Tuesday July 21, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues on “Summer Break before heading for the Riverhead Raceway on August 1. While the Whelen Modifieds continue to race for paltry purses at some tracks, teams that compete in the DIRTCar series recently raced in a 100 lap event at the Cayuga County Fair Speedway in New York for a $100,000 purse that paid the winner $20,000.

NASCAR rants and raves about the Modifieds and the great shows they put on yet they continue to throw crumbs their way. The recent Modified tour event was clearly the best show of the weekend. Their racing purse was the least of those in competition. A recent edition of Area Auto Racing News, a highly respected trade paper based in New Jersey, stated that the total purse payout at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway was $7,005,549. The Sprint Cup purse consumed the lion’s share at $5,423,189. The Nationwide Series collected $1,197,559. The Camping World Series East purse was $217,884 and at the bottom of the barrel were the Modifieds whose purse totaled $166,917. In comparison to other Modified Tour events the New Hampshire purse was a good one. Based on the level of competition and the quality of the racing something is definitely wrong here. Hopefully those in charge at New Hampshire will correct this!

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway the Sunoco Modifieds seem to want to self destruct as numerous wrecks continue to plague the division. A lot of it is attributed to rough driving that continues to go unchecked by officials in charge of the racing program. Bump and run, bonsai the leader, knock him out of the way is the norm. If its ok for the NASCAR Cup drivers to do it I guess its ok for the local guys to do it. Hopefully Richard Brooks and Ben Dodge will read the riot act to the competitors and take action if necessary.
Thompson International Speedway implemented the new NASCAR rule where the leader decides if they want to restart on the inside or the outside. With weather moving in the action was hot and heavy. The rains came within minutes of the final checker flag of the evening. The TIS Modifieds did double duty as they ran two features, the Super Late Models had their 50 lap extra distance race. Ted Christopher took down a highly contested win in Sunoco Modified action. Larry Barnett continued his domination in the Limited Sportsman division. Tommy O’Sullivan took down his first Late Model victory of the season as did Scott Michalski in the Mini Stocks.

Kerry Malone led the field to the green flag in Sunoco Modified action. Jimmy Blewett grabbed the lead on lap 1. Malone had heavy pressure from Woody Pitkat who went low and took the spot on lap 3. Pitkat then glued himself to Blewetts’s back bumper. A lap later he went low and took the lead; however, Blewett wasn’t giving up easily. Ted Christopher now joined the fray in fourth and brought Keith Rocco with him. Rocco dove low under Christopher and took over the fourth spot and on the backstretch took over third. The action was slowed by a spin by John Catania.

On the restart Blewett jumped out to the lead but Josh Sylvester made heavy contact with the wall in between turns 1 and 2. When they went back to green, Blewett went back to the lead but Pitkat went high and took over the top spot bringing Rocco with him. Christopher went high on Blewett and took over third. Rocco took over the top spot after making slight contact with Pitkat. Christopher followed Rocco and grabbed second. Tim Sullivan had made his way up to the fifth spot. Just past halfway Christopher went low and took over the lead for a split second over Rocco who then took the spot back. Christopher inherited the lead when contact between Pitkat and Rocco sent Rocco hard into the wall in turns 1 & 2.

With the green back in the air, Christopher came across the line first. In almost the same spot where Rocco just hit, Harry Rheaume made hard contact with the wall. TC and Pitkat restarted their battle with the green flag back in the air. Sullivan went low and took the third spot from Rowan Pennink. On lap 21 Pitkat went low and took over the top spot. A spin by Rick D’Abate slowed the field again his machine onto pit road for some attention. Pitkat took the inside for the restart. It was a smart move as he took off with Christopher falling back. Christopher went low and retook the spot. Pitkat wasn’t giving up and battled back. He was looking high and low lap after lap. Pennink made contact with the backstretch wall slowing the field again. At lap 26 it was a single file restart. Christopher again took the lead but again Pitkat wasn’t going to lie down and give up. He looked high in turn 4, low in turn 1 and applied the pressure. Bert Marvin had moved his way up to fourth. After taking the white flag, Pitkat took the lead but he and Christopher made contact between 3 and 4 and TC took down the win. Tim O’Sullivan ended up in second spot and was followed by Bert Marvin, Woody Pitkat, Rick Shawn, Kerry Malone, Jimmy Blewett, Todd Ceravolo, Danny Cates and Wayne Arute.

