Tuesday May 4, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series returned to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler which had been rained out on April 25. The main event, 200 laps/100 miles carried a race purse of $88,142. Under bright and sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80's, Stafford Motor Speedway hosted the completion of "The Greatest Race in the History of Spring", the 39th Annual CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler.

Ted Christopher took the lead from Jimmy Blewett on lap 146 and then held on through a green-white-checker finish to earn his 10th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at Stafford. The event concluded with a multi-car accident on the front stretch after the leaders had taken the white flag, which made the race official, and secured Christopher his fifth Whelen Modified Tour win in the Spring Sizzler. His five wins in the event are now a record as he entered the day tied with Mike Stefanik at four.

Christopher was followed across the line by Coors Light Pole Award winner Bobby Santos and Stefanik. Santos led the first 54 laps of the race before he was spun by lap traffic. Rowan Pennink, Todd Szegedy, James Civali, Chuck Hossfeld, Eric Berndt, Erick Rudolph and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top 10 finishers in the race, which featured 10 lead changes among nine drivers. Fifteen of the original 32 starters finished on the lead lap. Among those who ran into problems was Ryan Preece.Preece, who was one of the pre-race favorites lost numerous laps after hitting the wall. Jimmy Blewett made a move to take the lead causing Mike Stefanik to check up. Preece hit Stefanik and hit the wall.
In addition to the Sizzler Keith Rocco was the kingpin in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature and Dillon Moltz took top honors in the 30-lap Late Model feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Keith Rocco led the field to the green flag with Ted Christopher, Frank Ruocco, Jeff Malave, and Woody Pitkat behind him in the top-5. The top-5 quickly settled into single file racing, but that single file was eliminated when the caution came out with 4 laps complete for a spin by Brit Andersen.

There were several attempts at the next restart with Curt Brainard, then Matt Gallo, and then Joe Allegro, Jr., Adam Skowyra, and Glenn Griswold each bringing the caution back out for spins. Rocco continued to lead back under green with Christopher and Malave behind him. Tom Bolles made a power move to go from 7th to 4th on the restart, while Eric Berndt rounded out the top-5.

The action was slowed again with 8 laps complete for a spin by Chris Jones. Rocco again took the lead on the restart, but a 5 car accident involving Glenn Griswold, Jones, Keith Carzello, Michael Gervais, Jr., and Matt Gallo brought the yellow back out one lap after the restart. The next restart saw Christopher power by Rocco to take the lead on lap-11. Berndt moved into third behind Rocco, with Kurt Lenahan moving into fourth and Malave was fifth. The top-5 then ran in line until the next caution came out with 16 laps complete for a multicar incident between Dan Avery, Kirk Zervas, Mark Bakaj, and Bolles.

Christopher took the lead on the restart, but he would lose it to Rocco three laps later on lap-19. Berndt continued to run in third place, with Lenahan and Malave behind him. The running order remained the same until lap-25 when Christopher's car dropped off the pace and he came to pit road and was finished for the race. At the same time that Christopher's car gave up, Frank Ruocco also had engine troubles that brought him to pit road and ended his day. Rocco was the leader with Berndt now up to second. Lenahan was up to third, with Malave and Brit Andersen making up the new top-5. Rocco was building a large lead over Berndt, who was building a large gap back to Malave, Lenahan, and Andersen.

Rocco's large lead was erased with 34 laps complete as a piece of sheet metal debris brought out the yellow flag. On the restart, Rocco powered into the lead with Malave moving past Berndt for second. Lenahan continued in fourth with Andersen in fifth. Rocco again pulled away from his closest pursuers and he cruised to victory in the first SK Modified® feature event of the 2010 season. Malave came home in second, with Berndt, Lenahan, and Andersen rounding out the top-5 at the checkered flag.

In addition to the postponed Sizzler program which was run on Saturday the Stafford Motor Speedway began their Friday night season with a special program for their support classes. Frank Cardile took the checkered flag in the 30-lap SK Light Modified feature, Dan Flannery won the 25-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande won the 20-lap DARE Stock feature.

The Modified Racing Series 100 lapper at the Monadnock Speedway was won by Dwight Jarvis. Jacob Dore finished second and was followed by Jim Boniface, Rowin Pennink and Sean Bodreau. Pennick had raced at Stafford in the afternoon where he finished fourth in the Spring Sizzler. One of the best runs of the day was turned in by Pennick. Pennink, who started 24th in the field, was involved in a lap 36 tangle that forced him to start last again. He made a late race charge that led to his fourth place finish.

With the Spring Sizzler now in the history books the Whelen Modified Tour Series goes on a four week "Spring Break" before returning to Stafford on May 28 for a 150 lapper. The Bob Valenti Modified Racing Series, which also ran last Saturday at the Monadnock Speedway also goes on "Spring Break" until heading to the Albany-Saratoga Speedway on May 21 for a make-up event.

Long Island driver Johnny Bush has become the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver to run it full-time in 2010. In fact, it is because of the SPEC that Bush even makes it to the track this year. The SPEC engine was developed in a cooperative effort between NASCAR and engine builder Carl Wegner of Wegner Motorsports as an economical alternative for race teams. The engine is assembled using “spec”ific components that produce a robust engine package. The recipe for the SPEC engine uses components from many of the best automotive aftermarket companies – names that are recognizable from the contingency sponsor decals on the race cars like Edelbrock, JE Pistons, Comp Cams, Holley and CV Products.

