Tuesday May 22, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour Series took a week off before heading to the Stafford Motor Speedway this coming Friday night, May 25 for the 22nd ANNUAL TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON 125. After three events Ron Silk leads Doug Coby by a mere one point. Silk won the Thompson Speedway IceBreaker while Coby won the Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Ryan Preece who won at Monadnock is only four points out of the lead. Mike Stefanik, thirteen points out sits in fourth with Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth are Justin Bonsignore, Donny Lia, Keith Rocco, Ted Christopher and Jamie Tomaino.

Following the Stafford event the Whelen Modified Tour Series goes on Spring Break for four weeks before heading to the Waterford Speedbowl on June 23.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of some pre-Memorial Day fireworks as Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco slugged it out in SK Modified competition. In the end, Woody Pitkat was the winner of a wild and thrilling 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Mark St. Hilaire was the a first time winner in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tyler Hines was a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, and Josh Wood scored his third consecutive Limited Late Model feature victory of the 2012 season in the 20-lap feature. Albert Saunders drove to victory in the extra distance 20-lap DARE Stock feature to score his second consecutive feature victory.

In the SK Modified 40 lapper first it was Preece and Frank Ruocco fighting for the lead then it was Preece and Rocco. The duel between Ruocco and Preece ended with 20 laps complete as the two cars made contact in turn 1 with Ruocco’s car hitting the turn 1 wall to bring the caution out. Preece was sent to the rear of the field by NASCAR Officials for the contact with Ruocco. Rocco took the lead on lap 29 and set the stage for round two of the night's battle. On a lap 36 restart, Rocco and Preece raced side by side for 2 laps with Preece the leader at the line before Rocco got cleared of Preece on lap-38. Preece made a last ditch effort coming to the checkered flag and he made contact with Rocco’s car, which resulted in Rocco spinning. Preece took the checkered flag first, but he was penalized to the last car on the lead lap by officials for the contact with Rocco, making Pitkat the winner. Dave Gervais came home in second, with Ted Christopher, Danny Cates, and Matt Galko rounding out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Keith Rocco didn't miss a beat despite taking a week off to race in a Whelen Modified Tour event at the Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire as he went two for two scoring wins in the SK Modified and Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models at the shoreline oval. Dan Darnstaedt won the Street Stock feature race and Ken Cassidy Jr. continued his domination of the Mini Stock division, winning his seventh race on the season. The INEX Legends Cars and Bandoleros joined the NASCAR race program, with Dana Dimatteo and Derek Debbis winning the respective divisions.

Rocco mastered the last restart attempt to pull ahead of Rob Janovic who got in line in second. Janovic got to the leader’s rear bumper in turns three and four on lap-32 however could not pull alongside. Rocco went on to the win, his fifth on the year. Janovic was second, while Keith’s twin brother Jeff ended a solid run in third place. Tom Abele and Tyler Chadwick each rebounded from spins to place fourth and fifth.

In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina, twin 25 lap Modified features were run. Tim Brown posted his 60th career victory as he won the opener. Burt Myers was second, and his brother, Jason Myers, was third. Newcomer Dean Ward won the nightcap. Austin Pack finished second, and Junior Miller was third.

Ron Silk, the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion walked away the winner in the Richie Evans Hall Of Fame 100 for the NASCAR Modifieds at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.

A picture perfect day set the backdrop for a full slate of racing action at Thompson International Speedway that featured the Modified Racing Series and six divisions of NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action on Sundat. A caution-filled main event saw Rowan Pennink as the survival of the fittest to post the victory.

Ryan Preece led only the checkered flag lap in the Sunoco Modifieds to score the feature event win. Last year’s TIS Modified track champion, Cam McDermott made the step up to the Lite Modified division in winning style. Marc Palmisano came on strong in the waning laps of the Late Model event to claim the victory. Art Moran III was tops in Limited Sportsman division while Mike Gorgievski earned the victory in the Mini Stocks. John Lowinski-Loh, Jr. scored his first career TIS Modified feature victory.

Pennink of Huntington Valley, PA, outlasted the competition in a Modified Racing event that was marred by 11 cautions. Ted Christopher and Pennink waged a great battle for the lead in the early stages of the main event that saw 35 cars take the green flag. Christopher held the point and held back advances of Pennink. Christopher held Pennink at bay on countless restarts as attrition built. Pennink made what turned out to be the winning move on lap 34 when he dove to the inside of Christopher to take the lead. Shortly after, Christopher retired from the event. In the late stages of the race, Pennink had to hold off the persistent challenges of Richard Savary. A bobble by Savary with 10 laps to go looked as if Pennink may find some comfort in the last dash to the checkers. Savary was quick to recover; however, running down Pennink again with five laps remaining. Pennink was solid over the final laps to post his victory. The win was his fifth with the Modified Racing Series. Savary came home in second. Geoff Gernhard had a career night to finish third. Point leader Jon McKennedy and Mike Holdridge completed the top five.

