Tuesday August 4, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

It’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t sometimes in racing. Last Thursday night at the Thompson Speedway Drivers Meeting Mike Chapman, the new Competition Director (Traffic Cop), again addressed the drivers telling them that rough driving, taking out the leader, would not be tolerated. Keith Rocco, who has been at the center of some of the more aggressive driving asked Chapman if it was ok to “move” a competitor out of the way as long as you didn’t force him to crash. Chapman’s answer was, “Test Me and you will find out”. During the running of the first of the two 30 lap Sunoco (SK type) Modified found himself crashed into the concrete wall between turns one and two after coming in contact with Ted Christopher. From his vantage point in the officials tower Chapman made the call to put Christopher to the rear for what looked like a deliberate move. In all honesty that’s the way it looked! After listening to a conversation between a driver, who was behind the pair, with his crew chief, it was said that Rocco had over corrected after bouncing off of Christopher’s nerf bar and had crashed himself into the wall. With six laps left Christopher came back to finish seventh. Woody Pitkat ended up taking the win over Danny Cates, Jimmy Blewett and Todd Ceravolo. Rocco ended up in 15th spot. Chapman’s second call of the night was to put Super Late Model competitor Rick Fuller to the rear for “Playing Games” on numerous restarts. Fuller was not happy but that’s the way the mop flops sometime!

      Kerry Malone won the second 30 lap Sunoco Modified event that went off without incident. Malone started on the outside pole and led wire to wire. Ted Christopher finished second. Keith Rocco finished third after his crew thrashed to replace his entire right front suspension that had been severely damaged. Woody Pitkat had the misfortune of having his engine blow.

      All in all, it was a great night of racing that was completely over by 9:15pm. A very strong crowd was on hand. The Sunoco Modifieds will run twin 50’s this week. It was announced that Bob Duval from NASCAR was on hand. If he was there he made like the invisible man!. It was good to see Al and Peg Gaudreau taking in the action. The Gaudreaus built and owned the mounts that dominated the Waterford Speedbowl in the 1970’s.

Other Thursday night Thunder winners at Thompson were Tim Taylor in the Mini Stocks Norm Wrenn in the Super Late Models, John Materas in the Late Models, Chris “Moose” Douton in the Limited Sportsman and Brian Tagg in the TIS Modifieds.

      Twin 50’s for the Sunoco Modifieds are on tap for this Thursday. Next Thurs, Aug 13 will see the return of the Whelen Modifieds to Thompson.

      The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour closed out their “Summer Break as they converged on the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island last Saturday night, August 1. Ryan Preece, driving the Mighty No.3 of the Boehler family went pole to pole to win the 150 lap event. Preece, who was also the Coors Light Pole sitter had the car that no one could catch. Ted Christopher was an early threat. His efforts came to an end on lap 83 when he sustained suspension damage after hitting the wall. His 20th place finish cost him the series point lead which is now held by Todd Szegedy who finished 8th. Because of the fact that the Riverhead event had a sub-standard purse there were only 15 Whelen Tour Modified regulars on hand. Riverhead regular Dave Brigati finished in the second spot with Howie Brode, third. Justin Bonsignore finished fourth with Glen Reen rounding out the top five.

      Had it not been for the fact that the Riverhead regulars and a few of the True Value competitors made up the field the car count would have been light. Many of those who previously supported the tour decided to stay home rather than be guaranteed to lose money. In many cases NASCAR and the tracks brag about their race purses. There has been no mention of the total purse that was paid out at Riverhead.

      Like in Christopher’s case, many of the tour regulars on hand had less than good days. Mike Stefanik finished 19th with a broken radiator while Donnie Lia finished 23rd and Ron Silk finished 27th with blown engines.

      Next up for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be the Town Fair Tire 150 on Friday, August 7 at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

      Lou Modestino reports that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway appears to be a choice of the Indy Racing League to get one of those events in 2010, according to the Union Leader of Manchester, N.H. It’s all due to the fact that the Milwaukee Mile is in financial trouble and owes the IRL a significant sum of money, which is unpaid for an event held there just after this year’s Indy 500. The Union Leader also reported that NHMS would like the IRL date to fall between the first NASCAR Nextel Cup date of July 3 and the second Cup date of Sept. 12 of 2010. The Milwaukee Mile also owes a considerable sum to NASCAR which recently sanctioned a Nationwide Series event.

      At the Waterford Speedbowl, Rob Janovic Jr. and Ernie Bertrand were first time winners this season in the SK Modified and Late Model divisions respectively, while it was Al Stone III winning his fourth Street Stock event, Allen Coates continuing his unbeaten streak in the Trucks, and Curt D’addario Sr. winning the X-Car race.  The Modified, Late Model, and Street Stock point battles were all shaken up following the completion of their feature events.Rob Janovic Jr. and Tyler Chadwick brought the SK Modified field to green, with Waterford native Janovic moving out front on lap one.  Ledyard’s Chadwick tucked in behind Janovic and stayed on the leader’s bumper.   Salem drivers Corey Hutchings and Dennis Gada joined Ledyard’s Jeff Paul and points leader Keith Rocco in a tight pack dicing for position behind the top two.  Rocco, moved to fourth on lap five then moved inside Hutchings for third by time the field completed lap nine.  Up front Janovic wasn’t able to shake free from Chadwick.  The pair raced together several car lengths in front of Rocco who was moving in after taking over the third spot.  Paul was holding off Gada for fourth further back.

