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
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
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.
Smith / Champ Trail