In addition to their regular program The True Value Modified Racing Series will top the bill this Thursday, July23rd, at the Thompson International Speedway. The True Value Modified Series, know as New England’s Modified Racing Series, will be the featured division on Charter Communications night in 75-lap main event sponsored by Town Fair Tire.

Keith Rocco recovered from his wreck at Thompson to record his fourth win of the season at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night. Tom Butler took down his first feature win at Stafford since 2006 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Earl Pelletier was a first time 2009 winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Andrew Durand took home his fourth victory of the 2009 season in the in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Jeff Jolly became the 9th different winner in as many features this season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified® feature took the green with Wade Mattesen powering to the outside of Joe Allegro, Jr. to take the lead. Allegro settled into second with Matt Gallo, Zach Sylvester, and Richie Pallai, Jr. making up the top-5. Sylvester quickly moved to third, with Tom Bolles taking fourth and Curt Brainard moving into fifth place. Mattesen had things well in hand out front, but the action was slowed for the first time with 18 laps complete for a spin by Willie Hardie on the frontstretch. Ted Christopher and Brad Hietala spun on the restart to bring the caution back out. The lap-19 restart saw Rocco power past Mattesen to take over the race lead. The field completed one lap before Christopher and Allegro went around in turn 2 to bring the yellow back out. Rocco charged to the lead on the restart with Mark Bakaj second, Jeff Malave third, Doug Coby fourth and Frank Ruocco fifth. The field ran in line until lap-26 when Bakaj got loose in turn 4 and touched wheels with Coby, which sent both cars spinning and brought the caution back out.

After several more caution periods from lap-27 to lap-29, Rocco was still out front, with Malave, Donny Travaglin, Woody Pitkat, and Christopher behind him. The leaders ran in single file until lap-26 when Travaglin made a move to the inside of Malave for second, which allowed Christopher to follow Travaglin past Malave. Christopher and Malave would both get back by Travaglin in the last couple laps, but it was all Rocco at the front as he scored his fourth feature victory of the 2009 season. Christopher finished second, with Malave, Travaglin, and Pitkat rounding out the top-5.

True Value Modified Racing Series point leader Jon McKennedy roared to his third win of the season and his sixth career victory Saturday night, July 18, as he captured the “Maine-ly Sports 100” at the Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, ME. McKennedy, fast in earlier practice sessions, won his qualifying heat, and started on the pole in the 100 lap event. McKennedy jumped into the lead from his pole starting position and held it until passed by Rob Goodenough on lap 17. Andy Seuss took over the top spot on the 43rd lap and held off the constant challenges of Goodenough, and then McKennedy, until lap 77. McKennedy, using lapped traffic to his advantage, grabbed the top spot from Seuss. McKennedy then set a torrid pace to go on and score the win.

Dwight Jarvis who started 16th in the field, finished in a respectable runner-up spot, with David, Pinkham, last years race winner, finishing third. Pinkham started last in a 22 car field. Seuss finished fourth, with Eddie Dachenhasuen, making a late race charge finishing fifth.

The race, slowed by only two caution flags on laps 16 and 98, was run off in just 28 minutes.

The racing action at Waterford Speedbowl took on a different look as the regular Saturday night divisions had the night off. The first ever Saturday Wild ‘n Wacky racing event took place at Waterford Speedbowl under sunny and warm conditions. The Legends Car series was in the spotlight, competing in a national qualifier event with the winner earning a guaranteed berth in the Raceceiver Legends Nationals at Georgia’s Lanier Speedway in October. Berlin, CT competitor Jason Palmer continued his domination in the division this year, bouncing back from early race trouble to secure the win. Ledyard’s Charles Beal won his second consecutive Super X-Car race, Willington’s John Bowes dominated the X-Car event, and David Flammia Jr. of Waterbury was the late benefactor in winning the X-Modified race. Tyler Chalue won the Bandolero race.

