Tuesday September 18, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour headed to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Twenty three Modifieds, eighteen tour regulars were on hand for qualifying. Ryan Preece was the top qualifier, started on the pole and went on to win his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event of the season. Preece, who has been a regular weekly competitor at the eastern Long Island track led 168 laps before he survived a green-white-checkered finish to earn the victory.

A caution on Lap 196 set up Preece in a battle with Jimmy Blewett on the final restart and pushed the race to 203 laps on the quarter-mile. Blewett was penalized to the tail end of the lead lap for jumping the restart and finished 12th. NASCAR officials stated that Blewett passed Preece before the start-finish line.

Justin Bonsignore finished second. Todd Szegedy was third, followed by Riverhead regular Howie Brode and Ted Christopher. Rounding out the top ten was Tom Rogers Jr., Eric Goodale, Donny Lia, Ron Silk and Eric Berndt.
Goodale led a career-high 35 laps. It was just the third race in his career that he ran out front.

Among those who had problems and failed to finish was current point leader Doug Coby who was forced to drop out with engine problems. Coby finished 22nd after completing only 60 laps of the eventual 203 laps run.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will race next in the F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway this coming Saturday, Sept. 22. The race will air live on the SPEED channel.

Thursday Night Thunder switched to Sunday this past week. In Sunoco (SK) Modified competition Woody Pitkat won the battle but it was Ryan Preece winning the war as he wrapped up the 2012 Sunoco Modified Track Championship. It was Pitkat's fourth win of the year at the Big T. Preece finished second and was followed by Keith Rocco, Kerry Malone, Dennis Perry and Todd Ceravolo. On lap 27, Pitkat motored by Preece in turn one. Ceravolo began to work over Preece when the caution flew for a spin by Harry Wheeler. The green-white-checker restart gave Preece a shot to grab back the lead and the win.

With the green flag flying, Ceravolo got a run to make it three-wide for the lead. In turn two, Pitkat backed out; leaving Preece to battle with Ceravolo. Entering three, they were three-wide again. Coming out of four, Pitkat came out of the three-wide for the lead. The next lap, Ceravolo slid through the turn taking Preece to the wall. Ceravolo lost the handle on his #16 to bring out the caution. On the second attempt to finish the race, Pitkat was able to hold the top spot but now with Rocco in second. The caution flew for two separate incidents one on the backstretch that found Dylan Kopec hard into the outside wall coming off turn two.

The third time was a charm for Pitkat, who got the advantage on the third attempt at a green-white-checker restart. Rocco made contact with Preece allowing Rocco to run under for the second spot. Pitkat was driving away after a bump-and-run by Preece in attempt to take back second. The two went wheel-to-wheel with Rocco just edging out Preece at the stripe for second behind winner Woody Pitkat.

In other racing at Thompson, Larry Gelinas of Buxton, ME, was opportunistic in his Super Late Model feature event win and Cam McDermott took the win in the Sunoco Lite Modifieds. After tasting a first-career victory a week previous, Damon Tinio added to his tally with his second straight Late Model win. Jesse Gleason took top honors in the Limited Sportsman division and a top-five finish in the Limited Sportsman division netted Scott Sundeen not only the divisional champions but also a (unofficially) NASCAR National championship. Jay Sundeen capped off a strong night for his racing family with a victory in the TIS Modifieds. The brothers Baxter were on the top of their game on Sunday at Thompson Speedway. The duo went one-two with Joe winning the feature event. By virtue of his runner-up spot, Chad earned the Mini Stock title. The “Outlaw” Antique racers were also on tap with twin feature events.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature action and Valenti Modified Racing Series action were featured. The Valenti Modified Racing Series made its second and final visit of the 2012 season to Stafford for the 2nd Annual Lincoln Tech 80. VMRS points leader Jon McKennedy helped extend his lead in the championship chase by taking the checkered flag for his first ever victory at Stafford Motor Speedway. Taking wins in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature action was Todd Owen in the SK Modified® feature, Woody Pitkat in the Late Model feature, Zach Aszklar in the SK Light feature, Cory Casagrande in the Ltd. Late Model feature, and Austin Bessette in the DARE Stock feature.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco was among those not in competition. Rocco was suspended for the remainder of the season for his part in a confrontation with his former car owner Mike Pane. Rocco and Pane traded remarks and allegedly got physical after the running of the SK Modified feature on Sept 8. Rocco said that he was defending himself after Pane initiated a physical confrontation but Speedbowl Race Director Scott Tapley chose not to believe him. Short track racing is a contact sport and emotions run high. Keith Rocco was covering his spot in the closing laps which is something any driver would do. Is he a saint?, no way. Does he deserve to be tossed for the rest of the year? No way!

