.

The biggest event of the season at the shoreline oval will be the Ron Bouchard Auto Stores and Maurice Enterprises Challenge Cup which will be a Wild Bill Slater – Eddie Flemke Memorial promoted by Dick Williams on August 29.

Once completed the New London – Waterford Speedbowl will be a premier racing facility.

Less than two weeks ago a group of NASCAR drivers started a conversation about holding a virtual race as a social distancing diversion. One thing led to another and this past Sunday Fox Sports 1 hosted the first virtual reality stock-car race from the cyber version of Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Thirty-five drivers competed in a 100-lap Pro Series Invitational Series race over the iRacing platform and FS1 supplied three commentators and graphics to give it a realistic look and feel. For those who missed the broadcast, Denny Hamlin passed Dale Earnhardt Jr. exiting Turn 4 on the last lap to score the victory.

On Thursday, Mar 27, the state of New Hampshire issued a stay-at-home order for their residents through May 4, which directly impacts our season-opener, The Tri Track Open Modified Series, originally scheduled for May 2 at the Monadnock Speedway. Series management have postponed the opener at Monadnock Speedway until Saturday, May 9. This new date is tentative, as the COVID-19 situation is fluid and changing daily.

NASCAR’s new normal resumed with another virtual event, the second in an iRacing series thrown together after the coronavirus pandemic stopped nearly all sports. NASCAR’s 36-race season was suspended four events into the year.

Timmy Hill won the virtual race at Texas Motor Speedway, where a highlight came when Daniel Suarez was parked by iRacing officials for intentionally trying — but failing — to crash Ty Dillon.

Hill is considered among the top competitors in iRacing, a subscription- based gaming platform. His virtual victory was his 674th in the game.

Fox Sports again used its team of Mike Joy and Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon to call the race, which was aired both on Fox in some markets and nationwide on its cable channel.

In some good news, Billy Harman reports that good friend Jerry Dostie now has a new lease on life with a new heart pacemaker. Dostie, who developed the racing automatic transmission in his Connecticut was a top runner in the Modifieds during the 60s and 70s.