By Phil Smith

This is the final edition of Looking Back for 2005. Looking Back will resume in Feb, 2006, just before Speedweeks.......Phil


The Whelen Modified Tour opener at the Thompson Speedway provided a surprise ending and almost a new winner. Zack Sylvester was well on his way to victory until a stalled car on lap 146 of the 150 lap Modified main event bunched the field. It ended up being a green- white checkered situation. Sylvester led the restart with Chuck Hossfelt and Ted Christopher in tow. Hossfeld got under Sylvester going into turn one and about the same time Ted Christopher dove underneath both of them to take the lead. On the final lap Sylvester got by Hossfeld and raced wheel to wheel to the finish line with Christopher It looked like Sylvester nipped him by six inches. NASCAR officials saw it differently and awarded the win to Christopher. Hossfeld ended up third with Mike Stefanik, fourth. Rick Fuller rounded out the top five. Ten caution periods kept the event to a bunch of short sprints. The longest green flag period was from lap 108 to lap 146. Kenny Bouchard led the initial start but was quickly overhauled by Eddie Flemke. Flemke led until lap 8 when Donnie Lia passed him. Two laps later Ted Christopher took the lead. The first caution came on lap 12 when Tony Ferrente and Chris Kopec spun in turn two, collecting Tom Cloce, Kenny Barry and Tom Bolles. Christopher continued to lead as the second caution waved on lap 21 for a six-car tangle in turn one. The third caution flew on lap 29 for a 13-car melee. Christopher and Hossfeld swapped the lead until lap55 when many of the leaders pitted after Howie Brode and Eric Beers tangled in turn four. Beers went head long into the fourth turn wall and suffered shoulder injuries. Despite the many front runners pitting for tires Christopher elected to stay out. Christopher finally pitted for tires on lap 105. Tony Hirschman, who took the lead on lap 76, paced the field until his tires wore out as Sylvester powered by on lap 134. Christopher made a determined charge and until the final caution when he was running third. The car counts and spectators continued to be great. There were 46 Modifieds on hand and there werenít too many empty seats as a crowd estimate of 10,000 was announced. Had it not been for the LaJoie seat and the exceptional workmanship on the Boehler No.3 Eric Beers could have suffered serious injury when he made hard impact into the turn four wall.
The Whelen Modified Tour headed for the Stafford Motor Speedway on April 24 for the 34th annual Spring Sizzler. Friday was a beautiful day with sunny skies and temps in the low 50ís. Whelen Modified Tour Series teams were allowed to enter the pit area where they could park their tow vehicles and get inspected. Heavy monsoon type rain-washed out all activity on Saturday. The 43 Whelen Modified Tour cars on hand were forced to wait until Sunday for their qualifying and 200 lap Sizzler. The Stafford management along with NASCAR made the decision to run the entire Sizzler program on Sunday. The Pit Party was eliminated as practice was started at 10:00am. Despite extremely long day competitors, officials and track management worked together and got the entire program in. Tony Hirschman took the win in the 200 lap Whelen Modified Tour Sizzler 200. Zack Sylvester backed up his runner-up finish at Thompson with another second place finish.. Todd Szegedy, pinch hitting for injured Eric Beers in the Boehler Racing Enterprises No. 3 finished third. Reggie Ruggerio and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five.
