Tuesday June 16, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first three, of 14 events, continues on “Spring Break” until June 27 when the ground pounders travel to Loudon, NH.

The Bristol Motor Speedway hosted another Modified Test session on Monday, June 8th. The session wasn't without a few dramatic moments, but nothing major transpired. Teams got adjusted to the super-fast high banks and got their cars more comfortable as the day went on. Ryan Preece, cut a right rear tire and spun off of turn-four. The young driver made a nice save and kept it off the wall. Also keeping it off the wall after a spin was Woody Pitkat who went on a long slide down nearly the entire length of the backstretch. Mike Stefanik was also a slider but suffered no damage. Chris Pasteryak wasn’t quite so lucky as he suffered slight rear body damage when he slid into the wall. Among the fastest was Jimmy Blewett in the Eddie Partridge TS Haulers entry.

L.W. Miller, shown here testing at Bristol in February, missed last weeks test after suffering injuries in a serious accident at his race shop. (Kevin Thorne Photo)

Among the missing were Ted Christopher, Don Lia and LW Miller. Miller is currently on the mend from a serious accident that occurred in his race shop. Miller had a spring loaded shock absorber explode as he was removing it from his car that had been wrecked at the recent Franklin County event. According to reports Miller receive a glancing blow from the shock spring that shot up 18 feet, hitting and denting the roof of his race shop. The facial impact loosened up eight teeth. He ended up losing two after having dental and plastic surgery. Had it been a direct hit, Miller could have suffered devastating or even fatal injuries.

In other news, word has it that the American Speed Association expects to be included in the 2010 schedule of the Richmond Int. Speedway.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Norm Wrenn brought home the checkers in the Super Late Model race. Leadfoot Larry Barnett made it two in a row as he won the Limited Sportsman feature just days after undergoing arthroscopy surgery. Ten laps into the 50-Lap Late Model race, Mother Nature took over, the rain started and the race program was brought to a halt. The race will be rescheduled and will begin at lap 10 in the order they were in when the rains came. The Sunoco Modifieds, TIS Modifieds and Mini Stock races will also be rescheduled.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of an epic battle for supremacy between Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher. The duo put on a duel for the ages in the extra distance 100 lap SK Modified event, with Rocco coming out as the winner for the second time this year. Ryan Posocco took his second victory of the season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Brit Andersen won his second race of 2009 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta took his second consecutive victory of the year in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cliff Saunders picked up his first career victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

The 36th Annual Coors Light SK Modified® 100 took the green with Brad Hietala, Tom Bolles, and Richie Pallai, Jr. at the front of the field. Hietala and Bolles ran side by side for several laps before Hietala got clear to the lead. Pallai made a power move by Bolles on a lap-5 restart and they dueled for the race lead. A caution with 26 laps complete slowed the action and set up a restart. On the restart, Hietala and Pallai made contact, sending Pallai towards the wall where he collected Bolles and brought the caution back out. This put Matt Gallo and Jeff Malave on the front row with Matt Gallo and Doug Coby behind them. Rocco quickly took the race lead from Gallo, but Pallai hit head on into the turn 1 wall to bring the caution back out one lap after the restart.

Rocco held the lead on the restart, with Ted Christopher, who was involved in an early race spin with Woody Pitkat on lap-4, moving into second. Coby held third, with Gallo and Eric Berndt making up the top-5. Rocco held the lead until lap-38, when Christopher moved to the front. Coby continued to run in third place, with Berndt and Malave making up the remainder of the top-5.

With the exception of a caution period with 52 laps complete for a spin by Woody Pitkat, the top-5 cars ran in line until lap-65, which is when the race turned into a great duel between Christopher and Rocco. On lap-65 Rocco moved by Christopher to take the lead only to have Christopher go with a crossover move to get back to the front. But the caution came out before lap-66 could be completed, which put Rocco on the point for the restart.

From lap-66 to lap-80, Christopher and Rocco exchanged the race lead five times with spectacular, breathtaking passing. On lap-80, Rocco moved by Christopher for the lead, but Christopher again used the crossover move to his advantage to retake the lead. Christopher was able to stay out front until lap-85, when Rocco went back by. Rocco pulled Christopher by several car lengths and he maintained that lead over the final 15 laps to take his second feature victory of the 2009 season. Christopher finished second, with Coby, Malave, and Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top-5.

