Tuesday October 6, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend for the Fall Final. With the exception of a brief practice session the Whelen Modifieds spent the day waiting for the rain to stop. There were 32 Whelen Modifieds on hand for the event that carried an $84,013 purse.

The entire program was run on Sunday. The sun was bright with very few clouds in the sky. Most important, the grandstands appeared to be full. Donny Lia and Ted Christopher, who have had somewhat of a war with words recently, slugged it out in time trials with Lia coming out on top with Christopher, second fastest. Rich Pallai Jr, who is a regular SK Modified competitor, qualified third in his Modified Tour debut. The top six redrew for starting positions, which placed Eric Berndt on the pole with Pallai on the outside in second spot. Lia drew fourth and Christopher fifth.

It was Lia’s race to win and Christopher’s to lose. Lia pitted shortly after the 1/3 mark and was able to work his way to the front, taking the lead from James Civali on lap 85 and from there never looked back as he went on to record the win. For Christopher, his day turned sour on lap 17 after he tangled and spun with Doug Coby. From there on, he spent more time in the pits than on the track as he had a final finishing position of 31st which ultimately cost him the point lead as the Modified Tour heads to it’s season ending event at Thompson on October 18. Lia presently holds a 26 point lead over Ryan Preece. Preece finished a strong third behind runner-up Doug Coby. Civali and Chris Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Rowan Pennick, Eric Beers, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero and Erick Rudolph.

Ten cautions for 42 laps slowed the event which kept Lia’s average speed down to 61.971 mph. Seventeen of the original 32 starters finished on the lead lap. Among those who failed to finish were Glen Reen who ran out of gas on lap 147 and pole sitter Eric Berndt who lost an engine on lap 129. Keith Rocco was eliminated in an accident as was Rob Summers, Carl Pasteryak and Christopher. Christopher goes into Thompson 109 points in arrears.

In regular weekly racing Keith Rocco rebounded from his recent suspension in fine style as he won the 40 lap SK Modified feature. It was his sixth win of the year. Woody Pitkat appeared to have victory in sight until his transmission went south with four laps to go. Todd Owen finished second with Brit Anderson, third. Ted Christopher, who had already sewed up the SK Modified Track Championship, took a hard shot into the wall in the turn four area after tangling with Josh Sylvester, was never a factor. Matt Gallo and Kerry Malone rounded out the top five. Christopher ended up in 22nd spot. Frank Ruocco, who had been running second to Christopher in points, did not compete. Woody Pitkat moved into second in the final standings.

In other Stafford weekly division action, Andrew Hayes won the 15 lap Dare Stock feature, Chad Baxter the Mini Stocks, Heather DesRochers won in the SK Lights and Shawn Thibeault won the Limited Late Model feature.

Congratulations to Ben Dodge JR who was presented the annual Jack Arute Sr. Award by the Speedway officials. The 2009 recipient, a longtime track announcer, was recognized for his 37 years of dedication to the track.

At the Waterford Speedbowl heavy, all day, rain washed out all racing. The shoreline oval winds up their racing season this week with “The Finale”. The event features scheduled 100-lap features for the SK Modifieds and Late Models, along with 50-lappers for the Street Stocks and Mini Stocks. Also included in the weekend card of racing are Legends Cars, Allison Legacy, NEATV Trucks, plus the Wild 'n Wacky X-Car, Super X-Car, X-Modified and Bandolero race teams will be on hand for events.

Bruce Thomas, who has won 10 of 17 features at the Speedbowl this year, was the beneficiary of the track calling off the final Saturday event of the season due to rain as he wrapped up the Late Model championship. He leads second-place Rich Staskowski by 76 points, but the most a driver can gain in one race is 50 points.
Keith Rocco has a six-point lead as he chases down his first season title in the SK-Modified division, the closest margin of any division. Ron Yuhas Jr. is in second in the track's premier division. The rainout eliminated Rob Janovic Jr., Jeff Paul and seven-time SK-Modified champion Dennis Gada from title contention. In other division races, Brandon Plemons leads the Mini Stock division by eight points over Walt Hovey Jr., while Ronnie Oldham Jr. and Al Stone III are also still alive.

In the Street Stock division, Danny Field has an 18-point lead over Kyle James, with Lou Bellisle III in third place.

The True Value Modified Series headed to the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH. The Twin State race was the first of three races to wind up the 2009 season for the True Value Modified Racing Series. A heated point battle between Jon McKennedy, Rob Goodenough, and Rowan Pennink, all but guaranteed a new series champion. McKennedy has already visited victory lane earlier this season at Twin State. Pennick did not compete as he was at Stafford for the Fall Final.

This year’s race honored the late Ricky Miller along with the late Donnie Ayer and the late Kirby Monteith.

