Tuesday September 23, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to Martinsville VA for the Made In American Whelen 300 which was be the 13th of 16 races on the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule.

For many years, the northern contingent has had a stranglehold on victory lane while southern competitors played second fiddle. Burt Myers became the first Southern driver to win a Modified tour race in a NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville since Johnny Bryant in 1985.

Whelen Southern Modified Tour competitor Myers changed all that as he powered his way to victory at the historic Virginia oval.

Burt Myers took the checkered flag in the Made In America Whelen 300. (Photo Credit: Mary Hodge/NASCAR)

Of the 43 Modifieds on hand, Myers was fourth fastest in time trials and for the start, redrew the outside pole, starting along side another southerner, Bobby Hutchens. At the start Myers almost saw his day end before it started as he tangled with Hutchens at the initial drop of the green and triggered a massive wreck on the front stretch. Fortunately for him NASCAR declared the start false and mandated a complete restart with Hutchens and Myers back on the front row. Myers led the restart with fastest timetrialer Ryan Preece in tow. By the fifth go-round Preece had the lead. Preece pretty much dominated from then on, at least until lap 270 of the 300 lap event when Myers got by him in traffic. Myers led the final laps to collect the win and the famous Martinsville Speedway Grandfather Clock trophy. Preece finished second and was credited with being the first Northern Whelen Modified. Matt Hirschman finished third and was followed by Reggie Ruggerio and Ted Christopher. Rounding out the top ten were Todd Szegedy, Woody Pitkat, Ed Flemke Jr, Rowan Pennick and Brian Loftin.

Eleven of the original 43 starters finished on the lead lap. Sixteen caution periods for 88 laps slowed the event. Among those were had problems were outside pole sitter George Brunnhoelzl III who lost an engine, Hossfeld wrecked, Mike Stefanik lost a driveshaft, Ronnie Silk wrecked, Jimmy Blewett had his battery short out, Bob Grigas lost a rear end, Wade Cole lost his steering, Ken Heagy had rear end trouble, Andy Seuss wrecked, Billy Pauch wrecked as did Rick Fuller and Glen Reen. Richard Savory had an alternator malfunction and Jake Marosz wrecked.
Ted Christopher continues to lead the division point standings as the Whelen Modified Tour heads for the Fall Final at Stafford this week for the first of the final three events for 2008. Christopher leads Matt Hirschman by 69 points. Eighty-eight points behind Hirschman is Todd Szegedy. Chuck Hossfeld and Ron Silk round out the top five.

In non-NASCAR Modified racing, Tony Hirschman came out of retirement to win the annual Race of Champions at the Oswego Speedway in New York state. In True Value Modified Series racing at the All Star Speedway, Jon McKennedy took the win over Chris Pasteryak and Dwight Jarvis.

Thursday Night Thunder at Thompson International Speedway saw Keith Rocco clean house as he picked up his fifth win of the season in the Sunoco Modified division. Rick Gentes resumed his late season mastery of the Late Models and Scott Michalski continued his hot streak in Mini Stock competition. Glenn Boss turned his luck around with a dominating TIS Modified win. Both Jay Macedonio in the Pro Stocks and Ed Puleo in the Limited Sportsman division enjoyed their his first wins of the season.

Rocco motored by surprise Sunoco Modified championship contender Danny Cates to take the lead near the half way mark of the 30 lap feature. Cates took the early lead with a stout pack of cars battling from second position on back. When thing shuffled out by lap five Cates continued to lead Todd Ceravolo and Rocco. Jimmy Blewett had made tracks to the front and into the fourth position. Tom Cravenho rounded out the top five. At lap 10, Ceravolo had his hands full holding off the advances of Rocco. Rocco dove low into turn four trying to get a run on Ceravolo. Rocco drifted up the track taking Ceravolo with him. Blewett peaked low looking to make it three wide. The veteran thought the better of it and settled back in line in third. Rocco was able to steal the second position from Ceravolo. Rocco was applying heavy pressure to Cates, who had encountered lapped traffic, when the caution flew for a spinning Carl Oberg. Under the caution, Ceravolo relinquished the third spot to head to pit road. He was not able to continue.

Cates and Rocco went wheel-to-wheel for the first lap of the restart before Cates, relinquished the lead to Rocco. Blewett took chase of Cates but quickly became the hunted. Cravenho made a strong move exiting turn three to get alongside Blewett eventually taking the position away. Both Blewett and Cravenho were able to get by Cates as Rocco was getting away from the field. Blewett and Cravenho were locked in a heat battle for the second position when both slipped up in the corner. Blewett was able to continue. Cravenho was forced to lift falling back to third. Cravenho gathered it up moving back by Cates once again.

In the closing laps Rocco had checked out on the field to win his fifth victory of the season. Blewett was a distance second followed by Cravenho. Cates settled for the fourth position ahead of Kerry Malone, who quietly came home fifth to extend his point lead. Rounding out the top ten were Bert Marvin, Tim Sullivan, Ricky Shawn, Josh Sylvester and Woody Pitkat. Ceravolo ended up 18th in the final rundown.

Thompson winds up its championship points season this coming Thursday, Sept 25. In the Sunoco Modifieds Kerry Malone continues to lead Danny Cates with a 22 point cushion. Jimmy Blewett sits in third spot, four points behind Cates. Six points back is Todd Ceravolo and rounding out the top five is Keith Rocco, 10points behind Ceravolo and 42 points out of the lead.

