Tuesday August 23, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour took a week off before heading south to the Bristol Motor Speedway. Kevin Rice reported in trade publication Area Auto Racing News that 2008 series champion and car owner Ed Whelan had split on Monday following a dismal finish at Loudon. Evidently there has been a lot of friction between Christopher and crew chief Brad Lafountaine. It all boiled over after Christopher dropped at the recent Loudon event with rear end problems in the car. The bickering and hard feelings got so bad that Whelan just pulled the plug and parked the car.
It will be interesting to see where Christopher ends up. He split with his Sunoco Modified car owner at the Thompson Speedway earlier this year citing car and motor preparation were not up to his standards. Woody Pitkat took over the ride and became an instant winner. Christopher did not secure another ride at Thompson. Its a good bet that the Whelan No.36 will be at Bristol with possibly a Long Island driver at the controls. Christopher reportedly owns a fleet of Modifieds that there formerly owned by Mystique Motorsports. Rumor has it that these cars may re-appear.

Being out of a ride didn't slow Christopher down. Rice reported that he left home early last week for Kalamazoo, Michigan where he was to compete in a Super Late Model race and was scheduled to pilot a Super at Lee, NH this past Friday.

Based on what crew chief Brad Lafountain stated at Thompson last Thursday it was just "Teddy being Teddy" "The broken u-joint was a result of Christopher running over something on the track" stated the noted crew chief. "There is a crease in the bell housing and in the transmission case as a result of something he ran over on the track" he added.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is in action next this coming Wednesday, Aug. 24 at the legendary Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for a combination event with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The event is set to be telecast on SPEED at 6 p.m. ET.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Mike Stefanik triumphed over the competition and Thompson International Speedway beat the weather for an action-packed night of racing action. With weather and Ryan Preece bearing down, Stefanik of Coventry, RI, was flawless to score the victory in the Tour-Type Modified Special. Stefanik had to hold off another Thompson winner to visit victory lane. Preece jumped out of his winning Sunoco Modified to run second to Stefanik in the event. The Sunoco Modified victory earlier in the evening was Preece’s third at Thompson in 2011.

In other racing action, Mike O’Sullivan of Springfield, MA, handily took the win in the Super Late Models. Chris Douton of Waterford, CT, extended his point lead with a Limited Sportsman victory. Glenn Boss of Danielson, CT, continued his hot-streak in the TIS Modifieds with a division-leading five victories. Another point leader, Danny Field, also tacked on points with his victory in the Mini Stocks.

The ten cars on hand for the Sunoco Modified feature provided quite a bit of excitement. Joe Allegro started on the pole and jumped out to lead at the drop of the green. Shortly after Allegro completed the first lap Danny Cates shot by in turn two. Allegro faded as Woody Pitkat moved in on Cates' bumper on lap two. Keith Rocco, who was waiting in the wings, took the lead on lap 5 with Cates and Pitkat in tow. By lap 20 Ryan Preece moved into contention as he raced side by side with Rocco. On lap 22 Preece dive bombed into turn one, brushed Rocco who spun. Said Preece, "I didn't mean to hit him, the car lost foreward bite and got away from me". Evidently Rocco was also having mechanical problems as he pitted and then retired after taking a couple of laps. Preece went on to take the win over Cates, Pitkat and Allegro.

The open competition Tour Type event drew 20 cars. Mike Stefanik took the lead after a spirited battle with Ryan Preece. Stefanik took the lead on a restart on lap 20 of the 40 lap contest. Preece ended up second with Kenny Barry, third. Tom Bolles and Steven Reed rounded out the top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway headlined its second division and Woody Pitkat was the big winner of the night, capturing the Late Model 100 checkered flag for his third win of the 2011 season. In other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature racing action, Keith Rocco scored his 8th win of the 2011 season in the SK Modified® feature, Kyle Spencer picked up his first career win in a spectacular finish in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera, Jr. picked up his fourth win of the 2011 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Don Wood scored his fourth win of the 2011 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

Rocco and Ryan Preece played a game of cat and mouse until the final lap of the 40 lapper. Coming off the fourth corner on the final lap Rocco got the edge as he beat Preece to the finish line for his23rd win in 46 starts at Connecticut tracks in 2011. Preece finished second, with Eric Berndt right behind him in third. Dave Gervais finished fourth with Todd Owen rounding out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Glenn Pressel III scored his second career victory in the SK Modifieds®, Rich Staskowski picked up his second win of the year in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models and Josh Galvin won for the third time in the Street Stocks. A popular win went to rookie Garrett Denton as the teenager won his first career feature event in the Mini Stocks. Rounding out the winners were Paul French who won his third SK Light Modified race of the year and Paul Kusheba who took the victory in the night’s Legends Cars feature.

