Tuesday July 26, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour enjoyed last weekend, the hottest of the year, off. The big news of the week is that NASCAR did the right thing when they stripped Ryan Newman of his win at Loudon after his car was declared blatantly illegal after a thorough tech inspection at the NASCAR R & D Center in North Carolina. NASCAR announced on Wednesday (July 20), that Ryan Newman and the Kevin "Bono" Manion No. 7 team were disqualified and stripped of their victory and fast-time award from the July 16 race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Todd Szegedy was awarded New Hampshire’s $15,000 plus race winner. There will be no Fast-Qualifier Award recipient from the event.

Newman's car was found to have an air leak in the area around the intake manifold. Since the Modifieds run with a restrictor plate at New Hampshire it was an item specifically checked in detail by officials as that could produce additional horsepower. Newman's car was taken to the NASCAR Tech Center in Concord, N.C., where it was determined that it did not conform to NASCAR rules. The intake manifold ports did not completely seal to the cylinder head ports. The use of metal, shim-type intake manifold gaskets, which are not permitted, were used.

Mike LaRochelle, crew chief of car No. 7, has been suspended from all NASCAR regional touring series events until Dec. 31, 2011. Kevin Manion has been suspended from all NASCAR regional touring series events until Dec. 31, 2011.

Ronnie Silk was running second on the last lap of the July 16 New Hampshire Modified race when he made an all-out attempt to pass Newman. But Silk slid high, allowing Szegedy to pass.

Congratulations to Szegedy and crew chief Phil Moran on their honest effort and congratulations to NASCAR for doing the right thing.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will race next in the Lighthouse Mission 200 at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway on Saturday, July 30.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Keith Rocco continued his domination of the Sunoco Modified division with his fourth win of the season at Thompson International Speedway. Rocco's season totals shows 17 wins in 31 starts at Thompson, Stafford and at Waterford. With 11 Sunoco Modifieds going to post, Rocco started fifth. Ryan Preece took the lead on the start from Danny Cates. By lap 3, Rocco moved into the second spot and the show was on. Both competitors raced side by side and swapped the lead until lap 19 when Rocco took the lead for good. Preece finished a strong second but had nothing for Rocco in the late stages. Cates finished third and was followed by Rick Fuller, Woody Pitkat and Todd Ceravolo.

John Falconi won hands down in the Late Models. He dedicated his win to the late Steve May. Shawn Monahan came from a tenth starting spot to record his fifth Limited Sportsman feature win of the season. Jay Sundeen scored his second victory of the 2011 season in the TIS Modifieds. With his eighth victory on Thursday night Danny Field hopes to begin a new win streak in the Mini Stock division.

In the special Tour type Modified 40 lapper that drew 15 cars Ryan Preece started on the outside pole and at the drop of the green jumped out ahead of pole sitter Keith Rocco and never looked back as he dominated the entire event, taking the checker over Mike Stefanik, Todd Szegedy, Rocco, Richard Savory and Steven Reed. Finishing a distant ninth was Gary Putnam who was driving a Modified that was being worked on by Kevin Manion, the crew chief of the disqualified car that Ryan Newman drove at Loudon.

Preece had legendary car owner and engine builder Bobby Judkins in his pit area helping out. Judkins, who is Preece's grandfather, has brought his famous 2x Modified to New England to compete in the Modified Racing Series events. Judkins has hundreds of victories to his credit with drivers Eddie Flemke Sr, Jerry Marquis and Gene Bergin behind the wheel.

Rounding out the night was the PASS Super-Late Models that went the 100 lap distance. Johnny Clark of Hallowell, ME, took down the victory in the Pro All Star Series Super Late Model 100-lapper son. There was plenty of drama in the PASS National Championship event beginning with an incident in turn one of the opening lap. Top guns Jay Fogleman, Scott Chubbuck, Cassias Clark, Alan Tardiff, Preston Peltier and others were involved. The drama continued on lap 25 when Derek Ramstrom got alongside Mike Rowe in turn three in a battle for the lead. Ramstrom lost the handle on his #35 collecting Rowe in the process. Both cars retired from the event with damage.

Lou Modestino advises that Doug Coby really had the other 23 Tour Type Modified drivers covered at Seekonk Speedway’s 7th Annual Open Wheel Wednesday 100 lap race. Taking the lead early on and holding off Matt Hirshman, Coby took the $10 grand first place money back to the Nutmeg State. The event has been a fan favorite since the inception of the race. Getting the leftovers were; Todd Annarummo, Mike Stefanik and Chris Pasteryak who placed third through fifth.

