Tuesday September 9, 2008

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to the Thompson Speedway last weekend to partake in what is called Modified Mania. Thirty-two Modifieds were on hand for qualifying which ended up getting rained out. Based on point standings the field was set.
Preseason favorite Todd Szegedy broke through for his first win of the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season in the Sunoco Modified Mania 150. Szegedy, who started sixth, ran inside the top five for most of the afternoon, took his first lead of the race on Lap 132 and held off numerous charges by Ronnie Silk in the last 22 laps for his 13th career victory, and third at Thompson. Szegedy and Silk went non-stop without a tire change. Ted Christopher

Todd Szegedy (2) gets past Doug Coby (28) to go on to win the Whelen Modified Tour portion of Thompson's Modified Mania. (Photo Credit: Howie Hodge/NASCAR)

led the first 125 laps before pitting for tires under caution. Silk, who entered the event on a two-race winning streak at Thompson, led seven laps in the race but could not get past Szegedy despite three restarts in the closing circuits. Doug Coby, who is one of the drivers that replaced James Civali, came home third in the race, his second such finish in as many starts this year. Long-time series veterans Reggie Ruggiero and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five, for their best finishes of the year.

Fuller was honored prior to the race as part of NASCARís Celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions. Sundayís finish was the 145th top five of his career.

Bobby Santos, Billy Pauch Jr., Matt Hirschman, Rowan Pennink and Eric Beers rounded out the top 10 finishers in the race.

Despite a 14th place finish, Christopher retained a 63-point lead over Chuck Hossfeld with 11 races in the books.
There were 8 caution periods for 34 laps. Among those sidelined due to accidents or mechanical failures were Mike Stefanik, lap142, accident, Gary McDonald, Renee Dupuis, Glen Reen, lap134, accident, Jimmy Blewett, lap 131, Ryan Preece, Glenn Tyler, lap 109, accident, Richard Savary, Ed Flemke, Jr., Eric Berndt, lap 23, accident and Jamie Tomaino, lap 23 suspension failure.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will now move on to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the 12th race of the 2008 season this coming Saturday, Sept. 13. Green Flag for the New Hampshire 100 is set to drop at 1 p.m.

In other Modified Mania action at Thompson, Matt Hirschman won the 75-lap main event for the Race of Champions. Todd Owen was declared the winner in a wild 75-lapper for the True Value Modified Racing Series (TVMRS). In weekly series action, Jimmy Blewett was the winner in the Sunoco Modifieds and R.J. Marcotte in the TIS Modifieds. Norm Wrenn was the winner in the visiting Pro-Four Modifieds.

Jimmy Blewett made it two in a row in the Sunoco Modified division. Both wins have come in extra-distance races. Pole sitter Josh Sylvester led through the first caution of the Sunoco Modified race on lap five. Bobby Grigas spun exiting turn one after apparent contact. Contact from Shawn Monahan sent a slowing Shelly Perry into Grigas. Perryís ride ended up atop of Grigasí #00. Ricky Shawn was also involved in the incident. All drivers were able to walk away. Shortly after the restart, Blewett was able to maneuver around Sylvester to take the lead. Sylvester ran in second for several laps before giving up a position to Cravenho. The second yellow of the event flew for a spin by Shawn Solomito. Under the caution, Todd Ceravolo and Bobby Santos headed to pit road for service. Blewett was able to maintain the top spot on the restart ahead of Cravenho. Danny Cates, who was second in points going into the event, failed to come up to speed on the restart giving up a host of positions. The best battle on the field was for the third position between Sylvester and Bert Marvin. Caution number three flew for an incident involving Dave LaCroix and Dave Nordman. Transmission troubles continued to plague Cates, who headed to pit road as did Keith Rocco. On the restart, both Erica Santos and Cates had trouble on the restart. The continuing problems for Cates necessitated the caution. Back under green, Blewett continued to show the way ahead of Cravenho and now Kerry Malone, Bert Marvin, and Pitkat. During the green flag run Malone gave up positions to both Marvin and Pitkat. A spin by the Rick DíAbate brought out the caution on lap 24.

