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Tuesday August 31, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series continues on their late Summer break. Bobby Santos has retaken the point lead from Ted Christopher. Santos leads by 32 points. Mike Stefanik, Todd Szegedy and Ron Silk round out the top five. Sixth through tenth are Ryan Preece, Erick Rudolph, Eric Goodale, Eric Beers and rookie Justin Bonsignore. The Modified Tour Series returns to action on Saturday, September 18 in Loudon, NH.

With nine races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule two time Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Don Lia and SS Green Light Racing part ways: SS Green Light Racing and Donny Lia have mutually agreed to seek other opportunities. It will be interesting to see where Lia lands as he has sold most of his racing equipment to the Blewett family.

The August 28 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event that was run at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina will air on VERSUS on Wednesday, Sep 1, at 7 p.m and on Sunday, Sep5, at 11:00pm.

The Thompson International Speedway announced that the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has imposed an indefinite suspension from NASCAR competition on four drivers following an incident on Thursday, August 19, 2010 at the Thompson International Speedway. NASCAR is the sanctioning body for races at Thompson and NASCAR officials are in charge of the competition at the speedway. The official penalty notice from NASCAR cited the drivers for “Actions detrimental to stock car racing.”

Race drivers Fred Michalski of Dayville, CT, Scott and Trevor Michalski of South Killingly, CT and Scott Jassaume of Danielson, CT all received the same penalty from NASCAR. In addition, the Speedway has informed these drivers and Ruth Michalski of South Killingly, CT that they are no longer welcome on the property in and around the race track. This action is a result of an attack that the above made on Mini Stock driver Rick Blanchard following the feature held on August 19.

In Thursday night action at the northeast Connecticut oval the Speedway played host to the Modified Racing Series for the second time in 2010. In the end it was “one of their” own standing in victory lane with Rowan Pennink scoring his third Modified Racing Series victory. In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Ted Christopher earned his ninth Sunoco Modified feature event of the season. Mike O’Sullivan bested a strong field to post the victory in the Super Late Models.

Wayne Coury, Sr. celebrated with a win in the Late Models. Joe Arena earned a hard-fought victory in the Limited Sportsman division. John Studley streaked to consecutive victories in the TIS Modifieds. It was a night banner night for Mike Gorgieveski who scored his first career victory in the Mini Stocks.

Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT, used his veteran prowess to score another Sunoco Modified victory at Thompson. Rowan Pennink took advantage of his pole starting position in the Sunoco Modified main event to immediately drive out to a sizeable lead. Tim Sullivan freed himself from a heated multi-car battle to run in second. When things shook out Ronnie Silk was third followed by Danny Cates, Ted Christopher, Keith Rocco and Woody Pitkat. Sullivan got a bit out of shape in turn four opening the door for Silk to take over second. Pennink continued to enjoy a sizeable lead with Christopher moving past Sullivan and into third. On lap seven, Christopher dove low exiting turn four to grab second. Rocco maneuvered his way through traffic and into the fourth spot by lap 10. Pennink was all alone out from followed by Christopher, Silk, Rocco and Pitkat. Sullivan and Cates were locked in a skirmish for the sixth position. The first caution flew on lap 11 when Dave Flammia lost a motor on the front stretch; erasing Pennink’s lead. Under the caution period Sullivan and Silk headed down pit road for service.

On the restart, Pennink got a push from Keith Rocco and was able to resume his place at the head of the pack. Christopher settled back into the second spot. On the front stretch, a slip by Rocco gave Pitkat an opening. Christopher got a run on Pennink exiting turn four on lap 14. He dove to the low side to steal the lead. Once out front, Christopher was able to stretch his advantage. Dave Salzarulo made contact with the outside wall bringing out the second caution on lap 16. Under the caution period, Cates dove down pit road. On the lap 16 restart, Christopher had company from Pennink and Pitkat. On lap 18, Pennink dove low on Christopher entering turn four to grab the lead briefly. Christopher slid back up the track to get alongside Pennink. Christopher was able to grab the lead back once again exiting turn two on lap 19. Christopher and Pennink exchanged cross-over moves in turn four on lap 24. Piktat had the best seat in the house in third. Rocco looked content to run in fourth. On lap 26, Pennink tried the cross-over once again; however, contact between the two cars sent Pennink spinning.