The Stafford Motor Speedway closed out their Friday night racing series for 2008. Woody Pitkat picked up his fourth win of the 2008 season in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Joe Rzeszutek picked up his second win of 2008 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Mark Bakaj scored win number 4 of 2008 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Andrew Durand scored his third win of 2008 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Todd LaPorta was a first time career winner in the 15-lap DARE Stock season. Ryan Posocco clinched his fourth Late Model track championship with a third place finish with four more championships to be decided next weekend at the 36th Annual CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend.

In the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, Woody Pitkat drove to his fourth feature victory of the 2008 season. Corey Hutchings took the early race lead and held the lead until lap-6 when Chris Jones moved to the front. Pitkat moved to second on lap-8 and he took the lead from Jones on a lap-11 restart. Over a long green flag stretch, Pitkat was steadily stretching his advantage over the rest of the field. Several late cautions kept the field tight, with Pitkat holding off Keith Rocco to the checkered flag. Zach Sylvester finished third, Ted Christopher finished fourth, and Jones rounded out the top-5. Heading into next weekend's CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend, Keith Rocco holds a 14-point lead over Ted Christopher.

Keith Rocco won his 6th SK Feature at the Speedbowl.
(Keith Cyr Photo)

At the Waterford Speedbowl, competitors were forced to start off the night on the wrong foot as they were told that they would not be receiving their checks for the previous week’s racing because of the fact that track operator Jerry Robinson was ill and was unable to sign checks. The Jeff Pearl web site reported a direct confrontation with track operator Robinson and one of his employees. “I began the evening approaching official #1 who took the heat and offered that Jerry was in the hospital passing a stone at least on Friday and believed that the reason for no checks”. “The official took my beating graciously and was very empathetic.” Robinson was in fact at the Speedbowl on Saturday night. Jeff Pearl’s wife approached Robinson and very politely asked if the drivers would be getting paid. “He got right in my face (if I had my glasses on I swear there would be spit on them), and was emphatically told "NO!" she said.

Competitors at the Speedbowl are NASCAR members and its time that the sanctioning body went to bat for them. Its not right what Robinson is doing! NASCAR needs to step in. What Robinson is doing is against everything that NASCAR stands for. Competitors have shelled out their hard earned money to belong to NASCAR and the sanctioning body needs to protect them.

Rumors have already been circulating concerning a possible labor type action this coming week. Despite all the discontent the show at the shoreline oval went on. Keith Rocco won the USG Night 35-lap SK Modified feature. Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Ed Lamb Jr. (Sportsman), Kyle James (Mini Stock), Jay Palmer (Legends), and Robert Norman (Super-X Cars).

Starting from the outside-pole, Rocco held-off a determined Ron Yuhas Jr. to the checkers in leading every circuit of the event. Point-leader Dennis Gada gave chase for several circuits before Yuhas bolted into second following a lap-twelve restart. Rounding-out the top-5 was Gada, Jeff Pearl, and Tyler Chadwick.

In TV land this week televised action on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with the NASCAR Camping World Series East Heluva Good® Fall 125 that was run at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept 12. the Whelen Modifieds from New Hampshire follow at 1:30.On Thursday at noon, Speed replays last weekend’s Sprint Cup event that was run at Dover. Friday at noon ESPN2 goes live at the Kansas City Speedway a 90 minute Sprint Cup practice session. At 2:00pm the live action switches to the Speed Channel for NASCAR Live at Kansas City. Live action continues at 2:30 with a 90 minute practice session for the Nationwide Series. At 4:00pm the action moves back to ESPN2 for Sprint Cup qualifying. Nationwide Series final practice follows at 6:00pm. Trackside at Kansas Speedway follows at 7:00pm on Speed. Saturday’s action begins at 11:30am on Speed with Nationwide Series qualifying on the Speed Channel. Sprint Cup practice follows at 12:30. At 3:00pm ESPN2 has a pre-race show, which will lead in to a 3:30 start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 at the Kansas Speedway. Sprint Cup final practice follows at 6:30. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel hosts the World of Outlaws late models from the Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, PA. Sunday’s coverage begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Now. At 11:00 its on to the Speed Channel for NASCAR RaceDay at the Kansas Speedway. At noon, HDNet presents live coverage of the NASCAR Camping World Series East Carquest Fall Final at the Stafford Speedway. The Modified portion will not be covered. At 1:00pm ABC picks up the action with a pre-race show for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Camping World RV 400 at the Kansas Speedway which gets the green at 2:00pm. 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 Wall Street suffered one of its worth bloodbaths in history but the racing related stocks with the exception of Sun Oil didn’t fare too bad. Sun Oil dropped 6.19 to 41.66. Two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on a positive note. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.34 to 41.40 and Dover Downs went up 0.08 to 5.82. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.21 to 20.88. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.03 to 7.16. Nationwide Insurance who sponsors NASCAR’s second tier dropped 0.82 to 50.58. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.21 to 17.14. NASCAR team sponsor Dupont went up 1.65 to 48.04 while Target Department stores dropped3.94 to 53.32. Aaron’s Rentals was also down as they dropped 0.96 to 28.28. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 1.43 to 27.37 while Lowes went up 0.08 to 25.50. The parcel carriers took a slight hit. Fedex dropped 0.76 to 90.08 and UPS dropped 0.95 to 67.65. The World Racing Group remained at 0.10 for another week.

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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