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Friday December 11, 2008
A Look Back At The 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Season

By Phil Smith                                                                          

The Thompson Speedway officially opened the 2008 racing season in the northeast on April 6 and began the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. For a good part of the day it was misting and threatening rain. Eddie Flemke Jr brought back fond remembrances of his father’s Thompson 300 win in 1978 as he elected not to pit when the leaders did and it paid off handsomely, $7,920, to the second generation driver. Flemke, who started eighth, was running third and he inherited the lead on lap 71 when leader Todd Szegedy and second-place Reggie Ruggiero pitted. Flemke led until lap 92 when the race was finally red flagged because of extremely heavy mist that coated the track and made it unsafe. It was also the first win for Gary Teto, Flemke’s car owner.

A similar situation occurred 30 years ago and involved Flemke’s father and Bugsy Stevens. Stevens was clearly the fastest car during the running of the Thompson 300. When rain began falling Stevens was instructed to pit and handed the lead to Flemke. Flemke gambled that the rain would prevail and that it did! Chuck Hossfeld, in Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile finished second and was followed by Bob Grigas, Long Islander Joe Hartmann and rookie Tom Abele. Sixth through tenth were James Civali who was the Coors Light Pole sitter and clearly the fastest on the track, Todd Szegedy, Reggie Ruggiero, Rowan Pennick and Ted Christopher.

There were five caution periods for 53 laps. NASCAR Tour director Chad Little needed to get a better grip on this situation as it took way too long to get restart lineups correct. There were 39 Tour Modifieds on hand and despite the cold weather close to 8,000 fans turned out for the season opener.

Prior to the race, former champions Frankie Schneider (1952) and Donny Lia (2007), and the late Richie Evans (nine-time champion) were honored by NASCAR and series sponsor Whelen Engineering.

The Stafford Motor Speedway opened on April 27 for the season under sunny skies with qualifying for the annual Spring Sizzler, an event that has run continuously since 1972 featuring the NASCAR Modifieds. Thirty five Modifieds were on hand for qualifying for the 200 lap event that carried a purse of $94,676. In the inaugural event the late Eddie Flemke, driving the Bobby Judkins No.2x Pinto led until the closing stages when his engine suffered water pump failure, forcing him out of the event. Waiting in the wings on Flemke’s bumper was the late Fred DeSarro who was driving the car they call “Ole Blu” which was owned by the late Len Boehler. DeSarro inherited the lead and went on to take the win. Now, some thirty five years later the same names re-appear, well almost. Seventeen year old Ryan Preece, who is the grandson of Bobby Judkins drove the 2008 version of “Ole Blu” which is now owned by Michael Boehler, Len Boehler’s son, and his mother Janice. Preece, who failed to qualify for the 2007 Sizzler, toured the Stafford half mile in 18.057 seconds, 99.684mph, and earned the Coors Light Pole Award for the Sizzler. Second fastest was Eric Beers with a time of 18.084 sec. Chuck Hossfeld, Ted Christopher and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five in qualifying. Following a redraw, Rob Summers and Frank Ruocco picked front row for Sunday’s race, with Jimmy Blewett and Eric Beers in the second row.

Ted Christopher got a little closer to the 100 feature win mark as he won his 98th career win at the nutmeg oval as he won the 200 lap Spring Sizzler. Christopher pitted after Wade Cole spun on lap 141. Restarting in 12th spot, Christopher made a determined march to the front. He broke into the top five by lap 156 after Kevin Goodale spun. By lap 167 Christopher had moved into second spot, turning up the heat on leader Eric Beers. Christopher put Beers away on lap 172 and never looked back. Beers ended up in second spot and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, Mike Stefanik and James Civali. Sixth through tenth were Rowan Pennick, Richard Savory, Jamie Tomaino, Todd Szegedy and Glen Tyler.

Ryan Preece, who became the youngest Coors Light Pole Award winner on Saturday, led 64 laps in the event but exited the race on lap 91 while in the lead with engine failure.

