The Chrome Horn - Walter Stubbs


by Walt Stubbs

   Ah, to go back in time. Iím sure each and every one of us at one time or another remembers someone or something from there past and wishes they could go back to that time frame and just freeze it. Unfortunately, there is no Michael J Fox or Time Machine to get us back to whatever period in time of our past that we would refer to as the good old days. For a lot of who have been involved in modified racing, that ďGolden EraĒ would be the 70ís and early 80ís, when drivers like Richie Evans, Bugs Stevens, Jimmy Spencer, Roger Treichler, Greg Sacks, Fred Harbach, Gil Hearne and any other driver at there weekly race track. To see those drivers, be it at Shangri-La, Stafford, Lancaster, Islip or Wall Stadium, coming from the back of the pack and win a feature event, with no caution laps counting, was a sight to behold. With the formation of the NASCAR Modified Tour in 1985 and the closing of many weekly tracks, those type of races gradually disappeared in NASCARís oldest division. Long distance races with caution laps counting became the norm, for better or worse.
   While there might not be a Time Machine to go back to that era, Don Hoenig and the management team at Thompson Speedway attempted to bring back ďthe good old daysĒ by running a 75 lap Tour race in which only green laps would count this past Thursday Night. To be honest, it sounded like a great idea and concept going in. However, like most concepts, it never quite turns out like you envisioned it would, for whatever reason. Circumstances beyond your control usually come into play, which is kind of what happened during the 75 lap feature. Iím sure going in, most were hoping for a good, clean, exciting race, with minimal cautions. Unfortunately, that wasnít the case as The Stubbs Meter counted 12 cautions for a total of 46 laps. Yes, I was counting the laps, just for curiosity sake. And according to my calculations, that would have led to a 121 lap race, four laps less than a typical 125 lap Tour race. So, the questions then become, was it a success, or better yet, what really was the difference? The easier question to answer might be the latter one. While caution laps are caution laps, whether you count them or not, there is still a different type of strategy that goes into racing this type of race versus your typical Tour race, which Mike Stefanik, who wound up third, pointed out afterward. ďItís really ridiculous that we only have one scoring loop. Modified's were always founded on pitting and racing. When the green comes out you go. Iíve never passed so many cars for nothing. Iím just aggravated with the system. One scoring loop just doesnít cut it instead of having three and four. At least have two scoring loops. I donít really care much for a 75 lap race. I love to pit and I love to include the crew. I like to not feel that when you start the race, you have no real means of adjustments. Iím true blue old school and love races where you have to pit. I think the fans love them as well, where you have to pit and blast your way from the back to the front. It seemed tonight that there was a lot of follow the leader for the first 25 to 30 laps, with everybody being conservative. I just donít like it. Modifieds are all about standing on the gas and going. You know youíre going to burn the tires off but so what? Youíll get three more tires in 50 or 75 laps and thatís always been my mind set. This time you had to be a little more cautious with your tires and itís not fun. Modified racing is supposed to be about fun and racing hard and it wasnít tonight.Ē
   As far as the format being a success or not, itís all in your point of view. Rowan Pennink, who has only been racing the Tour for two years, might have had the most insightful comment of all. Said Pennink of the 75 lap format, ďItís not really a problem to run 75 green laps. Itís basically the same as running 125 laps but I guess people get it in there heads that itís 75 laps and they have to run as hard as they can in the beginning, which caused many of the cautions. Itís just a mind thing because it really is more than a 75 lap race, whether you count the cautions or not.Ē I couldnít have said it any better myself and with that, maybe instead of blame being put on the race format, maybe, just maybe, it should be put on the drivers themselves and some of there aggressive driving methods. Remember, anyway you look at it, a caution is a caution, whether it counts on the lap counter or not. It still slows the pace and rhythm of the race, which cannot please the paying customer, track promoter or grouchy media member like myself. Itís kind of ironic then, that the new NASCAR Tour regime, headed by Chad Little, found reason to penalize three drivers for what it called aggressive or stupid driving. I donít think there was that many penalties handed out in the ten previous years on the Tour, let alone three in one night. Maybe this type of officiating will help lead to better racing. Time will only tell.
   You have to hand it to Ronnie Silk. He and the Hill Racing team had more than enough chances to get by leader Ted Christopher on restarts, there were that many of them. Each time, though, Christopher managed to hold off the upcoming driver. That changed, however, on the lap 53 restart in which Silk was able to shoot by Christopher. Once out front, Silk was able to keep Christopher at bay in winning his second career Tour race. When asked how he managed to get by Christopher on that particular restart, versus the other failed attempts, Silk said, ďI actually had some race track to work with that time around rather than marbles. Tedís car just wasnít good for a few laps and then it would get going. Iíd say we were about the same but when I got stuck behind him on the restarts, Iíd be side by side with Chuck (Hossfeld) for a while which would enable Ted to get quite a few car length lead. I knew if I got him on one of those restarts, Iíd have a chance which we managed on that restart.Ē
   For Christopher, it wasnít the finish he was looking for, considering he led for the majority of the race. ďThere was just too many cautions. When I got the lead, I pulled away and get in a good groove and then the caution would come out. Then, when your chasing, which we were doing at the end, we just used too much up,Ē said Christopher.
   When Chuck Hossfeld first hooked up with car owner Bob Garbarino and the Mystic Missile team a few years ago, there were a lot of ups and downs. After going separate ways, Hossfeld wound up hooking up with Hill Enterprises before eventually parting ways with them and was without a ride. Garbarino, on the other hand, finally got his long coveted Championship last season with driver Donny Lia. After Lia left to pursue his career in the Craftsmen Truck Series, there was much speculation that Garbarino would ride off into the sunset. However, there was Garbarino and the Mystic team bringing back Hossfeld to compete on the Tour in 2008. And itís been smooth sailing since, with Hossfeld leading the points chase going into Thursdayís race. As Hossfeld, who wound up fourth, admitted, ďIím so happy to be here. I feel like Iím home. I honestly feel we have the best team going. We have old guys, young guys, a couple of girls. Maybe Iíve matured a little bit, I donít know what it is. We think we had success the last time too. I guess the best way to put it is that the grass isnít always greener on the other side. All I can say now to someone else is that Iím happy to be back, Iíll tell you that much.Ē

