– FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 1980 –
Racing Action at Thompson Speedway was once again at a stand still last Sunday as the impasse continues between track owner Don Hoenig and the New England Drivers & Owners Club.
The popular Connecticut 5/8th-mile asphalt oval was closed on June 1st when NEDOC members boycotted the Olympic Challenge Series Silver 100.
Who was hurt most by this boycott?… Not the owners or drivers, as they probably made more money by leaving their cars home!… Not Don Hoenig, as he doesn’t really have to open the speedway since he has another business located adjacent to the track, which I’m sure would pay the taxes on all property so he could leave the racing complex idle!… The racing fan is the who that got hurt by the boycott!
The 3,000 or so fans who turned out at Thompson on June 1st to see the 100-lap race were the ones who got hurt by NEDOC’s action against the track.
How many gallons of $1.15 per gallon or better, gas was used to get to Thompson and back home by those fans who attended the event on what is now known as Boycott Sunday. Add to this the travel time that was wasted by those same 3,000 or so fans, plus the general disappointment by all who didn’t get to see the Silver 100.
The original negotiations included NEDOC’s wanting a purse increase and free admittance for both the owner and driver of all Modifieds.
Hoenig increased the purse and offered a compromise on letting in both owners and drivers plus three crew members per Modified at a reduced pit admission.
NEDOC accepted the purse increase, but turned down Hoenig’s reduced pit admission plan, bringing about the boycott.
A six hour meeting on Thursday night, June 5th, between officials of both Thompson and NEDOC failed to resolve anything, leaving Hoenig no alternative but to leave the padlock on the speedway gates.
Let’s get serious now!… We all know Mr. Hoenig is making money, but isn’t that what it’s all about? How many of you fans who were at Thompson for the Silver 100 are in business not to make money?
The NEDOC organization has silenced Thompson and for what?… Well, between what Hoenig has offered and what NEDOC wants, it amounts to about $15 per Modified. It doesn’t make much sense to me to strike for a measly fifteen or so bucks per event when the same people involved in the boycott will go out and buy anywhere from one to four tires to run that same race. The cost of a tire is between $130 to $150, depending on where you buy them. These same car owners will spend anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 for an engine… Why not boycott the tire makers, performance parts manufacturers and motor builders?
I’m not really in favor of the people who put on the show paying their way in, but I’m not in favor of the competitors closing a speedway.
The adage being used is that pro basketball, baseball and football don’t pay to play, but those same people are contracted to one team and if they don’t show up, they’re fired. We all know that racing competitors are here one week, and there next week. Also, what about the competitors who file pre-race entries, which give the promoter the right to advertise their being at his track, only to have them fail to show? This leaves the promoter in an awkward position, trying to explain to the irate racing fan that it’s not his fault. Ask Shangri-La Speedway promoter Dale Campfield what he feels about this practice and he’ll let you know in no uncertain terms.
Getting back to Thompson, how much more is Mr. Hoenig supposed to take before he says, “To hell with it!” First, his speedway is raked over the coals in what is now known as the biggest track safety scandal in racing history. Secondly, Thompson hosted a benefit for the late Fred DeSarro, only to have many racing media and fans accuse Hoenig and associates of not turning over all the money to Fred’s wife, Linda, as Big T officials stated they did. Thirdly, Hoenig adopts a stock head rule to help lower cost for competitors, which brings about a lack of cars and fans, forcing him to go back to open competition rules, and now the boycott.
Hoenig could do what Wall Stadium promoter, Mrs. Jennie Nicol did recently when drivers and owners hit her track with a strike. She ran lower division cars, drawing smaller crowds, but still made money as her payoffs were much less than the posted purse she paid the Modified Sportsman and Modern Stocks. Hoenig could run the NEMMA Mini-Modifieds, NEMA Midgets and he could also use the speedway area to enlarge his golf course, plus there are a number of other things the track could be used for.
Come on NEDOC!… Is this strike necessary?… Is this just a show of power since NEDOC has been laughed at for so long as a do nothing organization?
I’ve talked with some of NEDOC’s low buck runners and they’re not really in favor of all that’s happening as they just want to go racing. One member-owner stated, “We’re not making money now, we’re never going to make money, so why hassle Thompson over fifteen bucks or so and take the chance of forcing Hoenig to close the gates for good.”
Another member-owner stated, “We don’t need another speedway closed in New England, and if the Club continues to hound Hoenig, he’s going to do just that.”
We don’t need to lose Thompson Speedway over a few bucks as we already have two or three other tracks in serious trouble. Everytime we lose another racing facility, we lose fans and cars. This is going to destroy racing in the long run.
By the time you read this column, Thompson may be back in operation and I surely hope so.
So NEDOC!… Boycott the Olympics and not racing!”… We want to see Thompson operating, not closed.
NERF’ers Nibblets… Harry Gant finished 9th in last weekend’s Warner Hodgdon 400 at Riverside, California. He now rides eighth in NASCAR Grand National points…
Has Pete Fiandaca picked up Maxwell House as a big buck sponsor for his Skid Row Express Late Model? Why else would he have a Maxwell House coffee can on the hood of the #135?… If ya’ travel down to New Evergreen Speedway some Friday night, ya’ can watch the Two-Tony Show with plenty of Gusto. That’s Tony Siscone and Tony Hirschman and Gus Lewis. Great racin’!… Hey Chuck Jeffries! Please return our people!… Big show this Friday at Lincoln County. It’s the Down East Open for NASCAR type Late Models paying $1,000 to win. It’s Lincoln’s Grand Opening and will include a full card of racing…. For readers in the Claremont, New Hampshire area, dirt runner Dick Skillen ran the Winston 500 Grand National race at Talladega, finishing 28th in D.K. Ulrick’s Buick… While at Oswego Speedway a few weeks ago, the Ol’ Nerf was invited up to the Ivory Tower by Linda O’Brien, wife of promoter Dick O’Brien. Speedway Scene’s Fat Rat nicknamed the announcer and scorer’s booth because of it being filled with all the Caruso’s, owners of Oswego Speedway, and O’Briens. Linda told me that I’m one of the select few. Wow! But oh, those 52 steps to the Ivory Tower… It was sad to hear of the death of Freeport Speedway promoter, Don Campi. He’d climed into a Freeport Late Model recently under the name of Tony Basil and had started racing under his own name the Saturday night prior to his death. My sympathy to his family, friends, and fans… My heart felt sympathy also goes out to Fred Rosner and family on the recent loss of Rick, 23.
Fred is a well known car builder in Agawam, Mass and another son, Wes, recently injured in an industrial accident, is an up and coming late model driver.
NASCAR North runner, Pete Silva, finished 5th in the Winston 200 at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway last weekend… Till next time, “Don’t forget Bob O’Rourke’s Dog Leg 200 at Trenton on Sunday, June 29th!”