Tuesday August 28, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the mid-west, Mansfield, Ohio to be exact. The entire area had been under siege from heavy rains and tornado threats but the event went on as scheduled. That is until lap 108 when the race was called after repeated attempts to dry a rain soaked track. With his brother serving as his spotter and tracking the weather on his cell phone, James Civali elected not to pit with the leaders and was out front when NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour officials called the rain-shortened Mansfield 150 at Mansfield Motorsports Park. Doug Coby, driving the Mansfield CT based No.77 of Curt Chase, finished second and rookie Woody Pitkat was third. Point leader and Budweiser Pole Award winner Donny Lia was fourth and Eric Beers fifth. Ronnie Silk, Matt Hirschman, Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy and Bobby Grigas III rounded out the top 10.

Coby led the first 13 laps before Civali made the pass. Silk moved to the front seven laps later and led until a lap 54 caution. Silk elected to pit along with the fifth-place car of Szegedy and nine others.“We were leading and the car was really good,” Civali said. “When Ronnie got by me, the car got free. But then it stayed the same. It had 90 hard laps on it, too. But it never changed that whole run. It looked like Ronnie got free and then kept getting (more free).” Following the restart, Civali and Coby built a straightaway lead over third-place Pitkat on the half-mile banked oval. The field was bunched briefly following a lap 96 caution. Rain brought out the caution at lap 104 and the red at lap 108.
Twenty seven cars were on hand. Donny Lia was the top qualifier as he toured the Ohio oval in 15.274mph. Ronnie Silk was second fastest with James Civali, third. Ryan Preece and Matt Hirschman rounded out the top five.
Lia maintained his points lead at 131 over Szegedy and 139 over Hirschman. The next NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race will be at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway Sept. 1.

The Mansfield Motorsports Park also hosted the NASCAR Busch East division where Sean Caisse won the pole and the race. Caisse raced to the finish under the threat of rain, and the skies opened up during victory lane celebrations, but the race did get to run its advertised distance. 1) Caisse 2) Matt Kobyluck 3) Joey Logano 4) Jerry Marquis 5) Jeffrey Earnhardt.

Twin State Speedway track owner Dennis Fleury announced on Friday, Aug 17 at the drivers meeting that Twin State Speedway would not be a NASCAR track in 2008. The Twin State Speedway is located in Claremont, NH.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH numerous rain delays were encountered and the scheduled 100 Lap event was stopped on lap 42 with Rob Goodenough in the lead. Goodenough took the lead from Chris Pasteryak on lap 27. The TVMRS series declared Saturday nights Monadnock race, stopped on lap 42 by the second of two thunderstorms, an official race. Rob Goodenough was declared the official winner followed by Les Hinckley and Kirk Alexander. The track had announced a Sept 22 continuation but the series felt it was in the best interests of its competitors to declare the race official. Mike Holdredge and Pasteryak rounded out the top five.

In regular Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway the management, fans, friends, and family joined the racing community in mourning the tragic loss of John Blewett III.

A night of fiercely competitive racing was a fitting homage to the fallen racer. Two races, the Late Models and Mini Stocks, were decided by mere feet at the line. An emotional Kerry Malone of Needham, MA visited victory lane in the Sunoco Modified main event held in Blewett’s memory. Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, scored his eighth win of the season in a Late Model thriller while Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI added to his win tally by inches. Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, took home his second win of the season in the Pro Stocks. Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA, pulled off a similar feat with his second win in the Limited Sportman division. Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor padded his point lead with another TIS Modified feature victory on Thursday night.

Out of respect for Blewett the Sunoco Modified drivers filed side-by-side to the infield. Front row starters Josh Steeves and Danny Cates lowered the flag to half-mast before track announcer Russ Dowd gave a heartfelt tribute to John and Reverend Don Rivers led the crowd in prayer. With the safety lights on all the track vehicles, Karen Lussier delivered a tender rendition of the National Anthem. A flag, still all night, waved effortlessly during the Sunoco Modified main event.

Cates immediately motored out to a sizable lead over Steeves and Steve Masse. A scary moment near the start of the race saw the red flag flying. On lap three, Ricky Shawn launched over the tire of Bert Marvin sending his car flipping, making a complete rotation, before landing on his wheels and hitting the wall in turn three. Shawn was not hurt in the incident.

The youngsters Cates and Steeves vied for the lead when racing resumed. Their time at the head of the pack was short-lived with Kerry Malone on the move. In a half lap, Malone was the new leader. After freeing himself from Masse, he took second from Cates in turn one of lap four, he took the lead from Steeves exiting turn two. Steeves continued to run in second while Masse had his hands full with Keith Rocco. Cates began to fall back. Tommy Cravenho, who started deep in the pack after being involved in a heat race incident, was working his way through the pack. Marvin had begun to work his way back toward the front as well. After a disqualification in the heat, Pitkat was making tracks from deep in the field. The mount of Glen Griswold went up in smoke to bring out the second caution of the event. A chain of events on the ensuing restart found James Harrison hard into the outside wall. Todd Ceravolo and Pat Moreau were also involved. The restart at the halfway marker pitted Malone against Steeves with Rocco laying in wait in third. Malone easily resumed his spot at the head of the pack while Steeves and Rocco battled. Rocco came out on top of an aggressive battle for the second spot on lap 17.

