Tuesday July 31, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour Series headed for the Riverhead Raceway on eastern Long Island last Saturday night. Called a "Flash" event this annual tour stop carries a somewhat poor payout. Modified fans and friends have stepped up as they have secured over $17,000 in bonus cash money that will go directly to competitors, bypassing the greedy hands of NASCAR. NASCAR does not publish Whelen Modified Tour Series purses because, for the most part they are sub-par. Without the bonus money one who finishes out of the top five loses money. Included in the $17,000 is $4,000+ in lap money. $10 went to the leader of each lap plus $10 to the top Riverhead regular. Each driver that entered the event and attempted to qualify received $300. In addition a $1,000 bonus went to the winner of the main event, $1,000 went to the winner of the qualifying heat race, $500 to the winner of the Mike Ewanitsko Hard Charger Award and $1,500 to the Tri Track (Monadnock, Star, Riverhead) Maniac champion. A big "Thank You" to those who stepped up!

The Riverhead 200 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway was postponed due to heavy rain at the track, and a forecast for continued precipitation on Long Island for the evening.

The Riverhead 200, which would have been the seventh of 14 events on the 2012 Whelen Modified Tour schedule, will now be contested on Saturday, Sept. 15. The next Whelen Modified Tour event will now be the Stafford 150 on Friday, Aug. 3 and Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

The recent firestorm created by the use of the "Spec" engine at Loudon has prompted NASCAR to state their case. That main point of concern centered mostly on the SPEC engine as a means to an end for the Tour. Chief among competitors' complaints with the engine was that it is not as durable as traditional “built” or “open” motors, that cars that opted to use the NASCAR-approved engine would be given performance breaks, and perhaps at the top of the list, NASCAR would make built motors obsolete by quickly mandating the spec engine's use.

According to NASCAR Competition Administrator Jerry Cook, that couldn't be further from the truth. In an official statement Cook said "We will NOT mandate the SPEC engine". He added, “Teams could still build their own engine, that's never been an issue. The SPEC engine is an option, but they don't have to do it. They don't have to do this and that's the big thing here. No one's telling them they have to do this.”


Robert Yates Racing SPEC Engine

Built Engine Average**








700-800 miles

6 races





700-800 miles

9-10 races





Cook takes exception to any notion that the sanctioning body cares little about the Whelen Modified Tour or its tradition. He doesn't view the introduction of the SPEC engine as anything other than a chance to improve the series' overall health. As far as the car counts go, Cook sees car counts not what they were even a few years ago and wonders how many teams might have stayed in the series had they not been priced out by both technology and the economy. “Like everything these days, it's about cost, what it costs you to race,” he said. “What it cost when I raced to what it's come to today, it's become very expensive. It's like any other form of racing. It's not cheap. Anything we can do at NASCAR to keep it affordable for people and keep it alive, to hold on to what we have, that's what we're going to do so people's equipment doesn't become obsolete.” He went on to add that the Tour is healthy, despite recent accusations in the media that NASCAR is turning a blind eye to existing problems. “I'd say it's healthy just because it's still in business, and there's a lot of others that have come and gone along the way, from the Hooters ProCup Series to our own Dash and All-Pro Series, while the Modifieds are still there. It's 27 years and counting. "Yes, car counts are down from what they were, but the quality of the cars is the best its ever been".

Thursday night Thunder at Thompson saw literally thunder and lightning along with numerous bands of showers. The speedway has postponed its Thursday Night Thompson Thunder race event to Sunday, July 29th. “The threat of severe weather being forecast for the entire state made the decision to postpone this race an easy one,” said track owner, Don Hoenig. “However, the best alternative date to run this event proved to be Sunday, July 29th. The Valenti Modified Racing Series has a very busy schedule for the balance of the summer and we did not want to have to cancel the VMRS 75-lap feature event race,” Hoenig concluded.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night the 9th Annual CARQUEST SK 150 Twin 75 program went in the books after a one week delay because of a rain out. Taking home the big wins of the night were Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco in the twin 75-lap SK Modified® feature events, Tom Fearn was the winner of the 30-lap Late Model feature, Joey Ferrigno was a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light feature, Dennis Botticello picked up his second consecutive win in the 20-lap Ltd. Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande picked up his fifth win of the season in a photo finish with Cliff Saunders.