The single-file restart on lap 26 gave Christopher the advantage over Pitkat, Rocco, and Silk. After some bumper tag on the backstretch, Christopher was able to edge out to a car length advantage over Pitkat. Christopher headed to the checkers extending his point lead. Pitkat had to settle for second over Rocco, Silk, and Sullivan. Five randomly selected finishing positions each received a $200 bonus from Bruce and Pat Webber of Independent Truck Service. The recipients included Pitkat, Andy Gaspar, Pennink, Carl Oberg, and Jodi Johnson.

Not counting the MRS cars there were 96 regular division cars in the pit area. There were 16 Sunoco (SK type), 21 Minis, 23 Ltd Sportsman, 11 Thompson Modifieds, 16 Late Models and 9 Super Late Models.

Ted Christopher ended a long dry spell scored his first victory of the 2010 season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature. It was Christopher's first win at Stafford in over a year and overall his 92nd SK Modified win at the track he calls home. Woody Pitkat took advantage of a green white checkered restart to nail down his sixth victory of 2010 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Barrett, Jr. scored his eighth win of 2010 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Dave Yardley won his second feature of 2010 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cory Casagrande matched his brother Kyle as a three-time winner in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Jeff Malave took the lead at the green and set the early pace ahead of Sean Foster, Curt Brainard, Dan Avery, and Jeff Baral. Chris Jones found the turn 3 wall to bring the caution out with 4 laps complete. Malave took the lead back under green with Foster in second. Brainard was third, but he washed up the track on lap-7 and lost a host of positions. Baral was now third with Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece behind him. Christopher moved into third on lap-8 and he brought Preece with him by Baral to drop him back to fifth place. Christopher continued his march to the front by taking second place from Foster on lap-13. The order shuffled again on lap-17 as Keith Rocco moved by Baral for fifth place and Christopher made a move to the inside of Malave for the lead on lap-18. Preece took third away from Foster on lap-19 and Woody Pitkat and Avery moved by Baral.

Preece quickly closed in on Christopher and Malave at the front of the field and the top-3 cars were running nose to tail on lap-22. Rocco was slowly running down Foster for the fourth position and Rocco was able to take the spot on lap-28. Meanwhile, Malave and Preece were locked in a side by side duel for second place while Christopher continued to lead the race. Christopher pulled several car lengths on the second place battle before Preece settled into line behind Malave. Rocco had closed the gap to Preece and it was now a four car train at the front of the pack. Christopher led the field around to the checkered flag to take down his first victory of the 2010 season. Malave was second, with Preece, Rocco, and Pitkat rounding out the top-5. The Late Model division took center stage at Stafford Motor Speedway

In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Teenager Anthony Flannery won the 50-lap Raceceiver Legends National Tour race, earning a guaranteed starting position to the Legends Cars Nationals event held at Langley, VA Speedway in October. Tyler Chadwick won his second consecutive SK Modified® race and third on the season. Bruce Thomas Jr. and Ken Cassidy Jr. won their third races of the year in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model and Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock divisions. Al Stone rounded out the winners by taking his third consecutive Street Stock win, his fifth overall on the year. For Thomas, it was his 50th career win.

Chadwick recieved a gift while running third in the closing laps when a heated battle between Doug Coby and Todd Ceravolo boiled over with Coby spinning in turn one. The pivotal moment of the race came on lap 28. Ceravolo was penalized to the rear for his involvement, handing the lead to Chadwick.

Following Chadwick at the finish was Keith Rocco followed by Rob Janovick, Jeff Paul, and Joe Gada. Coby ended up seventh and Ceravolo was 11th.

In some sad news, John Small, who manned the announcers booth at what was then-known as the “New London-Waterford” Speedbowl in the mid 50's to mid 60's has passed-away at age 97. One of the most popular announcers in the early history of the shoreline oval, Small’s booming voice and talented delivery set the standard for calling the races at the Eastern Connecticut oval for many of the raceways formative seasons. He was extremely-popular with fans and competitors alike. In 1952, he began a long career in radio where he hosted many country music radio shows and was known as Cousin Johnny. Mr. Small, among many other things, was a past Mayor of the Town of Groton, CT

