Champ Trail -
October 18, 2016
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series closed out their 2016 season last
weekend as part of the annual World Series. Twenty seven Modifieds were on
hand for qualifying on Saturday. Taking the top spot was Timmy Solomito who
toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.643sec, 120.689 mph. Second fastest was Doug
Coby with a time of 18.720sec. Woody Pitkat, Rob Summers and Eric Goodale
rounded out the top five.
Coby needed to finish 17th to clinch the series title. In the end he
finished sixth. This is Coby's fourth NWMT championship, his third in a row.
The season ending World Series played to a full house of fans despite the
fact that the New England Patriots were playing at home in nearby Foxboro,
Ma. Timmy Solomito ran up front or near the front all day until fading in
the closing laps to a fifth place finish. Justin Bonsignore took the lead
for the eventual win on lap 130 with a bottom shot in turn three when he
banged wheels with Solomito. Ryan Preece, who raced in the NASCAR Xfinity
series event in Kansas started dead last on the field and brought the Eddy
Partridge No. 6 home in second spot. Jimmy Blewett recovered from a soft
tire incident on lap 46 to finish third. Donny Lia finished fourth with
Solomito, fifth. Sixth thru tenth were Coby, Woody Pitkat, Eric Goodale,
Matt Swanson and Dave Sapienza.
Six caution periods slowed the event. The first yellow was displayed on
lap 5 for Kyle Elwood who brushed the wall in turn 2. The second yellow was
displayed on lap 25 when Shawn Solomito's Wayne Anderson owned Modified went
up in smoke on the front chute. The third yellow was for Calvin Carroll who
spun into the wall in turn three on lap 39. Jimmy Blewett had a right front
tire go soft on a restart on lap 46 which resulted in a tangle between Ron
Silk, Eric Goodale and Craig Lutz bringing out yellow Number 4. Bobby Santos
stopped in turn three on lap 70 and was penalized two laps for bringing out
caution No.5. The sixth caution was for Chase Dowling who had the misfortune
of having his engine throw a rod on lap 103.
The Sunoco SK Modifieds saw Ryan Preece steal the glory from Rowan
Pennink with a last lap pass. Preece won the battle but it was Keith Rocco
who won the Track Championship war with a fifth place finish. Ronnie
Williams finished third with Woody Pitkat, fourth.
For the 2016 season Rocco won six of the 11 events run.
The World Series provided just about every division of racing there is on
the east coast. The Late Models started it off on Friday night with Rick
Gentes taking the win. Tom Carey was first at the finish but was
disqualified for having illegal fuel. Saturday saw a full day of practice,
qualifying and features. Eight divisions ran their features on Saturday
night. The most controversial was the Valenti Modified Racing Series event
which was won by Woody Pitkat. Pitkat dominated the majority of the feature,
but a yellow flag with 12 laps to go brought Steve Masse into contention.
Masse gave chase on the restart, with Pitkat obviously blocking every move
he made. Another caution with six laps to go doubled the field back up with
Pitkat selecting the inside line for the restart, a choice not normally
taken with the outside lane having the most momentum on the high-banked
5/8-mile oval. Pitkat and Masse went wheel to wheel into turn one. The
leaders touched in turn two with Masse going out of control and into the
concrete. While Masse limped to the pit area Pitkat went on to take the win.
Pitkat was loudly booed in victory lane.
Other Saturday night winners were Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks,
Randy Cabral in the NEMA Midgets, Bobby Theryen in the ACT Late Models, Joe
Arena in the Northeast Street Stocks, Chase Dowling in the Northeast Pro
Fours, Nick Maneatis in the Northeast Mini Stocks and Corey Barry in the
In what could be considered the beginning of the end, NASCAR announced
thru internet site RaceDay the consolidation of the NASCAR Whelen Modified
Tour and the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour for the 2017 season. Although
highly competitive the modifieds have long been treated like the red-headed
step child. Paltry fields of cars in both divisions have brought the
Modifieds to their knees. This past year there have been only 15 competitors
run the entire Whelen Modified Tour schedule. In the Whelen Southern
Modified division only seven competitors have run the entire 11 race
schedule. In comparison, the NASCAR Modifieds race for peanuts when you
compare their race purses to those who race on the New York DIRT circuit.
The purses are so bad, NASCAR will not post them. As an example at the
recent Super Dirt Bud Lite 200 at the Oswego Speedway race winner Stewart
Friesan earned $50,000 for his efforts. Second place finisher Brett Hearn
earned $25,000. Funny thing though, NASCAR continues to give lip service
saying how great things are while their oldest division goes further and
further down the tube. When someone like Melissa Fifield finishes in the top
20 there is a message there.
At this point much of the restructuring is a work in progress. The
division is expected to have 17-20 events in 2017. It has not been finalized
on whether or not events that land on the schedule at traditional Southern
Modified Tour tracks will be points paying or non-points events. NASCAR has
also not determined how the championship structure for the series will work.
