Tuesday February 17, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

After having Sunday off to repair and refresh some of the tour type and SK type Modifieds that were damaged in the first two nights of the World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Among those on hand for race #3 was Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman. Ted Christopher beat out Newman at Loudon last year. Newman redeemed himself at New Smyrna on Monday night. The closing laps saw numerous lead changes between the two and in the end at the checkered flag it was Newman in for the win by inches. Christopher finished second and was followed by Eric Goodale, John Jensen and Jon McKennedy. Jimmy Blewett made it three in a row in SK type Modified competition Eric Goodale and Ted Christopher led the 23 car field down for the start of the night’s 25 lap feature.Before one lap was completed Christopher had taken the lead. Matt Hirschman slowed immediately in what was suspected to be transmission problems. A big wreck on the seventh lap collected Ryan Preece, Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Grigas, III, Jon McKennedy, Jimmy Blewett, Louie Mechalides, Richard Savory and Eric Goodale. Christopher continued to survive several restarts while Goodale slipped a bit which opened a door for Newman. Newman dogged the defending NASCAR champion until the closing laps when he blew him away with an outside pass on a restart.
When Jimmy Blewett took the checkered flag in the SK type Modified 15 lapper it was almost 12:30am on Tuesday morning. Frank Ruocco, Jimmy Zacharis and David Cranmer rounded out the top five. Those five were the only drivers who finished the race.

Ted Christopher ended his World Series dry spell on Tuesday night as he won the Tour type Modified 25 lap feature. Jimmy Blewett remained unbeatable in the SK type Modifieds as he went pole to pole to record his fourth feature win in the division.

Monday night’s winner Ryan Newman started on the pole of the Modified feature with Jimmy Blewett on the outside. Blewett jumped into the lead at the start. Newman faded a bit as Christopher, who started third, moved into the runner-up spot. By the eighth lap Christopher had moved into the lead. Newman continued to fade as Chuck Hossfeld moved into the third position. In what looked to becoming a non-stop event changed quickly as Eric Goodale, Matt Hirschman and Ryan Preece wrecked together in turn four on the 16th lap. Once the cars and debris was cleared the feature went non-stop from there. Blewett had nothing for Christopher and was forced to settle for second. Hossfeld ended up third with Ronnie Silk, fourth. It was the first night of competition for Silk and the Roger Hill Race Team. Jon McKennedy rounded out the top five. Ryan Newman rebounded from a pit stop on lap 16 to finish sixth.

Following Blewett in the SK type Modified feature were Bobby Grigas, III, Frank Ruocco, David Cranmer and Ron Schultz. The event was cut two laps short when Jimmy Zacharias, Eric Goodale and Wayne Arute were all involved in grinding crash on the front stretch. Arute got the worst of it, hitting the wall head-on. He exited the car uninjured, but his car suffered heavy damage.

The tour type Modifieds at New Smyrna ran the 50 lap John Blewett III Memorial 50 lapper on Wednesday night. Ronnie Silk, in his second night of competition, took the win over Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale. Jimmy Blewett made it five in a row in SK type Modified competition.

Early in the evening Louie Mechalides replaced Frank Ruocco in the Bear Motorsports No. 14. Ruocco picked up a ride in the Joe Brady back-up car. Chuck Hossfeld drew the pole starting spot and took the lead at the start. By the second lap Silk had closed on the leader and was applying the heat. Hossfeld got a slight reprieve when Mechalides spun in turn two, bringing out the caution. Shortly after the field restarted Hirschman brought out the caution when he spun on the front stretch, hitting the water barrels that guard pit road. Hirschman was able to drive away and rejoin the field. Hossfeld led until lap 11 when he gave way to a determined Silk. The caution flew again on lap 23 for Shelly Perry who spun on the back stretch and for Steve Witt who hit the wall at the start-finish line. On the restart, Hossfeld, who had been running second, faded. Eric Goodale moved into the runner-up spot. At just about the same time Richard Savory’s engine dumped its innards in a billow of smoke. Following a realignment of the field Silk jumped out to a sizeable lead with Goodale, Ryan Preece, Bob Grigas and Hossfeld in tow.