The Modified Racing Series headed for the Thompson Speedway for their second visit of the year. Rowan Pennink who has called Thompson International Speedway home for the last few seasons competing in the NASCAR All American Series Weekly, claimed the victory in Modified Racing Series 75. Mike Stefanik showed the way in the early going before relinquishing the lead to Bobby Santos III. Stefanik would retire from the event two laps shy of halfway. Santos led through lap 56 before giving up the battle to Pennink. Three laps later, Ted Christopher moved by Santos and into second. In a repeat of the Sunoco Modified event earlier in the evening, Pennink and Christopher waged a heated battle for the lead. A late race restart with less than 15 laps to go gave Christopher his best shot at Pennink’s lead. After a quick bid, Christopher had to settle back in line in second. The lead duo stretched their advantage over third running Santos. An incident involving the previous week’s winner Todd Annarummo brought out the caution with seven laps remaining. Pennink was up for the challenge on the single-file restart. Pennink went on to claim his third MRS win of the season over Christopher, Santos and Eric Goodale. Les Hinckley recovered from a practice crash to finish fifth.

There were 34 Modifieds on hand. The race was slowed by eight cautions and took 50:49 to complete. 21 of 31 starters finished on the lead lap, 36 race teams entered the event.

The next event for the Modified Racing Series is Saturday September 4th at the Waterford Speedbowl, Waterford, CT.

In TV land this weeks viewing begins with NASCAR Hub on the Speed Channel will be seen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:00pm. On Tuesday, Aug 31 at 7:00pm the Versus Network will show the August 12 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Budweiser 150 that was run at the Thompson International Speedway. At 10:00 Race in 60 will highlight the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Kobalt Tools 500 that was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 7. That program will be repeated on Wed, Sept 1 at 10:00am. On Wednesday, Sept 1 at 7:00pm the action switches to the Versus Network for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event that was run at the Caraway Speedway in Sophia, NC on Aug 28. Thursdays viewing begins at noon on Speed with a rerun of last Sundays NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Auto Parts 200 that was run at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montréal, Canada. Action on Speed continues at 3:00pm with the NASCAR Sprint Cup 2005 Bass Pro Shops MBNA 500 that was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Aug 28 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East 150 that was run at Gresham, GA follows at 6:00pm. Friday's viewing begins at 3:00pm with the Aug 11 Knoxville Nationals from Knoxville Raceway. At 5:00pm the action switches to the Versus network for IZOD Indycar Series qualifying at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. At 6:00pm the action switches to the Speed Channel for Truck Series qualifying at Kentucky. At 7:30 Speed has the pre-race show which will lead in to the start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Built Ford Tough 225 at the Kentucky Speedway which will get the green at 8:00pm. Saturday's viewing starts at 11:00am with a two hour Sprint Cup practice session from the Atlanta Motor Speedway. NASCAR Live follows at 1:00pm. Sprint Cup final practice goes at 1:30 followed by Nationwide Series qualifying at 2:30pm.Sprint Cup qualifying from Atlanta follows at 4:30pm. At 6:30pm the action switches to espn2 for the Nationwide Series countdown which will lead to the start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway at 7:00pm. For the Indy Car fans the Versus Network will provide live coverage, starting at 8:00pm, of the IZOD Indycar Series Kentucky 300 at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. Sunday's action begins with a two hour session of NASCAR RaceDay which will preview the upcoming Sprint Cup event at Atlanta. At 7:00pm the action switches to ESPN for the pre-race show that will lead to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Emory Healthcare 500 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Rounding out the day on the Speed Channel is The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. At 11:00pm the Versus Cable network will re-show the Aug 28 Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series event that was run at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had negative results. Speedway Motorsports had a positive week as they finished up 0.24 to the good as they closed at 13.33. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.46 to 23.19 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.12 to 1.73. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.19 to 4.00 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.61 to 34.40 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.16 to 9.69. The car makers were also down for the week. Ford dropped 0.21 to 11.56 whileGeneral Motors dropped 0.05 to 0.38 and Toyota dropped 1.07 to 69.36. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.57 to 28.74 and Lowes went up 0.46 to 21.10. Team sponsors Coca-Cola and Dupont were up for the week, Coca-Cola up 1.48 to 51.61 and Dupont up 0.67 to 41.01 while Target Department Stores went down 0.41 to 51.74, Aarons Rentals went down 0.18 to 16.86 and Fedex went down 0.77 to 80.46.

International Speedway Chairman James France has been making numerous stock purchases right around the current share price. International Speedway shares remain near their 52-week low and the stock has a free cash flow yield above 10%. France thinks the company is a good buy. A large stock purchase from an insider is even better than a hot stock tip. Someone who knows the company intimately has made the decision to put a significant portion of their wealth on the line.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


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

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