Tuesday September 4, 2012

By Phil Smith                                                                                             

The Whelen Modified Tour heads to the Thompson Speedway this coming Saturday and Sunday for the UNOH Showdown which will bring together NASCAR's Whelen Northern and Southern Modified Tours which will each have 75 lap features plus will be combined for a 50 lap All green flag showdown which will pit the best of both divisions against each other. Rounding out the two day program will be the regular weekly Thompson racing divisions. Admission for both days is set at $55 for adults in the grandstand and $60 for the pit area.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series made its first of two visits of the 2012 season to the Stafford Motor Speedway drawing 31 Modifieds for the 3rd Annual Shark Cycle 80. Tommy Barrett, Jr. was the big winner of the night, coming from the back of the pack to pick up his first career VMRS victory.

A restart with 15 laps to go saw Jon McKennedy briefly take the lead from Rowan Pennink before Pennink went back to the point. McKennedy settled into second with Barrett in third. Barrett made a strong move in turn 3 on lap-68 to move into second with Doug Coby fourth and Ted Christopher in fifth. Jimmy Zacharias came to a stop in turn 2 to bring the yellow back out with 68 laps complete. The restart was called back and on the next restart, Pennink and Barrett were side by side for the lead with Pennink the leader by a nose. Richie Pallai, Jr. and Norm Wrenn spun on the frontstretch to bring the yellow back out with 11 laps to go.

Barrett and Pennink were side by side on the restart with Barrett taking the lead at the line by a nose. Barrett got clear of Pennink the next lap and took over the lead but the race was slowed again by the caution as Joe Doucette spun in turn 4 with 10 laps to go. Barrett was the leader back under green with Pennink, McKennedy, Coby, Christopher, and Owen lined up behind him. Barrett was beginning to stretch out his lead over Pennink while Christopher was now fourth behind McKennedy with 2 laps to go. Barrett led Pennink back to the checkered flag to pick up his first career Valenti Modified Racing Series victory. McKennedy finished third, with Christopher and Owen rounding out the top-5.

The final Thursday night Thunder at Thompson for 2012 saw Lite Modified driver Cam McDermott secure his 12th victory of the season. Other winners in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action included Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco Modifieds, Tommy O’Sullivan in an action packed Late Model feature, Jay Sundeen in the Thompson Modifieds, Larry Barnett in the Limited Sportsman, and Chad Baxter in the Mini Stock division.

Woody Pitkat held off Ryan Preece in an exciting Sunoco Modified 30-lap feature. Pitkat took the lead on lap six and battled Preece until lap 20 when he was able to shake him off his rear bumper and drive on to the checkered flag. Kerry Malone held off Todd Ceravolo at the start to take the early lead. The top-four – Malone, Ceravolo, Woody Pitkat, and Ryan Preece – were bumper-to-bumper until lap three when Ceravolo went underneath Malone to challenge for the top spot. Malone held him off as Pitkat and Preece drove by Ceravolo using the outside groove. On lap six, Pitkat went underneath Malone and maneuvered around a lapped car to take over the lead in turn four. Preece moved into the second spot on lap 10 and attached himself to the back bumper of Pitkat. On lap 13, Preece went to the inside and took over the lead in turn three, but Pitkat retaliated and reclaimed the lead on lap 14. In a nail-biting duel, Preece challenged Pitkat several times, but Pitkat continuously closed the door. On lap 19, Pitkat pulled away enough from Preece to have some breathing room. The field began to stretch out until Pitkat took the checkered flag a commanding ten-car lengths over Preece.

Ceravolo finished third with Ted Christopher a distant fourth. Christopher was gunning for his 98th win at the speedway. Kerry Malone rounded out the top five. Jim Zacharias, who normally races in the Race of Champions Series in New York state was a surprise entry and found that the boys who run up front at Thompson play hardball. Zacharias finished sixth and was followed by Ricky Shawn and Wayne Arute.

NEAR Hall of Famer Leo Cleary predicted that Larry Barnett would win the Limited Sportsman feature despite never leaving the bottom groove on the track with the exception of two restarts in which he elected to take the outside. During his 40 plus year racing career Cleary was never shy about going "up top" to make a pass. Cleary stated, "when we ran the Firestone steamroller tires at Norwood Rene Charland and Ernie Gahan would block up the front row so no one could pass and the only way to go was up top and on the boards".

The second annual UNOH Showdown at the Thompson International Speedway is the next major event on the 2012 Thompson schedule. This unique race event brought rave reviews from fans last year and this year’s running is expected to be even more exciting. Showdown weekend will be Saturday, September 8th and Sunday, September 9th. The UNOH Showdown brings together the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in a three-race program that spotlights each division and then combines the two for a thrilling 50-lap, non-points race that is made up of the best of both touring series.