Surviving three restart challenges, Randy Cabral (Bertrand 47) won the Northeastern Midget Association’s 25-lap feature at Seekonk Speedway’s Open Wheel Wednesday. It was the first win of the season for Cabral, the fourth winner in the last four NEMA races.

The Stafford Motor Speedway took the brunt of the heat last Friday as temperatures were just shy of the 100 degree mark at race time. Stafford ran its biggest weekly race of the season, the 8th Annual CARQUEST SK 150. Keith Rocco took the checkered flag and the $3,500 winner's check for his third consecutive and sixth overall victory of the 2011 season, Dillon Moltz picked up his third win of the 2011 season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Barrett, Jr. scored his fourth win of 2011 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Carla Botticello picked up her first win of 2011 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Don Wood scored his third win of 2011 in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

Rocco's win gave him 18 wins in 32 starts for the season, overall. Following Rocco at the finish was Woody Pitkat, Ryan Preece, Eric Berndt and Frank Ruocco. Among the missing was Ted Christopher who was in SuperModified competition at the Oswego Speedway in upstate New York where he finished seventh.

Rocco now has 29 career victories at Stafford, moving him past Mike Christopher for third place on the all-time win list in the division at the track. Ted Christopher is the all-time leader with 94 victories and Bo Gunning is second with 47 wins.

Among the missing in New England last weekend was Ted Christopher who took his show on the road to upstate New York. At the Airborne Park Speedway in Plattsburg, NY Christopher moved the three-race old SuperModified of Clyde Booth steadily forward from his 12th starting spot, ran down early leader and former track record holder Robbie Summers on lap 21 of the 50-lap $3,200-to-win feature and then drove off into the night. He led Summers and Mark Sammut to the stripe by more than a straightaway with Chris DeRitis and Tim Jedrzejek rounding out the top five.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco did what few have done as he made it three for three on the weekend, the second time this year that he has scored a home run! Rocco joined an elite group in early July, consisting of Richie Evans and Geoff Bodine who had similar weekend success during their racing careers. At the shoreline oval, the second generation racer now has four SK Modified features in a row.

Vin Esposito took down the checkered flag in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, his second on the year. In Street Stock action, Michael Caprio Jr. wired the race in dominating fashion to claim his first career win in the division, while Ken Cassidy Jr. rounded out the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series winners by taking his fifth win in the Mini Stocks this year. In the Legends Cars it was David Garbo Jr. taking his third consecutive win, and in the visiting New England Truck Series Corey Coates nailed down an extra-distance win.

Following Rocco in the SK Modified feature was Rob Janovic who beat out Kyle James for second, with Tom Abele and Tyler Chadwick completing the top-five.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine last weekend. Joe Doucette won his first ever VMRS race which drew only 17 cars. Chris Pasteryak finished second with Max Zachem, third. Rowan Pennink and Norm Wrenn rounded out the top five.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC hosted a 100 lap NASCAR Modified event. Burt Myers started seventh in the random draw and had to slowly make his way toward the front. Jonathan Brown started first and led the first 84 laps, then Myers took the lead and held it the rest of the way. Dean Ward finished third and Burt's brother, Jason, was fourth.

The Modified race had six cautions, and Burt Myers, who had his fastest qualifying lap of the season at 13.200 seconds, took the lead after the fifth. He also added to his season points lead on Tim Brown, who was 18th Saturday.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Ron Silk won the 77 lap Baldwin-Evans-Jarzombek Memorial. The 77-lap modified race attracted 30 cars vying for 28 spots. Many non-regulars paid a visit as well as NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors, who used the event as a warm for next week's Tour event. Among the Tour regulars was the most recent Tour winner Todd Szegedy, who by all accounts is not the biggest fan of Riverhead’s tight confines despite having won at another quarter-mile track (Monadnock Speedway in N.H.) earlier this year. Szegedy managed to turn in a strong performance finishing second behind another Tour driver, Ronnie Silk. Silk, winner of the May 27th Tour race at Stafford, put on a dominating performance after starting from the front row. Szegedy made a late run on Silk but was unable to complete the pass. Silk held on to win.