On lap 46, Ryan Preece had a run on Eric Goodale for second place on the backstretch. Preece pulled out and Goodale threw a block on him. The pair made contact and Goodale went spinning down low. Preece made it to the end of the straightway when his right rear tire went down. He then slid up into Chuck Hossfeld, who impacted the outside wall in turn three. Preece drove away and pitted for a new tire. Goodale also drove away and pitted. Hossfeld was hauled off by a wrecker. On the restart Silk led Grigas, Christopher, Ruocco and Hirschman. Grigas got a little over excited as he went high on the track and gave way to Christopher. In the end, Christopher had nothing for Silk. Christopher settled for second with Hirschman, third. Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five. Grigas ended up in sixth spot and Preece in eighth.

Finishing behind Blewett in the Wednesday night SK type event was Frank Ruocco, Brad Van Hooten, Tommy Farrell and Jimmy Zacharias.

In tour type Modified action on Thursday night Ted Christopher scored his second victory of the series. Jimmy Blewett continued to dominate in the SK types as he made it six in a row. Despite the fact that usually by Thursday there had been thousands of race fans in the Daytona-New Smyrna area the crowds were down to say the least. At New Smyrna the grandstands were less than half full and at Daytona where usually the Sprint Cup Duals are near a sell out there were considerable empty seats observed.

In the Modified 25 lapper, Christopher started from the pole and jumped out to an early lead at the start over Chuck Hossfeld, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Bobby Grigas, III. The first caution of the race fell on lap 3 when Frank Ruocco, driving the Joe Brady back-up, hit the second turn wall near the beginning of the backstretch. Christopher led the restart and was followed by Hossfeld, Ronnie Silk, Blewett, Grigas and Hirschman who had faded since the start. Silk, who was looking to make it two in a row, took over the runner-up spot on lap 10 after getting by Hossfeld on the low side. The caution flew again on lap 14, this time for John Jensen who had come to a stop on the front stretch. Once the field went back to green Silk turned up the heat on the backside of the leader. On lap 17 Silk took the lead in a somewhat rough way. Christopher returned the favor on lap 22 as he re-took the lead. Grigas followed as Silk slipped to third. Christopher held on for the win and was followed by Grigas, Silk, Hirschman, Hossfeld, Blewett, Eric Goodale, Rob Fuller, Jon McKennedy and Kevin Goodale.

In SK type competition Blewett took the lead from Frank Ruocco on lap 3 and that’s the name of that tune!

The Richie Evans Memorial 100 was the main attraction at New Smyrna on Friday night. Each year the New Smyrna Speedway honors the fallen Champion and icon to the sport of open wheeled Modified Racing. The RE 100 was the most exciting event of the week and kept the near capacity crowd on its feet for most of the event. Ted Christopher was the eventual winner after trading the lead close to ten times with Ronnie Silk. Temperatures were in the high 50’s-low 60’s at race time.

Jimmy Blewett took the lead on the start with Silk on his rear bumper. Silk passed Blewett for the lead on lap 3. The first caution of the evening flew on lap 11 for Shelly Perry who spun in turn 4. The restart was aborted when Vinnie Annarummo spun by himself. Annarummo was driving the Joe Brady back-up.

A strange thing happened on lap 11. Danny Marcello arrived at the track and was allowed to join the event. That was a dumb move by who ever made that decision as he could have wrecked half the field with an untested car. Marcello was black flagged for not getting up to speed. A big logjam took place on the restart. Several cars got together on the front stretch as the green flag came out. Those involved include Kevin Goodale, Chuck Hossfeld, JR Bertuccio, Rob Fuller, Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Jon McKennedy and Ryan Preece. The field returned to green flag conditions. All continued except Blewett as his car was sidelined with rear end problems. The caution flew again on lap 28. Butch Perry spun. Among those who pitted were Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld and Ryan Preece. Silk continued to lead as the field went back to green. At the halfway point, it was Silk, Bobby Grigas, Eric Goodale, Hirschman, Andy Seuss, John Jensen, Kevin Goodale, JR Bertuccio, Ted Christopher and Peter Jarvis. Butch Perry spun again on lap 53. Silk and most of the front runners pitted. Eric Goodale inherited the lead on the restart. With 13 cars left running Jensen pulled Goodale on the restart. Christopher stormed his way to the front and on lap 60 took the lead. Grigas and Silk came with him into second and third as Jensen dropped to fourth. At lap 67 the racing was at a fever pitch. Silk made bonsai move on the low side of Christopher to take the lead. Not one to take it sitting down, Christopher rose to the occasion on lap 69 to retake the top spot. At lap 77, Silk passed Christopher again for the lead. Christopher tried a crossover move to retake the lead, but it didn't work. The caution flew again on lap 79 for the Perry’s who wrecked each other. Silk and Christopher served up a see-saw battle for the lead. Christopher took the lead for the final time on lap 96. Following Christopher at the finish was Silk, Grigas, Hirschman, Kevin Goodale and Chuck Hossfeld.

