The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith


September 30, 2014

  NASCAR has closed out their 2014 Whelen All-American Series championship Series. Anthony Anders has been declared the series champion. The 43-year-old Anders, who competes at the Greenville Pickins Speedway in South Carolina, accomplished the feat by leading the national points standings every week of the season and finishing with 30 wins, ninth most in a single season in the history of the series.
Two-time national champion Lee Pulliam of North Carolina finished second, while Connecticut’s Keith Rocco finished third. It is the fourth straight year Pulliam has been among the top three, while Rocco stretched his run to eight seasons, every year under the current format, of being in the top four.

  Anders had 30 wins, 44 top fives and 48 top 10s in 51 races at Greenville, South Carolina’s Anderson Motor Speedway and Myrtle Beach Speedway, as well as North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway. Pulliam continued his incredible four-year run, adding 25 wins, 41 top fives and 42 top 10s in 46 starts to his resume. The 26-year-old from Semora, North Carolina, has 92 Late Model wins since 2011. He won his first North Carolina championship to go with the Virginia titles he has won in 2012-14. Rocco also added to his own legacy. The 29-year-old from Wallingford, Connecticut, won his seventh straight Connecticut championship. He has already clinched the SK Modified Division title at Waterford Speedbowl, and is third at Stafford Motor Speedway and second at Thompson Speedway heading into each track’s final weekends. Rocco, who had 16 wins, 35 top fives and 40 top 10s in 46 starts, will be on the big stage in Charlotte for the awards as one of the top three drivers in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series for the sixth straight year.

  When Mike Stefanik took his helmet off at Loudon it was his last time as the multi-time NASCAR Modified Champion has decided to retire from driving, once and for all. Stefanik has nothing to prove and a career to be proud of. Stefanik began his racing career at Stafford in 1976, driving a back up six cylinder All American car belonging to Bob Witcop. Believe it or not, the night before he was to make his debut, he was hit by a car outside an auto dealership where he worked. When Stefanik made his start a week later, he realized that being on the track in competition was serious business. Stefanik picked up his first LTD Sportsman win in 1978, but it was in 1979 when he dominated the division with eleven wins. He moved up to the modifieds in 1980 and garnered his first open wheel win at Riverside Park on July 12. Stefanik ran at both Stafford and Riverside, gaining confidence and experience plus, he caught the eye of Richie Evans. Evans talked Sonny Koszela into giving the young hot shoe a ride in the famous Woodchopper Special that had been formerly driven by Ernie Gahan, Leo Cleary, Kenny Bouchard, Fred DeSarro, and Bugsy Stevens.

  The combination worked so well that Stefanik literally became part of the family as he married Koszela’s daughter Julie. The alliance and marriage into the Koszela family enabled Stefanik to become a full time race car fabricator as well as a driver.

  Stefanik began racing on the NASCAR Feather Lite Modified tour and has been extremely successful. When the opportunity to race on the Busch Grand National North (BGNN) series presented itself in 1991, Stefanik jumped at the chance and has been equally successful there. In seven years he entered 102 BGNN events with six wins and 56 top 10’s. In 1997, Stefanik became the second driver in the 50 year history of NASCAR to win two division titles, the Feather Lite Modified and BGNN, in the same year.

  By the time the dust had settled from the Richie Evans-Jerry Cook rivalry that fueled NASCAR Modified racing in the 1970s, Massachusetts native Mike Stefanik was beginning a career that would redefine success in NASCAR racing. Stefanik's career accomplishments include four track championships, four Most Popular Driver awards, 74 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victories (through 2013) and nine NASCAR championships. Stefanik's seven Whelen Modified Tour titles (1989, '91, '97, '98 '01 '02 and '06) are accompanied by two K&N Pro Series East championships, which he earned in 1997-98. Incredibly, Stefanik won the dual championships in two consecutive seasons, making him the first driver since Lee Petty to win two NASCAR division titles in a single season, and the only driver to do it twice.

