Tuesday May 18, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series continues on "Spring Break". Selected drivers from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour participated in a test held by Hoosier Tire on Tuesday at Lime Rock Park.

In preparation for the Whelen Modified Tour’s inaugural visit to Lime Rock Park on July 3, drivers Ted Christopher, Rowan Pennink, Bobby Santos and Todd Szegedy took part in four 20-minute sessions throughout the afternoon at the Connecticut road course.

During the first session the teams raced on the “Optional Uphill” in Turn 5 and the new “Optional West Bend” in Turn 6. The remaining three sessions saw the teams continue to use the Optional Uphill, but not the second. “I think it went really well,” said Chad Little, Whelen Modified Tour series director. “Hoosier seemed to know what they needed and did their homework. They were pretty much spot-on.”

The test also allowed for NASCAR to gather other technical information in advance of the July race.

“I think we’re going to end up with a good package, gear-wise,” Little said. “I’m real pleased with it [the test]. Nothing jumped out at us as being a major issue.”

Szegedy, who has a background in road racing and has tested a Whelen Modified at Lime Rock previously, was also pleased with the results of the test. “I think it was a success,” Szegedy said. “We got a little understanding of the type of transmission we need to run, and gearing. All in all, I think it was a great day.” The cars were not outfitted with transponders on Tuesday, so official lap times were not kept. Szegedy’s team reported their unofficial fastest lap of the day was 54.07 seconds.

Selected drivers from the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Southern Modified Tours participated in a test held by Hoosier Tire on Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway. In preparation for the second running of the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 combination race for both Whelen Modified Tours, Whelen Modified Tour veteran Mike Stefanik, along with Southern Tour regulars James Civali and Burt Myers took part in the all-day session.

Myers was happy with the data he was able to gather at the test. He ran an unofficial fast lap at 14.900 seconds. “I think we learned a lot today and I think it will only help us come back better prepared as a team and put on a great show for the fans who come out to our race in August,” Myers said. Civali, in the Roger Hill No.79, had the fastest unofficial time of the day with a lap of 14.700 seconds. He also thinks the tire test was beneficial for the series.
Whelen Modified Tour Series racing resumes on Friday night, May 28 at the Stafford Motor Speedway with the TSI Harley-Davidson 125. The Memorial Day weekend event will carry a purse of $76,476 an increase of $6,596 over last year's reduced purse for 100 laps.

The Modified Racing Series returns to action Friday night, May 21, at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY

The Stafford Motor Speedway returned to racing action with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program on Friday, May 14th. Woody Pitkat picked up his first win of the 2010 season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature that ended up being a war of words between Pitkat and runner-up Ted Christopher. Dillon Moltz got win number two of 2010 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Joey Cipriano, 15, scored his first career victory in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Andrew Durand won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Cory Casagrande was the second first time career winner of the night by taking the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Brad Hietala took the early lead ahead of Ted Christopher, Todd Owen, Woody Pitkat, and Sean Foster. The action was slowed with, 3 laps complete, for Curt Brainard, who came to a stop in turn 2. Hietala took the lead back under green with Owen moving into second. The car on the move was Frank Ruocco, who restarted 10th and quickly moved into a battle with Dan Avery for fourth place on lap-7. Ruocco took third from Christopher on lap-8 while Hietala and Owen continued to hold down the top two positions.

Ruocco ran in third until lap-13 when he moved by Owen for second. The action was slowed with 17 laps complete for a spin by Raymond Grassetti. On the restart, the cars of Hietala and Ruocco made contact while dueling for the lead and both cars spun, which collected several other cars and brought the yellow back out. The order was now Owen and Christopher on the front row, with Avery and Pitkat behind them for the restart.

Owen took the lead with Christopher taking second and Pitkat getting past Avery for third. Christopher ran behind Owen until lap-22 when he made a pass for the lead. Pitkat and Chris Jones followed Christopher past Owen, dropping him from the lead back to fourth place. After several laps of trying to get by Christopher, Pitakt was finally able to get alongside Christopher on lap-32 and he took the lead from Christopher on lap-33. Pitkat led the final 7 laps and took his first feature win of the 2010 season ahead of Christopher. Jones finished third, with Owen and Avery rounding out the top-5. Keith Rocco, who has placed himself solidly in the running for NASCAR Championship honors finished sixth.

Racing at the Waterford Speedbowl is a five letter word, ROCCO. Keith Rocco continued his dominance by winning for the fifth time in six event in the 35-lap SK Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl Saturday night. Rocco out handled and out drove Ron Yuhas JR on lap 25 and survived three restarts as he continued his domination of the SK Modified division at the shoreline oval. Yuhas held on for a runner-up finish. Tyler Chadwick, Rob Janovic Jr and Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five.

Other feature winners were 18-year-old Chris Meyer in the Street Stock event, Ken Cassidy Jr. in the Mini-Stock event, Allen Coates in the truck and Anthony Flannery in the Legends Cars race.

The TNTT schedule begins this Thursday May 20th and runs through Thursday, September 16th. Six NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions stand ready to begin a brand new season of weekly competition at the famed Connecticut oval.

