Tuesday April 28, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stopped at the Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend for the annual Spring Sizzler. The weekend had picture perfect weather with temperatures in the high 80’s and low 90’s.

Ted Christopher made it two-for-two in 2009 as he earned his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Coors Light Pole Award of the season Saturday afternoon at Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher, of Plainville , Conn. , turned a fast lap of 18.150 seconds (99.174 mph) in the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet Saturday for his 20th career Coors Light Pole Award, and his third at Stafford . The reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion and defending winner of the Spring Sizzler also captured the pole for the season opener at Thompson ( Conn. ) International Speedway, and wound up in Victory Lane the following day.

A full house was on hand at Stafford Motor Speedway to see the green flag drop on the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST. Ryan Preece (3) and Mike Stefanik (16) started on the front row. (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)

Mike Stefanik was the second-fastest qualifier as he toured the Stafford oval in 18.368 seconds (99.997 mph). Ryan Preece, Eric Berndt and Donny Lia rounded out the top five fastest cars in time trials. The top 10 qualifiers redrew following time trials. Preece and Stefanik ended up starting on the front row for Sunday’s 200-lap feature followed in the second row by Christopher and Berndt. There were 33 cars on hand.

Ted Christopher, the dominant car for the first half of Sunday’s 200-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race, survived a cut tire and an accident in the second 100 to earn his second trip in a row to Victory Lane in the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST at Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher, of Plainville, Conn., piloted the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet from mid-pack with 70 laps to go to earn his 33rd career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. The Coors Light Pole Award winner on Saturday, Christopher led 82 of the first 100 laps and appeared early to be the dominant car for the second week in a row. While under caution, Christopher had to come to pit road on Lap 121 with a cut tire and surrendered the lead on to Mike Stefanik. After rejoining the field, seven laps later he was skidding through the grass on the backstretch after getting caught up in an accident and a second-consecutive victory seemed unlikely.

All that didn’t deter the defending series champion from returning to Victory Lane, however, as he quickly moved up through the field and finally got by Todd Szegedy on Lap 182. The result was his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler win and his ninth career tour triumph at the Connecticut half mile. Szegedy finished as the runner-up and led three-different times for 33 laps in the race. Ryan Preece posted a third-place finish while Stefanik and Chris Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Donny Lia, Woody Pitkat, Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett and Ed Flemke Jr.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series now goes on “Spring Break”. The third race on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule will also take place at Stafford Motor Speedway. The TSI Harley-Davidson Classic, the first race under the lights in 2009, is schedule for Friday, May 22.

In other weekend action at Stafford, the 38th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST kicked off the 2009 SK Modified® and Late Model seasons with Richie Pallai, Jr. taking the 40-lap SK Modified® feature and Dillon Moltz taking the 30-lap Late Model feature. The 40-lap SK Modified® feature took the green flag began with a bang as there was a pileup in turn 1 that collected 8 or 9 cars. Todd Owen held the lead from the pole position and he was busy up front, fending off challenges from both Ted Christopher and Frank Ruocco during the early laps of the race. Owen was able stay up front until lap-22 when Ted Christopher moved by Owen coming off turn 4. Ruocco quickly moved by Owen for second place and he went by Christopher for the race lead on lap-26. The race took a drastic change on a lap-30 restart when Ruocco and Jeff Malave touched tires coming out of turn 2 and set off a crash that collected all but 8 cars, putting Richie Pallai, Jr. who was running third behind Ruocco and Malave, into the lead with Jimmy Blewett to his outside and Brad Hietala and Christopher behind him. Hietala was glued to the back bumper of Pallai on the restart, and he took several runs at Pallai for the lead, but was unable to complete a pass. On lap-37, Hietala made another run at Pallai in turn 1 but they touched tires, which got Hietala loose and allowed Christopher to move from fourth to second. Hietala's bobble afforded Pallai a nearly half-straightaway lead over Christopher for the final three laps of the race. Christopher closed the gap slightly, but he ran out of laps and time as Pallai took the checkered flag to record his first career SK Modified® feature victory. Christopher finished second, with Blewett, Owen, and Hietala rounding out the top-5.

Tim Jordan won the Speedbowl Late Model feature, dedicating the win to his mother Deb Jordan who passed away from cancer January 25, 2009.

Keith Rocco made it two in a row in SK Modified action at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. The 35-lap SK event began with Jeffrey Paul leading the first ten laps from his pole starting position. The action immediately heated up behind Paul as Corey Hutchings, Tyler Chadwick, Rob Janovic Jr., and Keith Rocco were jockeying for track position. Rocco, who came from the ninth starting spot, worked his M&M Motorsports #57 SK Mod in the low groove in the opening laps, and then moved to the ‘Bowl’s very capable outside groove. “I told my spotter to get me to the top when the field singled out” stated Rocco. “Fortunately that was real early". He moved outside Janovic for fourth on lap 6, then outside Chadwick for third a lap later. Still in the high line, he pressured Hutchings for second before completing the pass just 2 laps later.

He immediately went to work on the leader Paul, again using the high groove to gain the lead on lap 10. Hutchings and Chadwick followed Rocco around Paul, and the lead pack began to open up some space under green flag conditions.

