Tuesday September 25, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to Loudon, NH for the F.W. Webb 100 at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Thirty One Modifieds were on hand for the event. In early Friday morning practice Donnie Lia was the fastest of the fast as he topped the speed chart in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour practice. Lia toured the Magic Mile in 28.952 seconds at an average speed of 131.556 mph.

Rowan Pennink was second quickest in the 95-minute practice session, turning a lap of 29.196 seconds (130.456 mph). He was followed by Ron Silk, Ted Christopher and Patrick Emerling. Completing the top 10 were Eric Beers, Doug Coby, Jimmy Blewett, Mike Stefanik and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Ryan Newman.

Lia carried his speed over to qualifying as he won the Coors Light Pole for the F.W. Webb 100. The two-time tour champion lapped the Loudon oval in 29.352 seconds at an average speed of 129.763 mph. Doug Coby, was second quickest with a lap of 29.571 seconds (128.802 mph). He was followed by Ron Silk, Ryan Preece and Ted Christopher. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman turned in the sixth fastest lap on his first qualifying lap, then bounced off the Turn 2 wall on his second lap. Newman drove to the garage with damage to the nose of his car. Jimmy Blewett, Justin Bonsignore, Eric Goodale and Mike Stefanik completed the top 10 in qualifying.

Doug Coby held on in a two-lap dash to the finish to win the F.W. Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to score his fifth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season. In a race that featured lead changes on nearly every lap early on, Coby took command on Lap 84 and never relinquished the top spot. While he charged to the checkered flag after a restart with two laps remaining, second-place running Ted Christopher ended up slamming the wall after contact from Donny Lia, who went on to take the runner-up spot as the race finished under caution. Lia, who restarted fourth clipped Christopher from behind and turned him into the front stretch wall. Christopher bounced off the wall and careened into the inside wall that protects the pit area.

Christopher used a few choice expletives to express his displeasure with Lia's driving. Lia had a different story. “We were gonna fight for the win and I got a run there on the 3 car [Christopher] and got into the back of him, unintentionally, and caused a wreck,” Lia said. “It’s racing, I feel really bad about it, by no means was it intentional. I got a run and was trying to go to the bottom and got him in the left rear corner.” Following Coby and Lia across the finish line were Ron Silk, Ryan Newman and Rowan Pennink. Eric Beers, Richie Pallai Jr., Matt Hirschman, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Ryan Preece rounded out the top 10.

Perfect weather, clear and in the low 70's greeted competitors alike. Prior to the start of the event Boehler Racing Crew Chief Scott Richards gave Ted Christopher his marching orders. "Turn the fans on when the green drops and treat the first 50 laps as a practice session". After starting fifth he ran consistently between fifth and tenth until the half way break. Following the break Christopher began his march to the front. By lap 76 Christopher was in the lead as he passed Doug Coby in turn three. Coby and Christopher were left to settle it prior to the hit by Lia.

The planned 50 lap break took a lot of pressure off crews to perform but it robbed the fans of the excitement that pit stops generate. The only excitement was the possibility of a fire when an individual who was fueling Patrick Emerling's car accidentally spilled a lot of gas on the ground. Woody Pitkat, who was parked directly behind Emerling stated "Who ever fueled the 07 is a retard".

Mike Stefanik, who won the July race in Loudon returned with a new car and great expectations for a repeat performance. Stefanik started tenth and got as high as sixth at one point before his engine suffered an internal malfunction on lap 31 and ended his day.

Sixteen of the original 31 starters finished on the lead lap. In addition to Christopher getting wrecked on lap 99 Eric Goodale was also collected in the same incident. Wade Cole started 30th and finished two laps down in19th spot. Extremely under funded, Cole stayed out of trouble and all things considered had a good day.

Mike Christopher made his only start of 2012. Starting 28th, his car appeared to be under powered as he was never a factor as he too was two laps down at the finish ending his day in 20th spot. Long Islander Johnny Bush also had an off day as he was also two laps down in 21st position.

Patrick Emerling, who finished 12th on the lead lap, triggered a big wreck on lap 92 in turn one that took out Woody Pitkat, Bryan Chew, Todd Szegedy and Matt Hirschman. Emerling bounced off the lapped car of Jimmy Blewett.

Donny Lia, who went on to take the runner-up spot as the race finished under caution, was not penalized for his over aggressiveness by NASCAR.

There were five cautions for 17 laps. The event went non-stop until the mandatory stop at lap 50. The second caution was for Jimmy Blewett who spun between turns three and four. The third caution came on lap 87 when it appeared that Blewett dropped oil on the track. The third caution was for the Emerling triggered wreck on lap 92, the fourth and fifth cautions were for the Christopher wreck and the ultimate finish under caution.

