The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith


May 20, 2014

  The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park fought through scattered rain showers to get in an almost full schedule of racing for the Food Bank Night & Late Model 20/20 Sprint. In Late Model action, Rick Gentes fought back in the third of three segments to derail a clean sweep by Keith Rocco, who won two 20-lap Late Model segments. Gentes third segment win was not enough to stop Rocco from winning the overall finish, however.

  In other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Robert Palmer earned his first career win in the Lite Modified division while Corey Hutchings checkered the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division and Chad Baxter won the Monster Mini Stock feature.
The Sunoco Modified division ran 13 laps of their 30-lap feature before rain forced them to reschedule the remainder of the event until May 29. Woody Pitkat, Keith Rocco, and Ryan Preece made up the top-three when it was postponed.

  All in all, the racing at Thompson provided a high level of competition. In the Limited Sportsman event Corey Hutchings and Larry Barnett put on a brilliant display of driving as they ran lap after lap, side by side, for the lead. Hutchings prevailed to take the win as Barnett settled for second. Chris Moose Douton finished third. The Late Model 20/20 Sprint was also highly competitive. The first 20 lapper for the Late Models saw Rick Gentes coming off the fourth turn on the final lap with the checkered flag in sight when a slight nudge from Rocco caused him to lose just a bit of momentum to allow Rocco by and take the win. In the second 20 for the Late Models the lead lap cars were inverted for the start. Rocco got the break as Gentes brushed the wall, losing valuable distance he would never make up. Rocco took the lead in the second 20 on lap 11 and never looked back. Rocco started on the pole for the final 10 laps but his worn tires were not up to the task. Gentes took the lead on lap 7. A strong performance was turned in by Glen Boss who turned in a third, second and a third for the night.

  The re-configure of the Thompson Speedway is just about complete. Great pains were taken to make it a fully functional oval and road course facility. With the road course looping through the parking lot which is now fenced off it will be interesting to see where spectators cars are parked. The only major complaint from competitors is the way the divisions are spread out from what used to be the old pit. Some of the older mechanics and car owners feel there is way too much walking involved especially to the gas pumps and parts truck. Hopefully the Thompson management will address these issues which would make the facility more competitor friendly.

  The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park returns to action a week from this Thursday, May 29. Joining the regular Thompson racing divisions will be the highly competitive Valenti Modified Racing Series.

  The Stafford Speedway fell victim to rain on Friday. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns this coming Friday night, May 23rd for the 24th Annual TSI Harley-Davidson 125.

  Racing action at the Waterford Speedbowl saw Joe Gada take his first win of the year in the SK Modifieds. Joining Gada as new faces in Victory Lane for 2014 were Bruce Thomas Jr., picking up the checkered flag in Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race, and Ray Christian III, winner in the Mini Stocks. Josh Galvin of Franklin won his third Street Stock feature in a row and Corey Barry won his second SK Light Modified race on the year. Mike Christopher Jr. of Wolcott claimed another INEX Legend Cars feature to round out the Saturday night winners. The SK Modified and Late Model features went non-stop.

  Gada started the race from the pole position and left Nichole Morgillo behind exiting turn two. Excitement picked up on the opening lap when several cars made contact down the back chute, sending Shawn Thibeault through the infield but continuing on without a caution flag. Gada was out to a blistering pace while Ed Puleo quickly moved to second position. Ted Christopher was already up to third and Keith Rocco was charging through the top-ten and was hot on Christopher’s tail in fourth just four laps in. Rocco was not content and immediately looked for racing room on Christopher, making an inside move to jump to third on lap-5. Ahead, Gada stretched his lead on Puleo as Rocco closed in. The battle for second picked up on lap-10 with Rocco all over Puleo. After several laps trying, Rocco could not unseat Puleo for the spot. Christopher was all alone in fourth with Tim Jordan rounding out the top five as the race reached halfway all under the green flag.

  Over the second half of the race, Puleo began to slowly reel in Gada as Rocco started to fade in third. Christopher was closing the gap back to Rocco and Jordan continued in fifth. By lap-25 Puleo was two car lengths back of Gada and three laps later he was on his rear bumper. Puleo looked to the inside of Gada more than once, but Gada was quick off the corners running his groove. Puleo tested Gada’s rear bumper on a couple occasions, including lap-32 when both cars briefly got sideways entering turn one.

  Gada withstood Puleo’s efforts to win by a car length at the checkered flag in a clean but well contested event. The win marked Gada’s second in the division. His first victory came in 2013. Gada’s father Dennis is one of the all-time best open-wheeled drivers in track history, claiming seven division titles. The caution free race took 9 minutes and 33 seconds from start to finish. Puleo rebounded from a hard wreck last Saturday to finish second and Rocco held back Ted Christopher for third. Tim Jordan rounded out the top five.

  In the Late Models, Thomas won for the first time on the year to halt Rocco’s stranglehold in the Valenti Auto Mall sponsored division. Rocco won the final five races in 2013 and the first five features to begin 2014. Thomas, one of the division’s all-time best, finally found the answer to best Rocco in the 30-lap race. Rocco finished second.

  Christopher won for the fourth consecutive time in the INEX Legend Cars.

  Howie Brode held off Ryan Preece and Timmy Solomito to take the Modified win at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Tom Rogers and Ron Silk rounded out the top five.

  In Modified racing in the southland, Chris Fleming was the 100 lap NASCAR Modified feature winner at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. Burt Myers finished second with Kyle Ebersole, third.

