Tuesday August 6, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                  Click on Photos For Full Size              

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors ended their summer break when they made their annual visit on Saturday night to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Blue skies, 90 degree temps and high humidity greeted the 34 cars that showed for the 28 starting spots. The top seven qualified based on their time trial. Ted Christopher took the Busch Pole as he toured the quarter mile oval in 11.815 seconds. Second fastest was local veteran Bill Park. Howie Brode was third fastest. Other time trial qualifiers were Jerry Marquis, Tony Ferrante, Donny Lia and Mike Stefanik. Twenty five lap heat races were won by Jimmy Blewett and James Civale. Among the tour regularswho didnít qualify were Woody Pitkat and Jake Marosz. Bob Grigas, who was qualified, was sent packing after he drove his car to his hauler before getting permission from tour officials. Among the missing was Zach Sylvester who reportedly has ceased his relationship with Curt Chase and the No.77.

Mike Stefanik won the re-draw as he drew the pole starting spot. Ferrante drew the outside pole. Just as the Riverhead 140 was about to get the green some of the track lights in turn one went out.

After a one hour delay the Riverhead event got under way. Don Lia and Bob Garbarino continued their golden year as they put another victory in their corner, their fifth in eight events. Lia inherited the lead when Mike Stefanik and Ted Christopher were involved in a wreck in the closing laps and led the final six laps. It was a slam-bang affair as seven caution periods slowed the event for 66 laps. Bill Park ended up in second the green-white-checkered finish. Ronnie Silk finished third, followed by Justin Bonsignore and James Civali. Danny Sammons, Matt Hirschman, Howie Brodie, Jamie Tomaino and Ryan Preece rounded out the top 10. Stefanik ended up 11th, Christopher was 15th. Stefanik led the first 116 laps after starting on the pole. Christopher used lapped traffic to get by him on lap 115, and Stefanik took the lead back again on lap 137 before the two clashed two laps later.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series will visit the Stafford Motor Speedway this Friday night, August 10.

The True Value Modified Series traveled to the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine last weekend. Kirk Alexander won with Mike Holdridge second and Ed Dachenhausen third. There were five lead changes. According to reports 30 cars were on hand and a big crowd witnessed the event. Jack Bateman was leading at the 75 lap mark when he ran over debris on the track and suffered a flat tire.

In regular Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway the temperatures were in the 90ís as Bert Marvin kept his cool as he took the win in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. Marvin, who has the reputation of being a hot head at times, was coming off a one race suspension for un-sportsmanlike conduct.

The hot and steamy weather was equaled only by the action on the track at Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night. Bert Marvin of Waterford made a strong statement returning to competition in style by dominating the Sunoco Modified main event. The veteran grabbed the lead early in the race and went on to dominate the 30-lap feature. On the opening lap, Kerry Malone dove to the inside of a side-by-side battle between pole sitter Dave Salzarulo and Josh Steeves to make it three-wide for the lead. Malone could not keep up his momentum and fell back to third. Marvin meanwhile appeared to be on rails, easily driving to the lead on lap three. Woody Pitkat had already worked his way into the second spot followed by Malone. John Blewett had his hands full holding off Keith Rocco for fourth. Jimmy Blewett, who got out of shape on the front stretch, had gathered it in and was running alone in sixth ahead of Tommy Cravenho. Marvin was enjoying a sizeable lead as Pitkat began to feel the pressure from Malone. Rocco got alongside John Blewett and was able to take away the fourth spot as the flagman showed the crossed flags. On the same lap, Jimmy Blewett retired to pit road. Rocco then made it a three car battle for the second spot. Marvin entered lapped traffic as Pitkat, Malone and Rocco ran nose-to-tail. John Blewett was able to reel in the group as well. Marvin easily maneuvered through lapped traffic, enjoying his half-straightaway lead. Malone made his bid for the second spot on lap 25. He got inside of Pitkat but could not muster up the pass. The bid opened the door for Rocco, who then got alongside Malone. The running order remained unchanged as the first caution of the event flew on lap 25 when Shelly Perry dumped fluid on the front stretch. Back under green, Marvin easily worked his way out to a solid lead over Pitkat. Malone resumed his defense of third position from Rocco. John Blewett quietly watched from the fourth spot. While Marvin was running away with the lead, Rocco made a last ditch effort on Malone for third. He got out of shape trying to drive around Malone on the final lap. Rocco slid out of the groove losing positions to both John Blewett and Tommy Cravenho. In the end Marvin sat in victory lane. Pitkat helped pad his standing in the Whelen All-American National Standing with his runner-up spot. Malone, who sits third in the national standings finished third. John Blewett, and Tommy Cravenho completed the top five.

