Tuesday August 25, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Bristol, TN for a Wednesday night event this past week. The posted race purse of $91,575 drew 42 Whelen Modifieds including 27 from the North. Late afternoon rain forced NASCAR to cancel time trials forcing the field to go to post based on points. Ted Christopher led the field to the starting green with Southern Modified point leader George Brunnhoelzl, III on the outside. Christopher led the first 107 laps as Brunnhoelzl faded. Donny Lia started seventh and by lap 100 had placed the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile firmly in second spot. Seven laps later Christopher faltered and Lia scooted into the lead. Lia lost the lead to Christopher when he jumped a restart on lap 138 and was told by NASCAR to let Christopher by.

Donny Lia (4) during the UNOH Perfect Storm 150.
(Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR

Three laps later Lia was back in the lead and proceeded to open up a fairly good lead which he maintained to the 150 lap mark and the checkered flag. Christopher held on for second and was followed by Ryan Preece who brought the mighty No. 3, Ole Blu, of the Boehler family home in third spot. That particular version of the legendary Modified was actually built by the late Len Boehler in 1996! George Brunnhoelzl III and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Rowan Pennink, Ed Flemke Jr., Burt Myers and Erick Rudolph.

The racing was nothing short of being fantastic. A big plus was the fact that Mike Joy and Dick Berggren called the race for the Speed Channel. Hopefully the management of the Bristol Motor Speedway will see fit to bring the Modifieds back in 2010. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will next race this coming Saturday, Aug, 29 at the Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome.

In Thursday night Thunder action at Thompson the aggressive driving in the Sunoco Modifieds continued. Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco slugged it out to the end. Lots of leaning along with bump and run. Neither hit the wall so there was no foul. Christopher used retaliatory moves to score his fourth win of the season. Derek Ramstrom won a wild one in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes scored the victory in the Late Models. Larry Barnett padded his point lead with his fifth Limited Sportman victory of the season. Another point leader, Brian Sullivan was victorious in the TIS Modifieds. Rick Blanchard was declared the Mini Stock winner.
Tim Sullivan led the field to green but he would not lead the opening lap. Rowan Pennink took over the top spot and began to motor out to an advantage over Danny Cates. A bobble by Sullivan nearly collected Keith Rocco, who was forced out of the groove. Woody Pitkat had worked his way into the third position. The outside groove was the fast way around as Christopher had moved into the third spot with Rocco in tow. On lap 9, Christopher was able to dive inside Cates for second. Rocco, once again, followed TC through and into third. Christopher caught Pennink while Rocco caught the bumper of Christopher. The top three ran nose-to-tail.

At halfway, Rocco was able to slide below Christopher when he bobbled exiting turn four on lap 15. The caution flew on lap 16 for an incident on the backstretch involving Andy Gaspar and Wayne Arute. Leader Pennink opted to use the outside groove on the restart but it was Rocco in the low groove gaining the advantage. Christopher was able to get around Pennink as well. The action was slowed for a spin by Harry Rheaume. Rocco was up to the challenge on the restart but an incident further back in the pack brought out the caution once again. A spin by Bert Marvin collected Tim Sullivan and Todd Ceravolo. Sullivan’s car sustained significant damage. On the restart, Rocco was up to the challenge once again. After a short battle with Pennink, Christopher remained in the second position. Christopher dove beneath Rocco in turn one. They went wheel to wheel through turn two. Christopher got the edge on the backstretch but Rocco did the slingshot move exiting four. They crossed the stripe even. In turn one, Rocco was the leader once again. Pennink ran in the third spot with heavy pressure from Pitkat. Cates ran alone in the fifth position.

With two laps to go, Christopher got along side Rocco. The duo streaked under the white flag with Rocco ahead by inches. Rocco maintained a slight advantage on the back stretch. Coming out of four Rocco tried holding Christopher low. Christopher retaliated riding high out of four. Rocco drifted up in the marbles making way for Christopher to take the checkers. Pennink came through for second. Pitkat was able to grab third spot at the checkers. Rocco had to settle for fourth ahead of Cates. There were 16 Sunoco Modifieds on hand.

Heavy rain plus warnings of possible tornados forced the Stafford Motor Spedway event to cancel Friday nights racing.

The Waterford Speedbowl completed a fast paced NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program on a hot Saturday bolstered by two green-to-checkered flag races. Threats of storms generated by Hurricane Bill failed to put a damper on the night’s racing. Corey Hutchings captured an exciting SK Modified race in down to the wire fashion, Vin Esposito returned to the winner’s circle in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, points leaders Ronnie Oldham Jr. and Jason Palmer won the Street Stock and Legends Car events and Nick Pappacoda was a first time feature event winner in the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stocks.

Corey and his son Ryan "The Clutch" Hutchings in
Waterford's Victory Lane.

The SK Modifieds rebounded from the previous week’s caution-marred feature to put on a classic 35-lap shootout. Corey Hutchings prevailed in a close contest over last week’s winner Tyler Chadwick. The pair raced the final several laps side-by-side. Joe Perry on the pole with Hutchings on the outside pole brought the field to green and the pair ran the initial laps alongside one another before Hutchings edged ahead into sole possession of the lead on lap four.

The action up front was singling out with Hutchings moving out over Perry. Justin Gaydosh was in third holding back the challenges of Jeff Pearl and Chadwick as the event stayed green through halfway.

The top points contenders were mired back outside the top ten having difficulty moving through the competitive field.

