RPW Column: The Champ Trail; The North-South Shootout, Islip 300 On Deck & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – All eyes were focused on the North-South Shootout in Asheboro, NC this past weekend.

Thursday, November 3rd, was open practice for all divisions competing in the NSS. Friday was more practice and qualifying for the Modifieds and Late Models and Saturday, the 602 Mods.

Twenty five modifieds were on hand for qualifying on Friday including three Tommy Baldwin Racing entries. Taking the pole was Patrick Emerling with a 15.919 sec run. Second fastest was Matt Hirschman with Kyle Scisco, third. Caleb Heady and Brian Loftin rounded out the top five.

Pole sitter Patrick Emerling declined the fan’s Challenge and kept the pole starting position.

Matt Hirschman, outside pole starter chose to take the Fan’s Challenge along with 4th place starter Caleb Heady . They started at the back of the field and would try to capture the victory and an extra $2500.00

Kyle Scisco, third place qualifier also chose to keep his starting position and declined the chance to pocket a extra $2500.

Matt Hirschman parked it in victory lane after taking the challenge for bonus dollars and elected to start last and won for the 8th time in the 20 year history of The John Blewitt Memorial North South Shootout in memory of Charles Kepley. Burt Myers finished second with Patrick Emerling, third. Caleb Heady and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five.

Emerling and Scisco chose to start up front while” Money” Matt and “young-gun”, Caleb Heady took the “challenge”. That left Emerling and Burt Myers on the front row for the start of the 125 lapper. Jimmy Blewett muscled past to lead the first lap before Myers took over the point on lap four for the next 43 laps. Caution flew on lap 46 for oil on the track from the car of Jeremy Gerstner. Gerstner ran over an exhaust tip that fell off another car. The tip ruptured the oil tank on Gerstner’s #55 ending his night and creating a huge mess for the Caraway Speedway clean-up crew.

All cars were allowed to take on some SUNOCO Race Fuel during the cleanup period under a “controlled” pit stop. When the track went back under caution, several cars took the opportunity to make adjustments and change tires. That left Spencer Davis on the point for the restart. Hirschman made quick work of Davis by lap 50 and while Davis, Myers and Heady were racing hard for position, old “Big Money” drove away.

The field settled down with Myers and Blewett chasing Hirschman till caution flew on lap 96 allowing most of the field to stop for their remaining tires. Hirschman came out of the pits first picking up where he left off with Ronnie Williams driving the Jamie Tomaino #99 restarting in second, Jimmy Blewett third and Kyle Scisco fourth

Another caution on lap 98 for a crash involving 9 cars slowed the action for the third time. The crash eliminated John Smith, Brian Loftin, Tim Connolly, Johnny Keiveman, Jeff Fultz and Junior Snow and wounded the cars of Gary Putnam, Joey Pane and Paulie Hartwig, III. Those drivers returned to finish the race.

On the restart Jimmy Blewett was the next competitor to put pressure on Hirschman but Hirschman withstood the assault and hung on to the lead while Patrick Emerling worked his way into the runner up spot.

By lap115 Myers had charged past Emerling and took a run at Hirschman getting to the inside of him on lap116 but Hirschman prevailed and pulled away to claim the win. Myers held off Emerling for second while Heady and Williams rounded out the top five. Jimmy Blewett was sixth followed by Davis, Coby, Putnam, Jason Myers and Payne. Eleven cars finished on the lead lap. Hartwig finished 12th followed by Connolly, Dennis Holdren, James Civali, Scisco, Brian Loftin, Keiveman, Carson Loftin, Fultz, Smith, Snow, Michael Ritch, Gerstner and Caden Lapcevich completed the rundown.

Kevin Rice advises that Jon McKennedy will pocket a $600 bonus for every WMT event in which he competes in 2023. He also added that the top five in car owner standings should, based on 2022 bonus’, will receive $1,000 for the first three events for 2023. In a non-related manner Rice noted that the town of Waterford, Ct has approved the installation of a badly needed drainage system to the infield of the shoreline oval.

Burt Myers, a former champion at the Bowman Gray Stadium and a regular on the Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour (SMART) got caught with his hand in the cookie jar recently. Myers, who was the first to take the checkered flag at Tri-County, was disqualified after officials found an “illegal electronic device” in post-race technical inspection. Myers received no points or race earnings and was also suspended indefinitely.

The penalty has been overturned by the SMART Appeals Panel. Myers will be on a six-race probation to start off the 2023 racing season.

The Islip 300 takes center stage at the Riverhead Raceway on the east end of Long Island this coming Saturday, November 12. A total purse of $32,650 will award the winner $7,000. The late Eddie Partridge was the originator of the event.

Bob Finan advises that Dillon Steuer, who won the inaugural Islip 300 at 15, confirmed he and the Northeastern Office Equipment team will run the 2022 race.

Several NASCAR WMT drivers will go for Islip 300 glory Saturday with Craig Lutz, Kyle Bonsignore, Dave Sapienza, Ken Heagy and Walter Sutcliffe Jr. are readying for the Islip 300. Two Stafford Motor Speedway standouts Keith Rocco and Anthony Bello have also entered as of Friday, Rocco of course a former NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series National Champion.

The event will be shown live by FloRacing. Bob Finan, who has been the voice of auto racing on Long Island for many years, will call the race before retiring to Florida.

Get well wishes to former driver Jon Potter who is on the mend from triple by-pass surgery.

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.

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