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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



Mechalides Captures His First 2012 VMRS Victory
at Seekonk Speedway

by Denise DuPont

The Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) went to Seekonk Speedway for the first of their three races there this year. When the modifieds started their engines their distinct thunder echoed off of the cement grandstands. It was very easy to understand then why they are called ground pounders and why Seekonk is the “Cement Palace” was well understood.

It was a great night of modified racing and once again VMRS teams provided a great show for all. Series regular, Louie Mechalides, started the evening’s 100 lap feature on the outside pole and used his position to dominate the lead and take home his first 2012 race win.

Mechalides last win was in July 2011 at Canaan Fair Speedway where he took home the large purse from “Ricky’s Race For Kids”. After the Canaan win, it has been a slow start to the 2012 race season for Mechalides. “Canaan was a good win, but this is also a good win. I like racing at Seekonk. Our team loves to come down here to race and we always run good here. Obviously we are excited with the win and we are going to now have to work hard to get it (the car) ready for next week. “

During the 100 lap race Mechalides lead was not left unchallenged. There were seven cautions and with every restart he had Les Hinckley on his outside making a bid for the lead. Lap after lap the two front runners ran side by side evenly matched. The tension grew as both waited for one or the other to make a wrong move, but Mechalides continued to maintain his front spot. Late in the race, Jon McKennedy joined the mix and three hard chargers continue the lead battled. ”They are both good,” said Louie Mechalides about drivers Les Hinckley and Jon McKennedy. “They are really good and I would have given the lead to Les if he really got it up there because I was not going to give Jon the bottom. He was going to have to go on the outside also. Those guys are both great to race with.”

Jon McKennedy rebound from a disappointing qualifying session and an eighth place race start to finish the race in second place. “The race had a pretty good outcome. We started eighth and finished second. Kenny and the guys gave me a good car. It was a good run and we will head off to Stafford Speedway on a few weeks,” said McKennedy at post-race inspection.

Seekonk is a small fast oval and strategies play a major role in where you end up at the end of the race. Racers have learned to protect the bottom and make you work hard on the outside for every spot that one may gain. Then if you wait too long to make you charge for the lead or use up your equipment it could cost you a win. “I may have both waited too long and not saved enough for the end. By the time that I got to second there were only a hand full of laps left and at the point I did not have very much left. I was getting pretty loose and I did the best that I could. Overall we had a good night and we did end up second.”

Young Tommy Barrett has made a move from the SK Light division at Stafford Motor Speedway to running the VMRS full time in 2012. It is a big jump for the driver as he makes his way into the fold of the racing series competition. At the end of the race Barrett charged hard to the front as his short race career has taught him to do. On the last lap he made a move on Les Hinckley which captured him a podium finish. “I decide to save my tires the whole race. When it was about forty laps to go I was in sixteenth and I started to move up. I got up to third but I think that I had more .I got him (Les Hinckley) on the last lap coming out of turn four. What happened was not intentional; I just drove the car in too hard. Coming out of turn four I decide to start door slamming him I guess. But I really did not mean to.”

It was a tough racing night for veteran racer Les Hinckley. He ran strong and had a good car all night but when the race ended he slipped from second back to fourth. After a competitive night of racing, Hinckley found himself right back where he started.

Hinckley has always done well at Seekonk and he came there to regain his momentum after the last VMRS race. A major incident at Thompson left Hinckley recovering from bruises and his team rebuilding a severely damaged car. He set his sights on a race win for the #06 Chuck Montville team and Montville’s birthday. Not reaching his goal was very disappointing. “I do not know what to say. The track was good and we were good and I am sure that it was a good race for the fans. But I would have liked to have had a little more racing room. I know that Louie was the leader and he used a lot of the race track to maintain it. It is just another case and point that good drivers are able to run wheel to wheel for a long period of time. As I think that we did that tonight, it is not that Louie did anything wrong, he was just protecting the lead. But I would have liked a little more racing room. And you cannot really move a guy out of the way because they (officials) put you to the back for stuff like that.”

