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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




A chilling wind was no match for the 19 NASCAR Whelen Modified teams that showed up today
at Thompson International Speedway to make a final check before the season opening Icebreaker
in two short weeks.

Defending series champion Bobby Santos, picked up where he left off, sitting behind the wheel of the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile. It was one year ago that Santos slid into the famed seat taking down a win at Thompson on his first start with this team. Its exciting to start the season again, go racing. I dont think much has changed from last year- all the same guys, same car, thats really exciting to me- just get comfortable and build on all that we started last year, thats a good thing. When not running the Tour, Santos will be doing as much open wheel racing as he can in his dads USAC sprint starting next weekend at Anderson in Indiana. Daytona was a highlight for Santos during the off season who ran a Nationwide car for Jimmy Means- well, until a mechanical issue sent the car into the wall hard during practice. A car from the Earnhardt Jr. stable lent to Means for the race put Santos on the map with a top 20 finish.

Former Riverhead champion Tom Rogers Jr. unloaded his #9, a brand new Troyer. I won the track championship at Riverhead, now its time to step up and do something else, challenge ourselves. A few Tour races on his resume including Riverhead, Stafford and an attempt at Thompson, Rogers was pleased with his run today. A few minor changes and well be ready. Its a brand new car, we need to shake it down a little bit. Its been a long winter, nice to get out of the garage for a change.

Richie Pallai, Jr. in the #39 is sporting a new look for 2011. Its actually a brand new car, everything on it is brand new, explained Pallai. We now have two complete cars and two complete motors, both race ready. Well run this one at all the big tracks, its our speedway car. The NYU sophomore was taking time away from hockey practice to be at Thompson. Pallai will represent NYU in the All Star game next weekend in PA, his final hockey game of the season.

You cant miss the #88 of Bryon Chew. A name well known in the northeast in the full fender circle, Chew is one of the new kids on the block in open wheel. Running selected ROC and MRS events last year, Chew is on board for the full Tour in 2011. Ive wanted to do this since the beginning of time but we went Busch racing instead. Honest and simple in his response to whats helped him adjust from a full fender to open wheel, Chew simply replied, Nothing. Chew continued, nodding to his crew. Im doing this as a hobby. I decided to come over to this division and enjoy. Were going to enjoy ourselves, But dont think for one minute this team is just here for show. Coming off a test in VA at Motormile earlier in the week, Chew is as serious about taking a trip to victory lane as any team. Its a brand new car so we shook it down there. Were here to get some laps under my belt. Were here to win.

A veteran Thompson late model driver with a rookie stripe on his bumper- that would be Rick Gentes in the Sully Tinio #44 modified. Were learning, more so myself, said Gentes. Its new to all of us. Were just trying to get comfortable and shake things down. Im happy with what we accomplished so far. Gentes will be running the Tinio late model full time at Thompson then with the modified, attempt all the Tour races at the 5/8 mile oval as well as the MRS and any shootout shows at Thompson. A new Troyer with Mikes Motor Service under the hood, Gentes remains realistic about his rookie start but determined. Our biggest challenge is were used to being competitive. We wont be happy riding around in the back.

The advantages of being reunited with the crew chief that you won a championship title with could be the edge that puts Todd Szegedy on the top of the points when the checker flies at Thompson about seven months from now. Phil Moran has returned to the #2 Mike Smeriglio Ford taking up head wrench duties. I was instantly comfortable in the car, instantly comfortable on the track, then I could just focus on trying different lines, change little things, smiled Szegedy. Right away, we were able to get the car balanced. The communication between crew chief and driver appearing to be as great as ever, Szegedy continued. We just connect. Phil and I just know each other a lot and it makes things a lot easier. Weve got a big jump start just because we worked together before. We know how to win races.

Your Tour roster will need a little adjusting from last year - here is a full list of cars and drivers that practiced at Thompson today:
# 2- Todd Szegedy, #3- Matt Hirschman, #4- Bobby Santos, #6- Ronnie Silk, #8- Glenn Tyler, #9- Tom Rogers, Jr., #11- Ryan Preece, #16- Mike Stefanik, #28- Woody Pikat, #33- Wade Cole, #39- Richie Pallai, Jr., #44- Rick Gentes, #50- Kevin Goodale, #51- Justin Bonsignore, #52- Doug Coby, #58- Eric Goodale, #64- Ron Yuhas, #71- Rob Fuller, #88 Bryon Chew.

The lights will be on late in the shop for several teams for the next two weeks, but for now, it was a successful practice day for a very competitive series. See you at the Icebreaker.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: March 26, 2011

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