Tuesday October 13, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series winds up its 2009 season this weekend as the Whelen Modified Tour Series heads for the World Series of Speedway Racing presented by Xtra Mart – the finale for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s 25th season. Donny Lia, pilot of the No. 4 “Mystic Missile” Dodge owned by Bob Garbarino, will take a 26-point lead on Ryan Preece, driver of the No. 3 “Ole Blue” Chevrolet, of the famed Boehler family. Lia can clinch his second Whelen Modified Tour crown by finishing fifth or better but with Preece just 26 points out, anything can happen. Ted Christopher sits in third spot and is followed by Todd Szegedy and Rowan Pennick. Sixth through tenth are Mike Stefanik, Chris Pasteryak, Reick Beers, Woody Pitkat and Ed Flemke Jr. Eric Goodale has a lock on the Rookie of the Year honors.

At the Waterford Speedbowl the Fall Finale wound up the racing season at the shoreline oval. Ryan Morgan overcame adversity to checker the 20-lap Legends Car race, leading Saturday afternoon action. Bill Leonard won the NEATV Truck Series race and Wayne Coury Jr. won the Outlaw Stock race.

Keith Rocco will have to wait another year before he can say he has won Modified championships at all three Connecticut NASCAR sanctioned ovals. Rocco and Ron Yuhas Jr were locked in a battle for the SK Modified Championship as the shoreline oval closed out its season. It all came to an end for Rocco when he pitted with 52 laps remaining in the close-out 100 lapper. Rocco missed the restart and virtually handed Yuhas the title. Rocco had been leading the 100 lapper when he chose to pit during a caution when something didn’t feel right in the front end of his car. Rocco ended up losing numerous laps and ended up finishing in 17th spot. Yuhas finished second behind Jeff Paul.

As is usual, Modified racing at the Speedbowl is rough and tumble and survival of the fittest or luckiest. Joe Perry and Dennis Charette led the 27-car SK Modified field and championship chase to green for their 100-lap event. The fireworks started off turn four of lap one when Tom Abele Jr., who started third, and Charette made contact. That crossed the pair up in front of a stacked field behind, resulting in an 11-car pig pile entering turn one.

All eyes were on point’s contenders Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco. Heads up driving helped them from getting collected in the incident, as cars literally scattered in every direction around them. Dennis Gada, Jeff Pearl, Allen Coates and Matt Gallo were among those headed pit side in need of repair but able to continue on the lead lap of the race.

The restart proved no better, as Abele and Janovic came together off turn four coming to the green flag, ending with Abele’s car at rest against the turn one wall after making race ending contact with the wall. Once green, Jeff Paul moved inside of Perry to take over at the front. Racing only went a few laps before something broke on Pearl’s car, sending the Salem driver hard into the turn one wall on lap seven. When the green returned, only one more lap was able to be completed before caution flew again for a single car spin. That lap proved key however, as Rocco used a bump and run move on Paul to take over the lead off turn two on lap 10.

Rocco ran at the front with Paul and Janovic giving chase. Yuhas moved around the outside of Perry for fourth and closed in on the top three. Caution on lap 26 for a spin by Charette slowed what was the first look at how the race for the win and championship would shape up. Rocco had pressed early to get out front, with Yuhas in tow looking all over Janovic for third. Rocco lead through lap 38 when Paul, challenging outside, capitalized on a slip by Rocco to reclaim the top spot. Paul stretched out his lead as Rocco began backing up, something appearing to go away on his machine. Caution came out on lap 47 when Shawn Solomito spun off the backstretch. Rocco used that opportunity to duck in to the pits for service on what turned out to be a broken panhard bar. The championship hunt turned when the race returned green with Rocco still in the pits as his team made the repairs.

Paul reclaimed the lead when the action returned with Yuhas in second, Dennis Gada moving to third, and Janovic battling Mark Bakaj for fourth. Yuhas pressed Paul at the front. Gada sat three cars back in third. Further back, Bakaj took fourth but Janovic looked to take it back. Those two came together in turn four with 20 laps remaining to bring out caution.

That was the final restart Paul needed to master. He did, going on to his third victory of the season. Yuhas settled for second, good enough to clinch his first track title in his 10th season competing at the track.

Dennis Gada, finished third and was followed by Allen Coates and Matt Gallo.

Other winners in the Fall Finale were Ronnie Oldham Jr. in the Street Stocks, Tim Jordan in the Late Models and Lou Bellisle III in the Mini Stocks.

Next up at the Waterford Speedbowl is the never ending saga between track owner Terry Eames and his creditors who have a foreclosure slated for October 31.

The True Value Modified Racing Series converged on the Seekonk Speedway for the annual D. Anthony Venditti Classic. Mike Stefanik scored his first ever win at what is known as the Cement Palace. Starting 22nd, the former NASCAR Modified Champion didn’t break into the top ten until lap 60 of the 100 lap event. Hooked up, Stefanik broke into the top five by lap 70 and set his sights on the victory. By lap 85 Stefanik had zeroed in on the bumper of leader Dwight Jarvis after passing Rowan Pennick for the second spot. Also on lap 85 Jim Dolan spun, setting the stage for a restart, which would see Stefanik, vault into the lead for the eventual win. Jarvis held on to finish second and was followed by Pennick, Steve Masse, Ryan Preece, Richard Savory and Mike Douglas.

