Tuesday May 24, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues on Spring Break before returning on this coming Friday, May 27 at Stafford for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

The Thompson Speedway fell victim to rain on Thursday night. Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher are currently tied for the point lead as they have a four point lead over Todd Ceravolo and Ryan Preece who are tied for the third spot. Danny Cates rounds out the top five.. Christopher, Rocco and Ceravolo have won features so far. In the Super Late Models Larry Gelinas holds a four point lead over Jeff Connors and Mike O'Sullivan. O'Sullivan and Derek Ramstron have won features so far. Tom O'Sullivan holds a two point lead in the Late Model division over John Materas. Materas holds a two point lead over Rick Gentes and John Falconi. Materas and Gentes have won features. In the Thompson Modifieds Keith McDermott holds a two point lead over RJ Marcotte. Marcotte and Jay Sundeen have recorded wins so far. Chris "Moose" Douton holds a six point lead over Larry Barnett and Dwayne Dorr. Scott Sundeen is fourth with Shawn Monahan rounding out the top five. Barnett and Joe Coates have won features. Danny Field, who is two for two in Mini Stock competition holds a commanding ten point lead over Roger Ducharme.

The Stafford Motor Speedway avoided the rain as did Ted Christopher who drove to his second SK Modified win in a row. Christopher now has 94 SK Modified wins at Stafford.
Woody Pitkat picked up his first win of 2011 in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Pitkat had recorded a previous win but was disqualified when it was discovered that illegal fuel was in his tank. Tommy Barrett, Jr. was the winner of the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature for the second consecutive week, Shawn Thibeault won his first race of the year in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande picked up his second feature victory of the year in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.
In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Curt Brainard took the early race lead with Eric Berndt, Mark Bakaj, Todd Owen, and Dan Avery behind him. With 5 laps complete, Brad Hietala spun in the middle of turns 3+4 and Brian Sullivan climbed up and over Hietala's car to bring the caution out.
Berndt took the lead on the restart as Brainard fell back to fourth with Owen and Christopher also getting by on the restart. Owen moved to the lead on lap-7 with Christopher following him by Berndt. Frank Ruocco was now up to fourth behind Berndt with Avery continuing to run in fifth place.

Owen held the lead until lap-14 when Christopher moved to the front of the field. Ruocco was also past Berndt for third with Avery coming under fire from Woody Pitkat for the fifth position. Christopher was slowly pulling away from Owen in second, but his lead was erased when Adam Skowyra spun in turn 3 to bring the caution out with 20 laps complete.

Owen took the lead from Christopher on the restart, but Christopher went back to the front on the next lap. Ruocco was in third behind Christopher and Owen, with Berndt in fourth and Brainard in fifth. Mark Bakaj spun on the backstretch, but was able to get going again and the race stayed green. Pitkat got around Brainard to take over fifth place and Christopher was still leading Owen with 10 laps to go.

Christopher was slowly pulling away from Owen and on lap-38 Owen and Ruocco made contact with both cars getting out of shape, which only added to Christopher's margin. Ruocco moved by Owen for second, and rounding out the top-5 behind them was Pitkat and Berndt. Ryan Preece finished sixth with Michael Gervais Jr., seventh. Keith Rocco finished seventh in a car borrowed from Frank Ruocco. It was during the second SK Modified heat that Rocco got caught up in a grinding wreck that inflicted severe front end damage to his mount. Rounding out the top ten was Glen Reen and Jeff Malave.

Twenty three cars started the SK Modified feature which was slowed by two cautions.

In action at the Waterford Speedbowl, Keith Rocco made it two in a row as he rose above early race problems before rallying over the final laps to take the victory. Anthony Flannery was a first time winner in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division, Al Stone returned to the winner's circle in the Street Stocks, Glenn Colvin was the Mini Stock feature winner and Paul French won the debut event for the SK Light Modifieds. Ken Downing III was the Super X-Car winner.