The New London Day reported that Dillon Moltz had won the inaugural Richard Petty's Driver Search. As the winner of the competition Moltz will get the chance to qualify for the ARCA Racing Series event June 5 at Pocono Raceway in a fully-funded ride from the Richard Petty's Driver Search program. A graduate of the Quarter Midget ranks, Moltz has become one of the top runners in the Late Model division at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

Keith Rocco scored a one-two punch on Saturday. In addition to his Stafford win, he made a heated trip to the Connecticut shoreline where he dusted the SK Modified field at the Waterford Speedbowl. Other winners at the Speedbowl were Tim Jordan (30-lap Late Model), Al Stone III (25-lap Street Stock), Sean Caron (25-lap Mini Stock) and Chris Lomartire (15-lap Bandoleros)

It was Rocco's second straight feature win at the Speedbowl and his fourth victory overall. Rocco passed leader Tom Abele Jr. with three laps remaining. Abele finished second, followed by Ron Yuhas Jr. in third, Jeffrey Paul in fourth and Jeff Pearl in fifth. Early leader Todd Ceravolo dropped out with mechanical problems.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC finally got their season going after a rain-out for their opening event. Tim Brown, one of the stars of the "MadHouse" TV series took the 200 lap win in front of a packed house at the 17,000-seat stadium. Lee Jeffreys finished second ahead of Brian Loftin. and Junior Miller fourth. Burt Myers, who challenged Brown after changing tires, settled for sixth.

In some sad news, Busch Sport Scene Publisher George Campbell announced that 2010 will be his final year publishing the popular auto racing newsprint publication. The publication debuted in 1999 and plans are underway to make 2010 the final year. The last issue will be slated for print in January of 2011.

“This will be the twelfth year I have published Busch Sport Scene,” Campbell said on the In the Pits radio show Friday morning. “Its time for me to move on to some other things I have wanted to do. I would be open to selling the publication, but after a couple years of trying, there is little interest in print publications at this time.”

Campbell plans to cut the printing schedule slightly from past years, printing monthly for most of the race season before the final ‘winter’ issue in January. The reason for cutting the print schedule in 2010 is to complete a book that, as he says, will be the final chapter for the paper.

“I am currently working on a book tentatively titled Busch North Scene: A Ten Year Retrospective,” Campbell said. “The book will review our first ten full years of publishing the paper, from 2000 – 2009. Many of the long time.

In TV land this weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday at 10:30am with NASCAR: What’s the Deal? with Jimmy Spencer. NASCAR Now on espn2 is shown at 5:00pm. NASCAR Now is also shown at the same time on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and at 6:30 on Friday. NASCAR Race Hub on the Speed Channel is shown at 7:30pm. NASCAR Race Hub is also shown at the same time on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Tuesday evening at 8:00pm Speed shows the highlights from Richmond's Sprint Cup race. At 9:00pm Speed presents a NASCAR Hall of Fame Biography of Junior Johnson. Wednesday's viewing begins at noon with a NASCAR Sprint Cup Replay of the Crown Royal Heath Calhoun 400 that was run at the Richmond International Raceway. On Thursday at noon will be the NASCAR Nationwide Series Replay of the BUBBA Burger 250 at Richmond. At 6:00pm Speed has the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West Jimmie Johnson Foundation 100 that was run at the Phoenix Intl. Raceway on April 8.

Speed goes live on Friday at 11:30am with Sprint Cup practice from Darlington, SC. At 4:30pm NASCAR Live gives the competitors a break prior to the start of Sprint Cup qualifying at 5:00pm. Trackside at Darlington follows at 6:30pm. At 7:00pm the pre-race program for the Nationwide Series starts and will lead in to the start of the Darlington 200 which gets the green at 7:30pm. Trackside at Darlington closes out the day at 11:00pm. Saturday's viewing starts at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. Speed has a biography on Richard Petty at 2:30pm. A two hour RACEDAY starting at 5:00pm on Speed previews the nights Sprint Cup event. At 7:00pm the action moves to FOX for a 30 minute pre-race that will lead to the start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Showtime Southern 500 at the Darlington Raceway. No racing on Sunday because of Mother's Day. Rounding out the weekend on Sunday night is The SPEED Report at 7:00, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 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. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.32 to 30 56 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.02 to 2.20. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.07 to 4.25 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil jumped 1.55 to 32.78. Tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.15 to 13.43. The car makers took it on the chin with the exception of General Motors which went up 0.04 to 0.65. Ford dropped 1.19 to 13.02 and Toyota dropped 0.55 to 77.09. In the area of home improvement Home Depot dropped 1.16 to 35.23 and Lowes dropped 1.10 to 27.12. With the exception of Coca-Cola which went up 0.55 to 55.08 the major team sponsors were on the down side. Dupont dropped 0.38 to 39.84 while Target Department Stores dropped 1.07 to 56.87 and Aarons Rentals dropped 1.23 to 22.57.

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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