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9/14/2010

CAN RYAN NEWMAN MAKE IT THREE-IN-A-ROW?
by Dave Meredith


Will Ryan Newman top the best NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers again at New Hampshire Motor Speedway as Bobby Santos, Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik battle for the Tour Championship?

Bobby Santos of Franklin, MA, driving the #V4 owned by Bob Garbarino, currently leads Ted Christopher by 32 points. Christopher, of Plainville, CT, leads multi-time champion, Mike Stefanik, of Coventry, RI, by 31 points. Todd Szegedy trails Stefanik by 45 points and Ronnie Silk of Norwalk CT is 37 points behind Szegedy. Stefanik, Szegedy and Christopher are all past champions.

Santos and Christopher have waged a serious battle all season long and Mike Stefanik has been right there with them and is sure to be a factor in the outcome of the WMT Championship.

Ryan Newman took home the checkers in the New England 100 back on June 26th at NHMS, driving the #7NY car. He collected his second win in the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway on August 18th.

Kevin Manion fields the car for Newman. He has six starts on the WMT with the two wins, 2 top-five finishes and 3 top-tens. Those are pretty good stats but not unexpected as Newman has raced opened-wheeled cars throughout his career. He enjoys the modifieds, especially racing with the Tour at NHMS. Newman stated, "This track is ideally suited for the modifieds. This just a lot of fun to race here".

Bobby Santos has three wins, 8 top-five's and 9 top-ten finishes this season from the seat of the of the Mystic Missile which was piloted last season by championship winner, Donny Lia. That title earned Bob Garbarino his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship.

Ted Christopher is the driver of the #36 Chevrolet owned by Eddie Whelan. Christopher also has three wins this season, 7 top-5 and top-10 finishes behind the wheel of the Al-Lee Installation-sponsored ride. Christopher has not finished lower that sixth in the WMT points since 2000. Christopher won the 2008 Championship over Matt Hirschman by 127 points. Todd Szegedy, Chuck Hossfeld and Ronnie Silk were the rest of the top-five in the standings in 2008.

Mike Stefanik who finished second to Newman at Bristol Motor Speedway, is currently third in the standings. Stefanik pilots the #16 owned by Eric Sanderson. Stefanik's last championship was in 2006, which was his seventh on the Whelen Modified Touring Series. Stefanik has finished seventh in the standings for the last three seasons. Mike has come up short in the win column so far this season but has been right at the heels of the leaders every race with the exceptions of the Lime Rock and New England 100 events. Stefanik has seven top-5's and nine top-10 finishes this season.

Todd Szegedy has one win this season and a heart breaking second place finish at Lime Rock Park as Dale Quarterly passed Szegedy with 3 laps to go. Szegedy had led every lap up to that point. Quarterly, an experience road course driver from the former Busch North Series days (now known as the K&N Pro Series East). Szegedy grabbed the checkers at his home track of Stafford Motor Speedway back on August 6th as he piloted the #2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford to Victory Lane in the Town Fair Tire 150. The Ridgefield, CT, driver has been in contention just about every race this season. Szegedy has compiled a season record of one win, seven top-5's and eight top-10's heading into the FW Webb 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Ronnie Silk of Norwalk, CT, has yet to hit victory lane this season, but like the drivers ahead of him, he has been right in the thick of the battles. Silk's best finish was at Thompson International Speedway on August 12th when he finished second to Ted Christopher in the Budweiser King of Beer 150. Silk has finished in third twice this season. He showed he could handle the twists and turns of the Lime Rock Park Course, and he powered the #6 TS Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm Chevrolet to an impressive finish at the bull ring in Calverton (Riverhead Raceway), NY. He avoided trouble and showed he was the right pick for the seat of the #6. Silk has six top-5's and seven top-10 finishes on his score sheet.

Ryan Preece in the #3 Boehlers Racing entry is currently sixth in the standings. Preece has secured five top-5's and six top-10 tallies. Erick Rudolph in the #98 Mohawk NE/ Original Pizza Logs Chevrolet is seventh with two top-5's and 6 top-10's. Eric Goodale in the #58 Jim Schaeffers/JT's Lumber Chevrolet has a battle on his hands as Eric Goodale, Eric Beers, and Justin Bonsignore ( rookie of the year leader) are all in within range to claim the 7th through 10th spots as of now. Rudolph has a 52 point lead over 10th and only 11 points over Goodale in eighth.

Rich Pallai Jr., of Yorktown Heights, NY, currently in 15th place, is the only other Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender. Pallai has come a long way in his career from running SK lights at Stafford, to a full-time schedule on the tour this season. He has two top-10 finishes and is only 12 points out of 14th which is currently occupied by Eddie Flemke Jr.

The next event on the Whelen Modified Tour will be October 3rd at Stafford Motor Speedway for the traditional closing event of the Speedway, the Fall Final. Last season Donny Lia won the Coor's Light Pole award as he celebrated the win and the pole. Doug Coby and Ryan Preece were the top-three finishers.

The World Series will close out the WMT season at Thompson International Speedway and may determine the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship as drivers battle each other on the 5/8-mile speed course. Witness the battle for the title on October 17th.

Ted Christopher won that event in 2009, and Ryan Preece, Doug Coby, Donny Lia and Rowan Pennink were the top-five finishers. Ryan Preece was 16 points short of claiming the Championship from Lia. It was an exciting race as both battled for the title of champion. Lia won his second title that day, giving Bob Garbarino his second championship. The team won their first in 2007.

  Source: Dave Meredith
Posted: September 14, 2010

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