Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to Martinsville, Va a week from this coming Thursday on Oct 27 for the 2022 season ending event.
Four drivers are in contention for the series title, two from New England, Jon McKennedy and Ron Silk and two from Long Island, New York, Justin Bonsignore and Eric Goodale. McKennedy leads Silk by six points.
Bonsignore is 11 points behind the leader and Goodale is 17 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five is Austin Beers. Although out of the championship hunt, 52 points back, Beers has sewed up the Rookie of the Year title.
After 150 laps of nearly non-stop action Sunday at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Tommy Baldwin Racing was celebrating. With a second-place finish by Mike Christopher Jr. in the No. 7NY, Baldwin’s team unofficially clinched the series owner’s championship with still one race left on the schedule.
With three different drivers behind the wheel this season – Jimmy Blewett, Doug Coby and Mike Christopher Jr. – Baldwin’s team rocketed to five wins and countless top-five finishes in the first 15 races of the Whelen Modified Tour season. The consistent runs at the front of the field on the Tour, along with momentum from victories in multiple Open Modified events, was enough to seal the crown unofficially heading to the season-finale.
The New London-Waterford Speedbowl closed out their season with the Fall Finale. Ryan Morgan scored a convincing win in the Don Caddick Memorial 60 lap Late Model event. Matt Lowinski-loh was second. Stephen Kopcik beat out Jef Malave to win the SK Modified 60 lapper. Todd Owen finished third and wrapped up the track championship. Other winners included Sam Messick in the Minis and Corey Fanning in the Open Streets.
Down in the southland, at the Tri County Speedway in North Carolina Burt Myers had quite a night. He qualified on the pole, led most of the laps only to be disqualified. Myers felt he was singled out. He alluded to the fact that there are multiple persons who are heavily affiliated with competitor teams who have the authority to make certain ￼decisions that affect the outcome of official results. Myers was disqualified for having a data acquisition device on his car that was not connected to any data gathering ￼accessories. It is in the rule book that this is not allowed on race day. But Myers claimed there was no data being collected. He stated other teams have been warned for these same type of infractions but not punished. This had ABSOLUTELY no bearing on what happened on the track during the race.
Brian Loftin was awarded the race win with Brandon Ward moved up to the runner-up spot. Caleb Heady finished third with Bobby Labonte and Joey Coulter rounding out the top five.
Coming up this Saturday, Oct 22 is the Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway which includes the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series championship race, the American-Canadian Tour for 100 laps & a special 30-lap INEX Legends Cars feature worth $2,000 to win. Practice day Friday, October 21 (pits open 11AM, practice 1-5PM)
On a sad note, storied racer Pete Fiandaca passed away after a valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Fiandaca is as about as close to the definition of beloved New England racer as one can get. The Traveling Man from Fitchburg, Mass could wheel and be competitive in anything on 4 wheels. His racing machines were fast and won consistently with a low buck operation.
He donned the cover of Speedway Scene multiple times a season. it’s safe to say that he shares the most covers count with the likes of Bugsy Stevens, Richie Evans and Ronnie Bouchard. How fitting.
Peter, Petah, The Travelin’ man, however you said his name, he’d greet you with a smile. His victory Lane interviews were plenty, never dull, and always heard over cheers from the stands. Peter was just so damn likable.
In a career spanning 40 years, Pete Fiandaca has won feature events, track championships, and the hearts of race fans everywhere his familiar no. 135 cars have appeared. Known as The Travelin’ Man for his willingness to race anywhere, anytime, Fiandaca has captured 320 documented victories in Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Late Models and a variety of support divisions. He has also been one of New England racing’s standout characters, a genuine low-dollar hero. In Peter’s case, the term “backyard racer” absolutely fit; until 1978, he raced without the benefit of a garage, maintaining his cars beneath a shade tree behind the family home in Fitchburg, MA.
Fiandaca’s record of track championships, 16 total, is staggering. At Hudson Speedway alone he collected seven titles: two in Modifieds, three in Pro Stocks, one in Late Models, and one in Street Stocks. He grabbed four titles at Star Speedway, three more at Monadnock Speedway, and single championships at Thompson Speedway and Westboro Speedway.
It was during the 1970s, one of Modified racing’s most colorful periods, that Fiandaca built his reputation for doing a lot with a little. His homemade cars weren’t always pretty, but they were fast enough to win at Riverside Park, Westboro, Seekonk, Monadnock, Hudson, Pines, and Star, and even on a road trip to New Jersey’s New Egypt Speedway.
With the cooperation of the Arute family a book has been published with pictures and biographies of the 50 Greatest Drivers at Stafford.
The Stafford Motor Speedway had become the epicenter of NASCAR Modified racing in the northeast by the late 1980’s. From its dirt beginnings to its lightning-fast asphalt, Stafford had become the toughest and most gratifying track to score a victory. The Arute family which has owned and guided the destiny of the facility commissioned their thousands of loyal fans to name their favorite drivers. In alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone:
Tom Baldwin, Gene Bergin, Brett Bodine, Geoff Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Ron Bouchard, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Ted Christopher, Leo Cleary, Tim Connolly, Jerry Cook, Corky Cookman, Pete Corey, Fred DeSarro, Richie Evans, Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Flemke, Sr., Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Ernie Gahan, Bill Greco, Bo Gunning, Ray Hendrick, George “Moose” Hewitt, Tony Hirschman, George Janoski, Charlie Jarzombek, George Kent, Buddy Krebs, Randy LaJoie, Jan Leaty, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin, Ray Miller, Steve Park, Bob Polverari, Bob Potter, Brian Ross, John “Reggie” Ruggiero, Greg Sacks, Ollie Silva, “Wild” Bill Slater, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Stefanik, Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, George Summers, Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino, Maynard Troyer and Satch Worley.
Books are priced at $17.95 each and be purchased at the track at the Novelty Booth or at the Stafford Motor Speedway on line store. Books are also available at Amazon.com and at Coastal181 (877-907-8181.