Tuesday July 22, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Seekonk Speedway, located on the gateway to Cape Cod in Massachusetts was the scene of a special 100 lap Mid-week Modified Special last week. Matt Hirschman, fresh off his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Series win just 4 days prior, showed the kind of groove he has gotten into, as he drove under the checkered flag $10,000 richer. Dick Houlihan finished second, while Chuck Hossfeld was third. Kirk Alexander and Jon McKennedy rounded out the top 5. Rob Summers, Kenny Bouchard, Ted Christopher, Bobby Grigas and Eric Beers rounded out the top ten.

When the 24 car field rolled out for the 4th Annual Viveiros Insurance Modified Madness, it was Matt Hirschman and Bobby Grigas III sitting on the front row. In a race that saw only 3 cautions, it wasn’t enough to slow Matt from putting his name in the record books as the fourth driver to pick up the $10,000 grand prize. When the green flag dropped, Matt took command, and let the rest of the field fight for second. And fight they did. Grigas held on for second for several laps, until the Viveiros Insurance sponsored Chevy of Dick Houlihan jumped into second by lap 10. Ryan Preece had worked himself into third by that point, and was putting pressure on Houlihan. The first caution came out on lap 14, when Eric Beers spun in turn 2. John Fortin’s machine broke, and needed assistance as well. Dave Berghman had moved into fourth, with Grigas fifth. Chuck Hossfeld, Ed Dachenhausen, Ted Christopher, Rob Summers, and Jimmy Blewett made out the top ten. After a false restart, the field was back underway. Hirschman continued to set the pace but behind him, positions were up for grabs. Ryan Preece used an inside move on Houlihan and put the Boehler 3 into second, and began to pressure the leader. By lap 25, Berghman was running third, with Houlihan and Hossfeld the top five. One driver on the move was defending True Value Modified Champion Kirk Alexander was passing cars wholesale style. Between laps 25 and 30, he moved up 6 positions on the outside, and wasn’t done yet. He passed Grigas, but had almost a full straightaway of distance ahead to Hossfeld. At the halfway point, the top six remained unchanged, while Ed Dachenhausen, McKennedy, Les Hinckley, and Grigas rounded out the top ten. The gap between Hossfeld and Alexander had shrunk to a couple of car lengths at this point, and by lap 55, there was a new fourth place runner. Hirschman was started to close in on the tail end of the field, and the drivers behind him knew then had to start making a move. About this time, Berghman started to flex some muscle, and he looked to the outside of Preece, trying to pick up second. As the leaders ran through heavy lapped traffic, they were jockeying for position, trying to use the lapped cars as picks. Lap 67 saw the second yellow of the event when Carl Pasteryak spun just in front of the leaders. Everyone was able to make it through unscathed. As the field completed lap 70, Dave Berghman and Ryan Preece made contact, sending Preece around. Berghman was sent to the rear for the contact.

Hirschman continued his win streak with a decisive victory at the Oswego Speedway in Upstate New York on Saturday night.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues on their mid-summer break before moving to the Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway for the next date on the schedule. The Miller Lite 140 will take place on Saturday, Aug. 2. Chuck Hossfeld continues to lead the point standings with 1020, Ted Christopher is second with 925, Todd Szegedy is third with 896, Matt Hirschman, fourth with 823, Eric Beers, fifth with 797, Mike Stefanik, sixth with 789, Ed Flemke, Jr. seventh with 777, Rowan Pennink eighth with 766, Ronnie Silk, ninth with 751 and Ryan Preece, tenth with 692.

Many of the Modifieds that normally follow the tour rolled out for the 77 lap Tom Baldwin, Richie Evans, Charlie Jarzombek Memorial race at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island last Saturday night. . On the pole was Bill Park, who set fast time at 11.580 during time trials, and to his outside was Chuck Steuer, whose 11.609 in time trails was also impressive. The field was paced by sponsor Axel Anderson Inc. tow trucks and a repair van, and the JJ White Concrete #1 coupe of Charlie Jarzombek, with it’s left side drive train, right side driver configuration, a great innovation in it’s time, designed by Charlie and his brother, Rick Jarzombek. Jimmy Blewett took the coveted win over Bill Park, Jason Bonsignore, Rowan Pennink and Howie Brode rounding out the top 5.

