The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith


April 1, 2014

  The Thompson Speedway opens this coming weekend, on April 6 with the IceBreaker which includes the opening event of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. The Stafford Motor Speedway opens on Sun, April 27 with the 43rd Annual Spring Sizzler and the Seekonk Speedway opens on Sunday, May 4.

  The Icebreaker, presented by Town Fair Tire, will mark the beginning of Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s 74th season of operation. The 2014 running of the event will mark the 40th time it has been held. The traditional season-opening event will feature nine divisions, headlined by the first championship race for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT).

  Defending NWMT Champion, Ryan Preece, will begin his title defense behind the wheel of the Eric Sanderson-owned No. 16, but it won’t be without some stiff competition. Doug Coby headlines an impressive list of drivers who will be behind the wheel of another car this season. Coby teamed up with Mike Smeriglio, III to drive the Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair Chevrolet. Another driver on the move this year was nine-time NASCAR regional touring series champion, and defending Icebreaker race winner, Mike Stefanik. The Coventry, RI-native has teamed up with car owner Ed Marceau to drive the No. 1 entry. Tommy Barrett, a standout on the Valenti Modified Racing Series, replaced Stefanik in Chris Our’s No. 22 Chevrolet. The young driver will look to make his third start on the NWMT. Defending TSMP Sunoco Modified Champion, Keith Rocco, has entered the No. 48 car, which he will be driving for John Rufrano.

  The New Hampshire-based Granite State Pro Stock Series (GSPSS) will also begin their season at the Icebreaker. Going into their third season, the GSPSS first visited TSMP for the first time in 2013. George Bessette, who is entered for this year’s event, was the inaugural race winner at Icebreaker 2013. Defending, and two-time American-Canadian Tour Champion, Wayne Helliwell, Jr. has entered, as well as defending GSPSS Champion, Mike O’Sullivan. Young guns Derek Griffith, Brad Babb, and Dillon Moltz also have indicated their intentions to compete in the 50-lap main event. The Icebreaker, presented by Town Fair Tire, will kick off a 10-race campaign for GSPSS, which will end with the championship-crowing event at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing, presented by Xtra Mart.

  TSMP’s four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will also be in action. Defending Sunoco Modified Champion, Keith Rocco, will be leading the charge as he begins his title defense. Rocco, will be doing triple duty, as he also will be competing in the Late Model Division and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Six-time TSMP Champion, Glenn Boss, has registered his No. 3 Late Model and he will look to add to his record number of track championships. “Leadfoot” Larry Barnett will be returning to competition, after a horrific wreck ended his 2013 season early. The multi-time divisional champion has his eyes on another title. The Baxter brothers will once again return to the Mini Stock Division in 2014 with the goal being the division’s top honor.

  The Lite Modifieds, New England Truck Series, and Vintage Outlaws will all be in competition, also.

  The weekend event begins on Friday, April 4, with an optional practice day for race teams. Practice and qualifying will take place prior to four feature events on Saturday night, including segment races for the Limited Sportsman and Mini Stock divisions. Seven feature events headline the race program on Sunday with all of the on-track activity beginning at 12:30pm.

  Four-time Thompson Speedway champion and former track race director Jeff Zuidema will serve as the Grand Marshall for Icebreaker 2014.

  Budweiser Blastoff Weekend which would have marked the start of the 64th consecutive season of racing at the 1/3 mile Waterford Speedbowl was cancelled due to the forecast of heavy rain for the entire weekend on the east coast. The National Weather Service reported that 2.75 inches rain fell in the Waterford, Ct area on Saturday. The new event date will be Saturday, April 12th and Sunday, April 13th. Blastoff Weekend was supposed to open the season of racing with the Valenti Modified Racing Series, Northeastern Midget Association and the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing divisions along with many more.

