Tuesday June 17, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program went off as planned under sunny and warm skies. The Late Models took center stage with Marc Palmisano of Hadley , MA , taking a dominant win in the 50 lap extra-distance race for the division. It was a career night for some of the younger generation as teenagers Derek Ramstrom and Jay Sundeen scored their first career wins. Ramstrom of Worcester, MA, earned a dominating win in the Pro Stocks and Sundeen of Douglas, MA, was best in the Limited Sportsman division.

Keith Rocco of Wallingford scored a hard-fought victory in the Sunoco Modifieds and Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor rebounded with a TIS Modified victory. Scott Michalski of South Killingly took top honors in the Mini Stock main event.

Former divisional champion Palmisano was back in top form as he turned in a commanding performance to win the 50-lap Late Model main event. The strong field of competitors ran the distance with a single caution flag. Jeff Zuidema settled for second and was followed by Rick Gentes.

Rocco continued his hot streak in open-wheel competition in Connecticut short track racing with his first Sunoco Modified win at Thompson. It was Rocco’s third overall win on the 2008 season. Rocco had to work hard for the victory through a number of restarts and some stiff competition for the top spot. Bobby Grigas III led the opening lap before the caution flew for a single car incident. On the restart, Todd Ceravolo rocketed into the top spot. Rocco had worked his way into the second position before the caution flew again for a spin by Bert Marvin. The restart pitted Rocco against Ceravolo. After a single lap of green, Rocco was the new leader. Woody Pitkat had moved into the third position by lap 10 while Danny Cates ran in fourth. Grigas was having his hands full with Jimmy Blewett as Kerry Malone watched. At the halfway marker, Rocco began to stretch his lead over Ceravolo while Pitkat was making headway toward the lead pack. The caution flew for a spin by Anthony Burr to slow the action. The outside groove was the sweet spot on the restart with Ceravolo retaking the lead. Rocco looked poised to make a bid at the lead when the caution flew once again for an incident that involved Rookie Josh Sylvester, Harry Rheaume, Josh Steeves, and Geoff Gernhard. On the resulting restart, Ceravolo got a good jump but Rocco would take command of the event. Almost immediately, the caution flew when Pitkat went hard into the turn four wall. Cates bolted into the lead after contact between the leaders Ceravolo and Rocco. Bobby Grigas followed through and into the second position. Cravenho moved into the third spot but quickly lost the position to a rebounding Rocco. Ceravolo, who had a flat tire, spun on the backstretch to bring out the caution. Cates took the lead on the restart but less than a lap later Rocco reclaimed the top spot. Contact between third running Grigas and Kerry Malone, sent Grigas spinning. Rocco took command on the restart leaving Cates to defend his position over Cravenho and Malone. A pair of cautions could not deter the fast-running Rocco, who continued to lead. Cates was hanging tough in second while Malone clearly had a fast car. Slicing and dicing on a restart found Jimmy Blewett running through the dust of the infield to move into the third spot. Blewett had his hands full with an ill-handling racecar and fell back as quickly as he had moved forward. With a pair of laps remaining, Rocco had checked out. The Wallingford , CT driver raced unchallenged to the checkers. Cates had a strong performance to finish second. Malone, Grigas, and Blewett rounded out the top 5.

As usual, the Thompson management kept the program moving and had the sizeable crowd on its way home when the final checkered flag dropped at 9:20pm . There were 124 cars in the pit area including 23 Sunoco Modifieds. The Pro Stocks, once a strong division at Thompson, are dying a slow death as only 13 were on hand.

The Stafford Motor Speedway and Ted Christopher celebrated a major milestone as the multi-time track champion won the 35th Annual Coors Light SK Modified 100 which also happened to be Christopher’s 100th career win at the nutmeg state oval. Other feature winners included Michael Bennett and Dillon Moltz from the Late Model division, Alan Provost in the SK Light feature, Sean Foster in the Limited Late Model feature, and Bill Dunn in the DARE Stock feature.

The 35th Annual Coors Light SK Modified 100 took the green with Doug Coby leading the first three laps before giving way to Todd Owen on lap-4. While Owen was pacing the field, Ted Christopher was quickly working his way through the field from his 7th place starting position. He took second place from Curt Brainard on lap-19 and closed in on Owen's bumper by lap-30. Christopher hounded Owen's back bumper, but couldn't make a pass stick. The first caution of the race came out with 38-laps complete, which gave Christopher all the opportunity he needed as he took to the outside groove on the restart and passed Owen for the lead. The race took on another long green flag run with Christohper, Chris Jones, and Woody Pitkat making up the top-3 cars. The race ran green to lap-89 with the top-3 cars remaining the same. Pitkat got by Jones on the restart and he applied immediate pressure to Christopher in a battle for the race lead. Much like Christopher did earlier in the race to Owen, Pitkat was all over the back bumper of Christopher. Pitkat tried several times to make a run for the lead in the corners, but couldn't make a pass stick and Christopher had just enough car to keep in front of Pitkat for a one car length victory, the 100th career feature win for Christopher at Stafford Motor Speedway. Pitkat finished second, with Tom Bolles, Keith Rocco, and Frank Ruocco rounding out the top-5.

