Tuesday May 2, 2006

By Phil Smith

All roads led to Jack Arute’s Stafford Motor Speedway this past weekend for the 35th annual Spring Sizzler. The weather was sunny and breezy, a big difference from the original Sizzler in 1972 when it was cold and dismal. Forty-eight NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand for qualifying. Donny Lia. set fast time in qualifying to earn his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award of the season. Lia circled the ½ mile Stafford Motor Speedway in 18.600 seconds for an average speed of 96.774. It was the 9th career Bud Pole Award for Lia and his second consecutive for the Sizzler. Defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Tony Hirschman was second fastest with a speed of 96.753 mph in the Kamco Supply Chevrolet. Former champion Todd Szegedy was third fastest with a speed of 96.370 mph. Eddie Flemke and Mike Stefanik of rounded out the Top-5 in qualifying. The Top-10 qualifiers drew for starting position. Chuck Hossfeld picked the pole and was joined on the front row by John Blewett, III. Mike Andrews picked third. Lia drew the fourth starting position and Szegedy drew 5th. Stefanik, Flemke and Hirschman started 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. Chris Pasteryak was the highest qualifying rookie as he qualified 11th. Rookie Danny Sammons was 12th.

Among those who failed to qualify were Richard Savory, Ron Silk, Carl Pasteryak, Joe Mongeau, Dennis Cherette, Eric Berndt, Jon McKennedy, Jim Storace, Wade Cole, Tom Cloce, Ken Heagy, Anthony Seseley, Glenn Tyler and Jake Marosz.

Whelen Modified Tour Series car owner Curt Chase of Mansfield, CT calls the Stafford Motor Speedway his home track. On Saturday after his driver Doug Coby qualified 29th Chase remained optimistic. Chase gave Coby his marching orders, which were to save his tires and stay out of trouble. Coby did his job as he drove to his first career Whelen Modified Tour win. One of the best crowds in many years was on hand. Coby led the final 62 laps and held off a late race challenge from Donny Lia. Coby pitted once, on lap 74 under caution. He was in the third spot on a lap 139 restart and when the two cars in front of him driven by Zach Sylvester and Tony Hirschman made contact. Coby, in the right place at the right time, took over the top spot. Eric Beers driving the legendary Ole Blu of Janice and Michael Boehler finished third. Current series point leader Mike Stefanik was fourth with Rob Summers rounding out the top five.

Coby also won the Powerade Power Move of the Race Award. Matt Hirschman earned the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award and James Civali was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie for the second consecutive event.

There were11 cautions for 56 laps. Twenty of the original 33 starters were running in the lead lap at the finish. There were seven lead changes among eight drivers. Chuck Hossfeld led the first 21 laps. John Blewett III led from lap 22 to lap 50. Todd Szegedy led from lap 51 to 86, Ted Christopher from lap 87 to 117, Ricky Fuller from lap 118 to 135, Zach Sylvester from 136-137, Tony Hirschman 138 and Doug Coby 139-200.

Ted Christopher was the SK Modified winner. Keith Rocco finished second with Frank Ruocco, third. Woody Pitkat was able to overtake Todd Owen for fourth. Pitkat was the Late Model winner.

At the Waterford Speedbowl last Saturday night the temperatures took a dive but that didn’t hold back defending SK Modified Champion Rob Summers as he was able to record his first feature win of the year at the shoreline oval. Earlier in the day Summers qualified 28th for the Stafford Sizzler. Frank Mucciacciaro Jr. was the early leader until lap 20 when Summers made an outside move to take the lead. Dennis Gada moved into the second spot in the late going but couldn’t muster the required power to overcome Summers and settled for the runner-up spot. Chris Pasteryak, who qualified 11th at Stafford wound up third with Tommy Fox and Shawn Monahan rounding out the top five. Other Saturday night winners at the Speedbowl were Larry Goss in the Late Models and Dwayne Door making it three in a row in the Sportsman division.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series takes a three week break before resuming on Memorial Day weekend at Stafford. Two Connecticut tracks are now operating on a weekly basis. The Stafford Motor Speedway begins their regular Friday night series this week and Waterford continues to run on Saturday nights. The Thompson Speedway will begin their Thursday night Thunder weekly series on June 8. The Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts opens for the season this Saturday, May 6.

A proposed speedway in metro New York took a few steps backward last week when a public hearing for the proposed NASCAR track was canceled after 700 disorderly people mobbed the entrance to the school where the hearing was to be held. Police were called to step in to quell the near riot and cancelled the meeting. It also appears that the proposed domed speedway in Plainfield, CT is dying a slow death.

Belated Happy Birthday wishes to Bobby Summers of Hoosier Tire East who turned 70 last week. Summers has been involved in the race tire business for close to 50 years working first for the Gene White Firestone Company. Summers is the proud dad of Rob Summers.

If you are interested in the history of Modified racing in the northeast a copy of "Lancaster Heroes" is in order. John Bisci has put together a fantastic pictorial history of the Lancaster (NY) Speedway covering what is considered the golden years of Modified Stock Car Racing, 1966-1976. Just about every big gun in New York State raced at Lancaster including Dutch Hoag, the Treichlers, Roger, Gordie and Merv, Maynard Troyer and Richie Evans when he was on the outs with NASCAR. Bisci uses the great photography of Gordon Reining. The book is now on sale and can be had for $15.00 plus $4.05 for shipping. Send checks or money orders to John Bisci, PO Box 620233, Las Vegas, Nevada 89162-0233. No credit cards or PayPal

In TV land, this week’s viewing begins on Wednesday, May 3 at 9:00am with "Back in the Day" which showcases the 1974 Talledega 500. At 10:00am the April 27th International Motorsports Hall of fame will be shown. At 5:00pm the April 29th USAR Hooters Pro Cup that was run at the Concord Motorsport Park in Concord, NC starts the evening off. At 8:00pm the action switches to the Outdoor Channel for the World of Outlaws from Indiana. Thursday’s viewing will begin at noon with last Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series, Aaron’s 312 that was run in Talladega, AL. Following at 2:30 is last Sunday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Aaron’s 499 also run at Talladega. Friday’s action begins at 1:30 with NASCAR Nextel Cup final practice for the Crown Royal 400 at the Richmond Raceway. NASCAR Busch Series qualifying for the Circuit City 250 follows at 4:00pm. Live coverage of Nextel Cup qualifying begins at 6:00pm. The action switches to FX at 7:30 for live coverage of the Busch Series event. NASCAR Race Day previews the Nextel Cup race from Richmond at 5:30pm. Speed News Saturday follows at 7:00pm. The action switches to FX at 7:30 for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Crown Royal 400. On Sunday, Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain goes at 9:00p.m.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. On the positive side was the International Speedway Corporation, which went up 0.44 to 49.19. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.31 to 38.08 and Dover Downs dropped 0.18 to 6.04. For the third week in a row Nextel was down as they dropped 0.38 to 24.80. Sun Oil was also down as they dropped 6.10 to 81.04. Featherlite Trailers dropped 0.06 to 4.74 while DIRT Motorsports went up 0.29 to 3.99. The drug sector had a positive week. Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 0.58 to 25.38 and Pfizer rose 0.46 to 25.33. The home improvement sector was down as Home Depot dropped 0.35 to 39.93 and Lowes dropped 0.23 to 63.05. The parcel carriers were also down. UPS dropped 0.96 to 81.07 and Fedex dropped 0.26 to 115.13.

That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail  

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