.Teams and Drivers,
Submit your FREE profile
 for 2010
   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



by Polly Reid

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Granite State Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway went into double overtime needing two attempts at a green white checker finish to get it done extending the event an extra ten circuits beyond it’s 95 advertised distance. Holding off challenges from Eric Beers, Todd Szegedy and then Woody Pitkat, it was a determined seven-time NWMT Champion Mike Stefanik from Coventry, RI in the Eric Sanderson owned, Diversified Metals/R.B. Enterprises sponsored modified who crossed the line for the win, his first of 2011. Pitkat claimed second at the line, Szegedy third with Justin Bonsignore and Beers the top five.

“It’s been a long time coming,” admitted Stefanik about his 71st career victory, his 7th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. “The team gave me a great car. I’m so happy for the team, more so than for myself. Nobody wants to win more than I do. Sly and the team gave us that opportunity today.”

A day that was dominated early on by Coors Light pole winner Bobby Santos III, Stefanik took the green 12th, cracking the top ten before a half a dozen circuits had been displayed on the new NHMS scoring tower.

When the fourth caution flew on lap 32 for Teddy Christopher who was suddenly off the pace and unable to get to pit row under his own power, the call was made to bring Stefanik, now running third, down pit row for tires. Santos leading with Erik Rudolph second stayed out as over half the field came in including Beers and Szegedy.

“Sly called me in around lap 35,” said Stefanik. “The tires are going to stay under the car, they don’t really wear out here if you have a good car, you’re going to stay good. He made a great call to bring it in when we did, he gave me a great car. I could go where I wanted to go, it felt good.”

“We planned on pitting about half way and when the caution came close to that we decided to come in,” explained Stefanik’s crew chief Stan ‘Sly’ Szaban. “It would also give us enough time to get back to the front. We didn’t make any changes, the first set of tires Mike was happy with the car so we wanted to match the second set with the first.”

First off pit row, Stefanik lined up 12th for the restart while Santos continued to lead the way into what would be the longest green flag run of the day, the Franklin, MA driver swapping the front spot back and forth with Bonsignore. Santos back on top when the next caution waved on lap 58 herald most of the remaining field to the pits including Santos and Bonsignore.

Pitkat in the Ramar-Hall Chevrolet who had not pitted at all, inherited the lead with Stefanik lining up second on the lap 65 restart, James Civali third, Beers and Szegedy the top five.

Pitkat and Stefanik picked up where Santos, Bonsignore and Erik Rudolph left off, swapping the lead several times around the Magic Mile. Stefanik leading, Szegedy had taken possession of second from Ptikat and just as the Ridgefield, CT driver made his move on Stefanik, it was another caution in the books, now only 13 to go. Stefanik, Szegedy, Beers, James Civali, Pitkat and Ryan Preece your top three rows in the double file restart didn’t get far when a melee on the front stretch pulled the field back in, the multi-car tangle bringing out the red flag for an extensive clean up on lap 86.

Stefanik and Szegedy heated up the restart with a side by side battle when all was cut short with two to go as the ninth caution was recorded for a three car tangle in turns three and four setting up the first green, white checker attempt.

Stefanik leading the way with Szegedy, Beers, Pitkat and Bonsignore the top five would do it all over again as the tenth and final caution waved on lap 100. Another shot at a green white checker, Stefanik kept the Sanderson machine out front while Pitkat battled side by side with Szegedy edging past the Wisk/A & J Romano Construction Ford to claim a career high second for the Stafford, CT driver.

The double green white checker finish extended the Granite State Classic from the expected end of 95 laps to 105. “I tried to come up with a plan, I knew if I could be leading down the backstretch, I could do it,” said Stefanik whose last career win was September 2009 at Martinsville. “I told the guys on the radio when it got to be green, white, checker, I said this might get a little ugly. I wouldn’t do anything stupid, put anyone in jeopardy, but I was going to do what I could to make my car difficult to pass. When it comes to one to go, you just can’t let anyone drive by you.”

“We knew Mike was going to have to do what he had to do because there were some pretty strong cars behind us,” added Szaban. “Because of the draft here, we weren’t sure we could hold them off or not- Mike did a great job. The team gave him a good car to try and win this race, but in the end, it was Mike’s driving ability that got the win.”

Deep in the pack, on the starting grid in 22nd, Woody Pitkat played out a strategy in the Don King owned machine that paid off big in the end. “We had a plan before the beginning of the race, if were going good, because I’m not a great qualifier, we’d probably try and stay out and grab some positions that way. We didn’t pit, our car pretty much stayed the same throughout the whole race. I’ve never raced up there with those guys before, it was a lot of fun. I tried to hang in there, be there at the end and finish. I just can’t thank the guys enough, Don King for giving me the opportunity, Bob Fill helping me and my spotter Michael O’Sullivan, just an awesome, awesome day.”

On the final restart, Szegedy was poised to claim a second win this year at the Magic Mile for car owner Mike Smeriglio when things changed in a hurry. “When I went to make a move on Mike on the backstretch- right when I went to make my move, I got bump drafted and nailed him in the left rear and just about turned him into the fence. It messed me up and it allowed everyone to get closer to us. Woody was able to get on the inside, I might have been able to roll around him on the outside but he was getting a good solid push from someone behind him. I hung tough on the outside there.”

Starting the Granite State Classic a solid third, Szegedy appeared to struggle in the beginning, slipping as far back as 8th before making their first pit stop of two on lap 22. “For some reason our car was real free- it wasn’t like that in practice. I knew other people were too but when it was getting close to time to pit, I didn’t want to beat the car up more- try and stay ahead of guys when I couldn’t so when a guy made a run on me, I let them go. We put a wedge in it, dropped stagger, spring rubbers, we did what we had to do and it came to me, I was pretty amazed. Phil Moran (crew chief) he’s absolutely phenomenal, what can I say, I wouldn’t be in this position if they didn’t give me the car that they do every week. They brought me back up front again, they’re the best.”

Stefanik’s Granite State Classic win will remain memorable for car owner Eric Sanderson. “Wow, ever since I’ve been coming here as a car owner I’ve wanted to go to this victory lane. 16 years. I’m kind of speechless to say the least. Winning any of the New Hampshire races is like winning Daytona, the World Series, the Superbowl, whatever you want to call it, it’s just incredible.”

“The crew works hard, they practice and they’re serious about it,” said Szaban. “We have a bunch of young guys that are into it and they do a great job. The effort that goes into this, every race- the win, I don’t even know how to put this into words, it’s huge.”

“It’s a nutty game we play,” smiled Stefanik. “There is nothing that can bring you as high up as you are right now then in a week drop you like a rock. But you can be a rock as long as you know you have another peak coming. This is a huge peak for us and we’re going to try and enjoy it. Last week was great (2nd at Stafford) we would have loved to have hung on but we couldn’t, Teddy got by us. But we had a great pit stop, put us in position and this team, they’re digging and digging. They’re a great bunch of guys and I’m very happy for them.”

Santos crossed the line sixth, Ryan Preece seventh, Glen Tyler, Erick Rudolph and Doug Coby completed the top ten. Point leader Ron Silk rallied to take 11th, his finish strong enough to remain the leader over Rowan Pennink who crossed 16th. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to Tennessee, the August 24th event at Bristol Motor Speedway will be telecast on SPEED at 6pm ET.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: August 14, 2011

©2011 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.