RPW Column: The Champ Trail: News & Notes From Many Of Asphalt Best Tracks & Series

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of this coming Friday, March 19, only three weeks remain before the green flag drops at Martinsville on Thursday April 8. Round two of the WMT will be the annual Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 25.

Years ago when most of the pre-tour big events were run in the Northeast it was easy for one to catch many of those special events without breaking the bank or getting fired for lost time at work. With the modern day tour now requiring extensive travel it is almost impossible for the average fan to take in only a few of the events presented. Due to the miracle of the internet and cable tv one can catch almost all them now for a small price and no loss time from work. NBC TrackPass carries all the Whelen Modified Tour Series events and the Stafford Motor Speedway has FloRacing Live streaming. Both services have the best competition there is at a modest price and are well worth the cost.

Last Sunday, March 14. saw the rebirth of the SMART Modified Tour at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. The series started back in 1989 when the drivers gathered before a race at the now-closed Myrtle Beach Speedway during a rain delay and they came to an agreement kind of like a driver’s council and formed what’s now the Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour or SMART for short.

Thirty four Modifieds were on hand for the opener. Matt Hirschman picked up where he left off in Florida as he went on to score the 99 lap win. Hirschman qualified on the pole and started sixth on the redraw. Following Hirschman at the finish was Burt Myers and John Smith. Chuck Hossfeldt and Caleb Heady rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Jeff Fultz, Jared Fryer, Tom Buzze, Bobby Labonte and Jon Kieven. All were on the lead lap.

Kyle Souza advises that Chris Pasteryak and his family have figured that traveling all over the country chasing the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series is not cost effective. After a few years of traveling outside of New England and competing with his Modified, veteran racer Chris Pasteryak is primed to return home to full-time racing with the Tri Track Open Modified Series presented by All Phases Renovations this season. The Lisbon, Connecticut, driver will compete in his family-owned No. 75, returning in hopes of winning and contending for the championship. Pasteryak’s season will also include the six Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Outlaw Open Modified Series events and the four Stafford Motor Speedway Open Modified Series races, making up a busy schedule.

Even though the four Stafford Opens are not part of the Tri-Track Series they are coupled with the series. The Call Before You Dig 811 Modified Challenge, has created a new points partnership between Tri Track and Stafford. As part of the partnership, the new points series will pay the champion $8,110. Drivers must finish inside the top-10 in the Stafford Open Modified or Tri Track Open Modified Series feature events to score points. The race winner will receive 10 points, with each subsequent position earning one less point, with the 10th place driver grabbing one point. The driver with the highest point total from the combination of 10 events will receive the $8,110 bonus.

Word comes from Bob Finan that a four race series honoring the late Ted Christopher at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island would keep a set of points separate to the weekly track championship points with the series champion earning the Ted Christopher Cup. With Covid-19 delaying and streamlining the 2020 season the four race Crown Jewel Series was put on hold but track management recently announced the race for the Ted Christopher Cup would be a major part of the 2021 schedule.

The Crown Jewel Series is the concept of race director Scott Tapley and with GM John Ellwood’s help put together a four race series for the Ted Christopher Cup before the worldwide pandemic interrupted life as we know it. After the abbreviated 2020 campaign was completed with the Islip 300 last November track owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz quickly assembled a complete slate of events for 2021 and once disclosed Tapley and Ellwood immediately went to work assembling the dates for the inaugural Crown Jewel Series.

The 2021 Crown Jewel Series will coincide with the four extra distance events the NASCAR Modifieds will contest in the new season and start with the July 3rd 71st Year Celebration 71 and be followed up in just four weeks by the second race of the series July 31st when the annual Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 is contested. One month later on August 28th the third leg of the series will take place during the 2nd annual Bubba 100 event. The Crown Jewel Series will conclude with the $7,000 to win Islip 300 Saturday November 13th after which the Ted Christopher Cup will be presented to the champion of the four race series. The “TC” Cup will be a perpetual award presented to the series champion annually to remember his legacy this year and for seasons to come. The first three races of the series will also carry track championship points while the Islip 300 pays only Crown Jewel Series points.

The 2021 race season at Riverhead Raceway will get underway with opening weekend Saturday evening May 1st and Sunday afternoon May 2nd. Seven divisions of racing will usher in the 2021 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series with the NASCAR Modifieds, Late Models, Crate Modifieds, Figure Eights, Blunderbusts, Super Pro Trucks and INEX Legend Race Cars set for action with qualifying set for 5:30 pm. Sunday at 12:30 pm the track will complete the busy doubleheader weekend with the annual May Meltdown Enduro program headlined by the Street Stocks and Mini Stocks with the Truck, 8-Cylinder Gut & Go and 4/6-Cylinder Gut & Go Enduro divisions all in action.

Finan also stated that Riverhead Raceway officials have set aside Saturday April 3rd and Saturday April 10th as the 2021 dates for all competitors to present their cars for the mandated Safety Tech Inspection prior to hitting the track for any practices or competition. Chief of Inspection Randy Murray and staff will be available from 10:00 am until 3:00 pm weather permitting both days to conduct the inspections that include the race car and the safety equipment worn by drivers. There is a $20 per car fee for inspection.

On a sad note, internet racing news website RaceDayCt reported that Salvatore “Sully” Tinio, the owner of the local race team Tinio Motorsports, has passed away. He was 72 years old. Under his ownership, Tinio Motorsports grew from a Late Model team competing at Thompson Speedway to a winning organization on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Before the 2011 season the family purchased a Modified and fielded the car in three events on the Whelen Modified Tour with driver Rick Gentes with a best finish that year of 18th. Before the 2012 season the team connected with driver Bobby Santos III to run a part-time schedule on the Whelen Modified Tour, beginning a meteoric rise to being one of the powerhouse teams in the division. The team ran nine of 14 events in 2012 with Santos getting Tinio Motorsports its first Whelen Modified Tour win in their eighth start together in the Fall Final at Stafford Speedway. Santos went on to win the World Series at Thompson Speedway weeks later to sweep the final two events on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule that year.

Santos got another two wins for the team in 2013 at Stafford and Thompson again. In 2014 the team ran all 13 events on the Whelen Modified Tour with Santos getting three more wins, including victories at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and Stafford. Santos ended up finishing sixth in the series standings that year. In 2017 Santos swept both Whelen Modified Tour events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Tinio Motorsports. The team’s last Whelen Modified Tour victory came in July 2018 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Over seven seasons with Santos driving for them from 2012-2018, Tinio Motorsports made 82 Whelen Modified Tour starts and recorded 11 victories, including four wins at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and three each at Thompson and Stafford.

The team shut down following the 2018 season,but was expected to return to competition running selected Open Modified events in 2021 with Santos. The team is expected to make its return to action for the Icebreaker 125 on April 11 at Thompson Speedway, which is the first of six Open Modified events at the facility in 2021. Santos said the team was also expecting to compete in the 50-lap Open Modified event at the Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on April 17.

On July 21,1967, Long Island visitor Fred Harbach scored his first and only win at Stafford. Dick Watson in the Mystic Missile finished second with Leo Cleary, Fred DeSarro and Bill Slater rounding out the top five. Harbach, one of the top guns from Long Island, raced at Stafford, Norwood and Thompson throughout 1967.Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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