By David Reininger - Motorsport.com The Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) held its annual convention this weekend at the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia Northeast. The three-day convention kicked off with a welcoming reception hosted by...
By David Reininger - Motorsport.com
The Eastern Motorsport Press Association (EMPA) held its annual convention this weekend at the Radisson Hotel Philadelphia Northeast. The three-day convention kicked off with a welcoming reception hosted by Pocono International Raceway on Friday evening. Drs. Joe and Rose Mattioli, owners of the 2.5-mile superspeedway, are long time EMPA supporters, hosting activities during the convention and at their successful Winston Cup events.
During Mr. Mattioli's address to EMPA members on Saturday afternoon, he revealed his efforts to enhance the family style atmosphere at Pocono by "expanding the state fair concept" on the midway behind the main grandstand. Look for entertainment geared towards all members of the family, young and old alike, including a 120 animal petting zoo for the children.
To alleviate traffic problems after the race, concerts by national recognized recording artists are in the works for both the Pocono 500 and Pennsylvania 500 weekends. The concerts will begin ten minutes following the conclusion of victory lane activities. Travis Tritt will perform after the July race. There has been no word on the artist to perform after the June race, but expect an announcement soon.
Physical improvements at Pocono International Raceway include the addition of a new museum. When finished, the museum will house a chronological exhibit of photographs and artifacts from the Mattioli archives.
Bob Lang, Director of the NHRA's Northeast Division, announced on Saturday a special program commemorating the NHRA's 50 anniversary in 2001. All 150 member NHRA drag strips will host a championship event in 2001 with the winner earning an award commemorating NHRA's 50 years of sanctioning championship drag racing.
Winston will continue to sponsor NHRA drag racing the season. The relationship enters its 27th year in 2001.
Lang also announced a new NE Division event at Atco Raceway in Atco, NJ and a new website for the division, located at www.nhradiv1.com.
Tim Southers reported on the future of the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, a series that features steel-bodied cars, similar to Busch Grand National, in 250 lap races on short tracks. The series moves into new territory in 2001 with races at Thompson, (CT), Jennerstown (PA), Winchester (IN), Louisville (KY), Indianapolis Raceway Park, (IN) and Chicago (IL).
To help reduce travel costs for the teams, the series has split into two divisions. After declaring a division, North or South, drivers may drive in the entire series, although they will only score points in their respective division.
After 25 races, the top 25 drivers in each division will compete in the last five races to determine the national champion.
The Hooter Pro Cup championship point fund will enjoy an increase in 2001, with USAR drivers splitting $1 million at the season's end. Speedvision will broadcast all 30 USAR races on a tape-delay basis in 2001.
ARCA representative, Don Radebaugh, announced an increase in the number of ARCA races, from 20 to 25, in 2001. The ARCA series, for 3,400 lb. Winston Cup cars, will add Watkins Glen to their 2001 schedule, racing at the famous road course on July 7. ReMax International joins the ARCA series as title sponsor in an agreement to last through the 2003 season.
ARCA drivers Jason Jarrett, Mike Swaim Jr. and Andy Belmont all addressed the convention.
The ARCA ReMax Series faces competition on a myriad of tracks including the superspeedways of Talladega and Daytona, the Watkins Glen road circuit, grueling short tracks at Winchester and Salem, Indiana and the dirt miles at Springfield and DuQuoin, Illinois.
Motorsports Academy, an organization dedicated to providing education through motorsports and automotive technologies to disadvantaged youth, was represented at the convention by Anthony Martin. Mr. Martin discussed the progress by Motorsports Academy in acquiring corporate partners in order to realize their goals. Both General Motors and NASCAR are involved in the program, which expects to have programs in 40 cities by 2005.
In an effort to help Motorsports Academy raise money, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has donated his driving suit worn during his win at Richmond. He will also donate his driving suit from the Rolex 24 at Daytona next month. Both uniforms and selected racing memorabilia will be available for auction on e-bay in a series of auctions to commence January 20.
Keith Green, Public Relations Manager of Nazareth Speedway, hinted that the Barber Dodge Series may join the Busch Grand National/Featherlite Modified weekend scheduled for May 19-20. Nazareth Speedway will host the CART FedEx Series on May 6.
CART has decided not to return to Nazareth Speedway after 2001.
"We were never given a reason why," said Green. "We want our fans to understand we fought hard to keep the series."
The May 6 CART date will see USAC Silver Bullet cars and the Toyota Atlantics on the card.
Green indicated that Nazareth Speedway had sought an IRL date for the 2000 season and while no discussions have been held recently regarding the future of IRL at Nazareth, "those discussions will take place."
Construction continues at Dover Downs, 'The Monster Mile,' located in the heart of Delaware's capital. According to Dover Downs' John Dunlap, the 500-room, Four-Star hotel, located at the entrance to turn three, is expected to be completed early in 2002. The speedway has added 7,000 seats in turn one, bringing the seating capacity up to 140,000.
Dover will host two triple-headers in 2001 with all six races sponsored by MBNA. Craftsman Trucks, Busch Grand National and Winston Cup will race June 1-3. The fall race, held September 21-23, will see the Craftsman Trucks replaced by the Busch Grand National North Series as Friday's race.
Kimberly Miller and Sam Hornish Jr. joined the list of speakers on Saturday afternoon. Hornish, who will join the Pennzoil Panther team in 2001, discussed driving for the under-funded PDM Racing team last season and his prospects with the Panther team led by John Barnes.
Panther Racing has been busy since the season ended October 15 at Texas Motor Speedway. In addition to testing four different drivers in an effort to replace departing driver Scott Goodyear, the team offers Indy Racing Northern Light Series rookie orientation tests to USAC champions in the Silver Bullet, Sprint and Midget divisions.
Glenn Donnelly, of DIRT Motorsports, addressed the convention on Saturday afternoon, discussing big block modified racing in the northeast. At the conclusion of the 2000 season, drivers in Donnelly's DIRT sanctioned races spilt a $518,400 point fund. DIRT expects to have a new electronic timing system in place during the 2001season which will allow a new twist to time trials. Donnelly hinted that the new timing system would allow as many as four cars on the track during qualifications.
Randy Tolsma and David Donohue discussed their future in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Tolsma moves to Team Rensi for 2001. Joining Tolsma at Team Rensi is David Donohue, who recently competed with the Oreca Viper team. The team will compete in the 2001 season in Chevrolet Silverado trucks.
Judy Stropus accompanied Tolsma and Donohue to the EMPA Convention. Stropus, long known as a timing and scoring expert, has been working for Chevrolet in the public relations field. Stropus has spent the last few years working on the NHRA National Championship tour. This year she will beat the drums for Chevrolet in the Craftsman Truck Series. Wally Reese moves from the truck series to the Chevrolet Corvette program in the ALMS.
Highlights of Saturday night's Winston Hall of Fame dinner included the induction of Larry Nuber, Mario Andretti, Bill Wimble and Jerry Cook into the EMPA Hall of Fame.
Bobby Labonte was awarded the Al Holbert Memorial/EMPA driver of the Year Award and Ted Christopher was awarded the EMPA Northeast Driver of the Year Award.