ORLANDO SPEEDWORLD OPENS 35th SEASON OF RACING FRIDAY NIGHT
By Dave Westerman
Orlando Speedworld hopes it will be a "lucky" night this week as the three-eights mile high-banked oval opens for its 35th season of racing on Friday the 13th.
There are a number of big changes in store for the 2009 season basically "streamlining" the racing program to give fans an action-packed and quick-moving show that will get them on their way home at a decent hour. The Saturday night program has been suspended with the Legends Cars and Bandoleros moving to Friday night.
Other traveling groups such as the Bass Pro Challenge Series and the Daytona Antique Auto Racing Association will also make Friday night appearances while the popular Outlaw Modifieds will move their two yearly shows to New Smyrna Speedway.
The Bandoleros will now be a part of Speedworld's "Early Show" which will start at 7PM each Friday. Every other week, the Bandoleros will be joined by the new Novice Truck division which will give up and coming drivers, no matter what age, the chance to compete against drivers with similar experience before moving up to FASCAR's Pro Trucks or other regular racing classes.
The Bandolero classes should be wide open this year. Defending Bandit champion Critter Saile has sold his car and will run the Legends in 2009. Donovan Ponder, the 2009 Young Gun titlist, will begin the year in the smaller cars but his Bandolero is for sale and he plans to also move up to a Legends Car as soon as he can.
Several new young drivers will make the scene this year in Bandolero competition, two of which are the sons of racers. Michael Held will run in the Bandits class and is the son of former Modified champion Shain Held while Wes Railing, Jr. will race in the Young Guns. His dad is a long-time competitor at Speedworld in a number of classes. Jonnie Varga of St. Cloud will be behind the wheel of the car that Saile drove to back-to-back Bandit championships.
Weekly FASCAR Stock Car Racing will begin each week at the regular starting time of 8PM. This year, the Super Late Models, Late Models, Modifieds, Pro Trucks and Sportsman classes will alternate weeks with sister FASCAR track New Smyrna Speedway. The Super Stocks, Legends Cars and Strictly Stocks will race every Friday night.
Another change to the weekly procedure is that all classes will run feature races only. Heats have been eliminated and feature race distances have been extended. Hopefully, this move will have every show over no later than 11PM and give fans a better opportunity to interact with the drivers with more "meet and greet" sessions etc.
This Friday night marks the first appearance of the Late Model division on a "regular" Friday night in several years. The Late Models will share the asphalt with the Modifieds, Sportsman, Legends Cars and Strictly Stocks.
Chris Smyth is the defending Modified champion and is expected back in the Laszlo Performance & Fabrication special if he can keep his "boss" Dick Laszlo from taking over the seat. Shain Held will be back looking for a second championship himself and will be challenged by other drivers including the likes of Mark Emberson, Randy Froelich and Rick Johns among others. Matt Jarrett moves up to the Modifieds from the Super Stocks this year and the talented youngster should be a factor right away.
One driver who will be missing from the Modified ranks early in the year will be 2006 champion Alan Bruns. Bruns recently underwent major back surgery and will be "on blocks" to start the season. All of the fans, staff and race teams at Speedworld wish likable driver a speedy recovery.
The "Flying Pyrotechnician," Andy Nichols, is back to defend his 2008 Sportsman title. The Orlando driver will have plenty of competition this year as several top drivers from New Smyrna Speedway plan a Speedworld assault this year along with many Speedworld "regulars" like Rapid Ron DiCandio, Justin Reynolds, Jeff Wright, Jason Foster and veteran Pete Starr.
Super Stock champion Bobby Riley also returns as part of the Billy Cuddy Painting team which will field three cars to start the year. In addition to Riley, veteran Ron McCreary and young Devon Cuddy will also be behind the wheel of the bright orange Chevy Monte Carlos. The Super Stock class will feature many other top "shoes" like John Hodge, Jason Pick, Dennis Snyder and William Hindman.
Young ladies can sign up for the chance to be the 2009 Miss Orlando Speedworld. Sign-up sheets will be available this Friday night as well as March 20th and 27th. The contest is open to girls age 16 and over (minors must have parental consent) and the winner will represent Orlando Speedworld at various promotions and public appearances as well as present trophies in victory lane. The actual contest is slated for Friday night, April 17th.
Grandstand gates open this Friday evening at 6PM with the Bandoleros racing at 7PM followed by the first FASCAR program of 2009 at 8PM. Adult admission is just $10 with all kids 11 and under getting in free.
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