  Jack Arute Sr must be rolling over in his grave as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour hit a new low at the Stafford Motor Speedway last weekend as only 22 entries showed for the annual Fall Final. Stafford has run Modifieds every year since 1959. Their future at the track could be in jeopardy. During the 1988 season the Modifieds were not part of the season schedule as track owner Jack Arute felt his SK's deserved top billing. The SK's ran all the big shows. The competition was good but the big names of the day chose to ignore the track. Attendance suffered and Arute brought the Modifieds back. In recent years NASCAR has changed rules and hiked up fees in order to compete. One by one, teams have fallen by the wayside. Of the 22 cars on hand maybe 14 had a chance of a top finish. The rest were field fillers.

  Bobby Santos, from Franklin, Massachusetts, posted a fast lap of 18.506 seconds (97.266 mph) Saturday to capture the Coors Light Pole Award for the sixth time in the last eight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events at the Nutmeg oval. Second fastest was secured by rookie Tommy Barrett Jr., who laid down a fast lap of 18.529 (97.145). Season points leader Doug Coby qualified third at 18.548 (97.046). Defending NAPA Fall Final 150 winner Donny Lia qualified fourth and Eric Goodale was fifth.

  Ryan Preece scored a one-two punch at the Fall Final at Stafford on Sunday as he won the Whelen Modified Tour 150 and the SK Modified 40 lapper. While Preece won both battles it was Ted Christopher who won the war for Track Championship honors. In the SK 40 lapper, Christopher finished third after overcoming an early race penalty for contact on the track to clinch his record 9th career Track title.

  In the Mod Tour event Preece broke out of his winless slump after a season-long absence from Victory Lane, and collected his 10th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory by holding off Christopher. Immediately following the checkered flag things go a little testy. After the finish Preece and Christopher spun in turn two after they made contact. Both drove away unharmed.

  Preece, the defending tour champion, had to weather a final challenge by Christopher after a late caution set up a final restart with two laps remaining. Christopher had an early advantage but Preece was able to power back by for the victory. Preece led a race-high 79 laps in recording his first win since Sept. 14 last year at New York's Riverhead Raceway.

  Ron Silk rallied back to finish third, followed by rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. and Patrick Emerling. Woody Pitkat was sixth and Eric Goodale seventh. Championship points leader Doug Coby finished eighth and took advantage of second straight rough outing by Justin Bonsignore (21st) to extend his points lead. Coby leads Christopher, who moved into second, by 28 points and Bonsignore by 39 heading into the season finale coming up at the Thompson Speedway on Oct 19. Donny Lia and Rowan Pennink rounded out the top 10. Bobby Santos, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in qualifying Saturday, finished 12th.

  In other Stafford action, Tom Butler scored a wire to wire victory in the 30-lap Late Model feature event while Adam Gray celebrated his second consecutive Late Model championship.

  In the SK 40 lapper, Dan Avery took to the outside of Preece on the final lap but Preece was able to hold him off to the checkered flag to pick up his sixth win of the season. Christopher finished third. Keith Rocco came home fourth with Todd Owen rounding out the top-5.

  In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Keith Rocco won the SK Modified® feature while Jason Palmer won the Valenti Auto Mall Late Model race. Ed Gertsch Jr. returned to Victory Lane after a long hiatus in the Street Stocks, Ken Cassidy Jr. took the night’s Mini Stock race and Paul Buzel continued a hot streak in the SK Light Modifieds. Mike Christopher Jr. won another INEX Legend Cars feature and set a track record, while Taylor Bowser won in the visiting Mini Cup series event.

  Rocco found the winner’s circle for the eleventh time of the year in SK Modified® racing. He checkered a non-stop 35-lap race that took under nine minutes to complete from start to finish. Rocco started in ninth position and quickly moved into contention, taking second on lap-10. He ran down leader Rob Janovic Jr. of Waterford by lap-16 and applied heavy pressure until making an inside move stick as they raced to turn one on lap-21. Once clear of Janovic, Rocco had smooth sailing through the finish. Janovic wound up second and Joe Gada of Salem was third. Rocco already secured the division’s 2014 championship, his second in a row and fourth overall.

