Tuesday October 2, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend for the annual Fall Final. Rain dampened all activities at the track on Friday as competitors set up shop for the weekend. Twenty six Modifieds signed in to compete on Saturday. Ron Silk and Bryan Chew had a NASCAR "spec" motor in their cars. Jimmy Blewett won the Coors Light Pole Award on Saturday.

Blewett toured the half-mile Connecticut oval in 18.308 seconds for an average speed of 98.318 mph behind the wheel of his No. 76 John Blewett Inc./Ed Bennett Properties Chevrolet. Second fastest was Bobby Santos, who posted a time of 18.371 seconds (97.981 mph). Defending tour champion Ron Silk registered the third-quickest time at 18.474 seconds (97.434 mph) followed by Woody Pitkat at 18.496 seconds (97.318 mph) and Matt Hirschmann with a time of 18.505 seconds (97.271 mph). Todd Szegedy, Eric Beers, Bryon Chew, Donnie Lia and Ryan Preece rounded out the top-10 qualifiers.

Among the announcements made to competitors was that in 2013 all the Mod tour seats are going to have to be SFI approved which will ultimately weed some cars out. Just what the car owners need, spend more money!

Bobby Santos waited until the end to make his move and then powered past Woody Pitkat to win the CARQUEST Fall Final Sunday at Stafford Motor Speedway. Santos also beat the rain which came shortly after the checker flew. Santos, who started on the outside pole saved the best for last as he took the lead from Pitkat with four laps to go in the 150 lap contest. Pitkat led a race-high 128 laps at his hometown track. The Stafford driver had a cushion of over a second late in the race before Santos cleared lapped traffic and tracked him down. Santos wound up winning by .644 seconds. Pitkat's car suffered power steering problems which made it difficult to steer. Jimmy Blewett finished third. Blewett pitted early for tires but the strategy backfired when the race ran 93 laps under green. Neither Santos nor Pitkat pitted.

Ron Silk and Ryan Preece finished fourth and fifth, respectively. Mike Stefanik was sixth, followed by Donny Lia, Bryon Chew, Doug Coby and Matt Hirschman. also on the lead lap at the finish was Justin Bonsignore, Ron Yuhas, Jr, Eric Beers, Richie Pallai,, Jr., Rowan Pennink, Jamie Tomaino and Eric Goodale. One lap down and rounding out the top 20 were Ed Flemke, Jr., Tommy Barrett, Jr., and Ted Christopher.

Among those who had problems and failed to finish was Keith Rocco who finished dead last in 26th spot as a result of engine trouble on lap 10.

Blewett took the lead at the drop of the green but his time on the point was short as Ronnie Silk took over the top spot shortly before completing three laps. Silk led thru lap 16 before giving way to Pitkat. Pitkat was clearly the class of the field in his Hillbilly Racing entry as he led thru lap 144 when he couldn't hold on any longer with a car that steered like a truck.

With his victory, Santos locked up a spot in the NASCAR Whelen Modified race at the UNOH Battle At The Beach on the .4-mile oval at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway next February during Speedweeks.

With one race remaining Coby holds a 17-point lead over Ryan Preece and 18 over defending tour champion Silk. Lia and Justin Bonsignore round out the top five but are mathematically eliminated from championship contention. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour concludes the season Sunday, Oct. 14 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.

In other action at Stafford Eric Berndt took the checkered flag in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, while Ted Christopher clinched his 8th career SK Modified® track championship. Mark St. Hilaire came up as the winner of the 30-lap Late Model feature with a dramatic last lap pass and Woody Pitkat clinched the championship even though he was caught up in a first lap crash that saw him finish 20th.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl track management was forced to cancel its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program that was scheduled. A lingering light rain and drizzle persisted over the speedway for several hours, preventing track drying efforts from
successfully occurring.

With Saturday’s cancellation, just one event remains on the track’s 2012 NASCAR racing season. The annual Finale Weekend hits the famed Connecticut shoreline oval October 5th-7th. Fourteen feature races are included in the weekend of racing, highlighted by extra-distance races for the track’s weekly NASCAR divisions.

Due to the postponement of Saturday night’s event two of the track’s weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series point championships are virtually locked up. Unofficially Dillon Moltz of Waterford holds an 81-point edge over the competition in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division while Ken Cassidy Jr. of Lisbon takes a 126-point lead in the Mini Stock division into the final weekend of racing. Pending final official review by track officials, each stands in line to be named champion in their respective divisions. Championship battles for SK Modifieds®, Street Stocks and SK Light Modifieds will be settled at Finale Weekend in the Speedbowl’s other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions along with titles in additional regular track divisions.

The racing community lost a true legend on Wednesday, Sept 26, when Bob Newton, the founder of Hoosier Racing Tire, died at the age of 84. Hoosier Racing Tire is the largest racing tire manufacturer in the world. Newton’s vision to create a company specifically to build racing tires was a radical one, but the company has become synonymous with auto racing.

Two days later on Friday, Sept 28, legendary motorsports journalist Chris Economacki died. Known as “The Dean of Motorsports Journalism”, Economacki was 91 years old. Economacki, a Brookyln, N.Y. native began selling copies of National Speed Sport News at age 13 and later became the editor of the publication. Economacki's “Editor’s Notebook” was must read material within motorsports.

Noted and highly respected auto racing writer and columnist Gary London had been involved with Economacki for 49 years and had this to say. "The loss of Chris Economaki hurts both personally and professionally, I don’t think I have to say too much regarding the influence National Speed Sport News had on auto racing". He added, "For many years our sport was ignored by daily newspapers, It had no voice. Chris came along and NSSN was a big factor to elevating our sport to a more significant status, He was a tireless worker from the days as a teenager when he was selling National Auto Racing News, the precursor to NSSN, to becoming the editor and publisher".

In action on the tube this week last Sunday's Sprint Cup race that was held in Dover Delaware will re-air on Wednesday at noon on the Speed Channel. The Dover Nationwide Series event will air at noon on Thursday, also on the Speed Channel. Last weeks NASCAR Kids and Nephews Series event that was run at Dover will air at 3:00pn on Thursday.

Speed goes live on Friday at 2:30pm with Sprint Cup practice from Talladega. NASCAR Live breaks it up at 3:30 followed by Sprint Cup final practice at 4:00pm. Truck Series qualifying begins on Speed at 5:00pm.
Saturday's viewing starts at 11:00am with Trackside at Talladega at 11:00am on the Speed Channel. Sprint Cup qualifying follows at noon. At 3:30 Speed has the Truck Series pre-race show that will lead to 4:00pm start of the Camping World Truck Series Coca-Cola 250 at Talladega.

Sunday's viewing begins at 11:00am with a two hour RaceDay preview of the Talladega Sprint Cup event. At 1:00pm the action moves to ESPN for the Talladega Pre-Race show that will lead to the 2:00pm start of the Good Sam Club 500 at Talladega.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. While Dover Motorsports went up 0.05 to 1.39, Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.45 to 15.40 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.26 to 28.37. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.13 to 5.52 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.54 to 12.19 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.18 to 46.83. The car builders had an off week. Ford dropped 0.54 to 9.86, General Motors dropped 2.01 to 22.75 and Toyota dropped 3.00 to 28.51. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.95 to 60.37 and Lowes went up 0.05 to 30.24. The big team sponsors were on a rocky road. Dupont dropped 1.53 to 50.27, Target dropped 1.97 to 63.47 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.58 to 27.81 while Coca-Cola went up 1.10 to 68.10 and Fedex went up 0.23 to 84.62.

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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