Tuesday September 29, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to Martinsville Virginia last weekend for the Made In America Whelen 300. The 200-lap event carried a race purse of $131,427. Among those who got an early start for their trip south was Ted Christopher who found himself suspended by the Stafford Motor Speedway for his on track actions on September 18. Keith Rocco was also suspended from Stafford but remained behind in order to compete at Waterford on Saturday night. Ronnie Silk subbed for Rocco in the Eddie Partridge No. 12.

With the exception of a limited practice session on Saturday morning the rains washed all activity at Martinsville for the day.

Forty-three Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the 43 starting spots. Ron Silk and Donny Lia were the top qualifiers. Following the re-draw, Southern Modified Tour competitor Brian Loftin was placed in the pole position. Rowan Pennick drew the outside pole starting spot. Rounding out the top five starters were Burt Myers, Silk and Lia.
In a little over an hour and a half Mike Stefanik was able to take the win in the Made in America Whelen 300 at Martinsville. Stefanik, who managed to avoid multiple wrecks during the running of the event, took the lead from Todd Szegedy with 19 laps remaining in the 200-lap event. Szegedy finished second with Ryan Preece, third. Ronnie Silk and Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Kevin Goodale, George Brunnhoelzl, III, Donny Lia, Eric Goodale and Jamie Tomaino. Burt Myers was the highest finishing Southern driver which meant that he will get credit for the win in the southern tour as the event was a North-South combination event.

For Ted Christopher it was a long day as he spent most of the race going in and out of the pit area with engine problems. Finishing 30th in the final rundown, the defending series champion lost considerable ground to Lia. His finish, combined with Lia’s eight-place effort, closed Lia to within just one point of the championship lead with two races remaining in the season. Wrecks and mechanical problems took their toll. Of the 43 starters less than 12 were competive at the end. Brian Loftin led the opening three laps but ended up in 29th spot after his brakes failed. Rowan Pennick led from lap 4 through 80. Pennick, who was quite fast, ended up in 16th spot, 15 laps down as a result of being shoved into the wall on lap 186. Chris Pasteryak, who led from lap 81 to lap 165 was collected in the same wreck and ended up in 15th spot.

There were 10 cautions for 60 laps. Stefanik’s average speed was 68.091 mph. For his efforts he collected $9,534.

In Thursday night Thunder action at Thompson, the speedway closed out their weekly racing series with a better than average crowd thanks to the folks that officiate at the Stafford Motor Speedway. After the on-track confrontations between Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco plus their suspensions from competition the fans came out to see if there would be a showdown at high speed on the high banks at Thompson. There was an ongoing war of words but there was no crunching of metal between the two. Instead it ended up being a plain good night of racing. Christopher took his third straight victory but it was Rocco taking the Sunoco Modified Track Championship crown. Jim Banfield won his career first Super Late Model feature event while teenager Derek Ramstrom earned his first Thompson track championship. Rick Gentes made it two in a row in Late Model competition. John Materas had a joy ride on Thursday night as he clinched the championship the week before. Tom Tagg scored his fifth win of the season in the TIS Modifieds as Tim Sullivan earned the title in the division by a scant eight points. Shawn Monahan scored his second straight Limited Sportsman feature victory. After an eventful night, Larry Barnett recovered from an early race incident to become a multi-time Limited Sportsman champion. Randy Churchill scored his third win of the season in the Mini Stocks. Scott Michalski had a banner year to win the division’s title.

Christopher made a move in the late stages of the Sunoco Modified main event to cleanly take his seventh victory of the season at Thompson. Tim Sullivan jumped out to the early lead with Ronnie Silk in tow. Rocco and Pitkat ran side by side in the sixth and seventh positions respectively. Christopher ran behind in eighth. Rheaume got out of shape allowing Rocco, in the outside groove, to gain a position on Pitkat. Rocco ran comfortably in the fifth spot. Pitkat ran a distant sixth followed by Christopher. Rowan Pennink ran in the eighth spot.

Rocco made a dive bomb move to get by Danny Cates to run in fourth. Pitkat followed through. There was contact between Rocco and Malone; sending Malone sliding and opening the door for Rocco to take over third. Up front, Silk dogged Sullivan for the lead. The battle allowed Rocco to catch the lead pack. On lap 12, Silk was finally able to get by Sullivan taking Rocco along for the ride. Christopher caught Sullivan as well. On lap 15, Rocco continued to tail Silk. Christopher had gotten by Sullivan to take over the third spot. Rocco dove low exiting turn three to take the top spot from Silk on lap 18. Christopher was able to get by Silk and immediately tracked down Rocco. A spin by Wayne Arute brought out the event’s first caution on lap 19.

