FARMINGTON, Mo. -- (Dec. 16, 2002) Since the end of the racing season here in Southeast Missouri a number of changes have taken place, but none are as dramatic as what has gone on at Auto Tire & Parts Racepark (ATPR) in Benton.

Jerry Wolsey has taken over as the race promoter of the oval track facility, Jimmy French remains in charge of the dragstrip and Doug Friese is in charge of the motorcross motorcycle racing events.

ATPR will once again feature the winged sprint cars in 2003, but there will be some major changes in the other classes.

"We are bringing in the UMP Late Models and the modifieds will also be UMP sanctioned this year," Wolsey said. "I believe UMP holds a very good future for the racers and the promoters. They bring exciting racing events to the area and I'm very impressed with their sanctioning body. Where else can a local racer compete for part of a $1 million point fund that UMP has."

Wolsey said there will be nights where both the UMP Late Models and the winged sprint cars will be running.

"We will also be working with some local fund-raising activities as well this year, " Wolsey said. "We are establishing a point fund. We want to make it affordable and economical for the fans to come out to the races."

"We are talking with the NCRA sprints right now and are tentatively set for May 24th," Wolsey said. "The USCS sprints will be here on Sept. 20th."

According to Wolsey, there will be a couple of Wednesday night shows at ATPR this season. The two Wednesday night shows will feature the UMP Late Models and Modified in June and July.

ATPR held its annual awards banquet on Dec. 14th at the Holiday Inn in Cape Girardeau and crowned their 2002 track champions. Shane Wade was also named the "Rookie of the Year." He drove the #7C sprint car owned by Peanuts Campbell. He is also the grandson of sprint car legend Chuck Amati. It was also announced during the banquet that pit passes for the 2003 season w ill go to $25 and Coke, Kohlfeld Distributing of Jackson and Coad Chevrolet of Cape Girardeau will serve as three major corporate sponsors for the track during the 2003 season.

At the new Poplar Bluff Speedway, work is progressing nicely for the expected springtime opening. New rule books are available by contacting the track at (573) 785-8989. The track also has a new website at: www.poplarbluffspeedway.com. They will be racing every Saturday night on the 3/8 mile red clay oval. Late models, Pure Streets, Super Streets, Modifieds (IMCA style), Cruisers and a Dirt Dobber (4-cylinder class) will be competing weekly.

The Fredericktown Raceway is gearing up for the 2003 season and has made plans for a special Sunday afternoon show on May 4th to coincide with the city's annual Azalea festival. The event will feature the Pure Streets, RAMS Mini Stocks, and amateur ATVs. The Hornets and Wannabees will be making their first-ever appearance at the raceway. The event, known as the Fredericktown Azalea Racefest, will have the gates opening at 3 p.m. with hot laps at 4:30 at racing around 5 p.m. Grandstand admission will only be $3 plus two cans of food that will go to the Madison County food pantry.

The annual Fredericktown Raceway Awards banquet will be held at 6 p.m., Saturday, January 18th, at the Arcadia Valley Elks Club in Pilot Knob. Advance tickets are $15 per person and $20 at the door. To purchase tickets or for more information phone (573) 760-1319 or (573) 697-5459. The 2003 racing season at the Fredericktown Raceway will open on Friday, March 28th with Play Day. The regular season will then start the following week on April 4th. For more information on the Fredericktown Raceway visit it's "revamped" website at: www.fredericktownraceway.com.

The Allied Racing Association banquet is set for Saturday, Jan 4, 2003, at the Belle Clair Exposition Hall in Belleville, Ill. The doors will ope n at 5 p.m. with dinner starting about 6. The awards will be given out at 7 with the dancing beginning at 8 with the Dixie Express providing the music. Costs are $17 for a single and $30 for a couple for Allied members and $23 for a single and $45 for a couple for non-members. The top ten in points at Belle Clair Speedway and at I-55 Raceway will receive their checks from the point fund and a trophy.

No major changes are planned for the 2003 season at the St. Francois County Raceway in Farmington. Details on the 2003 schedule are being finalized. This season there will possibly be not only one, but two "Play Days" for drivers to check out their equipment prior to the start of the season. The second "Play Day" will be a part of the annual car show and fan appreciation day. That will allow fans and drivers show off their cars during the day before taking to the track that evening. SFCR recently held their annual awards banquet at the Dugout Sports Bar in Farmington.

The Montgomery County Speedway will be hosting the Summer Nationals on July 6th. They will also be hosting two-day shows on both Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends.

"We're going to be doing some road grading off the top of the track, taking out just a bit of the banking," said track promoter Mel Kinnaird. "It's nothing major, but we think it will help out the track."

According to Kinnaird the complete schedule won't be worked out until after the first of the year and there will be a rules meeting held around the end of January. Montgomery County will once again be featuring the UMP Late Models, "A" Mods, "B" Mods and the Street Stocks. It will open the last Saturday in March and run through September.

At the Malden Speedway, some of the upcoming season highlights will include the Mid America Racing Series (date to be announced) and the Cotton Bowl Cup. Racing will start the Friday, April 4th and run through the middle of October. Malden once again will run the Sprints (4th Friday of each month), Late Models, Modifieds, Hobby Stocks, Pure Streets and Cruisers.

-jeff mills-