Jimmy Blewett made it seven in a row in the SK type Modifieds. Kevin Goodale was second, Tom Ferrall, Jimmy Zacharias, and Rob Schultz rounded out the top five.

Saturday night was pretty much a lame duck session for the Modifieds and the SK types. Ted Christopher had already sewed up the tour type Modified Championship and Jimmy Blewett, the SK types.

With only 17 tour type Modifieds left for the final night Ted Christopher made it three in a row and four for the week in World Series competition at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Christopher’s main competition Ronnie Silk was on his way home to Connecticut as the Roger Hill Race Team headed for North Carolina. Jimmy Blewett completed a perfect week of SK type Modified racing as he went eight for eight.

Matt Hirschman and Bobby Grigas brought the field down for the start. Christopher started fifth. Once on the backstretch the front runners went three wide. Grigas, who had a tire getting soft and JR Bertuccio made contact. Both hit the wall a ton and in the process collected Jimmy Blewett, Hirschman, Kevin Goodale and Darwin Green. Bertuccio took out his frustrations on Grigas with a barrage of foul language, punches and kicks aimed at Grigas even though the culprit was a leaking tire! Eric Goodale led the restart with Christopher, second. By lap 5 Andy Seuss had moved into second spot after starting in seventh spot. Seuss was able to get close but was unable to make a move on Christopher. At the finish, Christopher took the win. Eric Goodale beat Seuss by a whisker for the runner up spot. Seuss settled for third. Jon McKennedy and Hirschman rounded out the top five.

The Waterford Speedbowl property continues to be a hot topic especially with a foreclosure looming in the near future. A prominent New England Ford dealer has expressed interest in the property especially if it can be had for between $700-800,000.

In TV land this week, NASCAR leaves Daytona behind and heads to the west coast. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 follows the action on Tuesday through Thursday at 5:00pm. Also on Thursday, the Speed Channel will replay the Daytona 500 at noon. Speed goes live at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA at noon on Friday. Live coverage continues at 12:30 with Nationwide Series practice followed at 3:00 with Sprint Cup practice. The Camping World Truck Series has their qualifying session at 4:30 followed by Sprint Cup qualifying at 6:30. Following the trucks will be the Nationwide Series final practice at 8:30pm. Trackside at Auto Club Speedway rounds out the day at 10:00pm. Saturday’s viewing begins at noon with NASCAR Live on Speed. Live coverage of Nationwide Series qualifying follows at 12:30. The action switches to FOX at 3:00pm for live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series San Bernardino County 200 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Following the truck race the action switches back to Speed for final practice for the Sprint Cup at Fontana. ESPN2 will host the Nationwide Series Pre-race show beginning at 7:00 which will lead in to a 7:45pm start of the Stater Bros. 300 at Fontana. This event will be replayed at 2:00am and at 9:00am on Sunday. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 goes Sunday morning at 10:00. The Speed Channel hosts a two hour RaceDay preview of the Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 at 3:30pm. At 5:00pm, FOX goes live for flag to flag coverage of the Sprint Cup Auto Club 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. While the event is in progress the Speed Channel has the Speed Report at 7:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm on Sunday night. NASCAR Victory Lane on Speed follows the race approximately at 10:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on the negative side. Taking the biggest hit was the International Speedway Corporation which dropped 2.52 to 22.38. Speedway Motorsports dropped 1.63 to 13.30 and Dover Downs dropped 0.28 to 2.31. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint had a positive finish to the week as they went up 0.35 to 2.82. Also finishing on the up side was Goodyear which went up 0.41 to 6.92. On the down side was fuel supplier Sun Oil which dropped 2.89 to 36.93. The two publicly traded domestic car makers took another devastating blow. Ford dropped 0.70 to 1.76 and General Motors dropped 1.15 to 2.50. On the up side was Toyota which went up 1.47 to 65.45. NASCAR team sponsors continue to look over their shoulder. Dupont dropped 2.17 to 22.40. Coca-Cola went up 1.50 to 47.47. Target Department Stores dropped 2.94 to 30.08 while Aarons Rentals dropped 1.85 to 22.81. Home Depot dropped 2.31 to 21.22 and
Lowes dropped 1.44 to 17.80. Still on the bottom is World Racing at 0.04.

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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