Tuesday September 11, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway for Modified Mania last weekend. Donnie Lia and car owner Bob Garbarino who are currently enjoying a dream season out time trailed thirty-five other Whelen Modifieds to score their third Busch Pole of the season. Lia and his Mystic Missile toured the 5/8-mile oval in 18.885 seconds. Ronnie Silk was aecond fastest with Matt Hirschman, third. Lia picked the pole starting position for the 150 lap main event. Ron Yuhas Jr picked the outside pole while Hirschman picked third.

Heavy rain at 4:00pm forced officials to postpone the event to Saturday September 22nd. It was announced Monday the event will now be run on Sunday September 23rd., going head to head with the Speedbowl's Fall Final.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series travels to the New Hampshire International Speedway this weekend.

Set your VCR/DVR!! The Speed Channel has announced the following times and dates for airing recent Whelen Modified Series Tour events: TV coverage of the WMT is scheduled for Wednesday Sept 12 12:00 1:30 pm Mansfield event, Thursday Sept 13 3:00-4:30 am Mansfield event, Wednesday Sept 19 12:00-1:30 pm Martinsville event and Thursday Sept 20 3:00-4:30 am Martinsville event.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Thompson it was great to see Mark Mockovak in his new spot with what is becoming a very popular series in New England. Thirty two True Value Modifieds were on hand for qualifying for their segment of Modified Mania at the Thompson Speedway. Chris Pastryak, Andy Seuss and Jimmy Kuhn won three Heat Races. The 75-lap True Value Modified Racing Series portion of Modified Mania at Thompson International Speedway was postponed after completing only 2 laps because of inclement weather. The event has been rescheduled for Saturday Sept. 22 in the evening. Andy Seuss was leading the event when the torrential rain began.

In regular NASCAR Whelen Weekly Racing action at the Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified heat Jimmy Blewett, Tommy Cravenho and Danny Cates won heat races. Glenn Boss scored the victory in the lone TIS Modified heat. Norm Wrenn and Jeff Zuidema of scored heat race wins for the Pro-Fours.

Matt Hirschman went pole to pole as he led every lap of the Race of Champions main event before the rains came in forcing the postponement of the Whelen Modified Tour 150 and the True Value Modified Racing Series. The True Value Modified Racing Series completed only two laps with Andy Suess of Hampstead, NH, holding the point before torrential rains hit the speedway.

Three of the other scheduled events of Modified Mania II were completed before the rains came with Todd Ceravolo taking down the Sunoco Modified main event and Leo Oliveira scored the TIS Modifieds victory. Thompson regular Norm Wrenn scored the Pro-Four Victory. Hirschman, the current Central Region point leader, led every lap en route to the victory. The second-generation driver jumped from his third-place starting spot to lead the opening lap and would not be headed. Rick Kluth ran strong in the second spot for much of the race. In the late stages, with Hirschman out front, Kluth turned back advances of a charging Woody Pitkat. The current Northern Region leader, Pete Brittain, who had run a conservative race up to this point, turned it on with only a hand full of laps remaining. With five laps to go, Hirschman continued to stretch his lead while Pete Brittain caught Kluth. That battle for second heated up over the final laps when Brittain got a run on Kluth in turn one. A single lap later, Brittain was able to make the pass on Kluth to move into the second spot. Time ran out as Brittain could do nothing but chase the potent Hirschman. At the checkers, it was all Hirschman. Brittain finished second over Rick Kluth and Woody Pitkat. Lenny Fisher rounded out to the top five.

Todd Ceravolo has uncharacteristically been shutout of Sunoco Modified victory lane this season with the exception of a win on Ice Breaker weekend. The tides finally turned for the former divisional champion as he was able to put his bad luck behind him to score the shortened Sunoco Modified main event. Josh Steeves took advantage of his front row starting spot to lead the opening nine laps of the main event. Danny Cates ran solidly in the second spot while the veteran top guns diced for position inside the top ten. The man on the move was Jimmy Blewett who had worked his way inside the top five. Contact between Blewett and Keith Rocco sent Blewett spinning and Rocco to the tail for his involvement. On the ensuing attempt at the restart, Cates failed to come up to speed. With cars scattering the yellow flew as cars continued to claw for position on the restart. Point leader Pitkat was stuck behind the faltering Cates. Under the caution period, Pitkatís car stalled on the backstretch. Another restart on lap 10 opened the door for a charging Todd Ceravolo. A lap later Ceravolo was the new leader. Tommy Cravenho and Bo Gunning had made their way into the top five. The ensuing laps were plagued with cautions, several eliminated a number of good cards including Bert Marvin and Josh Steeves. An incident on lap 17 found Gunning spinning and Blewett sent to the tail. During the stretch Rocco was making his way back to the front. The single-file restart on lap 19 found Ceravolo being chased by Cravenho and Rocco. Steeves was still hanging in fourth. When they finally strung a host of laps together, Ceravolo enjoyed a bit of breathing room as Cravenho and Rocco battled for the second spot. Due to the lateness of the hour, a decision was made to shorten the event to 35-laps. Ceravolo got a good jump on the final restart to run ahead of a torrid battle for the second spot between Cravenho and Rocco. Lap after lap Rocco would look to the low side of Cravenho but could not complete the pass. Rocco had to settle for third behind winner Ceravolo and runner-up Cravenho. Steeves and Kerry Malone completed the top-five.