Evidently NASCAR has failed to realize that most Modified team members
are not full timers and work a regular job in order to eat and pay the
bills. Running all over the country is almost impossible.
The Whelen Modified Tour will still run its traditional highlight events
at Stafford Motor Speedway (Spring Sizzler and Fall Final) and Thompson
Speedway (Icebreaker and World Series) and is expected to continue to have a
heavy presence in the state with other events.
The division also runs one event annually at the New London-Waterford
At this point in time the new 2017 schedule for the restructured Whelen
Modified tour is not expected to include any events at Bowman Gray Stadium
in Winston-Salem, N.C. one of the cornerstone tracks of what is now the
former Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Bowman Gray, one of the most well
known short tracks in the country, hosted the Whelen Southern Modified Tour
once in 2016.
James Schaefer, one of the prime movers of the high paying Tri-Track
Modified Series pretty much hit the nail on the head when he said, " so the
two Whelen tours have merged together... Does anyone really think there's
going to be more than 2-3 races down south? I'm betting on Bristol,
Martinsville, and either maybe South Boston or Old Dominion. It certainly
isn't going to be a full schedule of races down south. I really think it was
simply a way for NASCAR to get rid of the southern tour without actually
saying "we're getting rid of the southern tour."
Hot on the heels of the Modified tour combine is word that Martinsville
Speedway will become the latest American short track to add an LED lighting
system. Track President Clay Campbell made the announcement advance of the
trackís 70th anniversary season next year. Construction will begin shortly
after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend on Oct. 29-30.
Campbell said during an afternoon press conference that there are
currently no plans for nighttime racing at the historic .526-mile paperclip
shaped oval. The track has already confirmed that its NASCAR Sprint Cup
Series events next year will start at 2 p.m. EST (April) and 1 p.m. EST
The Made In America Whelen Modified Tour 300 ran under the lights at
Martinsville Speedway in 2005 that were rented.
Area Auto Racing scribe Dave Dragovich lives and suffered through
Hurricane Mathew recently. While his family survived and his home suffered
minimal damage the same could not be said for the New Smyrna Speedway where
the storm wreaked havoc causing thousands of dollars in damage. The
grandstand section to the right of the starters stand extending all the way
into turn one was lifted up and tossed through the retaining fence and
cables finally ending up on the track. The grandstands were installed less
than a year ago. All racing has been cancelled. Hopefully the facility will
be repaired in time for the 2017 World Series which is scheduled during
On the speedway stock market scene this week, all three speedway stocks
were down. The International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.50 to 30.95,
Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.06 to 17.42 and Dover Entertainment dropped
0.01 to 2.41. NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint went up 0.55 to 7.03 while NASCAR
fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.57 to 35.30 and NASCAR tire
supplier Goodyear dropped 1.57 to 31.26. The car manufacturers were all down
for the week. Toyota dropped 0.80 to 115.09, Ford dropped 0.38 to 11.91 and
General Motors dropped 0.27 to 31.87. In the home improvement sector Home
Depot dropped 1.89 to 126.42 while Lowes went up 0.05 to 71.35. Sponsor
related stocks were mostly down. McDonalds went up 0.64 to 114.09 while
Coca-Cola dropped 1.12 to 140.35, Target dropped 0.93 to 68.11, Aarons
Rentals dropped 2.37 to 22.76 and Fedex dropped 3.03 to 170.98.
On the tube this
Friday, October 21
1:00 PM NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Talladega practice, FOX Sports 1
1:00 PM NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Thompson World Series NBC Sports Net
2:00 PM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Talladega practice, NBCSN
3:00 PM, NCWTS Talladega practice, FS1
4:30 PM, NSCS Talladega final practice, NBCSN
5:30 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
7:00 PM, Undercover Boss - NASCAR, CNBC
10:30 PM, NSCS Talladega practice re-air, NBCSN
11:30 PM, NSCS Talladega final practice re-air, NBCSN
Saturday, October 22
1:00 AM, Tanked - NASCAR and Baseball Champions Tanks!, ANIMAL
2:00 AM, Tanked - NASCAR and Baseball Champions Tanks!, ANIMAL
4:00 AM, NCWTS Talladega practice re-air, FS1
5:00 AM, NCWTS Talladega final practice re-air, FS1
10:30 AM, NCWTS Talladega qualifying, FS1
12:30 PM, NCWTS SetUp, FS1
1:00 PM, NCWTS Talladega race, FOX
4:00 PM, NSCS Talladega qualifying, NBCSN
9:30 PM, NSCS Talladega qualifying re-air, NBCSN
10:30 PM, NCWTS Talladega race re-air, FS1
Sunday, October 23
7:00 AM, NCWTS Talladega race re-air, FS1
11:30 AM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:00 PM, NASCAR America Sunday, NBCSN
1:30 PM, NSCS Countdown, NBCSN
2:00 PM, NSCS Talladega race, NBCSN
5:30 PM, NSCS Post Race Show, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN
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