Pressel started on the outside pole and led the entire 35 lap distance. Rob Janovic and Jeff Pearl finished second and third, while Keith Rocco rallied back to fourth position after an early race spin. Doug Coby beat out Tyler Chadwick in the final laps for fifth.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Seekonk Speedway for a 100 lapper on Saturday night. The event, which drew 19 cars was won by Les Hinkley who took the lead from Dwight Jarvis on lap 79. Jarvis finished second and was followed by Chris Pasteryak, Joey Jarvis and Norm Wrenn. Sixth through tenth were Mike Holdridge, Jimmy Kuhn, Jr., Joe Doucette, Jack Bateman and Rowan Pennink.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, John Fortin returned to victory lane for the second time this year, with a Modified win and closed the gap on points leader Justin Bonsignore.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC wrapped up it's season with the Carolina Farm Credit 150. Jonathan Brown won the battle as Burt Myers played it smart and won the Modified Track Championship, his second straight and fifth overall, after finishing 12th.

Special Happy Birthday wishes go out to Mrs. Irene Venditti who has turned 92. Considered by many as the First Lady of Auto Racing, Mrs Venditti and her late husband, D.Anthony Venditti have operated the Seekonk Speedway since 1946.

NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Billy Harman stated that former driver Dick Caso is still in very serious condition as a result of being run over while riding a moped. Harman stated that he is in an induced coma as a result to relieve brain swelling from a scull fracture. In addition to head injuries the former driver suffered a broken foot and broken ribs.

On a sad note, Jim Costello, former race starter and partner of Walt Faulkner passed away at the age of 91. He was co-founder, secretary and treasurer of the New England Sports Association as well as Atlantic Auto Racing. Costello and Faulkner along with Bill Welch and John Falconi Sr promoted the Thompson Speedway in the early 1960's as well as the Westboro Speedway. Costello was also a Rhode Island State Senator. While in the State Senate Jim also served on the Finance Committee, the Corporations Committee and the Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. While finding time for all those public activities, he was also owner and president of Warwick Ford on Post Road in Warwick, RI where he was president for 20 years from 1958 to 1978.

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday and Thursday. NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen on Tuesday and Thursday at 5:00pm. Race viewing for the week begins on Wednesday at noon on the Speed Channel with a replay of last week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Pure Michigan 400 that was run at the Michigan Intl. Speedway. Speed goes live at 5:00pm with Truck Series qualifying at Bristol. Live coverage on Speed continues at 6:00pm with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series UNOH Perfect Storm 150 at Bristol. Following the Modifieds at 7:30pm will be the Truck Series pre-race that will lead to the 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 at Bristol. Thursday's action on Speed starts at noon with a replay of last week's NASCAR Nationwide Series NAPA Pièces d'Auto 200 that was held in Montreal, Canada. At 3:00pm Speed replays last year's NASCAR Sprint Cup Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. At 6:00pm Speed will show the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Toyota/NAPA Auto Parts 150 that was held at the Colorado National Speedway on Aug 6. Also at 6:00pm, Versus will show the Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour #19: Rockstar Modified / Super Late Model event that was held at the Irwindale, CA Speedway on June 4. Friday's action on Speed gets under way at 10:00am with NASCAR Live at Bristol on Speed. Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup series practice follows at 10:30am. Another edition of NASCAR Live follows at 2:00pm. Final practice for Sprint Cup cars goes at 2:30pm followed by Nationwide series qualifying at 3:30pm. At 5:00pm Sprint Cup qualifying at Bristol takes center stage on Speed. At 6:30pm Speed Center on Speed sums up the days activities at Bristol. At 7:00pm the action moves to ESPN for the pre-race show that wil lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol. Saturday's viewing starts at 4:30pm with Speed Center on Speed followed by two hours of "RaceDay" on Speed beginning at 5:00pm. At 7:00pm the action shifts to ABC for the Sprint Cup pre-race show that will lead in to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol. Worth a peek on Sunday is the IZOD IndyCar Series Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA on the Versus network.
On Sunday evening, Speed Center at 7:00pm and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm sum up the day's racing. At 9:00pm Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain closes out the weekend.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week another week of desperation as stocks dropped like stones. All three speedway stocks were down for the week. Taking the biggest hit was the International Speedway Corporation which dropped 1.93 to 22 24. Dover Motorsports dropped 0.24 to 1.51 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.08 to 12.40. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint bucked the odds as they went up 0.22 to 3.42 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.34 to 33.98 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 2.60 to 10.88. The auto manufacturers took a big hit. Toyota dropped 6.70 to 70.70 while General Motors dropped 3.59 to 22.16 and Ford dropped 1.07 to 9.99. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 1.30 to 31.88 while Lowes dropped 0.20 to 19.31. Most of the major car sponsors stock was also in the tank. One of the few exceptions was the Target Department Stores which went up 1.44 to 49.92. Dupont dropped 3.57 to 42.79 while Coca-Cola dropped 2.68 to 58.14, Aarons Rentals dropped 2.38 to 23.47 and Fedex dropped 7.32 to 73.16.

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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