Tuesday July 7, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to the Spencer Speedway this coming Saturday, July 11. Ted Christopher continues as the series point leader. Christopher currently leads Todd Szegedy by 53 points. Donny Lia sits 19 points behind Szegedy who sits 46 points ahead of Jimmy Blewett. Mike Stefanik rounds out the top five. Sixth through tenth are Ryan Preece, Ron Silk, Ed Flemke Jr, Woody Pitkat and Rowan Pennick.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway rain prevailed. The rains that have dominated the New England weather picture for the previous six weeks struck again in Thompson, CT causing the cancellation of the July 2nd race program. Over five inches of rain turned the speedway and midway into a swamp leaving management little choice. Due to the number of events that have become the victim of Mother Natureís wrath, Thompson officials have added a complete race program to what had been an open date on the trackís original schedule. This coming Thursday, July 9th, is a brand new date on the Thompson schedule. That event will include all six of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions and will be the night that the Sunoco Modifieds run the 50-lap race scheduled for Thursday, July 2nd.

Ted Christopher returned to familiar ground at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Christopher drove to his second victory of the 2009 season and his third overall win in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Jim Peterson took down his first win of the season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Brit Andersen scored his third win of the 2009 season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Shawn Thibeault picked up his first career victory in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande picked up his first career victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature a week after his twin brother won his first career DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green with Woody Pitkat in command of the field. After an early caution, Pitkat began to set a blistering pace out front. Todd Owen was holding down second place while Ted Christopher, Tom Bolles, and Keith Rocco were busy working their way through traffic. By the half-way point of the race, Christopher had worked his way up to second, but he was a half-straightaway behind Pitkat. A caution with 22 laps complete for a spin by Sean Foster erased Pitkat's lead. Christopher settled into second behind Pitakt on the restart, but on lap-25 he made a move to the inside of Pitkat and took over the race lead. Owen was riding in third, with Rocco and Frank Ruocco behind him.

With 31 laps complete, the caution came out for a spin by Dave Salzarulo and Rocco also spun with a flat left rear tire, which brought him to pit road. Christopher continued to hold the race lead back under green, with Pitkat giving chase. Ruocco moved by Owen for third place, with Bolles rouding out the top-5. Pitkat was unable to get close enough to Christopher over the final laps as Christopher nailed down his second feature victory of the 2009 season. Pitkat finished second, with Ruocco, Owen, and Bolles making up the top-5. Rocco ended up 13th.

The Waterford Speedbowl celebrated the nationís birthday in grand fashion, hosting the 12th annual Pepsi 300 on a beautiful summer evening. The Speedbowlís leaders in the four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions each performed up to their lofty status. Keith Rocco checkered the SK Modified race, Bruce Thomas Jr. won in the Late Models, and Danny Field was the Mini Stock winner. Ronnie Oldham finished in second in the Street Stocks, while it was Walt Hovey taking down the event win.

The SK Modified field was led to the green flag by Frank Mucciacciaro Jr. and Dennis Gada. The pair raced side by side before the seven-time Speedbowl champion moved to the lead on lap two of a cleanly run 100-lapper. The action was hot right from the start, with Rob Janovic Jr. making a nice save in turn four in front of the field after contact in the top three. The first caution waved on lap 12 for a spin in turn two by Mark Bakaj. On the restart Ron Yuhas Jr. powered to the lead outside Gada, with Keith Rocco in tow. Rocco didnít wait to challenge Yuhas, applying pressure and making a low move in turn three to come out on top as the field completed lap 23. Grotonís Jeff Paul, who has been on a tear of late, moved to third and began to chase down the lead duo that had opened up a comfortable advantage. Caution waved on lap 31 when Jeff Rocco spun in turn two. When racing action resumed Rocco still led over Yuhas at halfway, but couldnít shake the two-time winner from shadowing his every move. Action could be found all over the racing surface. Paul moved to Yuhasí bumper looking for more, Gada and Janovic battled hard for fourth, while Justin Gaydosh was looking strong advancing to sixth. Paul made a bid for second outside Yuhas, securing the spot on lap 55. Jeff Rocco caught the front stretch wall off turn four causing damage to the right front of his machine and brought out caution again on lap 66.The clean racing continued when the field went green, with Rocco pulling away to a comfortable advantage over Paul and Yuhas. The field raced singled file over the latter stages of the event, with Rocco mastering lapped traffic with ease. Yuhas looked to rattle Paul for second in the closing laps to no avail. Rocco went unchallenged to the win, extending his points lead and picking up his first win in the Pepsi 300. Jeffrey Paul ended up in second spot and was followed by Yuhas, Gada and Janovic.

