Tuesday October 17, 2006   

By Phil Smith                                                          

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway last weekend for the annual World Series. Tony Hirschman set fast time in qualifying. It was the fourth Bud Pole Award of the season for Hirschman, the defending series champion, and also locked up the season long 2006 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award Championship.

Hirschman toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.697 seconds for an average speed of 120.340 mph. Ron Yuhas of Groton, Conn. was second fastest with a speed of 120.077 mph. Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn. qualified third with a speed of 120.045 mph. Defending race winner Jerry Marquis was fourth fastest and Waterford winner Donny Lia rounded out the Top-5.

The Top-8 qualifiers drew for starting position. Jimmy Blewett and Marquis made up the front row. Christopher started third while Hirschman lined up fourth. Yuhas drew fifth flanked by Lia. There were 42 cars on hand for time trials.

In other Saturday action at Thompson, Adam Norton of Brookfield, MA scored the victory in the Harry Kourafas Memorial for the Pro-Four Modified and Bernie Singer of Danbury, CT was the winner of the All-Star Truck Series event. Thompson regulars visiting victory lane included Danny Cates of Chaplin, MA winning a thriller in the Limited Sportsman event, Joe Godbout III of Hope Valley, RI in the Mini Stocks and Roger Larson, Jr. of Milford, MA in the TIS Modifieds. Feature events were also run for the Outlaw divisions with Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI (Late Model), Jimmy Silvia of Middletown, RI (Strictly Stock) and Michael O’Connor of Barrington, NH (Mini Stock).
Sunday was a perfect fall day for racing.. The only thing negative was the way that campers hogged space in the parking lot. There is no order for them to park as they park every which way. The speedway needs to regulate the camper parking in the future.

In what ended up being a surprise finish Reggie Ruggiero took the checkered flag in the Whelen Modified Tour Series Xtramart 150. Ted Christopher had taken the lead from Jimmy Blewett as they exited turn four on the 122nd lap. One lap later Billy Pauch Jr hit the wall in turn two, bringing out the caution. When the field went back to green on lap146 Christopher led the charge with John Blewett III in hot pursuit. On lap 147 as Christopher entered turn three Blewett attempted to pass on the low side. Christopher moved down to block. Blewett knew he was about to be pinched into the infield grass and turned into Christopher, sending him hard into the wall. With both cars destroyed Reggie Ruggiero, who was running third, inherited the lead for a green – white – checkered finish on lap 158. Jimmy Blewett ended up in second spot as he had nothing for Ruggerio at the finish. Jerry Marquis finished third with Donny Lia and Mike Stefanik rounding out the top five.

Jimmy Blewett led the charge at the drop of the green. Jerry Marquis took the lead by the time the field got to turn two. The first caution flew on lap 20 for Billy Pauch Jr who spun on the front chute. Marquis continued to lead until lap 25 when Tony Hirschman took the lead. The second caution flew on lap 35 when Danny Sammons and Kenny Barry got together in turn three. The green flew on lap 40 but one lap later the caution was out again for a seven car tangle on the front chute. Marquis retook the lead when the field went back to green on lap 46. Hirschman faded to fourth as Reggie Ruggerio and Ted Christopher slipped by. Two laps later the caution flew again, this time for a 14 car tangle in turn one that brought out the red. The field went back to green on lap 53 with Marquis leading Ruggerio, Christopher and Jimmy Blewett. By the time the field entered turn one Christopher had shot into the lead. Lap 55 saw the caution waving again, this time as Bob Grigas drilled Eric Beers into the turn four wall. Back under green at lap 60, Christopher still led Marquis as John Blewett III moved into third. Blewett moved past Marquis on lap 78. Christopher continued to lead as Blewett’s tires began to wear. By lap 94 Blewett had slipped to fourth when he spun by himself as he exited turn two. Blewett along with Christopher, Marquis and a host of others pitted for fresh rubber on lap 96. Richard Savory assumed the lead over Donny Lia as the field took the green on lap 100. A three wide move by Grigas on the backstretch triggered a wreck that collected among others, Mike Stefanik and Tony Hirschman, which ended their bid for a possible win. Savory led until he was passed by Jimmy Blewett on lap 122, as previously mentioned. It was the 44th career victory for Ruggiero, who drives the Atlantic Sprinkler Chevrolet, and his first since 2004 when he won at Wall Township , N.J. Ruggiero’s last win at Thompson occurred in 1998.

“Nobody seemed to want to win this race tonight, “ said Ruggiero. “I was just glad we were in a position to get it at the end.”

Christopher was credited with 19th position after the lap 148 accident, effectively ending his hopes for his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship. Mike Stefanik of Coventry , R.I. finished fifth in the race and now leads Christopher by 148 points. Stefanik needs to earn at least a last place finish in the final race of the year at Stafford Springs , Conn. on Oct. 28 to secure his seventh career title.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series now heads for the Stafford Motor Speedway for the Fall Final that was originally scheduled for Sunday, October 1. The event will be run on Saturday and will bring to a close the 2006 Whelen Modified Tour Series season. Based on the redraw for starting spots Todd Szegedy who was also the Busch Pole sitter will lead the 32 car starting field to the green flag. Tony Hirschman will start outside pole with Eddie Flemke Jr. starting third. Ted Christopher and Chuck Hossfeld round out the top five.