  Lou Modestino has been The Brocton (MA)Enterprise's Motorsports Writer for over four decades. Since then he has covered the Northeast and other events for Stock Car Magazine, Circle Track & Highway Magazine among others. Modestino recently wrote a touching story on Joey Kourafas.

  "Randolph's Joey Kourafas, now a retired champion race driver, can attest to the fact that in life you can never anticipate what's around the corner. Five years ago the former Sharon Ma native came down with Lime Disease. After struggling with that illness he also came down with Meningitis and then to make matters even worse-Thyroid Cancer!

  After that long struggle he now calls himself a cancer survivor and you can see and feel that all three illnesses took very much out of him physically and mentally. Joey's racing resume includes winning the very prestigious and the very first Oxford 250, back in the 70's, one of the biggest Late Model short track races in North America. Kourafas also went on to win one of the early NASCAR Busch North Tour championships. That series later became the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. And just a few years ago Joey was inducted into the New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame. According to Joey's bio he had over 70 career wins up-and-down the east coast and Canada along with several track titles.

  As of late two good things happened to Joey. He was given the good news that he was cancer free! About the same time Canton's Rick Savary had to replace his crew chief Brian Brady of Stoughton. Savary is one of the strong contenders on the Valenti Modified Racing Series. Brian moved from Savary's team to the Chris Our owned NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car driven by Tommy Barrett of Millis.

  On a sad note, former Waterford Speedbowl announcer Dave Shippee passed away last week. Dave had a lifelong love of auto racing and was at one time, during the early 70's, the track announcer at Waterford Speedbowl. No one who was there will forget the night the recording of the National Anthem broke and he gave a stirring solo rendition. David was a gifted writer. He had his own column in several now defunct publications including, "Dave's Stockpile" and "Tiques and Fleas", an ode to antiquing.

  Of interest to those who race or have their race teams located in Connecticut and are looking to get some added exposure for their teams away from the track this season The Willimantic Chronicle is looking for drivers to appear in their booth this summer at the Willimantic Third Thursday Street Fest.

  The Third Thursday Street Fest takes place once a month through September on the third Thursday of each month. The Chronicle is looking for local racers to be part of their booth to sign autographs, meet with fans and promote events at local tracks. They are looking for drivers to participate July 17, Aug. 21 and Sept. 18. Drivers will also be promoted through an advertisement for the event running regularly in the newspaper. There is no cost for anyone participating.

  Those interested in participating or looking for more information can contact Ginny Gayton at the Willimantic Chronicle at 860-423-8466, ext. 3363, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or by emailing her at

  On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had positive results for the week. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.25 to 18.08 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.01 to 2.26 while the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.35 to 30.45. NASCAR Cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.20 to 9.01 while Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.03 to 56.15 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.76 to 24.67. Two of the three car builders had positive results for the week. Ford went up 0.03 to 15.76 and Toyota went up 0.74 to 109.61 while General Motors dropped 0.23 to 34.00. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 0.65 to 46.36 while Home Depot dropped 0.35 to 77.36. In the world of team sponsorships Aarons Rentals went up 0.22 to 32.39 and FedEx went up 0.71 to 138.23 while Dupont dropped 0.76 to 67.02, Coca-Cola dropped 1.19 to 76.30 and Target Department Stores dropped 0.49 to 58.64.

On the tube this week::

Wednesday, May 21
2:30 AM, NASCAR Now, ESPN2
3:30 AM, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Charlotte race re-air, FOX Sports 1
12:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub Special, FS1
1:00 PM, 1 on 1: Jimmie Johnson, FS1
1:30 PM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Charlotte All-Star race re-air, FS1
4:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
4:30 PM, NASCAR's The List: Greatest Finishes, NBC Sports Network
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 2
7:00 PM, NSCS Charlotte All-Star race re-air, FS1

Thursday, May 22
2:30 AM, NASCAR Now, ESPN2
2:30 PM, NSCS Charlotte practice, FS1
4:00 PM, NASCAR Nationwide Series Charlotte practice, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
5:30 PM, NNS Charlotte final practice, FS1
7:00 PM, NSCS Charlotte qualifying, FS1
8:30 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
9:30 PM, 1 on 1: Jimmie Johnson, FS1

Friday, May 23
3:00 AM, NSCS Charlotte practice re-air, FS1
4:30 AM, NSCS Charlotte qualifying re-air, FS1
4:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub: Best of the Year, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN,
7:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1

Saturday, May 24
3:00 AM, NSCS Charlotte All-Star re-air, FS1
9:30 AM, NSCS Charlotte practice re-air, FS1
10:30 AM, NSCS Charlotte qualifying re-air, FS1
1:00 PM, NSCS Charlotte final practice, FS1
2:30 PM, NNS Countdown, ABC
2:45 PM, NNS Charlotte race, ABC
7:30 PM, 1 on 1: Jimmie Johnson, FS2
8:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub: Best of the Year, FS2
9:00 PM, NSCS Charlotte final practice re-air, FS1
11:00 PM, NSCS Charlotte qualifying re-air, FS2

Sunday, May 25
2:45 PM, NNS Charlotte race re-air, ESPN2
4:30 PM, NASCAR Race Day, FS1
5:30 PM, Charlotte pre-race, FOX
6:00 PM, NSCS Charlotte race, FOX
8:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub: Best of the Year, FS2
11:30 PM, NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1

   That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-mail:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

SourcePhil Smith / Champ Trail
Posted: May 20, 2014

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