Donnie Lia was the Busch Pole sitter and started fourth behind Nevin George, Todd Szegedy and Tony Hirschman. George led the charge to the green and led until lap 28 when Szegedy moved into the lead. Hirschman, who had been running third, spun but didnít bring out the caution. The first caution came out on lap 40 when Jerry Marquis had a flat tire and collected Mike Stefanik as he attempted to cut across the track to pit road. Stefanikís car dumped a lot of liquid on the track that forced officials to red flag the event on lap 42 in order to clean the track. The field went back to green on lap 47. Another caution on lap 50 for a mass tangle. Among those involved was Ed Flemke Jr. who was black-flagged for having no nerf bars. The field went back to green on lap 55. Ted Christopher took the lead one lap later. The caution flew on lap 58 for Jerry Marquis who stopped on the backstretch. Green again on lap 64 with Christopher still leading with Szegedy on his tail. Two laps later another caution, this time for Mike Christopher who spun. The field returned to green on lap 68 with Ted Christopher leading Reggie Ruggiero and Rick Fuller. The next caution came on lap 76 when Ken Barry spun. Tony Hirschman pitted for tires and fuel on lap 78. The field returned to green on lap 82. Christopher led through numerous restarts and cautions until lap 121 when he along with Szegedy and Ruggiero pitted. On a lap 127 restart Jamie Tomaino led with Hirschman and Sylvester following. By lap 130 Sylvester was in second spot and Hirschman was leading. By lap 195 there were only ten cars on the lead lap. Don Lia, who had been running ninth, hit the wall and set up a green-white-checker sprint to the finish. Following Hirschman, Sylvester, Szegedy, Ruggerio and Ted Christopher at the finish were Chuck Hossfeldt, Tomaino, Charlie Pasteryak and Tom Bolles.
There were nine cautions for 52 laps. Estimated attendance was 8,000
The Whelen Modified Tour traveled to Stafford on May 27 only to get rained on. Forty-one Modifieds were on hand. Donnie Lia was the Busch Pole fastest qualifier as he toured the half-mile oval in 18.25 seconds. Tony Hirschman was second fastest with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Nevin George and Eric Beers rounded out the top five. The event was rescheduled for Sunday, July 3.
In some good news it was learned that Mike Ewanitsko would be returning to the Whelen Modified Tour Series wars. Ewanitsko would be driving for Ed Whelen. Ewanitsko was forced out of competition because of vision problems. With his problems behind him he is ready to rejoin the tour. Ewanitsko is fifth overall on the Whelen Modified Tour Series win list with 28 victories to his credit.
The Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the Riverhead Raceway on eastern Long Island on June 4. The sun gods descended upon the eastern Long Island speedway as forty-one Modifieds attempted to qualify for 28 starting spots. Ted Christopher was the second of two leaders as he won his first ever at the last oval left on Long Island. Frank Vigliarolo Jr. led the first thirty-three laps before giving way to Christopher who led lap 34 to lap 150. Christopher started third. Eric Beers in the Michael and Janice Boehler No 3 got a hard-earned second. Don Lia, who cut his racing teeth at Riverhead, finished third. Jerry Marquis appeared to turn his season around as he finished fourth with Mike Stefanik, fifth. Six cautions for 52 laps kept the average speed at 43.591 mph. By virtue of his win Christopher moved into the point lead as he leads Zach Sylvester by 54 points. Sylvester finished 14th, one lap down.
The Whelen Modified Tour joined hands with the Busch North Series for twin 100 lap events at the Thompson Speedway on June 12. With intense humidity and temperatures in the 90ís most of the day the twin bill would have turned into a test of man and machine. When it was all said and done the weatherman won another one as torrential rain hit the speedway causing yet another rain out. There were 41 Modifieds and 34 Busch North Series Late Models in the pits when the races were called.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series made up their rained out Haynes 150 at Stafford from Memorial Day weekend on Sunday night, July 3. Ted Christopher took the win after taking the lead with three laps to go. Doug Coby in the Curt Chase No.77 dominated almost the entire event only to lose it due to worn tires. Coby ended up third behind Chuck Hossfeld. Jamie Tomaino and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to Jennerstown, PA on July 9 for the Wheeler Brothers 150. Tony Hirschman cleaned house as he lapped all but the top five to record the win. Hirschman, who started sixth, took the lead from Jerry Marquis on lap 48 of the 150-lap event. Marquis faded to fourth while Chuck Hossfeld, who started seventh, finished a close second. Ed Flemke Jr had his best showing to date as he finished third. Jamie Tomaino started fourteenth and rounded out the top five. Current point leader Ted Christopher finished 23rd after losing numerous laps because of a leak.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH on July 15. Forty Modifieds were on hand for time trials, which were supposed to be held on Thursday afternoon. Heavy rain and high winds put an end to that. High winds that topped out near 60 MPH overturned protective tents that competitors had been using to shield themselves and their equipment from the heat of the Sun. Electricity was also knocked out. When it became apparent that time trials would not be held NASCAR made the decision to base the starting lineup on the latest point standings.
