Tuesday October 16, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pulled into the Thompson Speedway to finish up their season and crown a Champion last weekend. The event drew 32 Modifieds. Eric Berndt earned the second Coors Light Pole Award of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career on Saturday in advance of the season finale Sunoco-Town Fair Tire World Series on Sunday. Berndt toured the .625-mile, high-banked oval in 18.607 seconds (120.922 mph) for his first pole since 2009. Bobby Santos III posted the second-fastest qualifying lap at 18.624 (120.812). Ron Silk was third fastest with Ryan Preece, fourth and Justin Bonsignore, fifth. Rounding out the top ten was Mike Stefanik, Eric Beers, Jimmy Blewett, Doug Coby and Andy Seuss.

The speedway beat back the threat of rain and now the 2012 season is history. The World Series of Auto Racing victory lane hosted Bobby Santos as Whelen Modified Tour winner, Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco Modifieds, Randy Cabral in the NEMA Midgets, Rob Summers in ISMA Super Modifieds, and Larry Gelinas in the Super Late Models.

Santos held off a determined Todd Szegedy to win the Sunoco Race Fuels – Town Fair Tire 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race and collect his second consecutive win this season and 8th career victory. Doug Coby finished sixth and won his first Whelen Modified Tour Championship. Santos started the 150-lap race from the outside pole and took the lead from Todd Szegedy on lap 130 when he dove to the bottom groove in turn three. Santos held off Ryan Preece on a late-race restart to take the checkers.

Preece, who finished the race in second, led the most laps at 56 and finished the series point battle in second place. Szegedy finished the race in third. Rounding out the tp five were Mike Stefanik and Eric Beers. Sixth thru tenth was Coby, Tommy Barrett, Patrick Emerling, Keith Rocco and Pitkat. Nineteen cars finished on the lead lap. Rocco wrapped up the 2012 Rookie of the Year award.

Woody Pitkat used a lap 11 restart to take the lead from Ted Christopher and drive to a victory in the 30-lap Sunoco Modified feature. Richie Gallup led the opening lap of the Sunoco Modified feature, but caution called for a complete restart. Gallup led again when the green dropped, but Ted Christopher soon maneuvered by him and drove his No. 13 machine to the point. Michael Gervais and Ryan Preece made up the top-three when everything sorted itself out.

Caution slowed their pace at lap nine, but it didn’t slow Christopher down, who darted back to the front on the restart. Pitkat used the inside groove to get by Gervais for second before a car hit the back straightaway wall and set the field up for another restart. Pitkat and Christopher went into turn one dead even, but Pitkat emerged the leader coming out of turn two. Preece and Ceravolo got around Christopher for second and third, but Ceravolo fell off the pace entering the first turn of lap 16. Caution flew at lap 18 with Pitkat, Preece, Christopher, and Gervais making up the first two rows for the restart.

Pitkat took command at the drop of the green with Preece on his bumper. Pitkat had to do it all over again after a caution on lap 19, but it didn’t slow him down. Preece, however, got shuffled back to the fourth position with Christopher and Danny Cates taking over second and third. Pitkat and Christopher quickly pulled away from the rest of the field with Pitkat keeping a car length ahead. A half a second behind them, Preece and Cates battled door-to-door for the third position with Preece having the advantage by a nose. On lap 29, Preece secured the spot while Pitkat continued to lead up front. Pitkat took the checkers a car length ahead of Christopher. Ryan Preece finished third with Danny Cates and Michael Gervais rounding out the top five.

Before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour hopefully returns to Thompson International Speedway next spring for the Icebreaker there are other fish to fry as there are two major events on the offseason schedule. The 28th NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion will be crowned as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Awards banquet, which will include ceremonies for the seven NASCAR touring series on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach will then take place Feb. 18-19 on a temporary .4-mile oval on the backstretch at Daytona International Speedway as part of 2013 Speedweeks.

