4.21.2008

Hey, mom, look! New digs!

Call it spring cleaning or growing up, but our little Green-White-Checker is turning in its first-floor studio apartment and heading into a one-story house with an actual dining room.

Crazy, I know.

But the same Green-White-Checker you've come to know and love (or at least tolerate) has moved. You can now find GWC at http://greenwhitechecker.typepad.com

Don't forget to add it to your favorites list. Stop on in for a bite to eat -- but bring the cold beverages...

Fernald to lease Unity Raceway

George Fernald Jr. to the rescue.

The man who probably best embodies the spirit of Unity Raceway has agreed to lease the track from owner Ralph Nason, it was announced on Monday. Fernald, who has competed at the track in various divisions, is probably best-known these days for his long-distance ramp jumping.


Last fall, Fernald jumped his car through a vacant mobile home on the Unity Raceway fronstretch.


The official release from the track reads as follows:


Unity Raceway owner Ralph Nason Sr. annnounces the lease of the Route 139 oval to long-time racer, businessman and flying ramp runner George Fernald Jr.


George, along with his wife Sherri and family, will bring the fans and racers an exciting 2008 season. More details are in the works as the "New Spirit" works the details for the 60th season at Unity. Web info will be under construction and up as soon as possible.

4.20.2008

Polewarczyk wins ACT opener at Lee

Alexander wins 2nd half of day's doubleheader


(From ACT press release) Joey Polewarczyk Jr. blistered the American-Canadian Tour field at Lee USA Speedway on Sunday, taking his 2nd career victory at the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup 100. The Hudson, N.H., driver took the lead from pole-sitter Larry Gelinas after starting 3rd and dominated the balance of the event to take the win in just over 46 minutes.

Polewarczyk, 18, said that for 2008, his team is “all business.”

“We’re focused on winning the ACT Late Model Tour title,” he said. “We had a checkered flag design on the car last year, and we decided to leave it off this year, just black, nothing else. We’re all business.”

Polewarczyk’s no-frills car was the class of the field, at times leading by more than a full straightaway. Eddie MacDonald won a late-race battle with Scott Payea, Randy Potter, and Cris Michaud to take 2nd-place honors. Michaud finished 3rd from 19th starting position, with Payea and Potter rounding out the top-5.

*****

Kirk Alexander won the True Value Modified Series 100 on the same card.

Sellers, Dillon lead East Series

Andy Santerre Motorsports made it a clean sweep in the American Revolution 150 at Greenville-Pickens Speedway late Saturday night.

Driving the No. 44 that Santerre himself piloted to 4 series championships, Peyton Sellers survived overtime to win the NASCAR Camping World East Series opener, his 1st career series victory. Following Sellers to the line was rookie teammate Austin Dillon. The 2 ASM drivers combined to lead all but 22 of the 156 laps in the event.
“Pressure's off,” Sellers said. “I’m in the record books with a pole and a win. What more can you ask for?”
Dillon, the grandson of longtime Sprint Cup Series owner Richard Childress, drove a black No. 3 in his first East Series start.
"It's our first run and that's awesome for Andy Santerre Motorsports," Dillon said. "I think we're going to have a great year. I already got one thing down: We got to lead laps and compete in the front. So now we just have to go out and win one."

Marc Davis and Ben Stancill finished 3rd and 4th, respectively.


Eddie MacDonald began a busy weekend -- he's supposed to make it to Lee USA Speedway sometime today for the ACT Governor's Cup 100 -- with a top-5 run.

4.19.2008

Reverse gear: Beech Ridge


Final thoughts from one of the strangest days of my writing career, one capped off with a delicious Black Fly Stout at Gritty McDuff's...


* Though I wrote earlier that the crowd was disappointingly thin at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, it should be pointed out that it was very much an "L.A." kind of audience. The place looked like a graveyard during the final practices for the PASS North Series Cabin Fever 150, but by the time the feature rolled out the grandstands were respectably filled.


I'm guessing that the 1st good day of the spring had a few people enjoying life at home for a few hours before heading to the track.


* The Cabin Fever 150 was slowed a whopping 15 times by the caution flag, but it hardly could be construed as "wreck fest."


Instead, it felt more like one of those interminable PASS Outlaw Late Model shows, the ones where guys spin out all on their own more than once, where lapped cars race the 3rd place cars like the win purse is on the line, where guys dump each other while running for 19th in a 22-car field.


Which is kind of what happened Saturday.


* Line of the day comes from one veteran of the Beech Ridge press box.


When PASS announcer Bruce Elder talked about the good crowd in the stands, showing up as a testament to just how long and harsh this particular winter had been, the guy sitting next to me quips: "How the hell would he know? He spends the winter in Florida."


Hmmm.... Point taken.


* It's better to be lucky than good, just ask Ben Rowe, who finished 2nd on Saturday.


He was forced to pit with flat tires on lap 104 -- but the good fortune for Rowe was that both of his right side tires were flat and not just one. Had it been only one, the car might not have rebounded well enough to dice through from 20th spot on the ensuing restart to challenge his father for the win.


But having fresh rubber on his entire right side brought his car to life, making it better than anybody else's in the final 25 circuits.


* It didn't pay to have a No. 22 on the side of the car Saturday. Let's just leave it at that.


* Tough luck of the day award #1 goes to Steve Berry, who once again had a car capable of contending for the win until contact with Cassius Clark sent him into the turn 4 dirt and out of contention.


Last September, Berry was battling Mike Rowe for the win when he and Rowe got together and ended his day in the same spot on the track.


* Tough luck of the day award #2 goes to Travis Benjamin, who once again was the bridesmaid and not the bride.


But Benjamin made a statement by leading most of the race before settling for 3rd behind the Rowe-Rowe battle. His team is much better than in the past, and he's going to be a factor in a slew of races this season.


* Maybe it's just me, maybe it's just all the giddiness of being back to the track for the first time this season, maybe it was just all that taurine in can of Monster, which by the way, they should sell in 8-ounce cans. Regardless, it just seems that more PASS teams than ever are capable of winning races now -- when Johnny Clark and John Flemming join a Kyle-Busch owned car outside the top-10, it has to be some kind of statement about series depth.

Victory lane fit for family portrait

Rowe beats Rowe for Cabin Fever 150 victory at Beech Ridge


There was a hug in victory lane, as Ben Rowe threw his arm around his father's shoulder at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway. On this day, at least for one of Maine's all-time most successful racing families, the old adage held true.

If you're going to lose, lose to blood.

"Absolutely," said 4-time and defending series champion Ben Rowe. "If I can't win, he's the one I want to see win."

Ben got his wish on Saturday, as Mike made won the PASS North Series Cabin Fever 150. Mike won by just 0.010 seconds -- the 2nd closest margin of victory in series history. Only Ben's 2003 win over Johnny Clark at Unity Raceway was by a narrower margin.

As Ben drove under Mike through turn 4 and the 2 cars steamrolled their way under the flagstand, Ben said he knew he'd been beaten.

"I knew it," Ben said. "I looked over and I could see that his car was just ahead of me."

Mike had no idea and -- if you believe it from one of the most hard-nosed racers this area has ever seen -- said it didn't matter to him either way.

"It was awesome," Mike said. "I didn't care if I won or lost. Either way, it was good racing him across the line."

In an understated fashion, Mike marveled at just how close the finish had been.

"Yeah, that's close," Mike said.

Mike Rowe had been trailing Cassius Clark by a 2-second margin with less than 30 laps remaining, but a restart on lap 128 allowed Rowe to restart on the outside of the front row. He pulled away with a great restart and seemed to be in cruise control. Ben Rowe had been forced to pit some 20 laps earlier with 2 flat right side tires -- starting his charge from 20th place with 45 laps to left to race.

Ben had pulled up to sixth by the time the caution flew for the 14th of 15 times on the day, and he was third, right behind his father, on a lap 148 restart.

Ben ran the inside line while his father held the outside throughout the final lap.

"I ran off of (turn) 4 and just flat-footed it," said Mike, who saw the turn 1 wall fast approaching. "I thought I was going to go off through the tires down there."