Thompson’s TNTT has become a fan favorite, entertaining and an affordable night out because of the incredible competition and the fast-paced nature of the entire program. Feature event racing gets underway at around 7 PM and goes virtually non-stop until the show is over by 9:30 PM. Fans get to see all six divisions in wheel-to-wheel battle and still are headed home at an early hour. Qualifying events begin at 5:45 P M so that feature event racing is ready to go at by 7 O’clock. Grandstands open at 4:30 P M.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium, known as the MADHOUSE, in Winston-Salem NC had scheduled twin 25 lap features for their Modified division. Local runner Lee Jeffreys was the fastest in qualifying with a lap of 13.433 seconds (67.0 mph) on the quarter-mile track, and he started from the pole position in the first Modified race as a result. Jeffreys went pole to pole for his 15th career victory. Burt Myers finished second, Jonathan Brown third, Randy Butner fourth and Tim Brown fifth. The night cap event was rained out.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame opened in Charlotte, NC. In celebration of this event the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island ran a 100 lap NASCAR Modified event. Whelen Modified Tour Series driver Ron Silk took top honors in the event after waging a heated battle with Tom Rogers. Silk and car owner Eddie Partridge walked off with $3,025.

It looks like O. Bruton Smith, owner of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH is ready to go to battle stations with the New Hampshire Governor along with State and local police. The town of Loudon is looking to be paid $174,500 for police and fire coverage, the same cost as the September 2009 race weekend. Bruton Smith believes adequate coverage can be provided for $75,000. Jerry Gappens, the speedway's executive vice president stated that none of Smith's seven other speedways has to pay for local emergency services. Smith says he will pay for police and fire for June's race at $75,000.
Even after the governor assembled a committee to deal with New Hampshire Motor Speedway's concerns about the cost of police and fire coverage at the track, the speedway and Loudon police Chief Bob Fiske are about $100,000 apart on the cost of covering next month's NASCAR race weekend.

The Loudon NASCAR weekend runs from June 23 to June 27. With a little over a month to go there is still plenty of time to resolve the disagreement. When it comes to dealing with state and local authorities Smith is as tough as nails and in most cases gets his way. Smith has the power and the money to plow the Loudon Racetrack under and move it to another state if he has to. The state of New Hampshire and the towns around the speedway need to realize how much money is generated into the state and local economies before making a final decision. Police officers from Loudon and towns across the state make $43 per hour to work the race weekend.

Just a reminder that May 22nd @ The knights of Columbus, 17 Willow Street in Westboro Massachusetts from noon to 6 P.M. is the “25th Westboro Speedway Reunion”.. Bring your scrapbooks, photos and most of all your memories. Westboro closed 25 years ago.

Vintage stock cars, midgets plus hotrods will be on display. With the $10 admission you will receive a ticket for a hamburger, hot dog, chips and soda.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at 9:00am with live coverage of the grand opening of the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, NC. NASCAR Now is also shown Wednesday and Thursday at 5:00pm. NASCAR Race Hub on the Speed Channel is shown at 7:00pm. NASCAR Race Hub is also shown at the same time on Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday at 5:00pm is My All-Star Win: #1, Darrell Waltrip on Speed followed at 5:30pm by My All-Star Win: #3, Dale Earnhardt Jr. At 6:00pm Speed has a NASCAR Hall of Fame Biography featuring Dale Earnhardt. At 8:00pm Speed features Junior Johnson. At 9:00 Speed highlights last Sunday's Sprint Cup event run at Dover, DE. On Wednesday at noon the entire Dover Sprint Cup race will be replayed. At 5:00pm Speed looks at the new NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte. At 9:00pm Speed provides same day-taped delayed coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Pit Crew Challenge that was held earlier in the day at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte. Thursday's viewing on Speed begins at noon with a replay of last weekends NASCAR Nationwide Series Heluva Good! 200 that was run at the Dover International Speedway. Sounds of NASCAR follows at 2:30. At 3:00pm Speed looks back at the 2007 All Star Challenge at Charlotte. At 8:00pm Speed hosts a two hour special where longtime NASCAR personalities and media discuss the new Hall of Fame and the first class of five inductees. Speed goes live on Friday morning at 9:00am for two hours of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practice at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Three hours of Sprint Cup practice at Charlotte follows at noon. At 3:00pm NASCAR Live at Charlotte serves as a warm-up to Truck Series qualifying that will begin at 3:30pm. Also at 3:30, the Versus network will preview Indy 500 qualifying. Following the Truck qualifying session will be Sprint Cup qualifying for the All-Star event at Charlotte. At 7:30 Speed has their pre-race program that will lead to an 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte. Trackside at Charlotte wraps it up at 11:30pm. Saturday's viewing starts at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. At 11:00am Versus begins their all day coverage of First Day qualifying for the IRL Indy Cars at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At 4:00pm Speed begins what will be a three hour pre-race program that will lead to a 7:30 start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup All-Star Race at Charlotte. The All Star race will be re-played at midnight. NASCAR Victory Lane wraps it up at 11:00pm. Starting at 7:00am on Sunday morning Speed will present NASCAR Hall of Fame Biographies of the initial inductees for five hours. At noon Versus begins six and a half hours of Second Day qualifying for the Indy 500. Also at noon, Speed will be live in Charlotte to cover the Red Carpet arrivals for the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony which will begin at 1:00pm. The Induction ceremony will be repeated at 7:00pm. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain airs at 10:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week most of the racing related stocks rebounded after the recent bloodbath. All three speedway stocks had positive results for the weekend. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.19 to 29.19. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.78 to 15.61 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.07 to 2.08. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.52 to 4.36 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.79 to 30.90. Also having a good showing was tire supplier Goodyear which went up 0.94 to 13.05. The car makers followed suit with positive results. Leading the pack was Ford which went up 1.60 to 12.11. Toyota went up 0.59 to 75.48 and General Motors went up 0.01 to 0.58. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot jumped 1.77 to 35.20 while Lowes went up 0.76 to 26.07. With the exception of Coca-Cola which dropped 1.61 to 52.92 the major team sponsors had a positive week. Dupont went up 1.42 to 37.65 while Target Department Stores went up 0.87 to 55.17 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.15 to 20.71.

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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