By virtue of wins through the Whelen Modified Tour’s first 13 events, Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby, Donny Lia, Ryan Preece, Bobby Santos, Ron Silk and Mike Stefanik have locked-in starting positions for the 150-lap exhibition Whelen Modified-Whelen Southern Modified Tour combination race on Feb. 19

The Valenti Modified Racing Series shared the Thompson Speedway with their big brothers and had their own feature on Saturday night. The New England based series was 36 cars strong. Rowan Pennink picked up his third victory of the season in the Valenti Modified Racing Series after taking the lead at lap 40. Justin Bonsignore led from the pole before caution slowed the race for the first time at lap two. On the restart, Bonsignore drove back out front with Todd Owen right on his bumper. On lap four, Owen shot around to the lead with Bonsignore and Christopher in tow. Owen drove straight to the front when racing resumed after a caution on lap 11 with Chris Pasteryak getting underneath Bonsignore for second. Pasteryak attached himself to Owen’s bumper, and heading into turn one on lap 17, shot to the bottom and drove to the lead. Pasteryak put some distance over the rest of the field once out front while Christopher took over second. Louie Mechalides took that spot from Christopher when the Plainville, Conn. native pulled his ailing machine onto pit road at lap 34. Mechalides set his sights on Pasteryak, who was maneuvering through lapped traffic nearly a second in front of him. Caution flew at lap 40 with many cars electing to go down pit road, but Pasteryak was not one of them. Rowan Pennink joined Pasteryak on the front row for the restart, and took over the lead when the green flag dropped. On the next circuit, Brad VonHouten and Leo Oliviera made contact. Oliviera’s car climbed the outside retaining wall and traveled over 100 feet on that wall before coming to a stop in the middle of turns one and two. The race went under red flag conditions as safety and track personnel attended to Oliviera, who escaped unharmed, and his car. On the restart, Pennink jumped to the lead with Pasteryak and Richard Savary in tow. Lap 50 brought out the caution once again, and on the restart, Pennink drove straight to the front as Pasteryak held off a challenge for second. Jon McKennedy and Steve Masse rounded out the top-four. McKennedy used the bottom to get by Pasteryak on lap 54 while Masse followed his line on the following circuit. Pennink held off McKennedy through two more restarts, but it was getting harder for him to shake McKennedy, who was glued to his rear bumper as they hit five laps to go. Caution flew with two laps to go setting up a green-white-checkered finish, but even that was not enough to shake Pennink, who drove to the victory.

Jon McKennedy finished second followed by Steve Masse and Richard Savory. Louie Mechalides rounded out the top five. Sixth thru 10th were Chris Pasteryak, Max Zachem, Todd Owen, Charlie Pasteryak and Norm Wrenn.

Pennink’s victory in the Valenti Modified Racing Series 75-lapper highlighted an action packed night at Thompson that offered 11 features of racing. John Studley, John Lowinski-Loh, Tommy O’Sullivan, Jesse Gleason, Eric Bourgeois, Glen Thomas, Jr., Chris Correll, and Dave Richardi all visited victory lane on World Series weekend. There was a total of 337 cars signed into the pits for the three day event. The car count increased by 61 over last years total which was 276.

Down in the Southland George Brunnhoelzl III clinched his third NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship just by taking the green flag Thursday night in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And then he closed out the season in style as he went out and led every lap en route to his sixth win of the season. It marked the 17th career win for the West Babylon, N.Y., driver and his first on the quarter-mile oval on the frontstretch at Charlotte. Brunnhoelzl also became the first driver to win three NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified titles, breaking a tie he held with Junior Miller (2005-06).

The event, which drew 20 cars, had some northern flavor as Ryan Preece finished in the runner-up spot and Ted Christopher in the Hillbilly 79 finished seventh. Burt Myers finished third with Danny Bohn and Andy Seuss rounding out the top five.

As reported last week, Indoor Auto Racing returns to the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence, R.I. on New Years Eve, Monday, December 31. The event, produced by Len Sammons Motorsports Productions, will bring powerful Three Quarter Midget cars and nimble Champ Karts to the arena for the second time in 2012. The New Years’ Eve event has been scheduled to coincide with downtown Providence’s annual Bright Lights Festival, a day and night of fun- filled activities taking place in the city. The annual festival holds activities for family members of all ages.

