OUTSIDE THE WALL
by Ted Baxter
The Carquest Fall Final At
Stafford Motor Speedway
The Carquest Fall Final 150
lap Race for The Whelen Modified Tour had a little bit of everything in it.
Mike Stefanik took the lead on lap 92 of 150 laps, and held off challenges
from Teddy Christopher and Tony Hirschman over the last 59 laps for his 1st
Whelen Modified Tour win of 2007. Hirschman finished 2nd and Christopher
held on for 3rd.
14th place starting Stefanik was already in the top 10
on lap 6 when an accident in turn 3 + 4 involved
Glen Tyler, Kevin Goodale, Bobby Santos III, Joe Hartmann, Charlie + Carl
Pasteryak, with the 75 of Carl Pasteryak the only one having to be towed
away. On the Lap 12 restart, the 94 of Eric Beers fell way off the pace and
dropped way behind the pack. It was said over the PA that Eric was having
gear problems, and that he may have had only 4th gear in the car. On the
19th lap, Ryan Preece, who had started 4th, and was running well, was
collected by the front stretch wall just out of turn 4, Preece ended his day
in 31st position.
When the green flew again on the 24th lap, Todd Szegedy, who
lead all but one lap up to this point was showing the way out front, and
keeping the field behind him. Todd needed to win and hope for a poor finish
by the 4 team to keep his Championship hopes alive, and Szegedy was doing
all that he could do to keep the Championship possible. The Caution Came out
on lap 37 when Eric Berndt Spun off of turn 4. The top 10 running order at
this point was Szegedy, Matt Hirschman, Lia, Tony Hirschman, Ronnie Silk,
Ted Christopher, James Civali, Jimmy Blewett, Stefanik, and Jerry Marquis.
When the caution flew on lap 58 for another Eric Berndt spin, most of the
field used this caution to make their scheduled pit stop. Szegedy was
leading, and the 1st car down pit road, but the 36 team beat the 2 off of
pit road, so Christopher was at the front of the cars that pitted. The car
that did not pit at this included new leader Matt Hirschman, Donny Lia and
Lap 63 found the green flag flying again, and Matt Hirschman
did a good job holding onto the lead. The caution flew again on Lap 69 when
the 00 of Jerry Marquis hit the back stretch wall, and had to be towed via
the double hook. Green waved again on lap 74, and again the 59 car stayed
out front, but you wonder for how long on the older tires, especially with
Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik working their way up on fresh rubber.
Caution came out again on lap 84 when Wade Cole Spun in turn
1, with Glen Tyler and Joey Hartmann spinning to avoid and collecting the
Turn 1 soft wall in the process. Both Tyler and Hartmann pulled away from
what certainly would have been a more damaging incident had the soft walls
not been installed.
The green flag was waving soon, and Stefanik had found his
way into 2nd, and was putting some pressure on Matt Hirschman for the lead.
Going into turn 1 on lap 92, the 16 got under the
59, and pulled into the lead going down the back stretch. Teddy Christopher
followed Steffy into 2nd, and the race was on between these 2 veterans of
the modified wars. You had to wonder if either of them had thoughts of the
Riverhead Tour event where the were running 1st and 2nd, and contact took
both of the out of contention for the win. The battle for the lead was clean
and, eventually, Stefanik pulled out to a few car length lead. On Lap 96
Todd Szegedy spun off of turn 2 striking a big blow to his Championship
Caution flew again on lap 107 with a back stretch accident
including Anthony Sesely, Eric Berndt, Woody Pitkat, and Wade Cole among
others. Pitkat would be done for the race with Suspension damage. The top 10
at this point was Stefanik, TC, Tony Hirschman, Matt Hirschman, Lia, Silk,
Civali, Blewett, Rick Fuller, and Reggie Ruggiero.
