The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith

Champ Trail - June 2, 2015

  The stars and cars of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed for the New London-Waterford Speedbowl for the Mr. Rooter 161 this past Saturday night. The event, the only stop of the year at the shoreline oval drew a near overflow crowd and a jam packed parking lot. Track owner Bruce Bemer and his staff have done wonders with the infrastructure of the facility including a manicured grassy infield, remodeled rest rooms, clean and neat concessions and a fully painted grandstand. In a statement from track General Manager Shawn Monahan "Wow. What a great night at the races. I appreciate my staff. They are so respectful and driven to succeed. The crowd was record breaking, the morale was through the roof, and the racing at the bowl is second to none. Thank you to everyone who made it happen! " Prior to the start of the evening's events a special plaque was presented to Keith Rocco and 108 balloons were released in honor of his landmark 108 feature wins. Rocco, by the way, is closing in on the 200 mark for career wins overall. In addition to 109 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl the 30 year old driver has 50 wins at the Stafford Motor Speedway and 37 wins at the Thompson Motorsports Park Thompson Speedway giving him a grand total of 196 career wins.

  The Mr. Rooter 161 drew 33 Whelen Modifieds, 12 which are based on Long Island. Donny Lia, from Jericho, New York, posted a fast lap of 13.965 seconds (96.670 mph) around the .375-mile oval for his 21st career pole, and second in a row in this event. Keith Rocco, the winningest driver in Speedbowl history, qualified second-fastest at 13.975 (96.601). The entry blank said there would be 28 starters, NASCAR allowed all 33, including Melissa Fifield, to start the event. The young lady clearly does not belong on the track with the high speed modifieds. During qualifying she was 11.575 mph slower than the pole sitter. Starting in the rear, she was lapped in 8 laps. NASCAR needs to place her in a lower division before she hurts someone.

  The starting grid for the Mr. Rooter event went straight up from time trials. Lia took the lead at the drop of the green with Rocco in tow. Ryan Preece moved into the second spot on lap 22 while Lia blocked. Lia led through lap 46 before being overpowered by Preece on lap 47 as they entered turn three. Preece survived at least three restarts before giving way to Doug Coby who managed to slip by to lead laps 128 and 129. Preece retook the lead on lap 130 following a caution when Justin Bonsignore hit the front stretch wall. Rocco, who was still a contender in the late stages saw his hopes of a top five come to an end on lap 121 when Ted Christopher forced him into contacting the wall a getting a flat.

  Todd Szegedy in the Mystic Missile set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish when he hit the backstretch wall on lap 158. Going past the 161 lap mark Preece took the lead on a Lap 163 restart and continued to lead the final two laps to record the win. Coby finished second with Ted Christopher, third. Max Zachem finished a career high fourth after starting 33rd with Woody Pitkat, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Bobby Santos, Patrick Emerling, Rowan Pennink, Spencer Davis and Keith Rocco. Twelve of the original 33 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. There were 12 cautions for 73 laps in the event that took one hour-18 minutes and 30 seconds to complete.

  The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continues this coming Friday, June 5 with the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at Stafford (Connecticut) Motor Speedway. Following the Stafford event it's on to Thompson on Wednesday June 10 for the Mr Rooter 125. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (TSMP) has extended an invitation to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour teams for an open test day on Friday, June 12, to be held on the 1.5 mile road course.

  In other Saturday night action at the Speedbowl, Keith Rocco scored career win 109 as he won the Late Model event. Anthony Flannery was looking to run away with the race that he had led since the fourth lap and had a huge lead, but with nine to go, a spin brought out the yellow flag. Rocco who was running a distant second, blew him away on the restart. In the SK Modified 35 lapper Rocco played second fiddle to Ted Christopher. Christopher fought off a late race Rocco challenge and hung on for the win. Tyler Chadwick placed third. Chris Meyer passed Al Stone III on the final lap and won the 25-lap Limited Sportsman feature. Ken Cassidy Jr. won the 25-lap Mini Stock feature.