In victory lane, it was announced that to commemorate Christopher's 100 career victories at Stafford, Section A of the main grandstand would be named after Christopher, placing him with other modified greats that adorn each section of Stafford's main grandstand. Christopher was also presented a commemorative plaque, recognizing his 100 career wins. From go-karts in church parking lots to Sprint Cup cars on Superspeedways, Christopher has done it all.

The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain.

The True Value Modified Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series are finished with their second “Spring Break of the season. The True Value Series resumeed their series on Saturday night at the Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk , MA . The Whelen Modifieds resume their season on Thursday night, June 19th at the Thompson Speedway.

The Thompson Speedway will host the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series this coming Thursday night, June 19. The Modifieds will go 75 laps rather than the usual 150. Cautions do not count.

As part of the NASCAR year-long celebration of sixty years of champions, the 1992 title holder, Jeff Fuller, will return to Thompson to be honored for his championship year. The brief ceremony will take place just prior to the first feature event of the evening. Jeff will also have the opportunity to say hello to his many Thompson fans. Joining the WMT will be Thompson’s “Super Six” NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions in feature only racing.

Grandstands will open at 2 PM on Thursday, June 19th. Practice will run until 5:15 PM and will be followed by time trials for the WMT at 5:30 PM . Once time trials have been completed, feature event racing will begin with the New England Dodge Dealers WMT 75 presented by Charter Cable, Internet and Telephone slated to take the green flag at about 8:15 PM . According to the track’s web site tickets are priced at $40 for adults, $10 for kids and $50 for the pit area.
Despite threatening skies the True Value Modified Series got their 100 lapper in the record books. Taking the win was hometown favorite Vinnie Annarummo of Swansee , MA . Chris Pasteryak of Lisbon , CT finished a strong second and was followed by Jon McKennedy, Les Hinkley and Dave Pinkham.

Pasteryak and Tommy Cravenho brought the 26 car field down for the green. Pasteryak jumped out into the early lead, while Cravenho started to slide back a little, allowing Annarummo to move into second in the opening laps. The race would be slowed for the first time on lap 6, when Michael Douglas Jr, Rob Goodenough, and John McKennedy all got together in turn 3. McKennedy and Goodenough were able to continue, but Douglas ’ night would be complete. Dave Bergman also retired at this time. After a false restart, Annarummo used the outside line to work his way into the top spot. It would be short lived, as Pasteryak took back the lead on lap 10. The two continued to battle side by side until the yellow came out for the second time on lap 12 for Jimmy Dolan, who spun in turn 4.

Annarummo once again used the outside to regain the lead on lap 15, and was able to pace the field for several laps. Pasteryak fell into line, with Cravenho, Ed Dachenhausen, and Dwight Jarvis running in the top 5 as the field crossed the ¼ century mark. On lap 27, the third caution flew for the Mike Holdridge spinning into the infield grass on the front stretch, while Bobby Drown and Stephen Masse got together in turn 1. It seemed the outside lane was the one to be in, as Pasteryak regained the lead on lap 27. Tony Ricci overheated and stalled his #4 in turn 4, bringing out the 4th caution. Using the outside lane, Vinny brought his Francis Farm #12 back to the front on lap 30.Pasteryak continued to work the outside lane, but to no avail, as he wasn’t able to regain the lead. While they battled for the lead, 3 time TVMRS champion Kirk Alexander and Dave Pinkham were working their way toward the front from their 24th and 24th starting positions. By the 50 lap mark, the top ten were Annarummo, Pasteryak, Jarvis, Les Hinckley, Ed Dachenhausen, Dick Houlihan, Pinkham, Dale Evonsion, Alexander and Cravenho.

