The Chrome Horn News



    Much like a bear, I have finally awoken my long winter hibernation. The last thing I remember before my winter sleep was wishing everyone a Happy Holiday season at the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour banquet in mid December at the Mohegan Sun. Much has gone on in that time while at the same time really nothing has gone on. When we last left things, details of the new Flash type of race were sketchy though it was announced the first of these type of races would take place at Wall Township Speedway the first weekend of May. And despite a meeting of the minds last Thursday, which included a few drivers as well as NASCAR officials, nothing was set in stone as to some of the procedure that will be used for this 50 lap race in which qualifying will be thru heat races. Of course, my question to NASCAR, is why hold the meeting on a Thursday? Why not hold it on the weekend, or better yet, why not meet with some of the driver's during the months of January, February or March? NASCAR talks about trying to cut the costs for the teams yet it decides to have drivers go up a day early? Really, makes no sense but then again, in racing nothing much does. I guess that's why I take these hibernations during the winter, because even when there is news, you're not really sure it's news until you show up for the first race of the season. I learned a long time ago not to count on anything being what it is until it is. Yes, that's a Yogism but it rings true. I can still remember getting a press release years ago announcing that Bruce Driver was going to run the tour full time. Then, when the season started, Driver was no where to be found at any of the Tour races. So, despite rumors and announcements of all types of driver shuffling this past winter, I waited until I arrived in the pits of Thompson to see who was where. And yes, most of the announced changes came to fruition. You had Jerry Marquis hopping into the Brady #00, Donny Lia taking Marquis' former ride, the Mystic #4. You had Eric Beers leaving the Big Blue team of the Boehlers with Bobby Santos II taking his spot. You had Zach Sylvester in the Chase #77 taking Doug Coby's spot and Rick Fuller occupying the Bear Motorsports car.
    Now that you have been updated for the last time on all of the shuffling, a race was run this past weekend as the rescheduled Icebreaker took place on Sunday afternoon. There was definitely no ice on this weekend as the weather was perfect in northern Connecticut, with temperatures in the upper 70's. During the running of the 150 lap event, you could say you might be seeing a changing of the guard on the Tour. With 25 laps remaining in the race, names such as Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman, Ted Christopher, Ed Flemke, and John Blewett III were closer to finishing towards the rear of the field then in the front. All had there problems on Sunday afternoon, leaving names such as James Civalli, Ron Yuhas, Matt Hirschman, Richard Savory Ronnie Silk and Jimmy Blewett to do battle for the win. Civalli, coming off his Sunoco Rookie of the Year campaign in which he also claimed his first Modified Tour Victory at Stafford in August, showed that he might be up to the task to improve on his rookie season on the Tour as he held off Chuck Hossfeld to collect the win. Civalli had not just his work cut out with Hossfeld, but also had to deal earlier in the race with John Blewett IIII and Donny Lia before holding off a determined Hossfeld. Civalli also had to contend with an earlier incident 25 laps into the race, that sent him closer to the rear than the front. "I wasn't sure what the #4 (Lia) was going to do based on the fact he never pitted. I didn't know if he really was strong and just waiting to rally back or if he had nothing left. I knew the #66 (Blewett) was top five and I knew that at any time he could push the gas and come up to the front. Some of those guys really wait until the end. You can be ten car lengths ahead and think that you have these guys covered but some of these guys aren't even pushing the gas yet. Even the #21 (Savory) when he got up to second, I knew he was fast but I knew I had him on any long runs," said Civalli. As for his last challenger, Hossfeld, and the last lap, Civalli knew he was in for a fight to the finish. "I knew that was going to be a crazy restart with it being a green, white, checker finish. It kind of gets hectic trying to get up to speed in one lap, especially with all of the rubber on the track. I was just trying to hold on there. It's pretty hard to judge. Your looking in the mirror to see if he's creeping up on you, and not knowing what he has. It was just a question of holding on, which we did."
    Last year wasn't one of Chuck Hossfeld's better years on the Tour. It took him awhile to get acclimated to his new team, owned by Hill Enterprises. Thus, it was decided that Hossfeld would leave his native Buffalo roots and move down south to work with Hill and the team on the cars and to prepare for the season. It was hoped that this could lead to more consistency, something that is needed if one is to compete for the Tour Championship. "We had a championship like day today. If we can have a day like this every week we would have a Stefanik type of year. My reasoning for moving down south is that the more smart people you have working on a race team and a race car, the better the team you will become. It works as long as your egos don't clash. I moved down there with David to be able to work on the cars and learn more about them since they're Raceworks cars and I'm not as familiar with them. Everyone seems to hit on that but a good race car is a good race car. That showed today. It's not like I get confused on how to drive a modified because I've been doing it for so long. I moved there to take some of work load off of David. You have to remember; we not only race these NASCAR races but we also race the Southern Tour and the ROC. We have four cars and only one guy working on them and it makes it hard. That's what prompted the decision to move down there, plus I want to win a championship. I went to the banquet this past year and listened to Mike Stefanik talk and realized that he's a pretty smart dude. He's a ten time champion and what I want to do is have championship type days like this every week that we race. We did that today," said Hossfeld.
    Going into the season, a few people (myself included) felt that this might be the year that John Blewett III brings home the championship to the state of New Jersey for the first time since 1990 when Jamie Tomaino was crowned champion. Last year, Blewett won three times in only eleven starts as he chose not to run the Tour full time. This year, Blewett plans on running the full schedule and things were looking up for a while as he was second to Civalli before the Blewett Motorsports modified turned behind the wall due to overheating problems. "We were really good after our pitstop and I didn't want to burn it up so I was just kind of hung there. I got to the lead and then James and I swapped the lead a couple of times and I decided that was not for me right now, I'll do that with ten to go. Then I started smelling anti-freeze and we were done. The car was running hot all day, as were some others. I'm not sure if something's changed with the fuel or what but whatever had been working for us before didn't work out today," said Blewett.

