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Tuesday July 28, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues on “Summer Break before heading for the Riverhead Raceway this coming Saturday, August 1. Ted Christopher continues to lead the point standings with a 17-point cushion over Todd Szegedy. Thirty-nine points behind Szegedy is Don Lia. Mike Stefanik and Ryan Preece round out the top five. Sixth through tenth are Rowan Pennink, Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett, Woody Pitkat and Ed Flemke, Jr.

Time trials for the WMT are set for 4:30 pm, a 25-lap qualifying race will be contested at 6:00 pm and the Riverhead 175 will go green at approx. 8:30 pm.

The Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY may be returning to its roots as an asphalt speedway if local officials have their way. The Malta oval was a mecca for NASCAR Modified racing from 1966 to 1974. The best in the business from New York and New England would converge every Friday night for some of the best competition ever seen. Originally built as an asphalt speedway, the speedway became a dirt track in the late 70’s.

The Thompson Speedway management took the bull by the horns last week as they created the position of “Competition Director” and has hired Mike Chapman to fill that position. His job will be that of a cop as he will be making judgment calls during the running of the weekly events at the northeast Connecticut oval. NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks will remain in his position and will focus more on the technical end of the racing programs. In recent weeks Brooks has preached and threatened competitors for weeks, especially to those in the Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds. The deliberate wrecking and rough riding has continued with no action taken. It will be Chapman’s job to step on those who deliberately wreck or spin other competitors.

As rain began to fall Chapman held his first drivers meeting and laid down the law and announced that he wasn’t there to make friends. Chapman stated that he would not tolerate the beating and banging that has become the norm, especially in the Modifieds. One who deliberately takes out the leader goes to the back or to the pits. One who drives like a windshield wiper goes to the back and one who deliberately crashes into another competitor will be dealt with. Chapman talks the talk, hopefully he will walk the walk!

In other news from Thompson, the speedway has become a part of a great new service titled “Rained-Out.com”. Rained-Out.com sends notifications of cancellations or delays to mobile phones, pagers, blackberries or e-mails. The service is free for member tracks or users.

Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway was rained out as over four inches of rain fell on Thursday night into Friday morning. The Town Fair Tire 75 True Value Modified Racing Series race at Thompson International Speedway has been postponed until Thursday, August 27 because of inclement weather. A total of 34 True Value Modified Racing Series teams were on hand and able to practice before the rains came.

The 6th Annual CARQUEST SK 150 was on tap at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night.
 
Frank Ruocco came up the big winner, as he led the final 130-laps to score his first SK Modified feature victory of the 2009 season. In other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Dillon Moltz took down his fourth win of the 2009 season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Brit Andersen took his fourth win of the 2009 season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Norm Sears took his first career Limited Late Model feature win in 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Albert Saunders became the first repeat DARE Stock feature winner of the 2009 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

With a packed house of fans looking on the CARQUEST SK 150 took the green with Matt Gallo going to the outside of Dave Salzarulo to take the lead. Salzarulo settled into second, with Brad Hietala, Frank Ruocco, and Tom Bolles making up the top-5. By lap-20, Ruocco had moved up to second and he went past Gallo to take the race lead on lap-21. As Ruocco held the race lead, the car that was charging through the field was Eric Berndt. By lap-50, Berndt had worked his way from the back of the grid to third place. After a caution, Berndt moved into second on a lap-60 restart and began to put on a great battle with Ruocco for the race lead. Lap after lap, Berndt would try the low and high grooves, but to no avail as Ruocco was too quick to be overtaken.

Just as Berndt had charged up to second, Todd Owen was now the car on the charge. Owen was fifth on the lap-60 restart and by lap-80 he had run down the top-2 cars and sat in third place. The top-3 remained the same until a lap-99 restart that saw Owen move by Berndt for second. And just as Berndt had challenged Ruocco for the lead, Owen was doing the same, but again, Ruocco was too quick to be overtaken. Berndt's great run ended on lap-108 when he spun coming out of turn 2. Over the final 42 laps, Owen kept trying Ruocco for the lead, but he was unsuccessful in making a pass for the lead as Ruocco was able to stay out front all the way to the checkered flag. Owen finished second, with Bolles, Woody Pitkat, and Zach Sylvester rounding out the top-5. Sixth through tenth were Jeff Malave, Richie Pallai, Jr., Curt Brainard, Jimmy Blewett, and Ted Christopher. NASCAR national point leader Keith Rocco finished a distant 24th.

