WMT DRIVERS DON'T FARE AS
WELL AS EXPECTED
IN PROVIDENCE ON NIGHT ONE
by Tracy Chirico
In the first night of competition at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in
Providence, Rhode Island, several drivers who competed on the NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour (WMT) during the 2008 season had the opportunity to make
headlines. Most of them did, although none of them were able to complete the
Always a contender to win no matter what he is driving, 2008 WMT
champion Ted Christopher was expected to have a good showing. The driver ran
the same car he won with in January during the second night of racing in the
Atlantic City Gambler’s Classic. “Liquid” Lou Cicconi set fast time for the
night at 8.6325, and Christopher posted the second fastest time, recording a
lap of 8.6713. The driver started his heat race from the third position, and
was in second when the checkered flag flew. When Christopher came to the
infield to redraw for his starting spot in the feature, his introduction was
met with a mix of cheers and boos. Christopher commented, “I guess I brought
a lot of fans – some good and some bad.”
One of the bigger storylines leading up to the Providence race was
the entry of former multi-time WMT champion Mike Stefanik. The historic
event marked Stefanik’s first time racing indoors, and his first time in a
TQ. In an interview, Stefanik commented, “My experience in a TQ started
about 3 o’clock this afternoon.” In fact, Stefanik disclosed that he had not
seen or sat in the car until the day prior to coming to race. It did not
take Stefanik long to get the hang of driving a TQ, however. He time trailed
just outside of the top ten, posting a fast lap of 8.9148. Stefanik started
his heat race from the fourth position, and had moved into third by lap 9.
With one lap to go in the event, Stefanik took second and he wound up with a
runner-up finish in the qualifying event.
Also attempting to make the field was Bobby Santos III. He started
his heat race from the sixth spot. By lap 3, Santos had moved up to fourth,
but he got shuffled back to 5th before the caution came out for Glenn
Heverin, who had been running fourth at the time. This moved Santos up to
fourth. He was able to grab the third spot on lap 6 of the event, putting
him solidly into the field for the feature.
Billy Pauch Jr. had a tough day all around, and failed to make the
feature event. Running the same car his father had won with on the first
night in Atlantic City in January, Pauch Jr. posted a fast lap of 9.5232. He
started his heat from the 10th position, with only the top four finishers
transferring into the main event. There were no cautions in Pauch Jr.’s heat
race, and he wound up 8th. The consolation events were even tougher, and the
driver needed to finish in the top two in order to make the main event. In
Pauch Jr.’s consolation race, there was a significant amount of action from
the middle of the pack back. Pauch Jr. spent much of the event swapping
spots between the sixth and eighth positions. When the checkered flag flew,
Pauch Jr. was not in a qualified spot.
The feature event provided some exciting racing action. By the luck
of the redraw, Stefanik started the event seventh, with Christopher eighth.
Santos started in the 14th position.
Matt Janisch and Mike Lichty led the field to the green flag.
Janisch grabbed the lead on the start, with Lichty second and Mike Iles
third. Caution came out on lap 3 for Richie Coy Jr. On the restart, Stefanik
was in the sixth spot, with Christopher directly behind him in eighth.
Santos was in 14th.
Janisch again got out front on the restart, but Iles made his way
into the second spot and Cicconi grabbed third on lap 4. The two would work
their way past Janisch on lap 5, with Iles grabbing the lead and Cicconi
taking over second. Caution waved again on lap 9, and Joseph Lord Jr.’s car
was taken to the garage. On the restart, Christopher was in seventh, with
Stefanik eighth and Santos in 15th.
The restart pitted Mike Iles on the inside against Cicconi on the
outside. The officials threw a “lazy green” as they were not happy with the
restart, but the red flag came out, as the car of Tim Adams came to a rest
upside down and several other cars were involved in an incident on the
track. The car of Alison Cumens had gotten some air, and ended up on the
right front of Joey Payne’s vehicle. Christopher managed to bring his car to
a stop before becoming involved in the incident himself. When the field was
relined, Adams was unable to continue. Santos was also unable to continue
after his involvement in the incident, and he retired his car to the garage.
Because of the shuffle up front, Stefanik restarted sixth, with Christopher
Iles and Cicconi again led the field to the green, with Iles
getting out front. Janisch challenged Cicconi for the second spot, but was
unable to make a pass. Stefanik got shuffled back in the field, while
Christopher had moved up to the sixth spot by lap 11. Caution came out again
on lap 12 after Ian Cumens ended up sideways on the track at the entrance to
turn 3. Christopher was in sixth on the restart, with Stefanik in the eighth
Iles grabbed the lead once again on the restart, leading Cicconi,
Janisch, and the remainder of the field. The caution waved again on the next
lap for an incident involving several cars, including Timex Morgan and Coy
Jr. Both Coy Jr. and Alison Cumens took their cars to the garage. Stefanik
and Christopher were seventh and eight, respectively, on the restart.
Iles continued to show the way, with Cicconi and Janisch in tow.
Stefanik made his way into the top five by lap 14, while Christopher had
been shuffled back to ninth. On lap 16, the red flag was displayed after a
hard wreck in turn 1 that collected quite a few top competitors. Cicconi’s
car blew a water hose coming down the frontstretch, and his car slid up into
the barrier, with the cars behind him also sliding in the water and causing
a chain-reaction crash. A number of cars behind him were collected in the
incident, including Janisch, Jeff Hoetzler, and Stefanik. Hoetzler was taken
to a local hospital for observation, but was later released. “I feel bad for
all of the people I took out,” Cicconi said in an on-track interview after
the incident. Christopher, who would have restarted the event from third,
was waved off of the track by officials following the incident, as his front
end had suffered some damage.
When the field restarted with four laps to go in the event, only
eight of the original 20 competitors in the field remained on the track.
Iles restarted on the inside, with Payne on the outside pole. Iles grabbed
the lead, but Ryan Smith shot past him for the spot. Iles fought back,
regaining the position. Payne followed to take second, and Smith was
shuffled back to the third spot.
Iles went on to win the historic event, with Payne second and Smith
A 30-lap TQ race is slated for Saturday, March 7th, as is a 20-lap
Champ Kart race. The grandstands at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center open at 6:30
p.m. for the final night of racing in the first annual Providence Indoor
Chirico / TheChromeHorn.com