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Tuesday April 17, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                           
 

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was slated to begin last weekend with the running of the Ice Breaker at the Thompson Speedway but Mother Nature won out as she swamped the entire northeast with rain and sleet last Sunday. Speedway officials and NASCAR made a joint announcement postponing the event on Saturday evening. With fuel prices being what they are it was a wise decision.

The speedway was quite busy on Saturday as qualifying was completed for the Modifieds along with the tracks weekly divisions. Features were also run for the Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds and Late Models.

Forty eight NASCAR Modifieds were on hand for practice and qualifying. Reggie Ruggiero and Richard Savory were early casualties as their cars suffered severe damage. Ruggerio’s mount had a water hose let go which dumped water on the track, causing him to lose control and hit the wall. Savory, who is driving for Preston , Ct car owner Art Barry this year spun in the water and landed on top of Ruggiero’s car. Both drivers escaped unhurt but both cars were damaged severely and had to be withdrawn. Barry had a back-up but Ruggiero didn’t as his car owner, Dick Barney was forced to return to his shop in New Jersey to make repairs and hope for a provisional starting spot which he eventually got. Todd Szegedy broke the Modified track record set by Bob Polverari in 2001 as he toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.457 seconds as he won the Busch Pole. Second fastest was former series champion Tony Hirschman. Zach Sylvester made a fine showing for himself in his first outing in the Curt Chase No.77 as he qualified third fastest. Rounding out the top ten were Donnie Lia, Ted Christopher, Richard Savory, Matt Hirschman, Mike Stefanik, Bobby Santos III now in the Boehler Racing No.3 and Danny Sammons. A re-draw inverted the top six for this Sundays event. Later in the day after the Ice Breaker was postponed NASCAR impounded four motors, the Chevrolets of Lia and Tony Hirschman and the Fords of Szegedy and Stefanik. They were scheduled to be taken to NASCAR’s R & D center in North Carolina for examination.

Todd Ceravolo started his season off on the right foot as he won the first of twin features scheduled for the Sunoco Modifieds. Rick Gentes followed suit in the Late Models. Ceravolo, who won his qualifying heat, led every lap to score the win in the first of twin features scheduled for the Sunoco Modified division. Ceravolo jumped out to the early lead but was immediately hounded by Keith Rocco who has replaced Jeff Malave in the Interstate Diesel #6. Ceravolo maintained his position as the top-four, which also included Tommy Cravenho and Woody Pitkat, jockeyed for position. John Blewett, making his Sunoco Modified debut at Thompson, ran alone in the fifth position. The first driver to peek out of line was Cravenho to challenge Rocco for the second spot. The two ran wheel to wheel for several laps. Pitkat capitalized and was able to tail Rocco on the outside, moving Cravenho back to fourth. Ceravolo never missed a beat as he entered lap traffic at the halfway marker. Pitkat dove to the inside of Rocco on lap fifteen and was able to make the pass stick taking over the second position exiting turn four. Pitkat immediately set his sites on the leader Ceravolo. Meanwhile, Jimmy Blewett had caught his brother John. The action was halted when the first caution of the event flew on lap 20 for a spin by Dan LaJeunesse. Ceravolo got a great jump on the restart to maintain his lead on the field. Pitkat got racy with only a handful of laps remaining. On Lap 22, there was contact between the leaders but no change in position. Pitkat remained glued to his bumper. With the white flag in the air, Pitkat got a run on the inside in turn two but had to settle back in line. Ceravolo ran to the checkers just ahead of Pitkat. Rocco came home third followed by Cravenho and Jimmy. Blewett, who rounded out the top five. .

After his heat race victory, Corey Hutchings started the 25-lap Late Model feature from the pole. Hutchings capitalized and took the top spot over Rick Gentes and Mark Jenison. In a distant third was Steve Landry. The field was bunched up for a caution on lap six for a spin by Jeff Hartwell. Under the caution, Jenison was forced to give up third position with a flat tire. Hutchings maintained his lead on the restart but had his hands full holding off Gentes. Jeff Zuidema moved into the third spot. Gentes went low to get by Hutchings in turn two. Hutchings got out of shape losing positions to both Zuidema and Landry.At halfway, Gentes continued to show the way over Zuidema, Landry, Hutchings and Conrad Cote inside the top five. Things settled down as the laps wound down. Cote made a bid on Hutchings in fourth with two laps remaining. Cote could get underneath Hutchings in the corners but could not muster up enough steam to take the spot away. Gentes posted the victory over Zuidema, Landry, Hutchings, and Cote .