The racing action at Waterford Speedbowl took on a different look as the Saturday divisions were schedule to race on both Wednesday and Saturday. Corey Hutchings grabbed his first open-wheel win at the ‘Bowl, holding off the competition in a fiercely competitive SK Modified event. Bruce Thomas Jr. prevailed late to win the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model event, while it was Walt Hovey Jr taking the Street Stock win. Defending Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock champion Ken Cassidy Jr. returned to Victory Lane, as did Ryan Morgan in Legends Car action.

Frank Mucciacciaro and Wendell Dailey brought the open wheel SK Modifieds to green for a thrilling 35-lap event. Mucciacciaro led the first five laps before caution waved for Joey Gada who spun off turn two. Corey Hutchings took over following the restart. Mucciacciaro lost traction in turn two on lap nine, creating a tense moment for the field behind and sending several cars spinning including Speedbowl and national NASCAR Whelen All American Series points leader Keith Rocco. Rocco, of Wallingford, joined several competitors who pitted for service during caution and resumed from the rear.When the field returned to green flag racing, they clicked off the final 26 laps in exciting fashion. Hutchings resumed at the point with Rob Janovic Jr. looking for an opening to challenge for the lead. Ron Yuhas Jr. advanced to third and immediately joined the lead duo looking for more. While Janovic tested Hutchings, Yuhas was looking to snag the second spot. Meanwhile, Rocco was stuck in traffic further in the pack trying to advance back into the top ten.

Janovic made an impressive move diving outside Hutchings with 12 laps remaining. He was able to pull alongside while Yuhas tucked in close behind waiting for either Hutchings or Janovic to make their move. Janovic fell back into the clutches of Yuhas with ten laps remaining. The pair got crossed up off turn four battling for second, with Yuhas recovering to hang on to the spot while Janovic went spinning in front of the field exiting turn four. He continued on without caution, losing several positions in the process however. Hutchings was able to open up a brief breather up front following the turn of events.

Yuhas closed back in and was on Hutchings bumper with just four laps to go. He immediately looked for a lane on Hutchings, peeking outside. While Hutchings was able to fend off Yuhas momentarily, the two-time winner this year continued to hound Hutchings who was seeking his first Speedbowl SK win. As the leaders took the white flag, Yuhas made another bold outside move. He was able to pull outside Hutchings right rear exiting turn two and get the crowd on their feet for the finish. Hutchings was able to prevail by half a car over Yuhas at the stripe in a classic Speedbowl duel. Tyler Chadwick finished third, Dennis Gada fourth, and Jeff Paul rounded out the top five finishers.

With the win, Hutchings has now captured victories in three of the Speedbowl's four NASCAR divisions. He was a past Street Stock and Late Model track champion. The win gives him 42 over his Speedbowl career dating back to 1997.

The regular divisions returned on Saturday night and it was high tide at the shoreline oval. The four inches of rain that fell on the Thompson also put the Speedbowl under water. The infield was finally drained and the racing went on as planned. Because of delays qualifying heat events were eliminated.

There two first time winners this season reaching victory lane as Jeff Pearl won the SK Modified race while Adam Cantor took his first NEMA Midget event of the year. Bruce Thomas Jr. returned to victory lane in the Late Models, and Ed Puleo and Kyle James repeated in the Street Stock and Mini Stock races. Pearl jumped to the lead in the 35-lap SK race from his pole starting position. The battle for second raged on behind Pearl between Tyler Chadwick, Rob Janovic Jr., Ron Yuhas Jr., and Jeff Paul. The action was hot for several laps while they jockeyed for position. The field raced green sorting out the running order through the first 19 laps before Justin Gaydosh ended up against the turn one aarmco barrier, bringing out the first caution. The lineup behind Pearl for the restart was Yuhas, Janovic, Paul and Keith Rocco. Chadwick surrendered his spot in the top five when he went pitside during the caution.

