The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


November 21, 2014

  Five years ago in 2009, Howard Hodge reported that Chuck Hossfeld would be driving Ed Bennett's car on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2010. Chuck replaced Eric Rudolph.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor to officially honor Ted Christopher, Jim Peterson, Michael Gervais, Jr., Andrew Durand, and Don Wood as the 2009 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.

  With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Matt Buckler and Joe Coss serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 40th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the five track champions, it also honored the top-20 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. Other awards that were presented during the evening's festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, Most Improved Driver Awards, Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards, and the Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award.

  The race for the 2009 SK Modified® championship began with several contenders in Jeff Malave, Keith Rocco, and Ted Christopher, but slowly Malave and Rocco faded from contention and Christopher once again demonstrated a season long consistency that drove him to his record seventh career Stafford championship. For the season, Christopher posted 4 wins, 11 top-5, and 13 top-10 finishes in 15 starts with the #13 Broadband Access Chevrolet. Christopher's 4 victories this season brought his career SK Modified® victory total at Stafford to 91 wins. Combined with his Whelen Modified Tour Tech-Net Spring Sizzler victory at Stafford, his grand total of Stafford career wins now stands at 106 career victories.

  Ted Christopher and Jim Peterson made a special presentation to Shawn Waddell. Waddell was the spotter for Christopher and Peterson this year at Stafford, and they presented Waddell with a special plaque that commemorated his dual championships as a spotter. Both cars Waddell spotted for this year at Stafford were numbered 13, the second time Waddell has spotted for championship cars in different divisions in the same season with the same car number. In 2002, Waddell spotted for Bo Gunning in the SK Modified® division and Peterson in the Late Model division when both cars carried the number 17.

  Receiving awards for Most Improved Driver were Richie Pallai, Jr. in the SK Modified® division, J.J. Hill in the Late Model division, David Webb in the SK Light division, and Dave Yardley, III in the Limited Late Model division.

  The Reliable Welding & Speed Rookie of the Year awards were presented by Brad and Linda Hietala of Reliable Welding and Speed to Mark Bakaj from the SK Modified® division, Adam Gray from the Late Model division, Michael Gervais, Jr. from the SK Light division, and Dan Flannery from the Limited Late Model division. The awards will be worth a $700.00 bonus to Bakaj, and $500.00 bonus to Gray, Gervais, and Flannery from Reliable Welding and Speed. Each Rookie of the Year bonus will be paid out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during the 2010 season.

  The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® division, Dillon Moltz in the Late Model divisions, Heather DesRochers from the SK Light division, Carla Botticello from the Limited Late Model division, and Kyle Casagrande from the DARE Stock division.

  The Craftsman Mechanic of the Year Award was awarded to John Berardi. Berardi prepared and maintained Don Wood's championship winning DARE Stock car as well as his daughter Stephanie's DARE Stock, which went to victory lane once during the 2009 season at Stafford.

  The Waterford Speedbowl and (Formerly True Value) Modified Racing Series officials announced that the Modified Series would visit the shoreline oval three times in 2010 including the season opening event for both, scheduled for March 26-28th. In addition, the popular tour will visit the ‘Bowl for the 3rd annual Wings ‘n Wheels on August 14th and as part of Thunder on the Sound’s lineup taking place on September 4th.

  Jack Bateman continued to pursue a series sponsor for the Modified Racing Series which was formerly sponsored by True Value Hardware. In the mean time Bateman released an 18 race schedule. Bateman’s series had become a legitimate alternative to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.

  Photographers Howie and Mary Hodge, mainstays on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series were selected as the winners of the New England Antique Racers Jack Ratta Memorial Media Award. The Hodges, who had been recording New England racing history for 30 years, would share the limelight with 12 new members of the Hall of Fame. Howie started snapping pictures “seriously” in 1979. Mary joined him three years later.

  The Hall of Fame “Class of 2010” included drivers Geoff Bodine, the late Mike Murphy, George Savary, Pete Fiandaca and the late Chuck Arnold, car owner/builders Billy Simons, Bob Garbarino, Vic Miller and Marty Harty and contributors extraordinaire Frank Ferrara and the late Archie Blackadar.

