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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



by Polly Reid

Stafford Motor Speedway’s last event of the year came down to a green, white, checkered finish complete with a nearly patented pass in turn one on the final circuit by Ted Christopher to take the victory in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour CARQUEST Fall Final.

A late caution turned red flag for track clean up sent the CARQUEST Fall Final into overtime with Erick Rudolph bringing the field around for the final restart, Ted Christopher on the outside, Ryan Preece, Donny Lia and Eric Beers the top five. At the green, Christopher tucked into line for second behind Rudolph and with the white flag waving, made his move low on the front stretch, finishing the pass through turn one and never looked back.

Fans on their feet watched as Christopher and Rudolph made contact going into one, Christopher nearly sideways managed to continue while Preece slid into second, Lia following for third, Beers fourth and Rudolph recovering for fifth.

“I had my right front at his left rear and he was almost trying to come down back at the start finish line,” explained Christopher. “I was already part-way there. I understand he is trying to win but I always pit late and have good tires. I almost got him before the yellow came out and if you think you can hold me off in a green, white, checker at Stafford, that ain’t happening.”

Pit strategy was key for Christopher in the Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet. The Plainville, CT driver pitted twice, first on lap 78 for chassis adjustments and after working his way back up to eighth pitted one more time on lap 103 for fresh tires.

“The car was really, really tight in the beginning, we waited, it came around a little bit better. Actually the race probably played out good for us because it really didn’t have any long green runs. It would start to get tighter then a caution would come out and it would be good again. Then we elected to adjust on it and get the thing right almost like we did at Thompson, adjust the car and get it right on bad tires then put our good stuff on and that’s what we did.”

Ryan Preece of Berlin, CT had one of the best seats in the house as the last circuit unfolded in front of him.

“Hard racing- you knew it was the last lap. Teddy was underneath him and he was going to do what he had to do to win and Erick was going to protect the bottom, do whatever he had to do to win.” Preece who started the day eighth in his American Lamp Recycling/Mizzy Construction Chevrolet made it up to second until pitting just past the half way mark for fresh tires. At 25 to go, his Jeff Preece owned machine was back in the top five- caught a break on a restart and when the field lined up for the last time, Preece in third, stayed low to move into second at the line.

“It was awesome to be able to drive up to second,” said Preece. “I wish we could have gotten up there a little sooner, maybe we could have dueled it out with Teddy- if we had a couple more laps to go, I think we had just as good a car as him.”

“To come here, run with these guys, Justin in the beginning, be right there with Teddy at the end, it’s awesome to be back up front in the Tour. The 2011 SK Modified Champion at Stafford, Preece is closing out the season on a high note. “This year has just been phenomenal, I don’t even know what to say I’m so happy right now. Maybe I can get my dad to go to Thompson now, we’ll see.”

“It was a great day, I have to thank John Lukosavage for having me drive this car,” said Donny Lia about his third start of the season for car owner Lukosavage. “The guys are working really hard, we struggled a little bit with this thing the first few times out but today was fun. I ran up front and was able to battle the guys a little bit. Our pit strategy I thought was going to be good then towards the end there were so many cautions, we would have been a little better off with a less cautions of course, but it was a good race, it was a lot of fun, it’s nice to be back.”

Lia who wished his Dad a happy 60th birthday, pitted just past the fifty lap mark and made his way back to the top five shortly after the half. “We just missed the pole, just missed the win, but we gave it a shot.” Lia ends his season on a high note with the podium finish, the Jericho, NY driver will not be competing in at Thompson for the World Series as he has a date with the alter.

Coors Light Pole winner Justin Bonsignore set the pace in the first half of the CARQUEST Fall Final, his M3 Technology was consistent and strong on the restarts. But after pitting just past the half, Bonsignore became collected in some unwanted action in turns three and four- the Holtsville, NY driver recovered to cross for tenth. Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, NY became the second leader of the day on lap 80 and had his Mohawk N.E/Original Pizza Logs Chevrolet dialed in pulling from the pack on each restart and nearly pulled off the victory until the final restart where Christopher flexed his strength on his home court.

Christopher’s 12th career Tour win at Stafford, his fourth of the season, 42nd of his career, Christopher remained in constant communication with his crew chief Brad Lafontaine.

“I just love these kind of races where you can have pit strategy,” said Lafontaine. “You can come in, make your changes and still come back in for tires-it’s a fun kind of a race. A race like this, you’re more in control as a crew chief and that’s what we did. We came in on lap 70 something and we ended up making all chassis adjustments on the car, we went back out to make sure we had a good car- he said it was a 100 percent better. Now we have a good car, ride along a little further then put tires on- now we have an advantage on the whole field. It worked out well, you can only do it with certain drivers- you need a driver like Teddy to be able to drive it back to the front, that means a lot especially when you get into a situation where’s it a green, white, checker. Teddy did a great job today, even though we were tight at the beginning of the race he stayed calm, we stayed calm, everybody just did their job. You know, we have a great team and everybody did their job- that’s the major, major factor.”

“He’s the best, that’s all you can say,” smiled car owner Eddie Whelan. “The last lap, I didn’t watch, somebody just told me my car was airborne.” Teamed up with Christopher ‘going on seven years,’ Whelan added, “There’s nobody better to make a late pit stop with than Teddy.”

Eight points separated Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy going into the Fall Final. Szegedy on the starting grid 15th was challenged at the get go spinning around before 20 laps were on the board. The suspect, a tire down, Szegedy pitted for a change. Working on the nose of the car on a second pit stop on lap 33 and another pit stop fifteen circuits later, Szegedy was marching to the front and back into the top ten by the half. Things looked like they had turned for the better, the Wisk Detergent/A & J Romano Construction Ford in second before the board hit 100 laps. Shuffled back to sixth after three more restarts, Szegedy was battling for position when after contact resulted in a tire suddenly down and in turns three and four Szegedy went around. The MSR team waiting for the red flag to lift, sprang into action to get the 2 car back out- their day ending 22nd.

Taking the green seventh, Silk may have started out better than Szegedy but following their pit stop on lap 78, the T.S. Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm Chevrolet was looking at a long way to the front restarting just inside the top twenty. Silk became part of a five car tangle on lap 97, the Norwalk, CT driver suddenly forced to pit. Silk however survived four more cautions to end his day seventh his points tally up to 2328 leading by 57 over Szegedy with 2271.

The NWMT season wraps it all up in two weeks at Thompson International Speedway where the 2011 champion will be crowned in the World Series.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: October 3, 2011

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