Blewett stretched his lead to six car lengths when the green flag racing resumed. Cravenho, meanwhile, had a mirror full of Marvin. Green flag racing was short-lived as the sixth caution flew for an incident involving John Catania, Erica Santos, and Dennis Krupski. Marvin got a great restart taking the second position away from Cravenho. Marvin immediately began to run down Blewett, who had rocketed back out into the lead. Malone ran fourth with Eric Goodale in tow. The back half of the top ten was a busy place as the likes of Sylvester, Pitkat, Ceravolo, Brad Van Houten, Geoff Gernhard and Rocco jockeyed for position. Despite early gains by Marvin, Blewett was once again able to stretch his lead over Marvin, who had a sizeable lead over Cravenho. A few car lengths back Malone, Sylvester, and Pitkat continued to do battle. Blewett entered heavy lapped traffic with 10 laps remaining in the 50-lapper. The caution of the event flew on lap 43 when Glenn Griswold came to rest on the backstretch. Heavy contact with the outside wall by Todd Ceravolo, who was running seventh and was the point leader going into the event, brought out the eighth caution of the event on lap 44. After completing a single lap, an incident involving Van Houten and Brian McCarthy prompted the caution once again.

A single-file restart set up a five-lap dash to the checkers. With things unchanged in the running order for the top five, a battle for the sixth spot was brewing between Sylvester and Rocco. Sylvester came out on the top-side of the competition before the yellow flew again. With three laps to go, the third position was being hotly contested between Cravenho and Pitkat. After aggressive driving by both, Cravenho ended up in the outside wall. On the green-white-checker restart Blewett cruised to the victory over Marvin and Pitkat. Malone raced across the line in fourth followed by Josh Sylvester. After the event, Pitkat was penalized for his involvement in the incident with Cravenho. Malone was officially scored in third followed by Sylvester. Rocco rebounded from early race problems to complete the top five. Pitkat was placed last on the lead lap, which placed him in 15th spot in the final rundown.

Kerry Malone has emerged as the new point leader in the Sunoco Modifieds. Malone leads Todd Ceravolo, 478 to 466. Danny Cates has slipped to third with 458. Jimmy Blewett is fourth wit 448 and Tom Cravenho is fifth with 422. Thursday Night Thunder at Thompson resumes this coming Thursday.

Matt Hirschman proved to be the class of a star-studded Race of Champions Modified Tour event on Sunday at Thompson. Hirschman took the lead on lap five and would never be headed. The RoC competitors had trouble getting started with two cautions flying before a lap could be completed. The first involved the likes of Ted Christopher. The second flew when Alexander spun from the lead to bring out the second caution. Earl Paulus, Jimmy Kuhn, and Kenny White were also collected. Darren Scherer was the leader of the first lap. He held the top spot before Hirschman asserted himself as the new leader on lap five. After a pair of quick cautions, Hirschman continued to lead Scherer, Billy Pauch, Jr., Pete Brittain, and Jimmy Blewett. A single car incident involving Butch Perry brought out the caution once again. On the ensuing restart, Brittain faltered in the outside groove losing spots to Blewett, who had made his way by Pauch, Pasteryak and Preece. He continued to back slide, losing positions to Christopher, Silk and Paulus. Both Pasteryak and Ryan Preece were on the move running inside the top five by lap 20. Scherer fell outside of the top ten during the green flag run. Out front, Hirschman continued to extend his lead. With Hirschman leading Blewett and Pauch, Pasteryak continued to be agressive. He looked low to take over the third spot from Pauch. The outside groove appeared to be the fast way around the track and Pasteryak went from battling for third to fighting with Christopher to stay inside the top five. Pasteryak withstood the challenge to run in fifth. At halfway, Blewett had begun to chase down Hirschman. The top six of Hirschman, Blewett, Pauch, Preece, Pasteryak and Christopher ran a distance ahead of seventh place runner Ronnie Silk.