On the restart, Silk was followed by Sullivan, Rocco, Christopher and Pennink inside the top five. Pitkat ran in the sixth spot. On the lap 19 restart, Sullivan failed to come up to speed. Pitkat, who was in contention for the track title saw his hopes fade away as he was collected in the incident sustaining heavy damage to the right front. The race restarted with Pitkat on pit road. Rocco was able to retain his lead on the restart but he had plenty of company in Christopher and Pennink. Christopher was able to maneuver by Rocco for the lead in turn one. Pennink began to apply pressure to Rocco for the second spot. Over the final laps, Rocco was glued to the back bumper of Christopher. They raced to the checker nose to tail with Christopher taking the win over Rocco and Pennink. Cates quietly came home in the fourth spot followed by Silk. Rocco’s strong run combined with Pitkat’s misfortune proved to be the winning combination for Rocco, who scored his second championship in three seasons.

With Ted Christopher and Keith Rocco under suspension the Friday night season was anti-climatic without the track’s main attractions in competition. Both Christopher and Rocco had their twin brothers pinch hitting for them but it wasn’t the same. Doug Coby took his first victory of the season in the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Tom Fearn took his second win of the season in the 30-lap Late Model feature, David Webb took down his second win of the season in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Bill Davis took down his first victory of 2009 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature event, and Don Wood scored his second win of 2009 in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green with Wade Mattesen holding the lead, but the action was stopped after the first lap for a spin by Nichole Morgillo. As the field took the green, Doug Coby moved by Mattesen to take over the race lead. Several more cautions for spins by Jeff Rocco, Mike Christopher, and then both Rocco and Christopher, kept the action at a slow pace through the first 11 laps of the race. Coby was continuing to hold the race lead, but Richie Pallai, Jr. was hounding Coby for the top spot. Jeff Malave was third behind Pallai, with Woody Pitkat and Todd Owen making up the top-5. The top-5 ran in line until the caution came back out for a spin by Frank Ruocco with 19 laps complete. Coby held the lead back under green, but the caution came back out two laps later as Pitkat and Pallai came together and spun in turn 2. This put Owen next to Coby for the restart and he immediately began to apply heavy pressure to Coby as they battled for the lead back under green. Owen was able to make a pass for the lead on lap-25, but the caution came out on lap-26 for a spin by Rob Summers. As the field went back to green, Owen and Coby were locked in a fabulous duel for the lead, racing side by side with neither driver giving an inch. As the laps continued to click off the scoreboard, Coby and Owen remained side by side for the lead. Their duel was slowed on lap-36 as the yellow came out for a spin by Pallai in turn 2. Coby took the advantage on the restart, but Owen was not going away quietly. He tried several times to make a run at Coby, but each time he came up just short of making the pass. Owen made one final attempt at taking the lead coming to the checkered flag, but Coby had enough speed to carry him to the checkered flag. Owen finished second with Joe Allegro, Jr., Malave, and Pitkat rounding out the top-5.

Ted Christopher clinched the 2009 SK Modified track championship, his record seventh championship at Stafford Motor Speedway. Frank Ruocco, who is under federal indictment for obstruction of justice for trying to hide records of a scheme to illegally double the cost of removing contaminated soil from a New York construction site and has been indicted for conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, finished in 18th spot. Ruocco dropped to third in the point standings as Woody Pitkat moved into the second spot.

The Stafford Speedway closes out their season this coming weekend with the 37th Annual CARQUEST Fall Final. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour makes its fourth and final stop of the 2009 season at Stafford.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Ron Yuhas Jr. won his third SK-Modified feature of the season cutting into division leader Keith Rocco's points lead. Tyler Chadwick finished second, followed by Rocco, who leads the points race by six with just two events left. Tim Jordan won his second Late Model feature. Danny Field (Mini Stocks), Walt Hovey Jr. (Street Stocks) and Jason Palmer (Legends) also earned victories.

With the season winding down, the points battles continue to take center stage in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions at Waterford Speedbowl. Three championship races remain tight following Saturday night's racing and Jason Palmer became the first Saturday champion, capturing the Legends Car title.

The open-wheel SK Modifieds came out for their 35-lap feature with Tyler Chadwick edging past pole sitter Joe Perry to take the race lead when caution waved with a lap complete. Chadwick, resumed control on the restart bringing points contender Ron Yuhas Jr. of Groton into second. Justin Gaydosh moved to third, Jeff Pearl fourth, and point leader Keith Rocco into fifth as Perry drifted back in the outside lane.

Pearl pulled out of line to challenge Gaydosh, for third. That opened the door for Rocco to pull under Pearl. The three raced hard for the position for several laps with Pearl eventually pulling ahead in the outside lane on lap nine. Rocco and Dennis Gada followed suit around the outside of Gaydosh to make up the top five as the race hit lap 12. A lap later, Rocco powered underneath Pearl down the backstretch to take over the third spot at the stripe. Dennis Charette spun to bring out the second caution and slow the action.