There were 23 official lead changes among six drivers. D. Lia 1-3; R. Preece 4; D. Lia 5; R. Preece 6-11; R. Silk 12; R. Preece 13-14; R. Silk 15; R. Preece 16; R. Silk 17; R. Preece 18-19; D. Lia 20-23; R. Silk 24; D. Lia 25; D. Coby 26; D. Lia 27; D. Coby 28; D. Lia 29-45; P. Emerling 46; D. Lia 47-61; D. Coby 62-68; D. Lia 69-73; D. Coby 74-76; T. Christopher 77-83; D. Coby 84-100. There were numerous lead changes within the laps.

Doug Coby leads the point standings by 22 over Ryan Preece. Ron Silk sits third with Don Lia, fourth. Todd Szegedy rounds out the top five.

A spokesperson for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway stated that the Whelen Modifieds would be back for two events in 2013. That announcement would leave one to believe that Speedway Motorsports has no intention of moving any events away from NHMS at this time. The Whelen Modified Tour Series heads to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the Fall Final this weekend.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night it was a well deserved week off as track management and competitors prepare for the season ending Fall Final that is scheduled for this coming weekend.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program was highlighted by twin 35-lap SK Modified® features, the premier weekly division at the track. Tyler Chadwick of Ledyard won the first of the two races, his fifth of the year, while Tom Abele Jr. of Norwich won the night’s second feature, his first on the season. Cam McDermott of North Scituate, RI picked up his second checkered flag of the year in the SK Light Modifieds. Dan Darnstaedt of Durham scored the Street Stock feature race win and Garrett Denton of Hope Valley, RI grabbed his first Mini Stock division victory of 2012. The X-Car division competed in an event for their Saturday Showdown Series, won by Wayne Shifflett of Preston.

Among the surprise entries at the shoreline oval was NEAR Hall of Fame Legend Bob Potter. The 71-year old is a six-time Speedbowl track champion. He has been in the driver’s seat giving race fans at Stafford Motor Speedway the racecar experience in the two-seater SK Light Modified this season at the track. Potter also won five SK Modified championships at Stafford and ranks fourth all-time on the track’s SK Modified win list with 24 career victories, drove for car owner Pat Doherty in the SK Light Modified feature event. Potter finished eighth.

NASCAR headquarters in Daytona Beach Fla announced that Lee Pulliam, 24, of Semora, N.C., won the 2012 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship in just his sixth year of racing and fourth year in asphalt Late Models. Pulliam rolled up 22 wins, 30 top fives and 32 top 10s in 36 starts to run away with the national championship. He out-distanced runner-up Keith Rocco, 794-748. Rocco dislocated his wrist and broke a bone in an accident during practice at Thompson July 29. He had surgery and missed an entire weekend of racing.

Rocco has nothing to be ashamed of as he finished second in the final standings for the second straight year and third time in four years. Rocco had 14 wins, 26 top fives and 32 top 10s in 43 starts racing his asphalt Modified at Connecticut’s Thompson International Raceway, Stafford Motor Speedway and Waterford Speedbowl. He won his fifth straight state title and has finished in the top five nationally seven consecutive seasons.

Only four points separated the rest of the top five. CE Falk III finished third with 728, followed by Nate Monteith with 726 and Ryan Preece with 724.

Pulliam’s wins were spread among four tracks including 10 at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., nine at South Boston (Va.) Speedway, two at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C., and one at Southern National Motorsports Park in Kenly, N.C. He placed third in points at Motor Mile and South Boston running a partial schedule at each. He also won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Virginia championship.

In action on the tube this week last Sunday's Sprint Cup race that was held in New Hampshire will be re-run on the Speed Channel at noon on Wednesday. Speed goes live at Dover on Friday morning with NASCAR Live at 10:30am. Sprint Cup practice at Dover follows at 11:00am. Final practice for the Nationwide Series at Dover will be on Speed at 12:30pm followed by final practice for the Sprint Cup cars at 2:30pm.

Saturday's viewing begins at 11:30am on the Speed Channel with NASCAR Live from Dover. Coverage continues by Speed with Nationwide Series qualifying at noon and Sprint Cup qualifying at 1:30pm. The action shifts to ESPN2 at 3:00pm for the Nationwide Series pre-race show at Dover which will lead to the 3:30pm start of the NASCAR Nationwide Series OneMain Financial 200 at Dover. At 8:00pm the Speed Channel heads west to Las Vegas for the NASCAR Truck Series Smith's 350 at 8:30pm.

Sundays viewing begins at 11:00am on Speed with a two hour RaceDay preview. At 1:00pm the action moves to ESPN for a one hour pre-race show that will lead to the 2:00pm start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup AAA 400 at Dover.

In other television racing related news it has been announced that Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks and NBC Sports Group have reached an agreement to televise the 2013 Inaugural Stadium SUPER Trucks Season on NBC and NBC Sports Network. Starting in April of 2013, NBC and NBC Sports Network will televise 12 races (11 domestic and one international).

Capitalizing on what was once known as Mickey Thompson’s Off-Road Racing, Robby Gordon’s Stadium SUPER Trucks will feature high-flying off-road action motorsports fans have been asking for. The entire championship season will be broadcasted on NBC and NBC Sports Network, with the series awarding $500,000 to the Champion driver of Stadium SUPER Trucks.

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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