Numerous cautions, 13 for 71 laps, slowed the event and at one point the event had to be red flagged. It was on lap180 after Jimmy Blewett made a hard impact with the SAFER barrier in Turn 1. He climbed out of the vehicle then expressed displeasure at Matt Hirschman before taking his mandatory ambulance ride. Blewett's 19 car was briefly airborne and needed the double hook to be removed from the track.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ended their “Spring Break” on May 23 when the Whelen Modifieds made their second stop of the season at Stafford. The Whelen Modified Tour Series almost got scrubbed as heavy showers caused a nearly 2-1/2 hour delay. The event, scheduled to go off at 9:00pm actually got the green at 11:30. Chuck Hossfeld, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino, ended a personal four year dry spell as he took the win in the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford. Hossfeld, who was also the Coors Light Pole sitter, started on the pole of the event and led 39 of the first 40 laps of the event before giving way to Bob Grigas III. Grigas and a host of the race front runners pitted on lap 92 under caution which allowed Matt Hirschman to assume the lead. Hossfeld beat Hirschman back to the starting line when the event went back to green on lap 107 and never looked back. Todd Szegedy finished second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik and Jimmy Blewett. Eric Beers, Ed Flemke Jr., Ryan Preece, James Civali and rookie Erick Rudolph rounded out the top 10. During post-race technical inspection, a probable illegal carburetor part was discovered on the No.19 that was driven by Blewett. The part in question will be taken back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation. Until an official decision was made only the first four positions were official.

There were 37 Modifieds on hand and nine caution periods for 46 laps. Prior to the race NASCAR honored seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Mike Stefanik as part of the season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series visited the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night, June 19, with a new format that consisted of a 75 green flag lap event. Ronnie Silk ended a long dry spell for himself and car owner Roger Hill as he beat out Ted Christopher for the win. Silk, who previously won at Thompson on September 23, 2007, took the lead from Ted Christopher on lap 53 and never looked back while en route to his first win of the season. Bobby Grigas III and Kevin Goodale ran wheel to wheel for the first 21 laps when they tangled in turn four. Goodale spun to the infield and was able to restart at the rear. Grigas ran with Ed Flemke Jr on his bumper until lap 27 when Flemke tapped and spun him in turn four. NASCAR felt the hit was intentional and put Flemke to the rear. Flemke agreed and went willingly. Ted Christopher inherited the lead with Silk in second spot when the field restarted. Christopher survived numerous restarts as the night wore on and the night got cooler. Christopher’s luck ran out following the 12th caution. The yellow flag period dragged for too long resulting in Christopher’s tires cooling off and losing traction. The resulting restart saw Silk rocket from his outside row starting spot and taking the lead upon entering turn one. Christopher managed to hang onto second spot and was followed at the finish by Mike Stefanik, Chuck Hossfeld and Tony Ferrante Jr. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Matt Hirschman, Bobby Santos, Kevin Goodale and Ryan Preece.

Earlier in the evening Grigas nabbed his first career Coors Light Pole Award. The second-year driver turned in a time of 18.751 seconds (119.994). He ended up 21st, one lap down. There were 38 Modifieds on hand. A year ago the Modifieds were 10 stronger. The competition was top shelf but competitors were not happy with the format. Despite the fact that the purse for the event was reduced admission prices remained unchanged. Pit area population was down as was the grandstand.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to Loudon, NH on June 28 for their first of two visits for 2008. Rain greeted fans and competitors who were on hand for qualifying on Thursday. Because of adverse weather NASCAR was forced to set the starting field of 38 cars based on point standings and the rulebook. There were 42 cars on hand, which meant that four would go home. Sent packing was Doug Coby, Jon Mckennedy, Kenny Horton and Kenny Bouchard. Among those in the field was L.W. Miller who would become the first driver to run a Spec engine in Whelen Modified Tour competition.

The four Whelen Modified Tour teams that were sent home from New Hampshire Motor Speedway after qualifying for Saturday's New England 100 was cancelled on Thursday each received tow money from the track. Track spokesman Fred Neergaard confirmed that each team was paid $500 by the track.

