Tuesday September 6, 2011

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to Canada last weekend for the first Tour event to be run out of the country, the Delaware 150 at the Delaware (Ont.) Speedway. Erick Rudolph earned his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 21 Means 21 Pole Award Presented by Coors Light Saturday in qualifying for the inaugural Delaware 150. Rudolph, from Ransomville, N.Y., posted a fast lap of 17.585 seconds (102.360 mph). A slim field of 18 cars was on hand. Many competitors who are tour regulars including Mike Stefanik, Woody Pitkat, and Ron Yuhas jr felt that it was not cost effective to make the long haul to Canada. Also missing was Ted Christopher.

Ron Silk appeared to have a game plan that even a 48-minute rain delay could not derail. He patiently waited for the right moment and won the Delaware 150. In the tour’s inaugural race beyond the borders of the United States, Silk started from the outside pole position and held on to that track position until it was time make his move. That time came with a Lap 107 pass of Erick Rudolph, who led the race’s first 106 circuits after earning his second career pole position. From there, it looked as if it was going to be smooth sailing for Silk behind the wheel of the Eddie Partridge No. 6 T.S. Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm Chevrolet. By Lap 132, he built a 1.222-second lead on Rudolph, but a spin in Turn 4 by Rowan Pennink brought out the caution flag and allowed weather into the equation.

Pennink’s broken oil line forced NASCAR officials to display the red flag to allow the clean-up crew easier access to the spill which trailed from Turn 1 all the way into Turn 3 on the half-mile track. In the meantime, rain began to fall on the track. The weather coupled with the clean up sent the cars to pit road on Lap 143. After the weather delay, Silk survived two green-white-checkered finish attempts before beating Doug Coby to the finish line. Todd Szegedy picked up third followed by James Civali and Eric Beers in fourth and fifth, respectively. Eric Berndt, Justin Bonsignore, D.J. Kennington, Jaime Tomaino and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top 10.

The race was slowed due to caution a season-high 13 times. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to familiar territory for its next outing to take on its counterparts from the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour on Sunday, Sept. 11 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in the UNOH Showdown. Each tour will have a 125-lap feature event followed by a 50-lap exhibition event with competitors from each tour pitted against one another.

It looks like Ted Christopher and crew chief Brad LaFountaine have kissed and made up as the Hartford Courant reported that the Ed Whelen No.36 will make its return to the Whelen Modified Tour Series at the Thompson Speedway next weekend in the for the UNOH Showdown. Both Christopher and LaFountaine are at the top of their game and when this condition exists there are differences of opinion. Car owner Ed Whelen shut the team down when the in-fighting got out of hand.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway track owner Don Hoenig was forced to cancel the event due to the adverse conditions created by Hurricane Irene. The track property incurred little damage but the big problem was no electricity. There is a generator on site but it is unable to handle the entire electrical load that is required.

The Stafford Motor Speedway began the month of September with a new face in victory lane at the conclusion of the SK Modified feature. Woody Pitkat nailed down his first win of the 2011 season in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Corey Hutchings picked up his first win of 2011 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Joey Cipriano scored his fifth win of 2011 in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, D.J. Burnham picked up his first career victory in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande picked up his division leading 5th win of the 2011 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Curt Brainard took the lead at the drop of the green with Brian Sullivan and Sean Foster locked in a side by side duel for second. Side by side behind Brian Sullivan and Foster was Nichole Morgillo and Dan Avery. Sullivan got cleared of Foster for second with Avery taking third. Glen Reen was now into fourth and Woody Pitkat was up to fifth with 8 laps compete.

Brainard held the lead until lap-9 when Sullivan went to the front, but his lead was short lived as Avery moved to the front on lap-10. Pitkat moved into second behind Avery with Eric Berndt moving by Sullivan to take over third place. Pitkat quickly moved by Avery to take the lead on lap-12. Berndt got by Avery for second place on lap-17 while Pitkat continued to lead the race.

After a trip through the grass that lost his several positions a few laps earlier, Ryan Preece was charging his way back towards the front of the pack as he moved into sixth on lap-18. Berndt pulled to the outside of Pitkat and the two cars began to run side by side for the race lead with Pitkat able to keep Berndt behind him at the start/finish line.

Berndt made the pass for the lead on lap-22 as Preece went by Todd Owen to take over fifth place. The order was now Berndt ahead of Pitakt, Avery, Glen Reen, and Preece. The top-5 remained unchanged until lap-33 when Preece moved by Reen for fourth place, but Reen came right back and took the spot back. Preece made another pass on Reen for fourth place on lap-37 in turns 1+2 and this time he made the pass stick. As the cars came back around and down the frontstretch, Reen made a run back to the inside of Preece and the cars touched wheels with Reen climbing Preece's tires, which launched his car into the air for a split second and the caution came out as Reen's car was showering sparks as it made its way back to pit road.