On lap 47, Christopher was able to take the fifth position from Pasteryak. Pauch and Preece raced hard for the third spot. Blewett, little by little, continued to chip away at Hirschmanís lead. Preece moved into the third position on lap 52. Christopher got alongside Pauch in a bid for the fourth position on lap 55. The two played cat and mouse for several laps. With 25 laps to go, Hirschman turned it on once again building up his lead over Blewett to a 10-car length advantage. Silk watched his solid finish go by the wayside when he headed to pit road with mechanical failure with only two laps remaining in the event. Hirschman went unchallenged to the checkers to score his fourth RoC win of the season. Blewett came home second ahead of Ryan Preece. Ted Christopher and Bill Pauch, Jr., rounded out the top-five.

Todd Owen scored his first True Value Modified Racing Series win in a controversial run to the checkers. Owen crossed the line in second but was awarded the victory on an official call. Chris Pasteryak jumped out from his pole starting position to lead the opening laps of the True Value Modified Series main event. Over the early potion of the event, Pasteryak stretched his lead over Mike Holdridge and David Pinkham, Ed Dachenhausen and Les Hinckley inside the top-five. The point leader Pasteryak watched his large lead evaporate when the first caution of the event flew on lap 24 when Dale Evonsionís entry came to rest in turn one. Under the caution flag the like of Jimmy Blewett, Jimmy Kuhn, Kirk Alexander and Brian Schofield headed down pit road for service. A melee on the restart brought out the caution immediately. Alexander, Blewett, David Roys, Kenny White, Jr., Joe Doucette, Brian Schofield, Bill Boudreau, and Kenny Vogel, Jr. were all involved.

Kevin Iannarelli, who was not involved in the incident, retired from the event at the same time. Pasteryak resumed his lead on the restart with Pinkham moving into second. Dachenhausen was working over Holdridge in search of the third position. Christopher, meanwhile, had moved into the fourth position. On lap 29, Masse spun but was able to continue without bringing out the caution. John McKennedy headed to pit road. Dachenhausen took the second spot away from Holdridge on lap 30 and immediately went to work on Pinkham. Jack Bateman had moved into contention chasing Christopher for fifth. Masse was not as lucky the second time as a spin on lap 34 brought out the eventís fourth caution. Alexander, with nowhere to go, made contact as well. Under the caution Les Hinckley headed to pit road, as did Robert Drouin. Pinkham got a good run on the restart going side-by-side with Pasteryak for a lap before Pasteryak edged ahead for the lead once again.

Dachenhausen used the low groove to get by Pinkham and into the second spot. Christopher had moved into the third position. Blewett, meanwhile, had pulled his ride behind the wall.Just after taking the crossed flags to signify halfway, contact between leader Pasteryak and Dachenhausen sent Pasteryak hard into the front stretch wall. The #15 climbed the wall and ran nearly the distance of turn one on top of the wall. Pasteryak walked away from the scary looking wreck. Dachenhausen was parked for his involvement in the wreck. Under the red flag, the #6 of Rob Goodenough erupted like a geyser in turn two.

Coming down to take the checkered flag, contact between Christopher and Pinkham found Christopher spinning. Pinkham crossed the line first but he was called for over aggressive driving. The win was awarded to Owen. Holdridge and Malave joined Owen on the podium. Rowan Pennick and Jimmy Kuhn rounded out the top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway kicked off its final month of NASCAR Racing for the 2008 season with a Whelen All-American Series feature event that saw Keith Rocco win the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Ryan Posocco win the 30-lap Late Model feature, Chris Matthews win the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Joey Ferrigno win the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Duane Provost win the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, Rocco survived a several late caution periods to post his second feature win of the 2008 season and retake the SK Modified points lead from Ted Christopher with 2 races remaining. The lead changed hands several times in the early laps as Wade Mattesen led lap one and Corey Hutchings led the next two laps before Woody Pitkat moved to the lead on lap-4. Pitkat slowly began to pull away from the field, building nearly a full straightaway lead before a caution with 18 laps complete erased that margin. Pitkat held the lead until a restart on lap-32 when Frank Ruocco moved to the front. Rocco moved past Frank Ruocco on lap-33 to take the race lead. Several more caution periods followed, but Rocco was able to hold off Donny Travaglin and Doug Coby to take the win. Todd Owen finished fourth and Wade Mattesen rounded out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, it looks like property owner Terry Eames and track operator Jerry Robinson have kissed and made-up, legally, that is. The Hartford Courant reported on Tuesday, Sept 2 that Robinson made the bulk of the payments that he owed to the track ownership group, and also settled an outstanding property tax bill for the facility, during a court appearance New London. The ownership group filed suit against Robinson on Aug. 15 because of failure to pay about $45,000 in property taxes and also failure to meet scheduled rent payments.