Chuck Hossfeld led only one lap but it was the one that counted as won out in a photo finish with Ted Christopher. Christopher, who had led since lap 69 had a checker on his mind but Hossfeld had other ideas as he dogged him with no mercy. Ed Flemke Jr finished third and was followed by Eric Beers and Reggie Ruggerio. Sixth through tenth were Bobby Santos, Todd Szegedy, Ryan Preece, Jeff Fuller and Ronnie Silk. Hossfeld pocketed $15,600 for his efforts. Hossfeld and Christopher kept the crowd on its feet for the final ten laps as they traded positions at the front numerous times. It was by far one of the best finishes ever seen at the New Hampshire oval. Hopefully someone in the O. Bruton Smith empire will recognize the great potential the division holds. L.W. Miller, who used the new “Spec Engine” finished 20th.

The victory was the seventh of Hossfeld’s career, his third at New Hampshire and his second of the season.

The Loudon Modified event had been scheduled to be televised and was to be shown on the Speed Channel on July 18. Needless to say the Whelen Modifieds took it on the chin again as the TV coverage was scrapped. On the positive side Speedway Motorsports upper management was impressed with the Whelen Modifieds to the point where they indicated the Mods could possibly get a third date at Loudon if and when the Indy Cars are added to the track’s schedule.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour moved to the Spencer Speedway in Williamson, N.Y on July 12 for its sixth race of the 2008 season. Matt Hirschman reached Victory Lane for the first time in his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career after he led 79 laps and won the Mason Farms 100. Hirschman, who won the second of two 25-lap heat races earlier in the evening, led four times throughout the 100-lap main and was the car to beat all night. After Mike Stefanik had moved through the field and took the lead on lap 89, the veteran was caught up in an accident coming out of Turn 3 and Hirschman took back a lead that he would never relinquish. Hirschman’s first victory came in his 45th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start. Ronnie Silk was the runner-up to Hirschman in the race which marked his third top 10 finish in a row. Chuck Hossfeld, who won the first heat race, came home third, and has yet to finish outside the top five in six races this year. Jimmy Blewett followed Hossfeld across the finish line while Stefanik wound up fifth. They were followed in the top 10 by Glen Reen, Todd Szegedy, Wade Cole, Danny Sammons and Bobby Grigas III. The finish was the best of Reen’s rookie season. Hirschman received a paltry $3,700 for his efforts.

Earlier in the evening Williamson native Jan Leaty captured the Coors Light Pole Award following group qualifying, but suffered a crash on the first lap of the main and could not continue. From many reports it appeared that it was the scene of a lot of follow the leader racing. Nine caution periods kept the competition to a minimum.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ended their mid-summer break as they moved to the Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway for the Miller Lite 140 on Saturday, Aug. 2. As part of a season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions, 1994 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titlist Wayne Anderson was honored.

Jimmy Blewett registered his third career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour when he took the checkered flag. Blewett was strong throughout the evening as he led three times for 80 laps, including the final 46. After qualifying fourth-fastest, Blewett took the win in the second of two 25-lap heat races that preceded the 140-lap main. He was then able to parlay his qualifying success into running up front in the feature. After staring on the outside pole, Blewett led the first 10 circuits and swapped the lead with pole-sitter Bill Park twice in the early going. He would take his third and final lead of the night on a restart on lap 102. For the second race in a row, Ronnie Silk finished as the runner-up. With four top-10s in a row, including a win, Silk has moved up to seventh in the season points standings after a slow start. Making his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start of the year after he captured the series title a year ago, Donny Lia finished third and was followed in the top five by Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece. The fifth place finish was the best of Preece’s young career. Ken Heagy, Mike Stefanik, Dan Jivanelli, Glenn Tyler and Eric Beers filled out the top 10. Chuck Hossfeld came home 18th in the race and suffered his first finish outside the top five this year, but will retain a 44-point lead over Christopher in the season standings.

