The Chrome Horn - Walter Stubbs


Loudon, New Hampshire
by Walt Stubbs

    Now I remember why I fell in love with the modified division. Boy, how things can change from minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day and week to week. Just last week, as I was driving back home to Jersey in the early morning hours from the just concluded Tour race at Thompson, I found myself talking to myself and asking the question why I even bothered to make the trip up I95 to Connecticut to watch a caution marred race. It wasn't just that 75 lap disaster, but it seemed that most of the modified Tour races that I had attended lately had become nothing more than a picture of yellow, with all the caution flags flown. And to be honest, without a good race to see, what's the point in even going? I can assure you, it's not because I want to deal with the traffic, tolls and out of whack gas prices, that's for sure.
    Things, though, can change in a nano second, or in the case this past Saturday afternoon, .001 seconds. That's all that separated second place finisher Ted Christopher and winner Chuck Hossfeld as they crossed the stripe at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in the New England 100 Whelen Modified Tour race. And it wasn't just the last lap that had the fans on their seats. That's what can happen when you ONLY see four cautions for a total of 20 laps. It's racing the way it oughta be, and to be fair, is mostly the norm when the modifieds come to Loudon. Six drivers all had a shot at winning, with Christopher appearing to have the best shot. TC had led the most laps, and had managed to hold off Hossfeld each and every time that Hossfeld had taken the lead from him going into turn one. However, getting out of the turn was a different story as Christopher had more than enough car to pull away coming out of turn two. Hossfeld even acknowledged as much, and knew he had to do something different on the last lap. "I think you guys have watched Teddy long enough to know that he is a hard racer and he wasn't going to let me win easily. I tried to use some patience because I figured if we were side by side lap after lap it was going to be a six or seven car race rather than a two car race. Teddy's car was tight so I was able to watch that and make a couple of moves on him, but like I said, he's a hard nosed racer and he was able to keep coming back. I'm not the smartest driver out there but when I kept passing him (Christopher) in one and two and then he'd get me back in three and four; I pretty much knew that wasn't going to work for the last lap. I kind of set him up. What's good about restrictor plate racing is that he was able to make that run back on us on the outside and luckily we kind of held him off. I thought about squeezing him and I tried to do it clean and it worked out great."
    Christopher, who now has had to settle for consecutive runner up finishes despite, some would argue, of being the car to beat in both races, blamed himself on his finish this time around. "We really had a good car. It's really kind of funny because we're usually the ones who pit for tires and this time it was everybody else pitting but us. The car was that good. I was able to lead and any time anybody got by me, it was when they would dive bomb in there and take my lane away but then I'd pass them right back. I really made a mistake myself there on the last lap and that's how it goes sometimes. Sometimes you take the right lane and sometimes you take the wrong one. I just didn't keep my momentum," said Christopher.
    Right behind Hossfeld and Christopher, waging their own battle were Todd Szegedy, Ed Flemke, Eric Beers and Reggie Ruggiero. Going into the final turn, Flemke got into Szegedy, sending Szegedy high into the fourth turn wall, where he stuck to the wall and rode across the finish line seventh, losing four spots in the process. Flemke was apologetic afterward towards Szegedy. "My car was a little bit too tight. In the last lap, I drove down into the bottom and it wouldn't stay there and I got into Todd a little bit, we rubbed and sent him back a little bit. I feel bad about that because Todd's one of the few guys that you can race and not expect to be banged around. But it's the last lap, and you're getting pushed and shoved, you gotta either get in or get out and today we got in."
For Szegedy, a sure top five finish was taken away. "I would have had third wrapped up but I didn't have anything for Teddy or Chuck. I was just a little too tight coming up off the turn and couldn't get the run coming off. I couldn't close up so I was satisfied with finishing third when we got banged in to. I didn't even know he (Flemke) was there. I knew the 46 (Beers) was behind me and then he came out of nowhere. I got hit so hard it just shot me up into the wall. Once I hit the wall, I just floored it so I wouldn't lose anymore speed and rode the wall through three and four and to the finish," said Szegedy.
    While Flemke was not penalized for the incident, this is not to say that the new NASCAR Modified regime, headed by Chad Little, has gotten more lenient after it handed down three penalties the week before at Thompson for what they termed "aggressive or stupid driving." Eric Beers found that out the hard way after he was penalized at New Hampshire for going too fast off of pit road. The mistake cost Beers around 21 spots on the ensuing restart as he had to go back to the longest line. As a result, Beers had to use up most of his car to get back to where he was for much of the afternoon, which was in the front. He wound up fourth, which could have been much better. Even so, he did not fault NASCAR for the call, only himself and actually gave credit to NASCAR for toughening up on the competitors . "It was all my fault. We pulled out of the pits there and I thought the end of pit row was the end of the pit wall and it was the pit cone, which was another ten feet. I guess I picked up the gas a little early. I think it's a good thing that they are making calls and they are penalizing people for being over aggressive. It's going to help people save equipment in the long run. If you're letting stuff go, and guys are putting people in the wall and nothing is being said, everybody else is seeing it and they're going to do it too. Now, you turn somebody around and they put you to the rear or hold you a lap or something, that's a big penalty. That's a positive because back when I started racing this series that's not how it was. People drove clean and then it got to a point where a lot of people started to get carried away, for whatever reason, and figured they could get away with stuff since nothing was being done so people were getting the wrong idea. I think it's coming back around to where it's going to be good, clean hard racing without tearing up a lot of cars."
    Flemke is also a proponent of the goings on so far with NASCAR and its officiating. "If the roles were reversed, and Chad went out and Ed Cox (Former race director) came in . He has an opportunity to start clean. I think that is what he is doing. Chad's setting his base line with what he feels he has to because he's starting fresh. On one hand, Chad has one different perspective that Ed didn't have. He was a race car driver. I think I ruined his day when I admitted to him that I screwed up last week and got what I deserved. There was no question I should have been called on it and I was. I do think the new regime is doing a good job but I do believe the old one could have if it could have started all over again and that's the big key," said Flemke.
   Even the modified car owners see the positives in the new regime. Bob Garbarino, who has seen many faces in the NASCAR community, sees things moving forward smoothly. "Every time there is change, there seems to be a resistance to change," said Garbarino. "I think it's going to be good. I certainly respect Ed Cox and I think he is a great guy who did a hell of a job. But after standing in front of the fan for 18 years, I respect his decision to do what he did. I think it's going to be a little different. There seems to be a lot more meetings, organization, and paper work and I'm not too crazy about that but maybe that will work its way off the table as they get more familiar with what's going on. I think Chad's going to do a good job. He's certainly approachable and you can talk to him by phone or what not. In this day and age you can get put off a lot but he's there to answer any questions I might have, which I like."
   One driver who was concerned was Jamie Tomaino, who has made more starts than anyone on the Tour. Tomaino's concern has to do more with the direction the Tour could be headed. "The bottom line is that this Tour, though we have some wealthy guys, are still regular people. If I need something, they'll get me whatever I want. This isn't Sprint Cup or the Nationwide Series. It seems that they are trying to push this Tour in that direction and if that happens too much, you are going to see a demise in the series. I think Don Hoenig has already taken a stand, and without Thompson Speedway, there isn't a Tour," said Tomaino. Tomaino, by the way, will be honored as a former Tour Champion when the Tour heads to Spencer Speedway in two weeks.