Mike Rowe holds off Ben Rowe at the line

Mike Rowe held off a hard charge from son Ben Rowe to win his 2nd consecutive PASS North Series race at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

Mike Rowe, who won the PASS 300 here last September, expertly used a pair of restarts inside the final 30 laps on Saturday afternoon to win the Cabin Fever 150. Ben tried to pass him off the race's final turn, and the dead heat at the start-finish line went to Mike by just one one-hundredth of a second.

Travis Benjamin finished third, with Adam Bates and Bub Bilodeau rounding out the top 5.

I'm here. We can start...

Looks like somebody forgot to tell the fans that the opener was today.

Attendance is pretty light on both sides of the oval here at Beech Ridge, with late-arrving fans in the grandstands and even later-arriving Sportsman division cars.

And, in case you were wondering...


* It's been just 75 minutes and we're already into our feature lineup. It doesn't get any better than that, especially as the thermometer continues to drop by the minute.

It may say it's 60 degrees out there, but I'm going to play the part of weatherman and say the "feels like" temperature -- which I ordinarily detest -- is minus-12.

* It never fails -- 15 cars plus 50 laps equals first-lap collisions.

The Sportsmen haven't disappointed, either. Maybe they heard "fif-teen" lap feature instead of "fif-ty" lap feature....

* Wait a minute! There's only 15 Sportsman cars here? I thought this was supposed to be the big, cost-effect, all-inclusive PASS division. Guess not.

Of course, it should be pointed out, that the Beech Ridge regulars are heavy competitors in the PASS Sportsman ranks and word is most are opting to save their stuff for their track championship efforts -- which doesn't begin until next weekend.

* There are 31 Super Late Models on hand this afternoon for the PASS North Series Cabin Fever 150. Cassius Clark, Travis Benjamin and Scott Mulkern won heat races. Rick Martin took the checkers in the consi.

* Andy Shaw won the PASS Modified season-opener, leading West Gardiner's Gary Norris and Mark Lucas across the finish line.

For Norris, Beech Ridge's victory lane was a welcome sight.

"I will remember this one," said Norris, who drives the No. 03 -- a brand new machine -- for owner Jeff Rich of Litchfield. "Last year I was sitting 2nd and lost it. So to get the opening race and finish 2nd this time is good.

"We'll keep digging."

That's the spirit.

* Weird to see a PASS event just a few miles from the Cushman Competiton shop in Gray and not have a Ford-powered Cushman car in the field.

Actually, there's not a Cushman car of any kind here this weekend. What's the deal?
"Just waiting for you to come up with some money to get it on the track," Cushman said to me. "I hear you newspaper guys have all the money."

Umm, yeah. Something like that. What can I say -- I'm just living the dream, man.

*****

PASS Sportsman 50
1. Terry Merrill, 2. Ron Smith, 3. Richie Morse, 4. Duane Seekins, 5. Shane Tatro

PASS Modified 35
1. Andy Shaw, 2. Gary Norris Jr., 3. Mark Lucas

It almost never happened


A chance meeting on Maine's coast got Clark and his family back to the track
As strange as it sounds, if his father hadn't walked away from racing, Cassius Clark never would have found his way into it.

During the several-year span that Billy Clark and his family spent their summers in Boothbay, Cassius befriended Matthew Chapman. Matthew's father was Ed Chapman, and because their sons were friends, so, too, did they become friends.

And then Ed needed help with a Legends car he was trying to run, and he called on Billy.

So Billy went back to the track -- and Cassius went with him. But after watching other people race cars, Cassius spoke up.

"I didn't want to sound like a spoiled brat or anything, but I told him that if we were going to keep going to the track, then I wanted one of those cars to race, too," Cassius said.

Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

4.17.2008

Barrett: I turned Barrett down

There's no truth to the rumor that I've been asked to drive a 3rd team car for Stanton Barrett Motorsports in Mexico City this weekend.

In keeping with the politically correct way of publicly discussing deals for NASCAR rides, I will only say this:

"Stanton and I talked about it, but only in a joking kind of way. I was like, 'Hey, wouldn't it be cool if I drove for you sometime — like maybe at that Busch race in Mexico?' Then he shook his head, muttered something about, 'It's Nationwide now, you tool,' and walked off. That was the last time we ever talked about it until you all started asking me about it here this weekend.

"I don't know what else to tell you. He never asked me, and I never had the chance to reject him. Which, clearly, I would have. I'm with Jeremy Mayfield, I only want to get into a ride that can win, be it in Cup, Nationwide or Trucks."

Apparently, Stanton then turned to his father. Stan Barrett, now in AARP mode, will attempt to qualify SMB's No. 31 as a teammate to Stanton this weekend in Mexico.

Nason still hasn't had an offer

Unity Raceway was closed down and put up for lease.

Bobby MacArthur -- a legend in his own mind if nowhere else -- proudly jumped on GWC and proclaimed that he was going to be the track's savior. MacArthur said that he and Steve Perry had put together a deal to lease the facility from owner Ralph Nason.


Only one small problem. It's not true.


"Not that I know of," Perry said on Wednesday. "We have had no discussions about Unity Raceway whatsoever. There is absolutely no truth to the rumor."


At least we now know, as if we already didn't, to take anything the self-proclaimed "Showstoppa" says with a grain of salt.


Make that an entire bowl.


Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

4.16.2008

PASS, Beech Ridge plan to race on Saturday

Word out of Beech Ridge Motor Speedway is that all systems are "go" for this weekend's PASS North Series season opener.

The Cabin Fever 150 is slated to begin with heat races on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m.

An official at the track said on Wednesday that the track itself is dry, the parking lots are in good shape and the sprawling pit area is mostly dried out. Weather forecasts for this week are for warm and sunny days with no rain in sight.

Everything should take place as scheduled.

"I met with (track owners Ralph and Andy Cusack) at Beech Ridge (on Tuesday) and we took a good look at the entire facility," PASS president Tom Mayberry said. "Eighty percent of the pits and parking lots are ready to go.

"There may be snow in your yard and mud in your driveway but we’re ready to go racing."

In addition to Saturday's racing, there are open practice sessions on both Thursday and Friday afternoons at the track. Grandstand admission is free both days.

ON PIT ROAD: Monsters, music and Cornelia Marie

Who needs a schedule? My internal clock tells me when it's racing season.

Let the 7-month Monster-and-CLIF-fueled grind begin...

This week, for no apparent reason, I've stayed up late, gotten up way too early, thought about races, rules and tracks in the middle of the night. The blog's being updated more than once every 2 1/2 weeks. I've finally forced myself to look at schedules, plot out a course and, naturally, already booked my first doubleheader weekend of the year.

For those of you scoring at home, that comes this weekend when GWC hits the Ridge for the PASS opener on Saturday before hoofing it over to Lee USA for the ACT 100 on Sunday. Sorry, there's no easing into things over here.

So hit the Wal-Mart for a couple cases of Monster, toss the E Street catalog into the Subaru and charge up the batteries on the cell phone and laptop. It's going to be a wild ride...

Anybody seen my keys?!?!

*****

Despite public declarations to the contrary, there are no updates from Unity Raceway.

Track owner Ralph Nason said that he's received a few more phone calls in the last week, but that no one has made any kind of an official offer to lease the track. No matter how anyone on either side of the equation wants to spin it, that means no one has said, "We'll give you this for it," and no one in the Nason family has said, "Yep, that sounds good."

For now, the facility remains closed and quiet.

Creepy.

*****

Line of the week 1:

"Now we know why lions eat their young."
-- Phil Harris, captain of the Cornelia Marie

*****

Line of the week 2:

"That's not bad driving for a girl."
-- NHRA legend John Force, after seeing his daughter and new Funny Car points leader Ashley Force win a semi-final round at Las Vegas on Sunday


*****
You know what else I hate? Pop quizzes -- the kind that make me feel like an idiot, even where there are "no wrong answers."
Bull.
What kind of an ostrich with his head in the sand his whole life has never heard of no-bake cookies?