As usual, the Riverhead event was slam-bang with lots of wrecks and extended caution periods. Of the 147 actually run, 95 were under caution.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season reached its midway point when the New England Dodge Dealers 150 was run at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night,Aug 8. Jimmy Blewett, who was running third on the final lap got a gift from NASCAR when apparent winner Ryan Preece was stripped of the victory and placed last on the lead lap. Preece passed Todd Szegedy for the lead on a lap 86 restart and led until a lap 149 restart when Szegedy went by him on the green flag before the last lap confrontation. Szegedy admitted that he roughed up the leader in order to make the pass. Shortly after taking the lead Preece gave Szegedy a slight tap as they entered turn one which caused Szegedy to spin in turn two. Evidently NASCAR director Chad Little felt that Preece needed to be penalized as he made the call that stripped him of the win. Ed Flemke ended up in second spot and was followed by Doug Coby who has, along with Woody Pitkat, replaced James Civali in the Don King No. 28, Matt Hirschman, Eric Beers, Kevin Goodale, Mike Stefanik, Danny Sammons, Carl Pasteryak and Charlie Pasteryak. Chuck Hossfeld finished 15th and holds an 86 point lead over Ted Christopher.

Many tongues were wagging over the last lap incident between Ryan Preece and Todd Szegedy. Szegedy roughed up Preece to get the lead as they both apparently over-drove a bit going into the first turn. When the pair made contact NASCAR Director Chad Little felt that Preece had deliberately hit Szegedy. After watching a video produced on the Stafford website it appears that Szegedy was just as much at fault in the incident. Little, who is getting to be known as the “Invisible Man” made himself scarce after the call and was unavailable for comment. Preece and Boehler Racing took a lot of abuse after the event, which was uncalled for.

There were eight caution laps for 46 laps and seven lead changes among five drivers. Among those who failed to qualify were Tom Abele, Jr., Jake Marosz, Reggie Ruggiero, Renee Dupuis, Gary McDonald and Frank Ruocco, who attempted qualifying after crashing in practice.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour invaded the Thompson Speedway last week. Rain cancelled qualifying which led to a start based on current point standings. All 33 cars on hand started the event.

Point leader Chuck Hossfeld led the opening laps before giving way to Todd Szegedy. An incident on lap 4 involved Eddie Flemke, Ryan Preece, Glenn Tyler, Kevin Goodale, Ricky Fuller, and Woody Pitkat. Preece and Tyler got the worst of it as they both suffered suspension damage. The pack ran single-file as the laps began to mount. Szegedy continued to lead with Hossfeld and Ted Christopher. The racing was finally slowed when the second caution flew on lap 42 for a spin by Jimmy Blewett. Blewett’s mount suffered from a broken panhard bracket mount. During the early stages of the event several front runners had encountered problems. After losing the top spot to Christopher, Szegedy encountered mechanical troubles under an early race caution necessitating a push to pit road and behind the wall. Szegedy was able to continue several laps down.

Ronnie Silk, who had worked his way to the second spot, found himself at the spinning end of a confrontation with Eddie Flemke. The field was able to miss Silk. Flemke received a penalty to the tail end of the longest line for his actions. During a caution period at lap 55 a host of cars headed to pit road for service. When things sorted out, Silk was leading with Bobby Grigas, who short-pitted, in second. Grigas capitalized on the restart; moving past Silk and into the lead. Hirschman followed through. Contact between business partners Flemke and Reggie Ruggiero necessitated another caution.

Back under green, Grigas continued to lead Hirschman. Lap-after-lap, Hirschman dogged Grigas. Early leader, Christopher, faltered while Stefanik was coming on strong. The veteran started to show his prowess after the century mark; joining Grigas and Hirschman. Silk meanwhile was fully recovered from his earlier incident to apply pressure to Stefanik. A bid for the third spot was slowed when Christopher, his tires worn, spun to bring out the caution. On the lap 112 restart, Hirschman took over the lead from Grigas with Silk following through in second. Bobby Santos was also able to motor by and into third. Silk’s march to the front was completed when he took the lead on lap 116. At lap 120, Christopher was back to eighth.

Contact between Hossfeld and Stefanik sent the Mystic Missile sliding. Both drivers were able to continue, barely missing a beat. The eleventh caution of the event flew; however, for a spin by Wade Cole on the other end of the speedway.

