The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith

Champ Trail - February 20, 2018

  Modified racing at New Smyrna began on Monday, Feb 12. Thirty one Modifieds, the best field of cars since 1993 were on hand. Ryan Preece led the charge as the opening night 50 lapper took the green. Preece appeared to be headed to victory when a broken suspension part in the cars rear end on lap 43 forced him to pit and ultimately drop out. Jon McKennedy, driving the Tommy Baldwin No.7 was running second and assumed the lead and went on to lead the remaining seven laps and scored the win. Kyle Ebersole finished second with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Matt Hirschman and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top five.
  Among those who failed to finish in addition to Preece was Timmy Solomito who retired when his car developed a smoking rear end.

  Ryan Preece got his just do on Tuesday night as he came out on top after a spirited duel with Matt Hirschman. Preece took the lead from Hirschman between turns three and four on lap 13, leading from lap 14 to the checkered flag on lap 35. Hirschman finished second with Jimmy Blewett, third. Patrick Emerling finished fourth with Timmy Solomito rounding out the top five. For Solomito it was a redemption of sort as he recovered from an opening night setback. Opening night winner Jon McKennedy saw his chances of having a successful week of racing disappear as he was collected in a lap three wreck. McKennedy had come to a stop when he was rear-ended. The resulting impact bent the rear clip of the Tommy Baldwin owned machine thus putting him and the car out for the rest of the week. Also collected in the wreck was
Ron Silk and Kyle Trayner.

  Night No.3, Wednesday saw the running of the John Blewett III Memorial 76-lapper. Just prior to the start Jimmy Blewett withdrew because of motor problems. AS the fog attempted to close in, Timmy Solomito led the 28 car starting field at the start with Ron Silk in tow. Ryan Preece started fourth and took up the chase. By lap 12 he had put the Eddie Partridge mount into the second spot. Preece glued himself to Solomito’s bumper and eventually took the lead when Solomito spun his tires on a restart on lap 33. Meanwhile, Matt Hirschman, who started seventh had worked his way quietly into fourth spot by lap 44. Also breaking into the top five was Craig Lutz. Following a caution on lap 54 when Silk hit the wall, Patrick Emerling took the lead on the restart when Preece spun his tires. Emerling was obviously blocking when the caution flew for Kyle Ebersole on lap 59. Preece re-took the lead on the restart with Hirschman hot on his bumper. Preece’s tires were shot as he faded fast. At the checkered flag on lap 76 Hirschman scored a convincing win over Patrick Emerling. Craig Lutz came on strong in the closing laps and finished third ahead of Preece and Tommy Catalano. Solomito finished sixth with Danny Bohn, seventh.

  Night No.4 at the New Smyrna Speedway featured 35 laps for the Modifieds with 26 cars going to post. Patrick Emerling got his just due as he won the Modified main event over Craig Lutz. Emerling, who set the fastest time earlier in the evening started eighth on the field. Ron Silk led the early going until passed by Lutz on lap 12. Lutz had a real strong run going until his handling dropped off as he gave way to Emerling in turn four on lap 29. Emerling, who was coached by former Whelen Modified Tour front runner Jan Leaty went on to score his first ever win at the Florida oval. Lutz hung on for second with Silk third. Matt Hirschman and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five.

  Night No.5, Friday, saw the running of the Richie Evans/Ted Christopher 100. Ryan Preece won the battle but it was Matt Hirschman who won the war (Series Championship). Preece executed a “slide-up” move during a restart after a controlled caution on lap 64 to take the lead from Hirschman. Preece led the rest of the 100 lap distance. Hirschman finished second with Timmy Solomito, third. Ron Silk and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five.
  The event was not without its share of drama. Shortly after the 25-car field lined up for the parade lap Eric Goodales’ car developed electrical problems and had to be pushed to the pit area. After numerous tries the car couldn’t be fixed and the race started without him. On lap 6 Austin Pickins appeared to have a stuck throttle, which resulted in a crash that collected Patrick Emerling. Emerlings crew led by Jan Leaty managed to make repairs, which allowed him to continue. During a caution on lap 10 Jeremy Kirchner took a swing at Kyle Trayner who was still in his car. Kirchner also attempted to kick Trayner. Track Steward Ricky Brooks took control of the situation as he picked him up with his ATV and transported him to the start-finish line where he ordered the still irritated Kirchner to exit the track area and sit in the grandstand. Kirchner did what he was told and sat sputtering the rest of the evening! A tip of the hat to Brooks for his response to what could have become a violent situation.

