RPW Column: The Champ Trail: News About New Smyrna Speedway, The MRS & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – A very Happy and Prosperous New Year to one and all. As of this coming Friday, Jan 13, twenty seven days remain before the green flag drops for the 2023 Whelen Modified Tour Series and the World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Modified entries totaled 28 as of last weekend.

There is nothing quite like it in motorsports, 9 straight night of heart pounding, intense racing action on the New Smyrna high banks! The 2023 World Series of Asphalt is set up to be one of the biggest ever! in total, 13 different divisions will hit the track over the course of the 9 nights! Plus, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and The ASA Southern Super Series kicking off their seasons this February as well!

Rumors began to circulate that New Smyrna Speedway would be repaved during the off-season due to damage underneath the racing surface after the track had 19 inches of rain sit on it during Hurricane Ian. Since then, New Smyrna Speedway officials have confirmed that the track will indeed be repaved, but that repave will not take place until after the 2023 Florida Governor’s Cup in November.

“There was no damage,” explained New Smyrna Speedway General Manager, Rusty Marcus. “We’ve had several cars on it since we got the okay and everyone says it feels the same. But we were talking about repaving even before the storms hit. We’d already started to get quotes on it.” Marcus said that there was truth to the rumors that the track could have been repaved this offseason, as that was initially the plan. However, it wasn’t because of confirmed damage to the grounds underneath the racing surface.

“There’s a lot of people saying the track is destroyed, but no, it wasn’t. We never said that. We said we were erring on the safe side to make sure the track was all good.”

But, Marcus said he and track owners Jane and Robert Hart decided to wait until after the 2023 racing season due to a number of reasons, one of which was the urging of Hoosier Racing Tire.

“The first company we were going to hire to do it was going to do it the week after Thanksgiving,” said Marcus. “Then I got a phone call from Hoosier. They told us, ‘We’ll do whatever you need us to do, but we’d prefer it if you repaved it after World Series if it didn’t really need to be repaved.’ You get to looking at all of these factors. If we’d paved it after Thanksgiving, it would have to sit a couple of weeks, and then we’d do a test on it. That would only give Hoosier about a month to make the tires since it’s going to be a new compound once it’s repaved.”

The repave to the half-mile high-banked oval will come after it’s 13th season of racing on the existing surface. Marcus said the track was last repaved in 2007. This repave will also cover the apron and pit road in addition to the racing surface itself. Marcus said that current estimates have the repave costing about $1.2 million and the surface will be a granite compound instead of shells, which should make the pavement last longer.

Marcus said New Smyrna Speedway is “full speed ahead” for the upcoming World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing February 10-18. However, they are still making repairs from both storms. “We’re still doing repairs because there was a lot of damage around the race track,” said Marcus. “We’re getting some new tech equipment, some new EMT equipment. There was 19 inches of water inside the pit office and tech shed and concessions. A lot of signs got torn down. Just little stuff that happens in a hurricane. “We’re just trying to get things put back together and hopefully better than it was before. Then we’re going to continue doing stuff through the repave to make it what it really should be, and that’s a first-class facility.”

Race fans can watch the entire World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, including the season-opener for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, live on FloRacing February 10-18.

As of last Friday, December 30, 2022, there were 23 tour type Modifieds and 23- 602 Modifieds entered. That does not include entries for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series event that will open the series on Friday, February 11.

Special Notice: The long awaited documentary on Fred DeSarro went up on 12/26/22 on Sid’s View which can be seen on u-Tube. A fantastic tribute to a fallen friend and champion.

The Modified Racing Series (MRS) received a shot in the arm last week with the announcement that t Milton CAT is stepping up to become the Title Sponsor for their 2023 Series. Milton CAT has been a race sponsor for several of their events over the past 3 years and has decided to join in a partnership with The Modified Racing Series. Founded in 1960, Milton CAT is a longtime fixture in the equipment industry in the New England and Upstate New York area with 14 locations to support their customers with sales, rentals, parts, and service that are second to none.

Originally formed by Jack Bateman as an alternative to the Whelen Modified Tour with sponsorship from True Value Hardware and the Valenti Auto Mall the MRS has staged events at just about every track in New England and has provided great competition without costing competitors a ton of money on travel or on special high performance engines. As The Modified Racing Series moves into its 20th season, they are looking forward to this new marketing partnership to propel the series forward and to help showcase Milton CAT and the Caterpillar brand for its support of New England Motorsports.

Announcer Matt Buckler has hit a bump in the road on his road to recovery from a recent foot amputation. He stated, “Although I was accepted as a patient at Mount Sinai rehab the insurance company rejected me and I lost all my Appeals. So, I am still at the Bone and Joint Institute waiting to go to a rehab facility. I’ll know in a couple days which one it is. Although I have had a setback I’m still determined to work hard and still make it to the speed bowl by opening day and maybe even Thompson for the Icebreaker and Stafford for the Sizzler I thank everybody for their support and for pulling for me and I am determined not to let anyone down once again I thank everybody and we will see you soon.”

In news from south of the Mason-Dixon line in Winston-Salem North Carolina at the Bowman Gray Stadium, the city used bond money to repave the asphalt track before last season but there were plenty of complaints about the track from drivers and crew members. The biggest complaint was a dip in turn one that was tough to negotiate. The city heard the complaints and repaved it again this off-season so there’ll be another new track for the drivers when April rolls around. “It will bring a new dynamic to the season for sure,” said Gray Garrison, the promoter of the weekly NASCAR series. “The city worked hard in getting it repaved so the notes the drivers had from last season will go out the window. Everybody will be starting from scratch.”

Garrison says that NASCAR will be doing some promoting with this being the 75th season of Bowman Gray Stadium racing. Even though the season was cancelled in 2020 with COVID-19 this will still be considered the 75th year. “We were still in business but just didn’t race that summer,” Garrison said about the cancellation of the 2020 season. Garrison said the full schedule of 17 weeks of racing will be released shortly. He did say the opener will be April 22.

On a sad note, southern Connecticut lost two participants in auto racing last week, Dick LaFlesh and Bill (BillyBob) Roberts.. LaFlesh, Jr., 76, of Norman Rd, in Norwich, CT passed away peacefully at home on New Years day. He was the loving partner of Shirley William for over 35 years. Born in Norwich, Connecticut, he was the son of the late Richard and Muriel (Potts) LaFlesh. Dick built and raced Late Model stock cars at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and at the Thompson Speedway for many years. Roberts held many positions for many years at the speedbowl including that as Chief Starter and as Race Director.

Also passing on last week was Deborah Rose Barry, 83, who passed away on January 5, 2023 at home surrounded by family. Deborah was born on January 15, 1939, to the late Eleanor (Peckham) and Kenneth Rose. She is predeceased by her husband Arthur Joseph Barry, Jr., her husband of 64 years, and her daughter Denise Barry Dion. She is survived by her daughter Donna (Barry) Schiano, son Ken Barry and wife Tiffany, daughter Michelle Manseau and husband Kyle, son-in-law Wayne Dion and her seven grandchildren: Angelina Schiano, Natalie Schiano, Juliana Schiano, Elaina Schiano, Georgia Barry, Tyler Barry and Jake Manseau. Mrs Barry worked as a hairdresser for many years before helping her husband run the family business, Spearpoint Auto, in Preston. After her time at Spearpoint Auto she worked as an in-home companion until her retirement.

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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