Tuesday September 7, 2010

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

Some of the best racing ever seen was witnessed at the Thompson Speedway last Thursday night. Car counts were up. The Modified Tour types were 18 strong along with 16 Sunoco (SKtypes), 24 Ltd Sportsman, 14 Late Models, 21 Mini Stocks and 10 Thompson Modifieds. A very rapidly run program had fans headed home early as the final checkered flag dropped at 9:12pm.

For the third-time this season, the Thompson International Speedway hosted their Tour-Type Modified Shootout. Ryan Preece added his name to the already impressive list of winners with a convincing victory on Thursday night. There was no shortage in intensity in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with five winners posting victories. The last time a competitor posted double digit wins in the Sunoco Modified division at Thompson International Speedway the year was 2001 and the driver was Ted Christopher. With his win on Thursday night, Christopher duplicated the feat; winning his tenth Sunoco Modified victory of the 2010 season. Rick Gentes, was the big winner in the Late Models as he scored his 75th career victory while Lloyd Anderson, scored his second Mini Stock feature victory of the 2010 season. Victory lane was a family affair for the Sundeen family. Son Jay scored his first career victory in the TIS Modifieds while father Scott scored his second
win of the 2010 season in the Limited Sportsman.

In the intense Tour type 40 lapper Preece jumped out to an early lead from his pole starting position with Bobby Santos III in tow. Shortly after the green flag on lap four, Ron Silk moved into the second spot. The first caution of the event flew on lap 13 for a spin by Tom Bolles in turn two. On the restart, Preece had to contend with Silk who jumped to the lead from his outside starting spot, moving Preece to second. Green flag racing was short-lived when a lap 14 incident involving Bolles and Dennis Perry brought out the second caution. Under the caution, Santos relinquished the fourth position to head to pit road for service. Jensen and Flemke also pitted under the caution.

Silk motored back out to the lead when green flag racing resumed. Mike Stefanik had worked his way into third. Long Island invader Justin Bonsignore vaulted to fourth on the restart. Preece was all over the back bumper of Silk as Stefanik lurked within striking distance. At halfway, Preece continued to hound Silk followed by Stefanik and Bonsignore. Things got physical between Eric Goodale and Richard Savary for the fifth spot. Contact sent Goodale sliding up the track to open the door for Savary to gain the position.

Preece would put the pressure on Silk continuously.and passed for the lead on lap 28.

Bonsignore, who is making a name for himself on the Whelen Modified Tour, closed on Stefanik. The caution waved again on lap 29 when Kevin Goodale and Bryan Chew tangled on the front chute. Preece retook the lead on the restart. Bonsignore went to work on Stefanik and took over third spot on lap 33 as the caution flew again for Bolles. On the restart Silk regained the lead and was able to hold on until lap 34 when Preece took the lead for the final time. Bonsignore, who had a fine run going had his night turn sour with three laps to go when he slowed with a skipping motor. Stefanik moved back into third and at the checker finished behind Preece and Silk. Richard Savory finished fourth with Kenny Bouchard rounding out the top five. In addition to their purse winnings competitors were thrown into a lottery where over ten of them recieved a $50 bonus.

In Sunoco (SK type) Modified competition Ted Christopher extended his point lead in the division with his tenth victory of the season. At the drop of the green Rowan Pennink jumped out to the lead with Danny Cates and Christopher in tow. The top five cars, which also included Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco, ran ahead of sixth-place Woody Pitkat. Almost at the drop of the green flag, the #12 of Ronnie Silk faltered.

A tense moment between Christopher, Preece and Rocco saw sparks flying as Preece made slight contact with the front stretch wall. All were able to continue almost without missing a beat. The action allowed Pitkat to make it a six-car breakaway at the head of the pack. Christopher got alongside Cates making the pass into the second spot on lap seven. Rocco immediately went to work on Cates. Rocco had company in Pitkat. Christopher had chased down Pennink making the pass for the lead look easy on lap nine. Cates followed Christopher by Pennink. Pitkat and Rocco went wheel to wheel-to-wheel. Cates got alongside Christopher on lap 12; however, using his text book crossover move, Christopher was able to maintain his lead. It was a repeat on lap 13 with a different outcome. Contact between Christopher and Cates exiting turn four gave Cates the edge and the lead. Rocco had moved past Pitkat into third. On lap 16, a move entering turn four gave Christopher the lead back once again. Rocco was able to catch the back bumper of Cates. Christopher, Cates and Rocco ran nose to tail nearly a half straightaway ahead of Pitkat. With 10 laps to go, Christopher enjoyed a two-car length advantage over Cates; his largest margin of the event. Cates had extended his advantage over Rocco as well. Pitkat continued to run a distance back in third followed by Preece. The best battle in the field with five laps to go was between Pennink and Tim Sullivan.