The True Value Modified Series visited the ultra fast ľ mile high banked Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH. Kirk Alexander started the race on the outside pole and did what he does best; he drove his car hard right to the front to capture the lead. He then held on to the number one position for 100 laps to dominate and win the TVMRS race. Les Hinckley was Mr. Consistent during the night of competition running at a steady pace to come across the start finish lien in second. Running in the top ten in points for the TVMRS, young Rowan Pennink has continued his competitive run with the series finishing the night with a podium finish. Dwight Jarvis and Rob Goodenough rounded out the top five.

The TVMRS heads to Lee USA Speedway on Friday, July 11th for The Laticrete 100 putting summer into full swing with good New England modified racing.

A memorial party celebrating the life of SK Modified competitor Jay Miller will be held on Sunday July 12th starting at 1:00 P.M. at the residence of his dad, Hall of Fame Racer Ray Miller, 8 South Main Street, East Granby, CT 06026. Jay passed away unexpectedly on July 15, 2008. The memorial celebration will be the one-year anniversary of Jay's death.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and at 6:30pm on Thursday. This weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with a replay of last Saturday nightís NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400, that was run at the Daytona International Speedway. On Thursday at noon the Speed Channel will show the 2006 NASCAR Sprint Cup USG Sheetrock 400 that was run at the Chicagoland Speedway. The June 26 NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East Heluva Good! Summer 125 that was run at the New Hampshire Intl. Speedway, follows at 3:00pm. NASCAR Live at Chicagoland follows at 4:30. A 90 minute Sprint Cup practice begins at 5:00pm. Another 30 minute session of NASCAR Live follows at 6:30. At 7:00pm the action switches to espn2 for Natonwide Series practice. At 8:30 itís back to the Speed Channel for Sprint Cup qualifying. CNBC has a special at 9:00pm titled ďInside Track: Refueling the Business of NASCAR. The special shows how shrinking budgets are threatening the sport of NASCAR racing. Fridayís viewing begins at 2:00pm with NASCAR Live at Chicagoland. At 3:00pm the action switches to espn2 for NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying at Chicagoland Speedway. At 5:00pm its back to the Speed Channel for 2-1/2 hours of Sprint Cup practice. NASCAR New England, which highlights the weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway is on the New England Sports Network (NESN) at 5:00pm. At 7:30 the action moves to ESPN for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead into a 8:15pm start of the Dollar General 300. Trackside on Speed rounds out the day at 11:00pm. Saturdayís viewing starts at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. At 4:30pm NASCAR Raceday previews for two hours the upcoming Sprint Cup event. TNT has another 90 minutes of pre-race starting at 6:30 that will lead in to an 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup 400 at the Chicagoland Speedway. 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 last week all three speedway stocks were in the red for the week. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.84 to 13.77. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.81 to 25.25 and Dover Downs dropped 0.05 to 1.37. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.67 to 4.32 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.11 to 23.20. Goodyear had a positive ending as they went up 0.25 to 11.47. Two of the three car makers were down for the week. Ford went up 0.28 to 5.89 while General Motors dropped 0.34 to 0.82 and Toyota dropped 1.25 to 74.09. Team sponsors didnít fare much better. Dupont dropped 0.60 to 24.78 while Coca-Cola dropped 3.23 to 54.95. Target Department Stores dropped 2.12 to 37.45 as Aarons Rentals went up 0.47 to 29.53. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.80 to 22.81 and Lowes dropped 0.60 to 18.62.

Thatís 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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