Tuesday June 19, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series heads to the Waterford Speedbowl this coming Saturday night. Veteran former Modified Car Owner Mario Fiore made a noteworthy observation. He said, "With the average team's equity hovering around a half-million, it just seems odd that race purses continue to decline." He added, "the latest debacle comes from the "last bastion of top paying modified purses" that being New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The entry arrived and it shows a decrease of 10% from last year". Fiore stated that Reggie Ruggiero, driving the #44 won $18,150 back in 1992, 20 years ago. Fiore also stated that next months winner of the Modified portion at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will get $10,700 according to Nascar's entry form !!! "Whats wrong with this picture ??", he asks. Fiore also alluded to the fact that also on the horizon is Nascar's plan to obsolete the Modified team's inventory of $50,000 engines, some car owners who possess three, four or five of them.

The Star Speedway in Epping, NH ran the Exeter Decorating SBM 125 Modified Open on Saturday night. The event drew 28 cars. Matt Hirschman made the trip from Pennsylvania worth his while as he took the victory in the high paying event. Ryan Preece, who normally races at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on Saturday night, finished second with Josh Cantara, third. Mike Stefanik and Dwight Jarvis rounded out the tp five. Sixth through tenth were Bobby Santos, Jim Boniface, Doug Coby, Richie Pallai and Todd Szegedy.
Numerous cases of "Yellow Fever" slowed the competition. Doug Coby stated that there were 122 laps run under caution in addition to the 125 green flag laps at the New Hampshire quarter mile oval. Hirschman of Northampton, PA., earned $8,792 in cash and prizes for his hard fought effort. The diverse field had 28 cars from ten different states on hand to compete.

Hirschman passed Preece on lap 111. Preece retook the lead on a lap 116 restart, but he was forced to give it back when a caution reset the field before that lap was completed. Hirschman was able to get the jump on the next restart, and he raced away to the lucrative victory in the J & J Motorsports 59.

The special event brought Star their largest crowd of the season, and some of the best racing as well. Todd Szegedy made it to second place before fading from the lead pack. In all, 22 of the 28 teams earned bonus money put in place through a variety of local sponsorships from race fans and area businesses. Lap 79 alone paid Hirschman $610, and the halfway bonus added $425 to his payoff.

Thursday night Thunder saw Keith Rocco come from last to first in the Sunoco (SK) Modified feature. Rocco had spent the afternoon at the Waterford Speedbowl practicing the Boehler Racing No. 3 in preparation for this weeks Whelen Modified Tour Series event. Starting scratch didn't seem to be an issue.

Thursday night Thunder that also saw Scott Sundeen win an extended race distance for the Limited Sportsman division. Other winners included Cam McDermott in the Lite Modifieds, Trevor Michalski in the Mini Stocks, John Lowinski-Loh in the Thompson Modifieds, and Mike Scorzelli in the Late Models.

In the 30 lap Sunoco Modified feature John Catania took the early lead at the drop of the green, but as one lap was completed Todd Ceravolo had moved into the front spot. The top-four – Ceravolo, Ryan Preece, Ted Christopher, and Kerry Malone – were bumper-to-bumper as they pulled away from the rest of the field. Keith Rocco, who had to start at the tail end of the field, was fast approaching and sitting seventh when the caution flew at lap six.

Ceravolo beat Preece to the front on the restart with Malone powering to second on the inside. Malone spun to the infield grass coming out of turn two and brought out the caution with Ceravolo, Preece, and Christopher making up the top-three. Ceravolo, Preece, Christopher, and Rocco settled in single file when racing resumed, but Ceravolo put some breathing room between himself and Preece by lap 10. On lap 11, Christopher dove low and got around Preece for second with Rocco in tow. A caution on lap 12 put Ceravolo side-by-side with Christopher for the restart with a determined Rocco and Preece right behind them. When the green dropped, Christopher beat Ceravolo into turn one with Rocco looking high and low for a way around both of them. As the trio entered turn one, troubled brewed when Ceravolo took Christopher low. Christopher retaliated and Ceravolo’s night ended in the outside retaining wall in turn two. Ceravolo expressed his displeasure with Christopher's driving as did track officials.

