Tuesday May 1, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend. The track opened on Friday despite heavy rains that cancelled weekly racing division practice sessions. Forty-two Modifieds were on hand for practice and qualifying on Saturday. Second generation driver Matt Hirschman took the Busch Pole winner as he toured the half mile oval at 45/100th of a second faster then his father, Tony, in qualifying. Tony Hirschman, a five-time series champion, averaged 99.701 mph in his qualifying run. Reggie Ruggiero of Rocky Hill, Conn. was third fastest with a speed of 99.673 mph. Thompson Ice Breaker winner, James Civali, was fourth fastest with a speed of 99.448 mph. Ted Christopher rounded out the Top-5 in qualifying with a speed of 99.179 mph. The Top-8 qualifiers drew for starting position. Tony Hirschman drew the pole and was joined by Ruggiero on the front row. Civali and Matt Hirschman made up row number two.

Don Lia and car owner Bob Garbarino didn’t repeat their mistake made at Thompson as they pitted for tires on lap 75 of the 200 lap Spring Sizzler. Their pit stop paid off in dividends as they won the event. Lia and Todd Szegedy swapped the lead three times over the final 29 laps. Lia took the lead for good on lap 97. Szegedy settled for second with Jerry Marquis bringing the Brady Bunch No.00 home in third spot. Mike Stefanik, who had a problem and never got to time trial, got in the event using a provisional starting spot, finished fourth. Zach Sylvester in the Curt Chase No.77 finished fifth. Fourteen caution periods for 76 laps kept Lia’s average speed at 55.147 mph. Frank Ruocco, a part time Modified Tour competitor caused the two biggest wrecks and was responsible for at least six cars being knocked out of the Sizzler. The first “Big One” came on lap 20 when Ruocco got airborne and landed on the Roger Hill No.79 driven by Chuck Hossfeld. The Hill car suffered extensive body damage and looked ready for the scrap heap. Extensive pit repairs and body work with a sledge hammer plus miles of 100 mile per hour tape kept Hossfeld on the track. Plus the fact he received two separate Lucky Dog awards and was able to finish on the lead lap in 13th spot. Carl Pasteryak and Bobby Santos III weren’t as lucky as their mounts had to be parked because of extensive damage. The second Ruocco “Big One” came on lap 117 when his radiator broke and the resulting mess collected Rick Fuller, Rob Summers and Matt Hirschman. Sixth through tenth were Tony Hirschman, James Civali, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Jamie Tomaino.

The Whelen Modified Tour heads to the south Jersey shore and the Wall Township Speedway. The Wall event will have a new format called “Flash” where competitors will qualify for main event starting positions after running in qualifying races. No time trials will be held. As one of the oldest tracks in America , operating for 57 years, Wall Township Speedway will hold the distinct honor of being the first track ever to host a "Flash Race" for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Drivers will be competing in 2 - 50 lap heat races, and a 50 lap feature. Drivers will have a blind draw for starting positions in the qualifying races, and then run the same tires in the feature, so tire management will be at a premium.

Among the highlights of the weekend was the release of Steady Eddie: Memories of Ed Flemke, Modified Racing's Fastest Professor. Coastal 181 and Bones Bourcier did an excellent job on this one. Flemke became a Modified Legend in his own time. A favorite Flemke story took place at the Waterford Speedbowl in the early 1950’s. Flemke was in the Army and stationed at Fort Dix in New Jersey . Waterford had a big race and Flemke wanted the weekend off and his superiors refused his request. Some how he was able to go AWOL and make the race. Some of his friends had his car ready when he arrived and he jumped in and went out and won the race. Military Police were waiting at the pit gate. They got a big surprise when Flemke parked his race car between turns one and two and jumped the fence and ran off into the nearby woods. To make a long story short, Flemke made it back to Fort Dix and was in his bunk fast asleep when the MPs returned from Connecticut .
In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Chris Matthews repeated his Spring Sizzler SK Light Modified feature win of one year ago, and Rick Lanagan drove to victory in his Limited Late Model feature debut. Zach Sylvester was the winner of the Coors Light 21 Means 21 SK Modified® feature event, and Ryan Posocco was the winner of the Late Model 16 feature event.

