Tuesday September 2, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour had the Labor Day weekend off before moving on to Thompson International Speedway for this week’s Sunoco Modified Mania 150 on Sunday, Sept 7. Ted Christopher now leads the point standings as he has a 60 point lead over Chuck Hossfeld. Matt Hirschman sits in third spot, 26 points behind. Mike Stefanik and Ronnie Silk round out the top five. Sixth through 10th are Todd Szegedy, Eric Beers, Jimmy Blewett, Ed Flemke Jr and Rowan Pennick. Following the Thompson event the Whelen Modified Tour Series heads for the New Hampshire Int Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire.

Don Lia, who was the series champion in 2007 was released from his NASCAR Craftsman Truck ride last weekend. He had a 

With his win in Mansfield Teddy Christopher now has a 60 point lead for the Whelen Modified Tour Championship.
(Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)

12th at Bristol in his last outing in the #71 Chevy TRG Motorsports entry. Lia recorded a win in the truck series earlier this year at Mansfield Ohio and had been a consistent top ten finisher. Word has it that Lia will be entered in the upcoming Whelen Modified Tour Series event at Loudon and will be driving new '09 Troyer House car normally driven in the New York Race of Champions Series by Chuck Hossfeld.

It was literally “Showtime” at the Thompson Speedway last Thursday night as the Sunoco Modifieds (SK type) took center stage with a 50 lap event. Jimmy Blewett, driving the Eddie Partridge owned No. 12 started fifth on the grid and wasted little time in marching to the front. Kerry Malone was the initial leader but could not hold back the advances of Blewett who took the lead on lap four. After withstanding numerous restarts Blewett streaked under the checkers almost a half straightaway over Woody Pitkat and Malone. Todd Ceravolo who entered the event as the point leader increased his lead by two points over Danny Cates as he finished fourth. Cates, who has come into his own this year, has been persistent as he continues to keep Ceravolo in sight. Cates rounded out the top five. Keith Rocco, who had been fourth in track points plus is ranked high in NASCAR Whelen Weekly Racing Series points suffered a major setback when his engine expired shortly after the opening green. The victory earned Blewett a guaranteed starting spot SK-Type Modified event of the 6th Annual John Blewett III Memorial North-South Shootout scheduled for November 7&8, 2008 in North Carolina. Blewett is the defending champion of the event.

In other Thursday Night Thunder action at Thompson George “MadDog” Bessette cleaned house in the Pro Stock division. Rick Gentes made it two in a row in the Late Models. Scott Sundeen MA, took top honors in the Limited Sportsman feature. Scott Michalski scored a victory in Mini Stocks while Leo Oliveira triumphed in the TIS Modifieds.

The Thompson Speedway will be dark this coming Thursday night in preparation for Sunoco Modified Mania on Saturday and Sunday, September 6 & 7, 2008. The Whelen Modified Tour will headline a full weekend of competition that will also include the True Value Modified Series and the Race of Champions Tour. Thompson’s own Sunoco Modifieds, TIS Modifieds, and Pro Four Modifieds will also be part of the action.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of another classic battle between Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco. Christopher, fresh off his recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series win in Mansfield, Ohio won out over his former crew chief as he scored his 102nd career win at the Arute Family oval. Christopher and Rocco are also locked into a torrid battle for the track’s SK Modified Championship. Christopher is the defending champion. With the Stafford season rapidly winding down there won’t be too many opportunities left for Rocco to overtake his mentor. There are only two more Friday night dates remaining before the season ending Fall Final on September 28.

In other Friday night action at the Nutmeg oval, Dillon Moltz won his second consecutive and fifth overall Late Model feature of the 2008 season. Matt Chiarizio took the 15-lap DARE Stock feature and there were two first-time winners as Raymond Grassetti took the 20-lap SK Light feature and Darrin Havenec won the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, Christopher outlasted Rocco to take home the victory. Corey Hutchings jumped out to the early lead from the outside pole, but gave way to Curt Brainard on lap-3. Rocco moved by Brainard one lap later to take the lead and had Zach Sylvester hot on his bumper. Sylvester moved by Rocco for the lead on lap-10, but Rocco took the lead back on a lap-11 restart. Rocco held the lead to the half-way point of the race, which is when Christopher moved to the front of the field for the first time. Rocco gave chase to Christopher the entire second half of the race, but was unable to get by as Christopher took down his fourth victory of the 2008 season. Rocco finished second, with Jeff Malave, Sylvester, and Richie Pallai, Jr. rounding out the top-5.

In the 30-lap Late Model feature event, it was Waterford High School student Dillon Moltz taking his second consecutive feature win. Scott Cook took the early lead and led the first two laps before spinning in turn 2, which handed the race lead over to Michael Bennett. Bennett held the lead until lap-6 when Moltz charged into the lead. Moltz held the lead until lap-14 when Bennett went back to the front, but Moltz went back by Bennett on the next lap to retake the race lead. The race went green to the checkered flag with Moltz pulling away from Bennett to take his second consecutive feature win and fifth overall win of the 2008 season. Bennett finished second, with Ryan Posocco, Woody Pitkat, and Mike Mordino rounding out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, the action began with Wacky Wednesday where Ryan Morgan, 14, scored his third Legends Cars victory of the season. Morgan absolutely dominated 20-lap Legends feature action. The Ledyard High School student had the field fully-covered by the early laps, and went on to triumph over perennial front-runners Jason Palmer and Max Zachem by a wide-margin.

On Saturday, heavy fog rolled into the area before the Waterford Speedbowl’s Double Down Shootout presented by Mohegan Sun Casino could be completed. Only three of the scheduled eight main events were run before cancellation. Winning features in the abbreviated event were Bruce Thomas Jr., (Late Model), Walt Hovey Jr. (Sportsman), and Randy Churchill Jr. (Mini Stock). Both 25-lap SK Modified features were victims of the cancellation.

