Tuesday November 28, 2006   

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

The Thanksgiving weekend officially wrapped up the 2006 Modified Racing season. The traditional Turkey Derby was run at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey and the Mason-Dixon Meltdown at the South Boston Speedway in Virginia. Wall drew 32 Modifieds while South Boston drew 24.
At the New Jersey oval Jimmy Blewett and Steve Reed split the Wall Township Speedway Turkey Derby XXXIII twin 100-lap modified mains on Saturday night. Blewett, took the lead from Donnie Lia with five laps to go and held off Les Hinckley's last-lap pass by 1.527 sec. to win the open modified main. Blewett came from 13th starting spot to shadow front row starter Ken Wooley, Jr., and inherited the lead when the pair banged wheels on lap 71, breaking the latter's steering rack. Hinckley, Lia, John Blewett III and Rowan Pinnick rounded out the top five of 12 finishers. Lia set a 12.036 sec., 99.601 mph fast time among 33 Whelen and Race of Champions tour modified men Saturday afternoon. There were more boos than cheers when Blewett, who proudly carries the nickname "Showtime," won perhaps the most exciting race in Turkey Derby history. Blewett squeezed hard-charging Hinckley, who came off the fourth turn of the final lap on a mission to win the race. Brief contact was made between the leaders and Blewett held his position, as sparks flew, and tires and fenders rubbed as the 100-lap Tour-type modified feature hit the finish line.

"What don't they understand," Blewett said, "I came here to win this race." And win it he did, in typical Jimmy Blewett fashion. He raced everyone hard, raced everyone ó including his brother, John ó as tough as can be. Ken Woolley Jr. was the leader for the first 71 laps, driving Dick Barney's tour modified flawlessly. As Woolley and Jimmy Blewett were approaching the start/finish line of the next lap, the two came together and Woolley's modified suffered a broken rack, then he was hit from behind by John Blewett III as he sat helplessly on the track."He didn't hit me that hard," Woolley said. "I couldn't steer. I had to get out of the throttle. I said, "Hang on.' " Woolley end up crashing into the concrete barriers in the infield, as track crew members and photographs ran for safety. Jimmy Blewett was the leader off the restart with Rowan Pennick, driving a modified he bought from the Blewetts, and John Blewett II in third place.
At lap 85 it was Blewett and Blewett in front before Jimmy made contact with John coming out of the fourth turn. With four laps to go, Hinckley was flying and passed John Blewett III and began his run at the leader, setting the stage for the unpopular finish. Winning Turkey Derby "feels great," said Blewett, who won $5,853 with bonuses and contingencies yet to be counted.

Reed, was the only one of the 27 starters who did not pit, let alone change tires, in the 100-lap race for WTS/True Value/B mods. The RTS Transmission Repair RTS-Chevy No. 55 driver held off John Blewett III by .696 sec. for his third WTS feature victory of the season. WTS Modifieds are very similar to the New England SK Modifieds. Tim Arre took third and Mike Carpenter rounded out the top five of 11 finishers.

Matt Hirschman, who won the recent North-South Shootout in North Carolina continued his post season streak as he won the Mason-Dixon Meltdown. Hirschman and Eric Beers battled over the final laps, but the young Hirschman was able to get the best of the veteran Beers to become the first-ever Mason-Dixon Meltdown Tour-Type Modified champion. James Civali crossed beneath the checkered flag third, while Burt Myers and Rusty Smith rounded out the top-five. On the lap 104 restart Hirschman took the lead from Myers. Among those who encountered problems was Chris Pasteryak who lost a left rear tire and hit the turn two wall on lap 96.

Among the missing last weekend from both events was Ted Christopher who tied the knot.

The 2007 Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule for 2007 continues to come together. The Stafford Motor Speedway will again host four events including the 36th Annual Spring Sizzler on April 29, Friday night events on May 25th and August 10th plus the Fall Final on September 30. Thompsonís 2007 racing schedule is expected to be released shortly. Over 95% of the 2007 racing schedule has been completed. Only a few minor details remain to be worked out before the schedule is released. Race fans will be happy to know that the Thursday Night Thompson Thunder weekly events will return along with all of their favorite major touring division races.
Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president of corporate communications said at the recent Nextel Cup event at the Homestead Speedway in Florida that he anticipates a 14 race schedule for the Modifieds. Waterford is not on the current schedule and Thompson and Stafford, which accounted for nine races this season will have six or seven combined in 2007. "Stafford and Thompson have been the backbone of the Modified Division for a long time and will continue" Hunter said. Two major new dates for Whelen teams are at Mansfield OH and Irwindale Speedway in California. The mods will be part of the Showdown program in November at Irwindale that includes Busch East and West competitors. According to Hunter the Modified purse will be in the $200,000 range. He also said $1,500 in tow money will be provided teams traveling from the Northeast to California. It is a long ride to Irwindale. One fan calculated the distance at 2778 miles and 41 hours from New York City.

In addition to their Whelen Modified Tour Series dates the Stafford Motor Speedway announced that their regular Friday night season would begin on May 4 and will run through September 21. NASCARís Busch East division will visit on June 8 and Extreme Tuesday will be held on July 10. The ISMA Supermodifieds plus the NEMA Midgets and Pro Four Modifieds will again make up the program. Most important of all, the Arute family has announced that they will hold the line on admission prices for 2007.

In TV land this week, viewing will begin on Wednesday at 4:00p.m. on the Speed Channel with the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship Series Race No. 6 that was run at the USA International Speedway in Lakeland, Fl on Nov 25. On Thursday night at 7:00p.m. Speed showcases Champions Week on SPEED: NASCAR Takes Manhattan. SPEED goes live from New York for the festivities preceding the Nextel Cup season ending awards banquet. On Friday night at 7:00p.m. Speed goes live again for the second segment of Champions Week on SPEED. The action switches to TNT at 9:00p.m. for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Awards Ceremony at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York city. Saturdayís starts at 7:30p.m. with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series from East Bay Raceway Park in Florida. On Sunday, December 3 the Speed Channel focuses on the World's Fastest Motorcycle. It's the showdown of the decade with the three best streamliners in the world going head to head to beat the current certified world record of 322.410 mph. Never before in the history of the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah have there been three motorcycle streamliners going head to head for the ultimate speed record. At 7:00p.m. itís the Speed Report which will be followed at 8:00p.m. with highlights of the 2006 SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association) Show in Las Vegas, the premier automotive specialty products trade event in the world.
On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks were down in an abbreviated week. Taking the big hit was the International Speedway Corporation which dropped 0.92 to 53.02. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.76 to 38.50 and Dover Downs dropped 0.09 to 5.31. Nextel-Sprint dropped 0.33 to 19.93 as did Sun Oil (Sunoco) which dropped 0.82 to 63.88. Goodyear, who is still held hostage by a strike, dropped 0.11 to 17.89. DIRT Motorsports was also down as they dropped 0.05 to 2.45. The drug sector had a negative week. Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 0.33 to 24.47 and Pfizer dropped 0.31 to 26.89. The home improvement sector followed suit as Home Depot dropped 0.56 to 37.72 and Lowes dropped 0.48 to 30.00. Despite the fact that Christmas shipping will hit an all time high the parcel giants had a down week. UPS dropped 0.29 to 78.84 and Fedex dropped0.08 to 117.36.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail

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

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