Lloyd Agor was awarded the SK Modified win after apparent winner Woody Pitkat was disqualified after officials discovered his car had an illegal rear spoiler. Jeff Baral finished second and was followed by Jeff Malave, Eric Berndt and Ted Christopher. The Late Model Feature went green to checker with first-time winner Corey Hutchings taking the win. Woody Pitkat finished second.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Shawn Monahan passed Doug Coby with 12-laps to go to win Saturday evening’s 35-lap SK Modified feature at the shoreline oval. Early leader Dennis Charette spun after contact with Kenny Horton. Jeff Paul, Rob Janovic, and Tyler Chadwick rounded-out the top-5. Last weeks winner Diego Monahan finished sixth.

Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Models), Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman), Joseph Godbout III (Mini Stocks), Ginny Quinones (USAC Ford Focus Midget Series).

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:30pm time slot seven days a week. This weeks viewing begins on Tuesday at 9:30am on the Speed Channel with Back in the Day which takes a look at the 1975 Carolina 500 run in Rockingham , NC . On Wednesday, at noon , Speed’s Racing Across America showcases the recent NASCAR Grand National West 150 which was run at Phoenix . Thursday’s viewing begins at noon when Speed re-shows last Saturday’s NASCAR Busch Series Aaron’s 312 that was run in Talladega . The NASCAR Nextel Cup Replay of the Aaron’s 449 from Talladega follows at 3:00pm . Speed goes live at 11:00am on Friday with NASCAR Nextel Cup practice for the Crown Royal “Jim Stewart” 400 in Richmond , VA. Live coverage of Busch Series qualifying begins at 4:00pm . NASCAR Live from Richmond follows at 5:30 . NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying from Richmond begins at 6:00pm . The action switches to ESPN2 at 8:00pm for live flag to flag coverage of the NASCAR Busch Series Circuit City 250 at Richmond . Saturday’s coverage begins at midnight on Friday night with a one hour segment of Trackside at Richmond . At 5:00pm Speed has a two hour preview of the Nextel Cup Crown Royal “Jim Stewart” 400 from Richmond . At 7:00pm the action moves to FOX for flag to flag coverage of the event. On Sunday evening the Speed Channel has The SPEED Report at 7:00pm , NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm .

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks had a negative ending. Taking the big hit was the International Speedway Corporation which went down 1.50 to 50.30. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.68 to 39.34 and Dover Downs dropped 0.16 to 5.53. Nextel/Sprint was also off as they dropped 0.23 to 20.21. Sun Oil (Sunoco) made a great recovery from last week as they went up 4.40 to 76.79 as Goodyear also went up 1.90 to 34.41. DIRT Motorsports dropped 0.10 to 1.80. In the drug sector, Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 0.50 to 29.17 while Pfizer dropped 0.36 to 26.61. The home improvement sector was also on the skids. Lowes dropped 1.17 to 30.85 and Home Depot dropped 0.74 to 38.47. The parcel carriers also had an off week as Fedex dropped 1.81 to 107.22 and UPS dropped 1.32 to 71.50.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported recently that the Kentucky Speedway revised their lawsuit against NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation. Kentucky Speedway is no longer is demanding a Nextel Cup race in its federal lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. In an amended complaint filed Friday, April 20, the speedway now says it wants NASCAR to develop "objective factors" for the awarding of Nextel Cup races, the France family to give up control of either ISC (a public company that operates tracks and whose majority of voting stock is owned by the Frances) or NASCAR (a private company owned by the Frances) and for ISC to sell at least eight of the 12 tracks it owns that host Nextel Cup events. The 41-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Covington , also reveals some of the speedway's attempts to bring NASCAR's top racing series to Gallatin County . The speedway filed suit in July 2005 alleging NASCAR and ISC violated antitrust laws by restricting which tracks host Nextel Cup races and trying to "monopolize the market for hosting premium stock car racing events." In the original complaint, the speedway asked for Nextel Cup races to be awarded through a competitive bidding process. The complaint details some specific attempts by the speedway to secure a spot on the Nextel schedule. According to the new complaint, the track offered New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre $360 million to buy the facility that holds two Cup races annually. NASCAR and ISC have denied the allegations contained in the original complaint.

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

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

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