Tuesday May 27, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Thompson Speedway hoped to begin their series of Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) racing programs on Thursday night. Mother Nature moved in and forced the cancellation of Thompson International Speedway’s opening Thursday night race program. A consistent rain and drizzle forced the hand of the track’s management to cancel the event shortly before 12 Noon . Opening night for Thompson’s Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) race program will now be held on May 29th.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the True Value Modified Series have ended their “Spring Break”. The Whelen Modifieds made their second stop of the season at Stafford and the True Value Modifieds traveled to the Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series almost got scrubbed as heavy showers caused a nearly 2-1/2 hour delay. The event, scheduled to go off at 9:00pm actually got the green at 11:30. Chuck Hossfeld, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino, ended a personal four year dry spell as he took the win in the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford. Hossfeld, who was also the Coors Light Pole sitter, started on the pole of the event and led 39 of the first 40 laps of the event before giving way to Bob Grigas III. Grigas and a host of the race front runners pitted on lap 92 under caution which allowed Matt Hirschman to assume the lead. Hossfeld beat Hirschman back to the starting line when the event went back to green on lap 107 and never looked back. Todd Szegedy finished second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik and Jimmy Blewett. Eric Beers, Ed Flemke Jr., Ryan Preece, James Civali and rookie Erick Rudolph rounded out the top 10. During post-race technical inspection, a probable illegal carburetor part was discovered on the No.19 that was driven by Blewett. The part in question will be taken back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation. Until an official decision is made only the first four positions are official.

There were 37 Modifieds on hand and nine caution periods for 46 laps. Prior to the race NASCAR honored seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Mike Stefanik as part of the season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Thunder Road Speedbowl in Vermont seasoned veteran Kirk Alexender did it the hard way as he came from the tail end of the starting field to win the event. Alexender methodically moved to the front and in the closing laps took the lead and the win. This was his 3rd win in the series in 4 races, with missing one race totally. Dwight Jarvis had passed Peter Jarvis with 3 laps to go to take the 2nd place finish with Jarvis settling for 3rd. 4th place through 6th were Ed Dachenhausen, Chris Pasteryak and Jack Bateman,

NASCAR has announced a different format for the upcoming Thursday night Whelen Modified Tour Series event at the Thompson Speedway. The New England Dodge Dealers 75 at Thompson, the fourth race on the 2008 schedule for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will take on June 19. The event will be the second of four dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2008 that is scheduled to run under the lights. The race will run under a unique format as it will finish upon the completion of 75 green-flag laps as those run under caution will not be counted. This will be the first of four races during 2008 that will run an alternative format. Events at Chemung, Riverhead and Spencer will feature heat races prior to the feature. This race, a 150 lapper, last year, carried a posted purse of $86,505. It will be interesting to see what this years purse is!

The Stafford Motor Speedway finally got to host their regular Friday night racing program. The 18th Annual TSI Harley-Davidson 150 program at Stafford Motor Speedway saw Ted Christopher victorious, for the 99th time at Stafford, in the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, while Chris Matthews and Norm Sears both took down their second consecutive wins in the 20-lap SK Light and 15-lap DARE Stock feature events. Due to a rain storm in the middle of the program, the 30-lap Late Model and 20-lap Limited Late Model feature events were postponed to a later date.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green flag with Wade Mattesen setting the early pace. Mattesen surrendered the lead to Brad Hietala on lap-6 with Ted Christopher also moving past Mattesen for second. On lap-10 both Hietala and Christopher spun in turn 4 to bring the caution out and put Woody Pitkat out front. Pitkat held the lead of the race from that point until lap-37 when Christopher, who had charged his way back through the field after his spin, made a power move to the inside of Pitkat in turn 3 to take the race lead. A late caution set up a green white checkered flag restart, but rain began to fall and the race was red/checkered with 39-laps complete, making Christopher a winner for the first time during the 2008 season. Pitkat was second, with Jeff Malave, Bo Gunning, and Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top-5.

The Waterford Speedbowl hosted the ISMA Supers along with their regular venue of racing. Chris Perley, of Rowley , MA . put on a stellar performance in winning the 50-lap International SuperModified Association event at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday evening, and in doing so recorded the fastest lap-ever (over 108 mph), in the 57-year history of the facility. Former Speedbowl SK champion Rob Summers set the early pace before being overtaken by Jeff Holbrook on lap twenty-one. Perley rocketed by Holbrook six circuits later, quickly distancing himself from the field. The race was red-flagged on lap thirty-six when Mike Lichty exploded a motor and slammed the wall, taking the cars of Jamie Timmons, Scott Martell and Mike Ordway with him. On the restart, Perley resumed his commanding lead, finishing several lengths ahead of Holbrook and Summers. Following was Ray Graham Jr., Bobby Bond and Dave McKnight Jr. It was the second-consecutive Speedbowl victory for Perley who won the 2007 event.
Other feature winners were Jeff Pearl (SK Modified), Ron Yuhas Jr. (Late Model), Mark Cooper (Sportsman), and Ben Bargnesi (Mini Stock).