Back under green, Pitkat charged into the lead with Berndt settling into second. Todd Owen made a great move to get up to third with Preece behind him in fourth. Pitkat lead Berndt to the checkered flag by less than a car length to score his first victory of the 2011 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Pitkat and Berndt was Owen, Preece, and Brainard.

Among the missing were Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher, the division's biggest stars. Rocco was suspended from competition for one event following his crash with Eric Berndt on August 26. Christopher was at the Oswego Speedway competing in a SuperModified event. Rocco's car was in competition with Berndt doing the driving. Christopher finished seventh at Oswego.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Woody Pitkat carried his winning ways over to the shoreline oval as he won the Thunder on the Sound SK Modified event. Pitkat brought his Thompson car, the No. 00 of Jimmy Paige. Starting mid field, Pitkat drove a smart race and was in the right place at the right time. When Todd Ceravolo encountered fuel delivery problems while leading with 17 laps to go in the 150 lap event Pitkat was in the cat bird seat, ready to pounce. Once in the lead Pitkat was never headed. Ceravolo, driving a car owned by Harry Rhaume, rebounded to finish fifth. Pitkat, who got the jump on the final restart ahead of Diego Monahan, ran unchallenged the rest of the way. Ted Christopher raced by Monahan but had nothing left to throw Pitkat’s way. Monahan held back Rob Janovic for third, while Janovic rebounded from a late pit stop to take fourth

The event was one of eight features as part of the track’s Thunder on the Sound program, presented by the Connecticut National Guard. The win, carrying a $5,000 payday, was Pitkat’s first at the Speedbowl and came in just his second career start in the SK Modified® division at the track.

The Budweiser Modified Nationals rolled to the green flag with Joe Perry and Nichole Morgillo pacing the field. Perry got the jump at the green to lead lap-1. The action picked up right away as several side-by-side battles ensued as the field sorted out. Keith Rocco asserted himself early, making his way into the top-five in the first five laps. He picked off cars one at a time until he got past Perry’s inside and into the race lead on lap-9. The first caution waved on lap-10 when Gregg Hurley spun in turn three. Rocco led the restart but Ceravolo made a power move under Rocco to take the lead in turn three on lap-15. Christopher followed Ceravolo past Rocco, who had to fight off Rob Janovic Jr. to settle into third position.

Ceravolo held Christopher back over two restart attempts. Christopher kept the pressure on Ceravolo throughout while Rocco, Janovic and Glenn Pressel were content holding down their spots in the top-five. Further back, Pitkat paced himself in the top ten as the race reached lap-50. Pitkat continued to pick off positions following a lap-64 restart for a spin by Monahan in turn two. He rose to fifth place behind the top four, who remained unchanged. When caution waved on lap-96 for a spin by Joe Gada, Christopher and Rocco each ducked into the pits for fresh right side tires. Ceravolo showed the way over Janovic, Pitkat, Mark Bakaj and Tom Abele Jr. after the shuffle and flurry of pit activity.

Pitkat found his way past Janovic into second position on a lap-108 restart after Abele spun out of contention. Ceravolo continued showing the way, however over the next run of green flag racing Rocco was slicing his way back through the pack into contention just outside the top-five. He pressured Morgillo, who was holding down fifth position, finally pulling outside her on lap-120 before taking the spot on lap-123. Christopher was moving up fast just behind, pressuring Morgillo for sixth when caution returned on lap-128 as Bakaj was in the infield in turn two. The restart on lap-131 halted put a damper on Rocco’s march to the front. He and Christopher came together down the front chute on the restart, sending several cars scattering and keeping the race under caution. Rocco suffered a flat left rear tire after the contact and returned to the pit area for repair, while Christopher was able to stay out.

Ceravolo was up to the task on every restart attempt, keeping any challengers including Pitkat at bay. Caution on lap-133 following a hard trip to the front stretch wall for Wendell Dailey set the stage for the pivotal restart attempt. Ceravolo, starving for gas, appeared to falter on the attempt to restart the race, sending the field behind crashing down the front stretch. Several cars made hard contact including Morgillo, Rocco, Kyle James, Randy Churchill and Joe Perry, drawing the red flag. Ceravolo was pushed to the pits once the race went back under caution.