A handful of green flag laps led to a ruckus that began after bumper tag near the front of the pack. Hirschman was the aggressor on the lap 139 restart taking over the lead from Silk. Santos continued to run in third followed by a hard-charging Christopher. Silk was not done as he raced his way back by Hirschman and into the lead. The front five ran nose to tail as they took the white and checkered flags. With two laps remaining, Pitkat ended up against the turn four wall.

The race went into overtime, with a green, white, checker, single-file restart at lap 152. An uneventful final two laps gave Silk his third career win. Hirschman settled for second over Santos and Christopher and Stefanik.

The Thompson Whelen Modified Tour Series event also served as a reunion of sorts of racers who made the sport of Modified racing what it is today. Those on hand included Leo Cleary, Billy Harman, Ronnie Bouchard, George Summers and George Savory.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park on Aug 23 for the Whelen 150. A strong field of 31cars was on hand. Ted Christopher, who qualified sixth fastest but drew the No. 1 starting spot in the re-draw to sit on the front row, never trailed in the 157 lap race that went to a green-white-checker finish following a late caution. The win was his second of 2008 and the 29th of his career, which moved him out of a tie with Mike Ewanitsko on the all-time list.

In the process Christopher became the first driver to lead a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race wire-to-wire since Todd Szegedy did it in the 2006 Fall Final at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway.

Jimmy Blewett (No. 19 United Crane/Ling Trucking Chevrolet) finished as the runner-up in the race and was followed closely to the line by Ryan Preece (No. 3 Mizzy Const./Reynold's Auto Wrecking Chevrolet), Coors Light Pole Award winner Eric Beers (No. 46 Reynold's Auto Wrecking/Sunoco Chevrolet) and Ronnie Silk (No. 79 Hill Enterprises/Coors Light/Sunoco Pontiac). Matt Hirschman, Erick Rudolph, Mike Stefanik, Kevin Goodale and Glen Reen rounded out the top 10.

It was a costly night for Chuck Hossfeld who led the point standings going into the event. After starting 13th Hossfeld went only 57 laps before being sidelined with a broken axle. Christopher now leads the point standings by 64 points over Hossfeld. Matt Hirschman sits in third spot with Mike Stefanik and Ronnie Silk rounding out the top five.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returned to the Thompson on Sept 7 to partake in what was called Modified Mania. Thirty-two Modifieds were on hand for qualifying which ended up getting rained out. Based on point standings the field was set.

Preseason favorite Todd Szegedy broke through for his first win of the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season in the Sunoco Modified Mania 150. Szegedy, who started sixth, ran inside the top five for most of the afternoon, took his first lead of the race on Lap 132 and held off numerous charges by Ronnie Silk in the last 22 laps for his 13th career victory, and third at Thompson. Szegedy and Silk went non-stop without a tire change. Ted Christopher led the first 125 laps before pitting for tires under caution. Silk, who entered the event on a two-race winning streak at Thompson, led seven laps in the race but could not get past Szegedy despite three restarts in the closing circuits. Doug Coby, who is one of the drivers that replaced James Civali, came home third in the race, his second such finish in as many starts this year. Long-time series veterans Reggie Ruggiero and Rick Fuller rounded out the top five, for their best finishes of the year.

Ricky Fuller was honored prior to the race as part of NASCAR’s Celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions. Sunday’s finish was the 145th top five of his career.

Bobby Santos, Billy Pauch Jr., Matt Hirschman, Rowan Pennink and Eric Beers rounded out the top 10 finishers in the race.

