Tuesday April 27, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series descended upon the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. The main event, 200 laps/100 miles carried a race purse of $88,142. Thirty six Modifieds took time for the 33 available starting spots. Bobby Santos III continued the momentum from the Thompson Ice Breaker as he set a new track record with the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile. Santos toured the 1/2 mile oval in 17.965 seconds (100.195 mph) which surpassed Matt Hirschman’s three-year-old record of 18.009 (99.950). Second fastest was Rowan Pennick with a time of 18.009. Third through fifth were Erick Rudolph, George Brunnhoelzl, III and Ron Silk. Rounding out the top ten fastest were Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Jamie Tomaino, Eric Berndt and Doug Coby. The top ten re-drew for starting spots. It was Santos again as he pulled the pill with the number one on it. Coby pulled the No. 2 pill.

As forecasted, rain moved into the Connecticut area in the wee hours of Sunday morning causing NASCAR and the Stafford management to postpone the Sizzler to this coming Saturday, May 1, with a rain date of Sunday, May 2. With Stafford previously scheduled to start their regular Friday night weekly racing program the rain-out makes for an almost full racing weekend at the Connecticut oval. The speedway management has changed it's opening night program into a program titled CARQUEST Special Extra Distance Night which will be highlighted by extra distance events for the SK Light Modified, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions.

The CARQUEST Special Extra Distance Night on Friday, April 30th will showcase the SK Lights in a special 30-lap feature event, the Limited Late Models in a special 25-lap feature, and the DARE Stocks in a special 20-lap event. The SK Modifieds and the Stafford Late Models will run on Saturday prior to the 200 lap Sizzler.

The weekend at Stafford wasn't a total loss. Three feature events for Stafford's support divisions were run on Saturday. Ted Cain went home a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta outlasted defending track champion Andrew Durand to take the first Limited Late Model victory of the season, and Tony Membrino, Jr. wired the field to take the checkered flag in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event.

The Stafford pit area will open at 7:00am and Stafford's famous CARQUEST Belts and Hose Pit Party will take place from 11:15am-12:15 pm. Following the CARQUEST Belts and Hose Pit Party will be practice sessions for Stafford's SK Modified® and Late Model divisions from 12:30pm-1:00pm with the Whelen Modified Tour practicing from 1:00pm-1:30pm. Feature racing will begin at 2:00pm with the 40-lap SK Modified® feature. The 30-lap Late Model feature will follow the SK Modified® feature and the 200-lap CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler for the Whelen Modified Tour will take the green flag at approximately 3:15pm and will close out the day's racing activities. Rain checks for last Sunday's CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler will be honored on Saturday, May 1st.

The Waterford Speedbowl beat the weather as the completed their entire racing program on Saturday night. Keith Rocco continues to rule the roost as he now has three out of four victories in the SK Modified division at the shoreline oval. Norm Sears was a first time winner in the Street Stocks and Chris Williams won for the first time in nearly a year in the Mini Stocks. Howard Payne was the victor in the Trucks and it was Anthony Flannery taking the win for the Legends Cars.

The SK Modifieds, fresh off a rain out, resumed with an exciting 35-lap race. Kyle James raced to the early lead of the event over Tom Abele Jr. and Diego Monahan. On lap seven the first caution flag of the event waved on lap seven when Tyler Chadwick tangled with Todd Ceravolo in turn two sending both cars spinning.

On the restart James prevailed over Abele, but Monahan began turning up the heat. He moved inside and past Abele and pressured the newcomer to the division for the race lead. James countered with his own moves to thwart off Monahan’s challenges. Meanwhile Jeff Paul was looking strong and moved into third. Further back, Rocco and Ron Yuhas Jr. were mired in traffic battling at the back half of the top ten.
Monahan was able to muster his way by James for the lead with a strong move to the inside on lap 8. Paul was trying to make some noise, looking for a way around James while holding off Abele. The heated action continued for several laps before boiling over on lap 15. James shut the door on an outside move by Paul exiting turn four. Paul made contact with the concrete barrier on the front stretch and regained control, but the move jostled the field behind. By turn two the Paul machine faltered further, collecting Chadwick who had been working his way back through the field. Ceravolo had nowhere to go and made heavy contact with Chadwick, bringing out a red flag situation. All drivers were ok following the incident.

