Tuesday September 16, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour converged on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the New Hampshire 100 on Saturday. Thirty-nine cars were on hand for qualifying which was held on Thursday. Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman posted the quickest lap in qualifying at 29.658 seconds (127.453 mph). Chuck Hossfeld, who won the New England 100 at New Hampshire on June 28, joined Newman on the front row with a qualifying effort of 29.745 seconds (127.080 mph). Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Jimmy Blewett, Eric Beers and Bobby Grigas III. Series points leader Ted Christopher qualified 12th for Saturday’s 100-lap race. Ryan Preece and Glen Reen did not go out for timed laps. Both drivers were given provisionals. Preece, who drives the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family had engine trouble and had to send to Freetown Mass for a back-up. Reen crashed hard at Thompson and was given the opportunity to drive the Todd Szegedy back-up car. Sent packing was the No. 00 of Joe Brady which was driven by Jon McKennedy.

Ted Christopher starts to celebrate as he pulls into Victory Lane at New Hamshire. (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR) 

The New Hampshire 100 turned into a wreckfest for the Modifieds with 18 of the original 38 starters running at the finish. Ted Christopher, who finished second to Chuck Hossfeld by just .001 seconds in the New England 100 at New Hampshire in June, garnered his third win of the 2008 season and extended his points lead in the process. Jimmy Blewett led seven times in the race but had to settle for a second place finish. Ryan Preece came all the way from a tail starting position to finish a strong third. Rob Summers ended up fourth with Danny Sammons, fifth for his best finish of the season. Rounding out the the top 10 were Matt Hirschman, Erick Rudolph, Woody Pitkat, Jamie Tomaino and Eric Beers.

Numerous wrecks slowed the event that saw 15 lead changes among 5 drivers. The event started off with a bang when 12 cars were collected on the front chute at the drop of the green. Ricky Fuller’s engine had a malfunction and didn’t come up to speed when Fuller punched the throttle. This incident necessitated a complete restart. Ryan Newman, Chuck Hossfeld and Jimmy Blewett swapped the lead on numerouds occasions until the red flag was displayed on lap 62 laps because of extensive damage to the guard rail on the backstretch caused by an accident that had Anthony Sesely making a hard hit. Kevin Goodale and Chuck Hossfeld were involved in the most devastating wreck of the day. Goodale spun out in turn two on lap 52 without a yellow being displayed. Continuing on to turn four he spun again. Just as he spun Blewett went high and Hossfeld went low as they were fighting for the lead. Hossfeld cought the spinning Goodale with his right front tire and almost launched himself. Because of a TV time commitment to the Craftsman Trucks the Modified event was put on hold under red at 2:45 for a 3:00pm start for the trucks. The race resumed at just before 6:00pm and was over by 6:30. The quote of the day came from Todd Szegedy as he talked to his crew on the radio. “This is why they treat us like amateurs because we drive like a bunch of a__h___s”.

A tip of the hat to Jerry Gappens, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager who made the decision not to end the Modified event until the advertised distance was completed. Gappens went on the tracks public address system and explained to the crowd that the Modifieds would return to run the complete distance following the Truck race. “I don’t want to cheat anybody out of a single lap of Modified racing," he said”. This was the third race in the last four for the Modifieds at New Hampshire to be cut short because of television commitments for one of NASCAR’s national touring series. On each of the two previous occasions, however, the race was called official and cut short.

With his win, Christopher now has a 99-point lead on Hirschman in the season standings with four races to go on the schedule. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series now heads for Martinsville VA for the Made In American Whelen 300 which will be the 13th of 16 races on the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule. A combination race with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, the green flag is set to drop on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 3:30 p.m.