   NEW HAMPSHIRE NOTES: This weekend marked the first Cup weekend with Bruton Smith taking over the reigns from the Bahre family. This first thing getting used to is that the track is now referred to as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, not New Hampshire International Speedway. And, as with any Bruton Smith track, there was plans for some interesting pre and post race festivities. Unfortunately, the Elephant Race, which was to be a part of the pre race show, was cancelled due to last minute permit issues. Apparently pachyderm permits were required to move an elephant across state lines as well as some health certifications that were required. Oh well, maybe next time. As of early last week, it appeared that Kyle Busch would be running in the Tour event at New Hampshire in the JR Motorsports entry. However, Busch had a change of heart, supposedly not wanting to get in the way of the modifieds "Daytona." Anyway, a call Wednesday evening was made to Jeff Fuller in North Carolina and a deal was struck and Fuller made it up to New Hampshire on Thursday. Fuller last drove a modified six years ago but after taking his time in the early laps, Fuller wound up getting more comfortable and finished a very respectable ninth. "I know I had fun," said Fuller before heading to the airport to head back to Carolina. "It seems like the rest of the guys also had fun, which was the main thing. Honestly, I had my mind set that I was going to go the first 1/4 of the race just to get back in the mode because it had been six years since I last raced one of these cars. They are so fun to drive but so different. Somebody was busting me after the race telling me that I thought I was going to take it easy and then saying I made it three wide on the second lap. I don't remember that move but I guess I just threw that all out the window. I forgot as usual."
   Jimmy Spencer was honored at New Hampshire as one of the past modified champions and once again had everyone in the media center in hysterics with some of the old stories of his battles in the mid 80's. Of course, I would have voted that he be honored at Spencer versus New Hampshire, considering his same last name and the fact that he raced at Spencer many times but I guess the economics of already being at Loudon factored in... Also good to see the Hard Charger himself, former modified driver Bruce D'Alessandro at Loudon. After "retiring" as a driver, Bruce Dell moved down south and now has been working at Joe Gibbs for the last six years. He only gets to travel to a few races with the team, which is just fine with him. He'd much rather stay back at the shop. But getting up to Loudon, not far from his home roots in Connecticut, wasn't a bad race to get to. Dell doesn't get to as many modified shows as he used to but tries to take in the show at Martinsville every year. Well, it's off to Spencer in two weeks for the first Tour race since the early 90's... Well, I was going to tell all of you who didn't have the opportunity to make it up to Loudon that you would get the chance to watch a re-broadcast of the race on Speed Channel. Unfortunately, that deal fell through, which for the life of me I can't understand based on the fact that you had THREE television networks at Loudon (Speed, ESPN and TNT) and you would think one of there crews could have at least taped the race. But once again, the best race of the weekend gets the shaft. It's not like the announcers and the like aren't aware of how good the modified races can be. I saw Dr. Jerry Punch, Brad Daugherty and some of the other ESPN announcers after Saturday's events at The Yard, a restaurant in Manchester (I recommend the Prime Rib) and asked Punch about the modifieds. And while he might have been just trying to be nice to me, based on my Modified Tour hat, he said he'd love to telecast the modifieds again. I wonder if that would have happened if Kyle Busch did decide to race in a modified? Also, I love the idea of going "green" to help with our societal issues, but is it really possible in a sport where gas is needed? The only suggestion I can think of for NASCAR would be to but the number of "green" laps it runs for some of its Cup races. And as we end this week's edition, we wonder whatever happened to Tim Mroka? And This Week's Quote of The Week comes from Ted Christopher, when asked how old he is, "I'm 50 but have a 28 year old wife." All news and views can reach me at 2 Constitution Court Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030.


Source: Walter Stubbs /
Posted:  June 30, 2008

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