The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith

Champ Trail - April 28, 2015

  The countdown to the season opener at the New London-Waterford continues. As of this coming Friday, May 1, one day remains before the long awaited rebirth of the New London Waterford Speedbowl.

  Speedbowl management announced a 23-event weekly racing schedule for the shoreline oval this season, which includes one event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and one event for the Valenti Modified Racing Series. The 2015 season gets the green this Saturday night with a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series card and will close with a special event on Oct. 24 that will include open Tour Type and SK Modified events.

  The Whelen Modified Tour will visit the track in the Mr. Rooter 161 on May 30. The Valenti Modified Racing Series will make its one appearance to the track as part of the Aug. 8 Wings and Wheels event, which will also include the Northeastern Midget Association and the International SuperModified Association. The Tri-Track Modified Racing Series will also make its track debut on Sept. 13.

  The 44th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler got underway Friday, April 24 with a practice session for Stafford’s weekly divisions.

  Among the missing on Saturday when the tour modifieds rolled in was Tommy Barrett. Internet news site Racedayct reported that NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Tommy Barrett Jr. was arrested on April 17 in Willimantic, CT for driving under the influence. The drinking age in Connecticut is 21. Sergeant Alex Coriaty of the Willimantic Police Department confirmed that the 19-year old Barrett was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs at 1:48 a.m. on April 17 in Willimantic, CT. Barrett was also cited for driving unreasonably fast and failing to signal a turn. Barrett, of Millis, Mass., is due in Danielson, CT Superior Court on April 27. Barrett was replaced by car owner Robert Our for the Stafford event by Keith Rocco.

  NASCAR released the following statement Thursday evening: “NASCAR is aware of Tommy Barrett Jr.’s recent DUI arrest. As we continue to gather information, Barrett will not be allowed to compete in NASCAR-sanctioned events pending a formal review. We have no additional information to share at this time.”

  Getting suspended and arrested didn't seem to bother Barrett as he was seen at the Stafford enjoying the Sizzler.

  Barrett made his first appearance at Danielson Superior Court Monday morning, May 27, as a result of his arrest April 17 for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Internet racing web site reported that Barrett met briefly with his attorney before the two filed paperwork with the clerk’s office and left the court. Barrett did not face a judge. Barrett had no comment on the appearance and his attorney also refused comment.

  Asked if Barrett was applying for the state’s Pre-Trial Alcohol Education Program, the attorney said he does not comment to the media concerning his clients. The state’s Pre-Trial Alcohol Education Program is a diversionary program open to those who are charged with driving under the influence for the first time.

  When the program is applied for the court file for the defendant is sealed. Those who apply for the program are evaluated by the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services and that evaluation is used to recommend that the applicant be placed in one of the three programs, if the court grants the application.

  The three programs include a 10-week educational program, a 15-week educational program or a treatment program. If the defendant finishes the assigned program successfully, the charges will be dismissed by the court.

  Thirty-three NASCAR Modifieds were on hand Saturday for qualifying on a cool and blustery day. Ryan Preece, of Berlin, Connecticut, turned in a fast lap of 17.960 seconds (100.223 mph) to score his 13th career Coors Light Pole Award. Starting alongside Preece’s No. 6 TS Haulers/East West Marine Chevrolet in the front row with the second fastest time was Woody Pitkat, who recorded a quick qualifier of 18.047 (99.740) behind the wheel of his No. 88 Buzz Chew Chevrolet/Elbow East Chevrolet. Rowan Pennink, Donny Lia and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five qualifiers. Sixth through tenth were Ted Christopher, Bobby Santos, followed by Timmy Solomito, Todd Szegedy and Keith Rocco. Defending Whelen Modified Tour champion and 2015 season-opening race winner Doug Coby qualified 11th at 18.230 (98.738).

  Melissa Fifield, the only female in the field, qualified 33rd. Her speed, 88.106mph was 12.117 mph off the pole speed. We all know she works hard and tries real hard but in reality she is way out of her league and should not be allowed to race in this division. Needless to say she did start the Sizzler. In the early going she was lapped on Lap 10 and again on lap 17. Finally NASCAR determined that she was a safety hazard and black-flagged her on lap 90 for not maintaining minimum speed.

  Rowan Pennink got a gift when he won the 40 lap SK Modified preliminary that was run prior to the Sizzler on Sunday. Pennink inherited the lead after Keith Rocco was black flagged for aggressive diving on a lap 20 restart. Pennink survived after being passed by Glen Reen on a lap 27 restart as he passed to regain the lead on lap 32 and never looked back after that. Reen ended up second with Ryan Preece, third. Dan Avery and Ted Christopher rounded out the top five. Rocco recovered from restarting in the rear and finished sixth. Of note, Mike Christopher JR made his SK Modified debut and finished 16th in the 25 car starting field. Michael Bennett was the Late Model winner.

  Hometown hero Woody Pitkat in the Long Island based Buzz Chew Chevrolet won the 200 lap Spring Sizzler 2.6 seconds ahead of Todd Szegedy who drove Bob Garbarino's Mystic Missile. Ryan Preece, Eric Goodale and Donny Lia rounded out the top five. In victory lane Szegedy paid Pitkat the ultimate complement. "I would say that Woody just won the race of his life," said Szegedy, who finished second. "To win at his home track, to win the Spring Sizzler, that has to be amazing. He's mastered this track and he's come a long way." Pitkat, who started on the outside pole, was in contention most of the day as he consistently ran in the top five. Once taking the lead on lap 161 from Szegedy the Stafford Springs resident opened up a sizable lead as the race ran non-stop from there. After just two races Woody Pitkat leads the points over Doug Coby and Ryan Preece. According to NASCAR, it is the first time Pitkat has ever been the points leader in his career.