Rocco, who had spun out after being tapped by Ron Yuhas Jr on lap 14 while running second, had advanced to third when a lap-32 restart set the stage for Rocco’s late race charge. Jeff Pearl got the jump on Ron Yuhas Jr but it was Rocco who made a bonsai move down low in turn one as he seized the opportunity to race to Pearl’s inside into turn one with a bold move. He cleared Pearl exiting turn two and was able to hold on over the final two laps to take his second consecutive win and fourth overall on the season. Pearl, Yuhas, Tyler Chadwick and Reynolds completed the top-five finishers.

Twenty one cars, including the SK Lite of Paul French, started the SK Modified feature.

In Modified action south of the Mason-Dixon line at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, John Smith, who is employed by Richard Childress Racing as a front-suspension specialist on the NASCAR Sprint Cup car driven by Clint Bowyer, got his eighth career victory on the flat quarter mile speedway in a 100 lap event.

Smith drew the pole position and withstood five double-file restarts, holding off Lee Jeffreys and Dean Ward, both of whom were sidelined with mechanical trouble and finally endured a late challenge by Brian Loftin. Loftin, who worked his way up from the 17th starting position, finished second. Michael Clifton was third, Burt Myers fourth, Jason Myers fifth and Jonathan Brown sixth.

In TV land NASCAR Now on espn2 can be seen at 7:00pm on Tuesday. NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday plus on Thursday at 9:00pm. ESPN Classic will show previous Indy 500s all week. This weeks race viewing begins on Tuesday at 4:00pm with IndyCar Open Wheel Weekly on Versus. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel replays last Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race that was run at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. On Thursday, at 1:30pm, the Speed Channel presents Inside the Headsets: An intense, thirty-minute recap of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup All Star race. At 2:00pm Speed goes live at Charlotte for Nationwide Series practice. Sprint Cup practice from Charlotte follows at 3:30pm. At 5:00pm the Nationwide Series has their final practice. NASCAR Live follows at 6:30. Sprint Cup qualifying from Charlotte begins at 7:00pm. Friday's viewing begins at 11:00am when Versus begins five hours of coverage of IZOD IndyCar Series CARB DAY at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At noon Speed reruns last Sunday's NASCAR Nationwide Series John Deere Dealers 250 that was run at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, IA. At 4:00pm Speed will show Monday's NASCAR Hall of Fame 2011 Induction Ceremony of Lee Petty, Bud Moore, Ned Jarrett, David Pearson and Bobby Allison to the Hall of Fame in Charlotte. At 8:00pm Speed goes live for coverage of the World of Outlaws, Sprint cars from the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Saturday's viewing starts at 11:30am with Sprint Cup practice at Charlotte. At 2:00pm the action switches to ABC for the pre-race show that will lead to the 2:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Top Gear 300 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Also on Saturday will be the Lucas Oil Motorsports Hour at 4:00pm on Versus and the Indy 500 Parade from Indianapolis at 5:00pm on Versus. Sunday's viewing begins at 11:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2 and Indianapolis 500: A Centennial Celebration on ABC. Live coverage of the Indy 500 starts at noon on ABC. At the conclusion of the 500 ABC will present Fearless at the 500: A look back at the most memorable races in IRL history. Also at 3:30 Speed has a two hour Race Day preview of the Sprint Cup event that will be run at Charlotte. At 5:30 FOX goes live with their pre-race show that will lead to the 6:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. Normal Sunday nigh programming from Speed will not be on except Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. NASCAR Victory Lane at 11:00pm will wrap up the weekend.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks were down at week's end. Taking the big dip was the International Speedway Corporation which dropped 0.75 to 28.68. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.07 to 14.81 and Dover Motorsports dropped 0.02 to 1.97. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.37 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.44 to 39.83 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.20 to 17.57. General Motors was the only auto maker to post a positive week as they went up 0.11 to 31.18. Ford dropped 0.08 to 15.00 and Toyota dropped 3.42 to 79.96. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.04 to 37.05 while Lowes dropped 1.30 to 24.46. Major sponsors had their ups and downs. Dupont went down 0.17 to 52.74 while Coca-Cola went up 0.15 to 68.88 and Fedex went up 0.24 to 93.82. Target Department Stores dropped 1.83 to 49.68 and Aaron's Rentals dropped 0.40 to 27.19.
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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