  Harrison Burton topped the 100-lap super late model feature that concluded the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway. Burton posted the fastest time in qualifying, but a six invert forced him to start sixth. He quickly worked his way back to the front, driving under both Stephen Nasse and Steve Wallace on lap 25 to take the lead. Once out front Burton was never challenged again as he rolled to a comfortable 4.305-second victory over Nasse. Tyler Ankrum, Derek Kraus and Steven Wallace completed the top-five.

  Racefans attending events at the Daytona International Speedway got hit with a $30 parking fee which went to $60 for last Sunday’s Daytona 500. No wonder there were many empty seats at events during the week!
  Ryan Blaney held off Team Penske teammate Joey Logano to win Thursday night’s first 150-mile qualifying race in the Can-Am Duel at Daytona International Speedway.
  In the second Duel, Chase Elliott grabbed the lead on Lap 27 of 60 and held it the rest of the way, beating Kevin Harvick to the finish line by .081 seconds. Erik Jones survived an early spin to run third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch.
  Blaney finished the first Duel .207 seconds ahead of fast-closing Logano in the race that set the order of the inside row for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
  In Saturday action at Daytona it took five overtime attempts before Tyler Reddick gave fans at Daytona Int’l Speedway for Saturday’s 37th NASCAR Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 a thrilling photo finish. The finish was so close, in fact, that NASCAR’s timing and scoring system was initially unable to show a margin of victory.
  The photo at the start/finish line showed the bumper of Reddick’s Chevrolet was just a few inches ahead of Elliott Sadler’s Chevrolet. NASCAR later announced that the official margin of victory was .000, the closest finish in NASCAR history.
  In the Daytona 500, history repeated itself on Sunday as Austin Dillon drove the No. 3 to victory in the 60th Daytona 500 on a day when Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 victory was celebrated. The move to win the race by Dillon, who won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway last May, was Earnhardt-like by the 27-year-old Dillon. He made a last-lap pass in turn three after putting the bumper to then race-leader Aric Almirola, which led to Almirola crashing.
  NASCAR officials didn’t call for the caution flag and Dillon’s Chevrolet led rookie driver Darrell Wallace Jr. and 2016 Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin across the finish line to win by .260-of-a-second. By not taking any action against Dillon NASCAR sent a strong message that it is ok to take the leader of the race out when going for a win. Guaranteed, that decision will come back to haunt the sanctioning body in the future.

  In some good news word has been received that 12 Whelen Modified Tour Series events will be televised by the NBC Sports Net this coming year. Like last year, TV coverage is a big shot in the arm to competitors who are seeking corporate sponsorship.