Despite a 14th place finish, Christopher retained a 63-point lead over Chuck Hossfeld with 11 races in the books.
There were 8 caution periods for 34 laps. Among those sidelined due to accidents or mechanical failures were Mike Stefanik, lap142, accident, Gary McDonald, Renee Dupuis, Glen Reen, lap134, accident, Jimmy Blewett, lap 131, Ryan Preece, Glenn Tyler, lap 109, accident, Richard Savary, Ed Flemke, Jr., Eric Berndt, lap 23, accident and Jamie Tomaino, lap 23 suspension failure.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour converged on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept 13 for the New Hampshire 100. Thirty-nine cars were on hand for qualifying which was held on Thursday. Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman posted the quickest lap in qualifying at 29.658 seconds (127.453 mph). Chuck Hossfeld, who won the New England 100 at New Hampshire on June 28, joined Newman on the front row with a qualifying effort of 29.745 seconds (127.080 mph). Rounding out the top five qualifiers were Jimmy Blewett, Eric Beers and Bobby Grigas III. Series points leader Ted Christopher qualified 12th for Saturday’s 100-lap race. Ryan Preece and Glen Reen did not go out for timed laps. Both drivers were given provisionals. Preece, who drives the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family had engine trouble and had to send to Freetown Mass for a back-up. Reen crashed hard at Thompson and was given the opportunity to drive the Todd Szegedy back-up car. Sent packing was the No. 00 of Joe Brady which was driven by Jon McKennedy.

The New Hampshire 100 turned into a wreck fest for the Modifieds with 18 of the original 38 starters running at the finish. Ted Christopher, who finished second to Chuck Hossfeld by just .001 seconds in the New England 100 at New Hampshire in June, garnered his third win of the 2008 season and extended his points lead in the process. Jimmy Blewett led seven times in the race but had to settle for a second place finish. Ryan Preece came all the way from a tail starting position to finish a strong third. Rob Summers ended up fourth with Danny Sammons, fifth for his best finish of the season. Rounding out the the top 10 were Matt Hirschman, Erick Rudolph, Woody Pitkat, Jamie Tomaino and Eric Beers.

Numerous wrecks slowed the event that saw 15 lead changes among 5 drivers. The event started off with a bang when 12 cars were collected on the front chute at the drop of the green. Ricky Fuller’s engine had a malfunction and didn’t come up to speed when Fuller punched the throttle. This incident necessitated a complete restart. Ryan Newman, Chuck Hossfeld and Jimmy Blewett swapped the lead on numerouds occasions until the red flag was displayed on lap 62 laps because of extensive damage to the guard rail on the backstretch caused by an accident that had Anthony Sesely making a hard hit. Kevin Goodale and Chuck Hossfeld were involved in the most devastating wreck of the day. Goodale spun out in turn two on lap 52 without a yellow being displayed. Continuing on to turn four he spun again. Just as he spun Blewett went high and Hossfeld went low as they were fighting for the lead. Hossfeld cought the spinning Goodale with his right front tire and almost launched himself. Because of a TV time commitment to the Craftsman Trucks the Modified event was put on hold under red at 2:45 for a 3:00pm start for the trucks. The race resumed at just before 6:00pm and was over by 6:30. The quote of the day came from Todd Szegedy as he talked to his crew on the radio. “This is why they treat us like amateurs because we drive like a bunch of a__h___s”

A tip of the hat to Jerry Gappens, the New Hampshire Motor Speedway general manager who made the decision not to end the Modified event until the advertised distance was completed. Gappens went on the tracks public address system and explained to the crowd that the Modifieds would return to run the complete distance following the Truck race. “I don’t want to cheat anybody out of a single lap of Modified racing," he said”. This was the third race in the last four for the Modifieds at New Hampshire to be cut short because of television commitments for one of NASCAR’s national touring series. On each of the two previous occasions, however, the race was called official and cut short.

With his win, Christopher now had a 99-point lead over Hirschman in the season standings with four races to go on the schedule.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to Martinsville VA for the Made In American Whelen 300 which was be the 13th of 16 races on the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule.

