Tuesday June 7, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour goes back on Spring Break for another four weeks before returning to action with the Monadnock 200 on June 25 at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H.

Some of the tour regulars are not content to stay idle as they ventured to the Thompson Speedway last Thursday night for a 40 lap open competition shoot out. Fifteen tour type Modifieds were on hand for the first of three events planned for 2011. Todd Szegedy, who started fourth, took the lead for the second and final time at lap 25 and held off a hard charging Ted Christopher at the finish. Christopher who was debuting a new car that had just been finished by Troyer Engineering, started on the pole position but on the long chutes of Thompson the Jack Roush Ford prevailed with its superior horsepower.

In the early going, Christopher established his dominance out front in the early laps of the 40-lap feature. Ryan Preece kept the pressure on, however, as he looked high and low for a way around the No. 36. Despite Preece’s challenges, Christopher was able to keep his place on the point. Szegedy became a factor at lap five as he moved in on a tight nose-to-tail run that was interrupted by caution at lap nine. The cleanup for the accident, which involved Shelly Perry and Renee Dupuis, brought out the red flag. Christopher shot by Preece when the race restarted at lap nine, but it was all Szegedy in turn two as he drove by for the lead. Eric Goodale went around in turn two and collected Lou Mechalides bringing out the second caution of the night.

Szegedy proved it was no fluke as he flew to the front when the race resumed. Christopher closed the distance on Szegedy by lap eleven as Mike Stefanik and Preece got in on the action. Stefanik was driving a team car to Christopher after his transmission expired in his assigned mount. Christopher began to challenge for the lead at lap 14 and finally found his hole in turn two at lap 15 and settled into the lead by turn four.

Christopher’s work was not done as Szegedy continued his challenges with a patient Stefanik close behind. Szegedy reclaimed the point when he used the bottom groove to drive by Christopher in turn four of lap 25. Szegedy pulled away to a ten car length advantage while the battle for second place heated up. With two laps remaining, Preece used the outside groove on turn two to pass Christopher for the second spot, but it was Christopher who took the runner-up position at the checkers. Preece finished a strong third with Stefanik, fourth. Steven Reed, who had traveled north from New Jersey, finished a distant fifth.

In the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, National Champion Keith Rocco drove to victory lane in the Sunoco Modified Feature for his second win of the season. The victory put Rocco, who is the divisions first repeat winner this season, in the early season point lead.

Danny Cates took the lead at the start of the event with pressure from Ryan Preece through turns one and two. Cates was able to pull away when Preece shifted his attention to the challenges of Rocco, who took over the second spot in turn three on lap two. Rocco was patient and let the field settle in before making his move on Cates on the backstretch at lap 17. Rocco shot by for the lead, and continued to extend his lead lap after lap until the checkers dropped. Cates finished second with Ted Christopher, third. Preece and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five. Tough luck fell upon Todd Ceravolo who had his motor go sour on the parade lap.
Other Thursday night winners at Thompson were Cam McDermott who scored his second consecutive win in the 20-lap Thompson Modified feature, Rick Gentes in the Late Models, Shawn Monahan in the Limited Sportsman while Danny Field made it four for four in Mini Stock action.

The fields of cars continue to be a somewhat sore spot. Rick Fuller joined the field of Sunoco Modifieds but the count remained at nine. There were 10 Thompson Modifieds, fifteen tour type Modifieds, 10 Late Models along with 24 Limited Sportsman and 22 Mini Stocks.

Ted Christopher has been a part of the SK Modified division since almost day one. He has seen it evolve from a so-called used car division with home made motors to just about being a full fledged NASCAR Tour Modified. Originally the division rules dictated cast iron cylinder heads with stock valve springs. When competitors started twisting the motors too much the valve springs broke. Rules makers relented to competitor demands for racing valve springs and the cost went up from there. Said Christopher, "The biggest mistake Thompson made was going with motor rules that are different than those at Stafford and Waterford" He added, "during the years of the Tri-Track Series many of us ran all three tracks with the same motors and the same tires, that was affordable racing and all three tracks had good fields of cars" With the Thompson motor rules the way they are now there are maybe five or six competitors who can actually handle the speed. "Its real simple, just watch", he said, "there is a big difference between the top five or six and the rest of the field so after a while some just give up and stay home", he added. "Hopefully the Speedway management will get the rules more in line with Stafford and Waterford which will go a long way in bringing back bigger fields of cars."

The Stafford Motor Speedway enjoyed clear but chilly skies on Friday night. During the week a tornado touched down in nearby Monson, MA and did considerable damage. Those who live in the Stafford area said that all they saw was a little wind and a lot of rain. On the track was another story. Hot off his win at Thompson on Thursday night Keith Rocco carried the momentum over to Stafford as he scored his second consecutive victory in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Woody Pitkat took his second consecutive victory in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Joey Cipriano came home the big winner in a thrilling duel for the win to pick up his second win of the season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Norm Sears picked up his second feature win of the season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Josh Wood picked up his first feature victory of the 2011 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

Ted Christopher took second from Ryan Preece at the white flag, but Rocco was able to hold him off at the checkered flag to pick up his second consecutive win and his third win of the 2011 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Rocco and Christopher was Preece, Woody Pitkat, and Reen.