Former champion Pearl won his first of the season, fending-off a late race charge by Rob Janovic in the 35-lap SK main event. Jay Miller, running perhaps his best race of the season led the early laps before Pearl took over with twenty-seven remaining Janovic slipped by Miller during the late stages. Rounding-out the top-5 were Jeff Paul and Ron Yuhas Jr.

In 30-lap Late Model feature action it was Ron Yuhas Jr. taking his second of the year over Tim Jordan. Tom Metcalf set the early pace with Jordan taking the point on the sixteenth circuit. With twelve remaining Yuhas pulled aside Jordon, the two staging a torrid side-by-side battle during the latter stages. Yuhas prevailed by a narrow margin in one of the closest Late Model finishes of the year. Ed Reed Jr. took the third spot followed by Vin Esposito, and defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr.
Mark Cooper became a first-time winner, defeating veteran Jack Aquilina by several car lengths in the 20-lap Sportsman main. Cooper drove to the front during the early stages. After taking the lead early, Ben Bargnesi went on to win the caution-free 20-lap Mini Stock feature in dominating fashion Finishing second was Ken Cassidy Jr. followed by Randy Churchill Jr., Bill Leonard, and Lou Bellisle. It was Bargnesi’s second victory of the season.

Congratulations to Ryan Morgan, 14-years old and a recent graduate of the quarter midget ranks, who dominated the Legends 20-lap feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Wednesday evening. In capturing his first-ever win in the division, Morgan quickly distanced himself from the field finishing several lengths in front of Mike Alcaro. Thomas Gray, George Whitney, and Max Zachem completed the top-five. Morgan is the grandson of John “Jack” Morgan, an auto sports writer who covered the exploits of the late Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens in the 70’s and 80’s

In TV land this week on the Speed Channel viewing action begins today, Tuesday, at 1:00pm with the May 18th NASCAR Camping World Series East-West Combination event that was run at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA. On Thursday at noon Speed re-runs last Sundays NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 that was run at the Lowes Motor Speedway. Friday, at 10:00am , Speed goes live at the Dover Downs International Speedway in Deleware for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying. Sprint Cup practice follows at 11:30am . At 3:00pm it will be Sprint Cup qualifying from Dover . At 7:00pm Speed continues live coverage with Trackside at Dover followed by the Truck Series pre-race show at 8:00pm . The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series AAA Insurance 200 goes green on Speed at 8:30 from Dover . This event will be re-shown at 1:30am on Saturday. Speed returns at noon on Saturday with 2-1/2 hours of Spriny Cup practice. At 2:20pm the action switches to ESPN2 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series Heluva Good! 200 at Dover . For the Sprint Car fans the Speed Channel will televise the May 15th World of Outlaws event that was held at the Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg , PA. Sunday’s viewing on Speed begins at 11:30am with a two hour segment of NASCAR RaceDay. At 1:30pm , FOX goes live from Dover with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Best Buy 400. For the Indy Car fans, ABC will televise the IRL IndyCar Series ABC Supply/AJ Foyt Indy 225 from the Milwaukee Mile in Milwaukee , WI at 4:00pm . The Speed Report on Speed at 7:00pm followed by NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 will round out the weekend’s racing. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain follows at 9:00 .

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on a negative note. Taking the biggest drop was Speedway Motorsports which dropped 1.98 to 24.98. Dover Downs dropped 0.33 to 6.02 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.16 to 43.42. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.49 to 8.68 while Nationwide, which sponsors the second tier of NASCAR went up 0.26 to 51.00. To no ones surprise, NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.32 to 44.65. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear hit a bump in the road as they dropped 3.64 to 25.26. NASCAR team sponsors didn’t fare well either. Coca-Cola dropped dropped 2.18 to 53.66, Dupont dropped 1.81 to 47.62, Target Stores dropped 2.84 to 52.04 and Aaron’s Rentals dropped 1.55 to 22.62. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 2.23 to 26.77 and Lowes dropped 1.59 to 23.30. The parcel carriers really got hammered. Fedex dropped 4.12 to 86.83 and UPS dropped 3.75 to 67.02. The World Racing Group also continued to drop as they fell 0.08 to 0.17.

In a surprise move, Speedway Motorsports Inc. agreed to purchase Kentucky Speedway, opening the door for the northern Kentucky track to perhaps one day host a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. The deal was announced this past Thursday by SMI chairman Bruton Smith could end a lengthy battle between the track's ownership group and NASCAR. The 1.5-mile oval, located in Sparta, Ky., midway between Cincinnati and Louisville, opened in 2000 and hosts several circuits a year, including the Nationwide Series and the Indy Racing League. Kentucky Speedway filed an antitrust lawsuit in 2005 against NASCAR and International Speedway Inc. The lawsuit was dismissed in January. SMI, which operates several other tracks that host Sprint Cup events including the New Hampshire Int. Speedway, could move one of those races to Kentucky Speedway. It was also announced that H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., would retire following the running of this past Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at the North Carolina track Wheeler began working at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 1975, was named general manager in 1976 and president in 1980.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891 . Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is

Photo Credit: Keith Cyr, RaceDogPhotography

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

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