At halfway, Rocco continued to lead Hutchings, Chadwick and Janovic. Jeff Pearl was making forward progress, moving into the top five by lap 19. The event’s first caution waved with 10 laps remaining for a spin by Wayne Arute. Rocco would get the jump on three ensuing restarts after more single car spins from the rear of the field. With just three laps remaining, contact in the lead pack sent cars scattering with Jeff Pearl and Dennis Gada taking direct hits, while Justin Gaydosh and Ron Yuhas Jr. also received damage. Only Yuhas was able to continue after a visit to the pits. Rocco resumed control on the restart and went on to the victory by a car length over Chadwick. Janovic, Shawn Solomito - making just his second career Speedbowl start, and Wendell Dailey completed the top-five. Hutchings, who ran second nearly the entire event, saw his strong run end in the turn 4 wall on the last lap as a victim of a cut tire.
Other winners from Saturday night action included Tim Jordan in the Late Models and Ronnie Oldham Jr. in the Street Stocks, while Chris Williams took the checkered in the Mini Stocks and Jason Palmer in Legends Cars action.

The True Value Modified Racing Series opened their season at the lightning fast ¼ mile Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night. It was one of the wildest nights in recent memory as the TVMS kicked off it’s sixth season in front of a large crowd. When the dust settled after nine caution periods, Rob Goodenough, Swanzey, NH; notched his second career win capturing the “Bond Auto Parts 100 Spring Dash” for open-wheel modified race cars. Goodenough started fifth in a 24 car field and was in the hunt for the lead throughout the race. Cross town rival Kirk Alexander took the top spot at the drop of the green flag and fought off all that was thrown at him from Peter Jarvis, Ascutney,VT; Ed Dachenhausen, Danbury CT; and Goodenough. Through eight caution periods, Alexander set a torrid pace until lap 90 when while trying to pass a slower car, the three-time champion made contact with a safety barrier knocking himself out of the race and wiping out a chance at an unprecedented 15th career win at his “home” track.

When the race resumed, Goodenough paced the field to the finish with 2006 series champion Dwight Jarvis chasing him to the checkered flag finishing a half car length behind the winner.

Jon McKennedy, Chelmsford, MA; Dachenhausen, Sean Bodreau, Claremont, NH; Rowan Pennink, Huntington Valley, PA; Mike Douglas, Auburn,NH; Joe Doucette,Framingham,MA; Jack Bateman, Canaan,N H; and Bill Park, Long Island, NY rounded out the top ten. Qualifying heat races were won by P.Jarvis, Alexander, and Dachenhausen, with Pennink winning the 15 lap consolation race.

The next stop for the True Value Modified Racing Series is May 9 at the Waterford CT; Speedbowl.

In some sad news, Gordon Reinig, retired Buffalo, NY fireman and Lancaster (NY) Speedway photographer (1967-1974) passed away Monday night (April 20) in Buffalo. He was responsible for the photos used in the book "Lancaster Heroes”.

Modified driver Maynard Troyer autographs a photo for Lancaster Speedway photographer Gordon Rening (right). Gordie endured snow banks, ankle-deep infield mud and mosquitoes each racing season to capture Lancaster Speedway's heroes on film. Rening passed away April 20th.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now will be seen on espn2 at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will show last Sunday’s Sprint Cup Aaron’s 499 that was run at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Speed will show the 2006 highlights of the Richmond events on Thursday at noon. The NASCAR Camping World Touring Series West event that was run at Madera, CA follows at 3:00pm. Speed goes live on Friday at noon with Sprint Cup practice from Richmond, VA. NASCAR Live provides a 30 minute break at 1:30 before the final practice begins at 2:00pm. NASCAR Live breaks in at 3:30followed by Nationwide Series qualifying at Richmond at 4:00pm. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at 5:30pm. At 7:00pm espn2 has the pre-race show that will lead into the start of the Nationwide Series Lipton Tea 250 at Richmond which will get the green at 7:30pm. Speed wraps up the day with Trackside at Richmond at 11:00pm. The Nationwide Series event will be repeated by espn2 at 4:00am on Saturday morning. Also on Saturday morning is NASCAR Now at 10:00am on espn2. At 5:00pm NASCAR Raceday has a two hour preview up the upcoming Sprint Cup event at Richmond. FOX goes live at 7:00pm with their own pre-race show that will lead to a 7:45 start of the Crown Royal presents the Russell Friedman 400 at the Richmond International Raceway in Virginia.

The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with the Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm on Sunday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks continue to do well while Dover Downs continues to falter. The International Speedway Corporation continues to shine as they went up 2.16 to 22.79. Speedway Motorsports went up 1.06 to 15.15. Dover Downs dropped 0.22 to 1.68. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.07 to 4.18 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.24 to 27.91. Tire supplier Goodyear had a positive week as they went up 0.66 to 10.87. Two of the three car makers in the market had good weeks. Toyota went up 3.78 to 80.92 and Ford went up 1.00 to 5.00 while General Motors dropped 0.17 to 1.69. Car sponsors had a somewhat off week. Dupont went up 0.36 to 28.78 while Coca-Cola dropped 0.21 to 53.45, Target Department Stores dropped 0.46 to 40.08 and Aarons Rentals dropped 1.36 to 28.66. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.21 to 26.31 and Lowes went up0.36 to 21.09.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is

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

Web Design Copyright © 2009 & - All Rights Reserved
Opinions expressed in Phil Smith's "Champ Trail" do not necessarily reflect the opinions of and the contents are the sole responsibility and opinions of the author.
For permission to reproduce any part of"Champ Trail" contact Phil Smith @
The "Champ Trail" is Copyright © 2006-2009 Phil Smith