  Rocco's win placed him second on the all-time winners list with 102 victories at the shoreline oval.

  The final event of the year takes place this coming Saturday and Sunday when the track hosts Finale Weekend.

  On the horizon, later in October, the track may be up for a foreclosure auction. Many rumors persist as to whom will be bidding on the property and what it future holds. The Waterford Speedbowl has been in existence since 1951. Racing at the shoreline oval has been highly competitive and it would be a shame to see it go away.

  In Modified racing in the Southland, George Brunnhoelzl held off Burt Myers Saturday night in a green-white-checkered finish and in the process kept alive his hopes for a fifth NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship with his win in the Zooland 150 at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina.

  JR Bertuccio finished third, followed by Danny Bohn and championship points leader Andy Seuss. Brunnhoelzl cut Seuss' championship points lead from 18 to nine with two races remaining. Myers, who entered the night winning three of the last four races, remains in third place 22 points out of the lead. Jason Myers, Luke Fleming, Brian Loftin, and rookies Bobby Measmer Jr. and Joe Ryan Osborne completed the top 10.

  The Associated Press reported that a grand jury has decided against charging NASCAR star Tony Stewart in the August death of another driver at a sprint car race in upstate New York. The decision was announced Wednesday, Sept 24, nearly seven weeks after Stewart's car struck and killed Kevin Ward Jr. at a dirt-track race on Aug. 9 in Canandaigua (can-uhn-DAY'-gwah).

  Ward had climbed from his car after it had spun while racing alongside Stewart. The 20-year-old walked down the track, waving his arms in an apparent attempt to confront the three-time NASCAR champion.

  Toxicology reports revealed Kevin Ward Jr., was under the influence of marijuana on the night he was struck and killed by a sprint car driven by Tony Stewart, Ontario County (N.Y.) District Attorney Michael Tantillo said Wednesday. Tantillo said the level of marijuana in Ward's system was high enough to impair judgment.

  On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks had negative finishes while one remained flat. Dover Motorsports remained at 2.33 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.38 to 17.28 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.72 to 31.78. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.46 to 6.42 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 1.09 to 61.02 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.66 to 23.25. The car makers were negative for the week. Ford dropped 0.32 to 16.33 while General Motors dropped 0.77 to 33.17 and Toyota dropped 0.11 to 118.65. In the home improvement sector Home Depot went up 0.50 to 92.84 and Lowes dropped 0.91 to 53.18. In big team sponsorship, Dupont went up 1.25 to 72.50 and FedEx went up 1.45 to 159.78 while Coca-Cola dropped 1.67 to 75.74, Target dropped 2.66 to 61.16 and Aarons Rentals dropped 0.10 to 24.85.

On the tube this week:

Wednesday, October 1

7:00 AM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Network
7:30 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
8:00 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
8:30 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
3:00 PM, American Pickers - NASCAR Challenge, HISTORY Channel
4:30 PM, NASCAR America, The List, NBCSN
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

Thursday, October 2
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1

Friday, October 3
7:00 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
7:30 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
8:00 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
8:30 AM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
12:00 PM, NASCAR Nationwide Series Kansas practice, FS1
2:00 PM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Kansas practice, FS1
4:00 PM, NNS Kansas practice, ESPN2
5:30 PM, NSCS Kansas qualifying, ESPN2

Saturday, October 4
4:30 AM, NSCS Kansas practice re-air, FS1
11:00 AM, NSCS Kansas practice, FS1
3:30 PM, NNS Kansas race, ESPN

Sunday, October 5
1:00 PM, NASCAR Countdown, ESPN
2:00 PM, NSCS Kansas race, ESPN

Monday, October 6
1:00 AM, NSCS Kansas race re-air, ESPN2

   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: September 30, 2014

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