Based on the point standings going into the event Ted Christopher was placed on the pole with Chuck Hossfeld, outside. Christopher led twice, the first 26 laps and more importantly the last four as he made it three wins in a row as he beat Tony Hirschman to the finish line by a bumper. With 10 laps to go in the 100 lapper Eric Beers was leading the field under caution. Doug Coby was running second with Christopher, Hirschman and Steve Whitt following. When the green came out on lap 91 Coby took the lead. Beers slipped to fourth while Christopher and Hirschman closed in on the leader. On lap 97 Christopher made his bid as he passed Coby. Coby also gave way to Hirschman who closed in on Christopherís bumper. Beers ended up third with Steve Whitt rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Rick Fuller, Chuck Hossfeld, Jerry Marquis, Mike Christopher and Nevin George. Twenty-five of the original 40 starters were running on the lead lap at the finish.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine on July 23. Jerry Marquis ended a long dry spell as he secured his first victory for car owner Bob Garbarino. Marquis, who went non-stop in the 150-lap event, took the lead on lap 8 from Nevin George. George later dropped out with transmission problems on lap 114. Tony Hirschman finished second with Eric Beers in the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family, third. Steve Whitt and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five. Twenty-eight cars made the trip to Maine.
It was announced at the drivers meeting in Beech Ridge that the Seekonk Speedway would not honor the long standing gentlemenís agreement of allowing teams to pre-sign up to 10 crew members at a discounted rate of $25.00 per driver. Ed Cox (tour director) was called on Thursday by the Seekonk management to let the teams know it would be $40.00 per person. This did not go over well with the teams. There was a petition signed by all drivers/owners at Beech Ridge and handed to NASCAR, if the sign-in was not honored (10 crew @ $25.00) there would be no race. Evidently the Seekonk management was not happy with the support they got for a recent Mid-Week open event. By Monday, July 25, the dispute was resolved as the Seekonk promoter agreed to honor the 10 per car at $25.
The late Len Boehler began fielding Modifieds at the Seekonk Speedway some forty years ago. It was only fitting that Eric Beers, who was driving for Boehler Racing was able to garner his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series win on July 30 at the track where it all began. Currently owned and managed by Janice and Michael Boehler and based in East Freetown, Mass, Boehler Racing has been responsible for numerous NASCAR Tour and track championships during its tenure. At the track known as the cement palace, Beers started sixth and ended up taking the lead for the eventual win on lap 31. John Blewett III, pinch hitting for Mike Stefanik, drove another legendary car, the No.00 of Joe Brady, to a solid runner-up finish. Brady, who began his career in the late 1960ís at the Norwood Arena, is also responsible for numerous wins and track championships. Jerry Marquis started 16 and finished third. His car owner, Bob Garbarino, has also been in the Modified Racing business since the mid 60ís. Garbarino got his start at the Waterford Speedbowl. The top three car owners at Seekonk had collectively over 120 years of racing under their belts. Current Modified Tour point leader Ted Christopher led the first 30 laps before giving way to Beers. Christopher faded in the late going as he finished 17th on the lead lap at the finish. Christopher continued to lead Tony Hirschman by 60 points as the tour headed next to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. There were 31 Modifieds on hand.
Denise Barry Dion passed away suddenly on Wednesday, August 3. Denise was the sister and spotter of Modified driver Ken Barry (21), daughter to car owner Art and Deborah Barry and wife to Wayne Dion, Pro Stock driver. Denise, 45, was swimming when she began experiencing sudden abdominal pain and was then rushed to the hospital, put on life support, and by early evening, had passed away.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Riverhead Raceway on August 6. Donnie Lia has emerged as the next leader of the Long Island gang as he continues to turn in impressive finishes. At Riverhead he started on the pole and paced himself behind early leader John Fortin who led the first 39 laps. A faulty transmission ended Fortinís night. Lia was waiting in the wings and took command of the situation and never looked back as he led the balance of the 200-lap event to record the win. Tony Hirschman came from 8th spot to finish second with Jerry Marquis, third. Rounding out the top five were Chuck Hossfeld and Eric Beers.
