Tuesday October 21, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series wound its way to the Thompson Speedway as the division finished out their 2008 season at the annul World Series. Forty one Modifieds were on hand for time trials which were held on Saturday. Taking the pole was Eric Beers who also broke the track record with a fast time of 18.429. Second fastest was young sensation Ryan Preece in the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family. Third was championship contender Matt Hirschman with Jimmy Blewett and Chuck Hossfeld rounding out the top five. In the re-draw for the feature start Blewett drew the pole with Mike Stefanik drawing the outside pole. Preece drew third, Hossfeld, fourth and Ted Christopher, fifth. Beers drew sixth.

Ted Christopher celebrates in Victory Lane with his twin brother Mike. (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)

Among those in the field was Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified Champion Keith Rocco who placed the Joe Brady No.00 solidly in the field in 14th spot. Among those who didn’t qualify were Reggie Ruggerio and Billy Pauch Jr. Among those who had problems and had to rely on provisional starting spots were Todd Szegedy, Ed Flemke Jr, Danny Sammonds and Jamie Tomaino.

Ted Christopher went into last Sunday’s World Series with a different mindset than normal. Known as a hard charger, go for broke driver he was forced to take a conservative route. With Matt Hirschman breathing down his neck in the point standings the Plainville CT driver didn’t want a wreck ruining his chances. For the first half of the 150 lapper Hirschman and Christopher ran ninth and tenth. Both appeared to be waiting for the other to have problems. By the 100-lap mark the championship contenders were running fifth and sixth. On lap 120, while running third, Hirschman began to slow. Two laps later he was behind the pit wall with engine problems. Once Christopher got the word from Crew Chief Don Lafountain Christopher put the hammer down and went after the victory. Christopher passed Ron Silk for the lead on lap 134 and was never headed after that. Chuck Hossfeld ended up in second spot and was followed by Silk, Doug Coby and Eric Rudolph. There were 11 cautions for 49 laps and six lead changes among 5 drivers. Hirschman, who re-entered the event 21 laps down on lap 143 ended up in 25th spot. In addition to Hirschman the other hard luck story belonged to Ryan Preece. Preece was running fourth on lap 80 when his right front tire went flat. Preece pitted under green and lost a lap. The determined youngster made a determined bid as he ended up 14th, on the lead lap.

Three-time NASCAR Modified Champion Bugs Stevens (left) was honored prior to Sunday's race. Also picture is Whelen Engineering Vice President for Motorsports, Phil Kurze (right).
 (Photo Credit: Mary Hodge/NASCAR)

Thompson World Series feature activity kicked off on Saturday evening with eight (8) events. Corey Hutchings scored the victory in the Outlaw Late Models; Howard Payne came out of retirement to win in the All Star Race Trucks. Scott Michalski was up to his old tricks winning in the Mini Stocks. Scott Foster bested his brother to take top honors in the Outlaw Strictly Stock. Norm Wrenn, topped the Pro-Four Modifieds and Chris “Moose” Douton won in the Limited Sportsman division.

During pre-race activities on Sunday NASCAR continued their 60 years of racing recognition with 1955 Champion Bill Widenhouse from NC, 1970 Champion Fred DeSarro and 1967 thru 1969 Champion Carl 'Bugsy' Stevens honored.

Keith Rocco put a cap on what was considered a break-out season as he won the the NASCAR 30-lap Whelen All-American Series SK (SUNOCO) Modified feature. Rocco, a second generation racer, won the season ending SK Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl and finished second in Stafford’s season ender to wrap up the SK Modified championship there.Rocco was the 2007 champion at Thompson. Bert Marvin served up a spirited battle to finish second. Josh Sylvester finished third with Eric Goodale and Brian McCarthy rounding out the top five. Kerry Malone, who had previously wrapped up the track title, finished 19th in the high attrition event.

In other World Series events run on Sunday Chris Perley continued to be the dominant force in the International Supermodified Association taking down a strong victory at the World Series. Randy Cabral worked his magic taking his third straight Northeastern Midget Association feature victory. Derek Ramstrom turned in a dominating performance in the Pro Stocks; and Rick Gentes was victorious in the Late Models to conclude the race season at Thompson. The only thing remaining on Thompson’s slate is Don Hoenig’s All Automotive Swap Meet on November 1 & 2, 2008.

Congratulations to two-time NASCAR Featherlite Modified champion car owner Art Barry of Preston who is part of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Class of 2009. Among his many accomplishments are back-to-back NASCAR Whelen National Modified championships (2001-02 with driver Mike Stefanik) top the resume of Barry, 73. In 56 years of competition, Barry, who started racing at the Waterford Speedbowl, has won on 26 tracks from Maine to the Carolinas. His major wins include two Thompson 300 wins, two Stafford Springs Motor Speedway Spring Sizzler wins, two wins at Martinsville, VA and two at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the National Open at Lancaster. Barry’s SPAFCO race chassis brand is one of the top of chassis in Modified racing. In addition to Stefanik his many drivers included Jerry Dostie, Bobby Santos, Leo Cleary, Bob Potter, Jeff Fuller plus his son, Kenny. In the beginning Barry was a typical back yard racer as he fabricated his own chassis and built his own motors. In 1970 Barry’s racing career and working career almost came to an end when he suffered two crushed legs while directing a backing fire truck at the Preston City Fire house. Sheer determination and a lot of help from his friends helped Barry resume a normal life and a return to racing.

