ECONOMAKI: Thanksgiving Means More Than Overeating

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HARRISBURG, N.C. — Most of us think of turkey when we think of Thanksgiving, but to many the annual buffet holiday means racing. A collection of Thanksgiving weekend events were big hits with not only racers, but fans. The Turkey Night Grand Prix drew 95 open-wheel cars in three divisions to Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale, while the fourth annual Turkey Classic at Springfield, Mo., saw 189 cars in four divisions at the quarter-mile dirt track. The American Sprint Car Series held its inaugural Las Vegas Sprint Car Super Nationals at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas and 65 winged-sprint-car competitors showed up with top-notch shoes Tony Stewart and Joey Saldana winning. But close to NSSN’s New Jersey birthplace, the 35th annual Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium was the surprise event of the weekend despite temperatures in the 30s during the day. Seven classes of cars participated in the two-day event. The biggest innovation was the addition of the dirt-style modifieds racing with dirt-track tires on the third-mile asphalt oval. More than 20 cars participated with Richie Pratt, Jr. winning both days. The Blewett-Ling promotional team hit a home run with a standing-room-only crowd. In the days leading up to the event, there was speculation that a “successful event” could lead to a limited schedule of events at the historic track next season. Observers felt the event surpassed that criterion with the parking lots full well before race time Saturday and shuttle buses transferring guests to the track from the nearby Monmouth County Airport. Good news all around.

Despite financial challenges which plagued Richard Petty Motorsports during the final portion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season, the team will survive thanks to two new investors — Medallion Financial Corp. and DGB Investments. Petty, who was more of a figurehead than anything else in the previous incarnation of the team, is expected to be actively involved in day-to-day operations for the team, which will field the No. 43 for A.J. Allmendinger and the No. 9 for Marcos Ambrose. Medallion Financial, operated by Andrew Murstein, who will be the majority owner in the team, has invested more than $3 billion in companies since its 1996 IPO. Murstein’s grandfather founded the company in 1937 by purchasing taxi licenses [medallions] for $10. Today, the same medallions sell for $800,000 each. Murstein owns or leases more medallions than any other New York City company. DGB Investments is the investment vehicle of Canadian Douglas C. Bergeron. The company was founded in 2001.

F-1 czar Bernie Ecclestone, 80, and his Brazilian girlfriend Fabiana Flosi, 31, were mugged in central London on Friday evening. Four men punched and kicked the billionaire and snatched wallets, jewelry and watches. Flosi was not injured, and Ecclestone was treated and released at a local hospital. It wasn’t a random attack. The muggers were purposely waiting near Ecclestone’s Formula One Holdings headquarters office in the posh Knightsbridge district near Buckingham Palace. “It was completely stupid and uncalled for,” Ecclestone told a London newspaper. “If they had confronted me and asked for everything we had, I would have handed over everything in my pockets, my wallet, anything.” Initial reports that the thieves stole a total of 314,000 [euros] were “bullocks” he said. “I’m feeling it now, bit painful, it was a good whacking,” he said. “When I was on the ground I could hear Fabiana screaming for help, and I took a kick or two in the head and went unconscious.”

The Agajanian family, which serves as race organizer for the annual Turkey Night Grand Prix, was presented the Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence during pre-race ceremonies for Thursday night’s event at Toyota Speedway @ Irwindale.

Ratings for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series on Fox, ESPN and Turner were down for 26 of 34 races this season, not including two Monday events. The recent season finale Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway was down from a 3.6 rating in 2009 to 3.3 after changing from ABC to ESPN this year. In all, the SportsBusiness Journal reports NASCAR has lost “nearly a quarter of its viewing audience” in the past four years. In 2006 NASCAR averaged 7.855 million viewers per race compared to 5.992 million viewers this past season. There is good news, however. While NASCAR averaged a 3.6 rating over 34 races this season, it remained the No. 2 rated sport behind the NFL, which has shown a ratings increase this season.

NASCAR officials have said publicly the sanctioning body will not take any money from the struggling NASCAR Hall of Fame “until it is successful.” The Hall of Fame has not met attendance projections and lost $448,000 during the third quarter of this year. However, NASCAR officials offered “no comment” to the Charlotte Observer when asked if it would invest any money to keep the Charlotte, N.C., museum, which is operated by the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, afloat.

Celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2011, the Indianapolis Speedrome, under the direction of Joel Cohen, has initiated the Brick Way program by which companies and individuals may permanently become part of the facility by purchasing a brick that will be placed at the main entrance to the historic Indiana asphalt track. The Indianapolis Speedrome Brick Way will be made up of three unique brick designs. Each size corresponds with the message area available. For more information contact Speedrome officials at (317) 353-8206 or you can e-mail [email protected]

The 25th annual Piedmont Racing Expo at the North Carolina State Fairgrounds Jan. 14-15 is looking for drivers who competed at the now-gone Raleigh Fairgrounds Speedway from 1955-1970 to put together a display of memorabilia dedicated to the track. Promoter Phillip Walker will take your calls at (919) 215-3351.

Classy female racer Sarah Fisher has retired from racing to concentrate on being a car owner. Fisher has hired Ed Carpenter to drive her Dollar General No. 67 IZOD IndyCar Series machine in at least nine of the 16 events in 2011. Fisher hopes to secure additional sponsorship which would allow Carpenter to run the full schedule. Fisher, who honed her skills in midgets and sprint cars, drove in seven events this past season and has 74 starts during her IndyCar Series career.

Fans of the history of speed take note. Ejje Publishing Group has released “The Chrisman Legacy: Always Faster,” a book by Tom Madigan tracing the Chrisman family’s involvement in the pursuit of speed performance. Covering from Pop Chrisman to Art and Jack Chrisman’s Bonneville exploits, the 240-page hardcover book sells for $50 from www.thechrismanlegacy.com.

Lancaster (N.Y.) Speedway owner-promoter Edward “Eddie” Serwacki died Nov. 24 at age 85 after an 18-year battle with Alzheimer’s. In its heyday, during Serwacki’s reign, Lancaster played host to some of the biggest names in the sport. The son of Polish immigrant parents, Ed owned and operated Clinton Collision on Buffalo’s East Side from 1946 to 1977.

Becky Robbins, wife of longtime racing promoter and ASA founder Rex Robbins, died Monday following an illness. Condolences to Rex and the extended ASA family.

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