In action at the Waterford Speedbowl, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action was highlighted by a 50-lap Mini Stock race, captured by Ken Cassidy Jr., his second consecutive victory and third on the year in the division. Tyler Chadwick came out on top of the SK Modified® feature, holding back the last lap charges of Kyle James. Calvin Rose of Turner, ME dominated the second half of the 50-lap Northeast Mini Stock Tour race, going on to the win. Josh Galvin won his second Street Stock race on the season, Dan D’addario won the X-Car feature and Rose returned to victory lane to win the open-comp four cylinder race to close out the night’s festivities.

Keith Rocco's bid to make it three for three on the weekend was spoiled by an early race tangle in the SK Modified feature.

In the Southland at the Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, Chris Fleming drew the pole position for the nights 100 lap Modified main event and stayed up front until Jonathan Brown passed him in the 34th lap. Brown led until the 85th lap, when he slowed on a restart and triggered a multi-car pileup. Fleming slipped past and led the rest of the way. Joseph Brown finished second and Burt Myers, who retained his lead in the season standings, was third. Jonathan Brown finished fourth.

The stadium also hosted NASCAR's K&N Pro Series East which turned into a rolling demolition derby. Matt DiBenedetto took the lead at the start and remained up front avoiding the carnage behind him in a wreck-filled Army Strong 150. Eighty-seven of the 156 laps were run under caution.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Dave Brigati was the Modified feature winner.

A special high paying open competition Modified race was held at the Star Speedway in Epping, NH. Its a shame that only 16 showed for the event but those that did went home with an ample payday thanks to Kevin Rice and those who worked with him to make the event a success.

Laticrete 125 winner Jon McKennedy went home with $7,225. Second place finisher Chris Pasteryak collected $2,875, third place James Civali took home $2,800 and fourth place finisher Andy Seuss pocketed $1,775. Rounding out the top five was Ryan Preece who got $3,215. Sixth through tenth were Matt Hirschman, Rob Summers, Lou Mechalides, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennink

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday plus on Thursday. This weeks race viewing begins on Wednesday at noon with a replay on the Speed Channel of last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup STP 400 that was run at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. On Thursday at noon Speed replays last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series NNS 300 that was run at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, IL. At 3:00pm the action moves to the Pocono Raceway for a replay of the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Gillette Fusion ProGlide 500. Last Saturday's NASCAR K&N Pro Series East event that was run at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC follows at 6:00pm. At 8:00pm on Speed Dave Despain goes on assignment to showcase The Shelby Legend. Friday's viewing starts at noon with NASCAR Live at Pocono Raceway. A 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup starts at 12:30pm. Final practice for the Sprint Cup stars begins at 3:30pm. Speed goes with NASCAR live from Pocono from 5:00to 6:00. At 6:00pm NASCAR Performance goes to the NASCAR Hall of Fame. At 6:30pm Speed has a special titled Inside the Headsets: An intense, thirty-minute recap of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star race. Trackside (NASCAR) at Pocono Raceway follows at 7:00pm. At 8:00pm Speed Center sets the stage for the pre-race show that begins at 8:30 and leads to the 9:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Winstar World Casino 400k at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, TX. Saturday's viewing will consist of Sprint Cup qualifying on Speed from Pocono at 11:30am, IZOD IndyCar Series Firestone Twin 275s from the Texas Motor Speedway at 8:00pm on Versus and the ARCA Racing Series Pocono 200 from the Pocono Raceway at 8:00pm. Sunday's viewing starts at 9:30am with Speed Center on Speed. At 10:00pm a two hour session of RaceDay begins. At noon the action shifts to TNT for live coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pocono 500 at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, PA. Speed Center at 7:00pm and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm sum up the day's racing. At 9:00pm Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain closes out the weekend.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks were down for the week. Taking the biggest dip was the International Speedway Corporation which went down 0.37 to 27.96. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.25 to 13.85 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.09 to 2.00. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.18 to 5.67 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.30 to 39.88. Tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.00 to 16.51. The car builders were also down for the week. Ford dropped 0.59 to 14.01 while General Motors dropped 2.16 and Toyota dropped 1.75 to 80.51. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 1.37 to 34.63 and Lowes dropped 0.85 to 23.40. Themajor team sponsors didn't escape the plunge. Dupont dropped 2.27 while Coca-Cola dropped 1.30 to 67.69 and Target Department Stores dropped 1.97 to 47.40. Aaron's Rentals dropped 0.17 to 27.60 and Fedex dropped 1.75 to 90.15.

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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