Christopher got a good run on a late race re-start, but Woody Pitakt came back strong on the outside and he was keeping pace. Ryan Preece was an early race leader before being spun to the infield. Preece, who fought his way back to the front was right behind both cars in third with Danny Cates fourth and Keith Rocco in fifth. Christopher was able to stay out front and he took the checkered flag to pick up his 98th career SK Modified® victory. Pitkat edged out Preece at the line for second, with Cates and Rocco rounding out the top-5.

Rocco and Cates slugged it out on the second 75 lapper but in the end Rocco prevailed and led the field around to the checkered flag to pick up his third win of the 2012 season. Cates finished second, with Frank Ruocco, Sean Foster, and Pitkat rounding out the top-5. Christopher and Preece ended up 18th and 19th respectively.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl rain washed out all the action at the shoreline oval.

In NASCAR Southern Modified action at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC Tim Brown was a winner for the seventh time this season leading all the way in the first of two 50-lap races for Bowman Gray's featured Modified Division. He continued what has been quite a hot streak. Brown had finished in the top three seven times in the past 10 races entering Saturday's second race, and he even had a shot at winning that one before getting caught in a tangle after moving up to third place. His seventh victory matched his most ever in a single season. He won seven in 2008; five Modified races remain this season.

Danny Bohn was the winner of the second race, one that was marked by seven caution periods and a run-in between two sets of brothers, Burt and Jason Myers with Jonathan and Joseph Brown.

Brown's victory was the 65th of his career at Bowman Gray, which moved him past Ralph Brinkley and into second place on the stadium's list of feature-division winners. Junior Miller is the all-time leader with 71 wins.

Brown had no problem enduring three double-file restarts after caution periods in the first race. Jonathan Brown made a late charge to take second place. Michael Clifton was third. In the second race, John Smith, who had finished 16th in the first race after contact and a spin with Chris Fleming, started from the pole when Brown drew No. 16 for the inverted start. He survived four restarts in a caution-filled race, but was loosened after contact with Bohn with 10 laps left. Bohn took the lead, nearly lost it a lap later before getting the best of Jonathan Brown after more contact, and hung on from there. Michael Clifton finished second and Tommy Neal was third.

In action on the tube this week last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup event that was run at the Indianapolis Motorspeedway will be replayed on the Speed Channel at noon on Wednesday. The Indy Nationwide Series event will be replayed on Thursday at noon on Speed.

The action shifts to the Pocono Raceway on Friday with Sprint Cup practice on Speed at noon and at 3:30pm. ESPN2 will provide coverage of Sprint Cup qualifying from Pocono at 10:30am on Saturday. At 12:30pm on Saturday the action returns to the Speed Channel for the NASCAR Truck Series pre-race show that will lead in to the 1:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono. At 4:30pm the action moves to ESPN2 for Nationwide Series qualifying at the Iowa Speedway. At 7:30pm ESPN2 coverage continues with the Nationwide Series pre-race show at Iowa which will lead in to the start of the US Cellular 250 at Iowa.

Sunday's viewing begins at 10:00 with a two hour session of NASCAR RaceDay on Speed. At noon the viewing moves to ESPN for the Pocono Sprint Cup pre-race show that will lead in to the 1:00pm start of the Pennsylvania 400 at Pocono.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the positive side. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.23 to 26.03 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.05 to 1.40. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.65 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.10 to 48.00 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.76 to 10.57. Two of the three car makers were up for the week. Toyota went up 0.96 to 76.09 and General Motors went up 0.31 to 19.67. Ford dropped 0.21 to 9.00. In the home improvement sector Home Depot jumped 3.01 to 53.71 and Lowes went up 1.28 to 27.07. The big team sponsors were all positive. Dupont went up 0.84 to 49.71, CocaCola went up 1.20 to 67.04, Target Department Stores went up 0.15 to 61.52, Aarons Rentals went up 1.25 to 30.36 and Fedex went up 0.81 to 90.89.

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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