The Chrome Horn - Pavement Notes by Walt Stubbs

   10/28/2009

PAVEMENT NOTES:
2009 Tommy Comerford Memorial
by Walt Stubbs

   Even the best of intentions don't always go as planned. A few months ago, with the help of Don Ling, the Blewetts, and a host of others; it was decided to run an open competition modified race at Wall Stadium at the end of October, paying the winner a cool $12,000 to the winner. It was to be called the Tom Comerford Memorial, in honor of the former modified driver who passed away a couple years ago. Initially the race was to be 132 laps, honoring the number Comerford and John Blewett III ran at Wall. After some discussion, it was decided that the race would be run in two 66 lap segments, with each winner getting $6600.00. It was also hoped that the race would draw some outsiders to run the high banks as it was scheduled to be an off week for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Unfortunately, the last Tour race of the season, scheduled to be run at Thompson the week before, was rained out and rescheduled for this past weekend. Even with the rescheduling, though, there were a few Tour drivers who hoped to run at Wall and then make there way to Thompson on Sunday. But once again the weather played a hand in the schedule of events this past weekend, with Wall having to cancel the race from Saturday to Sunday. (Thompson also had to cancel qualifying on Saturday but ran on Sunday) Sunday turned out to be a great day weatherwise down at the Jersey Shore while the same couldn't be said of the racing that took place. Even with Thompson racing, a good quality of modifieds were on hand. Drivers such as Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett, Tony Ferrante, Les Hinckley, Ken Woolley, Tim Arre, Pete Brittain, Steven Reed, and Danny Bohn were among a few who were looking to take home the cash. And that didn't even include Ray Evernham, who was on hand in the Blewett Motorsports #1, driving his last race in a modified at the track he started at. It wasn't just the presence of Evernham that made me reminisce of a time over 25 years ago, going to Wall on a Saturday night. Other names on hand included Ferrante, Arre, Brittain and Woolley, still racing while in the pits taking in the action were guys like Eddie Bohn, Tony Hirschman, John Blewett Jr, Harry Reed, Martin Truex, Rick Sendzik, Donny Ling Jr, and Tony Siscone. For Siscone, it was his first time back at Wall since he left with the open modifieds back in 1992 and for Ling, it was only his second or third time back at the track since he last raced at Wall in 1992. As both commented later on, the racing has definitely changed since either strapped himself into a modified. And to be honest, it wasn't for the better. What they and the many in attendance saw, especially during the first 66 lap segment, were way too many cautions, making the race not a race but a battle of attrition. There were many excuses that could be given for the cautions. Some said the new sealer that was put on the the outside groove and made that groove the fast way around the track, could have been the cause. Some said the over aggressive driving by some was the cause while others thought having two 66 lap races for that big of a purse, caused many to not have patience. Whatever the reason, the end result was not many leaving the grounds thinking they had seen a good race. I guess an hour and 45 minutes to run 66 green laps is a tad long, don't you think? Evernham himself was surprised of all the bumping and pushing that was going on on the track. "I never remembered that much beating and banging. Everybody was telling me to take it easy for the first little bit and save your tires and hell, they spun me out twice so I started beating and banging back a little bit. It's a shame it came to that. That was a wreck fest. No wonder they have the big nerf bars on the cars now. I thought the track was raceable but the cars are just so equal. For me there's no need to hit a guy getting in. There's a lot of beating and banging. I thought the track was more raceable then it has been, from what I remember. We were side by side no problem. The accidents didn't come from running side by side. They came from nose to tail action." Despite all the cautions, Evernham was happy to come back to the track where it all started for him. "Don Ling wanted to do something for Tommy (Comerford) and asked me if I'd be a part of making up a purse and then they asked me if I would drive and that it would mean a lot to Don. I thought to myself that I never really had a chance to come and say goodbye to everybody and say this is my last race. I wanted to do that plus my son never go to see me race. I left here in 1991 before he was born so today he got to see me race. Life is good." In speaking with Evernham, it was brought up of how back in the early 1990's, he was at a crossroads in his career. He had went to run in the Dirt Asphalt Series at Flemington and had a bad wreck. He didn't know of whether to continue racing or do something else in racing or just get out completely. His decision, as most know, wound up being the right one. It's also another reason why he wanted to come back to Wall. "I always hoped to come back here. You always want to come home. I really wanted to come and see everybody and stuff like that. It's just hard. You get on the road and try to make a living and we got involved in all the Cup stuff and I was really fortunate enough to get some opportunities that I had to take advantage of. I was thinking about that when I was coming up here. For all these people here; you have to take a shot when opportunity knocks. Everything that I've done and everything that Martin (Truex) is doing is for all these people who never got the chance. That's why I never stopped thinking about this place throughout my whole career." And what highlight did Evernham take from this past Sunday's experience at Wall, besides finishing fifth in the first 66 lap event? "Tony Siscone came to see me race in my last race. How about that? He hadn't been here since 1992."
   While Siscone has not been at Wall since 1992, his long time car owner Dick Barney has. Sunday was no different as Barney had two cars in his stable, the familiar Barney #14 being driven by Ken Woolley and the immaculate #66, resembling the modified ran by Comerford and Ling Jr in the 70's and 80's and driven by Jimmy Blewett on Sunday. It seems that the bigger the race or the more pressure, the better Blewett performs. Sunday was no different as he knew how important a race it was for Ling and for his own family, as it would have been John Blewett III's birthday Sunday. And despite pitting numerous times throughout the race, making adjustment after adjustment, Blewett was able to grab the lead from Les Hinckley and won the first 66 lap segment. "We did everything we had to do to tighten the car up and it paid off. I really wanted to win this for Don because he does so much for racing, not only for me, but everybody who races here at Wall. ," said Blewett. When asked if Wall's decision to not have caution laps count and being able to pit as many times as he could, was fair, commented, "This is short track racing. We didn't have as many cars or not the amount of cars that was expected so you have to give guys time to fix there car. Keith Rocco, who finished third, was in the pits as many times as we were, and he finished third. I think it was the way to go." While some of the drivers might have thought it was a good idea, many fans in the stands did not, and it had nothing to do with Blewett winning. It had more to do with the time wasted, waiting for drivers to pit and come back on the track. Also, having no tire rule and being able to put as many tires as you wanted did not please too many. For Les Hinckley, it was especially unfair. Hinckley was running in the top three for the whole first segment of the race, never pitting and putting himself in a position for the win. But in the end, not pitting did him in. Despite the disappointment, Hinckley still loves coming to Wall. In fact, Hinckley blew off running the last race of the True Value Series to run Wall. "I was the only one left in the first race who had the same tires he started on. What they did to the race track helped the outside groove so much and in trying to make the car last and making it tight hurt you so bad on the bottom," said Hinckley. We were joking on the radio, oh we're on the bottom this time, that's not good. We have been fighting a brake problem for the last few races so when I was on the bottom of the race track, I couldn't drive it down into the corner like I would have liked. And when I got down on the bottom while racing Danny Bohn on that restart, I couldn't stop and we both went up, it opened a three mile door for Jimmy. Even with the ways things ended today, I still love coming here. The people are so nice to us. I don't know what we did to have the hospitality that we get but it's really appreciated," said Hinckley. Part of that appreciation was being one of the winners of the Perseverance Award, given out by Rob McMullan and friends to two drivers who kept plugging away and finishing the race, overcoming obstacles along the way. Tony Ferrante wound up with the award after the first 66 lapper. Hinckley got it for the second race, after running in the top three but broke a spindle.
   As for the second 66 lapper, it was not the caution fest that the first one was. But as Anthony Sesley said after winning the biggest race of his career, "That's because there were probably less cars." And there was some truth to that. Despite less cars, Sesley still had to contend with Matt Hirschman, who was on his bumper for the latter portion of the race but couldn't get by Sesley. "I'm just glad Frank Boardwick and the guys called the shots because we'd still be lost," admitted Sesley in Victory Lane. They went right back to the way we had the car when we unloaded off the truck because that's the way we were last time we were here and we were strong then. And it paid off in this one."