Chris Kopec has elected to step aside from his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ride because of medical problems. Mike Stefanik moved from the Brady Bunch No.00 to the vacated No. 16.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Stafford Motor Speedway on August 12. A strong field of 37 Modifieds were on hand. Defending tour champion Tony Hirschman gambled with changing three tires when the rest of the field went with four on lap 113. Hirschman was fourth when he pitted and emerged the leader. Hirschman ran the rest of the event in the lead and went on to record his third tour win of the year. Ted Christopher ended up second and now leads Hirschman by 14 points going into Thompson. Jerry Marquis finished third with Mike Stefanik, fifth. High humidity along with extreme temperatures made for a true test of man and machine.
It was one year ago that Tiger Tom Baldwin was taken from us after a wreck at Thompson. Always outspoken, Baldwin told it like it was. A charter member of the Long Island gang, Baldwin was a Modified loyalist. He always had the best interests of the division at heart. In his late 50ís, Baldwin knew he was in the twilight of his racing career but still remained competitive. It is only fitting that we remember this fallen racer on the anniversary of his passing.
Tony Hirschman cruised to a convincing win in the NASCAR New England Dodge Dealers 150 at the Thompson Speedway August 18. Hirschman, the top time trailer, started seventh after the top ten redrew. Doug Coby, driving the Mansfield Ct. based No.77 of Curt Chase, started on the pole and led the first 80 laps before pitting. Coby ended up 14th after bad luck reared its ugly head. Ricky Fuller came from 18th to finish 2nd, his best finish in quite a while. Eric Beers started 19th and finished third. Mike Christopher had his best run to date in the Hills Enterprises No.79 as he took advantage of John Blewett IIIís transmission problems in the late going. Blewett had only high gear. Rounding out the top five was Chuck Hossfeld. Sixth through tenth were Blewett III, Marquis, Tom Bolles, Donnie Lia and Dave Etheridge. Ted Christopher entered the event as the point leader but left in the runner-up spot, some 63 points in arrears. Christopher ended up 20th after experiencing a flat tire and an encounter with Tyler Haydt. Former series champion Mike Stefanik had one of those nights he would like to forget. Stefanik took a hard trip into the first turn wall after blowing a right rear tire on a lap 112 restart. A good crowd, 8-9,000, a good field of cars, 37 Modifieds and good weather were the orders of the day.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series visited the Waterford Speedbowl on August 27 for the Big Y World Class Markets 150. Tony Hirschman led the 30 cars on hand as he took the Bud Pole award. Hirschman drew seventh for the initial start and was a possible threat until he found himself collected in a lap 65 multi-car tangle. For Bob Garbarino it was a homecoming as his driver Jerry Marquis took the eventual win after passing Doug Coby on lap 83. Garbarino, a forty plus year veteran Modified Car Owner began his career at what was then called the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. In victory lane Garbarino honored one of his former drivers, Dick Watson, whom passed away last year.
Outside pole sitter Matt Hirschman led the first ten laps before being overtaken by John Blewett III. Blewett, driving for Joe Brady, led from lap 11 to lap 20 when he was black-flagged for leaking fuel. Marquis took the point when Blewett parked it and led until lap 66. Doug Coby, who drives for Manfield Ct. car owner Curt Chase was looking to take his first win but had to give way to Marquis who was a tick better on the long runs. Marquis re-took the lead on lap 84 and never looked back. Coby finished second with Donnie Lia, third. Eddie Flemke finished fourth with Tyler Haydt recording his first top five with a fifth.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on September 3. Forty-six Northern and Southern Modifieds were on hand for qualifying which was held on Friday night. Chuck Hossfeld was the quickest as he took the Busch Pole with a speed of 99.979 mph. Eric Beers was second fastest at 99.355 mph. Tony Hirschman, Don Lia and John Blewett III rounded out the top five. The top eight redrew for starting spots. Ted Christopher, who qualified seventh, drew the pole. Hossfeld drew the outside pole.