Gary Danko's Speedway Line Report radio show reported on Monday, Nov. 6 that US Marshalls will be auctioning off the racing equipment from Jim Galante's Mystique Motorsports operation, which includes six fully built or partially built Whelen Modified Tour and SK Modifieds, a Freightliner tractor trailer and race car hauler. Various racing equipment will also be included in the auction, which will take place at Metro Auto Body and Towing at 722 Wethersfield Ave. in Hartford. Included in the inventory are two complete NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars with Ford motors, two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car chassis under construction, one complete SK Modified car with a Chevrolet engine, one SK Modified under construction and tons of various racing parts plus a 53 foot Featherlite Race Car trailer with Tractor.

Dick Ceravolo continues to show a slight improvement in his condition. After first opening his eyes the popular former Waterford Speedbowl Modified Champion progressed to the point last week that he began to speak. He is fully aware what happened to put him in the hospital as he remembers most of what transpired. A slight infection continues to put reconstructive surgery on hold. He continues to be in Intensive Care, now in its eighth week, at the Yale-New Haven Hospital. Cards of cheer can be sent to Dick Ceravolo, 1348 Baldwin Hill Rd, Gales Ferry, CT 06335. Ceravolo, 70, suffered serious injuries on Aug 21 while attempting to jumpstart a farm tractor.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be shown at 5:00pm on Tuesday and Wednesday, Thursday at 5:30 and Friday at 6:00pm. This weeks viewing starts on Tuesday when the Speed Channel replays the Oct 11 ARCA RE/MAX Series American 200 that was run at the Rockingham Speedway in Rockingham, NC. At 7:30pm Speed has a half hour program dedicated to news of the Chase for the Sprint Cup, At 8:00pm Speed has a special showing of the movie “Dale”. Following at 10:00pm is another movie, “NASCAR: The Ride of Their Lives”. Wednesday’s viewing gets the green flag at 10:00am when the Speed Channel presents “Building the NASCAR Hall of Fame” followed at 11:00am by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Vote. At noon the Speed Channel replays last weekends NASCAR Sprint Cup Pepsi 500 that was run at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Three hours of coverage of the NASCAR Hall of Fame Announcement follows at 3:00pm. At 5:30pm the action moves to espn2 for
“The Hendrick Motorsports Story. At 7:00pm it’s back to the Speed Channel for more NASCAR Hall of Fame Coverage. On Thursday the Speed Channel replays last years Bank of America 500 that was run at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Speed goes live at 3:00pm with a 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars at the Lowes Motor Speedway. NASCAR Live at Lowe's Motor Speedway follows at 4:30pm. At 5:00pm Speed replays the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series New Hampshire 100 that was run on Sept 19. At 6:00pm the action shifts to espn2 for Nationwide Series final practice at Lowes Motor Speedway. Live coverage on espn2 continues at 7:00pm with Sprint Cup qualifying at the Lowes Motor Speedway. Fridays viewing begins at 3:00pm with Nationwide Series qualifying from Lowes on espn2. The action switches to Speed at 5:00pm for a 60 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars. At 6:30pm espn2 will have the final hour of Sprint Cup practice at Lowes. At 7:30 espn2 hosts the pre-race show that leads into the 8:00pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Dollar General 300 at the Lowes Motor Speedway. NASCAR Now on espn2 starts Saturday’s viewing at 10:00am. Trackside on Speed follows at 11:00am. At 5:00pm NASCAR Raceday serves as a two hour preview of the upcoming Sprint Cup event at Lowes. At 7:00 ABC takes over with the pre-race show that will lead into the 7:25pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Banking 500 at the Lowe's Motor Speedway. If the Sprint Cup race becomes boring fans can switch to the Speed Channel at 9:00pm for the Knoxville Nationals Late Model Races at the Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, IA. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Banking 500 from the Lowe's Motor Speedway will be reshown by ESPN Classic on Sunday at 1:00pm. On Sunday evening, the Speed Channel has The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm followed by NASCAR Now on espn2 at 10:00.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week Speedway Motorsports was the only speedway stock to gain for the week as they went up 0.68 to 14.68. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.87 to 26.22 and Dover Motorsports closed where they started, at 1.51. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.35 to 3.58 while fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 2.21 to 29.36. Tire supplier Goodyear also had a positive week as they went up 1.67 to 17.23. The car builders had positive results for the week. Toyota went up 3.06 to 78.30 while Ford went up 0.28 to 7.12 and General Motors went up 0.03 to 0.70. The team sponsors also had a good week. Dupont went up 3.42 to 32.95, Coca-Cola went up 1.93 to 49.05, Target Department Stores went up 3.92 to 49.89 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.95 to 27.33. The home improvement giants were also in the green for the week. Home Depot went up 0.93 to 26.96 and Lowes went up 0.92 to 20.94.

The Charlotte Business Journal recently reported that Motorsports Authentics needs extensions to pay off royalties and to renegotiate contracts with various teams or it could end up in bankruptcy, according to a Speedway Motorsports Inc. filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission .

Owned 50-50 by track operating rivals Speedway Motorsports (TRK) and International Speedway Corp., Motorsports Authentics holds the rights to sell clothing, diecasts and other merchandise for many of the top drivers and teams in the sport, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing. Motorsports Authentics stopped paying certain guaranteed royalties under several license agreements during the summer when royalties on the projected sales were less than the guaranteed minimum royalties, according to the SEC filing. The company has received notice from licensors alleging default if Motorsports Authentics doesn’t pay the unearned royalties by certain deadlines.

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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