Norm Wrenn ran to a strong Pro-Four Modified victory at his home track on Sunday afternoon to open Modified Mania II. The Pro-Four Modifieds opened the show with a tremendous three-car battle for the lead between Thompsonís own Wrenn and Jeff Zuidema, who compete weekly at the facility, and Frank Hirt for the first half of the event. After relinquishing spots to both Wrenn and Zuidema, Hirtís good run came to an end when he hit the outside wall. Wrenn immediately took control on the restart and would never be headed as he ran to another victory on the 2007 season.
By virtue of technical inspection, Leo Oliveira was declared the winner in the TIS Modified main event. The Stafford Motor Speedway began their fall series of Friday night racing, a three-week stretch that will lead up to the season ending CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend and determine Stafford's track champions. Keith Rocco took the SK Modified feature win, Dillon Moltz won the Late Model feature, Chris Matthews won the SK Light feature, Andrew Durand won the Limited Late Model feature, and Dan Flannery won the DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green with Wade Mattesen charging past Richie Pallai, Jr. to take the early lead. Pallai would battle back by Mattesen on lap-5 to reclaim the lead. Rocco followed Pallai past Mattesen, and Pallai and Rocco ran nose to tail for the lead over the next several laps. Rocco moved by Pallai on a lap-11 restart, and from that point on, he would not be headed at the front of the field as he scored his third SK Modified feature win of the 2007 season. Kerry Malone finished a distant second to Rocco, with Ted Christopher, Curt Brainard, and Todd Owen rounding out the top-5. NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship hopeful Woody Pitkat, who saw his five race winning streak come to an end a week ago, suffered through several spins but came back to finish 9th.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Dennis Gada got a little closer to an unprecedented seventh Modified Track title as he scored his fifth win. Two race meets remain of the 2007 season. Gada currently trails Rob Janovic by 16 points. For the last two races Gada needs to run hard and run to win. Keith Rocco finished second and Janovic was third. Gada moved from fourth to second after a crash with 24 laps to go. Seven laps later, Gada moved underneath Rocco and cruised to his 55th career SK win. Tyler Chadwick and Jeff Paul rounded out the top five.

Bruce Thomas Jr. unofficially clinched the Late Model championship, winning his 11th feature of the season by overtaking Ron Yuhas Jr. with eight laps to go in the 30-lap feature. Thomas won the Mini Stock title in 2001. Kyle James won his first career race in the Mini Stock feature. In the Sportsman feature, Walt Hovey Jr., who won the first of the two Double Down features a week ago and was the overall winner last week, won again.

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:00pm time slot. This weeks viewing begins on Wednesday at noon with Racing Across America on the Speed Channel with the NASCAR Touring Whelen Modified Series Mansfield 150 run on August 25 at the Mansfield Motorsports Speedway in Mansfield, OH. At 3:00pm the World of Outlaws Sprinters slug it out at Cottage Grove, Oregon. The USAR Hooters Cup from Mansfield, OH follows at 4:00. On Thursday at noon Speed presents last Friday nights NASCAR Busch Series Emerson Radio 250 that was run at Richmond, VA. The NASCAR Nextel Cup Chevy Rock & Roll 400 from Richmond follows at 3:00pm. At 8:00 the Sped Channel sizes up the competition in the final weeks leading up to the Chase for the Nextel Cup. On Friday at noon the USAR Hooters Cup Pro Series takes center stage. Speed goes live from New Hampshire at 1:00pm. At 3:00 the action switches to ESPN2 for NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying for the Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Intl. Speedway. At 5:00pm its back to Speed for another hour of NASCAR Live. Kyle Petty's Charity Ride Across America, which went from Bar Harbor, ME to Hollywood, FL, from July 14-20, follows at 6:00pm. At 7:00 itís another hour of Trackside at New Hampshire on Speed. Saturdayís viewing starts off at 9:30am with a 30-minute segment of NASCAR Live from New Hampshire Intl. Speedway. At 2:30 the countdown begins for the start of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series New Hampshire 200 which goes green at 3:00pm. If the trucks put you to sleep switch to NESN at 4:00pm for NASCAR New England which presents features and highlights from the Whelen Weekly Racing Series at the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway. At 7:00 ESPN2 will show taped delayed coverage of the final hour of Nextel Cup practice from Loudon. On Sunday NASCAR Now on ESPN2 at 10:00am starts the day off. At noon Speed has a two hour preview of the Loudon event. At 2:00 the Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Intl. Speedway gets the green on ABC. Rounding out the day the Speed Channel has The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. Dover Downs went up 0.22 to 6.17 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.28 to 47.36. On the negative side was Speedway Motorsports, which went down 0.59 to 37.90. Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.96 to 17.96 while Sun Oil went up 0.96 to 74.10. Goodyear dropped 1.74 to 25.02 while DIRT Motorsports stayed with a no-change at 0.02. In the drug sector, Pfizer dropped 0.59 to 24.25 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 1.34 to 27.81. The home improvement and parcel carriers also had a negative week. Home Depot dropped 4.10 to 34.21 while Lowes dropped 1.63 to 29.43. Fedex dropped 1.47 to 108.21 and UPS dropped 1.73 to 74.13.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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