In other Sunday action at Thompson, Todd Ceravolo scored a convincing win over Jimmy Blewett, Jeff Malave, Zach Sylvester and Woody Pitkat. David Berghman beat out Fred Astle Jr for the 50 lap Pro Stock win. A scarey moment occurred on lap 29 when Scott Rotherford went up and over another competitor and slid on his roof into the turn one wall and catching fire. Ben Dodge Jr, special assistant to track owner Don Hoenig, ran to the accident and pulled Rotherford to safety as fire engulfed the entire car. Ben Seitz won the NEMA Midget 25 lapper and Nokie Fornoro won the 50 lap ISMA Supermodified event after early leader Chris Perley dropped out. Sixty five year old Bentley Warren finished second.

Congratulations to Norwich, Conn. Native Bob Potter on his selection to the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame. Potter, who has 140 feature wins to his credit, is a five time Modified Track Champion at the Waterford Speedbowl and a five time Modified Track Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway. He was also the 1988 Duel Track (Thompson – Stafford) Champion. A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95. Potter will be inducted to the Hall of Fame on January 28, 2007 at the La Renaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Potter joins an elite group that includes Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Gene Bergin and Wild Bill Slater to name a few. Also to be inducted along with Potter are Supermodified great Bentley Warren, Busch East competitor Dave Dion, Canadian Jean Paul Cabana, John Rosati, car owner and former owner of the Westboro, Mass. Speedway John Falconi Sr, car builder/crew chief Bob Johnson and former Northeastern Midget Association president John McCarthy. The 10th anniversary inductees represent over a thousand victories and three-dozen championships.

In TV land this week, viewing begins on Wednesday at 4:00p.m. on the Speed Channel with the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship Series Race No. 3 that was run in Mansfield, OH on Oct 14. At 8:00p.m. the actin switches to the Outdoor Channel for the World of Outlaws, Williams Grove National Open, that was run at the Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, PA, on Sept 30. The action returns to the Speed Channel at noon on Thursday for the NASCAR Busch Series Dollar General 300 that was run at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC last Saturday. The NASCAR Nextel Cup, Bank of America 500 that was also run at the Lowes Motor Speedway will follow at 2:20p.m. Later in the day NASCAR Beyond the Wheel goes at 7:30. At 8:00 Speed presents NASCAR Beyond the Wheel, live from Martinsville, VA. Live action from Martinsville continues at 3:00p.m. on Friday with NASCAR Live from Martinsville. NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying for the Subway 500 at Martinsville begins at 3:30. Trackside at Martinsville wraps up the qualifying session at 7:00p.m. Also at 7:00p.m. ESPN Classic presents a re-run of the 1995 Goodys 500. Following the race ESPN Classic will present the movie, Days of Thunder. At 11:00p.m. it will be live coverage of the NASCAR Toyota All-star Showdown qualifying as NASCAR's top teams in Grand National and Elite divisions compete for national recognition and over $500,000 in posted awards at the Irwindale Speedway in California. Saturday’s viewing begins at 11:00am with NASCAR Nextel Cup final practice for Sunday’s Subway 500. Live action from Martinsville continues at noon with NASCAR Live followed by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Martinsville. At 10:00p.m. Speed goes live for the NASCAR Toyota All-star Showdown at the Irwindale Speedway in California. Sunday’s TV coverage begins at 8:00am with NASCAR Performance from Martinsville. NASCAR RaceDay previews the Subway 500 at 11:30. At 12:30 the action switches to NBC for the NASCAR Nextel Cup, Subway 500 from Martinsville. NASCAR Victory Lane wraps up the Nextel Cup event at 7:00 followed by The Speed Report at 8:00p.m. Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain, co-host: Jeff Gordon and guest Dale Earnhardt Jr. goes at 9:00p.m.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the negative side. The International Speedway Corporation ended up in the green as they went up 0.39 to 50.46. Dover Downs dropped 0.05 to 5.50 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.74 to 36.30. Sprint-Nextel dropped 0.66 to 17.79 while Sun Oil (Sunoco) went up 3.48 to 65.68. Featherlite Trailers dropped 0.01 to 6.44 and Dirt Motorsports dropped 0.15 to 2.75. In the drug sector Bristol Meyers-Squib went up 0.11 to 24.55 while Pfizer dropped 0.32 to 27.59. The home improvement sector was also in the same boat as Home Depot dropped 0.24 to 36.90 while Lowes went up 1.74 to 30.95. The parcel carriers were also split as Fedex went up 1.68 to 113.98 while UPS dropped 0.87 to 73.40.

Photo Credits:
Fran Lawlor

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

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

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