Competition at the shoreline oval began with their Wacky Wednesday program. Ryan Morgan won the 30-lap Legends feature, while it was Billy Gerstch Jr. claiming the X-Modified 50-lap Summer Sizzler as presented by Prestige Properties. The program marked the final installment of the season for the popular mid-week series. Other feature winners were Greg Moran Sr. (Super-X Car), Curt D`Addario Sr. (X-Car), and Scott Foster (Outlaw Stocks).

Teenage Legends sensation Morgan passed early leader Glen Billings for the lead on lap-twenty, going on to snare his second in a row and his fourth feature victory of the season. Behind him a battle waged between 2008 Wednesday Legends champion Jason Palmer and Shaun Buffington. At the finish, Palmer narrowly edged-out Buffington to finish ahead of Max Zachem and Glen Billings.

Saturday nightís racing fell victim to tropical storm Hannah. Track management pulled the plug at 10:15am. The resumption of the Double Down Shootout Plus Legends and X-Cars will be run next Saturday (Sept. 13) night. Two 25-lap SK-Modified features and the second features for the Late Models (25 laps), Sportsman (15) and Mini Stocks (15) are on the schedule. A Legends 25 lapper and an X Car 20 lapper will also be run. A visit from the American Three Quarter Midget Racing Association completes the bust agenda.

The $5,000 SK sweep bonus remains in affect. Should that happen, five lucky fans will get away with $1,000 apiece.

In TV land this week televised action begins on Thursday at noon on the Speed Channel with a replay of last weekends Chevy Rock & Roll 400 that was run at Richmond last weekend. At 4:00pm ESPN2 previews the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Chase For The Championship. On Friday at noon ESPN2 heads north to Loudon, NH for Sprint Cup practice. At 1:00pm Speed will show the Aug 23 NASCAR Camping World Series East event that was run at the Mansfield Motorsports Speedway in Mansfield, OH. At 3:00pm ESPN2 covers Sprint Cup qualifying at Loudon. NASCAR Now follows at 5:00pm. At 7:00pm the action switches to Speed for Trackside at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Saturdayís coverage begins at 9:00am on ESPN2 with a one hour Sprint Cup practice session. At 10:00 the action switches to Speed for Craftsman Truck Series qualifying. Once the trucks are done the Whelen Modifieds have their 100 lapper which will be taped by the Speed Channel. The race will be aired on a tape-delayed basis by SPEED on Sept. 24 at 1:30 p.m. Speed has the Truck series pre-race show at 2:30 which will lead in to a 3:00pm start for the Camping World RV Rental 200. At 6:00pm ESPN2 hosts Sprint Cup final practice. Sundayís coverage begins at 10:00am with NASCAR Now on ESPN2. A two hour NASCAR RaceDay preview follows on Speed at 11:00am. If thatís not enough, the action moves to ABC for an additional hour of pre-race programming which will lead in to a 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Sylvania 300 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 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 two of the three speedway stocks had a positive finish for the week. The International Speedway Corporation went up 1.33 to 41.00 and Dover Downs went up 0.08 to 5.17. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.73 to 7.99 while second tier sponsor Nationwide went up 0.26 to 51.70. Fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 2.64 to 41.74 while tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.98 to 20.59. NASCAR team sponsor Dupont dropped 0.19 to 44.25 as Coca-Cola slid 4.64 to 35.94. Target Department Stores went up 2.01 to 55.03 while Aaronís Rentals dropped 0.13 to 28.43. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 1.47 to 28.59 and Lowes went up 1.11 to 25.75. The parcel carriers were on the other end of the stick. Fedex dropped 0.54 to 82.28 and UPS dropped 0.23 to 63.89. The World Racing Group continues to hover at 0.10, down 0.01.

Thatís 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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