Tuesday July 17, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ended a three week break as they headed to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Town Fair Tire 100 on Saturday, July 14. With 34 cars on hand Ron Silk won his second consecutive pole at New Hampshire and sixth of his career during qualifying for the Town Fair Tire 100 on Friday. The Norwalk, Conn., driver outdistanced the field with a lap of 29.492 seconds (129.147 mph) around the 1.058-mile oval. Ryan Preece qualified second at 29.842 (127.632), followed by points leader Doug Coby at 29.880 (127.470). Eric Berndt and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Ryan Newman completed the top five.

Seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Mike Stefanik, at 54 years of age, edged Ron Silk by .003 of a second to win the Town Fair Tire 100 in a photo finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday. Stefanik and Silk swapped the lead 17 times over the final 48 laps of the 100-lap event on the 1.058-mile oval. Stefanik took the lead for the final time on Lap 97 and held on for his 72nd career victory. It was also Stefanik's eighth win at New Hampshire, where he is the winningest driver.

Stefanik was quick to credit his crew chief Brad Lafontaine. In just their sixth race together on the Tour, they've now won one of the biggest races on the schedule. Stefanik, having seen Lafontaine win Modified races with drivers ranging from champions Jeff Fuller to Ted Christopher, isn't surprised. “I've always admired Brad Lafontaine's ability to give his previous drivers fantastic cars,” Stefanik said. “I'm still a student of the game. I study everybody's car, how much wheel in it they have. You just know who's driving the good cars and who's struggling and it just seemed like more often than not, he's given his drivers what they need to win the race.

Points leader Doug Coby closed late to finish third after pitting four times in the first half of the race to adjust the car. Coby leads Silk, 261-244. Eric Beers finished fourth and Todd Szegedy fifth. Rowan Pennink finished sixth, followed by Andy Seuss, Donny Lia, Zane Zeiner and Woody Pitkat.

There were seven caution periods for 26 laps. The first caution lap was displayed on lap 7 when Eric Berndt spun on his own in the turn four area. Undamaged, he was able to rejoin the field. The second caution came on lap 11 when Ron Yuhas spun in the turn two area and hit the outside wall. Also involved was Jon McKennedy in the Hillbilly Racing entry. Yuhas exited car unhurt but car was towed. McKennedy drove away. Keith Rocco's day went sour on lap 25 when he hit the outside wall on the frontstretch bringing out caution number three. Rocco rejoined the field on lap 32. The fourth caution was for Ryan Blaney who hit the outside wall at the entrance to turn two on lap 37. Caution number five was for Ryan Newman who hit the outside wall at the entrance to turn two on lap 46. Newman drove away with a flat right front tire. This caution was considered as the half way break. Ted Christopher's day came to an end on lap 52 when he tangled with Patrick Emerling for the sixth caution. Emerling drove away but Christopher was not as fortunate as a wrecker was required to remove his car to the pit area. Rich Pallai and Justin Bonsignore brought out the seventh and final caution on lap 62 when they wrecked.

In some real sad news, Wild Bill Slater passed away this past weekend at the age of 83. A member of the first-class inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1998, Slater drove his first race at Lonsdale R.I. in 1949 and for the next twenty years he won at tracks from Oxford Plains Maine to Trenton New Jersey.

He was a four time champion at the Norwood Arena and a two-time Sportsmen champion at Thompson. He won on the dirt at Stafford and on the pavement everywhere. He was often a top-three finisher in the NASCAR National Sportsman championship run, even though he raced against full time drivers while he held down a weekly job.

Slater’s long list of accomplishments included winning 8 straight features at Norwood, and 7 straight wins at Stafford. In 1959 he posted twenty wins at Waterford. He also took down two championships at Waterford and one at Stafford. He won the 100 mile race at Trenton New Jersey four times, and was a two time winner of the Utica-Rome 400 in New York. His biggest career victory was in his win at the Langhorne Penn. Race of Champions the first year it was paved. He drove in The Daytona Permatex 300 four times from 1963 to 66. He is most known for his long time association with the Vitari-Bombacci owned V8. He drove his last race at Stafford in 1969 and then became involved in the promotional side of racing at Stafford and later Thompson.

One of Slater's biggest accomplishments was the fact that it was he who convinced the Arute Brothers, Jack and Chuck, to lease and ultimately buy the Stafford Motor Speedway.

In Valenti Modified Racing Series action at the Canaan Fair Speedway in Canaan, NH. Les Hinckley took the win over Chris Pasteryak, Rowan Pennink, Jon McKennedy and Dwight Jarvis. Hinckley started third in a 21-car field, took the lead on lap 38, and went on to win the 112-lap ‘Ricky’s Race For Kids’ event at the New Hampshire oval before a large crowd. The win was Hinckley’s second this season, his third at Canaan, and his 17th career victory with the Valenti Modified Racing Series.

The race is an annual event organized by retired racing legend Donnie Miller and his family in honor of Ricky Miller who passed away in 2004 from race related injuries. The event also benefits David’s House, a home away from home for families with sick children.

Hinckley chased pole-sitter Jon McKennedy at the drop of the green flag staying right behind the leader until he passed the Chelmsford, MA., driver. The only pressure Hinckley received came late in the race following a lap 102 caution flag. Chris Pasteryak challenged the race leader but Hinckley was never headed.

