Tuesday December 16, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour Series honored 2008 Champion Ted Christopher this past Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. Christopher’s 2008 title campaign included four wins and 13 top 10s. Driver of the No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet, Christopher’s championship season was highlighted by wins at Stafford Motor Speedway, Mansfield Motorsports Park , New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway. From Plainville, Conn., Christopher has established a reputation of racing any type of car, anytime, anywhere. He has won multiple track championships and was the 2001 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion, but 2008 marked his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour crown in his 15th full season in the series.

“Throughout my racing career I have been very fortunate to have driven many different types of race cars for many different car owners,” Christopher said. “From people like Joe Brady, who I won my first Modified tour race with, to Curt Chase, Gary Cretty, Jim Galante, Eddie Whelan and many in between, one common denominator was: I always loved driving their Modifieds.”

Christopher’s night also included taking home the Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award and, for the first time in his career, the prestigious Most Popular Driver Award. For the first time, voting for the Most Popular Driver Award was conducted online through and More than 10,600 total votes were cast in online balloting for NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers.

In addition to the coronation of series champion Christopher, the top drivers and owners and special award winners from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour were also honored. Matt Hirschman of Northampton , Pa. , was recognized for his championship runner-up effort in 2008 when he recorded 11 top 10s and the first two wins of his career. Todd Szegedy, the 2003 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion, was the third place honoree.

Ronnie Silk of Norwalk , Conn. , earned the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award, given to the driver who earned the award the most times in 2008, while seven-time series champion Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., likewise took home the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award. Eric Beers, from Northampton , Pa. , was recognized as the winner of the Coors Light Pole Award. Glen Reen, a native of Wilbraham , Mass. , earned 2008 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors.

Four special awards were also presented during the awards banquet. Mike Smeriglio III, owner of the No. 2 Modified team driven by Szegedy, was bestowed the Sportsmanship Award and Ken Heagy of Calverton, N.Y., was recognized with the Driver Achievement Award. The Len Boehler Award was presented to Roger Hill, owner of the No. 79 Modified team driven by Silk and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Women’s Auxiliary Award went to longtime series veteran Jamie Tomaino and his wife, Cheryl.

The schedule for the 2009 season has not been completed and is expected to be released by the first of the year.

The True Value Modified Series has released their schedule for 2009. The popular open wheeled series begins their season on April 25th at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH. The series will also visit Monadnock on July 4. The series travels to the Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl in Barre, VT on May 24. The Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts will host the series on June 13, July 1, Aug 22 and Oct 10 and 11. Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire will host two events, the first on July 10 and the second on Oct 25. The series heads to Maine on July 18 to the Oxford Plains Speedway and on August 15 to the Wiscasset Raceway in Wiscasset. The series will also be returning to the Twin State Speedway in Claremont NH on October 4th & 5th.

Congratulations to Hall of Fame Racer Mr. Leo Cleary who recently scored a hole in one while playing golf. Cleary who will be 80 on Christmas Day, recorded his first hole in one ever at Turnbull Bay Golf Club in New Smyrna Beach on Nov. 28th, 2008. It was at the 7th hole, 120 yards, using a 7 iron. It was witnessed by Bill and Donna Harman, and Leo's lady friend, Donna Romano. It was one of the prettiest golf shots Leo has ever hit. Since retiring from racing Cleary has spent most of his leisure time playing golf with former competitors including Harman, George Summers, Gene Bergin and Ronnie Bouchard.

Get well wishes to Ben Dodge Jr who is on the mend from recent heart problems. Dodge is a special assistant to Thompson Speedway owner Don Hoenig.

In TV land this week, race viewing is at a minimum. The Speed Channel starts it off on Wednesday at noon with the June 17 Quaker Steak & Lube Summer Shootout, Round #2: CRASHCars Craziness, Legends Cars, Thunder Cars, Bandoleros and CRASHCars that was held at the Lowes’ Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Friday at 7:00pm ESPN Classic will show the 2007 Daytona 500. At 8:00pm Speed shows highlites of the November SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) Show which is the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world. The event was held in Las Vegas. On Saturday at 3:00pm Speed will show the April 13 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series that was held at the KC Raceway in Chillicothe, OH.

The Speed Report, normally seen on Sunday night, has been put on hold until after the first of the year.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.75 to 15.45 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.01 to 27.16 while Dover Downs dropped 0.37 to 1.08. NASCAR Cup sponsor Nextel/Sprint dropped 0.64 to 1.96 while second division sponsor Nationwide went up 0.12 to 51.37. Fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.03 to 35.95 as tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.07 to 6.14. NASCAR team sponsors had a mixed bag for the week. Dupont went up 1.49 to 26.61. Coca-Cola followed suit as they went up 1.25 to 44.07. Target Department Stores went up 0.88 to 35.84 while Aarons Rentals dropped 1.32 to 24.38. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.93 to 23.47 and Lowes dropped 0.35 to 21.99. The parcel carriers took a big hit despite being in the middle of their busiest season. Fedex dropped 12.37 to 61.34 and UPS dropped 5.80 to 52.03. The World Racing Group showed a little spark as they went up 0.01 to 0.03.

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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