  Kyle Busch held off a hard-charging Carl Edwards to win the 300-mile Nationwide Series race at Homestead FL, a fitting ending because the two NASCAR stars finished 1-2 in the final point standings.

  Denny Hamlin won the FORD 400 Sprint Cup race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for his 4th win of the season and 8th of his career. Hamlin started 38th, the farthest a driver has started and won at Homestead. Jimmie Johnson [the 2009 Sprint Cup Champion finished fourth. Johnson won his 4th NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship in a row, the first driver ever to so in NASCAR's 61 year history. Johnson was presented a check by Sprint for $6,520,800. Rick Hendrick became the first owner to finish 1-2-3 in the final Cup standings with Johnson, Martin and Gordon finishing 1-2-3. There were 7 cautions for 31 yellow flag laps and 18 lead changes among 10 drivers.

  Last year, 2013, The 2013 racing season had wound down in the northeast. The only event remaining was the Thanksgiving weekend Turkey Derby at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey.

  Auto Racing trade publication Area Auto Racing News compiled a list of the top feature winners in the Northeast.

  Sitting at the top of the list was Keith Rocco who had 31 wins to his credit. Rocco, who finished third nationally in NASCAR's All American Series, won the SK Modified and Late Model track championships at the Waterford Speedbowl plus the Sunoco {SK Modified} championship at the Thompson Speedway, won 19 Modified features and 12 Late Model features. Second, third and fourth on the win list were dirt track racers Stewart Friesan with 25 wins, Matt Sheppard with 22 wins and Gene Knaub with 20 wins. Tied for fifth, overall is NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series champion Ryan Preece and dirt tracker Ricky Elliot, each with 18 wins. Woody Pitkat, who is the 2013 Sunoco (SK Modified) at Thompson, has four wins for the season.

  The clocks continued to tick on the well being of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. The statement by Ed Flemke Jr leads one to believe that he would no longer be a regular competitor once the season begins in 2014. At 58 years of age, Flemke knew his best days as a competitor were behind him. In 14 events in 2013 he scored only two top tens. A tour loyalist since its inception in 1985, Flemke has 17 career wins to his credit in 439 starts. Don King is his car owner but in reality King only owns the equipment. Flemke is the driver, team manager and chief in charge of maintenance and repair.

  In 2013 there were 18 cars that ran the full schedule of 14 events. Based on the fact that the Hill 79 was all done plus the fact that the Wayne Darling owned No.52 would run a partial schedule meant that the tour would have 15 regulars if they were lucky.

  In addition Mike Stefanik had yet to make a decision as to what his plans would be for 2014. Despite it all NASCAR felt that the Modifieds were just fine. They still put on the best competition and NASCAR said that there is nothing wrong. Is this the start of an obituary for NASCAR's oldest division? The answer, sorry to say, it is!

  On a positive note, the Riverhead Raceway on the east end of Long Island would host the Whelen Modified Tour on June 28 and September 13.

  In some good news, construction had started at the site of the Canadian Motor Speedway, a $400 million project just across the Canadian border in Fort Erie. Officials held a small, unofficial groundbreaking event, as construction crews started preliminary site work on the speedway property just off the QEW.

  The project was designed by 4-time Sprint Cup NASCAR Champion Jeff Gordon. The large complex calls for a 3/4 mile oval track, a road course, hotel, restaurants, retail, lots of parking, and even a motor sport research and development center.

  NASCAR wound up the 2014 season for the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series at Homestead, Fl. Sprint Cup regular Brad Keselowski won the NASCAR Nationwide Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, moving up 10 spots in the closing few laps to give an otherwise typical race a wild and wacky finish. Rookie Kyle Larson finished second, followed Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne.

  Austin Dillon, won the Nationwide Series title in the famed No. 3 of Richard Childress and by three points. Denny Hamlin salvaged something from an otherwise forgettable year by holding off Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and winning the Sprint Cup finale. Jimmie Johnson staked his claim as one of the most dominant competitors Sunday by winning his sixth Sprint Cup title in eight years.

  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.

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: November 21, 2014

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