The Waterford Speedbowl completed three feature events before the rain came, halting the remainder of the race program just 28 laps into the Nutmeg State 100 lap ACT Late Model Tour event. Jason Palmer won his ninth consecutive Legends Car event, Al Stone III checkered the Street Stock feature and Danny Field was the winner of the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock race. The scheduled 35-lap SK Modified feature event and remainder of the Nutmeg State 100 were postponed.

The True Value Modified Series beat the impending rain on Saturday night at the Seekonk Speedway. The 100 lapper, which drew 28 Modifieds, saw Jon McKennedy come from an 18th starting spot to take the lead from Vinnie Annarummo on lap 85 and go on to score the win. Dwight Jarvis, who started 19th, finished second with former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series driver Jimmy Kuhn, third. Annarummo and David Berghman rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Bob Grigass, Ed Dachenhausen, Todd Annarummo, Chris Pasteryak and Steve Masse.

The True Value Modified Series invades the Thompson International Speedway this coming Thursday, June 18th for the Town Fair Tire 75-lap race.

In some sad news George Kent's brother and J.R.'s uncle Ron passed away on June 8 from cancer. He was crew chief on many of George's Modified victories with many remembering the Plaza Mobil sponsorship on the rides when it was a yellow #26 Modified.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday on Friday. This weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with a replay of last weeks Sprint Cup event that was run at the Michigan International Speedway. Thursday’s programming on Speed also starts at noon and will feature the 2007 Toyota/Save Mart 250 that was held at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. The June 6 NASCAR Camping World Touring Series West Toyota/BI-MART Firecracker 150 that was held at the Douglas County Speedway in Roseburg, OR follows at 3:00pm. Friday’s programming starts at 2:00pm with NASCAR Live at Infineon Raceway. NASCAR Sprint Cup practice follows at 3:00. At 5:30 a60 minute session of Trackside serves a prelude to Sprint Cup qualifying which starts at 6:30. At 8:30, Speed moves to the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, WI for the pre-race show for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Camping World RV Sales 200 which takes the green at 9:20pm. This event repeats at 2:00am on Saturday morning. Saturday’s programming begins at noon with NASCAR Live at Infineon Raceway followed by a 2-1/2 hour practice session for the Sprint Cup cars at Sonoma. At 3:00pm Speed shifts gears as they show highlights of the June 12 World of Outlaws Sprints that raced at the Dodge City Raceway Park, Dodge City, KS. At 6:30pm the action moves to espn2 for NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying at the Milwaukee Mile. At 8:00pm espn2 has the pre-race show that leads to the 8:45pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series 250 at the Milwaukee Mile. Sunday’s action starts at 10:00am with NASCAR Now. At 1:30 viewing shifts to the Speed Channel for two hours of RaceDay. At 3:30 the viewing moves to TNT for 90 minutes of pre-race, which leads to a 5:20pm, start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report from 7:00pm to 8:30, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:30pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:30pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks were down for the week. Taking the biggest dip was Speedway Motorsports which dropped 0.54 to 15.20. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.29 to 26.03 and Dover Downs dropped 0.06 to 1.54. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.18 to 5.29 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.75 to 26.43. Goodyear was also negative as they dropped 0.53 to 12.41. Two of the three car makers were down for the week. General Motors, after a week of not trading and announcing the end of financial support to NASCAR’s Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, went up 0.42 to 1.17. Ford dropped 0.25 to 6.11 and Toyota dropped 0.96 to 78.84. NASCAR team sponsors were also down for the week. Dupont dropped 0.03 to 27.00, Coca-Cola dropped 0.53 to 56.35, Target Department Stores dropped 0.11 to 40.38 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.60 to 32.28. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 0.02 to 24.15 and Lowes dropped 0.19 to 19.85.

The Associated Press reported that General Motors is planning to cut back on its support of NASCAR teams in all of the sanctioning body's professional series. Chevy spokesman Terry Rhadigan says GM, which is reorganizing through bankruptcy, is discussing what he described as incremental cutbacks in support. He says cuts will be made soon and that the discussions are "indeed NASCAR-wide." Rhadigan would not say if one series would be affected more than others, nor would he say the size of the cuts or how much GM spends on NASCAR. The automaker, through its Chevy brand, provides cash and other support to teams including engines and parts.

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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