The Chrome Horn News


by Walt Stubbs

    One thing they had plenty of during the running of the Miller Lite 140 lap Whelen Modified Tour event at Riverhead Saturday Night was icy cold delicious Miller Lites. Too bad the track didn't have
enough of the other "lights" which caused a delay of up to one hour before the Tour finally took the green flag. The "lights" we are speaking about were a set of lights in turn one which weren't working up to par, thanks to a thunderstorm that hit eastern Long Island the night before, striking one of the light towers. With safety being an issue, NASCAR officials waited until the Riverhead crew redirected the lighting from another tower towards the darker area of the speedway before the race could get underway. Of course, the question is why did it take so long for anybody to realize the lights weren't up to par? The decision to wait wasn't made until all of the drivers were buckled into there race cars and sat on the front stretch waiting for the repairs to get done. Not exactly the way to run a smooth program, don't you think, but the way things have been going around NASCAR and the Modified Tour in recent weeks, it's pretty much been the norm, which doesn't speak to fondly of what those in Daytona think of its oldest division.
    Much has happened on the Tour in recent weeks, mostly stuff behind the scenes such as long time NASCAR PR man Mark Mockovak being let go. While most of you reading this might not know who he is, Mockovak is a guy who has loved modified racing since he was a kid going to the old Danbury Fairgrounds. He was someone who held his position not as a job, but as someone who loved the sport. Unfortunately, those at NASCAR felt the job should be a full time position and let him go in the middle of the season. This, after NASCAR couldn't find anyone for years who would take the job as a full time job. Mockovak had no problem doing the work, as it was more of a hobby than a job to him. It will be interesting to see if NASCAR really needs someone to fill the job on a full time basis and if that person, whoever it might be, cares about the division as much as Mockovak did.
    The other story making the rounds had to do with the poor broadcast that Speed did on the recent Tour race up at New Hampshire. It seems those who did the broadcast couldn't exactly get their facts right when talking about drivers or get the pronunciation right on others. I was always told in my  Journalism class that the most important part writing or telling a story was to get the facts straight and everything else would fall into place. Or taking it one step further and using the advice of my Dad, who told me, "If you're going to do something half assed, that don't do it at all."
    Once the light situation was corrected and they went green, much of the lights and cameras were on Donny Lia. And why not? This year has been a breakthrough for the Long Islander on the Tour, who has the most wins this season on the Tour while also leading the points chase. Plus, you add in
the fact the Lia was running in front of his many hometown fans while also racing at the track that he got his start at while also collecting his first Tour win at a few years earlier, and you can understand all the attention.
    To be honest, though, most of the eyes in the crowd, along with the cameras and lights, were on Mike Stefanik and Ted Christopher, who were waging a heated battle for the win for much of the race. It seemed to start when Stefanik, who was leading, came up on the lapped car of Rowan Pennink coming out of turn four. A decision had to be made, go low or go high to get by Pennink. At that point Christopher dove low and both Stefanik and Christopher came together, with one of the cars (Christopher) actually getting airborn from the contact. Christopher, though, was the winner in the short term as he took the lead from Stefanik. At that point, the heat turned up a notch in the oven for Stefanik, who stayed glued to Christopher's bumper and made it known to all that he was going to do everything his experience could muster to get back the lead. It all came to a head at Riverhead with less than five laps to go when Stefanik came in contact with Christopher, spinning Christopher and causing a right front flat for Stefanik.
    That's all Lia needed to get his fifth victory in eight starts this year. "You could see something was going to happen between the 36 and 16 cars," said Lia afterwards. "The 36 has had a pretty decent season while the 16 hasn't had a good season and everyone is real hungry to win so you knew something was going to happen. I just wanted to make sure that we were in the best position to take advantage of it if something happened and it did." Lia also admitted, even before the race, that its sometimes better to be lucky than good, and lo and behold, it played out to form. "We definitely didn't have a first place car tonight but it goes to show that even if we don't, we are still competitive. That shows how strong this team is. Our other wins, we had the car to beat and tonight we didn't. I'm surprised as much as anyone on how quick we've come together as a team. It's something you just can't explain. We just have a bunch of guys that are working hard all for the same thing. I think we are in a good position because all the tracks we are going into the coming weeks, we've pretty much figured out how to run them. But like I said, you can have the perfect set up, know the track and everything else but it won't make a difference unless you have luck on your side. Hopefully, that will continue."
    As for what happened between Stefanik and Christopher, Christopher had this to say. "I don't know what Mike is all upset about. I was racing for the lead and we came up on lapped traffic. I made a move as did he. It was a quick decision we both had to make. We came in contact. It's typical short track racing. Then, he just dumped me, which I'm surprised he did because he wound up coming out worst in the deal than I did. I'm not mad or anything because that's the way it is at a place this tight. I just feel sorry for the fans because there were just too many cautions and nobody
could get in any rhythm," said Christopher of the 66 laps of caution.
    As for Stefanik, he was visibly upset at the proceedings and did not want to talk until he had cooled a bit. (See race story for his comments) Unfortunately, Stefanik, after changing, made a quick exit out of the Riverhead pits for his home in Rhode Island.
    The Park name has been synonymous with modified racing for four decades in modified racing. Brothers Bob and Bill started the success and later Steve would take the torch up to Nextel Cup. While Bob is now retired and living down south and Steve is looking for a secure ride in the Trucks, Cup or Busch, Bill is now in his 37th year of racing a modified. In his earlier years Park would make the occasional trek to New Egypt, Stafford, Thompson and the Race of Champions at Pocono but in the last decade or so has concentrated his efforts solely on Riverhead. A track championship has
ensued and Park this year once again finds himself in position for yet another Riverhead track championship.
    But as Park remarked after his second place finish, "I hate running for championships. I never have raced with a championship in mind and then it winds up happening." Park always looks forward to when the Tour visits Riverhead, and as he stated afterward, "If I  ever win a Tour race, I'll retire," said Park, who then quipped, "I still feel I can compete and I feel great, even after running 150 laps in the heat so why stop?" Park made his point with his fine second place and also showed a respect that's sometimes been lacking with other drivers on the Tour. "I race clean and a few weeks ago Donny (Lia) came and ran here in a race and we raced clean and I won. There was no way I was going to dump him or anything like that because he showed me the same respect. I do think
that if we had a few more green laps, I had something for him though."
    While Park showed the Tour regulars that a Long Island veteran is someone they still had to contend with, Justin Bonsignore showed the Tour that he might be someone they will have to contend with in the years to come. Both he and Tour regular Ronnie Silk impressed everyone with there fourth and third place finished respectively. As Bonsignore joked with Jimmy Blewett  afterward, "Thanks for opening up all the holes for me to follow." It was more than that that led to Bonsignore's fine showing. As for Blewett, a flat right tire on a restart cost him a lap in the pits, and he wound up12th in the final tally. "We had a car capable of winning but I knew something was wrong right before the restart and sure enough, it was the tire. We were able to get it fixed, which shows how great these guys are. We might be a bit understaffed but the guys we have more than make up for it," said Blewett.