The True Value Modifieds were at the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine on Saturday night. David Pinkham took the 100 lap win over Jean-Paul Cyr, Dwight Jarvis, Jon McKennedy and Les Hinckley. Seventeen cars were on hand.

The Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program resumed with Fred Astle, Jr. and car owner Rollie Lindblad standing in victory lane after the night’s 50-lapper for the Pro Stock division. A host of drivers scored their second wins of the season including Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco Modified division. Other repeat winners included Marc Palmisano in the Late Models; Jay Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman division; Kurt Vigeant in the TIS Modifieds, and Tim Taylor in the Mini Stocks.

The Sunoco Modified main event started with a bang. Contact between pole sitter Josh Steeves and Tommy Cravenho sent Steeves spinning in front of the field. A number of good cars were collected including point leader Kerry Malone, Keith Rocco, Jimmy Blewett, Josh Sylvester, Bobby Grigas III, Shelly Perry, and several others. A number of other cars sustained damage but were able to continue. Todd Ceravolo headed down pit road for service to his machine as well. The only contender not able to rejoin the field for the restart was Rocco, who suffered right front suspension damage.

When racing went green, Cravenho led a pair of laps before relinquishing the position to Woody Pitkat, who made an impressive move on the outside to take over the lead. Cravenho immediately had his hands full with Bert Marvin. Things settled down with Cates running in fourth and Blewett, who had reappeared, in the top-five. Ten-laps in, the best battle on the track was the three-car battle for sixth position with Eric Goodale, and rookies Josh Sylvester and Tim Sullivan. The youngsters got a bit of a lesson from veterans Kerry Malone and Todd Ceravolo as they worked their way into the seventh spot behind Goodale.

The second caution flew when Anthony Burr made hard contact with the outside wall. Under the caution both Ceravolo and Blewett headed down pit road for service once again. On the restart, Pitkat retook his place at the head of the field. Marvin worked over Cravenho to take over the second position. A lap shy of halfway, Malone was able to skate past Goodale to enter the top-five for the first time during the night. Rocco had rejoined the field a number of laps down. While making a bid for the fifth spot, Goodale spun on lap 16 to bring out the caution. The top-three remained Pitkat, Marvin, and Cravenho on the restart. Under green, Malone resumed his bid at a strong finish taking over the fourth spot from Cates. Ceravolo looked racy once again as well as he worked on Sylvester. The front three had stretched out their advantage on the green flag run. With five to go Pitkat enjoyed a comfortable lead over Marvin and Cravenho. Malone could not seem to erase the distance to the trio. Sylvester made a short-lived bid on Cates for fifth.
At the checkers, it was all Pitkat. Marvin crossed the stripe in second ahead of Cravenho. Malone extended his point lead with his fourth-place finish while Cates continues to be quietly consistent with another top-five finish.

The Whelen All-American Series NASCAR race event at Stafford Motor Speedway saw Woody Pitkat victorious in the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, Ryan Posocco drove to his third consecutive Late Model feature victory, Chris Matthews scored his sixth victory of the 2008 season in the SK Light Modified feature, Bill Davis scored his third victory of the 2008 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and John Kasper drove to his first career victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event.
In the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, it was Woody Pitkat taking down his second feature win of the 2008 season. Glenn Griswold took the early lead ahead of Jimmy Blewett and Chris Jones. Zach Sylvester and Woody Pitkat both moved past Jones as did Ted Christopher. Griswold was still the race leader when the caution came out with 13 laps complete. On the restart, there was a major pileup of cars in turn 1. Griswold and Blewett continued their duel for the lead on the restart, but on lap-14 Griswold got loose and spun in turn 4 to bring the caution out. Pitkat took the lead from Blewett on the restart and began to pull away from the field. Christopher moved into second with Keith Rocco behind him in third place. The race ran green to the checkered flag with Pitkat continuing to stretch his advantage over Christopher and Rocco. Pitkat took the checkered flag a full straightaway ahead of Christopher and Rocco in a dominating drive. Frank Ruocco came home fourth, with Doug Coby rounding out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco won the 35-lap SK Modified feature. Other feature winners were Allen Coates (American Race Trucks), Mark Cooper (Sportsman), Jeff Mehlenbacher (Mini Stock), Rob Corey (Super-X Car), and Curt D`Addario (X-Car).

