The Chrome Horn - Walter Stubbs

12/1/2008

PAVEMENT NOTES: 12/01/08
by Walt Stubbs

    You would have thought I was pulling into a mall on Black Friday a few years ago, when the economy was good and people were looking to spend. The only problem with that was that it was this past Saturday morning around 10:00 am and the place I was pulling into wasn't a mall, though I'm sure a few people who aren't fans of a race track were wishing it was a mall or some other type of complex other than a race track. No, instead, I was pulling into Wall Township Speedway, a place I thought I wouldn't be turning into anymore after it was announced the track was closing this past year. And I wasn't the only one pulling into the facilities from Route 34, only to be held up by grid lock as security directed us not only thru the parking lot, but across Hurley Pond Road to a grass field near the airport where buses were waiting to take us back to the track. Upon arriving at the track and making my way to the stands, it was clear that my eyes weren't deceiving me or that one person was in each of the cars in the lot. The stands were completely full, going three deep behind the stands. In all the years I had attended Wall, be it Speedway or Stadium, I had never seen the front row on the front stretch filled. It was on Saturday. I guess you could say that the race fans missed the track. It could even be an understatement. The pits were also filled, with each of the divisions having good car counts. And to put icing on the cake, the racing, for the most part, was the best I've seen at the track in quite some time. So, with all the positives that came out of this weekend, the question begged to be asked, is now what? Nobody right now seems certain as to the future of Wall, though many were speculating, including yours truly. Here's my take, for anyone interested. IF the track is to reopen again, and that's anybody's guess, it should only be with a partial schedule. There's no reason to run a full slate, beginning in April and ending in October. Start on Memorial Day and run to Labor Day or if you want to cut down even more, run a race once a month, starting at the end of April and running to the end of September. Make the fans and teams WANT to come to the track. Running a limited schedule will accomplish this, not a full slate where it becomes a weekly grind for both the fans and teams. Plus, it will enable both to travel to other tracks in the process. Even if Wall had run weekly this past year, it is unlikely that Jimmy Blewett and Steven Reed would have been at the track each and every week. Both were going to run touring series anyway, be it the NASCAR Whelen, ROC or True Value Series. By running a partial schedule, and by making sure there are no conflicts with those Tours, or maybe even hosting one of those tours, would enable drivers like Reed and Blewett to run at the track as well.
   Again, nobody knows exactly what the future of Wall holds, but nobody can deny that the fans voice was heard, loud and clear. It was good to see some of the drivers who made Wall's history on hand, showing there support. Seen in the stands or pits were the likes of Gil Hearne, Martin Truex, Jerry Cranmer, Eddie Bohn, and Sonny McCurdy, to name a few. For Bohn and McCurdy, it wasn't a quick trip, like it would have been in years past. Both now reside down south, with Bohn moving to North Carolina in the last year. As Bohn told me, "I've never missed a Turkey Derby and I wasn't going to miss one now. I was at the first one in 1974 sitting in the stands watching my Dad race and then I was racing myself a year later." Bohn's son Danny was on hand in his modified to keep the tradition of one Bohn running in the race. Here's hoping that Bohn and all the rest of the teams, will be at Wall a year from now for another Turkey Derby, this one XXXVI.
   With the economy being the way it is, everybody is out looking for a bang for the buck. Well, if you were at Wall on Saturday, you found it both literally and figuratively. The 100 lap modified event, had much banging going on, no matter where you looked in the 28 car starting field. Never was it more evident than at the front of the field on lap 88, where Matt Hirschman, who had led from the start of the race, was looking to hold off Jimmy Blewett. Blewett went onto the apron going into turn three, getting under Hirschman, making contact with Hirschman and taking the lead in the process. Pete Brittain, who was running third behind Blewett, also took advantage of the hole with Hirschman being left in third. Brittain used all of his bag of tricks to try getting by Blewett, even trying the outside lane in turn one on the last lap, looping his Ling Trucking modified in the process but it was Blewett claiming the win. Needless to say, Blewett offered no apologies for his move on Hirschman. "When I have my right front to your left rear, I don't have to be up to your door. If I'm along side your car, I don't have to let you in getting in to the turn especially when it's the last race at this track. I came here to win, no matter how I got it, and I won. That's the type of driver I am. I'm not out there to win anything but the race. Some guys when they go out there they play Mr. Nice Guy and they never win. Like I said, for every super hero like Matt Hirschman there's a villain like myself. I don't mean to sound arrogant but it's the way it is. When you come here, you come here to win and that's it," said Blewett.
