Tuesday July 30, 2013

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

It appears that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour may get a much needed shot in the arm in 2015 as it has been announced that NBC will replace the combined coverage that ESPN and TNT share in the current television contract, which expires at the end of the 2014 season.

In addition to rights to NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series races, NBC has also obtained exclusive rights to practice and qualifying sessions for NBC’s national series events during their portion of the season, as well as rights to broadcast the NASCAR K&N Series, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR Toyota (Mexico) Series, the NASCAR Hall of Fame induction ceremony and NASCAR’s season-ending banquets. Further, NBC has been granted Spanish-language rights, certain video-on-demand rights and exclusive TV Everywhere rights for its NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series events.

Highly respected Area Auto Racing News scribe Ernie Saxton stated that the recent Whelen Modified Tour race at Loudon did a .4 rating on the Speed Channel with 420,000 viewers.

Seven drivers, Stan Meserve, Brian Ross, Drew Fornoro, Ralph Nason, the late Bob Stefanik, Bill Eldridge and Bob Sharp and car owner Ron Berndt, with hundreds of victories and dozens of championships comprise the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame’s Class of 2013. It is the 16th class and brings the membership to well over 115.

The class of 2013 will be inducted at the 16th annual NEAR Hall of Fame Banquet Sunday, Nov. 10 at the Lodge at Manelley’s in South Windsor, CT.

On  a sad note, NEAR Hall of Fame member Charles "Chick" Stockwell passed away on July 29th. Chick was a many time Danbury Racearama Champion.

Much to the dismay of many, rain forced cancellation of Thursday night Thunder at the Thompson. The Valenti Modified Racing Series was scheduled to be a part of the program. The make up date for the cancelled event will be this coming Thursday 8/1. Both the MRS and the N.E. Trucks will be there.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series will hold it's next event this coming Saturday on Aug. 3 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Ryan Preece picked up his division leading 6th win of the 2013 season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Woody Pitkat scored his second win of 2013 with a thrilling finish in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tony Membrino, Jr. picked up his second win of the 2013 season in the 20-lap SK Light feature, David Arute took his second win of the 2013 season with a last lap pass in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cliff Saunders scored his second win of the 2013 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

With nine laps to go in the 40 lap SK Modified feature Preece powered his way by Pitkat in the outside groove to take over the race lead. Pitkat settled into second with Todd Owen, Ted Christopher, and Keith Rocco lined up behind him. Doug Coby was sixth behind Rocco, with Rowan Pennink right behind him in seventh. Nichole Morgillo and Zach Aszklar spun in turn 3 to bring the caution out with 38 laps complete and set up a green white checkered finish.

Pitkat and Preece were side by side on the restart and Preece got loose as they came to the white flag. Preece gathered his car back in and maintained the lead. Preece led the field back to the checkered flag to pick up his division leading 6th win of the 2013 season. Christopher nipped Pitkat at the line for second with Owen and Coby rounding out the top-5. Rocco finished sixth.

The Waterford Speedbowl hosted its annual Nostalgia Night treating a large crowd on hand to a thrilling night of motorsports that honored racing past and present. The event featured the track’s usual fare of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing in addition to exhibition events by vintage auto racing clubs. The Northeastern Midget Association, one of the fastest and oldest sanctioned racing groups in the country, also joined the program for its Shane Hammond Memorial event.

Picking up NASCAR wins on the night included Kyle James in the SK Modifieds® and Dillon Moltz in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature, while Phil Evans was a first-time winner in the Street Stocks and Ian Brew took the night’s Mini Stock race. The Northeastern Midget Association races went to Anthony Marvuglio of East Bridgewater, MA and Avery Stoehr of Lakeville, MA, who won the NEMA Lite event.
James turned in a strong run in the 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified® feature to close out his second win of the season. He was bogged down in traffic at the start of the race then used a long stretch of green flag racing to march his way into contention. James inherited the runner-up position with nine laps remaining after Jeff Gallup and Tyler Chadwick spun out of contention.

Tom Abele’s strong run came up short as James was able to ease by for the lead on the final restart. In the end, Abele settled for the second spot. Todd Ceravolo benefited by the late caution flag as he finished third. Keith Rocco and Craig Lutz completed the top-five.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series returned to the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H for the Town Fair Tire Whitcomb 200. The race was a makeup date for a rain out on May 11. Justin Bonsignore cut his racing teeth at the tight and quick Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. He put his experience to good use as he took the win at Monadnock, also a tight and quick quarter mile oval. Bonsignore, who started on the outside pole of the slim 23 car field. took the lead from pole sitter Eric Goodale following a restart on lap 16 and held off challenges from Donnie Lia, Rowan Pennink and in the end Doug Coby. Lia was well on his way to finishing second or possibly a win until he made contact with Patrick Emerling and hit the wall between turns two and three. Lia recovered to finish 15th, the last car on the lead lap.

The final run-down saw Coby in the runner-up spot followed by Pennink. Bryon Chew and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ron Silk, Andy Seuss, Richie Pallai, Woody Pitkat and Eric Berndt.

After seven of 14 races Preece now leads Pennink by 42 points with the defending champion Coby in third, 45 back. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is next in action on August 2 for the CARQUEST 150 from Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

Down in the south land at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC rain prevailed. A two-day event is scheduled this Friday and Saturday. Two 50-lap races for the featured Modified Division will highlight Friday's schedule. NASCAR's Whelen Southern Modified Tour will make its annual stop at Bowman Gray on Saturday with the Kevin Powell Motorsports 199.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Modified car counts for the season hit bottom as there were only 11 cars in competition. Dave Brigati took the win over Dave Sapienza and Tim Solomito.

On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had negative results for the week. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.97 to 33.89 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.37 to 19.33 while Dover Entertainment went up 0.15 to 2.40. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.33 to 5.74 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.44 to 51.43 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.46 to 16.77. With the exception of Toyota which dropped 5.91 to 124.45 the car makers had a good week as Ford went up 0.26 to 17.02 and General Motors went up 0.06 to 36.67. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 1.15 to 78.74 and Lowes dropped 0.30 to 43.97. In the world of big team sponsors, Dupont went up 0.49 to 57.63 and Coca-Cola went up 0.20 to 65.06 while Target Department Stores dropped 1.08 to 71.47, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.39 to 28.18 and Fedex dropped 3.46 to 104.57.

In TV Land this week:

The Speed Channel re-runs last Sunday's Sprint Cup event run at Indianapolis on Wednesday at noon.

The Nationwide Series event run at Indy goes at noon on Thursday, also on Speed.

On Friday, Speed goes live at Pocono at 1:00pm with Sprint Cup practice followed by Sprint Cup qualifying and an ARCA Late Model Series event.

At 7:00pm the Speed Channel no longer exists as the cable outlet becomes FOX Sports 1.

Action on FOX Sports 1 on Saturday begins at 10:00am with Truck Series qualifying from Pocono followed by Sprint Cup final practice at 11:30am and the Truck Series event at 1:00pm.

The Pocono Sprint Cup event goes live on ESPN on Sunday at 1:00pm.

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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