Monahan resumed his position at the front for the lap 15 restart. Dennis Charette was having his best run of the young season and moved into second position over Abele. Rocco restarted in sixth but quickly worked his way to third and closed on Charette’s bumper. Jeff Pearl had advanced to fourth and Yuhas rounded out the top five as the field race to halfway.

Rocco sized up Charette for second and looked outside on lap 20. He made the move stick and found himself in position to challenge the leader. Jeff Pearl followed suit to make it a three car race at the front.
Rocco looked both high and low trying to break Monahan’s rhythm, to no avail. Pearl seized opportunity when Rocco looked low and jumped outside to challenge for second. Monahan had his hands full as now Pearl challenged for the race lead from the outside when caution waved behind the leaders on lap 24.

Rocco retained second position for the restart with Pearl third. Rocco powered past the outside of Monahan when the race resumed through turns one and two to become the third leader of the event as the field completed lap 25. The race stayed green and Rocco pulled out to a comfortable advantage. Pearl worked over Monahan and made an inside move down the back chute to take second on lap 31. Monahan held on for third at the checkered. Yuhas finished in fourth and Charette fifth.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC had hoped to begin their 62nd season last Saturday but like Connecticut on Sunday, it rained in North Carolina on Saturday night. Light rain began about an hour before race time in what was shaping up to be a packed house at the 17,000-seat stadium, judging from the number of early-arriving fans and overflowing parking lots. The Madhouse television series, which aired on the History Channel during the off season, created huge interest in the racing at the North Carolina oval. Qualifying for the season opening Tucson 200 was held on Friday night. Defending Track Champion Tim Brown was the top qualifier. Second fastest was Lee Jeffreys with Burt Myers, third.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at 10:30am with NASCAR: What’s the Deal? with Jimmy Spencer. NASCAR Now on espn2 is shown at 5:00pm. NASCAR Now is also shown at the same time on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. NASCAR Race Hub on the Speed Channel is shown at 7:30pm. NASCAR Race Hub is also shown at the same time on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Speed has Race in 60: NASCAR Sprint Cup Aaron's 499 at Talladega Superspeedway at 8:00pm and also at 8:00am on Wednesday. At noon the Speed Channel will replay the Talladega event from start to finish. On Thursday at noon Speed replays the Talladega Nationwide Series event. At 3:00pm Speed goes back in time as they present the 2004 Chevy Monte Carlo 400 that was run at the Richmond International Raceway. The NASCAR Southern Whelen Modified Tour Series event that was run at the South Boston Speedway in Virginia on Saturday night, April 3, will be shown on the Speed Channel on at 6:00pm. Friday's programming begins at 10:30am with Motorweek. Speed goes live at noon with Sprint Cup practice from Richmond. NASCAR Live follows at 1:30pm. Another 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars follows at 2:00pm. Following NASCAR Live at 3:30pm will be Nationwide Series qualifying at Richmond. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at 5:30pm. At 7:00pm the action switches to espn2 for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead to the start of the BUBBA Burger 250 at the Richmond International Raceway at 7:30pm. At 10:00pm the Speed Channel has another NASCAR Hall of Fame Biography featuring Junior Johnson. Trackside (NASCAR) at Richmond International Raceway rounds out the day at 11:00pm. Saturday's programming starts at 5:00pm with a two hour segment of NASCAR RaceDay. FOX goes live at 7:00pm with their own pre-race show that will lead to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400 at the Richmond International Raceway at 7:30pm. Sunday's viewing begins at 12:30pm with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pre-race show that will lead to the 1:00pm start of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday night is The SPEED Report at 7:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks had positive results for the week. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 2.75 to 30.24. Speedway Motorsports went up 1.47 to 17.40 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.06 to 2.18. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.24 to 4.32 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun oil jumped 1.96 to 31.23. Tire supplier Goodyear was also up as they gained 0.31 to close at 14.58. With the exception of Toyota which dropped 1.73 to 77.64 the car makers had a good week. Ford went up 0.89 to 14.21 and General Motors went up 0.06 to 0.61. In the area of home improvement Home Depot went up 1.38 to 36.39 and Lowes went up 1.93 to 28.22. The team sponsors also had a good week with the exception of Coca-Cola which dropped 2.11 to 54.53. Dupont jumped 1.56 to 40.22 while Target Department Stores jumped 1.95 to 57.94 and Aarons Rentals jumped 0.96 to 23.80.

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.

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