  Sixth through tenth were Thompson Icebreaker winner Doug Coby, Rowan Pennink, Patrick Emerling, Jamie Tomaino and Brandon Bock. It was the first top ten for Tomaino in quite some time.

  Pole sitter Preece led the first 21 laps before giving way to Pitkat who led lap 22. As Preece faded a bit Justin Bonsignore move by him and Pitkat to take the lead on lap 31. Preece was not ready to quit as he stormed back to take back the lead on lap 69, holding it to lap 98 before giving it up to Pitkat for one lap. Preece took it back on lap 100. Szegedy, in only his second time out in the Mystic Missile came on strong, taking the lead on lap 117 and holding it thru lap 138. Preece took it back on lap 139 for one lap before Szegedy took it again on lap 140, holding the point for 20 laps before giving way to Pitkat for the final lead change on lap 161.

  Keith Rocco, pinch hitting for Tommy Barrett JR had quite a day and in fact had worked his way to the runner-up spot before being slowed by a faulty alternator. Rocco ended up 12th, one lap down, at the finish.

  There were eight cautions for 41 laps. Most were for minor spins except for the yellow on lap 89 for Spencer Davis who pounded the wall in turn four with the Hills Enterprises entry. Davis emerged unhurt.

  In Saturday preliminary action at Stafford, D.J. Burnham took the checkered flag in the 20-lap SK Light feature, Al Saunders was the winner of the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, Dan Dembek won the 15-lap DARE Stock feature, Cory DiMatteo won the 20-lap Legend Cars feature, and Roger Turbush won the 20-lap Mr. Rooter Truck Series feature.

  The Stafford pit area was jammed with over 165 cars in competition. Weekly racing at Stafford begins this Friday, Featured competition will be SK Modified® (40), Late Model (30), SK Light (20), Limited Late Model (20), DARE Stock (15), Legend Cars (20).

  Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium, better known as the Mad House, the season opening 200 lap Modified event was postponed because of rain until next week. The same storm blanketed the Richmond VA area causing NASCAR to postpone a scheduled Sprint Cup event to Sunday afternoon.

 On a sad note, noted broadcaster Steve Byrnes, 56, passed away after a battle with cancer. Steve enjoyed a successful and highly respected television broadcasting career for 30 years. He joined the FOX Sports family in 2001, hosting and reporting for multiple NASCAR programs and serving as a pit road reporter for NASCAR on FOX's broadcast of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races from 2001-2014. Most recently, he was the play-by-play announcer for FOX Sports 1 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and was co-host of NASCAR Race Hub for the network.
Prior to joining FOX, Byrnes also hosted Darrell Waltrip's Racers on TNN, worked as a pit road reporter for CBS, WTBS and TNN, and hosted a variety of NASCAR programs for The History Channel and TNN, for which he moved to Charlotte in 1985 and remained in the area ever since. His first on-air job was at WCIV-TV in Charleston, S.C., in 1982, after commencing his television career as weekend sports producer at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C., immediately following graduation from college. Steve also called play-by-play for a Carolina Panthers/Minnesota Vikings NFL game on FOX and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races for DirecTV Hot Pass.

 A memorial service was held at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 28 at Calvary Church with visitation immediately following. Palmetto Funeral Home in Fort Mill, NC assisted the family.

 On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Dover Entertainment went up 0.06 to 2.29 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.09 to 25.16 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.37 to 36.55. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.16 to 5.27, NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.85 to 55.67 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.51 to 27.74. Toyota led the car manufacturers as they went up 2.78 to 141.21 while Ford went up 0.01 to 15.77 and General Motors dropped 1.05 to 35.59. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 1.60 to 113.70 and Lowes went up 0.61 to 73.16. The big teams sponsor's stocks had a banner week. McDonalds Corp went up 3.86 to 98.74 while Coca-Cola went up 2.04 to 113.36, Target went up 2.68 to 82.70, Aarons Rentals went up 4.56 to 32.80 and FedEx went up 1.95 to 169.95.

  On the tube this coming week:

  Wednesday, April 29

2:00 PM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Richmond race re-air, FOX Sports 2
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1
7:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS2

  Thursday, April 30
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
7:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS2

  Friday, May 1
11:00 AM, NASCAR Xfinity Series Talladega practice, FS1
2:00 PM, NSCS Talladega practice, FS1
3:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub - Weekend Edition, FS1
4:30 PM, NSCS Talladega practice, FS1
5:30 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, Weekend Edition, FS1

  Saturday, May 2
3:00 AM, NSCS Talladega practice re-air, FS1
11:00 Am, NXS Talladega qualifying, FS1
12:30 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, Weekend Edition, FS1
1:00 PM, NSCS Talladega qualifying, FOX
2:30 PM, NXS Talladega race, FOX

  Sunday, May 3
3:00 AM, NXS Talladega race re-air, FS1
11:30 AM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
12:30 PM, NSCS Talladega race

  Monday, May 4
12:00 AM, NASCAR Victory Lane, FS1
10:00 AM, NSCS Talladega race re-air, FS1
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
8:00 PM, NSCS Talladega race re-air, FS1

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

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

Source: Phil Smith / Champ Trail
Posted: April 28, 2015

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