The Goodyear Late Model tire test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway reportedly went very well, which is a good sign for the American-Canadian Tour and its competitors. And, says Phil Scott, one funny story came out of it.
Once the track was dried after rains soaked most of Tuesday's session, Jeff Gordon hit the track. You know, Jeff Gordon, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, won the race at Texas last weekend? That guy. Anyway, Gordon went out on the track, but quickly, pulled his car into the pits.
Meanwhile, former ACT and Thunder Road champion Phil Scott drove his own car out onto the track, full-bore. He exited the pits, powered out of Turn 2, down the long backstretch, braked going into Turn 3, floored it out of 4, and kept his foot buried in the floorboard deep into Turn 1.
But in the middle of the corner, the rear of the car jumped out a bit. Scott slowed, thinking there was a problem with the suspension or maybe the driveline. He pulled his car into the pits and asked the team to look at the car.
Just then, Gordon comes running over.
"Man, I was wondering when you were gonna lift," Gordon said to Scott.
"What do you mean?" Scott asked.
"You didn't see all that water running across the track?"
"I was running hard, I didn't see a thing," said a surprised Scott. "Was there water?"
"I don't know how you didn't wreck just now," Gordon says, sticking his arm out to give Scott a congratulatory handshake. "You're my new hero."
Just another day in the life of an ACT Late Model Tour driver.
Tony Stewart, we've learned, will compete at Thunder Road's CARQUEST Vermont Governor's Cup 150 behind the wheel of a Joey Polewarczyk team car on June 25. Polewarczyk confirmed that Stewart will drive a car nicknamed "Betsy" - the car that holds the ACT Late Model Tour track record of 12.935 seconds, set by Polewarczyk in time trial qualifying for the 2006 Chittenden Bank Milk Bowl. Polewarczyk also plans to enter the race in his familiar #97 car.
It seems like we're not even into racing season and it's already time to complain about the rain. Albany-Saratoga (N.Y.) Speedway was rained out last weekend, Thompson Int'l (Conn.) Speedway had showers on Saturday, Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl got rained out for the second time this year, and, as mentioned, most of Tuesday's Goodyear tire test at New Hampshire Motor Speedway was washed out. Even NASCAR's top three series have seen their share of weather problems this year, including, of course, the Daytona 500.
At least it's not snowing.
Oh wait, it is? Awesome.
Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. has begun shedding its skin. The 4/10-mile, D-shaped layout was first put in place in 1990, but is in the process of being partially razed to make way for new progressively-banked corners. Check out the renovation progress at the Airborne website here.
With ACT's announcement that Eddie MacDonald has entered the season opener at his home track, Lee USA Speedway, next weekend, comes the news that Rick Paya has signed Mike Olsen to drive his #32 car. MacDonald swept both NASCAR Camping World Series East events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last year, and Olsen is a two-time champion of the series and a winner at NHMS in 2006. Add in all-time NHMS win leader Brad Leighton, who is scheduled to race at Lee USA, and that's a total of 11 superspeedway victories in the ACT opener.
We are constantly having the faltering state of the nation's economy shoved down our throats these days, and it's getting annoying. This week, International Speedway Corp. reported a 31% loss and the former DEI #8 team now fielded by Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing closed its doors. But money - we're guessing - seems to be affecting short track racing negatively as well. Let's take a look at some recent events:
The Pro All Stars Series South opener at Dillon, S.C. last month drew only 21 cars, with only 19 taking the green flag.
Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Ga. attracted a total of only 27 cars for a twin-125 program last weekend - 14 cars for the inaugural CRA Super Series South division race, and 13 entries for the companion Georgia Asphalt Series race.
The brand-new Southern Pro Late Model Series had 19 cars at Senoia, Ga. on Saturday for its first-ever race.
NASCAR's Camping World Series West has seen fields of just 19 and 18 cars at Thunderhill Raceway in Texas and All-American Speedway in California, respectively.
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour started just 20 cars at Concord, N.C. and a paltry 16 cars at South Boston, Va.
The USAR Pro Cup Series had just 21 cars at Concord, N.C. on Saturday.
Even the ARCA Re/Max Series - one of the Sprint Cup Series' main sources for talent development - drew only 29 cars for the Salem, Ind. short track event last weekend.
So should we be worried long-term?
It's hard to say, since the racing season is just a few weeks old. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener, Thompson Int'l Speedway's Icebreaker 150 in Connecticut, drew 35 stout WMT teams last weekend and a total of 159 cars across seven divisions. While the PASS South event at Dillon Motor Speedway had a bit of a short field, Saturday's Easter Bunny 150 at Hickory, N.C. a (PASS National Championship race) looks more promising with nearly 30 pre-registered entries, including long-haul northerners Ben Rowe, Johnny Clark, Ryan Moore, and defending National Champ Cassius Clark of Maine, former Twin State Speedway ace Adam Bates of New Hampshire, and New Brunswick's Lonnie Sommerville. By comparison, Rowe was the only northern driver to compete in the Dillon opener, which he won. The consensus from fans, officials, and teams of Albany-Saratoga Speedway was that a full field of more than 30 competitive Modifieds from around the region was ready to go prior to the rainout.
Maybe it's the event, the track, the region, or just the time of year that determines how many cars show up. Maybe it's the economy. The Whelen Southern Modified Tour averaged 19.4 cars last year, not counting the North/South combination race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway in September, with a season low of 15 cars and a high of only 26, so maybe 20 and 16 cars isn't that far off. After all, it's big news when the American-Canadian Tour draws less than 30 cars (not since Airborne, 2007), but its sister series, the Série ACT-Castrol, averaged only 24.6 cars per race in 2008 while using the exact same cars (low - 18, high - 33).
We'll keep looking at the numbers as the year goes on, and hope that, for the sake of the sport, the car counts go up everywhere.
Here's hoping that you might have checked out the Northeastern Speedway thing we posted. In a relatively short lifespan, the track built a pretty impressive following, and a few drivers put up some strong numbers. Johnny Gammell, for instance, won the first three features in the track's history, and took 6 out of 11 events on the dirt in 1959. Glen Andrews came over from Oxford, Me. and dominated 1960, winning eight times. Ronnie Marvin and Tony Colicchio beat up on everyone bad in '61 when the track changed to asphalt, taking a total of 15 out of 22 features between them. The Ingersons, of course, combined for 23 wins between the Class A coupes and Class B late models, while Stub Fadden shared honors with Wayne True for all-time victories in the Class B cars.
The July 18 reunion has been circled on our calendar as a can't-miss since rumors first popped up in May 2008.
Other than the rain, we've had a pretty good week here at VMM HQ - the Sox won their opener, the Bruins lost to the Senators (yeah, we can't cheer for ALL of the Boston teams), C.C. Sabathia had an outstanding (?) debut in New York, the Tar Heels did their thing, the Catamounts are headed to the Frozen Four, and the new Tragically Hip album is headed this way.
Now if only someone could remind the Montréal Canadiens that they're fighting for their lives, and Clint Bowyer that I'm fighting for mine in the Yahoo! fantasy league...