*****

Only NASCAR fans can gripe so endlessly about television coverage of the sport.
They complain when ESPN runs sports scores across the bottom of the screen during Nationwide Series races. They complain that SPEED doesn't cover enough practice. They complain that John Roberts has a hair blowing the wrong way in the wind, for pete's sake. (BTW, who's Pete?)

The topper came last Saturday night, when they complained about not getting enough of a pre-race show as FOX kept with the Red Sox-Yankees game that had been delayed by rain.

People, people, people. It's a pre-race show. Pre-race, as in, not the race.

You got flag-to-flag coverage. Of the race. As promised.

You know what I got? I got a 2-strike fastball from Jonathan Papelbon that stopped halfway to home plate because FOX cut away to the race. I don't mind that so much -- but a little warning that the game was moving to FX would have been nice. If the shoe was on the other foot, a bunch of tattooed Dale Jr. fans would have torched Charlotte to the ground in frustration.

Or thrown beer cans at Jeff Gordon's car.

*****


(Come on, admit it. It's funny.)

4.15.2008

Perry vs. Ryan: Mano A Mano

For the 1st time since yours truly made an appearance on the program, Mainely Motorsports is fixing to be must-see TV this week.

In this corner, Mainely Motorsports owner and weekly anchor Steve Perry -- as pro-Super Late Model a guy as you'll find in these parts. In the opposite corner, Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan -- public enemy numero uno in some circles and as pro-Late Model a guy as you'll find in these parts.

It should, at the very least, be interesting.

Mainely Motorsports airs Wednesday nights on Time Warner Cable Channel 9 in the Augusta/Waterville area. Bell rings -- Whoops! I mean, opening credits roll -- at 8 p.m. sharp.

Here's hoping the 2 men can cut right through the rhetoric that has bogged the SLM-LM debate into the mud and have an honest-to-goodness discussion focusing on the pros and cons of both divisions.

4.11.2008

ON PIT ROAD: More Unity, more safety and more ACT cheap shots

I was 12 or 13 years old, I forget which, the first time I went to a stock car race.

I didn’t come from a racing family. In fact, I didn’t even know anybody who raced cars. It wasn’t part of the lexicon of my universe, and to say that race car drivers were some kind of mythic warriors that existed on another plane somewhere wouldn’t even be fair — I didn’t even really know there was such a thing.

Then my parents, on a pure whim, loaded the us all into the back of a station wagon (without seat belts in those days, of course) on an early-July night for a trip to Unity Raceway. We were promised fireworks, but it rained before we ever got that far into the program.

All I saw were a bunch of heat races, but it was more than enough to hook me for good.

Look, it pained me to go to Unity the last few years as a card-carrying media member and have to see the place in such despair. It was at its lowest two years ago this July, when Gary Norris Jr. won a PASS Outlaw Late Model race in front of absolutely nobody in the grandstands.

I want to believe the Nason family when they say they truly are taking just a year off to feel things out and resurrect the place. I want to hope that somebody with deep pockets in a bad economy will walk in and lease the place and give it a desperate facelift. I want to believe that low-buck, high-fun racing can exist there in Unity.

Like I said, I want to believe all that. The fan in me really, truly does.

But if you press me for my opinion, and enough people have in the last few days, I’ll tell you this. I think we’ve seen our last race at Unity Raceway. That’s just the media guy in me talking.

* Michael McDowell’s crash in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying at Texas last week says two things to me, two things that are probably on the controversial side.

Not that I’ve ever shied away from that.

First, in the absence of any obvious equipment failure during the run, it speaks to the dangers of having young kids who haven’t “paid their dues” hopping into Cup cars because they can pay the steep asking price for a coveted seat behind the wheel. McDowell was all over the track in every corner before the mishap.

Second, why are we not using these cars in other NASCAR series? If it’s about safety — which, seeing McDowell walk away unscathed, it truly is — how can it not be in Nationwide and Camping World Series competiton each week? If it’s about protecting drivers, why on earth is NASCAR not doing everything it can to protect its drivers with the least amount of experience? And don’t tell me it’s about the cost. This COT thing was supposed to save teams from themselves, save them money by not forcing them to build as many cars.

Those Nationwide and Camping World teams are building new cars every off-season, some even as the season progresses. So what if they’re building a car to different specs — they’re still building race cars.

* “Deadliest Catch” returns Tuesday night. Yeah, I’m all in.

* Talked to Oxford Plains owner Bill Ryan today. He said he is “confident” that his track will open as planned on April 26, though he was wary about running an open practice a week earlier — the same day that PASS North is slated to open its campaign a few miles away at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.

How much rain the area gets this weekend will likely have a say in whether or not there’s racing in Maine next weekend.

* Sox-Yankees, baby. But really, it’s all got a different feel now. I can’t place it.

Maybe it’s because I know we can whoop up on them when it really counts...

* And while we’re on the subject of sports, don’t expect me to write a single word about the American-Canadian Tour for the next couple of weeks, at least not until the end of the Bruins-Canadiens Stanley Cup Playoffs series.

That pencil-pushing, four-eyed, blithering blah-blah PR director for ACT — and you know who you are! — proudly wears a Canadiens ballcap around the offices over there in Vermont. I hope he gets another 2 feet of snow, in his driveway alone, sometime in the next week.

4.09.2008

Nason Jr.: This is a re-vamping

Ralph Nason Jr., the general manager of Unity Raceway, insists that while the plans for now are to keep the track closed this season, it won't be that way for good.

In fact, he vowed that it will come back better than ever in 2009.


"It's not the end," he said Tuesday night. "We're going to take another 11 months and try to fine tune things."


Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

4.08.2008

Reaction to Unity Raceway's closing

People's responses to the announcement today that Unity Raceway would be closing its doors in 2008 ranged from matter-of-fact to disappointment. Here's a sampling of the reactions from the central Maine racing community:

"I just feel bad. Anytime a track closes, you feel bad. That's a piece of history changing, just like in NASCAR when they got rid of The Rock and all the short tracks. That's where racing came from."
-- Doug White, Wiscasset Raceway owner

"This is a re-vamping. This is not a closing. It’s not the end."
-- Ralph Nason Jr., Unity Raceway general manager

"I’ve got to find a way to get better at (promoting a race track) in the new age, versus how I used to do it in the old age."
-- Nason Jr.

"If you look at the car counts and the people in grandstands, it’s hard. I’ve been around racing my whole life — before I was born, my father was racing. It’s hard to see the change to where there’s not as much interest in Unity as there was 10 years ago. It’s even worse when you look back to 15 years ago. It’s hard to face this, but it’s where we are today."
-- Johnny Clark, 2-time PASS North Series champion and winner of the '04 DNK 250 at Unity

"Dougie (White) and those guys, they're going to have it good down there for a while (at Wiscasset), but then it's going to fade and it will be hard for them, too. That's just what the trend is."
-- Ralph Nason, Unity Raceway owner

"That track has more grip than anywhere else. That's the thing, the track itself is great. It's bumpy, but it's really fun too race on. You'd hate to see it not be there anymore."
-- Cassius Clark, PASS North Series driver

Unity releases official statement

Here's the official statement, issued just a few minutes ago, from Unity Raceway regarding it's decision to put racing on hold for the 2008 season:

"The 2008 racing season at Unity Raceway has been suspended. The many current issues that have a direct impact on racing and on the track itself were considered and let to this difficult business decision.

The track is available for rent, lease or purchase this summer. Race teams will still be able to rent the track for testing and tuning by contacting the Nasons at 207-948-2613, M-F, 8:30am - 4pm."

Unity Raceway closed -- for now

On Monday, Unity Raceway staffers received news that they would not be needed for the 2008 season.

Track owner Ralph Nason confirmed Tuesday morning that his family was ceasing operations at the 60-year-old track for 2008. Nason also said that, while the track is closed for now, he has already received "3 or 4 phone calls from people" who are interested in leasing the facility.


