RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Turkey Derby 2022 At Wall Stadium, News & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Wall Stadium in New Jersey closed out the 2022 northeast modified season with the annual Turkey Derby on Saturday.

It was cold and wet most of Friday with limited practice held late in the day. The skies cleared and a near full house crowd was on hand.

With a last lap dive bomb pass on Blake Barney, Steven Reed crossed the line as the winner in the SK / Wall Modified feature at the Wall Stadium Speedway Turkey Derby. Reed led much of the relatively clean race, but a couple of late cautions enabled Barney to pose a serious challenge in the closing laps.

Three time track champion, Reed dominated much of the event until his #55 began to falter towards the end of the event when Blake Barney passed him for the lead. On the final lap, Reed dove into the low lane and, bumped Barney from the lead and, took the win. When Reed exited his #55, a chorus of boos and obscenities showered to the winner. After the fiasco: Hirschman, Krause, Barney and Blewett completed the top five.

There were 24 tour type modifieds on hand for the Turkey Derby 150. Among those in the field was Matt Hirschman who became a favorite when he entered the gate on race morning.

Hirschman had won three of the last four Turkey Derbies. The Pennsylvania driver went easy in the opening laps, conserving his tires for the ending run before pitting for tires with less than 20 laps to go. Jimmy Blewett led much of the early going until lap 73 when he had to pit for tires. Hirschman’s new rubber propelled him into the lead and into victory lane and a $10,000 payday.

Closing out the 2022 season, Hirschman is the highest winning asphalt Modified driver with 28 wins in 10 states. His win percentage after competing in a total of 48 events is 0.583 which is between half and three quarters of the events in which he raced.

Timmy Solomito was second and Andrew Krause was third. Rounding out the top five were former Turkey Derby winners Jimmy Blewett and Dave Sapienza. Conspicious by their absence were many of the top drivers from New England.

Among those who were on hand were Stephen Kopcik who finished sixth, Matt Swanson who finished 12th and Jacob Perry who finished 13th, all on the lead lap and Anthony Sesely, 14th, one lap down.

The Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series will make two visits the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 2023, with the series championship deciding event moving to the track for next season on Oct 21. Series sponsor Monaco Ford has a dealership close to the shoreline oval.

The Ohio Supreme Court ruled last week that the state’s attempt to tax NASCAR for broadcasting its races in Ohio was unlawful. At issue before the court was whether the state tax commissioner properly subjected those broadcasts to Ohio’s commercial activities tax during an audit from 2005 to 2010. The tax requires payments on a company’s annual sales.

The court ruled that the Daytona Beach, Florida-based NASCAR’s broadcast revenue, licensing revenue, media revenue and sponsorship fees were wrongly subjected to the tax. A group of three justices on the 7-member court dissented over licensing fees. The state had argued that it imposed the tax based on NASCAR’s commercial activity, including the organization’s sale of Ohio broadcast rights. Tuesday’s ruling reverses a Board of Tax Appeals ruling in its favor and sends the organization’s disputed tax bill — which totaled $529,520 — back to the panel to be readjusted.

NASCAR maintained that its commercial activities in Ohio such as broadcasting races and selling merchandise are done by other companies — Fox Broadcasting Co., for example — which are taxed accordingly.

On a sad note, Bill Balser, the track photographer at Norwood Arena and other New England tracks, has passed away. William P. Balser, age 89, of Norton, passed away peacefully on Monday, November 21, 2022 at the Hope Health Hospice Center in Providence. He was the beloved husband of Phyllis A. (Young) Balser, to whom he was wed for seventy years. Born in Brockton, MA on April 20, 1933, he was a loving son of the late Lottie E. (Ewell) Jones and her husband Arthur C. Jones and the late William P. Balser.

Bill grew up in Virginia and was educated at the Linton Hall Military School. Spending time with his family and photography were truly the passions of his life. In 1955, he began a career in photography at the former Norwood Arena, as well as many other racetracks. Bill also took pictures for the former NASCAR BUSCH North-East Series, the NASCAR Modified Series and at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He was also a member of the New England Antique Racers and had the distinction of being inducted into their Hall of Fame.

Relatives and friends are cordially invited to attend visiting hours on Thursday, December 1st from 5:00-8:00 P.M. at the Norton Memorial Funeral Home, 19 Clapp Street (Off Route 140, Taunton Avenue) Norton. Burial will be private.

Those wishing may remember William with a donation in his memory made to the Nine Lives of Norton Feline Rescue Shelter, P.O. Box 548, Norton, MA 02766.

Former NASCAR Cup star Bobby Labonte has announced that he will run the No. 18VA Pace-O-Matic Modified for SS Racing in the SMART Modified Tour Tour and select NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races next year.

With the cooperation of the Arute family a book has been published with pictures and biographies of the 50 Greatest Drivers at Stafford.

The Stafford Motor Speedway had become the epicenter of NASCAR Modified racing in the northeast by the late 1980’s. From its dirt beginnings to its lightning-fast asphalt, Stafford had become the toughest and most gratifying track to score a victory. The Arute family which has owned and guided the destiny of the facility commissioned their thousands of loyal fans to name their favorite drivers. In alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone:

Tom Baldwin, Gene Bergin, Brett Bodine, Geoff Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Ron Bouchard, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Ted Christopher, Leo Cleary, Tim Connolly, Jerry Cook, Corky Cookman, Pete Corey, Fred DeSarro, Richie Evans, Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Flemke, Sr., Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Ernie Gahan, Bill Greco, Bo Gunning, Ray Hendrick, George “Moose” Hewitt, Tony Hirschman, George Janoski, Charlie Jarzombek, George Kent, Buddy Krebs, Randy LaJoie, Jan Leaty, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin, Ray Miller, Steve Park, Bob Polverari, Bob Potter, Brian Ross, John “Reggie” Ruggiero, Greg Sacks, Ollie Silva, “Wild” Bill Slater, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Stefanik, Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, George Summers, Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino, Maynard Troyer and Satch Worley.

Books are priced at $17.95 each and be purchased at the track at the Novelty Booth or at the Stafford Motor Speedway on line store. Books are also available at Amazon.com and at Coastal181 (877-907-8181.

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