Thursday night Thunder at Thompson saw a special PASS North 75-lap event that featured hometown hero Derek Ramstrom in victory lane. Ramstrom previously won two track championships in the Super Late Models (Pro Stocks) at Thompson. Ryan Preece held off Keith Rocco for the Sunoco Modified win while Tommy O’Sullivan, John Lowinski-Loh, Scott Sundeen, Troy Talman and Dave Trudeau were all victorious in other NASCAR Whelen All American Series action.

Ramstrom inherited the lead following a lap 61-accident that took out Larry Gelinas, who dominated just prior to that. Ryan Preece reclaimed the lead on a late-race restart with two laps to go and held off a determined Keith Rocco to earn his fifth Sunoco Modified feature victory this season. Kerry Malone took the early lead with Preece jumping into the second position. Keith Rocco challenged immediately and took over second before going in front of Malone for the lead on lap three in turn two. Preece, however, was waiting in the wings and catapulted his No. 31 machine from third to first on the backstretch. When things worked out, it was Preece followed by Rocco, Malone, and Ted Christopher. The top-four ran single file for the next several laps with Christopher keeping his front bumper attached to Malone’s rear bumper. On lap 16, Christopher dove low to make a challenge on Malone, but couldn’t get by and settled back into fourth. Up front, Preece was extending his lead over Rocco. The field got strung out as the leaders began to deal with lapped traffic when a car spun out of turn two and brought the caution out at lap 25. On the restart, Rocco got in front of Preece, who was looking to the outside groove to get by. Rocco closed the door on his challenge as Preece continued to look for a way around. Preece went high on lap 27 as they came across the start/finish line, but Rocco closed the door again. He went low on lap 28 and got side-by-side with Rocco who slowed in the high groove of turn two allowing Preece to drive right back out front. Rocco attached his No. 4 to the bumper of Preece, but there was no stopping the No. 31 machine that drove straight to the checkers.

Rocco settled for second with Christopher, third. Malone and Dennis Perry rounded out the top five. A slim field of nine Sunoco Modifieds were on hand.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night the SK Modifeds®, Late Models, SK Lights, and Limited Late Models each raced an extra 2 laps, while the DARE Stock feature was one lap longer as part of the 5 Star Series Mid-Season Stretch. Ted Christopher picked up his third win of the season in the 42-lap SK Modified® event, Woody Pitkat picked up win number 2 in the 32-lap Late Model feature, Dylan Kopec got his fifth win in the 22-lap SK Light feature, Dennis Botticello got his first win of the season in the 22-lap Ltd. Late Model feature, and Albert Saunders picked up his third win of the year in the 16-lap DARE Stock feature.

It was the perfect ending of a long day for Ted Christopher as he out distanced Keith Rocco for the win. Both Christopher and Rocco had been at Loudon all day. Todd Owen finished third behind Christopher and Rocco, with Frank Ruocco and Danny Cates rouding out the top-5.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco made a high speed trip from Loudon and scored a one-two punch at the shoreline oval. Rocco scored two wins on the night in NASCAR action, taking victories in both the SK Modified® and Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model features. Josh Galvin won the night’s Street Stock race and Mark Panaroni picked up the victory in the Mini Stock feature. The Bandolero race was won by Ken Morin Jr. The spotlight was on the track’s INEX Legend Cars division as it competed in a special 50-lap feature presented by Big Y World Class Markets. Matt Pappa of Nassau, NY was the big winner.

Rocco reached the front in a hurry in the night’s 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature. Rookie competitor Al Stone led the opening lap before giving way to Joe Perry. Rocco made moves early to place himself in the top-three runners by lap-4. Rocco first went by the inside of Joe Gada then Perry two laps later to race into the lead. Jeff Rocco finished second with Rob Janovic Jr., third. Kyle James and Tyler Chadwick rounded out the top five. Bruce Thomas finished second in the Late Model finish.

In NASCAR Southern Modified action at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC Dean Ward got his third win of the season as he held off Junior Miller for a 100 lap win. Tim Brown, seeking a record ninth Bowman Gray title, finished third and took over the lead in the season standings from Jason Myers, who struggled much of the night and finished 10th.

In NASCAR Modified action at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Ted Christopher, who finished 29th at Loudon, flew to Long Island where he finished second to Tom Rogers Jr in the tracks NASCAR Modified feature.

In action on the tube this week the Speed Channel will replay last weekends NASCAR Sprint Cup event that was held in New Hampshire at noon on Wednesday. The New Hampshire Nationwide Series race will be re-shown on Speed at noon on Thursday. Evidently the Speed Channel and NASCAR felt that the Whelen Modified Tour Series was not worthy of Television coverage at this time!

This weeks TV coverage consists of the NASCAR Nationwide Series event on ESPN from Chicagoland Speedway at 2:00pm on Sunday and the NASCAR Truck Series event at Chicagoland on Speed at 8:00pm on Saturday night.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had positive results at weeks end. Dover Motorsports went up 0.19 to 1.50 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.21 to 17.70 while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.18 to 26.59. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.04 to 3.33 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.05 to 47.94 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.75 to 10.24. The auto makers were in a down trend for the week. Ford dropped 0.23 to 9.27 while General Motors dropped 0.69 to 19.62 and Toyota dropped 3.59 to 76.55. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.06 to 52.09 and Lowes dropped 1.13 to 26.72. With the exception of Dupont which dropped 1.27 to 47.63 the big team sponsors had a good week. Coca-Cola went up 1.71 to 66.47, Target Department Stores went up 3.88 to 61.95, Aarons Rentals went up 0.20 to 28.33 and Fedex went up 1.07 to 92.35.

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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