Chadwick and Yuhas raced even into turn one on the restart, but the action picked up off turn two when Gada got crossed up. The field stacked up behind Gada, who kept control of his machine to prevent a major altercation from occurring. The Gada and Gaydosh cars made contact entering turn three, sending Gaydosh spinning into the grass to bring out caution again.

The top four cars raced tight when racing action returned to green. Yuhas was able to move his way past Chadwick by lap 15 after an exciting exchange of the lead with both drivers up on the wheel. Pearl looked outside Chadwick with Rocco all over Chadwick’s rear bumper. Pearl eventually faded in the outside lane, allowing Chadwick and Rocco by and the top four cars singled out with 20 laps in the books. Yuhas pulled out to a comfortable lead in front as the race for second heated up between Chadwick and Rocco. Rocco tried everything to get around Chadwick, to no avail. Gada held the fifth spot over Jeff Paul. The race stayed clean and green through the remaining laps. Rocco dove under Chadwick with four to go, but lapped traffic interfered with the move and Chadwick held on to the spot.

Yuhas went unchallenged to his third win of the year by five car lengths over Chadwick. Rocco took third over Pearl who closed to his bumper over the final laps. Gada held on for fifth several cars back. Yuhas gained four points in the championship chase to close within six of Rocco.

Dick Ceravolo continues to show a slight improvement in his condition. A slight infection continues to put reconstructive surgery on hold. He continues to be in an induced coma, now in its sixth week. Cards of cheer can be sent to Dick Ceravolo, 1348 Baldwin Hill Rd, Gales Ferry, CT 06335. Ceravolo, 70, suffered serious injuries on Aug 21while attempting to jumpstart a farm tractor.

In TV land this week, NASCAR Now on espn2 will be shown at 5:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday NASCAR Now will air at 7:00pm on Friday. Race viewing on the Speed Channel begins at noon on Wednesday with a replay of last weekends NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA 400 which was run at the Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE. On Thursday morning at 4:00am Speed shows the September 18 NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East Heluva Good! Fall 125 that was run at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. At noon Speed shows the 2005 Banquet 400 that was run at the Kansas Speedway in Kansas City, KS. At 3:00pm Speed goes live at the Dover Intl. Speedway with the NASCAR Camping World Touring Series East Sunoco 150. At 5:00pm the live action on Speed moves to the Kansas Speedway for the ARCA RE/MAX Series Kansas Lottery 150. Friday’s action on Speed begins at noon with NASCAR Live at Kansas Speedway. Live coverage continues at 1:00pm with a 90 minute practice session for the Sprint Cup cars followed by another 30 minutes of NASCAR Live. The Nationwide Series cars take to the track for a 90 minute session at 3:00pm. At 4:30 the action moves to espn2 for Sprint Cup qualifying followed by Nationwide final practice at 6:00pm. The Speed Channel wraps up the day at 7:00pm with Trackside (NASCAR) at Kansas Speedway. The Nationwide Series cars qualify for the Kansas Lottery 300 at 10:00am on the Speed Channel on Saturday. NASCAR Live breaks it up at noon for a half hour followed by a 60 minute practice for the Sprint Cup cars. At 3:00pm the action switches to espn2 for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead in to the 3:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kansas Lottery 300 at the Kansas Speedway. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel has same day, delayed coverage of the World of Outlaws, sprint cars at the Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, PA. Sunday’s viewing gets the green at 10:00am on espn2 with NASCAR Now. At 11:00am Speed takes over with a two hour segment of RaceDay. At 1:00pm the action moves to ABC with the Sprint Cup pre-race show that will lead to the start of the Price Chopper 400 at Kansas Speedway at 2:00pm. On Sunday evening, the Speed Channel has The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm followed by NASCAR Now on espn2 at 10:00.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Dover International Speedway ended the week on the plus side as they went up 0.09 to 1.49. Taking the big dip was the International Speedway Corporation, which went down 1.44 to 27.07. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.86 to 14.14. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.33 to 3.95 while fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.69 to 27.75 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.06 to 16.02. With the exception of Ford which went up 0.35 to 7.29, the car makers were down for the week. General Motors dropped 0.02 to 0.75 while Toyota dropped 2.48 to 81.10. The team sponsors also had a negative week. Dupont dropped 2.00 to 31.74 while Coca-Cola dropped 0.25 to 48.80. Target Department Stores dropped 2.50 to 46.29 while Aaron’s Rentals dropped 0.74 to 26.16. The home improvement giants were also down. Home Depot dropped 1.38 to 26.85 and Lowes dropped 0.92 to 21.05.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, 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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