The Chrome Horn - Champ Trail with Phil Smith

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 Lite Mods.

  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 Speedbowl.
  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 (October).
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 Speedweeks.

  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 week:

  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.

Source: Phil Smith / Champ Trail
Posted: October 18, 2016

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