Next winter, Nason said he will re-evaluate whether or not he wants to return to operating the track himself. Family commitments and declining attendance both in the pits and in the grandstands has made operating the facility -- at least for now -- impossible.


"The whole deal is just that there's no support for car racing at this point," Nason said.


Nason said he doesn't have a dollar figure in mind for a potential suitor. He also said that, while the track is unofficially for sale, he's in no rush to put a price tag on that either, considering the state of the real estate market.


The only thing he did say was that he's not so eager to pass the place off that he'll jump at the first lease offer.


"Somebody's going to have to have a few bucks," Nason said. "I'm not going to let somebody take it that's got no money. That's not going to happen.


"I want to see (the track) going, but I'm going to forewarn anybody about the pitfalls that are there. They've got to do inexpensive stuff, otherwise it won't work. The racing's got to be fun."
And, for now, there's no racing at all. And that's no fun for anybody.

4.04.2008

ON PIT ROAD: It's another Friday notes column


I feel like I've been a broken record...

Friday's have kind of become like the "News 'n Notes" portion of the program here. During the off-season, the end of the week seems to be a good time to compile a little list of news, press release-type stuff and different observations on racing from here to Daytona Beach. It just seems to work — if not for you hardy readers, than for me. It's also presented an opportunity to update you on the weather each week, which, as you know, has been a lot of snow.

And I hate to be a broken record here and all, but, well, it is snowing (again, again) as I write this...

* I've been critical of some of Steve Perry's dealings in the past, something he's happy to not let me forget whenever he sees me. But one thing can't be mistaken — this guy just wants short-track racing to succeed.

Now, in addition to his "Mainely Motorsports" gig — which allows him to trumpet local racing (albeit, a bit biased toward the PASS side of things) — he's teaming up with Pluffybilt Racing Tractors to sponsor the PASS Sportsman division in 2008.

Wait a minute. Racing tractors? Racing tractors as title sponsor? Surely, I never thought I'd live to see the day.

* We've got a logo.

Repeat: We've got a logo.

* A couple of thoughts on this ACT-RT Raceparts fiasco.

It's important to remember that Torco Race Fuels deserves none of the blame in this deal. Look, teams can still get the stuff from other places if they so choose — and they've been encouraged to do so by ACT management.

The real issue here comes in the policing of altered fuels in ACT. ACT wanted a way to test and monitor gasoline for illegal additives, etc., in its races — something Rob Tower of RT promised to do. ACT thought they had their gasoline issues wrapped up, but instead, the can has just been opened wide with the failure of Tower to deliver.

And, worst of all for ACT, in making the announcement in January to sign with RT, they were essentially telling the world, "We have a problem, and we know it. This is how we're going to fix it." Of course, now they still have the problem — and the whole world knows it, too.

That can't be good.

* For what it's worth: Wiscasset Raceway's new owner Doug White is offering a total championship purse of more than $80,000 this season — including $10,000 to the Super Late Model champion. He's also putting up more than $16,000 in purses during each regular Saturday night show, with the SLM winner getting $1,200.

Finishing 2nd in the Super Late Model standings nets a team $6,000 — just $1,500 off what the PASS North Series champ claims.

* It's the stuff of legend, folks.

Alexa Rodriguez gets snatched by a hawk during a tour at Fenway Park. Who says there are no curses?

* Talked to Cassius Clark, who was driving through North Carolina on Friday en route to the PASS South Series event at Dillon (S.C.) Motor Speedway.

Problem was, the race was rained out.

As if it weren't bad enough for Clark, who made the expensive drive to N.C. for nothing, how about the Richard Moody Racing team of Ben Rowe? They all flew down on Thursday in preparation for the event.

It's bad timing, for certain, but it's supposed to be equally bad weather all weekend there.

4.03.2008

But wait, there's more!

Stop the presses. The name's been changed again. This is getting more ridiculous than a Dale Earnhardt Jr. number change.

Well, maybe not.

On the heels of some fantastic investigating reporting by yours truly (ahem!) comes more news about Wiscasset Raceway's 250-lap event for the Super Late Model crowd this summer. The race, formerly loosely sponsored by DNK Select Used Cars and Trucks, has traded in the ol' jalopy once and for all.

The Aug. 17 race will now be known as the New England Toyota Tundra 250. Wiscasset PR man extraordinaire Ken Minott confirmed that just a few minutes ago. All other details of the race are the same — it still promises $30,000 to the winnner, and it's still a PASS North Series points race.

"All indications is that the Toyota people want this to turn into a long-term thing, something that they can develop," Minott said. "They're not looking to sponsor just this one race and have that be the end of it."

The deal with the New England Toyota folks is for the race only, not for any other division or track sponsorship at this time.

A race with no name -- for now

Sometime in the last 10 days or so, Wiscasset Raceway dropped DNK as the sponsor of its marquee event later this summer.

Instead of the DNK 250, the Super Late Model race promising to pay $30,000 to the winner on Aug. 17, the race is being called the Center of Speed 250. But, it's not expected to stay that way long.


Wiscasset's sales and promotions director John Crawford said the lack of a sponsor doesn't reflect any trouble with financing the event. In fact, he believes it's a sign that the race is bound to be a slam-dunk in the racing community.


Read the complete story in today's Kennebec Journal.

4.01.2008

Quickie divorce for ACT, RT Raceparts

Wow. Maybe they can just use LegalZoom.com to settle this. In fact, given the short term of the relationship, the American-Canadian Tour probably doesn't even need a divorce proceeding.

They can probably just get an anullment for the disaster that tied them to RT Raceparts.

It took just over 2 months for ACT to do an about-face and realize what I realized the first time I talked to Rob Tower of RT Raceparts -- something just isn't right there. On Tuesday, ACT announced that it has severed its ties with RT Raceparts, and that the regional Late Model tour will no longer use Torco Race Fuel as its offical event fuel. RT Raceparts is a distributor of Torco Race Fuels in the New England area.

ACT spokesperson Justin St. Louis wanted to make clear that teams are still allowed to use Torco's 104-octane gasoline in ACT races this season, in fact, they are encouraged to do so.

"It's just a black mark for Torco that they don't deserve," St. Louis said. "It's a black mark for ACT, too, that ACT doesn't deserve."

More than just the Torco mess, however, comes word that Tower's asssociation with Shark Energy Drink was also a train wreck waiting to happen. ACT championship contender Joey Polewarczyk went to New Smyrna with Shark decals for his Late Model, but he reportedly never received a cent for his involvement. PASS owner Richard Moody also had Shark lined up to put Polewarczyk in a Super Late Model for a few events this season, and that deal has fallen through.

There are other ACT teams, too, that relied on Tower to help them put together marketing campaigns with sponsors — and those are now gone, gone, gone. Even All-Star Speedway owner Bobby "Showstoppa" MacArthur has reportedly pulled RT Raceparts out of his facility.

You know when The Showstoppa is bailing, it's bad.

After inking the deal with RT Raceparts in late-January, the only positive for ACT president Tom Curley is that he saw the writing on the wall long before any further damage was done to his tour.

ACT opens with the Governor's Cup 100 at Lee USA Speedway on April 20.

3.28.2008

AccuWeather: It's snowing. Again...

I don't care what they say about seating capacity, television markets or aerodynamic downforce. Martinsville Speedway is my favorite stop on the NASCAR slate.

I remember thinking the 1st time I rolled in there that it easily could have been Wiscasset Raceway, with much bigger grandstands. Rolling hills for parking, short-short-short track where you can see everything in front of you and, of course, the hot dogs. None of it disappointed.


One minute you're rolling past an outdated shopping plaza on a 4-lane road; next minute a quaint little racetrack pops up on your left. It was crazy.


Of course, there was that time I got the frantic call from my wife while I was having a beer in the parking lot (well, parking field) at Martinsville. My son was just 6 months old at the time and had fallen and smacked the back of his head on a hardwood floor at his aunt and uncle's house on the other side of Virginia. Turns out, kids can fracture their skulls at that age!


