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
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
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
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
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
1:30 PM, NASCAR RaceDay: XFINITY, 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.
Smith / Champ Trail