The 61st running of the Sunoco Race of Champions Modified 200 was held at the Oswego Speedway in Oswego, NY and honored the memory of Modified great Richie Evans. Evans a three time winner of the Race of Champions in 1973, 79 and 80 was also recently nominated in to the NASCAR Racing Hall of Fame. Tara and Richie, Jr. were Grand Marshals at the race. Saturday marked the 61st running of the 200 and also would have been Richie Evans 70th birthday.

Zane Zeiner held off Tony Hirschman in the closing moments to capture the 61st annual Race of Champions 200-lap modified special at the Lake Ontario shore speedway. Zeiner took the lead with 42 laps remaining and held on to grab the $10,000 top prize plus a good portion of the record $22,000 lap prize fund. Hirschman, who has won this event four times, had to settle for a close second at the checkers. Pole sitter Erick Rudolph finished third after an early spin with Lee Sherwood and Jimmy Zacharias completing the top five finishers.

In some sad news, Shirley J. (O'Rourke) Yerrington, 79, of 31 Trading Cove Circle, Norwich, beloved wife of the late Edwin F. Yerrington Sr., passed away last week. During Ed's tenure as General Manager of the Stafford Motor Speedway Shirley oversaw the press box.

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. NASCAR Now on espn2 airs at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and at 7:00pm on Thursday. Race viewing begins Thursday at noon on the Speed Channel with a rerun of last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Federated Auto Parts 300 that was held at the Nashville Superspeedway in Tennessee. At 3:00pm Speed reruns last years NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 that was run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The July 10 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, Coors Light 200 that was held at the Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, WA follows at 6:00pm. At 7:00pm, espn2 goes live at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with NASCAR Now. At 8:00pm Speed will provide same day, delayed coverage of the ARCA Racing Series Ansell Protective Gloves 200 that was held at the Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont (Indianapolis) IN. On Friday morning starting at 10:00am ESPN Classic will reshow the 2000 and the 2010 Brickyard 400s. While that's going on, Speed will cover Sprint Cup practice starting at 1:00pm.

NASCAR Live breaks it up at 2:30pm and then more Sprint Cup practice follows at 3:00pm. Live coverage on Speed continues at 4:30pm with Truck Series qualifying from the Lucas Oil Raceway. Speed Center and Trackside follow. At 7:00pm the truck series has its pre-race show which will lead into the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series AAA Insurance 200 at the Lucas Oil Raceway. Speed Center and Trackside close out the day on the Speed Channel beginning at 10:30am on Speed.

Saturday's viewing starts at 9:30am with NASCAR Now from Indy on espn2. Live coverage by espn2 continues at 10:00am with Sprint Cup final practice. Nationwide Series practice follows at 11:30. If you are geting bored, switch to the Speed Channel at 1:00pm for the July 16 World of Outlaws Sprints, Kings Royal, from the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH. Sprint Cup qualifying begins at 2:00pm on espn2. At 3:00pm the Speed Channel cameras head for New Jersey for the July 23 Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge that was held at the Thunderbolt Raceway at the New Jersey Motorsports Park in Millville, NJ on July 25. At 4:30 espn2 will provide live coverage of Nationwide Series qualifying. At 7:00pm ESPN has the Nationwide Series pre-race show that leads to the 7:30pm start of would very well be the last Nationwide Series Kroger 200 that will be held at the Lucas Oil Raceway (Indianapolis Raceway Park).

Sunday's viewing begins at 9:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. A two hour session of RaceDay on Speed begins at 10:00pm. At noon the action moves to ESPN for a one hour pre-race show that will lead to the 1:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400, Indianapolis Motor Speedway. On Sunday evening, Speed Center at 7:00pm and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm sum up the day's racing. At 9:00pm Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain closes out the weekend.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks showed positive results. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.16 to 29.61 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.02 to 1.83 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.22 to 13.80. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.19 to 5.16 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.34 to 42.26 and tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.05 to 17.89. All three major car builders had positive results for the week. Ford went up 0.22 to 13.31 and Toyota went up 1.16 to 85.01 while General Motors went up 0.34 to 30.10. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.61 to 36.52 while Lowes dropped 0.24 to 22.62. The major team sponsors were again all over the lot. Dupont went up 0.76 to 54.85 while Coca-Cola dropped 0.68 to 64.82 and Target Department Stores went up 0.72 to 51.81. Aarons Rentals dropped 1.35 to 26.21 while Fedex jumped 0.59 to 92.79.

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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