Tuesday June 19, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                                

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour gets back into action this Thursday night at the Thompson Speedway with the Charter Cable, Internet, Telephone 150. This will be the second of five Whelen Modified tour events to be featured at the historic Connecticut oval. Grandstands will open at 2 PM and Whelen Modified Tour Time Trials will be held at 5:45 PM . The 150-lap main event or the “Tour” is slated to roll off at 8:30 PM. Joining the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be Thompson’s NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions in feature only appearances. All six of these divisions will be part of the special night of competition at Thompson.

The big news of the week is that Woody Pitkat has been named as the driver of the Hillbilly Racing No.79. Pitkat replaces Chuck Hossfeld. With this new ride, the twenty-seven year old will be one of the busiest drivers in racing. He will continue to drive a Sunoco Modified at Thompson on Thursday nights as well as a SK Modified and Late Model at Stafford on Friday nights. Pitkat is coming off of the most successful season of his career, having won the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series regional championship, the Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified championship and the Stafford Speedway Late Model championship. It should be a good fit for both sides.

In other big news, NASCAR has listened to car owners concerns and has changed the format for the upcoming “Flash” Whelen Modified Tour Series event that is to be held at the Twin State Speedway. After a comprehensive review of the “Flash” format, NASCAR has announced changes effective for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event in Claremont (N.H.) on Sunday, July 8.The race, the seventh in the 16-race schedule, will be 100 laps in length. The 30-car field will be set through time trials and twin heat races. “After evaluating the first-ever NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour “Flash” event at Wall, we have decided to tweak the format for the upcoming “Flash” event at Twin State Speedway,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations. “These adjustments strive to enhance the quality of the show, while maintaining overall goals and objectives for growing the Tour.” Qualifying will be as follows: All cars will time trial. The top 20 percent of cars entered will be locked into the feature, and will redraw for starting spots. For example, if 40 cars are entered, the top eight cars in time trials will advance to the feature and redraw for the first eight spots. The remaining cars entered will be divided into twin 25-lap heat races. The heat lineups will be set by qualifying lap time, with the odd numbered qualifiers in one heat race and the even numbered in the other. Cautions will not be counted for the heat race nor the first 50-laps of the feature. Caution laps will be counted for scoring purposes for the final 50 laps of the feature. These changes will be in effect for the “Flash” event at Twin State Speedway and will be assessed further prior to the season’s final “Flash” event at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway Aug. 4.

Thursday Night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway saw six drivers red hot in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series competition on an uncharacteristic night of yellow fever. Thursday night featured two first time winners with Marc Jenison scoring his first Late Model triumph in the division’s marquee 50-lapper and Eric Grant besting a strong Limited Sportsman field for his career first. Keith Rocco survived a caution-filled event to score the Sunoco Modified victory while Norm Wrenn, was tops in the Pro Stocks. Tim Sullivan was victorious in the TIS Modifieds and Mike Romano in the Mini Stocks.

After several ill-attempts at lap one, outside pole sitter Rocco was able to drive out to the lead. Rocco enjoyed some breathing room as John Blewett and Woody Pitkat struggled to get by Harry Rheaume in the second spot. After finally freeing himself of Rheaume, John Blewett spun on the backstretch coming to rest in the infield. An attempt at the restart was thwarted when Danny Lajeunesse hit the wall in turn one. While the cars where slowing down for the caution, Rheaume went low, directly into the path of oncoming Todd Ceravolo, launching his #16 into the air. Jimmy Blewett was also collected. Back under green, Rocco resumed his spot at the head of the field but not before some contact with Woody Pitkat. A spin by James Harrison brought out the event’s next caution. Not to be deterred, Rocco was out front again on the restart. Tommy Cravenho was now in second with Bert Marvin and Kerry Malone in hot pursuit. Ted Christopher, driving the Joe Lemay owned #00, took over the fifth position from Pitkat. Cravenho was giving Rocco a run for the top spot with Marvin glued to the back bumper.The action was hot inside the top five while the battle was just as fierce from fifth on back with Christopher, Pitkat and a fully-recovered John Blewett. Just after the halfway marker, things settled down with Rocco getting a bit of distance on Cravenho and Marvin. Christopher had caught Malone, who had, for a time, run alone in fourth. With only nine laps remaining, Marvin was given the black flag for a fluid leak. With the aid of another yellow, Marvin was able to make repairs and rejoin the field. A spin by Rheaume brought out a caution that Rocco did not want to see with seven laps remaining on the scoreboard. Cravenho made a good run on Rocco’s lead on the ensuing restart but could not muster up enough for the pass. Losing some momentum, Cravenho lost second to Malone. Contact with Christopher sent Cravenho reeling. By that time, Malone got a great run and put some heat on Rocco. Eric Goodale spun exiting turn four collecting Marvin, who was making great strides after tending to his car on pit road under the previous caution. The caution now pitted last week’s winner Malone against Rocco. After another pair of cautions, one including an incident involving Cravenho and Christopher, Rocco was still able to maintain his edge. Things got dicey for the leader Rocco in the final laps. Malone dove low in a bid for the lead, making contact with Rocco. Malone checked up. Rocco gathered it up and headed to the checkers for his first Sunoco Modified win of 2007. Malone came home in second followed by Pitkat and John Blewett. Buddy Charette had a great run to finish fifth. After being responsible for wrecking half the field Rheaume finished ninth.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night. Woody Pitkat won the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Ryan Posocco, the 30-lap Late Model feature, Glenn Griswold the 20-lap SK Light feature, Andrew Durand the Limited Late Model feature, and Jeff Jolly the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
The 40-lap SK Modified feature saw a thrilling battle for the victory between Woody Pitkat and Willie Hardie that saw Pitkat take home his second feature win of the 2007 season. Hardie took the lead at the start of the race, and set the early pace. Pitkat started 12th, but by the half-way point of the race he was up to the fifth position. After several caution periods slowed the action periodically, Pitkat moved into third place, and from there he took second from Brad Hietala on lap-34 and began to duel with Hardie for the lead and the win. Pitkat took to the outside groove, where he nearly had a pass completed several times, but Hardie was able to fend off his challenges. A final caution with 36 laps complete set up a sprint to the finish. The battle for the win came down to the last lap, where in turn 3, the cars touched, with Hardie getting out of shape enough for Pitkat to take the win and for Ted Christopher to move into second at the checkered flag. Hardie finished third, with Jeff Malave and Todd Owen rounding out the top-5.
Former Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Rick Fuller has joined the Stafford Motor Speedway TV crew as a color man. Fuller’s insights have greatly enhanced the Stafford produced NASCAR New England program that is seen every Saturday afternoon at 4:00pm on NESN.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Dennis Charette passed early leader Jay Miller with ten laps to go, notching his first 35-lap SK Modified feature of the season. Dennis Gada and Diego Monahan completed the top-three. The race concluded with a grinding multi-car crash on the front chute that sent Wendell Dailey to Lawrence & Memorial Hospital.

Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Al Stone III (Sportsman), Danny Field (Mini Stock), Jason Palmer (Legends).A lot of racing equipment was damaged as numerous wrecks took place in all divisions.

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:30pm time slot seven days a week. This weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday afternoon with Racing Across America: NASCAR Grand National Busch East Connecticut Classic 150 at the Stafford Springs Motorspeedway that was run on June 8. The USAR Hooters Pro Cup from Mansfield , OH follows at 4:00 . Thursday’s viewing starts at noon with last Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series Mejer 300 that was run at the Kentucky Speedway. At 4:00 last Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Citizens Bank 400 from the Michigan Intl. Speedway follows. Friday starts off at noon with the USAR Hooters Pro Cup from the Peach State Speedway in Jefferson , GA. Speed goes live at 2:00pm with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice for the Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200 at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin. Live coverage switches at 3:00 to Sonoma , CA for NASCAR Nextel Cup practice for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway. NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying follows at 7:00pm . The action moves back to the Milwaukee Mile at 8:30 for the pre-race show followed by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200. Saturday’s action begins at 1:00 with Nextel Cup practice from Sonoma . Another practice session follows at 3:00pm . At 4:00pm it’s NASCAR New England on NESN. NASCAR New England will present features and highlights from the Stafford Springs Motorspeedway. At 5:30 the action moves to Milwaukee for Busch Series qualifying. The Busch Series AT&T 250 gets the green on ESPN2 at 8:30pm . Sunday’s viewing starts out at 12:30pm on ESPN2 with the recent World of Outlaws sprint car event at the Dodge City Raceway in Dodge City , KS.At 2:30 Speed presents a two hour session of NASCAR RaceDay wich will preview the Toyota/Save Mart 350 from Infineon Raceway. At 4:30 the action switches to TNT for Countdown to Green followed by live Flag to Flag coverage of the Nextel Cup event at Sonoma . Wrapping up the weekend on the Speed Channel is NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note.Speedway Motorsports led the way as they went up 0.14 to 39.92. Dover Downs went up 0.08 to 5.99 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.04 to 53.21. Nextel went up 0.03 to 22.07 and Sun Oil went up a whopping 6.30 to 84.92. Goodyear went up 0.19 to 35.32 while DIRT Motorsports dropped 0.15 to 1.50. In the drug sector Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 1.49 to 30.76 while Pfizer dropped 0.05 to 26.47. In the home improvement sector Lowes dropped 0.50 to 31.55 while Home Depot remained unchanged at 37.95. The parcel carriers had another positive week as Fedex went up 1.97 to 111.37 and UPS went up 1.73 to 74.05.

The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has filed a counter claim in U.S. District Court against AT&T Mobility/Cingular Wireless and AT&T Inc., alleging breach of contract, fraud and misrepresentation, and conspiracy to aid and abet wrongful interference with NEXTEL’s exclusive sponsorship agreement. NASCAR is seeking a minimum of $100 million in damages.

The NASCAR Rule Book governs participation in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and its contents are agreed to in writing by all NASCAR members and participants. Cingular is a member of NASCAR and agreed to abide by all NASCAR rules and regulations when its representatives signed official documents such as the NASCAR Membership and License Application.

NASCAR’s suit further alleges that AT&T, Cingular and its representatives breached its explicit agreements with NASCAR when they re-branded the No. 31 car; entered into contract with RCR knowing that they would litigate against NASCAR; and when they sought to ambush NEXTEL’s exclusive sponsorship rights.

NASCAR also submitted its response to a suit filed by AT&T Mobility/Cingular Wireless by soundly rejecting each of their claims. The response demonstrates the clarity of NASCAR’s rule book and the baseless allegations made by AT&T Mobility/Cingular Wireless in its attempts to re-brand the No. 31.

The court’s preliminary injunction allowing the No. 31 to re-brand is still on appeal by NASCAR and NEXTEL and is being fully contended.

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

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

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