For many years, the northern contingent has had a stranglehold on victory lane while southern competitors played second fiddle. Burt Myers became the first Southern driver to win a Modified tour race in a NASCAR-sanctioned race at Martinsville since Johnny Bryant in 1985. Whelen Southern Modified Tour competitor Myers changed all that as he powered his way to victory at the historic Virginia oval. Of the 43 Modifieds on hand, Myers was fourth fastest in time trials and for the start, redrew the outside pole, starting along side another southerner, Bobby Hutchens. At the start Myers almost saw his day end before it started as he tangled with Hutchens at the initial drop of the green and triggered a massive wreck on the front stretch. Fortunately for him NASCAR declared the start false and mandated a complete restart with Hutchens and Myers back on the front row. Myers led the restart with fastest timetrialer Ryan Preece in tow. By the fifth go-round Preece had the lead. Preece pretty much dominated from then on, at least until lap 270 of the 300 lap event when Myers got by him in traffic. Myers led the final laps to collect the win and the famous Martinsville Speedway Grandfather Clock trophy. Preece finished second and was credited with being the first Northern Whelen Modified. Matt Hirschman finished third and was followed by Reggie Ruggerio and Ted Christopher. Rounding out the top ten were Todd Szegedy, Woody Pitkat, Ed Flemke Jr, Rowan Pennick and Brian Loftin.

Eleven of the original 43 starters finished on the lead lap. Sixteen caution periods for 88 laps slowed the event. Among those were had problems were outside pole sitter George Brunnhoelzl III who lost an engine, Hossfeld wrecked, Mike Stefanik lost a driveshaft, Ronnie Silk wrecked, Jimmy Blewett had his battery short out, Bob Grigas lost a rear end, Wade Cole lost his steering, Ken Heagy had rear end trouble, Andy Seuss wrecked, Billy Pauch wrecked as did Rick Fuller and Glen Reen. Richard Savory had an alternator malfunction and Jake Marosz wrecked.

Myers was disqualified after being found with illegal transmission gears. Preece was awarded the win.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series attempted to move into the Stafford Motor Speedway on Sept 28 for the annual Fall Final. With the forecast calling for heavy rain for Saturday, and Tropical Storm Kyle, which was predicted to intensify into a hurricane and approach the New England coastline on Sunday, the Stafford Motor Speedway announced that it has postponed its CARQUEST Fall Final to the weekend of October 10, 11, and 12.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ventured to the Chemung Speedway in western New York last weekend. The 3/8 mile track, originally built by the Bodine family drew a sparse field of only 25 cars. The Chemung event with a somewhat reduced purse consisted of time trials, two 25-lap heats and a 120 lap feature that ended up finishing under caution. Matt Hirschman, who was the fastest on the clock, won his qualifying heat and after starting on the pole led wire to wire to win his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season. Hirschman entered the event 89 points behind Ted Christopher in the championship chase. With Christopher’s seventh place finish, Hirschman narrowed the gap to just 55 points with only the Stafford Fall Final and Thompson World Series weekends remaining.

Todd Szegedy dogged Hirschman for most of the event but settled for a runner-up finish and held up his spot in third in the season standings. Mike Stefanik finished third. Chuck Hossfeld, Ronnie Silk, Erick Rudolph, Christopher, Bobby Grigas III, Rowan Pennink and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 10 finishers.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series returned to the Stafford Motor Speedway on Oct 12 to make up the rained out Fall Final. Just prior to the weekend it was learned that Speedway announcer Deane Mercier had passed away.

Mike Stefanik led a banner field of Modifieds as he captured the Coors Lite Pole award as he turned in the fast time in qualifying for the CARQUEST Fall Final. Stefanik toured the Stafford oval in18.158 seconds (99.130mph). It was the first pole for Stefanik since 2006 at the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In the process he tied Tony Hirschman for the series’ all-time lead with 41 career poles, and extended his own record for poles at Stafford to 15. Eric Beers was the second-fastest qualifier at 18.168 seconds (99.075 mph) and started in the third row following the redraw. Rob Summers was third fastest at 18.316 seconds (98.275 mph). Series points leader Ted Christopher who seventh in time trials when he was clocked at 18.355 seconds (98.066 mph). After the redraw Christopher started alongside Stefanik in the front row on Sunday.

Stefanik capped off a dominating weekend by reaching Victory Lane in the CARQUEST Fall Final for the eighth time in his illustrious career. Stefanik used the front row starting position to his advantage as he led 129 of the 150 laps in what was Stafford’s last race of the year. The win was Stefanik's eighth in the Fall Final, Stafford 's traditional season-ending race. It was also his 20th all-time win at track and the 69th in his career overall. All three totals are NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour records.