   WALL NOTES: Wall is gearing up for this year's Turkey Derby, which will be run on both Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving. While not winning either of the two features, the most consistent driver on Sunday had to be Matt Hirschman. Hirschman finished runner up in both races to Blewett and Sessley. Blewett had radiator problems in the second feature and was done for the day early on. Eddie Partridge's team was a busy one this weekend. He had Ronnie Silk racing the Tour modified at Thompson and had Keith Rocco running his other modified at Wall. Rocco finished third in both features and was happy with how the day went. "We finished third in the first feature but we were just testing the waters. Practicing by yourself here is one thing but racing here is different. The second race we pitted for fresh tires but we might have used a little too much getting back to the front," said Rocco. Tim Arre, in the Solhem #0, looked to have the strongest car in the first 66 lap segment, but a problem with the gas line caused Arre to have to pit, slowing down any chance of a shot at the win. As Arre said of teaming up with Solhem, "Everything has been great. We just haven't had any luck on our side all year. Today was the same thing. In the first race we were a rocket but everybody was just killing everybody because everybody was trying to get off the bottom on the restarts. It's racing here at Wall,: said Arre. As for the Tour, congratulations go out to Donny Lia, who captured his second Tour championship on Sunday. Lia will be making the trip to North Carolina for the banquet in a few weeks. And while many former Wall regulars were on hand Sunday, we had to wonder Whatever happened to Chuck Kojska? And Finally, This Weeks Quote of The Week goes to Tony Siscone, when he saw the old Durkin #12 restored and in the pit area. "I followed that car a lot. They need to build one of his cars from later on when he was following me." Speaking of which, Donny Ling Jr drove the Durkin #12 and his Dad the Ferrante X3 for the pace lap. And while Ling Jr promised he would be rubbing fenders with his Dad, it was the only time that fenders weren't rubbed all day. All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court, Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030
 

Source: Walt Stubbs / Pavement Notes
Posted: October 28, 2009

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2009 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.