Each of the Touring divisions will go through their normal practice and qualifying procedures that will lead to the 75-lap Town Fair Tire race for the northern group and a similar 75-lap Greene Point Energy event for the southern tour. Upon completion of the 75-lap races, the two tours will be lined up and turned loose for a no holds barred UNOH 50- lap spectacle known as the Showdown.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature action, Sean Foster was a first-time feature winner in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Adam Gray used a last lap pass to beat Tom Fearn in a thrilling Late Model finish, Ronnie Williams was a first-time winner in the 20-lap SK Light features, Carla Botticello picked up her first win of the season in the 20-lap Ltd. Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande took his 6th win of the season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

Foster, who led from lap 1 led Ted Christopher to the checkered flag to pick up his very first career SK Modified® victory. Danny Cates, Dave Gervais, and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top-5.

In Saturday night action at the Waterford Speedbowl it was called Thunder on the Sound. The Thunder fizzled after five laps were run of the 150-lap Budweiser Modified Nationals SK Modified feature as rain started falling while the field was under caution for a turn two crash by Shawn Monahan. The event has been postponed to Sept 15 when the final 141 laps of the $5,000 to win SK Modified feature will be completed. The track will also run twin Late Model features on Sept. 15. September 15 is also the rescheduled date for a Whelen Modified Tour Series event at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Among those who will have to decide on where to race on that date is Rowan Pennink who was in the field at Waterford and possibly Keith Rocco who may be back in the Boehler No.3 by then.

When the rains came Joe Perry was leading the SK Modified feature with Ed Puleo running second and Tom Abele Jr. running third. Nine events were scheduled for the program in total with five
feature races completed before rain began falling.

Taking victories in the races completed included Todd Bertrand in a special tribute Northeastern Midget Association race. Keith Rocco scored a career first win in the NEMA Lite series after making his first-ever start in the division. Cam McDermott took home the checkered flag in a rain-shortened NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified feature and in INEX racing action, Joe Mucciacciaro landed his first career Speedbowl win in the Legend Cars and Ken Morin Jr. was declared the winner of the Bandolero feature.

The completion of the 16th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals SK-150 will take place on Saturday, September 15th along with the make-up Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model 30-lap feature from Thunder on the Sound. The remaining 141-laps of the SK-150 will join twin 30-lap Late Model features plus the Street Stocks, Mini Stocks and Legend Cars on that date. This event has not been rain checked.

Next Saturday, September 8th will see the Valenti Modified Racing Series return to the shoreline oval for its second and final visit of the 2012 season. That event, a make-up from last month’s “Wings & Wheels” event, joins the night’s regularly scheduled NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program.

Special congratulations to Keith Rocco and Cassie Ceravolo who were united in marriage on Sunday, Sept 2. The bride is the daughter of Todd and Terri Ceravolo and the granddaughter of Dick and Joyce Ceravolo.

Ted Christopher took the NASCAR Modified win at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Christopher and Ryan Preece have been regulars at the Long Island oval this year. Preece was not as fortunate as he was trashed by another competitor. Howie Brode finished second with Justin Bonsignore, third. According to those who were there Preece was passing Shawn Solomito on the outside for 3rd. Shawn stuffed him in the wall coming off turn 2. Two or 3 back markers ran into the back of him about 5 seconds later.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series was at the Newport News Shipbuilding/Bayport Credit Union 150. There were 16 cars on hand. Jason Myers ended a 71-race winless drought with a NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory on Saturday at Langley Speedway in the Newport News Shipbuilding/BayPort Credit Union 150. Myers took advantage of some bad luck at the expense of Corey LaJoie to earn his first win since Aug. 5, 2006 at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C. LaJoie, who led a race-high 71 laps, experienced transmission problems while leading the field to the green flag on a Lap 107 restart.

LaJoie, son of Randy and grandson of Don LaJoie was filling in for Burt Myers, who injured his left arm in a shop accident on Friday and looked to have the car to beat after rookie Danny Bohn experienced mechanical problems at the outset of the event. Bohn, earlier in the day, won his first career Coors Light Pole Award. Frank Fleming finished second followed by Andy Seuss in third. John Smith and Tim Brown finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Burt Myers stated that an air grinder exploded and a piece of disc went in his arm and cut a muscle.

In action on the tube this week last weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup event that was run at Atlanta will be re-shown by the Speed Channel on Wednesday at noon. On Friday ESPN will provide live coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series event from Richmond, VA beginning at 7:30pm. Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint Cup event from Richmond will be televised by ABC beginning at 7:30pm.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week all three speedway stocks had positive results. Leading the way was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.21 to 26.61. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.06 to 15.33 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.12 to 1.46. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.04 to 4.85 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sun Oil went up 0.44 to 47.19 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.32 to 12.20. Two of the three car builders were down for the week. General Motors ended the week on a positive note as they went up 0.17 to 21.35. Ford dropped 0.15 to 9.34 and Toyota dropped 2.86 to 79.62. In the home improvement sector Lowes went up 0.75 to 28.48 while Home Depot dropped 0.21 to 56.75. With the exception of Coca-Cola going up 1.76 to 68.64 and Target Department Stores going up 0.40 to 64.09 the big team sponsors were down for the week. Dupont dropped 0.60 to 49.75, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.02 to 29.87 and Fedex dropped 1.44

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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