In the final laps, Cates had cut into Christopher advantage only slightly as the two stretched their advantage over Rocco. Cates could not gather in Christopher to muster up a serious challenge. Christopher went on to earn his tenth win over Cates. Rocco, Pitkat, and Preece completed the top five. Sullivan bested Pennink for sixth.

The Thursday night crowds at the northeastern Connecticut oval have been quite healthy this year. It appears that some changes may be in the wind for 2011. Two of Thompson's weekly divisions are in trouble. The Super Late Models and the Thompson Modifieds draw consistently 10 cars or less. Its possible that they could be dropped from the weekly schedule. The tour type modifieds are gaining momentum. If scheduled properly the addition of this division monthly or twice monthly could turn into a home run for the facility. The division could not run on weeks when the Modified Tour is running. Its getting to the point where many modified competitors can not afford the tour agenda and would rather race closer to home. It is also a known fact that speedway owner Don Hoenig is not happy with NASCAR and could possibly drop one of his tour dates. Couple that with the fact that not to many tracks are eager to sign up for dates. This could make for a few open weeks next year. Of course there are a few loyalists who would not lower themselves to race in a non tour event.

While Thompson enjoys success the word from the Jersey shore is not good as the Wall Stadium is locked up tight and will remain closed until further notice.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series returns to action on Saturday, September 18 in Loudon, NH.

The Sept 4 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event that was run at the Langley (VA) Speedway will air on VERSUS on Wednesday, Sep 8, at 7 p.m and on Sunday, Sep 12, at 11:00pm.

Based on a bad forecast due to the fact that Hurricane Earl was going to dump a lot of rain in Connecticut the Stafford Motor Speedway cancelled last Friday nights race. Stafford returns next week when the Modified Racing Series has its debut showing at the Nutmeg oval. Among those who will be driving through the pit gate for the event will be 75 year old Bob Judkins who will bring an all new MRS Modified numbered 2x which will be driven by his grandson Ryan Preece. The Judkins 2x, with Eddie Flemke aboard, won the first ever race at Stafford after the oval was paved in 1967. Retired and living in Florida, Judkins will field a car for his grandson for the remainder of the year and continue into next year.

In action on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl it was the annual Thunder on the Sound program, featuring eight race events and a visit by the popular Modified Racing Series. The event, presented by Connecticut National Guard, also featured a special flyover and landing on the track infield by a UH-60 Black Hawk chopper as part of the opening ceremonies. When the excitement settled in and racing got underway, 1997 track champion Todd Ceravolo ended a year long dry spell as he finally returned to the winner’s circle in the SK Modified® division. Chelmsford, MA native Jon McKennedy led the final 78 laps in the visiting 100-lap Modified Racing Series tour event to take his first Speedbowl win. Jeff Smith mastered the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division to record his second win of the year. Al Stone III was back in Street Stock victory lane, his fourth win in as many events. Ken Cassidy Jr won his second consecutive and fourth Norwich Bulletin Mini Stock race on the season. Allen Coates recorded his 78th career Speedbowl victory in the A.B. CDL Driver Training Center Truck race. Anthony Flannery was the Legends Cars winner and James Logan was the Allison Legacy Series race winner.

Ceravolo led the entire 35 lap distance in the SK Modified main event. With two laps remaining Ceravolo was nearly a straightaway ahead of Jeff Pearl, who was the same distance ahead of the battle for third. Jeff Paul was all over Rob Janovic on the final lap but unable to pull alongside. At the finish Pearl was second over Janovic, Paul and Tom Abele rounded out the top five.

In some sad news former Waterford Championship car owner Al Gaudreau is suffering from congestive heart failure and is currently hospitalized at the Bakus Hospital in Norwich, CT. Cards of cheer can be sent to Al at the Backus Hospital, Room E-310. Billy Harman says that Gene Bergin is not doing well after suffering a stroke as he remains in a hospital in Florida.