Steve Michalski of Dayville won post-race tech to earn his first victory of the season in the Mini Stock 25-lapper. Fred Astle of N. Westport, MA, scored his long-awaited first win of the 2007 season. Mark Jenison of Danielson continues his impressive 2007 season with his fourth Late Model victory. Kurt Vigeant of Oxford was tops in the TIS Modified division while Ernie LaRose of Plainfield checkered the Limited Sportsman main.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Stafford Motor Speedway Woody Pitkat was cool as a cucumber as he made it three in a row in SK Modified competition. Ryan Posocco made it two in a row in Late Model competition. Brit Andersen took down the SK Light feature win for his third win of the 2007 season, Sean Foster won the Limited Late Model feature for his third victory of 2007, and Dan Flannery scored his first career victory in the 15-lap DARE feature event.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature saw Woody Pitkat continue his white hot summer streak with his third consecutive SK Modified feature victory. Todd Owen took the early race lead and led the first three laps. Jeff Malave moved past Owen on lap-4 to take the lead, but he was overtaken on lap-6 by Zach Sylvester for the race lead. Sylvester held the lead until lap-26 when Pitkat moved out front. A caution with 28 laps complete slowed the action, but Pitkat ran the final 12 laps of the race with no challenge from Frank Ruocco to take down the victory. Rounding out the top-5 behind Pitkat and Ruocco was Keith Rocco, Kenny Horton, and Eric Berndt.

The Hartford Courant reported that the Arute family that operates the speedway is currently embroiled in some serious in fighting. Some of the children of former track owner Jack Arute Sr. claim they are owed a financial sum from the Speedway. Wayne Arute, David Arute, Rob Arute, Danny Arute and Heidi Howarth have filed a claim in Hartford Superior Court against Mark Arute, his wife and track vice president Lisa Arute, track president Jack Arute Jr. and Stafford Motor Speedway. Jack Arute Sr. died on April 3, 2006. The Arutes have owned and operated the Stafford Motor Speedway since 1971.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Jeff Pearl annexed his fifth win of the season in the SK Modified 35 lap feature. Pearl took the lead on lap five from Frank Mucciacciaro Jr and was able to hold Dennis Gada at bay in the closing laps. Rob Janovic finished third. Mucciacciaro and Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five.

Veteran Nokie Fornoro needed only a record six minutes and eight seconds to win the caution-free 25-lap Northeastern Midget Association feature. It was Fornoro's first Speedbowl win since 1985. Point leader Bruce Thomas Jr. prevailed in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Other winners were Dwayne Dorr (20-lap Sportsman) and Randy Churchill Jr. (Mini Stock 20 lapper). It was the first-ever win for Churchill.

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:30pm time slot. This weeks viewing begins on Wednesday when the Speed Channel presents the July 28 USAR Hooters Pro Cup that was run at the Lake Erie Speedway in North East, PA. Thursdayís action begins at noon with last Saturdayís NASCAR Busch Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 that was run in Montreal. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Replay of the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono follows at 3:00pm. On Friday, Speed goes live at Watkins Glen Int at 1:00pm. The action switches to ESPN2 at 3:00pm for NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying at Watkins Glen. Action on ESPN2 continues at 5:30 with NASCAR Busch Series final practice. At 7:00pm Speed has Trackside at Watkins Glen. The Busch cars qualify at Watkins Glen at 11:30am on ESPN2. NASCAR Nextel Cup final practice follows at 2:00pm. The NASCAR Busch Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen goes green on ESPN2 at 3:30. At 4:00 itís NASCAR New England on NESN. NASCAR New England will present features and highlights from the Stafford Springs Motor speedway. The action switches to the Speed Channel at 6:30 for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, TN. Later in the evening, at 9:00, Speed goes to Knoxville Iowa for the Knoxville Nationals where top drivers from the National Sprint Tour and World of Outlaws compete against the stars of local and regional series to become The Knoxville Nationals Champion. Sundayís viewing begins at noon with a two-hour segment of NASCAR RaceDay which will preview todayís Centurion Boats at the Glen Nextel Cup event. ESPN2 will provide live coverage of the event beginning at 2:00pm. Wrapping up the weekend 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 out of the three speedway stockswere down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation was the only gainer as they went up 0.13 to 48.29. Dover Downs went dropped 0.02 to 5.85 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.14 to 36.69. Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.84 to 19.77 while Sunoco dropped 2.67 to 63.14. Goodyear Tire and Rubber dropped 0.57 to 26.43 while DIRT Motorsports went up 0.08 to 1.09. In the drug sector the results were negative. Pfizer dropped 0.28 to 23.51 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 0.64 to 28.00. The home improvement sector was also negative. Home Depot dropped 0.56 to 36.19 and Lowes dropped 0.32 to 27.45. The parcel carried didnít fare much better. Fedex dropped 1.07 to 108.56 and UPS dropped 0.50 to 75.17.

Thatís 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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