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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



by Polly Reid

Monadnock Speedway fans packed the house Saturday night welcoming the return of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the fast, high banked quarter mile speedway in Winchester. And in the end, the fans were not disappointed when the victory hinged on a green, white checkered finish between the two dominate drivers of the night, Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph.

Rudolph, who set fast time earning his first career NWMT pole earlier in the evening brought the 26 car field to green quickly establishing that his Al Heinke owned, Mohawk N.E./Original Pizza Logs sponsored Chevrolet was indeed the car to beat. The one up to the task was Christopher, the Plainville, CT driver had surged to the lead passing Rudolph after a restart just past the 150 mark and stayed strong and steady, holding off a tenacious Rudolph to capture the win, his second of the season for the Eddie Whelan owned, Al-Lee Installations sponsored Chevrolet. Ron Silk crossed for third with Eric Berndt and Bobby Santos the top five.

“I’ve always had some fast cars here but never able to finish the deal,” said Christopher in victory lane. “I really have to thank Erick Rudolph for really running me clean, it was a good race with him, he’s definitely a talented young individual, he has a future in the modifieds. We’re gaining each week on it. We go to Riverhead in a couple of weeks and I really love that place too.”

“I haven’t run a lot here, but never been able to get a good handle on it. And not that tonight we had a great handle on it, just enough to win because Erick was definitely there. The restarts were tough,” admitted Christopher who lost the lead to Rudolph after a lap 108 restart. “Right on the bottom, there’s a bump right when you shift that really gets your car upset, it was a really hard angle on the bottom compared to the top side, it was sometimes better to be on the outside, but the last one, I wasn’t going to let that one get away, not with a green, white, checker.”

The victory marks Christopher’s 36th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win bumping the 20008 Tour champion to 3rd on the all-time win list not to mention a boost in points, Christopher moving up a spot to second.

“Every restart, it was who was going to be the quickest through one and two and be the guy into three,” explained Rudolph on the restarts. “It feels good to have a good finish. Just to get a top five finish and hopefully gain some momentum, we have some tracks coming up that we’re good at, we’re looking forward to those.”

After collecting his first career pole, Rudolph was focused on the main event, but remained cautious. “Lately we’ve been doing real good in qualifying, not so good in the races, we’ve been having some mechanical issues. Hopefully we’ve got them figured out for tonight and get a strong finish.” Patience and persistent has been rewarded, the effort and hard work has finally paid off tonight. On a side note, when the Tour last visited Monadnock, Rudolph wasn’t born yet. However, that night, June 10, 1990, when Jamie Tomaino took the win in the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour Whitcomb 150, Charlie Rudolph, dad and current crew chief of the 98, finished seventh.

Rudolph led twice for 138 laps of the 179 while Christopher led twice for 41 including the most important, the final circuit.

“We started 16th, I’m real happy with third,” said Silk. “I’m disappointed I messed up in time trails, we had a really good car all day and I blew it in time. By the time I got to third, I had used up so much of my car to get there, I didn’t have anything left. It would have been nice to have at least raced a little bit with Erick and Teddy but I didn’t have anything for them.” While most of the field settled into single file racing at times, Silk did not. The Norwalk, CT driver was determined to move forward. “I got up into the outside lane on restarts, there was a lot of grip up there and I could carry a lot of momentum. Once the field singled out, I could drive onto the outside and beat them off.”

A consistent night for George Brunnhoelzl, III of West Babylon, NY, his first time to Monadnock Speedway was a success crossing the line 6th. “We had a real good night. We had a long run car and on the one long run, we were able to pick up a few cars, but after the restarts, it would take 5, 7 laps to get going again. If we had a couple more laps at the end we could have gotten more but it was a good run. After the year we’ve been having, we’ll take a 6th place and hopefully roll a little momentum to another little track I like,” Brunnhoelzl said referring to the next race on the schedule, Riverhead. The 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion, Brunnhoelzl is happy to have the opportunity to run the full Whelen Modified Tour this year in the Cape Cod Aggregates/J&R Pre-Cast ride for car owner Robert Katon, Jr.

“I’ve always wanted to run the Tour up here. My dad did, I grew up watching everybody run up here, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.” The season was looking like a ‘pick and choose’ for Brunnhoelzl until a friend introduced him to Katon. A deal followed, “and it’s working out great. Hopefully we can turn this around now for the season.”

The Monadnock 200 is now in the books, the 175 lap feature extended to 179 circuits was free of any serious incidents. The majority of cautions waved for cars with mechanical issues including title contenders Todd Szegedy and Ryan Preece who suffered uncharacteristic breakdowns resulting in dismal finishes for each. Meanwhile point leader Bobby Santos held on to cross the line a respectable fifth and will travel to Riverhead with a 56 point advantage over Christopher.

Monadnock happens to be my home track and I’ve seen in years past a lot of modifieds run there but never the Tour, so this race was more than a little special to me. I can’t help but recognize the effort put out by the management to make the night a success. Here’s hoping it was enough of a success for a return visit much, much sooner than the next twenty.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: July 18, 2010

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