Christopher was penalized and sent to the rear of the field while Rocco inherited the lead. Rocco had to earn his position up front as Preece filled his rear view mirror. A caution at lap 20 slowed the pace with Rocco powering out to the front followed by Malone and Christopher. Preece was relegated to fourth and remained there until the caution came out at lap 22. On the restart, Rocco went back out front with a challenge by Malone in turn three, but Rocco shut the door. The top four fell into single file, but running bumper to bumper until Rocco took the checkered flag. Malone settled for the runner-up spot whith Christopher rebounding to finish third. Preece and Catania rounded out the top five.

Car counts continue to be an issue at Thompson. The Limited Sportsman (27) and the Mini Stocks(19) are relatively healthy. The Sunoco Mods, (SK"s) had 13 while there were only 4 SK Lites, 7 Late Models and six Thompson Modifieds. Maybe the speedway should look to combining the Late Models with the Limited Sportsman.

The Stafford Speedway welcomed the beginning of summer with it’s 12th Annual Town Fair Tire Summer Blast-Off Fireworks program on Friday night. Providing the fireworks on the track were Ted Christopher, who picked up his second win of the season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Woody Pitkat, who picked up his first win of the season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Jay Goff, who picked up his first career victory in the 20-lap SK Light feature, Josh Wood, who took a thrilling fourth win of the season with a last lap pass in the 20-lap Ltd. Late Model feature, and Austin Bessette, who scored his first career victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

In the closing moments of the SK Modified 40 lap feature Ryan Preece took a look to the inside of Christopher on lap-35 in turn 3, but fell back in line behind Christopher. Preece was searching for a groove that would give him enough momentum to make a pass for the lead, but Christopher was able to hold Preece off. The jockeying between Christopher and Preece allowed Keith Rocco to close in on Preece’s bumper to make it a three-way fight for the race lead with 3 laps to go. Christopher was able to hold off Preece and Rocco to the line to pick up his second feature win of the 2012 season. Dan Avery came home in fourth with Woody Pitkat rounding out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl the track put on a briskly paced and hotly contested night of speed rts on Whelen Engineering Night at the shoreline oval. Scoring NASCAR Whelen All-American Series victories included Tyler Chadwick, winning his third SK Modified® race of the year and Dillon Moltz who took down his second consecutive victory in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race. Other winners included Ken Cassidy Jr. who picked up his sixth straight win in the Mini Stocks and Josh Galvin who took down his first checkered flag of the year in the Street Stock division. Vin Esposito won the New England Truck Series feature.

In the SK Modified feature, Janovic got to Chadwick’s rear bumper on the final lap, stalking the leader for the final circuit to the checkered flag. Janovic couldn’t find a groove to make a serious bid and placed second for the second consecutive week while Chadwick marched to his third win of the year. Jeff Pearl finished in third while Kyle James wrestled fourth away from Tom Abele at the finish. Chadwick’s win lifted him into the point lead ahead of Pearl by just two points.

In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina Tim Brown, an eight-time champion at Bowman Gray Stadium, mastered the field in the Great Clips 100 on Saturday night, picking up his fourth victory, the most this season in the featured Modified Division. Brown took the lead on the fifth lap, charging past Jonathan Brown on the outside. From there, he endured seven double-file restarts on the way to his 62nd victory at Bowman Gray.

While Tim Brown spent the entire race at or near the front, eventual runner-up Danny Bohn worked his way from near the rear of the field. Bohn, originally from New Jersey, started 22nd in the 23-car field as the result of a random draw but steadily progressed with the aid of double-file restarts and took second place from Jonathan Brown on the final lap. Jonathan Brown settled for third.

The Winston-Salem (NC) Journal reported that Winston-Salem State University's effort to buy Bowman Gray Stadium from the city was stopped when state lawmakers killed the university's request for permission to borrow $7.5 million to buy the stadium. The legislative move opens the door wider to another potential bidder: Richard Childress, the NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner from Winston-Salem who sold peanuts as a child at Bowman Gray and started his racing career there in the 1950s.