   It looked like Blewett was giving Brittain more than enough room on the outside to get by him. Brittain attempted to use the high groove but couldn't get by Blewett, spinning out in the process while running second. Brittain had no regrets. "We had a great car all weekend and I want to thank Zane Zeiner and the guys on the crew. We came thru the back in 30 laps. Jimmy ran me clean. He gave me a lane and I went down in there for the win. We came here to win, not run second so if we didn't win, I could have cared less if we finished 30th. It's the Turkey Derby, we were here to win. Jimmy wasn't going to give me the inside so I had to use the outside lane. Unfortunately, I looped it."
As for Hirschman, who wound up second, he blamed the caution sequence more than Blewett for his shot at the win. "What happened is that we were out on our original tires and almost everyone else wound up pitting. It's just the timing of the cautions played into there hand and somebody was going to get by. Jimmy just bulled his way by and he probably didn't have to but that's what he did to everybody else from what I understand. He wound up getting by with Pete following him thru. It's not like we really died but we were just out there on tires longer than anyone else. Too many cautions from laps 50 to 80. When you are leading here it's hard to give it up. Anybody that's every leading here never pits but it doesn't guarantee you are going to win but that's the best decision. I don't regret that at all. I had to stay out but it just timed out bad for us," said Hirschman.
   One "outsider' who has taken a liking to Wall has been Les Hinckley. Two years ago, Hinckley almost wound up winning the race, a race won by Blewett with some last lap banging. Hinckley was once again in the hunt and wound up sixth. "We wound up on the short end of the traffic. I didn't get thru traffic the way I needed to. Three years ago we came thru here with everybody moving out of our way and we just didn't get thru it well today. We were in perfect position with 40 to go; we just put new tires on and in front of everyone else, including the guy who won the race. He wasn't any better than we were. He got thru it, or made his way thru it, better than I did and I'll take the heat for that," said Hinckley.
   DERBY LEFTOVERS: Car owner Dick Barney had two cars in the field for the Derby, one driven by Ken Wolley and the other by Billy Pauch Jr. His regular driver, Reggie Ruggiero, had a prior commitment and was not on hand... Another familiar entry, that of the Reed #55 was on hand with Steve Reed partaking in both the open modified race and the Wall Modified 100 lapper. Reed wound up third in the open race and was happy to be back at his home track. "I had a lot of fun," admitted Reed. "It's great for the fans. I'm happy because I finished third and my stuff is in one piece. If I finished 13th and I had the right front knocked off; I might not be so happy. You have to take it for what it is. As for the fans, it's a race that will be talked about for a long time and I'm happy where we wound up." Reed, by the way, hopes to continue to race weekly up at Stafford in 2009 and also run shows in the ROC and of course Wall if it does reopen... I'm usually the first one out of the gate after the modified race but decided to take in all of the action on Saturday Night, including the Wall Modified 100 lap event. Glad I did as I witnessed Rowan Pennink collect his first career modified win. It was an emotional win for Pennink, his family and friends. All of turn four was cheering as Pennink got the checker. "The first win is an unbelievable feeling," said Rowan. "Everybody gave so much effort to this. We struggled with the car at the beginning of the weekend but we were really good out there the second half of the race. The last couple of laps a lot was racing thru my mind because I've been waiting a long time for this. My Dad's been saying to me we haven't won a race in four years since Go Karts so this was for him." Needless to say, the crew was celebrating into the night, with a bonfire that I'm sure isn't still out... Besides former drivers, a few former car owners were on the grounds at Wall. Among those were Howard Harvey and Frank Courvesier, better known as Frenchie. (Tony Hirschman ran the Frenchie's Auto Body #6 in the early 80's, a car formerly owned and ran by Maynard Troyer for you Wall historians)... The banquet season gets in to full gear with New Hampshire Motor Speedway celebrating there champions on December 11th before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour crowns Ted Christopher champ on December 13th. Will be interesting to see if NASCAR releases there schedule at the banquet. There are already some rumblings that Martinsville will not be on the schedule in 2009. And as we conclude, we are wondering Whatever happened to John Giacobbe. And finally This Week's Quote of The Week comes for AARN photographer Fran Lawlor, on Jimmy Blewett's day. "Brake pedal, pace car and the lottery are the only things that Jimmy Blewett didn't hit today."
   All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030......

THE END

Source: Walter Stubbs / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted:  December 1, 2008

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