When the Tour schedule was released over the winter, Danny Sammons circled the Riverhead date. That's because Sammons failed to make the show last year in his first ever appearance at the Long Island track. Knowing that he needed to get laps around the tricky 1/4 mile, Sammons came to Riverhead a few weeks back to get that experience and the trip proved worthwhile for he and car owner Ralph Solhem. Sammons used that knowledge, plus a few other tips, to get a hard fought sixth place finish Saturday Night. "I knew we had to get lap time here and that helped," revealed Sammons afterward. "It's been a tough season. We run on a limited budget but I also realized I had to quit being so nice on the track and be more aggressive. We did that tonight and it worked out great," said Sammons....
    One of the nice guys on the Tour has always been Tony Ferrante. Ferrante now only runs a few races a year and the one he looks forward to the most is the race at Riverhead. Much of that has to do with the fact that he is from Long Island and has many friends. He also always seems to run well at  Riverhead and Saturday was no different. Ferrante was one of the top seven in time and was started the feature on the outside pole. Ferrante had his good run end when he spun out in turn two after Jerry Marquis made contact with the rear bumper of Ferrante. Always the gentlemen, Ferrante did not blame Marquis. "It was just short track racing," said Ferrante. "It's just frustrating because we had such a good car. I was just feeling my way, going five laps hard, and then taking it easy for five laps, just getting my rhythm. It's just frustrating because on one hand you feel good because I went out there and didn't miss a beat and was running well and then all of a sudden, you're day is done." Ferrante, by the way, still has the best post party in the pits of all of the teams. The spread once again this year had plenty for everybody who came on by....
    Riverhead was the last of the Flash Races of the season. Once again, a few tweaks were made for the 140 lap race after the two 25 lap qualifying races were completed. All yellow counted during the race, which wasn't the case in prior Flash races. Will the Flash concept be back in 2008? Who knows, some even wonder if there will even be a Tour all together.
    Mike Ewanitsko was in the pits taking in  the action. Ewanitsko has the most wins in Tour history at Riverhead (11). Ewanitsko is waiting to get a kidney transplant, and his a donor in his girlfriend. The procedure is to take place in the winter and here's to a healthy Ewanitsko, who is missed on the Tour.
    It's always fun to make the trek to Riverhead and listen to Bob Finan in the announcer tower. He's among the best in his trade.
    The Series heads to Stafford this Friday Night.
    Next weekend is also when John Blewett III will be racing a supermodified for the first time.
    And, as we finish this Week's edition, we wonder whatever happened to Don Howe?
    And Finally This Week's Quote of the Week comes from one of the scorers, after hearing an announcement that a pick up truck in the parking lot had it's lights on, "They should move the truck to turn one so we can get some lights on the track."
    All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court Unit 501, Hoboken, N.J. 07030.........


Source:  Walt Stubbs/
Posted:  August 5, 2007

2007 GeeLaw Motorsports/