A special room rate of $89 has been established at the Clarion Providence-Seekonk Hotel, located in Seekonk, Mass., just six miles from the entrance of the Dunkin’ Donuts center.

There will also be a New Year’s eve party with a buffet with carving stations, a beer and wine open bar from 11:00 to 12:00 midnight and a New Years Eve toast. Music for dancing will be provided by a D.J. and a cash bar will be open for the duration of the party. Tickets for the event will be $39 per person.

In action on the tube this week last weekend's Sprint Cup race that was held in Charlotte will be replayed by the Speed Channel at noon on Wednesday. The Charlotte Nationwide Series event will be replayed by Speed at noon on Thursday.

Speed goes live on Friday at noon at the Kansas Speedway with NASCAR Live. Live coverage from Kansas continues with Sprint Cup practice at 12:30pm. At 2:00pm the action moves to ESPN2 for Nationwide Series practice. Final practice for the Nationwide Series cars goes at 3:30pm followed by Sprint Cup qualifying at 5:00pm.

Saturday's viewing begins at 11:00am on ESPN2 with Sprint Cup practice at the Kansas Speedway. At noon the action moves to the Speed Channel for Nationwide Series pole qualifying. Final Sprint Cup series practice follows at 1:30pm. At 3:00pm the viewing action moves to ESPN for the Nationwide Series Countdown that will lead to the 3:30pm start of the Kansas Lottery 300 at the Kansas Speedway. This event will be re-shown by ESPN2 at 3:00am on Sunday.

Sunday's live viewing begins at 11:00am when the Speed Channel hosts a two hour RaceDay preview. At 1:00pm the viewing shifts to ESPN for the Sprint Cup countdown which will lead to the 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hollywood Casino 400 at Kansas. This event will be repeated at 12:00 midnight on ESPN2.

Area Auto Racing News reported last week that the Speed Channel could be no more in 2013. FOX Sports will be re-naming the channel and will use it to showcase more ball and stick sports with just a minimal amount of racing related programming.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.40 to 24.91 and Dover Entertainment dropped 0.07 to 1.40 while Speedway Motorsports went up 0,59 to 16.63. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.53 to 5.73 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.46 to 12.28. Friday was a transition day for NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil which was absorbed by Energy Transfer Partners. Energy Transfer (ETP) finished out the week at 42.61. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear finished out the week at 12.28, down 0.46. The car builders were down for the week. Ford dropped 0.04 to 10.12, General Motors dropped 0.36 to 24.44 and Toyota dropped 3.03 to 74.67. The home improvement sector was also down. Home Depot dropped 3.64 to 59.56 and Lowes dropped 0.59 to 31.18. With the exception of Fedex which went up 3.93 to 90.40 the big team sponsors were down for the week. Dupont dropped 1.66 to 48.69, Coca-Cola dropped 0.44 to 69.01, Target dropped 2.66 to 61.52 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.68 to 27.02.

Energy Transfer Partners LP said last Friday that it completed its acquisition of Sunoco Inc. for about $5.5 billion, creating one of the more diverse pipeline companies in the country. Under the terms of the deal, Sunoco shareholders could receive for each of their shares their choice of a combination of $25 in cash and 0.5245 of an Energy Transfer Partners common unit, $50 in cash or 1.0490 Energy Transfer Partners common units. Because more people chose the cash option, those shareholders will receive a prorated amount of cash and some units, the company said. Energy Transfer Partners said holders of about 2.6 percent of Sunoco's outstanding shares chose the cash and units combination, while 72.4 percent chose the cash and about 4.2 percent took the units. About 20.8 percent of shareholders didn't make a choice and therefore will get the cash and units combination. In total, Energy Transfer Partners will pay $2.6 billion in cash and 55 million common units. Based on their Thursday closing stock price, the units are worth about $2.29 billion. ETP pays a quarterly dividend of 8.3% or $3.58 per share.

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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