Todd Ceravolo, substituting for reigning track champion Keith Rocco, captured the completion of the Budweiser Modified Nationals SK-150 on Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl. Reluctantly, the Speedbowl awarded the victory to Rocco who actually started the car on Sept 1.

Starting in the rear of the field, Ceravolo spun on lap 55 and managed to claw his way back into the top ten by lap 85 and eventually eased his way into the third spot behind race leader Justin Gaydosh and Rob Janovic. With nine laps to go Janovic made an outside move to pass for the lead when Gaydosh rode him up into the wall between turns one and two. Janovic's car was trashed and Gaydosh was sent to the rear and was ultimately disqualified from the event. Ceravolo assumed the lead at that point and went on to take the win for Rocco. Woody Pitkat, pinch hitting for Rowan Pennink, finished second. Pennink was in competition at Riverhead. Tyler Chadwick, Jeff Pearl and Joe Perry rounded out the top five. For his efforts Ceravolo's first place payoff was $5,000.

Dillon Moltz won the second of two 35-lap Late Model features after finishing second to Anthony Flannery in the first race while Walt Hovey captured the Street Stock event, Jeff Cembruch won the Mini Stock feature and Joey Ternullo won the Legend Cars feature.

In action on the tube this week on Wednesday at noon the Speed Channel will replay last weekend's Sprint Cup event that was run at the Chicagoland Speedway. The Chicagoland Nationwide Series event will be re-shown at noon on Thursday.

Speed goes live at the New Hampshire Speedway for Sprint Cup practice starting at noon. NASCAR Live follows at 1:30pm. At 7:00pm the action shifts to the Kentucky Speedway for the Truck Series pre race show on the Speed Channel that will lead to the 7:30pm start of the NASCAR Truck Series Kentucky 201. At 10:00pm Speed will provide same day taped delayed coverage of Sprint Cup qualifying from Loudon.

Saturday's viewing on Speed begins with Sprint Cup Final Practice at 11:00am on Speed. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series takes center stage at noon with the Speed Channel providing live coverage of the 100 lap event. At 3:30the action switches to ESPN for the Nationwide Series pre-race show that will lead to the 4:00pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Kentucky 300 on ESPN.

Sunday's viewing begins at 11:00am with a two hour RaceDay preview on Speed. At 1:00pm the action switches to ESPN for the Countdown to New Hampshire which will lead to the 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup SYLVANIA 300 at New Hampshire.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had positive results for the week. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.28 to 28.59 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.25 to 15.92 while Dover Motorsports dropped 0.03 to 1.48. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.23 to 5.26 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.35 to 13.51 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil dropped 0.48 to 47.31. The car makers were all positive for the week. Toyota led the way as they went up 1.51 to 83.18. Ford went up 0.39 to 10.53 and General Motors went up 0.77 to 24.14. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 2.20 to 59.46 and Lowes went up 1.08 to 29.40. The big team sponsors had mixed results. Dupont went up 1.58 to 52.24, Target Department Stores went up 0.67 to 64.67 and Fedex went up 2.77 to 90.15 while Coca Cola dropped 0.22 to 68.32 and Aarons Rentals dropped 1.98 to 28.68.

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.

Web Design Copyright © 2012 & - All Rights Reserved
Opinions expressed in Phil Smith's "Champ Trail" do not necessarily reflect the opinions of and the contents are the sole responsibility and opinions of the author.
For permission to reproduce any part of"Champ Trail" contact Phil Smith @
The "Champ Trail" is Copyright © 2006-2012 Phil Smith