Annarummo had opened up a 4 car lead by the time he started to encounter heavy lapped traffic on lap 60. This allowed Hinckley to move past Jarvis into third, and by lap 68, Hinckley was trying to take away the thunder from Annarummo, as he was working his way up on the outside. The fifth caution dropped on lap 69 when Dwight Jarvis spun down the front straight while battling for position with Pasteryak and Dachenhausen. Dick Houlihan retired to the pits with front suspension problems. Annarummo, Hinckley , Pasteryak, Dachenhausen and Dave Pinkham were the top 5. Lap 71 saw Chris Wenzel slide into the turn 1 wall. Once back up to speed, Hinckley hung tough with Vinny, as they raced side by side for over 10 laps. With 20 laps to go, the top 5 modifieds ran under a blanket. At this point, Jon McKennedy had worked himself into fourth with Alexander fifth. McKennedy got himself as high as third before the final caution dropped on lap 94 for Dale Evonsion who spun his #35 in turn 3. A single file restart was exactly what the doctor had ordered for Annarummo, as he was starting to slide around trying to hang on. A six lap spring to the finish was anything but easy for the Swansea MA native, as Pasteryak and McKennedy were all over the rear bumper. Pasteryak tried one last move on the final lap, but came up .105 second short, as Vinny Who sat back in victory lane at his home track. Pasteryak held on for second, with Mckennedy, Hinckley and Pinkham rounding out the top 5. “THIS IS MY HOUSE” exclaimed an excited Annarummo.

The True Value Series heads for the Waterford Speedbowl for a 100 lapper that is scheduled for this Saturday night.

Congratulations to Middletown CT native Joey Logano who, in only his third career start, won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Meijer 300 at the Kentucky Speedway. Logano became the youngest driver to win in NASCAR Nationwide Series history at 18 years and 21 days. Logano won the pole for the 300-miler, his second in as many weeks, and led 76 of the 200 laps, second only to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Busch led a race-high 85 laps.
Logano took the lead from Busch on Lap 147, passing him on the outside of Turn 4. On Lap 164, Busch's charge to reclaim the position ended after he lost control of his Toyota on the backstretch, spinning and slamming the outside retaining wall. Following Busch's wreck, the race was Logano's to lose. With the race running green flag to the finish thereafter, Logano crossed the finish line 2.259 seconds over second place Scott Wimmer.

Race attendance was a track-record 73,195. It was the eighth straight sellout at the facility in which Speedway Motorsports Inc. agreed to purchase earlier this year.

In TV land this week on the Speed Channel.viewing will begin on Thursday at noon with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Replay of the LifeLock 400 that was run at the Michigan Intl. Speedway last Sunday. On Friday at noon it will be the NASCAR Camping World Series East 150 which was run on May 31 at the South Boston Speedway in South Boston , VA. At 2:00pm it will be the World of Outlaws sprint cars event that was run at the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville , IA on June 6. NASCAR Live at Infineon Raceway follows at 3:00pm . At 3:30 the NASCAR Sprint Cup practice begins a 90 minute session at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma , CA. NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice from Milwaukee follows at 5:00pm . The Cup car qualifying begins at 7:00pm . Speed bounces back to Milwaukee at 9:00pm for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Milwaukee 200. Saturday’s action starts at noon with NASCAR Live at Infineon Raceway. Sprint Cup practice for 2-1/2 hours follows at 12:30 . At 4:00pm the June 7 World of Outlaws takes center stage. At 8:00pm the action switches to ESPN2 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Milwaukee 250 from the Milwaukee Mile. Sunday’s televised coverage begins at 1:00 with ABC covering the IRL IndyCar Series Iowa Corn Indy 250 from the Iowa Speedway in Newton , IO. At 1:30 Speed presents a two hour NASCAR RaceDay session. At 3:30 TNT begins a 90 minute “Pre-Race program. The green is scheduled to drop for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350, Infineon Raceway, Sonoma , at 5:00pm . The Speed Report at 7:00pm and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:30pm will wrap up the weekend’s racing. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain follows at 9:00pm .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.50 to 43.85 and Dover Downs went up 0.15 to 6.20. On the negative side was Speedway Motorsports which dropped 0.16 to 23.92. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.85 to 8.19 while second division sponsor Nationwide went up 0.03 to 50.78. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.09 to 40.60 while tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.03 to 23.14. Major sponsor Coca-Cola dropped 0.97 to 45.09 while Dupont went up 0.88 to 47.20. Target Department Stores went up 1.02 to 53.54 and Aaron’s Rentals went up 0.51 to 23.60. In the home improvement sector Lowes went up 0.62 to 24.14 and Home Depot went up 0.35 to 27.53. On the down side were the parcel carriers. Fedex dropped 2.88 to 85.98. UPS was also down as they dropped 0.28 to 68.31. The World Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) continued at 0.14.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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