Eddie MacDonald is pulled out of his car by runner-up Steve Park in Victory Lane. (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR) 

Saturday at Loudon was a busy day. In addition to the Modified 100 there was also Sprint Cup practice as well as a 125-mile event for the NASCAR Camping World East Series (formerly Busch North) and a 200 lap event for the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks. Former Busch North Series competitor Brad Leighton appeared to have victory in sight when he ran out of gas on lap 120 as he exited turn two. Steve Park, who was running second, inherited the lead but his lust for glory came up short as he was passed with two to go by Eddie MacDonald. Park held on for the runner-up spot and was followed by Matt Kobyluck and Matt Hirschman. Hirschman did such a good job that Gillett Evernham will field a car for him for this Friday's Camping World East race at Dover International Raceway. Ron Hornaday won the Truck race. Crewmembers of Germain Racing teams for Todd Bodine and David Reutimann slugged it out with David Starr and members of his crew as the trucks were brought to a halt following the race. During the race, contact initiated by Starr sent the trucks of Bodine, Reutimann and Randy Moss Motorsports driver Donny Lia into the turn one wall.

Thursday Night Thunder at Thompson International Speedway began with a moving tribute by long-time announcer Russ Dowd to the victims of the September 11th attacks. There was a moment of silence before the engines were fired. Keith Rocco roared into victory lane for his fourth win of the 2008 season. Jeff Connors, also turned in a dominating performance to score his first Pro Stock feature win of the season. Marc Palmisano took down an exciting win in the Late Model main event. Joe Coates of was hailed as the winner in the Limited Sportsman division and Scott Michalski of was tops in the Mini Stocks. Kurt Vigeant extended his point lead in the TIS Modified division with his second win of the 2008 season.

Rocco took the lead early and went on to stretch out his lead during the caution-free main event for the Sunoco Modifieds on Thursday night. Tommy Cravenho started the race from the point and held the top spot with Tim Sullivan having a strong run in the early going in second. Rocco was on a tear on his way to the front. He made quick work of Todd Ceravolo and with a bump and run on Tim Sullivan moved into second. Cravenho held his line as Rocco was relentless in pursuit of the lead. With the two battling, Ceravolo was able to catch the lead duo. A bonsai move in the inside groove exiting turn three, gave Rocco the lead on lap 12. Ceravolo continued to trail closely.

Kerry Malone, who swapped cars with teammate Woody Pitkat for the evening was locked in a battle with Bert Marvin just outside of the top-five. Once free of Malone, Marvin took over the fourth spot from Sullivan. While Rocco was getting away from the pack, Ceravolo worked over Cravenho for second. Blewett, who started scratch on the field after making his way down from qualifying his Whelen Modified Tour car at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, had moved by Danny Cates and Pitkat with only three laps remaining. Rocco, never missed a beat in lapped traffic, cruising to his fourth win of the year. Cravenho held on to finish second. Ceravolo joined the duo on the podium. Marvin had a strong run to finish fourth. Sullivan had a career-best top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to the elements in what was supposed to be their final Friday night of racing. This coming Friday, September 19 was to have been a week off before the season ending Fall Final but because of the cancellation will be the last Friday night of racing.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Jeff Pearl and Matt Gallo won the twin 25-lap SK Modified features at the Double-Down Shootout on Saturday evening. Crowned overall Double-Down Shootout champions were Rob Janovic Jr. (SK Modified), Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Walt Hovey Jr. (Sportsman), and Randy Churchill Jr. (Mini Stock). Claming victories in round-two features (rescheduled from an earlier date), were Tim Jordan (Late Model), Al Stone III (Sportsman), and Glenn Colvin (Mini Stock). In the accompanying Legends and X-Car main events it was Jason Palmer and Patrick D’Addario Sr. respectively.

Matt Gallo, the son of former Modified driver Dave Gallo pulled down his first ever SK Modified win at the Speedbowl (Keith Cyr Photo)

Pearl jumped out to an early lead in the first of dual 25-lap SK events, but was shortly chased closely by Keith Rocco. With eleven-laps remaining, Rocco and third-place Dennis Gada tangled, the latter slamming the wall with great force finishing both for the event. Upon resumption, it was Pearl again, with Doug Coby in hot pursuit. With only a handful of circuits remaining, Ron Yuhas Jr. overtook Coby for second. It was the 30th career Speedbowl SK triumph for the 1998 champion. In the second feature, it was veteran Pete Pavone taking the lead followed closely by Dan LaJeunesse. A late restart shuffled the top-spots, with Tyler Chadwick getting the advantage at the green. Yet another yellow set the stage for a 2-lap shootout between young guns Chadwick, Matt Gallo and LaJeunesse. At the finish, Gallo prevailed to win his first-ever SK Modified feature. Following was 2007 champion Rob Janovic Jr., Chadwick, LaJeunesse and Doug Coby. Gallo is a senior at Berlin , Ct. High School and a member of a long-time racing family.