ICEBREAKERS: All of the race cars in the field sported Virginia Tech stickers, in honor of those who died tragically on the Blacksburg campus a week earlier. As mentioned earlier, it wasn't a great day for Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher, and Tony Hirschman. Stefanik lost his wheel and was the first one retired for the day while Hirschman wound up in the wall after coming in contact with Jimmy Blewett. Christopher wound up losing a lap in the pits. Ed Flemke wound up losing laps at the start of the race when he had to pit as the field was taking the green flag. Good to see Nevin George back on the Tour driving his family run modified. For a while, it looked like Reggie Ruggiero was going to be in the mix for the win but after moving into the top five, it appeared he didn't clear Ron Yuhas enough, sending Ruggiero into the wall while also ending Yuhas' fine run. Speaking of Ruggiero, it's good the number 14 on the car instead of the 41. It was also strange to see the famous Boehler #3 in white versus old blue. The color scheme was changed in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Boehler machine making its entry into the modified scene. Another famed modified had a slightly different color scheme, that of Tony Ferrante. Silver and powder blue was on the Ferrante machine instead of the customary dark blue and white. Ferrante once again put in a fine run at Thompson. Much like last year, Ferrante will make the Thompson shows as well as Wall and Riverhead. "It makes it a lot more enjoyable than traveling all over," said Ferrante of his plans. Donny Lia looked like he would be a contender from start to finish on Sunday in his new ride with Bob Garbarino. Unfortunately for Lia, the race was 20 laps too long as his tires were shot. Asked if he had planned on pitting at all during the 150 laps event, Lia replied, "We didn't know what we were going to do but the car was real good. The balance was good and not pitting was the right call. Everybody works good together. I think we have a real good combination." The Tour head to Stafford this weekend for the Sizzler before heading to the first of the Flash races. The question is if this Flash format will become a flash in the pan or will it make it to Claremont New Hampshire? On another front, I said for years that I would never get in a cab if Michael Waltrip was driving since I never thought he was that good of a driver. I guess I'm glad I never got the chance based on his one car crash in his civilian machine a few weeks back. As we close out this week's edition, we wonder what ever happened to Chris Aman? And This Weeks Quote of the Week comes from NASCAR PR man Jason Christley as Ted Christopher went a lap down in the pits, "Was Ted changing the tires himself?" All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030.


Source: Walt Stubbs/Independent WMT PR
Posted:  April 23, 2007

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