Bobby Dragon will be one of the inductees into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame.

Barry joins fellow Nutmegger John Fitch, a one-time International road racer and founder of Lime Rock Park. The list also includes drivers Bobby Dragon and Paul Richardson, promoters Bob Bahre, Jim McConnell and Tom Curley and car owner/ builder Rollie Lindblad.

The eight will be inducted on Jan. 25, 2009 at LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor, CT. Tickets, $42 each, will go on sale in November on the New England Antique Racers website

Still to come are three selections form the Veterans Committee along with the Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award and the Danny Pardi Memorial Award winners.

The True Value Modified Series closes out their season this week at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH. Chris Pasteryak holds a slight17 point edge over Mike Holdredge for series championship honors. Thanks in part to Mother Nature washing out the originally planned race program last month, the re-scheduled “Ricky Miller Memorial 100,” presented by New England Outdoor Furnaces, will be the final 2008 touring race for modified race cars in New England. Sunday’s race will honor the late Ricky Miller, a former Twin State racer, NASCAR modified competitor, and Riverside Park standout and champion. It will serve as a fundraiser for the Victory Junction Gang Camp. Miller, a very popular driver with fans and competitors alike, passed away in 2004.

When previously announced in March, Donnie Miller, father of the late racer, disclosed his intent to make the event a fundraiser choosing to benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp organization. Miller stated, “I want this event to mean something special and that is why I decided to make it a fundraiser for Kyle and Patty Petty’s fine organization. Miller added, “They founded this camp to help chronic and terminally ill children.” Miller’s goal of $15,000 is close to reality as all 100 laps have been sponsored by area businesses and fans setting a strong foundation for what organizers have been trying to attain. In addition to an afternoon of racing that also will highlight the Northeastern Midget Association, Pepsi Modifieds, and New England Pro-4 modifieds, fans will have the opportunity to win a number of door prize type raffles to also benefit the Victory Junction Gang Camp. A crisp $1,000 bill will be given away to some lucky fan holding a race admission ticket by Donnie and Barbara Miller, parents of the fallen racer.

Forgot to mention in last weeks column that Bill Slater was presented with the Dedication Award by Mark and Lisa Arute at Stafford Speedway's Fall Final.

In TV land this week televised action on the Speed Channel begins on Thursday at noon with a replay of last Sundays NASCAR Sprint Cup TUMS QuickPak 500 that was run at the Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA. ESPN Classic shows some vintage racing in the form of the 2000 Cracker Barrel 500 at Atlanta, GA that was won by Dale Earnhardt Sr. At 5:00pm it’s NASCAR Now on ESPN2. Friday’s action begins at 11:30am on Speed with NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series practice from the Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, GA. NASCAR Live follows at 1:00 followed by a 90 minute practice session starting at 1:30. The NASCAR Sprint Cup cars practice at Atlanta on Speed from 3:00 to 4:30. At 4:30 the action moves to ESPN Classic for Nationwide Series practice from the Memphis Motorsport Park in Tennessee.

At 6:00pm the action moves back to Speed for Trackside at Atlanta Motor Speedway. At 7:00 the Sprint Cup cars qualify on ESPN2. Speed wraps it up at 9:00 with another hour of Trackside. TV coverage gets an early start on Saturday as Speed provides live coverage of Craftsman Truck qualifying at Atlanta starting at 9:00pm. Live coverage continues at 10:30 with a 60-minute session of Sprint Cup practice. At the same time will be Nationwide Series practice from Memphis. The Craftsman Truck Series has their pre-race show on Speed at 1:00 followed by flag to flag coverage of the Atlanta 200 beginning at 1:30. If the trucks are not to your liking ESPN Classic will provide live coverage of the Nationwide Series Memphis 250 from the Memphis Motorsports Park beginning at 3:30pm. At 7:00pm ESPN2 will host the final practice for the Sprint Cup cars. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel will host a two hour special covering the highlites of the Oct 7-12 Super Dirt Week at the Syracuse Fairgrounds in central New York. For those of you who don’t get ESPN Classic, the Nationwide Series event from Memphis will be replayed at 11;00 ON espn2. Sunday’s viewing starts at 10:00am on espn2 with NASCAR Now. At 11:00 Speed begins a two hour preview of the upcoming Sprint Cup event. At 1:00pmABC takes over with a 60 minute pre-race that will lead in to a 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend on Sunday night with The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. If you can stay awake ESPN2 has a one-hour NASCAR Now at 10:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week the slide continued with a few exceptions. All three speedway stocks ended the week on a negative note. Dover Downs dropped 1.05 to 3.37. Speedway Motorsports dropped 1.07 to 14.03 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.80 to 26.80. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.51 to 3.06 while second tier sponsor Nationwide went up 2.16 to 48.99. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun oil dropped 0.17 to 25.15 while tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.50 to 11.70. NASCAR team sponsors rebounded somewhat. Dupont went up 0.37 to 33.77as Coca-Cola soared 3.37 to 41.33. Target Department Stores went up 2.37 to 39.37 while Aarons Rentals dropped 0.44 to 20.73. In the home improvement sector Lowes led the way as they went up 1.41 to 19.31. Home Depot went up 0.46 to 20.21. The parcel carriers continued to slide. Fedex dropped 5.81 to 62.55 and UPS dropped 1.16 to 50.54. On the bottom of the barrel is the World Racing Group at 0.02.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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