DOES NOT SLOW PRACTICE
chilling wind was no match for the 19 NASCAR Whelen
Modified teams that showed up today
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.
“It’s exciting to start the season again, go racing.
I don’t think much has changed from last year- all
the same guys, same car, that’s really exciting to
me- just get comfortable and build on all that we
started last year, that’s a good thing.” When not
running the Tour, Santos will be doing as much open
wheel racing as he can in his dad’s 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 it’s 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
we’ll be ready. It’s a brand new car, we need to
shake it down a little bit. It’s 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. “It’s 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. We’ll run this one at all the big tracks,
it’s 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 can’t 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.
“I’ve wanted to do this since the beginning of time
but we went Busch racing instead.” Honest and simple
in his response to what’s helped him adjust from a
full fender to open wheel, Chew simply replied,
“Nothing.” Chew continued, nodding to his crew. “I’m
doing this as a hobby. I decided to come over to
this division and enjoy. We’re going to enjoy
ourselves,” But don’t 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.
“It’s a brand new car so we shook it down there.
We’re here to get some laps under my belt. We’re
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. “We’re learning, more
so myself,” said Gentes. “It’s new to all of us.
We’re just trying to get comfortable and shake
things down. I’m 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 Mike’s Motor Service under the
hood, Gentes remains realistic about his rookie
start but determined. “Our biggest challenge is
we’re used to being competitive. We won’t 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.
We’ve 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
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