Not to worry, though, loyal readers. It was nowhere near as bad as it sounds. Coop was fine -- well, as fine as you can be with me as half of your gene pool. Of course, we're still waiting on the paternity tests... So what if he likes baseball and drag racing and he's got my eyes? The kid's got hair -- which I obviously don't -- and he's only like 3 1/2 feet tall. I'm WAY taller than that.


But I digress...


Simply put, Martinsville Speedway is the last bridge to the NASCAR past -- back when these were the kinds of tracks teams raced on across the southeast. Small, cramped and outdated -- sure. But in a sport that forgets its past faster than you can say "Winston Cup," it's worth the fight to keep Martinsville on the map.


It's imperative.


*****


I'm a bonehead, by the way.


Teams entering the Coastal 200 at Wiscasset in May will be entered in a drawing for free tires -- but the 2 winning teams will receive 4 tires each, not 8, as I erroneously reported. My bad.


*****


(WARNING: "Media Rant Ahead." Some of you may not care about the following item. Feel free to skip to the next section!)


See that about Coastal 200 tires, Speed 51? When I need to run a correction, I will.


Of course, I'm still waiting on the first 51 Sports press release telling me about the PASS North Series. Oh wait -- that's right! -- they're not handling PR for PASS North. You know, as I first reported last fall before being accused of all kinds of nasties for doing my job.


*****


I've wanted to take a strong stance against NASCAR's recent announcement that it will move the Toyota All-Star Showdown from November until January, beginning this season. The race for the Camping World Series teams pits the top teams in the 2 series against each other in a "championship race" format, one of a couple of races on the card that weekend.
Like I said, I've wanted to, but I can't.

A few years ago, this would have been crippling for the small, regional teams trying to support NASCAR racing at the local level. At a time when part-time teams needed all the hours they could find to get cars ready for a new season, NASCAR would have been forcing them to travel across the country months after the conclusion of the last calendar.


But here's the deal: with all the Sprint Cup influence and development teams in Camping World East now, it's just another race. Full-time teams with fully outfitted shops just move along without a glitch -- they could race again locally in a month. As it is now, they don't have to race again until mid-April.


It's just another sign that our little Busch North Series is all grown up now.

3.25.2008

Coastal 200 follows Oxford lead

In an effort to generate interest from Late Model teams for last year's TD Banknorth 250, Oxford Plains Speedway management offered free entries and a chance to win free tires in the winter of 2006 to teams that signed up early for the 250.

Wiscasset Raceway is entering teams into a drawing for free tires this season in its own marquee Late Model event. Dave Lind Racing of Norfolk, Mass., an American Racing Tires distributor, has agreed to give 2 teams 8 free tires apiece for the $10,000-to-win Coastal 200 on Memorial Day weekend.

The difference from the Oxford format? Teams don't need to register early for the Coastal 200, they just need to register sometime prior to the green flag. Race director Derek Mingo said all teams have to do to be eligible is be present at the driver's meeting. That's when the random drawing will be held to determin the winners.

Last year, D.J. Shaw of Center Conway, N.H., held off Mike Rowe of Turner for the win in a 33-car Coastal 200. Fewer than 40 cars attempted to qualify for that event.

3.24.2008

Corey Williams represents what we've got to look forward to

Take the case of Corey Williams, for instance.

In good equipment, Williams has the ability to make Super Late Model racing under the PASS banner his personal playground. He dominated the South Series last year, and with his win in the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway over the weekend, he's the early favorite to win the first-ever PASS National Championship in 2008.

But the smalltown racer from Boothbay, one who took a job working for Andy Santerre Motorsports last off-season, is only the most recent illustration of how dire the straits of the stock-car racing world can be. He's got a ton of talent, an easy smile that ought to be a marketing strategist's dream and the desire to relocate to pursue his goals of a full-time driving career.

But without nearly $1 million in the bank, he's without a NASCAR ride -- even at the lowest levels.

Rumor was that Santerre would have loved to have Williams drive his No. 44 Chevrolets in the Camping World East Series this season. But Williams didn't have $850,000 to fund the ride -- the going rate for that seat, the one that went to Peyton Sellers.

The stories of drivers -- and we need look no further than Maine -- with talent but not enough money to buy their way into the sport are too many to list. A couple of years ago, Johnny Clark thought about purchasing second-rate Craftsman Truck equipment with help from financiers but balked at the costs that came without guarantees. Cassius Clark can drive just about anything -- but even his Super Late Model is run on a shoestring budget. Oxford Plains champ Travis Adams has proven able in Late Models, but he's not sure about funding a full ACT run, let alone a big-time NASCAR one on a family dollar.

On and on and on it goes...

For years we've lamented that the sport isn't what it once was -- that too many young drivers come and go too fast to build any rapport with the fanbase. Maybe what we're seeing, though, is a renaissance of sorts, one where the best talent -- though perhaps not by choice -- is racing closer to home because it's all they can afford.

Kind of like the good ol' days.

No one's suggesting these young talents don't deserve a shot to compete against the best that's out there. Who doesn't love to see that? But if the big talent is staying in the northeast more and more frequently, then maybe instead of cursing the rising costs of big-time racing these days, fans and media should embrace it.

3.21.2008

A basket of eggs from the GWC Easter Bunny

The first race of the year worth keeping an eye on at the regional level hits the pavement tomorrow.

There are 35 entries -- from across the country -- for the Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (N.C.) otor Speedway. It's not only the PASS South Series opener, but it's also the first of the 4 races slated for the first PASS National Championship.


OK, so the F1 World Championship it's not, but given the involvement from Maine-based teams, Cup-affiliated teams and dominant southern cars, it should be an interesting event to say the least. Among the notable entries are PASS North regulars Mike Rowe, Cassius Clark and Derek Ramstrom, as well as Travis Benjamin. Alex Haase is in a car owned by Kyle Busch, and defending PASS South champ Ryan Lawler is on the entry list. Corey Williams, who works at Andy Santerre Motorsports in his "free time" is entered, too.


*****


Important to note here that Mike Rowe is still running the No. 2 cars of owner Paul Watts. Equally important to note, though, that the cars are now numbered "2r," as Rowe is the owner of the machines as Watts steps back his racing operation for 2008.


*****


Hearing that Damariscotta native Katie Hagar, last seen piloting Super Late Models in PASS competition, has landed a Camping World West Series ride for 2008.


Hagar is a former NASCAR Drive for Diversity participant.


*****


My other job is finally taking over. You can find out how here.


Only in Maine can you be a racing writer and an outdoors writer at the same time -- and gain instant street cred because of it.


*****


Gotta hand it to the American-Canadian Tour for knowing how to throw a fundraiser.


On April 12, 14 ACT drivers will participate in a benefit dinner/auction/casino night for the Autism Puzzle Foundation. For $125, you get 2 dinners, a small army of poker chips and entry into a drawing for one of 4 grand prizes.


Drivers and officials slated to appear included ACT head honcho Tom Curley and 7-time ACT champ Jean-Paul Cyr. Dave Pembroke, past champions Robbie Crouch, Brian Hoar and Phil Scott also are on the list.


For ticket and other info about the night, visit http://www.vtautismpuzzle.org/.


*****


Less than a month to go until PASS North and ACT open their seasons...

3.14.2008

Jarrett, Earnhardt bond over beers

Well, Dale Jarrett might be retiring to the motorhome lot a little bit early tonight, now that qualifying for the Sprint Cup Series' Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway has been rained out.

But Jarrett, who is making his final career Cup start on Sunday, didn't always like to head home early.

Every once in a while we get a much-needed glimpse at the personality of the people who make the NASCAR machine go. With Jarrett on his way to the television booth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. thought Friday was the right time to share his favorte Jarrett story.

And the story had nothing to do with Jarrett's 1999 Cup title, or his multiple Daytona 500 victories -- as admirable as all of those accomplishments are. Nope, Earnhardt remembered a party, one that came after he won the Pepsi 400 at the track that claimed his father's life just 5 months prior back in 2001.