Gaydosh got loose in turn two on lap 19, allowing Chadwick to duck under Pearl and take over the fourth spot after the two had battled for several laps. Pearl and Rob Janovic Jr. moved past Gaydosh on lap 23 when his #94 car began to lose some handling. Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco had finally made some progress, moving into sixth and eighth respectively when the first caution finally waved on lap 24 for Joe Gada and Tom Abele who suffered separate incidents on different parts of the track.

Chadwick edged Perry on the restart, moving in to pressure Hutchings. He pulled outside looking for a repeat trip to victory lane. Janovic also moved past Perry into third. Yuhas finally emerged in the top five, moving past Pearl as the field raced to lap 30. Caution waved on that circuit for Jeffrey Gallup.

Chadwick was alongside Hutchings for the final restart. The two stayed glued together over the final five laps to the finish, with Hutchings able to prevail by .031 seconds over Chadwick. Janovic finished third, Yuhas got up to fourth, and Perry put in his best effort in the open-wheel SK’s running with the leaders all night for fifth. Jeff Pearl finished sixth and was followed by Rocco, Dennis Gada, Josh Sylvester and Jef Paul.

In a sad note, former track Modified champion Dick Ceravolo, a longtime competitor and car owner at the Speedbowl, suffered serious injuries in an accident at his home on Friday afternoon. Known to many as Dickie Doo, Ceravolo was attempting to jumpstart a farm tractor that had accidentally been left in gear. The tractor bolted and pinned him between his truck and the tractor while his wife Joyce watched in horror. Ceravolo was transported to the Yale-New Haven Hospital where he is presently on life support. Among his injuries is a crushed chest plus back and head injuries. At 70 years of age, the former driver is in excellent physical shape, which will work to his advantage in what could be a long recovery.

Get well wishes goes out to "Dickie Doo" Ceravolo.
(Scott Nickel Photo)

Ceravolo won eight career Modified features from 1976-1987 at the Waterford Speedbowl. He was the 1988 SK Modified division champion at track despite not winning a feature during the season. Ceravolo surprised many when he announced his retirement at the season ending banquet after his championship year. He was the car owner champion the following year after hiring Bob Potter as his driver. In recent years he has been a fixture at the Thompson Speedway where he fields a Sunoco Modified that is driven by his youngest son, Todd. His oldest son, Rick, is the crew chief of the Ceravolo family effort.

Cards of cheer can be sent to Dick Ceravolo, 1348 Baldwin Hill Rd, Gales Ferry, CT 06335.

In True Value Modified Series racing at the Seekonk Speedway Chris Pasteryak took the 100 lap win over Les Hinkley, Rowan Pennick, Mike Holdredge and Steve Masse. On the third turn of the final lap Pennink made a move to pass Hinckley and got him sideways. Hinckley did a fantastic save the car and made it across the finish line in second. Pennink settled in for third as he backed off the gas to avoid causing a wreck.

The True Value Modified Series heads to the Thompson Speedway this coming Thursday for the Town Fair Tire 75.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen on Wednesday and Thursday at 5:00pm and at 7:00pm on Friday. The Speed Channel will replay last weekend’s Sprint Cup event that was run at Bristol at noon on Wednesday. On Thursday at 3:00pm the Speed Channel will show the recent NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East Mohegan Sun 200 that was run at Lime Rock, CT, on Aug 15. Speed goes live at 4:30 on Friday with NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying from the Chicagoland Speedway. Live action continues at 6:00pm with the ARCA RE/MAX Series Chicagoland ARCA 200. At 8:30 the Speed Channel hosts the pre-race program for the truck series which will lead in to a 9:00pm start of the Chicagoland 250. On Saturday at 1:00pm the Speed Channel previews the First Class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in a one hour special. At 4:00pm NESN will present NASCAR New England which shows the weekly races held at the Stafford Motor Speedway.At 9:00pm espn2 has same day, taped delayed coverage of Nationwide Series qualifying from Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada. Sunday’s action begins at 2:00 with the pre-race show that will lead to the start of the NAPA Auto Parts 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada. On Sunday evening, the Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report from 7:00pm to 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation, which went up 1.04 to 28.44. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.64 to 15.56 and Dover Downs went up 0.16 to 1.53. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.05 to 3.90 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.16 to 26.05. Tire supplier Goodyear also had a positive ending as they went up 0.17 to 17.97. One of the three publicly traded car makers also had positive endings. Toyota went up 0.59 to 86.34 while Ford went dropped 0.09 to 7.74 and General Motors dropped 0.13 to 0.80. The team sponsors also had good results for the week. Dupont went up 0.35 to 32.71 while Coca-Cola went up 1.55 to 55.58. Target Department Stores jumped 3.63 to 45.66 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.62 to 27.94. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.36 to 27.50 while Lowes dropped 1.67 to 21.16.

The World Racing Group, Inc. announced on August 14 that it has completed its previously announced going private transaction. World Racing sanctions and promotes dirt track auto racing. Based in Concord, N.C. they own and operate the three highest profile national touring series for dirt track racing in the United States which include The World of Outlaws® Sprint Car Series, The World of Outlaws Late Model Series(SM) and The Super DIRTcar Series™. Under the terms of the transaction, the Company conducted a 1-for-101 reverse stock split whereby each 101 shares of the Company's common stock was converted into one share of common stock. Holders of less than 101 shares of common stock prior to the reverse stock split will receive a cash out price of $0.10 per share. The result of the reverse stock split was a reduction in the number of the Company's stockholders of record to fewer than 300. As a result, the Company will immediately cease to be a public reporting company.

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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