RPW Column: NASCAR, Regional & Local Track Action News & More…
Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of this coming Friday, March 12, only four weeks remain before the green flag drops at Martinsville on Thursday April 8. Round two of the WMT will be the annual Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 25.
In some good news for Connecticut track operators and fans Governor Ned Lamont announced on March 4 that in the coming days he plans to revise some requirements that were implemented in Connecticut in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when it comes to those relating to capacity levels and travel restrictions. Beginning Friday, April 2, 2021 outdoor amusement parks can open and outdoor event venues can increase to a 50% capacity, capped at 10,000 people. Connecticut has four race tracks including the Stafford Motor Speedway, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, the Thompson Motorsports Speedway and the Lime Rock Park Road Course Speedway.
NASCAR has announced that longtime Tour tech director Rick McCaughey announced his retirement at the end of the 2020 season. Moving into his spot will be Dave Farrell, who’s been working with Modifieds for over a decade. A native of upstate New York, Farrell has been working racing tech for decades, from USAC to Legends cars. He jumped over to Modified racing in 2009. Now, he’s the Whelen Modified Tour tech director.
The last two seasons, Farrell worked alongside McCaughey, preparing for the day that McCaughey would hand him the reins. It gave Farrell the opportunity to ask questions and learn from one of the best in McCaughey on how to effectively officiate the garage area.
After years of prep work, the support system in place around Farrell gives him faith that his team will be able to do its job in the garage area.
The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) have announced the schedule of events and ticketing information for the 47th Icebreaker at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on April 10 and 11. The 10-division card is highlighted by the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 for the Thompson Outlaw Open Modified Series plus other top local and regional classes.
In a shift from previous years, all 10 of the divisions competing on Icebreaker weekend will have a “one-day” format. Six divisions have their qualifying and features on Saturday, April 10 with the Icebreaker 125 and remaining divisions set for Sunday, April 11. While teams may attend the Friday Test N’ Tune and other practice opportunities during the weekend, they can also practice, qualify, and race in a single day if they choose.
The Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Models, EXIT Realty Pro Truck Challenge, Sunoco Modifieds, 8-Cylinder Street Stock Open, NEMA Lite Midgets, and Mini Stocks will qualify and race on Saturday, April 10. The Outlaw Open Modified Series, Late Models, Limited Sportsmen, and SK Light Modifieds are slated for Sunday, April 11. Separate general admission tickets will be sold for each day.
Post time is 1:00pm for Saturday’s card and 1:15pm on Sunday. The optional Test N’ Tune on Friday, April 9 goes from 11:00am to 5:00pm. All local and state health and safety mandates will be in effect throughout the weekend.
“We think this schedule format is in everyone’s best interests,” ACT managing partner Cris Michaud said. “The one-day race format accommodates teams have other things going on in their lives and simply aren’t able to make it to the track for an entire weekend. Fans also won’t have to buy a ticket for both days if they can only attend one of them. It gives people more flexibility so they can enjoy as much racing as they want.”
Adult admission for the Icebreaker is $30 on Saturday and $35 on Sunday. Kids ages 12 and under are $10 both days. Grandstand attendance is currently limited to 25% of capacity per the latest Connecticut state guidelines. ACT and PASS are monitoring the guidelines for any potential updates before race weekend. Advance ticket sales will begin within the next week. Visit www.thompsonspeedway.com/reservations to reserve a camping spot.
The Stafford Motor Speedway has announced the schedule and pricing for the 49th annual Sizzler weekend. Saturday’s Opening Day program on April 24 consists of feature events and qualifying events for Granite State Pro Stock Series 75 laps, SK Modified 40 laps, Late Model 30 laps, Limited Late Model 20 laps and Street Stock 20 laps. General adult admission for Saturday only is $35. Children 6-14 is $25 and kids under six will be admitted free. Sunday’s Spring Sizzler program consists of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150 laps, SK Modified 40 laps. SK Light Modified 20 laps and Vintage Modified 20 laps. General adult admission for Sunday only is $40, kids 6-14 $30 and kids under 6 are free.
Racing website RaceDayCt announced that Bryan Narducci had split with his car owner Todd Owen and had signed on to drive for Billy “Bear” Callicchio. Driving for Owen, Narducci had five SK Light Modified victories at Stafford and three at Thompson in 2018 on the way to the NASCAR All-American Series Division III national championship. The success continued in 2019 with Narducci winning eight of the 19 SK Light Modified events at Stafford and seven of the 10 SK Light Modified events at Thompson that season. All good things come to an end as the 2020 ended up a big disappointment for both. This happens quite often in all levels of auto racing. In most cases both parties end up bettering themselves.
For those looking for some Modified action this weekend the SMART Modifieds will emerge back to reality this coming Sunday as they are part of the 56 annual opening of the Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina. The SMART Modifieds were cast aside a few years ago when NASCAR had the bright idea of combining them with the northern Modifieds. That idea failed as most southern car owners couldn’t afford the then weekly grind that the Modifieds had in the north at the time. The SMART Modifieds will have a 99 lap main event.
Caraway Speedway had been the “home track” for SMART Modified racing for over 30 years and 2021 promises what could be the best season for the division in many years since the consolidation of the Modifieds under the SMART banner.
Based on preliminary information supplied by SMART Director, Chris Williams, the “SMART Chevrolet 99” will have well over 20 Modifieds on hand for the featured event of the day. Heading the entry list is 1987 Caraway Speedway Late Model Champion, Bobby Labonte. Labonte was also the 2000 NASCAR Winston Cup Champion and a 2020 inductee to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Labonte will pilot the Cook Out Restaurants #25 Modified. Also entered are most of the regular SMART Modified competitors including Brian Loftin, Jason and Burt Myers, Tim Brown, Frank Fleming, Mike Norman, Jeremy Gerstner, and many other top Modified drivers.
The Seekonk Speedway was saddened to hear of the passing of Wall of Fame member, Deke Astle. As part of a career that lasted over two decades, Astle was the “Little Man with a Big Cigar” and was victorious over 25 times at Seekonk. In addition to dozens of races won at Lakeville and Westboro Speedway’s, Astle won the Class A Seekonk title in 1966, and continued racing through the late 1980s, where his career ended in the Pro Stock division.
It was also learned last week that former Maine car builder and driver Bobby Turner had passed away. Bobby was the pole sitter in the original Spring Sizzler at Stafford in 1972.
Ed Yerrington, the 1970 Modified track champion, was the NASCAR Chief Steward at Stafford before he replaced Jackie Arute as the track promoter. Jackie left to pursue a career in broadcasting that took him from Daytona to Indianapolis. Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!