  The New London-Waterford Speedbowl announced some big news in the way of format changes and purse increases.
  During the 2017 season, SK Modified driver Keith Rocco and Sportsman driver Chris Meyer each won back-to-back features at the New London Waterford Speedbowl on two occasions. And each driver also enjoyed three race winning streaks.
  In 2018, however, back-to-back victories may be more difficult to come by. A new Speedbowl handicapping rule going into effect in 2018 stipulates that the winner of a feature must start the next week’s race behind all the handicapped cars. In most cases, that means starting 10th, or farther back.
  Speedbowl racing director Chris Forster said that new procedure was implemented with both the drivers and the fans in mind. “This will increase the competition level,” Forster said. “If a driver wants to win two in a row, he will have to earn it. This raises the bar for everyone.”
  “And the fans will be see great side-by-side racing because they’ll see the previous week’s winner doing everything he can to get to the front.”
  Rocco, who won nine of 15 SK races last year, said the new rule doesn’t affect him that much. “Ninety percent of the time, we start in the back after we win a race anyway,” Rocco said. “The only time we wouldn’t would be if we had two DNFs and then win a race. Our handicap could put us near the front the following week. But that’s not going to happen anymore. That’s a rule that will affect everybody.”
  The handicap system will also go back to using money won over the last three races to determine starting position, not the point system that’s been used the past few years.
  “This makes it a lot easier for drivers and fans to understand.” Forester said. Forster also announced an increase in purses. SK Modified winners will receive $1,300. The Sportsman winning purse will double to $400. The MiniStock winner will earn $250. SK Lights will race for $350 to win - along with a purse increase to the LM and truck divisions. It’s been a long time coming said Forster.
  “That’s great,” Rocco said. “The price of tires goes up. Fuel goes up. It’s nice the purse is going up.”

  On a sad note, Norm Holden, a front runner and former champion at the Seekonk Speedway passed away.

  On the speedway stock market scene last week all three speedway stocks ended the week on the plus side. Leading the pack was the International Speedway Corporation which went up 1.90 to 45.40. Speedway Motorsports went up 1.11 to 20.70 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.12 to 2.00. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 2.59 to 65.48, NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.26 to 18.55 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.33 to 29.66. The auto manufacturers were mostly down with the exception of Ford which went up 0.08 to 10.61. General Motors dropped 0.37 to 41.09 and Toyota dropped 0.37 to 136.20. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 2.85 to 186.97 while Lowes dropped 0.86 to 96.31. The NASCAR big team sponsors stocks were all positive with the exception of McDonalds which dropped 3.01 to 157.79. Coca-Cola went up 8.40 to 190.69, Target went up 3.25 to 75.70, Aarons Rentals went up 3.94 to 43.40 and Fedex went up 8.87 to 244.19.

  On the tube this week:

  Tuesday, February 20

2:30 AM, Classic NASCAR - 1988 Daytona 500, Fox Sports 1
3:00 AM, Monster Energy NASCARCup Series Daytona 500 re-air, FS1
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1

  Wednesday, February 21
2:30 AM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
3:30 AM, Classic NASCAR - 1998 Daytona 500, FS1
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1

  Thursday, February 22
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1

  Friday, February 23
11:30 AM, MENCS Atlanta practice, FS1
1:00 PM, NASCAR Xfinity Series Atlanta practice, FS1
2:00 PM, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Atlanta practice, FS1
3:00 PM, NXS Atlanta final practice, FS1
4:00 PM, NCWTS Atlanta final practice, FS1
5:00 PM, MENCS Atlanta qualifying, FS1
6:30 PM, Classic NASCAR - 1988 Daytona 500, FS1

  Saturday, February 24
5:30 AM, Classic NASCAR - 1998 Daytona 500, FS1
6:00 AM, MENCS Atlanta practice re-air, FS1
7:30 AM, MENCS Atlanta qualifying re-air, FS1
9:00 AM, NXS Atlanta qualifying, FS1
10:30 AM, NCWTS Atlanta qualifying, FS1
12:00 PM, MENCS Atlanta final practice, FS1
2:00 PM, NXS Atlanta race, FS1
4:30 PM, NCWTS Atlanta race, FS1
6:30 PM, NCWTS Post Race Show, FS1

  Sunday, February 25
2:00 AM, NXS Atlanta race re-air, FS1
4:00 AM, NCWTS Atlanta race re-air, FS1
12:00 PM, Classic NASCAR - 1997 Daytona 500, FS1
1:30 PM, MENCS Pre-Race Show, FOX
2:00 PM, MENCS Atlanta race, FOX

   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: February 20, 2018

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