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Tuesday June 30, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first three, of 14 events, wound up their second “Spring Break” last Saturday, June 27 when the ground pounders traveled to Loudon, NH. There were 39 Modifieds on hand for the New England 100. Doug Coby captured his second career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Coors Light Pole Award Thursday evening in qualifying. Coby, who was the next-to-last car to go out among the 39 entries, knocked Todd Szegedy off the provisional pole with a fast lap of 30.003 seconds (126.947 mph), just under Szegedy’s time of 30.005 (126.939). Ted Christopher, who entered the day having won the Coors Light Pole Award in each of the first three races of the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, ended up third-fastest. Donny Lia (30.039 seconds/126.795 mph) and Rowan Pennink (30.065/126.686) rounded out the top five. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series star Ryan Newman qualified seventh at 30.160 seconds (126.286 mph).

Following Newman in the top 10 were Ryan Preece, Ed Flemke Jr., Kevin Goodale and Bobby Grigas III.

Donnie Lia took advantage of an accident involving Ted Christopher and Todd Szegedy as he inherited the lead and eventual victory of the New England 100. Christopher had driven his heart out after a first lap spin that was precipitated by an oil leak. After losing a lap plus receiving a lucky dog free pass Christopher had placed himself in the lead by lap 90. The final ten laps sore numerous lead changes. Christopher led at the white flag, with Lia, Szegedy and Ron Silk jockeying for position. Lia dove inside of Christopher as he headed into Turn 3. Moments after Lia took the lead, Szegedy swept underneath both to the front of the line. As they came out of the final turn heading to the checkered flag, all four bounced off each other, with Christopher collecting Szegedy into the wall as Lia slipped by to grab the win. What many saw and thought what happened in the final seconds of the event was cleared up by a statement made by Ron Silk following the event. Silk apologized that he had hit the back left rear of Lia which he believes caused Lia to get into Christopher who in turn got into Szegedy. Silk also accused Christopher for his bonsai type tactics that he used to get to the front.

Ed Flemke Jr. wound up second, followed by Silk and Rowan Pennink. Christopher managed to gather the severely damaged car up enough to get it across the line and salvage a fifth. Doug Coby, Richard Savary, Szegedy, Woody Pitkat, and Glenn Tyler rounded out the top 10.

There were five caution periods for 28 laps. The 100 lapper produced 16 lead changes among eight drivers.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman led 13 laps and swapped the lead back-and-forth with Szegedy in the early going before he spun on lap 64 and exited the race. The other NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver in the race, Kasey Kahne, was involved in a Lap 72 accident. Kahne finished 31st and Newman 34th.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes a week off before its next race on Saturday, July 11 at the Spencer Speedway in Williamson, N.Y.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Ted Christopher made his hasty retreat from Loudon after qualifying well worth his while as he won the Sunoco Modified feature at the northeastern Connecticut oval. Christopher missed the qualifying heats but it didn’t hinder his march to the front in the 30 lap feature. Christopher led only one lap, the last one. Keith Rocco appeared to have victory in sight until he exited turn two, that’s where Christopher made his move. Rocco was unable to make a final run at Christopher and settled for second. The rain ceased and the clouds parted allowing the speedway to host a full night of racing competition. The action included a full card of NASCAR All-American Series racing plus two bonus features. In other action, Mike O’Sullivan earned his first of the season in the Super Late Models while John Materas was the winner in the Late Models. In the Limited Sportsman division it was Paul Palen celebrating in victory lane. John St. Germain took the All Star Race Trucks victory in a photo-finish. R.J. Marcotte scored his first of 2009 in the TIS Modifieds. Tim Taylor and Brad Caddick share Mini Stock honors.

In the Sunoco Modifieds, Josh Sylvester jumped out from his pole starting position to lead the opening laps. The sparks flew early as Ricky Shawn made hard contact with the outside wall after contact with Kerry Malone. Rowan Pennink and Harry Rheaume were among the others involved. Jimmy Blewett also headed to pit road. Rocco made quick work moving from the fifth starting position to the second position by lap five. He immediately reeled in Sylvester. He got up alongside the young driver on lap seven and took the lead from Sylvester on lap eight. Todd Ceravolo ran by himself in third spot. Christopher had worked his way into the fourth spot. Ceravolo had reeled in Sylvester but, in turn, had his hands full with a charging Christopher. A hard wreck in turn three that involved Wayne Arute, Carl Oberg, and Jodi Johnson slowed the action. Under the caution on lap 16, a host of cars came down pit road including Malone, Woody Pitkat and Bert Marvin.

On the ensuing restart, Christopher got the edge on Ceravolo. A spin by Harry Rheaume necessitated the caution once again. On the green flag run, Christopher was able to get by Sylvester for second. Danny Cates came rocketing into the picture to run third. Rocco was able to distance himself from Christopher by several car lengths by lap 10. Jimmy Blewett had made his way around Ceravolo and began to pressure Sylvester. Things settled in as Christopher chased Rocco. Cates ran in third followed by Sylvester, Blewett and Ceravolo. In the late stages of the event, Rocco and Christopher had worked their way out to a half straightaway lead. With two laps remaining, Christopher had caught the back bumper of Rocco. On the white flag lap, Christopher got the edge coming out of turn two. Rocco made one last ditch effort but could not wrestle the lead or the win from Christopher. It is the first win for Christopher since 2005 when he last raced full time at the Speedway.