Matt Hirschman came home second to Stefanik. With the runner-up finish, Hirschman now trails series leader Ted Christopher by just 35 points with one race remaining on the schedule. Christopher finished sixth. Chuck Hossfeld was third, while Todd Szegedy and Eric Beers rounded out the top five finishers. The rest of the top 10 consisted of Christopher, Rowan Pennink, Anthony Sesely, Glenn Tyler and Kevin Goodale. It was the best finish of the season for Sesely and Tyler.

Prior to the race NASCAR legend Bobby Allison was honored for his 1964 and 1965 NASCAR Modified division titles as part of the celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions.

There were five caution flags for 27 laps. For the most part the race was wreck free with only a few minor spins.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series concluded its season at the Thompson Speedway World Series on Oct 19. Ted Christopher held a 35 point lead over Matt Hirschman going into the final event. Todd Szegedy sat in third, over 143 points out of the lead. Chuck Hossfeld was fourth with Stefanik rounding out the top five.

Forty one Modifieds were on hand for time trials which were held on Saturday. Taking the pole was Eric Beers who also broke the track record with a fast time of 18.429. Second fastest was young sensation Ryan Preece in the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family. Third was championship contender Matt Hirschman with Jimmy Blewett and Chuck Hossfeld rounding out the top five. In the re-draw for the feature start Blewett drew the pole with Mike Stefanik drawing the outside pole. Preece drew third, Hossfeld, fourth and Ted Christopher, fifth. Beers drew sixth. Among those in the field was Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified Champion Keith Rocco who placed the Joe Brady No.00 solidly in the field in 14th spot. Among those who didn’t qualify were Reggie Ruggerio and Billy Pauch Jr. Among those who had problems and had to rely on provisional starting spots were Todd Szegedy, Ed Flemke Jr, Danny Sammonds and Jamie Tomaino.

Ted Christopher went into Sunday’s World Series with a different mindset than normal. Known as a hard charger, go for broke driver he was forced to take a conservative route. With Matt Hirschman breathing down his neck in the point standings the Plainville CT driver didn’t want a wreck ruining his chances. For the first half of the 150 lapper Hirschman and Christopher ran ninth and tenth. Both appeared to be waiting for the other to have problems. By the 100-lap mark the championship contenders were running fifth and sixth. On lap 120, while running third, Hirschman began to slow. Two laps later he was behind the pit wall with engine problems. Once Christopher got the word from Crew Chief Brad Lafountain Christopher put the hammer down and went after the victory. Christopher passed Ron Silk for the lead on lap 134 and was never headed after that. Chuck Hossfeld ended up in second spot and was followed by Silk, Doug Coby and Eric Rudolph. There were 11 cautions for 49 laps and six lead changes among 5 drivers. Hirschman, who re-entered the event 21 laps down on lap 143 ended up in 25th spot. In addition to Hirschman the other hard luck story belonged to Ryan Preece. Preece was running fourth on lap 80 when his right front tire went flat. Preece pitted under green and lost a lap. The determined youngster made a determined bid as he ended up 14th, on the lead lap.

Shortly after the checkered flag dropped Matt Hirschman congratulated the new champ. What he didn’t know was that one of his car owners, Ed Bennett, was waiting in the pits to tell him he was fired from his car. Hirschman had split his driving time between Bennett’s mount and that of Wayne Darling. Hirschman, who had won at Chemung and had finished second at Stafford in Bennett’s car, was driving Darling’s car at Thompson.

Final Point Standings:
1 Ted Christopher 2441
2 Matt Hirschman 2314
3 Todd Szegedy 2260
4 Chuck Hossfeld 2251
5 Ronnie Silk 2158
6 Eric Beers 2115
7 Mike Stefanik 2102
8 Rowan Pennink 2016
9 Jimmy Blewett 1969
10 Ryan Preece 1948

That’s about it for another year from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, RI, 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. e-mail smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.
 

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