Veteran Don Fowler led the charge in the 35-lap SK Modified feature, and stayed there until a series of late-race restarts bunched the field. Jousting with both Jeff Pearl and Keith Rocco, his lead evaporated on lap twenty-three when Rocco bolted into the top spot, followed closely by Pearl. It was Rocco’s second-consecutive and fourth victory of the season. Pearl, Ron Yuhas Jr., Fowler, and defending champion Rob Janovic Jr. followed. Rocco, a second-generation racer, dedicated his win to the late Jay Miller.

A familiar face entered victory lane in the American Race Truck Garry Hufton Memorial 100, as it was former Speedbowl Late Model and Sportsman champion Allen Coates prevailing. Starting from deep in the pack, Coates took the lead from teammate Scott Gregory on lap sixty-four. Battling with current ARTS point-leader Andy Lindenman for several circuits during the final stages, Coates stole the lead for keeps with only a handful of laps remaining. It marked the first-time that Coates had ever competed in the division. Following Lindeman was Doug Dunleavy, Chris Correll, and Tony Naglieri.

In some shocking news it was learned that Jay Miller, a regular in the SK Modified division at the Waterford Speedbowl, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday, July 15. Miller was a third generation racer and the son of New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame member Ray Miller. It’s a tough thing to deal with when a parent loses a child and anyone who has been there understands the grief and sorrow. Miller, who just recently garnered his first win, was 35.

In TV land this week televised action begins on Tuesday at noon when ESPN Classic presents the Nextel Cup 1995 Brickyard 400 that was run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, IN. On Wednesday at noon ESPN Classic will present the 1998 Brickyard 400. Thursday at noon will see the 2000 Brickyard 400 and Friday at noon will see the 2007 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. At 1:30 the action switches to the Speed Channel for NASCAR Live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At 3:30 ESPN2 presents live coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At 4:30 its back to the Speed Channel for a 30 minute segment of NASCAR Live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Speed travels to the O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis (Clermont), IN. for NASCAR Craftsman Truck qualifying. At 6:30 its Trackside at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Truck Series has its pre-race show at 7:30 followed by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Power Stroke Diesel 200 at 8:00. Saturday’s action heats up at 10:00am on ESPN2 with NASCAR Nationwide Series practice at the O’Reilly Raceway Park. NASCAR Live from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway follows at noon. At 2:00 a two and a half hour NASCAR Sprint Cup session will be seen. NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying follows at 4:30. At 7:30 the action moves to ESPN for the pre-race show for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kroger 200 that is scheduled to go green at 8:00 at the O’Reilly Raceway Park. Sunday’s viewing begins at 11:00 with a two hour NASCAR RaceDay which will preview the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At 1:00 the action moves to ESPN for a two hour pre-race show that will lead to flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Allstate 400 at the Brickyard that is scheduled to begin at 2:00pm. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend on Sunday night with The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks showed gains for the week. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation, which went up 0.49 to 36.95. Also on the positive side was Dover Downs, which went up 0.16 to 4.30. On the negative side was Speedway Motorsports, which went down 0.12 to 18.88. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint/Nextel went up 0.10 to 8.53 while NASCAR second division sponsor Nationwide went up 0.47 to 46.30. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil also had a positive week as they went up 2.01 to 36.70. Goodyear, which sells tires to competitors in NASCAR’s top divisions, went up 1.55 to 18.53. NASCAR team sponsors also had a fairly good week. Coca-Cola went up 0.05 to 33.89, Dupont went up 2.73 to 44.20, Target Department stores went up 2.13 to 46.87 and Aaron’s Rentals went up 2.56 to 26.06. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 1.03 to 19.93 while Home Depot went up 0.86 to 23.44. The parcel carriers had a fantastic week. Fedex went up 5.58 to 79.52 and UPS went up 2.82 to 60.81. The World Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) almost doubled in price as they went up 0.07 to 0.15.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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