"I had won and we were standing down in the motorhome lot, it was 1 or 2 in the morning," Earnhardt recalled. "We had a circle of us all drinking beer, about 20 of us. I looked around and I knew everybody -- it was mostly team members and some friends of mine in town, and I looked to my right and standing next to me was Dale Jarrett.

"I asked him what he was still doing there. 'Why aren't you on your way home?' He said 'I wouldn't miss this. That was the coolest thing I have ever seen you do.' "

Perhaps that is Jarrett's greatest contribution to NASCAR. He gets the proverbial "it" -- he even understands that he himself is a bridge between the past and the present, through both his name and through his abilities.

"He is the kind of guy where you can say, 'Hey man, if this ever happens to me, what do I do?' " Earnhardt said. "He is going to tell you exactly the right way to go about it. He has just been a great friend."

Earnhardt realized that over beers that night in July after his Pepsi 400 victory.

"That was just, I don't know, it showed me a lot about his character right there," Earnhardt said. "At that time in my life, it meant a lot to me for somebody to care and want to experience that with you. Obviously there was a void there for me, and it meant a lot to me that he understood that and that was just a great moment for me."

3.13.2008

Well, if this doesn't make you sick...

From the "Don't You Wish You Lived Somewhere Else" file comes this little tidbit from the NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach:

"By the end of the month, (a dozen short tracks will be up and running as) NASCAR’s national program for short tracks gets off to a roaring start."

Yep, that's right, while we sit here in the northeast wondering if we'll see enough snow melt and the grounds dry enough to permit our local tracks to open their gates by, oh, I don't know, July, tracks across the country are already going racing. Greenville-Pickens, which hosts the NASCAR Camping World East Series later this spring, is among 3 southeastern tracks slated to open this weekend.

Kind of makes you long for straight-up time trials, single-file restarts and leader infallibility, doesn't it?

And while we sit up here arguing about whether Super Late Models are truly super or whether any short track promoters around here know anything about promotion, in other parts of the country, they're racing. Instead of arguing about last year, they're arguing about the here and now, about Twin 50-lap Late Model features — and getting into honest-to-goodness fistfights in the pits!

Lucky them!

That being said...

* Don't put too much stock in the whole Goodyear tire outcry following Atlanta. There were no catastrophic tire failures in the Kobalt Tools 500 last Sunday, and that means only 1 thing: The tires did their job.

Racers may not want to hear this, but if a tire won't go as fast as you want through the turns, slow down. That's kind of what racing's long been about -- he who can go fastest in the given elements wins. I know racers have been whining since the first test session prior to the first practice prior to the first race ever held, but it's the safety that's most important.

*Wait -- CART and IRL merged? We misssed this?...

* I changed my mind. I think "Gypsy Biker" is the best track on the Magic CD. (Yep, I still buy CD's. Not out of purism or principle, mind you, but because The Godfather backed out of a promise to toss his old MP3 player my way. What a weasel!)

* Josh Beckett's back has me worried. But I'm not as worried as if I were a Yankees fan. After all, that team has itself so concerned with the Rays (read: base-brawl) that they've forgotten there are bigger fish to fry.

And, BTW, doesn't a spring training fight bring new meaning to the term "bench-clearing?" What were there -- like 150 guys in each dugout for that Yankees-Rays game on Wednesday?

* Just 39 more days until the scheduled ACT/True Value Modified Series opener at Lee USA Speedway.

And 139 more days until the weather actually permits them to race.

10 years in the making for Kevin Lepage

Veteran Portland Press Herald motorsports scribe Steve Solloway once pulled me aside -- OK, it was more than once, but who's counting, anyway? -- and told me the story of Kevin Lepage picking coins out of a motorhome seat cushion, trying to pay for food for he and his wife as he chased a NASCAR opportunity with everything he had back in the day.

Lepage is still chasing as furiously as ever -- and in a world where I rarely root for anyone on the track, I find it hard not to pull for Lepage to find some measure of success in the Nationwide Series this season. It's been almost 10 years since Lepage last won a race of any kind in NASCAR. That's a lot of lefthand turns between wins for the former American-Canadian Tour driver from Shelburne, Vt.

But for all his trying, Lepage is being rewarded this weekend with a chance not many drivers in his position ever get. His last Nationwide Series win came in 1998 at Bristol while driving for car owner Doug Taylor. This weekend, Lepage returns to the site of his, umm, most recent triumph for thet same car owner in Taylor.

Can Lepage win this weekend at Bristol in an unsponsored Ford? No, probably not. But he and Taylor are looking forward to seeing where the team is at in the 4th race of the season.

"As we joined forces once again (in January) we commented to each other that this year’s first race at Bristol would be that much more significant as a milestone of our season’s progression," Taylor said. "This race is very important to our team."

He may have a different perspective now than he once did, but hasn't every race always been important to Lepage? How else to explain digging coins out of seat cushions or taking the time to run the Oxford 250 with a start-up Late Model team in 2007 — while mired in the middle of a stretch where it was virtually impossible to qualify his Cup Series car for racing on Sundays?

No wonder we can pull for a guy like this.

3.12.2008

PASS new series not national enough

For the most part, PASS has made all the right moves this off-season.

Responding to criticism that it had stretched too far from its northern New England roots, the PASS North Series centered its 2008 schedule around Wiscasset Raceway and the DNK 250 there this summer. Helping fill the void left in Super Late Model racing down south after NASCAR stepped out, the PASS South Series has stepped up with more races and new venues. Bridging the gap between the North and the South, PASS president Tom Mayberry announced the creation of a PASS National Championship.

But there's just one little problem. It's really not a national championship at all. One person joked with me the other day that it really ought to be called the "PASS Southern National Championship."

In essence, that's what it is.

3 of the 4 races in the mini-series are being held in the south, starting with next Saturday's Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway. The only series race in these parts is the PASS 300 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in late September.

Further aiding southern teams' quest for the championship within a championship is the provision saying that teams need only submit their best 3 finishes toward that national title.

In the end, winning that championship will sound all nicey-nice and look good on an aspiring young racer's would-be NASCAR resume, but it's really not a national championship of any kind at all.

Understand this: there is great, great difficulty in trying to lure southern-based race teams to compete in the north. It's long been accepted that they simply won't race in unfamiliar territory, that they abhor any kind of racing where time trials are meaningless and restarts are double-file. I get that.

Still, an even split of races (2 in the south, 2 in the north) would help to make this more of a true "national" championship, though even then it's not necessarily "national" in every respect. But it would be "national" in terms of PASS' reach. And that, ultimately, is what it's all about.

With the schedule as it's currently constructed, simply making all 4 races mandatory for eligibility would go a long way toward righting the situation. We're not asking teams to drive to 10 or even 6 extra races -- it's just 4 races. And since we're talking about the southern teams here (and tailoring the national championship to encourage their participation), it's not a stretch to make one of the 2 most significant PASS North races on the slate an obligation.

If they want to be "national" champs, after all, they ought to run at least one race out of their comfort zone, no?

3.10.2008

Gear jammin': Atlanta


Top 4 stories from Sunday's Kobalt Tools 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway:



1st gear -- Toyota's first Cup Series win: This hardly qualifies as a surprise, given the Toyota camp's alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing this season and the way the JGR cars had performed over the first 3 weeks of the season. Still, Kyle Busch's victory at Atlanta did give the Japanese manufacturer its first Sprint Cup Series win and marked the first victory lane appearance by a foreign manufacturer since a Jaguar won in 1954.


2nd gear -- Tony Stewart blasts Goodyear: A Tony Stewart rant hardly qualifies as newsworthy these days, but his pointed shots at Goodyear following the race were especially bitter -- even for a guy with Stewart's reputation. Not only did he call the tires on his No. 20 the worst he'd ever put on a car in his professional career, but he committed a NASCAR cardinal sin by naming names -- Hoosier, Firestone, anyone? -- of other companies not affiliated with the sport. Boy, Stewart may loathe the media, but does he ever make for some great copy...