  At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Keith Rocco picked up his second win of the 2015 season in the SK Modifiedģ feature, Tom Fearn picked up his first win of the season in the Late Model feature, Matt Swanson was a first time career winner in the SK Light feature, Trace Beyer got his second win of the season in the DARE Stock feature, and Cory DiMatteo won his second Legend Cars feature of the season. The Xtra Mart Xtra D 25 program on Friday, May 29th on what was also Military Appreciation Night. Xtra Mart Convenience Stores put up a $500 bonus that was split evenly among the top-5 finishers in the extra distance Ltd. Late Model feature event. Al Saunders was the big winner, taking his second feature win of the 2015 season in the 25-lap Ltd. Late Model feature.

  Rocco added to his racing legacy as he scored his 50th overall feature win at the half mile oval. Rocco got by Ryan Preece on a lap 34 restart to take over the race lead while Matt Galko and Woody Pitkat were third and fourth. Todd Owen got around Dan Avery to move into fifth but it was Rocco and Preece glued together at the front of the field with 3 laps to go. Rocco held Preece off to the checkered flag to pick up his second win of the 2015 season. Galko finished third, with Pitkat and Owen rounding out the top-5.

  The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island announced that time trial qualifying would be used for the remainder of 2015. The original idea of running some features via handicapping has been scrapped. With some of the Riverhead regulars at Waterford a lean field of 13 NASCAR Modifieds were on hand. In twin 30 lap events Kyle Elwood won both. Sadly, with the format at Riverhead, competition is at an all time low.

  Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC two nights of racing were on tap this past weekend. Tim Brown, in striking distance of Junior Millerís all-time feature win mark of 73 for more than a year, finally pulled ahead with a win in Friday nightís Midway Mobile Storage 100.

  It was his 74th career victory, which put him one ahead of Miller, who is still an active competitor.

  Brown, who won a record ninth Bowman Gray championship in 2012, tipped his hat to his race team for another milestone. Brown, who works full time for Michael Waltrip Racing, started third. He took the lead from Ronnie Clifton in the 63rd lap and held off runner-up John Smith and third-finishing Chris Fleming, who was the fastest qualifier with a season-best lap of 13.288 seconds (67.7 mph).

  It was also a big night for Burt Myers who won a $6,000 prize by winning the Colors Edge Challenge. Myers, one of four top qualifiers who had the option to start at the rear of the field for a chance of winning the challenge bonus with a top-four finish, took the gamble and won. He started 17th and finished fourth.

  Brown, who became Bowman Gray Stadiumís all-time leader for feature-race wins on Friday night, added another victory on Saturday night and boosted his record total to 75. Brown, who drew a pole starting position, led all the way in a 100-lap race for Bowman Grayís featured Modified Division, fending off challenger Burt Myers through six double-file restarts. Myers finished second, John Smith third and Danny Bohn finished fourth and picked up a $3,000 bonus for taking the Colors Edge Challenge.

  On the speedway stock market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks were down fop the week. Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.33 to 21.92 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.24 to 37.23 while Dover Entertainment went up 0.07 to 2.38. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.11 to 31.85 while NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint dropped 0.04 to 4.65 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 1.79 to 56.23. Two of the three car manufacturers were down for the week. Toyota dropped 0.33 to 137.89 and Ford dropped 0.10 to 15.17 while General Motors went up 0.27 to 35.97. In the home improvement sector Lowes went up 0.44 to 69.98 while Home Depot dropped 0.74 to 111.42. With the exception of Target Department Stores going up0.03 to 79.32 and Coca-Cola going up 0.57 to 113.57 the big team sponsor's stocks were down for the week. McDonalds dropped 3.06 to 35.93, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.87 to 35.03 and Fedex dropped 1.96 to 173.22.

  On the tube this coming week:

  Thursday, June 4

6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1

  Friday, June 5
10:00 AM, NASCAR Masters of the Clock: The Legend of Martinsville, FS1
11:00 AM, One Hot Night: The NASCAR 1992 All-Star Race, FS1
12:00 PM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono practice, FS1
4:30 PM, NSCS Pocono qualifying, FS1
6:00 PM, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Texas qualifying, FS1
9:00 PM, NCWTS Texas race, FS1

  Saturday, June 6
9:00 AM, NSCS Pocono practice, FS1
11:30 AM, NSCS Pocono final practice, FS1
12:30 PM, NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition, FS1

 Sunday, June 7
11:30 AM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:00 PM, NSCS Pocono race, FS1

   Thatís 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: June 2, 2015

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