   THOMPSON NOTES: Semi retirement and marriage must have done Tony Ferrante wonders. Since announcing his retirement a few seasons back, Ferrante finds himself still racing, but only in selected races and tracks. Thompson is one such track (Riverhead is the other) and once again Ferrante found himself in contention for the win. ďWe had a good day. I like coming here and thatís why we come here,Ē said Ferrante. ďWe should have won the Icebreaker earlier this year but I pitted before the rain came. We just seem to have the right set up here.Ē Despite being on the Tour for less than two years, Rowan Pennink was sitting fifth in points heading into Thompson. However, a hesitation in the motor before and after time trials sent Pennink and his team scrambling to fix the problem. After changing the carburetor, the hesitation continued. The problem wound up being water in the fuel cell. After putting in a new fuel cell, the hesitation came back during the feature, causing Pennink to switch to the backup ignition. With the problem resolved, Pennink was looking to make a move to the front before he and Renee Dupuis came in contact. Then, attempting to make his way back into the top ten, Pennink wound up in a multi car wreck on lap 53. As Pennink remarked afterward, ďI never would have expected us to be in the top five in points in only racing the Tour for less than two years. All of the credit goes to my crew, who have given me a great car, especially tonight after all the problems early on. Weíll just move on from here.Ē Great to see former Modified Champion Jeff Fuller at Thompson. Fuller was honored as one of the past Tour Champions, a great idea created by NASCAR, which plans on honoring a host of champions at numerous tracks this year. Jeffís brother Rick, also a former champ, is to be honored later on this year at Thompson. Jeff is still quick with the wit and humor, which was put to good use as a guest commentator. As Fuller said, ďItís great to be back watching these cars. I loved every minute racing these cars.Ē Whelen presented Fuller with a nice photo, taken at last yearís banquet of all the former champions as well as a jacketÖ Reggie Ruggiero was on hand in the Barney machine but a motor problem in afternoon practice sent Ruggiero home early. Being all nostalgic, I was wondering how much Richie Evans or Jimmy Spencer would get in tow money today, considering what gas prices are? And while we're at it, whatever happened to Stan Greger? All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court, Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030. And This Weekís Quote of the Week comes from fellow writer and Thompson liaison Dale Wolbrink, on the whereabouts of a certain writer/website head who was not at Thompson. ďThe limo we sent to pick him up must have gotten lost.Ē


Source: Walter Stubbs /
Posted:  June 20, 2008

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