The Modified Racing Series visited the Waterford Speedbowl. Defending series champion, Jon McKennedy scored his second win of the season as he won the 100-lap Modified Racing Series Thunder on the Sound event sponsored by McKennedy’s ninth with the New England based racing series came behind the wheel of a brand new Raceworks chassis race car completed late Friday night.

McKennedy started outside front row in a 25-car field and chased pole sitter, Geoff Gernhard, for the first 32 laps. McKennedy passed the race leader on lap 33 and led the remaining 67 laps, winning by a comfortable margin. Chris Pasteryak, who returned from a mid-summer wrist injury finished second followed by August Waterford winner Steve Masse, Gernhard, Dwight Jarvis, Rookie Max Zachem,, Jacob Dore,, Rob Goodenough,, Rowan Pennink, and Norm Wrenn who rounded out the top 10.

McKennedy’s win moved him into an 11 point lead for the series championship over Jarvis with Les Hinckley III, Winsdor Locks, CT., falling to third place in the standings, 38 points back. McKennedy moved into a 9 point lead over car owner Gary Casella in the owners point standings. There were 27 race teams at the Waterford event with 14 cars finishing on the lead lap. The race was slowed by six caution flags and took 56 minutes 23 seconds to complete.

In TV land this weeks viewing begins with NASCAR Hub on the Speed Channel will be seen on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:00pm. Race viewing begins tonight, Sep 7 at 7:00pm on the Versus Network with the Aug 28 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour that was run at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. At 10:00pm Speed has Race in 60 which will show the highlights of last Sundays NASCAR Sprint Cup Emory Healthcare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. That program will also run at 10:00am on Wednesday. At noon on Wednesday the Speed Channel will rerun the entire Sprint Cup event that was held in Atlanta. At 5:00 the action switches to the Versus Network for the Sept 4 IZOD Indycar Series that was run at the Kentucky Speedway in Sparta, KY. Action on Versus continues at 7:00pm with the Sept 4 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour event that was run at the Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va. Thursdays action starts at noon when espn2 replays last Saturday's Nationwide Series event that was held at the Atlanta Speedway. At 3:00pm the Speed Channel replays the 2005 Sept Sprint Cup event that was held in Richmond, VA. The June 25 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East New England 125 that was held at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, NH follows at 6:00pm. Also at 6:00pm is the Lucas Oil Motorsport Hour on the Versus Network. Friday's action begins at 7:00pm on espn2 with live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at the Richmond Intl. Raceway. Race in 60 featuring the May 1 Sprint Cup event from Richmond follows at 10:00pm. Speed goes live at5:00pm on Saturday night with a two hour RaceDay from Richmond. The action switches to ABC at 7:00pm for the pre-race show that will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Air Guard 400. As a diversion, the Speed Channel will show the Aug 11-14 Knoxville Sprint Car Nationals at 9:00pm. NASCAR Victory Lane on Speed at 11:30pm finishes out the day. Sunday's viewing will consist of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, COMP Cams Topless 100 from the Batesville Motor Speedway in Batesville, AR on Speed at 5:00pm and the Lucas Oil Motorsport Hour on Versus at 6:00pm. Rounding out the day on the Speed Channel is The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00pm. At 11:00pm the Versus Cable network will re-show the Sept 4 Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series event that was run at the Langley Speedway in Virginia.

On the Speedway Stock Market Scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week in the green. Leading the pack was Speedway Motorsports which went up 1.06 to 14.28. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.91 to 24.10 and Dover Motorsports went up 0.04 to 1.77. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.34 to 4.34. Fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 1.45 to 35.95 while tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.61 to 10.30. With the exception of General Motors which showed a no change at 0.38, the car makers had a positive week. Ford went up 0.51 to 12.07 and Toyota went up 0.35 to 69.51. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 1.11 to 29.85 and Lowes went up 0.86 to 21.96. With the exception of Coca-Cola which dropped 0.71 to 50.90 the team sponsors had a pretty decent week. Dupont went up 1.50 to 42.61 while Target Department Stores went up 1.09 to 52.83, Aarons Rentals went up 0.20 to 17.06 and Fedex went up 2.29 to 82.75.

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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