The Waterford Speedbowl beat the impending rain on Saturday night. Dennis Gada survived several late race restarts to claim the 35-lap SK Modified feature. The defending champion pulled ahead of eventual runner-up Frank Ruocco for the final time with only three circuits remaining. Rob Janovic finished third with Doug Coby and Jeff Pearl rounding out the top five. Both Gada and Ruocco earned guaranteed spots in this coming Saturday’s TrueValue Modified Series 100 at the Speedbowl.

Other winners were Allen Coates (Late Models), Ken Cassidy Jr. (Mini Stocks), Chris Bakaj (Legends) and Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman).

The Thompson Speedway will try again this coming weekend. The following weekend, on April 28-29 it’s the annual Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Saturday night racing continues at the Waterford Speedbowl.

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:30pm time slot seven days a week. This weeks viewing begins on Tuesday at 9:30am when the Speed Channel presents Back in the Day with Dale Earnhardt Jr featuring David Pearson winning the 1972 Winston 500 at Talladega. Wednesday will be quiet. The viewing action resumes on Thursday at noon on the Speed Channel with a rebroadcast of last Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series O’Reilly 300 that was run at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth . At 3:00pm last Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Samsung 500 from the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth gets the green. Speed goes live at 6:00pm with NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying for the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at the Phoenix International Raceway. NASCAR Busch Series final practice follows at 10:00pm . Friday’s racing starts at noon with the USAR Hooters Pro Cup, Naturally Fresh 250 that was run at the South Boston Speedway, VA on April 14. Speed goes live at Phoenix at 4:00 with NASCAR Live. NASCAR Busch Series qualifying at Phoenix begins at 5:30 . Trackside from Phoenix International Raceway follows at 7:00pm . Live coverage continues at 8:00pm with NASCAR Nextel Cup final practice. The action switches to ESPN2 at 9:00pm for the NASCAR Busch Series COUNTDOWN followed by flag to flag coverage of the Bashas’ Supermarkets 200. Saturday’s viewing will begin at 4:30pm with NASCAR Performance from Phoenix followed by Tradin’ Paint from Phoenix at 5:00pm . NASCAR RaceDay previews the Subway Fresh Fit 500 from Phoenix International Raceway for two hours beginning at 6:00pm . FOX goes live at 8:00pm with their pre-race show followed at 8:30 with live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Subway Fresh Fit 500 from Phoenix . Sunday’s televised racing will be limited to the Champ Car World Series Grand Prix of Houston on ESPN at 3:00pm . On Sunday evening the Speed Channel has The SPEED Report at 7:00pm , NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm .

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.41 to 39.57 and Dover Downs went up 0.04 to 5.40. On the negative side the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.68 to 50.73. For the second week in a row Nextel showed a positive gain as they went up 0.33 to 19.93. Sun Oil followed suit as they went up 0.58 to 74.75. Goodyear continues to climb as they went up 0.27 to 33.18. Goodyear has gained a little over $12.00 per share since January 1. DIRT Motorsports showed a slight movement As they went up 0.05 to 1.75. In the drug sector, it was all positive as Pfizer went up 0.83 to 26.67 and Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 0.50 to 28.32. The home improvement sector went the other way as Home Depot dropped 0.13 to 37.89 and Lowes dropped 0.25 to 31.14. The parcel carriers were also off for the week. UPS went up 0.05 to 70.31 while Fedex dropped 0.91 to 107.91.

ISC director Raymond K. Mason Jr gave himself a nice Spring bonus of approximately $643,750 recently when he sold 12,500 shares for $51.50 to $51.70 each. Company insiders are required by the Security and Exchange Commission to report their transactions.

President and CEO Tom Deery, .of DIRT MotorSports, Inc. announced last week that it will change its corporate name to World Racing Group, Inc. The Company will operate under the d/b/a World Racing Group until the formal name change is voted on at the Company's upcoming shareholder's meeting. Following the formal corporate name change, the Company will also obtain a new stock symbol. Now based in Concord , N.C. , the World Racing Group has unveiled an extensive television package which will showcase their events on the Speed Channel and ESPN.

Photos By Race Dog Photography-Keith Cyr


That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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