Tuesday June 20, 2006

By Phil Smith

The Thompson Speedway grandstands can normally hold close to 16,000 fans when filled to capacity. Last Thursday night they looked to be about half full. Not bad considering it was a mid week event. The speedway management team headed by Ben Dodge and Russ Dowd pride themselves in running a fast, efficient race program. The final checkered flag of the night was waved at 9:20pm.

Taking victories were Keith Rocco in the Sunoco Modifieds, George “Mad Dog” Bessette in the Pro Stocks, Rick Gentes in the Late Models, Ed Puleo in the Limited Sportsman, Shelly Perry in the Mini Stocks and Roger Larsen in the Thompson Modifieds.

Rocco, a second generation racer, staged a knock down, drag out, door to door battle with Jimmy Blewett and Jeff Malave. As close as they ran, they never touched which is a true testimate of their abilities. In the end Malave settled for second over Blewett, Bert Marvin and Tom Cravenho. There were 165 cars, including 27 Sunoco Modifieds on hand.

The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted a double header last Friday night, which included the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series and the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Touring Series. When one mentions the “Big One” in racing circles most people think of the high speed multi-car wrecks that occur in NASCAR’s Nextel Cup events. The Stafford Speedway had their own version during the running of the 40 lap SK Modified feature. A mid race bump and grind took out the front runners. Eric Berndt was in the right place at the right time as he managed to drive through the carnage to take the lead and the ultimate win. Jeff Malave finished second, with Todd Owen third. Woody Pitkat was on a mission after an earlier spin and he charged through the field in the closing laps to come home fourth. Zach Sylvester rounded out the top-5. Berndt’s victory, combined with Pitkat’s fourth place finish, makes Berndt the new SK Modified points leader heading into this coming Friday night’s action. John Blewett III, who took over the driving chores of te Eddie Partridge No. 12 finished 26th. Ted Christopher, who was on hand to drive a Busch East car did not have a ride for the SK Modified feature.

In Late Model feature action, Jim Peterson ended Woody Pitkat’s three-race winning streak with his 21st career Late Model victory. Chris Matthews was the winner of the SK Light Modified feature to become the first repeat feature winner in that division, Charlie Newman scored his first career victory in the Limited Late Model feature event, and David Gambacorta came away the winner of the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event

Sean Caisse is now two for two as he won his second straight NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series race of the season. Caisse came out the winner after a fierce duel with Matt Kobyluck in the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway. The pair, who started on the front row, were the only race leaders, swapping the lead among themselves eight times. Caisse took the lead for the final time after Kobyluck got wiggly in speedy-dry on a restart with 12 laps to go. Mike Olsen, who shadowed the leaders for much of the race, was third for the second week in a row. Dave Dion, making his 2006 debut, charged into contention in the closing laps to grab fourth, while southern visitor Jody Lavender made up for a late-race disappointment on home turf in South Carolina last week by completing the top five. Charles Lewandoski, Ryan Seaman, Joey McCarthy, Jeff Anton, and Bryon Chew were sixth through tenth. It represented a best career finish for both Lavender and Lewandoski.

Stafford favorite Ted Christopher was a prime contender until an accident, which also involved John Salemi sent him to the pits after 122 laps. A few laps later, a strong run by Mike Johnson ended in a turn one accident. Brian Hoar, runner-up in the season opener, never took the green flag due to last-minute engine trouble. Ten caution periods resulted in 63 laps being run under the yellow flag. Attrition was high, with only 18 cars running at the finish, of whom a dozen were on the lead lap.

The Stafford Speedway has suspended Jimmy Blewett for the remainder of the 2006 season. During the running of the SK Modified feature of June 9 Frank Ruocco drove Blewett up high coming out of turn four. Blewett appeared to retaliate and tagged Ruocco, sending him into the wall. Blewett said he got loose and it wasn’t intentional. The Stafford management felt that it was intentional. Needless to say, it looks like John Blewett III will be in the Eddie Partridge No.12 at least at Stafford for the rest of the year. After viewing a video of the incident one could see that Blewett was being over aggressive. A couple of weeks off rather than a full season would have been more appropriate for the first offense.