  The Speedbowl season will officially begin this coming Saturday, April 5th when the track hosts its opening Saturday night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event. A six division program anchored by the SK Modifieds® gets underway with qualifying at 5:30pm. Main events will follow at approximately 7:00pm.

  Rain also wiped out the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series Prestoria Farms 150 at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. A makeup date for the event will be determined at a later date.

  The Thompson Speedway hosted a private test session before the rains came on Friday. Word has it that Woody Pitkat looked extremly stout in the Buzz Chew No.88 that was powered by a spec engine. Others said to be testing included Ryan Preece, Ted Christopher and Doug Coby.

  On a sad note Mrs Irene Venditti, 94, passed away in her sleep on Friday, March 28. Considered by many to be the First Lady of Auto Racing, Irene was instrumental in the success of the Seekonk Speedway, working tireless alongside her husband, D.Anthony, until his death in 1991. They were married 53 years. Irene continued to be involved with the running of the speedway and in 2012 she was inducted into the New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame. She graduated from Hope High in Providence, RI and married D. Anthony Venditti in 1938. She is survived by 3 of her 4 children, Adrienne, a registered nurse, Francis, a raceway director, & Annie, designer. Her younger son, Anthony tragically passed away in 1980. She is survived by 7 grand-children and 6 great-grand children.

  For the first 6 years of their marriage Irene and Anthony were reluctant chicken farmers until Anthony, determined to make a better life for his family , decided to build a racetrack in his backyard. That dream became a reality when Seekonk Speedway opened it’s gates in 1946. Today the track holds the title of being the oldest consecutively family run track in the country.
Her funeral will be held on Wednesday at 9:00 AM from the PERRY-McSTAY FUNERAL HOME, 2555 Pawtucket Avenue, East Providence with a Mass of Christian Burial at 10:00 AM in Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Taunton Avenue, Seekonk. Burial will be in Gate of Heaven Cemetery. Calling hours will be held on Tuesday from 5-8.

  On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Speedway Motorsports took the biggest dip as they dropped 0.94 to 18.56. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.74 while Dover Motorsports went up 0.07 to 2.40. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.24 to 9.29 while NASCAR tire suoolier Goodyear dropped 0.98 to 25.94 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.09 to 54.01. The car makers were all negative except Toyota which went up 5.46 to 112.83. General Motors dropped 0.28 to 34.73 and Ford dropped 0.02 to 15.45. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 1.70 to 78.72 and Lowes dropped 0.33 to 48.92. In the area of big team sponsorship Target Department Stores went up 0.53 to 59.98 while Dupont dropped 0.36 to 66.62, Coca-Cola dropped 2.79 to 85.26, Aarons Rentals dropped 1.16 to 30.34 and Fedex dropped4.78 to 132.01.

On the tube this week:

Wednesday, April 2

2:30 AM, NASCAR Now, ESPN2
3:00 AM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Martinsville race re-air, FOX SPORTS 1
11:00 AM, American Pickers - NASCAR Challenge, HISTORY Channel
12:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network

Thursday, April 3
12:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN

Friday, April 4
2:30 AM, NASCAR Now, ESPN2
4:00 PM, NASCAR Nationwide Series Texas qualifying, FS1
5:30 PM, NASCAR Live, FS1
6:00 PM, NSCS Texas practice, FS1
8:00 NASCAR Countdown, ESPN2
8:30 PM, NNS Texas race, ESPN2

Saturday, April 5
2:00 AM, NASCAR's The List - Memorable Moments, NBCSN
2:30 AM, NNS Texas race re-air, ESPN2
2:30 AM, NASCAR's The List - Fights & Feuds, NBCSN
3:00 AM, NSCS Texas practice re-air, FS1
10:30 AM, NSCS Texas final practice, FS1

Sunday, April 6
1:30 PM, NASCAR Race Day, FS1
2:30 PM, NSCS Texas race, FOX
8:00 PM, NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

   That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-mail:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

SourcePhil Smith / Champ Trail
Posted: April 1, 2014

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