“It is frustrating know that you had a better car than the leader but you were not able to get around him. And yes that is part of the game. I was just trying to race as clean as I could to get to the lead. It was good hard racing but I would just have like to have had a little more of the race track. But it is more frustrating knowing that you use your stuff up in that manner. And to get pushed up at the end of the race like that just pushed me over the edge.”

The hard charger of the night was definitely Rowan Pennink. He did not qualify well, started the race in eighteenth per series rule as the last race winner, and then had to make his way through the field of cars. At race end he finished in fifth as the car developed some issues. “We had a really good car most of the night tonight. I really have to that Gary Casella and the crew/team and my dad. We have struggled here a little bit but the car was awesome tonight. I think that we would have had a winning car if we did not have to start eighteenth. It was tough racing. Everyone was running two by two so it took me a while to get to the front maneuvering around everybody. We got up to the front cars with twenty to go but for some reason the motor kept skipping on me. That kind of hurt me at the end. I probably could have pulled a third out of it but it was hard.”

“The many restarts were frustrating because sometimes I would get passed and in front of a bunch of cars and then the caution would come out and they would put me back behind all of them. With people running two but two really though hurt us a little bit. The car was awesome. This is by far the best car that we have had here. So the next time that we come back here we will have a real good setup and I think that we will have a shot for a win further on in the season here. So I am happy with it (the fifth place finish).”

The VMRS race teams will next go to Stafford Speedway on June 22nd. Going from one of the smallest tracks on their series back to another big track will certainly be a challenge for teams as they prepare to go racing.

While waiting for their Stafford race, some of the VMRS competitors will head to Star Speedway for the Exeter Decorating SBM 125 on June 16th and a chance for a large purse.

Race Notes from Seekonk Speedway:

Your thought on the VMRS in 2012:

Louie Mechalides
“This is a great series with a bunch of good guys to race with. Every week it is at different tracks and a lot of people that help us enjoy coming to the tracks. And where ever we go there are races. And where ever we go there are sponsors there to help us. I really enjoy it.”

Tommy Barrett

“It is a different track every week. The track and everything is different. It is not always even the same car. You cannot even relate to running the series to Stafford Speedway at all.”

“With the 20 laps at a Stafford you just start at the back and make your way to the front. With this series you need to conserve tires and take your time and you need to be patient.”

What has changed during 2012 for the #85 Race Team?
This year the Kevin Stuart owned #85 modified has been dealing with the pains a team feels when they regroup their race team

Louie Mechalides

“We have been struggling with this car. He (Kevin Stuart) has basically a whole new race team. They now keep the race car at their shop. In the past they have never had to maintain it and work on it the way that they now do. It is just the Stuart brothers working on the car with Bear (Billy “Bear” Calicchio). Bear helped us work on it (the car) this week and he helped us out a lot. The new team has been maintaining it (the car) and they are doing a good job.”

Leading the VMRS Point Chase for the 2012 championship, your thoughts:

Jon McKennedy
“It is great. I think that tonight we opened up our point lead a little bit. But it is still really early in the season. There are a lot of races left so you cannot really put a lot of thought into it even though it is on your mind. It would certainly be nice to continue the point lead and cool to get out of it another championship but it is a long season and there are eleven or twelve races left. So we will focus on that with the races that are left.”

If you were to mentor some of the younger racers like Tommy Barrett what would you recommend?

Les Hinckley
“The kid (Tommy Barrett) is young and talented. There is no disputing that. I have been racing a long time and he is no better than I am or the other good drivers/cars that are here. If he wants to be respected and race with us then he cannot do some of the moves that he has done the past couple of weeks.”

“He has to learn what Louis and I did tonight whether he gave me enough track tonight or not. What we were able to do is because we have respect on the track for each other out there.”

“I understand he (Tommy Barrett ) is young and there is a learning curve but you cannot race stupid either. You just cannot run through people and run over them with a single motive in mind. Sometimes you have to take a step back and look at the way you before it sets you back.”

Source: Denise DuPont/ TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: June 10, 2012

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