It was good to hear that racing will continue at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island in 2009. The 58th year of stock racing will open the weekend of Saturday May 2nd and Sunday May 3rd as once again the track will swing back into action in a big way. As over the past few years a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series show will run Saturday evening May 2nd, while one can plan to see the cars & stars of the Enduro ranks in action Sunday afternoon May 3rd. Fans can also look forward to the 77 Lap Baldwin, Evans, Jarzombek Memorial Race on July 18th, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Flash Tour on August 1st and the Monster Trucks over Labor Day. For the second year in a row Bill Park and his owner/wife Barbara are the NASCAR Modified champions, Bill's 4th overall title puts him just one shy of a four way tie for the most championships. Wayne Anderson, Don Howe and the late "Charging" Charlie Jarzombek all won five Riverhead Raceway Modified titles. Park is also tied with Howe and John Berkoski for 6th on the all-time Riverhead Raceway win list. Congratulations to Howie Hodge who has become the new owner of Howie, a top photographer on the Whelen Modified Tour, reports that long time crew member of the #4 Mystic Missile, Jimmy Savage has been having a few health issues lately. Jimmy is home after taking ill while in the pits at Mansfield, OH. This past weekend he returned to the hospital for more tests. Cards can be sent to Jimmy at 33 Laurel Leaf Drive, Gales Ferry, CT 06335.

In TV land this week televised action begins on Thursday at noon when Speed replays last Sunday’s Sprint Cup event that was run at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Speed continues their coverage as they head south to Dover Downs at 11:00am on Friday for a 90 minute Sprint Cup practice session. At 12:30 Speed presents GET BACK TO DIRT which reflects a year inside the soul of American racing, the World Class Street Stocks, at the legendary Devil's Bowl Speedway in Mesquite, Texas, as the racers careen on and off the track toward the season championship. At 3:00pm its back to Dover, this time with ESPN2 for Sprint Cup qualifying. At 5:00pm the action switches to Speed for NASCAR Live at Dover. A 90 minute practice session for the Nationwide Series follows at 5:30. At 7:00 its another hour of Trackside at Dover. The Nationwide Series has their final practice session at 9:00. Saturday’s TV coverage starts at 11:00am on the Speed Channel with Nationwide Series qualifying from Dover. At 3:00 the action shifts to ESPN2 for the pre-race show that will lead in to a 3:30 start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series 200. Sprint Cup final practice follows at 6:00pm. Speed travels west at 9:00pm for the pre-race show for the Craftsman Truck Series at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which gets the green at 9:30pm. Sunday’s action begins at 11:00am on Speed with a two-hour segment of RaceDay. At 1:00pm coverage moves to ABC for another hour of pre-race hype. At 2:00 the NASCAR Sprint Cup Best Buy 400 at the Dover Intl. Speedway gets the green on ABC. The Speed Channel wraps up the weekend on Sunday night with The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. If you can stay awake ESPN2 has a one-hour NASCAR Now at 10:00pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three-speedway stocks ended the week on the positive side. Leading the pack was Dover Downs, which went up 0.57 to 5.74. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.35 to 21.09 and the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.06 to 41.06. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.80 to 7.19 while NASCAR second tier sponsor Nationwide dropped 0.30 to 51.40. Fuel supplier Sun Oil took a huge jump as they went up 6.11 to 47.85. Tire supplier Goodyear also had a good jump as they went up 2.24 to 18.35. NASCAR team sponsor Coca-Cola went up 2.18 to 38.12. Dupont was also up as they closed at 46.39, up 0.14 from last week. Target Department stores went up 2.23 to 57.26 while Aaron’s Rentals went up 0.81 to 29.24. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 0.21 to 28.80 while Lowes dropped 0.33 to 25.42. The parcel carriers had a dream week. Fedex went up 7.56 to 90.84 and UPS went up 4.71 to 68.60. The World
Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) still sits at 0.10.

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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