Other winners at the Speedbowl included Brian Andronaco who took the checkered flag in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, Ed Puleo who came out on top of an exciting conclusion to the Street Stock event and David Webb who scored his first career Speedbowl victory in the SK Light Modified race. Nick Pappacoda won the night’s Mini Stock feature, Dana Dimatteo was the Legends Cars winner and Ken Morin Jr. won the night’s Bandolero feature. In the visiting Allison Legacy Series tour race, James Logan scored the victory.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series returnes to action this Friday, September 9 at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Les Hinckley currently leads Chris Pasteryak by 12 points in the quest for the series championship. Rowan Pennink sits in the third spot and is followed by Mike Holdredge and Norm Wrenn. Sixth through tenth are Louie Mechalides, Dwight Jarvis, Rob Goodenough, Joe Doucette and Max Zachem.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, John Fortin continued his hot streak by winning again, which further reduced points leader Justin Bonsignore's point lead. Bonsignore had a lot on his plate as he headed to Canada for the Whelen Modified Tour Series event held there.

In NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action, New Englander Andy Suess held off the field in a 14-lap dash to the checkered flag to win the Newport News Shipbuilding 150 in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour action on Saturday at Langley Speedway in Virginia.

Seuss started from the outside pole position and fell back early, but he battled back to take the lead on Lap 129 and led the rest of the way. A debris caution on Lap 132 set up a sprint to the finish that he was able to manage in his No. 11 Phoenix Pre-Owned/Triad Auto Sales Chevrolet. John Smith crossed the line in second followed by Thomas Stinson, who led a race-high 88 laps, in third. Polesitter and defending tour champion Burt Myers finished fourth while Jason Myers finished in the fifth position. A light field of 13 cars was on hand.

In the annual Labor Day Modified Classic at the Oswego Speedway in New York, Chuck Hossfeld ran a smooth, heady race, avoiding all the tangles that shortened the field to just 10 finishers. The Ransomville, NY driver was rewarded with a $6,500 winner’s check in a hectic green-white-checkers finish.

Both Tony Hirschman and Jimmy Zacharias lost top-three finishes when they tangled on lap 198. Daren Scherer pushed Hossfeld to the finish, but had to settle for second. Lee Sherwood, Kyle Ebersole and Earl Paules completed the top five.

In TV land NASCAR Race Hub will air on the Speed Channel at 7:00pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. NASCAR Now on espn2 will be seen on Friday at 2:00pm, 3:30pm and at 5:00pm and on Saturday at 9:00am and at 11:00pm. Race viewing for the week begins on Wednesday at noon on the Speed Channel with last Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup AdvoCare 500 that was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. At noon on Thursday, Speed will replay last Saturday's NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 that was run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. Action on Speed continues at 6:00pm with the Sept 3 NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event that was run at the Spokane County Raceway in Airway Heights, WA. Friday's action begins at noon on espn2 with live coverage of NASCAR Sprint Cup practice at Richmond. Also on Friday at noon, Speed reruns the August 13 World of Outlaws, Knoxville Nationals. Live coverage by espn2 continues at 2:30pm with Sprint Cup Happy Hour final practice at Richmond. After a half hour break espn2 continues their live coverage from Richmond with Nationwide Series qualifying and Sprint Cup qualifying. At 7:00pm espn2 has a half hour pre-race show that will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Virginia 529 College Savings 250 at Richmond. The Speed Channel wraps up the day with Trackside (NASCAR) at Richmond at 11:00pm. Saturday's race coverage begins with a two hour session of RaceDay on the Speed Channel starting at 5:00pm. At 7:00pm the action shifts to ABC for another 30 minutes of pre-race that will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Wonderful Pistachios 400 at Richmond. At 11:30pm the Speed Channel will wrap it up with NASCAR Victory Lane.

On Sunday evening, Speed Center at 7:00pm and NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00pm sum up the weekend's racing. At 9:00pm Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain closes out the weekend.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks ended on a negative note. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.99 to 22.68 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.65 to 12.92 and Dover Entertainment dropped 0.04 to 1.45. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.28 to 3.53 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 4.20 to 36.11 and tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.31 to 11.50. Two of the three car makers were down for the week. Ford went up 0.02 to 10.42 while General Motors dropped 0.80 to 22.07 and Toyota dropped 2.31 to 69.34. In the home improvement sector Home Depot dropped 1.82 to 32.18 and Lowes dropped 1.30 to 18.94. The major team sponsors were for the most part, off for the week. Dupont went up 0.67 to 46.76 while Coca-Cola dropped 4.22 to 55.01, Target Department Stores dropped 1.12 to 49.71, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.65 to 25.45 and Fedex dropped 0.82 to 74.90.

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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