3rd gear -- Jimmie Johnson's continued struggles: Jimmie Johnson's won the last 2 Cup Series titles, and his Hendrick Motorsports teammate dominated the "COT" races in 2007. So, what gives? Were The Chase to start today (which, obviously, it won't) Johnson would be on the outside looking in. The No. 48 rallied for a top-10 finish at Atlanta, though it looked like it was going to be much, much worse than that for most of the 500-mile event. Had Dale Earnhardt Jr. not set such a blistering pace early -- putting nearly half the field down a lap before the 100-mile mark -- Johnson's results certainly would have been dreadful. It's still very early, but observers of NASCAR racing expect teams like Johnson's to make much quicker turnarounds than the 48 camp has thus far.


4th gear -- Debris cautions raise eyebrows: Taking shots at NASCAR and its television partners has become both warranted and great sport in the last few years. "Phantom debris" cautions, in particular, have become targets of criticism -- as conspiracy theorists love to accuse NASCAR for using these cautions to drum up better competition. Twice in the early going Sunday the race was slowed by cautions for debris -- when Earnhardt and Busch were threatening to stink up the show. Still, it should be pointed out, that NASCAR's top priority is safety -- and erring on the side of "caution" (no pun intended) when the track may be unsafe is always a wise move. No matter how fishy it may look.

3.07.2008

Spin control

A couple of thoughts on traction control devices in the American-Canadian Tour world.

(Not) suprisingly these days, if you mention either ACT or PASS somewhere, you’re going to get hate mail. I’m a firm believer that if I wrote that PASS is donating all of its proceeds this year to children’s cancer research, some Late Model fan somewhere would suggest they’re only doing it to hide the fact that 16 cars showed up for a race at Speedway 95.

And then they’d tell me that ACT tried that last year, and it didn’t work because racing’s too expensive and the shock package on the bank truck wasn’t cost-effective.

Here’s the point about traction control in ACT: It’s bad. But, it’s bad everywhere — all tours, all tracks have some type of problem with the device. To point out that the devices have been sold to ACT teams is not an indictment of ACT racing.

In a perverse sort of way, it’s just the opposite.

Often criticized for catering too much to Joe Racer, in its rules and spending restrictions, traction control and gasoline tampering show that ACT is as much “real stock-car racing” as anything else. I think the idea that Late Models benefit from traction control also dispels the notion that you can’t spin the tires on an ACT car. Doesn’t it?

NASCAR steering clear of the gray

I understand what NASCAR is doing, but I'm not sure I'm on board.

Mainstream America sports fan (yeah, he's an actual person) doesn't like the word "cheating." He stands for heads-up competition, for level playing fields, for, at the very least, the appearance of all things being equal. NASCAR has fought hard to remove the word “cheating” from the stock-car racing lexicon.

NASCAR should be applauded for that effort. But aren’t we going just a tad too far here?

There has to be a line drawn between intent and accident, particularly when it comes down to rules violations on NASCAR race cars and trucks. In the instance of Carl Edwards — whacked by what is in essence a 110-point fine this week (100 points in the standings, plus 10 points at the start of The Chase should he qualify) — it’s hard to find where there was intent. A cover left off an oil tank? On purpose? Not likely, not likely at all.

NASCAR doesn’t want to get itself involved in a sticky, messy process for determining who strayed from its rule book on purpose. Perhaps it thinks it can spend its time better elsewhere, and by adopting hard and fast policies for things that go against the integrity of the cars, they’re clearing up time and resources. But I suggest to you that it’s a multi-million dollar corporation racing with the backing of multi-million (and billion) dollar companies in front of millions of fans every week.

Everybody is owed due dilligence. NASCAR can afford both the time and money to look into these matters individually. I think they should have to.

*****

Kasey Kahne used the words “it’s just different” again today when asked to describe what the new Nationwide Series rules package feels like. Wow. Can’t get that kind of insight anywhere else, can you?

*****

Myth: Sprint Cup Series drivers run to the Cup garage after Nationwide Series practice because they’re so crunched for time.

Fact: Sprint Cup Series drivers run to the Cup garage after Nationwide Series practice because they don’t want to have to stop to sign autographs or pose for photos with fans.

3.03.2008

Good night, Springfield! See you again next year!

Rick Ramstrom was a noticeable absentee from the media seminar I was part of on Saturday morning at Speedway Expo. Of course, judging from the way he worked the room later that afternoon, I'm not sure the father of PASS North Series driver Derek Ramstrom needed a briefing on how to get the media to pay attention to his race team.

"You're a good-looking guy," Rick says to me.

Wowsers. Flattery will get you everywhere, Mr. Ramstrom. Positively everywhere.

* Funny, but I knew more people in Springfield than I did at the Northeast Motorsports Expo in Augusta in January. Weird, huh?

* A clarification here. Steve Perry doesn't own the Late Model that Darrin Ripley's going to drive at Wiscasset Raceway this year. Bill Stilphen owns that ride -- and he's the one leasing Richmond Karting Speedway.

Perry is helping Stilphen run RKS, and that's where the confusion sat regarding Ripley's ride.

* Unfortunately, money almost always finds a way to win in racing — even in places where the rules are so prohibitive as to try and curttail such things.

On the heels of hearing that the American-Canadian Tour had to turn to an official fuel supplier (Torco Race Fuels) to curb the use of doctored gasoline in its events, comes a report that a local parts outfitter has sold more than half a dozen traction control devices — to people directly involved with ACT teams.

All the jokes about a lack of horsepower in those cars kind of fly out the window with something as gravely serious as that, don't they?

* And Bobby MacArthur, the guy running All-Star Speedway in Epping, N.H., had the gall to insult the way I look in the comments section of one of my recent blog entries. Let's just say this: what do the terms "cut-off pink sweatshirt," "acid-washed jeans" and "jeans tucked into work boots" have in common?

Yeah, right. My male-pattern baldness is a bad fashion choice. Good point.

* Dave Dion = class act.

Plain and simple.

3.01.2008

New Hampshire track gets vote of confidence

Any talk of Bruton Smith and the swapping of race dates, naturally, gets New England race fans worried.

Not so fast, kiddos -- New Hampshire Motor Speedway remains out of this week's conversation. While Smith was talking about swapping a couple of NASCAR Cup Series weekends on the schedule involving a facility he owns, he wasn't talking about taking one of NHMS's races and moving out to his Las Vegas track.


Given that the Cuppers are in Vegas this weekend, it seemed as good a time as any for Smith to float date changes. He did -- though he's proposing swapping his October race at Atlanta with the Labor Day weekend race at California Speedway.


In a story by David Poole of the Charlotte Observer, Smith said he firmly believes Vegas has earned the right to a 2nd Cup race each year. He also said, and it should come as music to New Englanders' ears, that he's somewhat loathe to the idea of doing so at New Hampshire's expense.


"Maybe they will feel sorry for us some day," Smith said in Poole's story. "You realize that NASCAR has never, ever, never given me a date. They’ve given a lot of other people dates. ...It’s just an oversight. I am sure they meant to."


California's attendance has been embarrassing for a track that took an instutition off the slate -- the Southern 500 -- and the SoCal crowd hasn't exactly gobbled up NASCAR the way officials thought it would. That's great news for New Hampshire in the long run -- even though Speedway Motorsports Inc. (Smith's company) doesn't own California specifically, any track like NHMS that routinely sells out 2 races a year remains a boon for NASCAR in general.

2.29.2008

Steve Perry still a one-man show

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- During my recent appearance on the television show, Mainely Motorsports, Steve Perry jokingly asked me what he needed to do to make No. 1 on a yearly top-10 list of mine.

He may be well on his way to doing it already.


Perry acknowledged on Friday night that he is, indeed, running what used to be called Richmond Raceway. Running into Perry at the Speedway EXPO, he told me that he has been handed the reigns of the go-kart facility and that it is being called Richmond Karting Speedway now. But he didn't stop there.


Perry, of Windham, also said that he has purchased a brand new Super Late Model and that he will field a car for Chris Kennison in the PASS North Series races at Wiscasset Raceway and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway this season. He entertained the idea of completing the full PASS slate by employing another driver for the races the Oxford native Kennison won't run, but Perry said that he won't be doing that.


