Craig Murto: Cold closes local tracks

The cold weather and forecasts for high winds and snow flurries closed many local racetracks last weekend, and postponed the grand opening of Dominion Raceway in Thornburg until this Saturday.

Hagerstown and Winchester Speedways closed, as did many tracks in the Carolinas. Tracks that did open didn’t have too many people in the stands. It seems that fans in this region don’t want to venture out in the cold.

But New Englanders face the cold much more each year, and the grandstands were packed for the annual Icebreaker at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway. And for those of us too far away to attend or unwilling to freeze, the entire day of racing events were broadcast on www.fanschoice.tv.

Fanschoice.tv is worth any race fans attention. Be sure to check out their schedule of live racing events. Everything from flat track motorcycles, short track stock car racing, to sports cars and motorcycles on road courses can be found throughout the year.

My Sunday schedule took a backseat once I discovered the races from Thompson were on live. I logged on to fan’s choice in time to watch Vintage Modified racing, and enjoyed watching the old coupes tackle a track that 40 years they competed on without the vintage label.

But the good stuff was yet to come. Next up was a Pro All Stars Series (PASS) Super Late Model 75-lap race on the five-eighths-mile paved oval. Maine’s Garrett Hall scored his first PASS win after a good battle with Derek Griffith.

Southern New England is Modified country, and following races for Street Stock and Mini Stock divisions, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour took to the track for the Icebreaker 150, their season-opening event.

Xfinity Series regular Ryan Preece dominated the first 80 laps, until a caution brought the field down pit road. On the restart Justin Bonsignore briefly led before Preece retook the top spot.

But it wasn’t going to be Preece’s day. Timmy “The Natural” Solomito, a Modified racer from Long Island who’s been on the tour for the past couple of seasons, charged from his 13th starting spot and engaged Preece in a heated back-and-forth battle. Eventually Solomito pulled away and led the final 30 laps.

“(If) you want to earn one, that’s the way you want to do it, right there,” said Solomito as he celebrated his first Modified Tour win.

Preece was second, followed by Bonsignore, Doug Coby and Ron Silk. All of these drivers can be expected to be up front when the tour competes in televised races from New Hampshire and Bristol, Tenn.

Is there anybody else up front in any other NASCAR division but Kyle Busch? The current Sprint Cup champion, Busch is on a hot streak, winning the last Camping World Truck Series race, the last Xfinity series race, and the last two Sprint Cup races. If there was any doubt that he is a great racer and deserves to be Sprint Cup champion, that doubt should be erased.

He’s won most Xfinity races this season, making some fans believe that Cup drivers should be excluded from Xfinity and Truck Series races. But the visiting drivers do sell tickets, and they give the lower series regulars somebody to beat.

It seems that since Busch was injured at Daytona in 2015, he’s come back a smarter racer. He makes better decisions behind the wheel, and communicates his car’s needs in such a way as to have the winning car at the end. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the possibility that Kyle Busch can be a back-to-back Sprint Cup champion.

Supercross motorcycle racing fans in Indianapolis don’t have to be convinced that Ryan Dungey may become a back-to-back champion, as he rode his KTM to his seventh win in 13 races so far this season. The win didn’t come easy, though, as Ken Roczen made it difficult. A three-time winner this year on his Suzuki, Roczen wanted to grab that fourth win. The title will come down to these to riders.

Hopefully spring will stay with us this weekend, and the cold and rain will stay away. Local tracks will be running, and they need your support. And if you can make it to Dominion Raceway on Saturday night, it should be quite an event.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.