Pitkat and Masse made contact in turn two. Both cars slid out of the corner with Masse eventually losing the handle. The remainder of the pack was able to avoid the spinning Masse. Pitkat lined up in the fourth position on the restart behind leader Malone, Rocco and Steeves. Cravenho rounded out the top five with ten laps to go. The race was set for an exciting finish after the restart that found Malone and Rocco on the front row. Malone got a great run to retain his lead. Pitkat made quick work of Steeves to move into the third spot. Pitkat dove low in turn one in search of the second spot, to no avail. Rocco was able to maintain the position. Malone could not get any breathing room despite the battling between Rocco and Pitkat. Equally as exciting was the battle for the third spot as Marvin and Cravenho did battle. Over the final two laps, things settled down with the top five going nose to tail. Malone ran to the checkers a wisp ahead of Rocco. Pitkat was glued to the bumper of the #6 as they streaked to the checkers. Marvin topped the secondary battle taking fourth over Cravenho.

In victory lane Malone dedicated his win to John Blewett. “I will miss racing with him,” said Malone. “I will miss that twinkle in his eyes. God Bless John Blewett.”

Woody Pitkat continued his high-speed freight train approach to racing in the SK Modified division at the Stafford Motor Speedway as he made it five feature wins in a row. Tom Fearn ended Ryan Posocco's three-race Late Model winning streak by taking his third Late Model feature win of the 2007 season, Josh Sylvester came home a first time winner in the SK Light Modified feature, Rick Lanagan won his sixth Limited Late Model feature event of the 2007 season, and Duane Provost joined Sylvester as a first time winner by taking the DARE Stock feature event victory.
The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green with Richie Pallai, Jr. leading the first lap and then surrendering the lead to Todd Owen on lap-2. Zach Sylvester took the lead from Owen on lap-7, and by lap-10, Woody Pitkat was on Owen's bumper looking to take the lead. Pitkat got the lead on a lap-11 restart by powering to the outside of Sylvester. Pitkat led lap-20, which earned him a $100 bonus from event sponsor Porter & Chester. The race began to take on a long green flag run, and Pitkat slowly built his advantage up over Sylvester and the rest of the field. With 5 laps to go, Pitkat's lead was about 2 seconds ahead of Sylvester and Pitkat cruised to his fifth consecutive SK Modified feature victory. Sylvester finished second, with Owen, Malave, and Ted Christopher rounding out the top-5.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Veteran Tommy Fox prevailed over Dennis Gada in one of the closest SK Modified races of the season at the shoreline oval. Exchanging the lead numerous times over the final circuits, Fox used the inside lane to keep the defending champion at bay until the checkers. Rob Janovic Jr., Jeff Pearl, and Tyler Chadwick rounded-out the top-5.
Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Jack Aquilina (Sportsman), Danny Field (Mini Stock), and, Michael Gervais Jr.(Legends).

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:00pm time slot. This week’s televised action begins on Wednesday at noon on the Speed Channel with the NASCAR Grand National Busch East Mohegan Sun 200 that was run at Lime Rock, CT on Aug 18. At 3:00pm it’s the World of Outlaws Late Models that ran at the Sharon Speedway in Hartford, OH on July 28. Last Friday night’s NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250that was run at Bristol, TN starts the Thursday action at noon. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Sharpie 500 follows at 3:00pm. Speed goes live at 11:00am on Friday with NASCAR Busch Series qualifying from Fontana, CA. At noon its NASCAR Live from California followed by a 90-minute practice session for the Busch cars. At 2:30 the Nextel Cup cars take over for a 90-minute practice. Live coverage of Nextel Cup qualifying begins on Speed at 6:00pm. Trackside at the California Speedway follows at 8:00pm. Speed shifts gears at 9:00pm when they move to Madison, IL for the ARCA RE/MAX Series Shop ‘n Save 150, Gateway Intl. Raceway. Saturday’s coverage begins at 11:00am with Trackside at the California Speedway. At 4:00 it’s NASCAR New England on NESN. NASCAR New England presents features and highlights from the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. Later in the day, at 5:30, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 gets the green at the Gateway Intl. Raceway. At 8:00pm it’s back to California for NASCAR Nextel Cup final practice. At 9:30 live coverage shifts to ESPN2 for the Busch Series pre-race followed by the NASCAR Busch Series Camping Word 300 at the California Speedway at 10:00. Sunday’s action begins at 6:00pm on the Speed Channel with a two hour Race Day that will preview the weekend’s Nextel Cup event. At 8:00pm the NASCAR Nextel Cup Sharp AQUOS 500 from the California Speedway goes live on ESPN. On the Speed Channel is The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the negative side. Speedway Motorsports had a positive ending as they went up 0.16 to 37.27. Dover Downs dropped 0.15 to 5.85 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.44 to 47.86. After three negative weeks Sprint/Nextel showed some spark as they went up 0.63 to 18.95. Sun Oil (Sunoco) also had a good week as they went up 4.82 to 71.16. For the third week in a row Goodyear had a positive ending as they went up 1.15 to 28.84. DIRT Motorsports showed some promise as they went up 0.25 to 0.84. In the drug sector Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 1.89 while Pfizer went up 0.80 to 24.74. In the home improvement sector Lowes led the way as they went up 3.32 to 30.19. Home Depot also had a positive week as they went up 1.37 to 34.68. The parcel carriers followed suit as Fedex went up 3.08 to 111.08 and UPS went up 0.71 to 77.03.

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

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

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