A 50 lap Last Chance qualifier, won by Reggie Ruggiero preceded what had to be one of the best attended stand alone, non Nextel Cup events at the Virginia oval. Years ago stand alone Modified events at Martinsville drew in excess of 20,000 fans.
Ted Christopher got back on track in his quest for the Whelen Modified Tour Series Championship, as he was able to out duel Mike Stefanik for the win. Christopher, who led a total of 164 laps of the 250-lap event, took the lead for the final time on lap 227. John Blewett III finished a strong third with Eric Beers and Doug Coby rounding out the top five. A total of 46 Modifieds were on hand. Ted Christopher regained the Series point lead from Tony Hirschman. Jerry Marquis was third with Chuck Hossfeld fourth and Eric Beers, fifth.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway on September 11 for the Annual Thompson 300. With the announcement that the 300 would return to its original format came applause from fans and competitors alike. Thirty-seven Modifieds were on hand for time trials on Saturday. Tony Hirschman, who trailed Ted Christopher by 21 points going into the event, earned his seventh Bud Pole of the year. Hirschman was in a class by himself as he toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.962 seconds for a speed of 118.658 mph. Second fastest was Zach Sylvester who went 118.141 mph. Donnie Lia, Mike Stefanik and John Blewett III rounded out the top five. Hirschman drew eighth on the draw for starting positions while Carl Pasteryak drew the pole.
Ted Christopher maintained his lead in the Whelen Modified Tour Series standings as he added the Thompson 300 to his war chest of wins. Christopher, who now has six wins on the series this year, took the lead with 26 laps to go. Tony Hirschman, who was the odds-on favorite to take the win, finished second. Ed Flemke Jr. turned in a strong run to finish third. Jerry Marquis and Mike Stefanik rounded out the top five. With five laps to go the event took a twist that changed the top five. Donnie Lia exibited a little road rage as he planted Doug Coby into the front chute wall. Coby, who had taken second spot after running Lia up the track a bit. Instead of an almost positive second place finish Coby ended up 19th. NASCAR felt that Liaís actions were deliberate and parked him with five to go which resulted in a 20th place finish.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH on September 16. It was good to see Mike Ewanitsko back in competition after a long time being on the sick list. Ewanitsko tested at Thompson on September 13 and appeared to be as sharp and fast as ever. There were 40 cars on hand including backups. One round of practice showed that Don Lia was the fastest. Second fastest was Steve Whitt. Late day rain washed out time trials. The field was set by points with Ted Christopher sitting on the pole with Tony Hirschman, in the outside pole slot.
Ted Christopher scored a one-two punch as he scored victories in the Whelen Modified Tour Series 100 and the Busch North Series 125. Mike McLaughlin pulled off a similar fete in 1990. Christopher battled with Mike Stefanik almost the entire 100-mile distance of the Modified event, taking the lead for the final time on lap 87. The big story of the day was the successful comeback of Mike Ewanitsko. Ewanitsko started 38th in the 39 car starting grid and by lap 40 found himself in the lead when many of the front runners pitted during a caution. Ewanitsko, who elected to go non-stop, actually led from lap 46 to lap 57. Ewanitsko remained in the front pack as he ended up fourth. Stefanik finished second with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Rounding out the top five was Eddie Flemke Jr. who made a strong bid from his 13th starting spot. It was good to see Donny Lia and Doug Coby racing side by side after their recent run-in at Thompson. Coby, who drives the Curt Chase entry from Mansfield, CT, ended up seventh after leading twice during the event. Tony Hirschman, who lost a little ground in his quest to repeat his series championship, finished sixth. Lia, Eric Beers and John Blewett III rounded out the top ten. Six cautions slowed the event.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series made its final stop of the year at Stafford on October 2 for the annual Fall Final. There were 43 Modifieds on hand for the 150 lapper that carried a purse of $80,328. Taking the top spot in time trials was Donny Lia who turned the half-mile oval in 18.469 seconds. Second fastest was Tony Hirschman who was a tick slower at 18.524 seconds. The top six redrew for starting positions. Carl Pasteryak, who was sixth fastest, drew the pole. Jimmy Blewett, who was fourth fastest, drew the outside pole. Hirschman drew third, Jamire Tomaino, fourth, Lia, fifth and Ted Christopher, sixth. Among those who didnít qualify were Tom Bolles and Mike Ewanitsko.