      The field continued racing under green through halfway.  Rocco had reached the leaders, beginning to pressure Chadwick for second on lap 20.  The event’s first caution waved on lap 21 for Norwich’s Tom Abele who spun off turn four. On the restart Janovic held the advantage by the time the field reached turn one.  Rocco was able to move into second past Chadwick and started to pressure Janovic for the top spot.  Rocco’s top points competitor, Ron Yuhas Jr. of Groton, emerged into the top five with 12 laps remaining.  He immediately made an inside move on Paul for fourth.  Glenn Griswold of Vernon spun off the front stretch as Rocco darted inside Janovic with seven laps remaining.  The move would have given Rocco the lead, however caution waved for the Griswold machine stranded on the apron of turn one.

      The ensuing restart was pivotal in the outcome of the event and points battle.  Janovic again took over by turn one on the restart, while Rocco looked to build momentum in the outside lane.  Chadwick was intent on challenging the leaders from third.  Contact into turn three resulted in Rocco spinning around and the cars of Rocco, Chadwick and Hutchings pummeling the turn three wall.   Rocco and Chadwick were both done for the night, while Hutchings was able to resume from the rear after heading to the pits. From there, Janovic prevailed on the final restart over Yuhas to go on to his first victory in over a year.  Yuhas finished second and was able to close the points gap to within four points of Rocco.   Past champions Janovic and Gada were also able to close within striking distance.  Paul, Gada, and Pearl rounded out the top five finishers in the race.

      Making his SK Modified debut was Jeffrey Gallup. Gallup is the son of Richie Gallup who was a terror in the SK Modified ranks years ago.

      In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and  Thursday and at 6:30pm on Friday. Race viewing on the Speed Channel begins at 1:00pm on Tuesday with last Saturdays ARCA RE/MAX Series Pennsylvania 200 that was run at the Pocono Raceway. On Wednesday at noon Speed replays last Sundays NASCAR Sprint Cup Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 that was run at the Pocono Raceway. On Thursday at noon Speed will show the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup event that was run at the Watkins Glen NY Raceway. The NASCAR Camping World Touring Series Bennett Lane Winery 200 that was run at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, follows at 3:00pm. Viewing on Friday starts at 11:00am on Speed with NASCAR Live at Watkins Glen. Two hours of Sprint Cup practice follows at 11:30am. At 1:30pm the Nationwide Series cars have their practice session. The action moves to espn2 at 3:00pm for Sprint Cup qualifying. Nationwide Series final practice follows at 5:30. At 7:00pm the action returns to the Speed Channel for Trackside at Watkins Glen. At 8:00pm Speed has same day-delayed coverage of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Crown Royal 200, DP + GT, that was run earlier in the day at Watkins Glen. Wrapping up the day at 10:00pm will be a special titled NASCAR Hall of Fame: The First Class. Saturday’s viewing starts at 10:00am on espn2 with Nationwide Series qualifying at Watkins Glen. At noon the viewing switches to Speed for a one hour Sprint Cup practice. NASCAR Live follows at 1:00pm. At 1:30pm the action switches to espn2 for the final practice session for the Sprint Cup cars at Watkins Glen. Action on espn2 continues with the Nationwide Series pre-race show that leads into the start of the Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen. While the Nationwide Series race is being run the Speed Channel will present the June 12-13 World of Outlaws Sprint Car events that were run at the Dodge City Raceway Park in Dodge City, KS at 4:00pm. Also at 4:00pm, NASCAR New England, which highlights the weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway is on the New England Sports Network (NESN).  Sunday’s viewing begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Now. A two-hour segment of RACEDAY follows at 11:00am. The viewing switches to ESPN at 1:00 for their pre-race show that wil lead into the 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at The Glen. The World of Outlaws Sprint Cars and Late Models will have multiple events on the Speed Channel from 2:30pm to 7:00pm. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report from 7:00pm to 8:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. ESPN2 also has an edition of NASCAR Now at 10:00pm.

      On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had positive finishes for the week. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.51 to 25.57 while Speedway Motorsports went up 0.39 to 15.96. On the negative side, Dover Downs dropped 0.09 to 1.40. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.52 to 4.00 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.18 to 24.69 and Goodyear took a huge jump as the tire manufacturer went up 2.55 to 17.02. The car builders also had a good week. Toyota went up 4.12 to 84.18, Ford went up 1.22 to 8.00 and General Motors went up 0.04 to 0.49. Also having a good week was the team sponsors. Dupont went up 0.89 to 30.92 while Coca-Cola went up 0.71 to 56.52, Target Department Stores went up 0.91 to 43.62 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.72 to 27.47. In the home improvement sector it was all positive. Home Depot went up 0.62 to 25.94 and Lowes went up 0.46 to 22.46.

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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