The Seekonk Speedway ran their annual Open Modified 100 on Wednesday, July 15. Chris Pasteryak started 8th and after dogging Mike Stefanik for many laps, passed him for the lead and eventual win on lap 85. For his efforts Pasteryak collected $10,000. Jon McKennedy finished second and was followed by Jimmy Kuhn, Stefanik and Matt Hirschman.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and at 6:30pm on Friday. This weeks viewing begins on Tuesday with the re-showing by ESPN Classic of the 1995 Brickyard 400 that was run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will show last Saturday’s ARCA RE/MAX Series Drive Smart Buckle-Up 150 that was run at the Kentucky Speedway. At 6:00pm ESPN Classic shows the 2000 Brickyard 400. On Thursday at noon the action switches to the Speed Channel for the 2005 Allstate 400 from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At 3:00pm Speed moves to the Thompson Speedway to show the July 11 NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East Pepsi Full Fender Frenzy 100. At 6:30 its back to ESPN Classic for the 2007 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. ESPN2 goes live on Friday at 2:00pm with NASCAR Sprint Cup practice from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Speed Channel picks up when ESPN2 backs off at 3:00pm. At 5:00pm Speed moves to the O’Reilly Raceway Park for NASCAR Truck series qualifying. At 6:30 Speed heads back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a 60-minute segment of Trackside. At 7:30 Speed returns to the O’Reilly Raceway Park for the pre-race show that will lead in to an 8:15 start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series AAA Insurance 200. Saturday’s viewing starts at 10:00am on espn2 with Sprint Cup qualifying from Indy. At 12:30 espn2 moves to the O'Reilly Raceway Park for Nationwide Series practice. At 3:00 Speed goes live at Indy followed at 3:30 by the June 27 World of Outlaws, late models from the Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, PA. On Saturday,NASCAR New England, which highlights the weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway is on the New England Sports Network (NESN) at 4:00pm. The Nationwide Series qualifies at O’Reilly at 4:30 on espn2. At 7:30, the action shifts to ESPN for the pre-race show that will lead to an 8:15 start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kroger 200 at the O'Reilly Raceway Park. Sunday’s viewing begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. At 11:00 the action shifts to the Speed Channel for a two hour RaceDay. ESPN has their pre-race show for the Brickyard race at 12:30. The green flag is scheduled to be dropped on the Sprint Cup Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at 2:15. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report from 7:00pm to 8:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene it was a generally good week all around. All three speedway stocks ended the week on the plus side. Leading the way was Speedway Motorsports which went up 1.41 to 14.44. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.94 to 25.03 and Dover Downs went up 0.22 to 1.44. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.23 to 4.59 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.31 to 23.40. Tire supplier Goodyear followed suit as they went up 1.94 to 12.92. With the exception of General Motors which dropped 0.70 to 0.45, the auto makers had a good week. Ford went up 0.42 to 6.14 and Toyota went up 1.54 to 75.30. Team sponsors were also in the green at weeks end. Dupont went up 2.96 to 27.57, Coca-Cola went up 0.59 to 55.81, Target Department Stores went up 1.76 to 39.56 and Aarons Rentals went up 2.48 to 31.29. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 1.15 to 24.67 and Lowes went up 1.57 to 20.42.

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.

Web Design Copyright © 2009 & - All Rights Reserved
Opinions expressed in Phil Smith's "Champ Trail" do not necessarily reflect the opinions of and the contents are the sole responsibility and opinions of the author.
For permission to reproduce any part of"Champ Trail" contact Phil Smith @
The "Champ Trail" is Copyright © 2006-2009 Phil Smith