In other news from Friday night...


* Derek Mingo, flagman at Wiscasset Raceway, said that the open competition Street Stock event at the track on the first weekend of October will be run by the track, not by PASS. It will not be a PASS Sportsman division event, though it will be run with serious rules input from PASS president Tom Mayberry.


* Word is (though unconfirmed) there are almost 30 Late Model teams that have informed Wiscasset that they are thinking about competing weekly there. one of those Late Model teams belongs to Perry, who has joined with Darren Ripley. Ripley will pilot the car that Mike Rowe finished second to D.J. Shaw in during last year's Coastal 200.


The kicker? The engine in Ripley's car is the one that powered Shaw to that 200 win.


* Derek Ramstrom's only got a learner's permit. Crazy, huh?


The 16-year-old driver from West Boylston, Mass., is entering his 3rd season in PASS North Series competition and he'll once again run the entire schedule in his family-owned No. 35. He's also going to do a handful of PASS South races.


* For those of you following the exploits of the Connecticut Motorsports Media Mafia, the Springsteen show was solid. It wasn't a blow-you-off-your feet kind of performance, as the Boss is starting to show some age. But, what the show lacked in fluidity and escapades it more than made up for in rarities.


Some of the highlights -- "Backstreets," "Kitty's Back," "The River," "Janey Don't You Lose Heart" and "Reason to Believe."


And I've decided that "Long Way Home" is the best song on the new "Magic" album.


* Now, it's time to educate the masses on how to get their names mentioned in this here space. Start by not throwing punches when you see me in public....


* And, finally, are you Bradley Stills?

2.27.2008

Andy Santerre signs Sellers for No. 44

Former NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion Peyton Sellers is going to fill the vacant seat at Andy Santerre Motorsports this season.


ASM announced on Wednesday that Casella Waste Systems would sponsor Sellers in the No. 44 Chevrolets that Sean Caisse drove in each of the last 2 seasons, the same cars Santerre drove to 4 straight Camping World East Series titles.


Curious that the press release making the announcement would champion Sellers as the "top returning" series driver, which he is, at least in theory. Joey Logano is out of work while he waits to make his Nationwide Series debut at Dover, Del., this spring, and Caisse, who finished 2nd, is still looking for work after a Germain Racing truck deal fell through over the winter.


Sellers spent the last 2 seasons in the East Series, though the Santerre seat is by far his best chance to showcase his talents after driving for a family-owned team last season. The 2005 national champion from Danville, Va., was winless with 4 top-5 finishes in 13 races last season.

ASM will also field the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing development driver Austin Dillon, Childress' grandson.

E Street Band named official band of the C3M

When The Godfather beckons with an assignment, you can't simply ignore it. When you're the consigliere for the Connecticut Motorsports Media Mafia, you have to go where The Godfather tells you.

It's kind of a part of the gig. A big part.

So, Thursday night, I'm heading to Hartford. Seems the big guy's got an extra ticket for the Bruce Springsteen show at that place where they used to play National Hockey League hockey, and I'm going to be attending. You know, like The Godfather's invited guest.

It's only the beginning.

From there it's off to the Speedway EXPO in Springfield, Mass., where on Saturday morning The Godfather and I are going to regal scores of interested racers and teams with tales of how to get their tales told in the newspaper. And in magazines. And on the internet (well, actually, that last one's an easy one -- they've just got to shell out for it. oops, sorry, couldn't resist...). Then on Sunday, they hand out the Speedy awards, where Godfather and I are finalists for the same media award.

Naturally, I can't win. If I did, wouldn't he then have to 'off' me?

So, while I'l be "Working on the Highway" all weekend in the place I affectionately refer to as the "Badlands," it won't be all for naught. It'll be like being at a "County Fair" and when it's done, I'll be back in Maine, a little "Further On Up The Road."

Hey, I know it wasn't my best effort, but it was worth a shot....

You know, I got to thinking...

- After going to Daytona, I realized that New Hampshire Motor Speedway fans know nothing about what it means for a facility to be "fan friendly."

- NASCAR really botched it bad at California last weekend. Wet tracks, wet conditions are a recipe for disaster -- as much now as ever.

- What do Kasey Kahne, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth have in common? Not one of them has a personality. Heck, Jimmie Johnson seems downright loosey-goosey compared to Kahne, et al...

2.18.2008

Leaving on a jet plane...

A few final thoughts while I surf some 35,000 feet above the ground and ponder just how long it took buttoned-up Roger Penske to ditch that gaudy Daytona 500 championship jacket they tossed on him at Monday's champion's breakfast inside The Daytona Experience...


- How ironic was it to see the Dodges of Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch and Reed Sorenson team up for top-5 finishes in the closing laps of Sunday's race? Newman, after all, blasted Sorenson following the Gatorade Duel qualifying race earlier in the week for helping a Chevrolet and not a Dodge get to the front of that event.


- Race car drivers obviously have selective memory.


Newman remembers sitting in the grandstands as a youngster watching the 500, remembers his days running USAC cars across the midwest and, if he was to be honest, probably remembers every time he's felt slighted by one of his competitors on the track.


But that crash in 2003, the nasty one that sent him flipping across the infield grass along the Daytona fronstretch in his second 500 start? Yeah, he wasn't so willing to rehash that on Sunday night.


Who could blame him? It's what separates these guys from one another -- some of them can put it behind them and some of them can't.


- Never thought I'd be one of those guys who blogged about travel problems. Then again, never though I'd be one of those guys who blogged while I was in an airplane. But since I am, it's worth pointing out that now I understand why writers blog about the complications of airline travel.


What else are you going to do when you show up 2 hours before your scheduled departure, only to find out that that departure has been pushed back 2 hours. And then, in a matter of minutes, the departure time changes three more times. Yeah, it happened to me - but we left on time, anwyay.



I've got air sick kids puking and crying, and a real jerk in front of me giving the flight attendants a hard time about headphones. Good times, trust me.


- Yeah, I fished Lake Lloyd -- if you could call it that on some crap Target passed off as fishing tackle. It was either the $26 dollar throwaway I went with with all of 2 color choices for lures or it was a $70 combo that wasn't going to make it back to Maine with me.


But, I worked the water for more than an hour the night before the 500, saw fish rising to the surface to feed and even got a couple of fruitless strikes, I'm willing to call that a success.

Did I mention that I fished the infield at Daytona International Speedway? Did I?


- And, in parting, just one final question: Are you Bobby Dickerson?

2.17.2008

Daytona 500: They said it

"Fifteen years ago I was sitting in the grandstands in the Seagrave Tower. ... It was awesome. Listening to my dad on the radio spotting for me, all the other things -- all the other emotions, all the hard work, all the people that gave me a shot racing quarter midgets, midgets, sprint cars, Silver Crown cars. I have to thank everybody, including the fans."
- Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman, driver of the No. 12 alltel Dodge

"Anybody that didn't win tonight is disappointed. ... It is the biggest race. I mean, if it wasn't a big deal it wouldn't bother you, but this is the Daytona 500. If you know you've got a car that's fast enough to win and you don't, you know, you're devastated over it."
- 3rd place Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet

"If (Stewart) would have jumped in front of us, I would have pushed him. He stayed low, and that gave the opportunity for Newman to jump up in front of us. So maybe he did think twice before he jumped up high, that it was me up there.
"Instead of worrying about who it was, he should have just went there."
- 2nd place Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, on whether he had any reservations about working with Stewart in light of last week's Budweiser Shootout practice crash

"I don't know how I stayed out of trouble. I got hit on every corner and was sandwiched in the draft. They had my rear tires off the ground and the nose against the guys in front of me. It was just a handful. I don't know how I survived it."
- 10th place Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford

"We were just slow. Our car just woudn't go."
- 14th-place Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 29 Shell Chevrolet and 2007 Daytona 500 champ

"The worst part about it is having to wait another year to try again."
- 24th-place Clint Bowyer, driver of the No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet, who spun while racing for the lead through the tri-oval on lap 184