The Double Down Shootout presented by the Mohegan Sun will resume Saturday, Sept. 6. An extra-distance Legends event and the Wild n’ Wacky Wednesday X-Cars have been added to the agenda. Rain checks from Aug. 30 will be honored. Regular Saturday night prices will prevail for others. Racing begins at 6 pm. Both 25-lap SK-Modified features and the second Late Model, Sportsman and Mini Stock features remain. The latter three will start in reverse order of Saturday night’s finish. The Legends will run 25 laps and the X Cars 20 laps.The $5,000 bonus for the driver who sweeps both SK features remains in effect. Should that happen, five adult fans will get $1,000. Fans will be able to enter the latter on Saturday.

Phil Rondeau, who has over 100 career victories at the shoreline oval, returned to action in the Late Model ranks and recorded a ninth place finish.

The True Value Modified Series suffered a rain-out at their scheduled holiday event at the Seekonk Speedway. With a steady rain through mid afternoon, a forecast that showed more of the same for the evening, and rain in surrounding areas, Seekonk management was forced to cancel the Del's Lemonade 100 for the True Value Modified Racing Series. At this time, there is no rescheduled date for this event.

The True Value Modifieds return to Seekonk Speedway on October 11 and 12 for the annual D. Anthony Venditti Memorial weekend, as they round out their 2008 season.

3 time NASCAR National Modified Champion Bugs Stevens is recovering from the effects of Lyme disease.

Get well wishes to three time NASCAR National Modified Champion Carl Bugsy Stevens who is recovering from the effects of Lyme disease. Cards of cheer can be sent to Carl S. Berghman at Bay State Road, Rehoboth, Mass.

In some good news, the Wall Township Speedway, which has remained closed for the 2008 season will host the annual Turkey Derby on Thanksgiving weekend. Former Public Relations director Mike Clayton made the announcement this past Sunday. Turkey Derby XXXV is a go for November 28th and 29th, 2008. Practice the two weekends before. Jim Morton is renting the track to run this race. No track owners involved. More details will be available next weekend, September 7th.

In TV land this week televised action begins on Wednesday when the Speed Channel presents the Aug 16 NASCAR Camping World Series East Mohegan Sun 200 that was run at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. On Thursday at noon Speed replays last weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pepsi 500 that was run in Fontana, CA. Friday’s action begins at 11:00am on ESPN2 with NASCAR Sprint Cup practice in Richmond, VA. ESPN2 continues their coverage at 6:00pm with Sprint Cup qualifying at Richmond. At 8:00pm the NASCAR Nationwide Series Emerson Radio 250 at Richmond gets the green. Rounding out the day will be Trackside at Richmond on Speed at 11:00pm. Saturday’s viewing starts at 11:00am when Speed travels to Madison, IL for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying at the Gateway Intl. Raceway. Action continues on Speed at 2:00pm with the pre-race show which will lead in to live flag to flag coverage of the Craftsman Truck Series Gateway 200 at the Gateway Intl.Raceway. NASCAR New England, which shows the weekly events run at the Stafford Motor Speedway airs on NESN at 4:00pm. At 5:00pm Speed moves to Richmond for a two hour RaceDay followed at 7:00 with the Richmond pre-race show on ABC. The NASCAR Sprint Cup Chevy Rock & Roll 400 at the Richmond Intl. Raceway gets the green on ABC at 7:30pm. Sunday’s viewing starts at noon with the World of Outlaws late models from Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. The World of Outlaws sprint cars follow at 1:00pm. At 4:00pm Speed travels to Joliet, IL for taped delayed coverage of the ARCA RE/MAX Series Chicagoland ARCA 200. 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.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had negative results for the week. The International Speedway Corporation was the only winner as they went up 1.82 to 39.67. Dover Downs dropped 0.08 to 4.99 and Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.47 to 22.13. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.52 to 8.72 as second tier sponsor Nationwide dropped 0.07 to 51.44. NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil took a huge leap as they went up 4.59 to 44.38. Goodyear, who supplies the tires for NASCAR’s top three divisions dropped 0.75 to 19.61. NASCAR team sponsor Dupont dropped 0.35 to 44.44. Coca-Cola dropped 1.01 to 40.58. Target Department stores went up 0.36 to 52.02 while Aaron’s Rentals rose 0.41 to 28.56. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.01 to 27.12 while Lowes dropped 0.22 to 24.64. The parcel carriers had a positive week. Fedex went up 0.14 to 82.82 and UPS went up 0.60 to 64.12. The World Racing Group (DIRT Motorsports) showed signs of life as they went up 0.01 to 0.11.

The Charlotte NC Business Journal reported last week that Bruton Smith, the Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman and chief executive expects the $78 million acquisition of the Kentucky Speedway announced in May to be completed later this month. Concord-based Speedway Motorsports (NYSE:TRK) had a 90-day option from the time the deal was announced to make the purchase. With that deadline arriving this month, Smith says an announcement on the completion of the deal could come within a few days.

Smith, speaking at Speedway’s ribbon-cutting last Wednesday for a $60 million drag strip in Concord, pledged to move a NASCAR Sprint Cup race from one of the company’s seven other tracks to Kentucky. That move could not take place before 2010. NASCAR unveiled its 2009 schedule this week and did not include a Sprint Cup date at the Kentucky track.

“NASCAR has never given me a date, so does that give you a hint?” Smith says. “They never have.” He declined to discuss which race date he had in mind for the Kentucky track.

The 1.5-mile track is in northern Kentucky, about midway between Louisville, Ky., and Cincinnati, Ohio. The track has 66,000 grandstand seats and 50 luxury suites and opened in 2000.

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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