At the Waterford Speedbowl. Danny Field won the 20-lap Mini Stock and Jim Procaccini won the 20-lap Sportsman feature. Robert Gingras III won the True Value Modified Racing Series event. The race, scheduled for 100 laps, was stopped after 53 laps because of track and state curfew rules. The SK Modified and Late Model features were postponed because of a rain delay of over 2 hrs. Grigas III won his first race ever on the TVM tour. He led every lap from the pole. Jimmy Dolan was 2nd and Dale Evonsion 3rd. Jeff Pearl was the highest finishing Speedbowl regular as he finished fifth.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at Jennerstown, PA last Saturday night. After being silent for 48 days NASCAR’s oldest division didn’t disappoint as Eddie Flemke Jr. led from the start to almost the end when Ted Christopher in the Ed Whelan No.36 stole his thunder. With two laps of the 100-lap distance remaining Christopher and Tony Hirschman slipped by as Flemke faded to third. Eric Beers and Don Lia rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jerry Marquis, Chuck Hossfeld, Todd Szegedy, Doug Coby and Jon McKennedy. Unofficially Christopher now leads the series standings with a 30 point margin over Mike Stefanik. Stefanik finished the race in 11th. Hirschman was the Bud Pole Winner, setting fast time in qualifying. Flemke earned the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award. Steve Whitt was the recipient of the Powerade Power Move of the Race Award. Jon McKennedy was the rookie of the race. The next event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is at Thompson International Speedway in Thompson, Conn. on Thursday, June 29. There were 35 Modifieds on hand.

A strong rumor that has been circulating about the owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway, Bob Bahre, selling out to the International Speedway Corporation which is owned by the France family. NHIS ticket holders got their renewals for the first 2007 race, and the date is July 1st, the race is usually the third weekend in July. With the 4th of July on a Wednesday in 2007, the Pepsi 400 is scheduled to run on July 7, 2007. No word on the NHIS race date in September 2007.

John Holland who owns and operates New England Race Fuels with FOX TV anchor Mike Joy says that racing fuel is now the hot ticket for classic cars and boats. Racing fuel does not use 10% alcohol like the gas one gets at the corner gas station plus racing fuel has a greater shelf life which one would want for a vehicle or boat that doesn’t get used on a daily basis.

In TV land, this weeks viewing will begin on Wednesday, June 21 at noon on the Speed Channel with the ARCA RE/MAX Series “200" that was run at the Michigan Int. Speedway on June 16. At 5:00p.m. the Speed Channel presents the USAR Hooters Pro Cup from the Indianapolis Raceway Park in Clermont, IN. At 8:00p.m. the action switches to the Outdoor Channel for the World of Outlaws from Eldora Speedway (New Weston, OH. Thursday’s action begins at noon when the Speed Channel shows last Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series Meijer 300 that was run at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. The NASCAR Nextel Cup, 3M Performance 400, that was run in Brooklyn, MI follows at 2:30. At 5:30 it’s Racing Across America: the recent NASCAR Grand National Busch East Series, 150 from the Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, SC. Friday’s action begins at 6:00p.m. when Speed presents NASCAR Live from Infineon Raceway in California. Live action continues at 7:00p.m. with NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200 follows at 9:00p.m. Saturday’s action begins at 4:00p.m. on NESN with NASCAR New England, the SK Modifieds from Stafford airs At 6:00p.m. Speed continues with NASCAR Busch Series Qualifying for the AT&T 250 at Milwaukee, WI. The action moves to FX at 7:30 for final practice for the Nextel Cup cars at Sonoma. At 8:30 its back to FX for the NASCAR Busch Series, AT&T 250 from Milwaukee, WI. Sundays viewing begins at 11:00am on Speed with NASCAR RaceDay. The action switches to FOX at 3:00 for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway. Speed News Sunday at 7:00 and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 wrap up the days racing. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on Speed finishes up the day at 9:00p.m.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene, all three-speedway stocks finished the week in the red. Taking the big hit was Speedway Motorsports, which dropped 1.00 to 37.11. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.52 to 46.93 and Dover Downs dropped 0.06 to 5.85. Nextel dropped 0.57 to 20.59 while Sun Oil dropped 1.90 to 64.00. Featherlite Trailers went up 0.04 to 4.72. Dirt was also up 0.04 as they closed at 3.79. In the drug sector, Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 0.23 to 25.18 while Pfizer dropped 0.10 to 23.43. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 0.01 to 62.24 while Home Depot dropped 0.04 to 36.91. Parcel carrier Fedex had a big week as they went up 3.07 to 109.64. UPS also had a positive ending as they went up 0.29 to 79.28.

That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail  

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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