Without an inch of snow on the ground in the Northeast region, momentum and excitement is building for the 2016 racing season. There has been a wide variety of news all over the region since the end of the 2015 season and it’s not going to end anytime soon.
This edition of Northern Exposure catches you up on some of the bigger stories, as well as some of the hidden stories you may have not heard about yet.
“Muffy” Named MRS Race Director
For the fifth time in three years, the Valenti Modified Racing Series has a new race director. On Tuesday afternoon, Wayne “Muffy” Wildermuth was named the race director for the 2016 season via the series’ Facebook page.
Wildermuth is best known for his recent work in the spotter’s stand serving as the “eye in the sky” for a number of Modified drivers including Matt Hirschman, Steve Masse, Shawn Solomito and Jimmy Zacharias.
Since Scott Tapley left the position during the middle of the 2014 season, the series has yet to find stability with the race director position. Teenager Jordan Harnish was named the race director following Tapley’s departure from the series, but was quickly relieved of his duties after a handful of events.
Series flagman John Spence, Jr. then took over the position for the remainder of the 2014 season before giving up the position due to family commitments. Respected motorsports official Warren Alston accepted the race director position for the start of the 2015 season before also having to resign due to other work commitments.
Jack Bateman, owner of the series, took control of race directing duties for the remainder of the 2015 series with assistance from other race officials. That left the series without an actual race director for the 2016 season and opened the door for Wildermuth to fill the position.
One can only hope that Wildermuth will hold the race director position for more than one season and give racers and fans a sense of stability at that position.
Granite State Pro Stocks Heading to Long Island
Riverhead Raceway (NY) released their 2016 schedule Wednesday night and offered up one of the biggest surprises of the offseason. The Granite State Pro Stock Series, a series based out of New Hampshire, will make the trip to the Long Island bullring on Saturday, July 30.
This will be the farthest south the series has traveled since its inception in 2012.
Rumor has it a few other surprises may be on the Granite State Pro Stock Series schedule when it is released at the Northeast Motorsports Expo on January 8.
Riverhead, Waterford Making Improvements
Speaking of Riverhead Raceway, new track owners Eddie and Connie Partridge have just recently started a renovation project of the facility. The Partridge’s are planning on building new bathrooms, concession stands, replacing some fencing on the property and putting in new light fixtures.
The renovations are much needed at Long Island’s only remaining race track. The facilities were starting to show many signs of age as the track enters its 66th year in operation. The Partridges promised improvements to the race track when they bought it from longtime owners Barbara and Jim Cromarty back in August and they’re already delivering on that promise.
But they’re not the only ones delivering on renovation promises. Bruce Bemer, owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut, has begun renovations at the shoreline oval as well.
A new retaining wall and new catch-fencing are planned at Waterford, and the process is already well underway. The old guardrail and concrete walls have been removed, as has the fencing around the 1/3-mile oval.
It’s wonderful to see that two race tracks that were in danger of becoming Lost Speedways are not only staying open, but that the new ownership groups are already making improvements to both facilities.
A Pair of Surprises on NASCAR Mod Tour Schedule
While we’re talking about surprises, how about the pair of new tracks that recently announced they would be hosting NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events next season?
Both Seekonk Speedway (MA) and Oswego Speedway (NY) will host an event for the ground-pounding Modifieds during the 2016 season.
While the full schedule has yet to be announced by NASCAR, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) has announced four dates, Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) has announced four dates and Riverhead Raceway has announced two dates (NY).
PASS & ACT Team Up for Round II
It appears that round one of the collaboration between Pro All Stars Series (PASS) promoter Tom Mayberry and American-Canadian Tour (ACT) president Tom Curley was a success. After hosting combination events for the two Northeast Late Model series in 2015, at least two events in 2016 will see the duo teaming up again.
ACT will be joining PASS North on Saturday, April 17 for the season opener at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), while PASS will make its second visit to Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl (VT) on May 29 to join the Memorial Day Classic festivities. It was also recently announced that the PASS Modifieds will join that show at Thunder Road.
With the ACT schedule yet to be released, it will be interesting to see if the series decide to pair up for any additional combo events this season.
Modified Touring Series Becoming a Reality
There’s another Tour-Type Modified Series coming to town during the 2016 season, or at least that’s the plan. Racer Gary Knight has been working to put together the series and recently traveled out to the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) trade show with a newly-wrapped series trailer.
The series will be hosting a general meeting for driver and car owners on Sunday, December 19 at 1 p.m. ET. The meeting will be held at The Knights of Columbus located at 28 Baldwin Street in East Longmeadow, MA.
Knight says that the meeting is to have input from all parties involved about the new series.
RPM Engines to Oversee ACT Crate Engine Program
RPM Engines of Georgia, Vermont will administer the ACT crate motor package during the 2016 season, according to a memo sent to race teams Monday afternoon.
The memo also states that the series has been informed by General Motors that the 603 ACT crate motors will no longer be produced. According to the release, RPM Engines owner Rick Paya informed ACT that there was no panic, as there is still plenty of inventory to get through the next few years with the 603 program.
In addition to overseeing the crate motor package to make sure that engine builders are held accountable and that teams are on a level playing field, Paya will also be assisting in the future process of incorporating the 604 engine without teams using either engine (603 or 604) being at any type of disadvantage.
“This program is as much a protective responsibility to the various engine builders as it is to protect the race teams from having to race against engine violations,” the memo reads. “ACT will support RPM Engines and will work with both RPM and affiliate engine builders in making final decisions that affect both the teams and the builders as we move forward during this transition program.”
Devil’s Bowl to Offer Dual NASCAR Sanctions in 2016
Devil’s Bowl Speedway in West Haven, Vermont will host weekly NASCAR-sanctioned events on both its half-mile asphalt oval and 3/10-mile dirt oval during the 2016 season as the track enters another year under the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series banner.
This announcement certainly creates an interesting and unique opportunity for competitors to earn national points.
According to the track press release, “drivers in the two Division I classes – Bond Auto Parts Modifieds on asphalt and Sportsman Modifieds on dirt – will compete directly with each other for the NWAAS Vermont State Championship, and several drivers are expected to participate on both surfaces in pursuit of the titles.”
Devil’s Bowl Speedway promoter Mike Bruno said that he anticipates a handful of drivers in each division to compete on both surfaces in 2016.
“The two-track NASCAR sanction is exciting for everyone at Devil’s Bowl,” Bruno said in a press release. “It’s rare these days for drivers to switch between surfaces, but I think we’ve created something special and exciting that the teams really want to be a part of. It’s going to be very interesting to watch.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com