The Green flew again on Lap 113 and found the 48 of Tony
Hirschman passing Teddy Christopher on the restart, which was fairly
surprising as Tony had twice as many laps on his tires than Christopher. The
closing laps clicked off quickly. Lia dropped a few spots late, but was
still well within a position that would lock up the championship. There was
no real threat to Stefanik as he kept a comfortable 2-3 car length lead and
when the checkers flew after lap 150, we had a 1st time 2007 Winner in Mike
Stefanik, and a 1st time Whelen Modified Champion in Donny Lia. Tony
Hirschman held on for 2nd, Teddy Christopher finished 3rd, With Matt
Hirschman, and Ronnie Silk rounding out the top 5. The balance of the top
ten included Civali, Lia, Fuller, Bobby Santos III, and Reggie Ruggiero.
OUTSIDE THE WALL NOTES:
Congrats go out to Donny Lia and the Bob Garbarino team. The
took the bull by the horns this
year, and there was no doubt they are the team of the year and deserve the
title. It is hard to believe that
the 4 team had never won a championship before when you consider the list of
drivers who had been behind the wheel of
the Mystic Missile over the years.
Mike Ewanitsko, Tommy
Baldwin, and Steve Park. Its also hard to believe that none of these great
Long Island Modified Drivers ever won a WMT Championship. They all had at
least one 2nd place finish in the standings. Donny Lia joins Wayne Anderson,
who won the 1994 Championship, as the only Long Island Drivers to win the
Title. With the dominating season, and his top 20 run in his truck debut at
NHIS, you have to wonder if any Truck and or Busch teams will put in the
call for 2008. I am hoping myself
that Donny stays put with the 4 team, and tries to join Tony Hirschman, ,
Mike Stefanik, and Jimmy Spencer as the only back to back Champions in the
23 year history of the Modified Touring Series. I have a feeling a lot of
Modified Drivers are hoping he gets the call.
The race was run on a beautiful day that actually got pretty
warm as the day progressed.
It was great to see Rick Fuller back in the top 10. I know
Rick hasnít forgotten how to drive, and heís always one of the best drivers
to listen to on the scanner. I am hoping Rick gets a full time ride for
Jamie Tomaino went out on the 3rd lap with engine woes. It
would be great to see this team running up front again, as Jamie has been
such a great ambassador for the sport of Modified Racing.
Ronnie Silk ran a Silky Smooth race. (I know, collective
Groan) He ran inside the top 10 all day, and finished up a fine 5th at the
end of the day.
The decision to pit or not to pit really didnít play that big
of a roll today as 3 of the top 7 cars didnít pit, and were running as fast
as the cars that did pit at the end of the race.
Stafford is still at the top of the curve when it comes to
fan amenities. They have the best Sound System of any track I have ever been
to, including Nextel Cup tracks, and to my knowledge it is one of the only
Short Tracks in the country with a BIG Screen TV for Replays.
I LOVE the Stafford Pit Party. More Tracks should do this as
itís a fan friendly way to meet drivers, collect autographs and hero cards,
or just grab a bunch of candy off the candy jars of the cars. Its also a
great time to catch up with friends. We had nice chat with many on line
friends, and that always makes a good day even better. Fran and I had
optimism towards the Mets revitalized playoff chances. (Insert Sound of
toilet flushing) Oh Well.
Chris "Goldy" Goldsnider came over and watched the race from
the Turn one Grandstand (AKA the MandyB Grandstand.) Its always great
discussion the mods with another hardcore fan of the division. I hope Goldy
finds some time for some stories as I love his style of writing.
Again, Ben Dodge is the best in the business. Bob Finan from
Riverhead is a close 2nd, but listening to Ben Dodge describe a race Is like
watching an artist at work. As far as I am concerned, Ben has the Official
voice of the Modifieds. To think there were times at the Pocono Race of
Champions where Dodge and Finan actually announced together.
I want to thank Richie and Fran from the Chrome Horn and the
folks at Stafford Motor Speedway for the opportunity to be a part of the
covering press for the day. It is greatly appreciated.
The Wall/Ted Baxter/TheChromeHorn.com
September 30, 2007