A surprise ending in the Sunoco Modified main event found Ryan Preece in victory lane. Todd Ceravolo, who had led since the early stages of the event got loose exiting turn four on the final lap. With nowhere to go, Preece clipped the sliding #31 of Ceravolo. The resulting spin gave Preece the victory. Kerry Malone came home second followed by Keith Rocco. An eventful day ended with a fourth-place finish for Ted Christopher. Ceravolo had to settle for fifth.

New Englander Bobby Santos had a successfull weekend racing in the mid-West. An early-race restart gave Santos the opening he wanted to see and the Franklin, Massachusetts drivers never looked back en route to dominating Saturday night’s inaugural Hall of Fame Classic Traxxas Silver Crown race at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.

In his first race aboard the RW/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports Rotondo Weirich – Curb Records No. 17 Beast/Wallace Toyota Silver Crown car, Santos pulled away as the 100 laps wore on, posting an eventual winning margin of 7.512 seconds.

Interest continues to build in the upcoming open competition Modified Star SBM 125 scheduled for June 16 at the Star Speedway in Epping, NH. Official Entries as of May 14 include Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Todd Szegedy, Les Hinckley, Max Zachem, Dwight Jarvis, Doug Coby, Mike Douglas Jr., Josh Cantara, #79 WMT car- Driver to be named, Jim Boniface, Chris and Charlie Pasteryak. Area Auto Racing scribe Kevin Rice has done a fantastic job promoting this event.

The best paying Tour-Type Modified Open in New England is fast approaching. The June 16 Exeter Decorating SBM 125 at the Star Speedway will bring a mix of talent from across the Modified spectrum, covering all four Modified tours plus the Star regulars.

In TV land, viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Tuesday, at 6:00pm with NASCAR Race Hub. Race Hub will also be shown on Wednesday at the same time. NASCAR Now will be on espn2 at 3:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Race viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with a replay of last weekend's NASCAR Nationwide Series event that was run in Iowa. Speed goes live on Thursday at Charlotte with Nationwide Series practice at 2:00pm, Sprint Cup practice at 3:30pm, Nationwide Series final practice at 5:00pm, NASCAR Live at 6:30 and Sprint Cup Pole qualifying at 7:00pm.

Friday's viewing begins at noon with a replay of the 2011 Sprint Cup Sll Star event that was held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. At 8:00pm the action at Charlotte moves across the street to the Dirt Track at Charlotte for The World of Outlaws Sprints.

Saturday's viewing on Speed begins at 10:00am with Sprint Cup practice at Charlotte. At 11:00am the action shifts to ESPN2 for Nationwide Series qualifying from Charlotte. Back to Speed at 12:30 for NASCAR Live followed at 1:00pm by Sprint Cup final practice at Charlotte. At 2:00pm, Speed heads for the new sports car course in New Jersey for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. At 2:30pm ABC begins their Nationwide Series Countdown which will lead to the start of the Top Gear 300 at Charlotte.

Sunday will be one of the busiest days of the year in Auto Racing. NASCAR Now on ESPN2 starts it off at 10:00am. At 11:00am the action shifts to ABC for the Indy 500 pre-race show that will lead into the start of the 96th annual Indianapolis 500 at noon. The 500 should be over by 4:00pm. NASCAR Raceday on Speed serves as a two hour pre-race to the FOX pre-race show at 5:30pm which leads in to the 6:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte. NASCAR Victory Lane at 11:00pm wraps it up.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks were down for the week. Taking the biggest dip was the International Speedway Corporation which dropped 1.11 to 24.01. Dover Motorsports dropped 0.05 to 1.35 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.02 to 16.26. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.15 to 2.34 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 2.20 to 46.87 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.51 to 10.04. The car makers were also down for the week. Toyota dropped 4.65 to 76.06 while General Motors dropped 0.82 to 21.18 and Ford dropped 0.57 to 10.01. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 3.29 to 47.05 and Lowes dropped 1.14 to 28.48. With the exception of Target Department Stores which went up 0.03 to 55.46 the team sponsors were also down for the week. Dupont dropped 3.60 to 47.97 while Coca-Cola dropped 1.78 to 60.47, Aarons Rentals dropped 1.55 to 25.44 and Fedex dropped 2.73 to 85.07.

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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