Bill Patterson, an executive vice president at Richard Childress Racing, met with Martha Wheelock, an assistant city manager, recently to talk about costs related to the stadium, he said. Bowman Gray has sentimental value for Childress. It's a landmark stock-car racing stadium and more could be done with it, Patterson said, though he declined to provide further information about what else could be done.

Officials at Winston-Salem State University were in disbelief that their request for permission to borrow money, which they say would have been paid back by raising student fees, was denied in the Senate.

University officials said that they tried earnestly to address any concerns raised -- one of them being that the racing schedule would somehow be affected by a change in ownership from the city to WSSU. University officials have said they would have honored the long-term lease already in effect related to racing.

Winston-Salem State's ties to Bowman Gray Stadium go back to the 1940s. The university campus is a block from the stadium, making it convenient for students to attend games. That has created a decided home-field advantage, especially during the past two seasons, when the combined 9-2 at Bowman Gray and 21-3 overall.

The stadium is owned by the city of Winston-Salem. For years, members of the Winston-Salem City Council have been trying to reduce overall costs by selling some of its property, including Bowman Gray.

The stadium opened in 1937. In 1954, it was expanded to its current seating capacity of 17,000, according to the city. The stadium site has 42 acres, including 690 paved parking spaces. Civitan Park and three other tracts of land related to the stadium used for parking hold an additional 50 acres, according to the city.

Direct expenses related to Bowman Gray Stadium have led to a net loss in four of the past five fiscal years. But a comparatively good year – fiscal 2009-10 – lifted the average annual net cost over the five-year period to $6,600, according to the assistant city manager. That number includes a net profit of as much as $68,896 in fiscal 2009-10 and a net loss of as much as $59,646 in fiscal 2007-08. However, that number does not include the city's indirect expenses, such as the general management positions for the city's overall public facilities, or payments on debt related to Bowman Gray Stadium.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, at 6:00pm with NASCAR Race Hub. Race Hub will also be shown on Wednesday and Thursday at the same time. NASCAR Now will be on espn2 at 3:00pm on Wednesday and Thursday plus at 11:00am on Sunday.

Race viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with a replay of last weekend's Sprint Cup race at Michigan. Last weekend's Nationwide series race that was held in Michigan will be replayed on Thursday at noon.

Friday's viewing starts at noon with the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Raceway. NASCAR Performance and NASCAR Live follows at 2:00pm. Speed goes live at 3:00pm with NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at the Sonoma Speedway in California. At 11:00pm Speed will have same day-taped delayed coverage of Sprint Cup qualifying from Sonoma.

Saturday's viewing gets the green at 10:00am with Nationwide Series qualifying at Road America Sports Car Course. At noon the stock cars give way to the Sports Cars as the Rolex Sports Car Series has an event at Road America. At 3:00pm the action shifts to ESPN for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead to the 3:30pm start of the Road America 200. At 11:00pm the Speed Channel will have taped-delayed coverage of final Sprint Cup practice at Sonoma.

Sunday's viewing begins with RaceDay on the Speed channel at noon. At 2:00pm the viewing moves to TNT for a one hour pre-race show that will lead to the 3:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma.

Speed wraps it up on Sunday night with Victory Lane at 7:00pm, NASCAR Speed Center at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had positive endings for the week. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.72 to 16.49 while the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.24 to 24.81 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.02 to 1.30. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.11 to 3.09 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun oil went up 0.14 to 46.89 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.53 to 11.02. The car makers were all negative for the week. Ford dropped 0.31 to 10.35 and General Motors also dropped 0.31 to 21.74 while Toyota dropped 0.01 to 75.50. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 0.48 to 51.87 while Lowes went up 0.13 to 28.05. With the exception of Target Department stores which dropped 0.70 to 58.50 and Aarons Rentals which dropped 0.10 to 27.56, the big team sponsors had a fairly good week. Dupont went up 0.74 to 50.24 while Coca-Cola went up 0.37 to 62.14 and Fedex went up 0.06 to 87.63.

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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