Pearl got the jump into turn one on the restart and pulled out to a comfortable advantage while the field challenged Janovic for the second spot for several laps. Rocco diced through the pack and asserted himself, making an inside bid on Janovic for second with 11 laps remaining. Once clear of Janovic, the division points leader began to chase down Pearl. Yuhas moved past Janovic for third and opened up distance back to a battle for fourth between Janovic and Paul. With four laps to go Rocco had caught Pearl. He looked both high and low with Pearl covering the spot for the next two laps. Tom Abele Jr. spun out of turn four to interrupt the battle at the front and stage a restart battle for the event win. Pearl again got the advantage on the restart to take the lead into turn one. Yuhas moved past Rocco in the final two laps to take second and was able to pull outside Pearl’s right rear by the checkered flag. Rocco finished third with Paul fourth and Janovic fifth. The win was Pearl’s 31st SK Modified win at the track.

Thomas, the two-time defending Late Model division champion, wracked up his ninth victory in 12 events this year. Tim Jordan, who dogged Thomas until the final lap crashed into the turn three wall. A video indicated that Jordan over drove and lost control. After viewing the video Jordan was quoted on the Jeff Pearl.com website as saying “I hit the wall by misjudging. Just wanted to let the racing community know that. I screwed up.”

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday at 6:00pm and at 7:00pm on Friday. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will replay last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Allstate 400 at the Brickyard that was run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Thursday at noon Speed will show the 2008 Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono, PA. The July 19 NASCAR Camping World Touring Series West event that was run at the Portland Intl. Raceway in Portland, OR follows at 3:00pm. Friday’s viewing begins at noon when Speed goes live for 90 minutes of NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at the Pocono Raceway. NASCAR Live follows at 1:30pm. At 3:30pm the action switches to espn2 for Sprint Cup qualifying at Pocono. Nationwide Series practice at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA follows on espn2 at 6:00pm. Trackside at Pocono on Speed rounds out the day at 7:00pm. Saturday’s viewing begins at midnight on Speed with “The Grid” which shows highlights of motorsports action worldwide in a fast-paced magazine format. At 10:00am espn2 goes live for three hours at Pocono with Sprint Cup practice. At 1:00 the action switches to the Iowa Speedway for Nationwide Series qualifying. Also at 1:00pm, the Speed Channel provides live coverage of the ARCA RE/MAX Series Pennsylvania 200 at the Pocono Raceway. NASCAR New England, which highlights the weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway is on the New England Sports Network (NESN) at 4:00pm. At 4:00 ESPN has their pre-race show that will lead to a 4:45 start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series U.S. Cellular 250 at the Iowa Speedway. At 7:30pm the action moves to the Speed Channel for the 8:15pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway. NASCAR Now on espn2 starts Sunday off at 10:00am. A two hour session of NASCAR Raceday on the Speed Channel follows at 11:00am. At 1:00pm
the action moves to ESPN for the pre-race show that will lead to the 2:15 start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sunoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500 at the Pocono Raceway. 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. ESPN2 also has an edition of NASCAR Now at 10:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three-speedway stocks ended the week in the green. Leading the way was Speedway Motorsports, which went up 1.03 to 15.47. Dover Downs went up 0.11 to 1.55 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.03 to 25.06. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.07 to 4.52 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.14 to 24.54. Tire supplier Goodyear went up 1.55 to 14.47. Toyota jumped 2.76 to 80.06 while Ford went up 0.64 to 6.78 and General Motors showed a no-change at 0.45. The team sponsors had a mixed bag. Dupony went up 2.47 to 30.04 and Target Department Stores went up 3.15 to 42.71. On the negative side, Aarons Rentals dropped 4.54 to 26.75 and Coca-Cola dropped 0.63 to 55.18. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 1.58 to 22.00 and Home Depot went up 0.65 to 25.32.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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