The New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame has announced seven inductees for their 2010 induction class. NASCAR Modified car owners Bob Garbarino and Billy Simons along with Vic Miller. Drivers Geoff Bodine, Mike Murphy, George Savory, and Pete Fiandaca, and racing contributor and official Frank Ferrara. The induction ceremony for the Hall of Fame's 13th class is Jan. 30, 2010, at the La Renaissance in East Windsor, CT. Still to be announced are the inductees from the Veterans Committee and the Jack Ratta Memorial (media) winner.

The Saratoga Automobile Museum has announced that their “LOST SPEEDWAYS” program will again be presented on Saturday, November 28, 2009. The most popular Racing in New York gallery program will return on the traditional “Saturday after Thanksgiving” date with memorabilia displays, driver autographs and presentations recalling speedways no longer in existence. Among the speedways to be highlighted are, with their presenters, include Lebanon Valley Before the High Banks – Ed Bittig Sr., Flat Track Motorcycle Racing – Mark Supley, Pico, VT. Speedway’s NY Stars – Bill Ladabouche, The Tracks of New York City – Gary London, Team Racing at Riverside Park – Lew Boyd and former participants, The Beach Course at Daytona – Russ Truelove and Greg Rickes and tentatively, Albany-Saratoga -The Old Asphalt Days – Brian Ross and Ron Hedger.

In a somewhat related matter, the dirt has been removed from the 4/10-mile Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY. The word on the condition of the asphalt is that it is in good shape. The paved surface will be washed and should be in top form when the True Value Modifieds visit in 2010. During the late 1960s and early 1970s the speedway was a mecca for Modified Racing, drawing the best of New York and New England to do battle.

Dick Ceravolo continues to show a slight improvement in his condition. Late last week “Dickie Doo” opened his eyes for the first time in six weeks. Showing a big smile, the popular former Waterford Modified Champion is awake and alert. Because of the fact that he is still on a ventilator he is unable to speak but is able to respond by moving his head, yes or no. Ceravolo has turned the corner and is now heading back to a full recovery. A slight infection continues to put reconstructive surgery on hold. He continues to be in an induced coma, now in its seventh week. 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, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will re-show last Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Price Chopper 400 that was run at the Kansas Speedway. On Thursday at noon the Speed Channel will re-show the 2005 Sony HD 500 that was run at the California Speedway in Fontana, CA. The NASCAR Camping World Touring Series West Toyota/Copart 150 that was run at the All American Speedway in Roseville, CA, follows at 3:00pm. The Speed Channel will provide five hours of coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction From the Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, starting at 6:00pm. Friday’s viewing starts at noon when Speed re-shows the Sept. 25 NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East Sunoco 150 that was run at the Dover Intl. Speedway. Speed goes live at 2:00pm from the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Live coverage from Fontana continues at
2:30 with a 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars. At 4:00pm its back to Las Vegas for 90 minutes of coverage of the Barrett-Jackson Automobile Auction. At 6:30 its back to Fontana for Sprint Cup qualifying. Saturday’s viewing begins at 1:00pm with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series from the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, FL. At 3:00pm the action switches to espn2 for Sprint Cup final practice. At 4:00pm, espn2 has the pre-race show that will lead to a 4:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Copart 300 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Sunday’s viewing starts at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on espn2. At 12:30pm the Sped Channel previews the upcoming Sprint Cup race at Fontana. At 1:30 the action moves to ABC for a NASCAR special, The Hendrick Motorsports Story. At 2:30 ABC goes with the pre-race show that will lead in to the 3:15pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pepsi 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. 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. Also at 10:00pm is same day-taped delayed coverage of the ARCA RE/MAX Series American 200 that was run at the Rockingham Speedway in Rockingham, NC.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks produced positive results. Dover Downs and the International Speedway Corporation each went up 0.02 for the week. Dover closed at 1.51 while ISC closed at 27.09. On the negative side was Speedway Motorsports which dropped 0.14 to 14.00. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.02 to 3.93 while Sun Oil dropped 0.60 to 27.15. Tire supplier Goodyear also had a negative week as they dropped 0.66 to 15.36. The car makers also took a hit. Toyota dropped 5.86 to 75.24 while Ford dropped 0.45 to 6.84 and General Motors dropped 0.08 to 0.67. With the exception of Aarons Rentals which went up 0.22 to 26.38, many team sponsors took it on the chin. Dupont dropped 1.21 to 30.53, Coca-Cola dropped 1.68 to 47.12 and Target Department Stores dropped 0.31 to 45.97. In the home improvement sector Lowes dropped 1.03 to 20.02 and Home Depot dropped 0.82 to 26.03.

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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