Tony Hirschman got a little closer to Ted Christopherís point lead last Sunday as he won the Fall Final 150. Hirschman passed outside pole sitter and early race leader Jimmy Blewett on lap 17 and went non-stop to record the win. Blewett ended up 13th. Busch Pole sitter Donny Lia provided some late race excitement when his left front spindle broke on the final lap. Lia maintained control and finished second on three wheels. Chuck Hossfeld finished third with Jerry Marquis and Ted Christopher rounding out the the top five. Pole sitter Carl Pasteryak finished 15th, one lap down. Sixth through tenth were Charlie Pasteryak, Eric Beers, Jamie Tomaino, John Blewett III and Reggie Ruggiero.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series was at the Thompson Speedway on October 30 for the previously postponed World Series. They were joined by the Busch North Series. The big news on Saturday morning was that it wasnít raining. Temperatures were in the low 30ís but it didnít seem to hold anyone back as 40 Whelen Modifieds, 40 Sunoco SK type Modifieds and 35 Busch North cars helped jam the already bulging pit area.
In what was to be a long day of qualifying turned into another day of waiting and frustration as rain and snow hit the speedway in mid afternoon. At least the qualifying was completed for the Modifieds, Busch North and Sunoco Mods. Jerry Marquis in the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino captured his first Busch Pole of the year. Second generation driver Matt Hirschman was second fastest. Rounding out the top five were Don Lia, Zach Sylvester and Doug Coby. The top eight redrew for starting spots. Tony Hirschman drew the pole with his son, Matt, drawing the outside pole. Marquis drew eighth.
All the rain and snow disappeared during the Saturday overnight. Sunday was absolutely beautiful with temperatures in the high 60ís. Ted Christopher was looking to wrap up his first Whelen Modified Tour Championship, Tony Hirschman was looking to wrap up his fifth championship. Christopher will have to wait another year while Hirschman celebrates. Christopherís efforts came to an end on lap 10 when he took a hard shot into the wall between turns one and two after going up and over another competitor. Hirschman ran near the front for most of the 125 laps and in the end finished a conservative 12th. Jerry Marquis was the eventual winner with Chuck Hossfeld, second. Doug Coby finished third with Mike Christopher and Charlie Pasteryak rounding out the top five.
It was a brutal weekend on racecars. Mike Christopher wrecked the Hills Enterprises No.79 big time in practice. David Hillsí crew did yeomanís duty and the end result was a fourth. Chuck Hossfeld wrecked the No.50 wrecked in qualifying. Crew Chief Phil Moran and his crew did their work and Hossfeld rewarded their efforts with a runner-up finish. The 90, 12 and 3 were cradled off of the track. The 75 (Carl Pasteryak), 59 (Matt Hirschman), 13 (Ted Christopher), 10 (Ed Flemke Jr.) and 99 (Jamie Tomaino) all received major damage although the 99 and 10 teams did amazing jobs getting their cars back on the track. Kenny Barry was under the 12 of Jimmy Blewett in the second turn when he (21) wiggled and hit the 12 sending him into the wall. Donnie Lia had a fast car and hit the 79 in the rear and spun him out. That is when the Lia was held in the pits. Mike Christopher drove like a man possessed and came on hard to finish a fine 4th.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail _ HYPERLINK mailto:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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