Rocco had to settle for second over Danny Cates. Sylvester, and Blewett, who was also at Loudon for WMT qualifying, completing the top five. Woody Pitkat and Rowan Pennink, who both also finished in the top ten, made the trip from Loudon as well.

NASCAR announced that the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour event at Bristol Motor Speedway will be broadcast on the SPEED Channel. The UNOH Perfect Storm at Bristol, a 150-lap combination race between the two NASCAR Modified divisions, will mark the first appearance for both the Whelen and Whelen Southern Modified Tours at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile” in Bristol, Tenn. The UNOH Perfect Storm at Bristol is set to go green at 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, August 18 and SPEED will broadcast the event on a 45-minute tape-delay beginning at 7 p.m. Also announced, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s New Hampshire 100, which will be held on Saturday, September 19 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, will be broadcast by SPEED on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 3 p.m.

Rain and heavy thunder and lightning prevailed at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

Despite a weeks delay because of rain the Waterford Speedbowl celebrated Norwich Night which honored the City of Norwich’s 350th birthday with great racing. Jeffrey Paul picked up his second consecutive SK Modified win, Bruce Thomas Jr. returned to Speedbowl victory Lane in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, while it was veteran competitor Allen Coates taking the checkered in the NEATV Truck Series. Kyle James and Ronnie Oldham Jr. rounded out the night’s winners capturing the Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock and Street Stock events respectively. With threatening skies looming overhead during the evening, the full five-division event was completed by 9:15pm.

The 35-lap SK Modified main event was led to the green by Joe Perry and Frank Mucciacciaro. Perry would take the lead on lap one, but Salem drivers Jeff Pearl and Dennis Gada were both in hot pursuit from the drop of the green. Pearl made a daring inside maneuver on Perry in turn three on lap two to take command. Gada followed Pearl past Perry while Rob Janovic Jr., previous event winner Paul, and points leader Keith Rocco settled in to the top-five. The first caution waved on lap five for a tangle between Wayne Arute and Rich Hammann. When racing resumed, a melee on the restart ended with Pete Pavone taking a hard shot into the turn three wall. Dennis Charette was also involved. Pearl moved out to a five car lead when racing action returned, with Paul moving to third and challenging Gada for second. Arute and Wendell Dailey spun in turn two on lap 12 for caution again, resetting the field a second time. Paul, from Ledyard, successfully moved to second and Janovic into third on the restart. He quickly moved to Pearl’s bumper and began to apply pressure. Paul looked outside Pearl and pulled alongside to move to the lead on lap 20. He stretched his advantage to a straightaway with the race staying green, while Pearl raced a half-straight ahead of a battle for third between Janovic, Rocco, and Gada. Rocco secured the position with just six laps remaining, but ran out of time to challenge for second. The race finished the final 23 laps under green and Paul went on to a commanding win, his second straight. Pearl, Rocco, Janovic and Gada completed the top-five.

All Norwich residents were admitted to Saturday night’s racing at the Speedbowl for $3.50 in honor of the city’s 350th anniversary.

The True Value Modified Series will be idle until Saturday night, July 4 when the series takes on the ultra fast ¼ mile high banked Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon when last Sunday’s Sprint Cup event from Loudon, NH is rerun. On Thursday at noon Speed will replay last years Pepsi 400 that was run at the Daytona International Speedway. At 3:00pm, last Saturdays NASCAR Camping World Touring Series Bennett Lane Winery 200 that was run at the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, CA, gets replayed. NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Daytona follows at 4:00pm. At 6:30 final practice for the Sprint Cup cars takes place at Daytona. Friday’s action starts at 1:00pm on espn2 with NASCAR Nationwide Series qualifying at Daytona. At 4:00pm the action shifts to the Speed Channel for NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying at Daytona. Trackside at Daytona follows at 7:00pm. At 7:30pm the action shifts to ESPN for the NASCAR Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead to an 8:00pm start of the Subway Jalapeno 250 at the Daytona International Speedway. Saturday’s viewing begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. At 2:00pm Speed goes live at Daytona for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Brumos Porsche 250. NASCAR RaceDay follows at 4:30pm. NASCAR New England, which highlights the weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway is on the New England Sports Network (NESN) at 5:00pm. At 6:30 the action moves to TNT for NASCAR on TNT Live which will lead into an 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coke Zero 400 at the Daytona International Speedway. On Sunday, ABC will provide live coverage of the IRL IndyCar Series, Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen at Watkins Glen, NY. At 4:00pm Speed will have highlights of the World Series of Off-Road Racing at the East Bay Raceway in Gibsontown, FL. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend with The Speed Report from 7:00pm to 8:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene all three speedway stocks ended the week with negative results. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.36 to 14.61 while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.29 to 26.06 and Dover Downs dropped 0.19 to 1.42. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.03 to 4.99 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 1.15 to 23.31 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.01 to 11.22. The car makers also had a down week. Toyota dropped 0.27 to 76.34 while General Motors dropped 0.14 to 1.16 and Ford dropped 0.11 to 5.61. The NASCAR team sponsors saw a mixed bag. Coca-Cola went up 2.30 to 58.18 and Dupont went up 0.41 to 25.38 while Aarons Rentals dropped 1.93 to 29.06 and Target Department Stores dropped 0.01 to 39.57. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 0.44 to 19.22 and Home Depot went up 0.09 to 23.61.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com


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

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