Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified tour paid a visit to Thompson Speedway on Wednesday night.
There were 23 Modifieds on hand and the crowd was decent. Austin Beers was the pole sitter as he toured the 5/8 mile oval in 19.158 sec. Second fastest was Doug Coby who turned a 19.171 sec lap. Rounding out the top five were Ron Silk, Anthony Sesley and Patrick Emerling.
Beers and Coby swapped the lead during the opening laps. The first caution came on lap 2 when Matt Swanson and Anthony Nocella made contact in turn 2. Swanson’s car suffered front end damage and was towed from the scene while Nocella continued on. Coby led the restart with Anthony Sesley second.
The second caution flew on lap 49 for Anthony Bello who spun off the back chute. While the caution was out Matt Hirschman pitted for a chassis adjustment. Hirschman was not driving his familiar black PD Racing entry. The green flew on lap 56 with Coby taking the lead over Eric Goodale. By lap 64 Eric Berndt had joined the fray and were closing in on Coby. Berndt got the opportunity and took the lead on lap 66.
The third caution flew on lap 69 for Max Zachem who spun in turn four. The majority of the front runners pitted on lap 71 for tires and adjustments. The restart green was displayed on lap 75 with Justin Bonsignore leading followed by Sesley, Eric Goodale and Coby. Caution #4 was displayed on lap 87 for Woody Pitkat who spun in turn 2. The restart came on lap 91with Bonsignore leading Coby, Silk, Beers, Goodale and Patrick Emerling.
As the field rumbled down the back stretch a mass tangle gathered up the cars of Berndt, Hirschman, Krause and Kyle Bonsignore. Injured in the melee was Matt Hirschman who suffered a broken forearm. Hirschman was scheduled to undergo surgery this past Monday to repair a broken left ulna suffered in a crash during Wednesday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the ulna is the longer of two bones in the forearm.
The green flew on lap 96 with Justin Bonsignore on a mission with Silk second and Beers third. The fifth caution flew on lap 109 for Woody Pitkat who spun in turn 2. The field went back to green on lap115. Dave Sapienza brought out the 7th and final caution when he pounded the wall in turn 4.
The field went back to green on lap 135 for a 15 lap sprint to the finish which saw Justin Bonsignore taking the win over Ron Silk. Third was Eric Goodale, with Austin Beers and Craig Lutz completing the top five. Rounding out the top 10 finishers were Bobby Santos III, Patrick Emerling, Doug Coby, Anthony Sesely and Tyler Rypkema.
Prior to entering victory lane Bonsignore took a Polish victory lap around Thompson as he took an extra moment in Turn 1 to honor the late John Blewett III, who earned one of his 10 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victories at the facility before tragically passing away in a crash at the track in 2007.
A replay of the Thompson 150 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park can be seen on CNBC on Aug. 26 at 12 p.m. ET. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour gets 10 days of rest before it makes another trip down south, this time to Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia for the CheckeredFlag.com 150 on Saturday, August 26. The green flag flies at 8 p.m. ET, with FloRacing providing the coverage.
On a somber note, Tommy Baldwin Jr announced this past Sunday, 8/20, that he has been diagnosed with cancer and the race team will take a break while he begins treatment. Tommy is a fighter if anyone can beat cancer its him.
We send thoughts and prayers his way as he begins this journey to beat this dreaded disease.
Last Friday night at Stafford it was the Lincoln Tech Open Modified 80: 6 divisions of racing including the Open Modifieds cars which returned to Stafford Motor Speedway for their fifth and final visit of the 2023 season. Woody Pitkat led early from pole position before giving way to Teddy Hodgdon.
Hodgdon led for the middle stage of the Lincoln Tech 80 but Pitkat moved back into the lead on lap-54 and he never relinquished the lead with his pit crew getting him off pit road first after a late race caution that saw the entire lead lap come to pit road.
The Lincoln Tech 80 victory is Pitkat’s second consecutive open modified victory at Stafford. By virtue of their 1-2 finish, Pitkat and Glen Reen earned front row starting positions for the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series NAPA Fall Final event at Stafford on Saturday, September 23rd. Both Pitkat and Reen must qualify for the NAPA Fall Final through their respective heat races in order to claim the front row starting position on September 23rd.
With 5 laps to go it was Pitkat followed by Reen, Hodgdon, Joey Cipriano, and George Bessette. No one could get close enough to Pitkat as he had the field covered as he scored his second consecutive Open 80 victory at Stafford. Reen finished second with Hodgdon, Bessette, and Cipriano rounding out the top-5. Sixth thru tenth included Stephen Kopcik, Chris Pasteryak, Michael Christopher, Anthony Bello and Brett Meservey.
Taking down feature win on the night in the regular divisions were Cory DiMatteo in the SK Modified® feature, Wayne Coury, Jr. in the Late Model feature, George Bessette, Jr. in the SK Light feature, Rich Hammann in the Limited Late Model feature, and Chris Danielczuk was a first time career feature winner in the Street Stock feature after a thrilling final lap.
The SK Lights were 27 strong. George Bessette came from the 15th starting spot to record his third win of the season. In doing so the second-generation driver somehow avoided a big wreck in the late stages of the 20 lap feature.
Jason Chapman finished second with his brother Tyler Chapman, third. Luke Baldwin, son of Tommy Baldwin Jr came from a dead last starting spot to finish fourth and a strong run brought Amanda West home in fifth spot. A ten car wreck in turn four on lap 17 eliminated some of the top runners including Norm Sears, Chris Mathews, Tyler Barry, Brian Sullivan and Alexander Pearl.
The SK Modified 40 lapper was equally exciting. Cory Dimatteo was the eventual winner but it was no easy task. Mikey Flynn was the initial leader until he was overhauled by Jon Puleo by the time lap 2 was completed. The first caution of the event flew on lap 7 when Kieth Rocco bounced off the wall as he exited turn 2.
Rocco slid into the infield while multiple cars were wrecked included Jimmy Blewett and Dylan Kopec along with Marcello Rufano who at one point was airborne.
Puleo led the restart. Two laps later Troy Talman spun out in turn three. Puleo again led the restart. By lap18 Dimatteo had come from 9th spot to take the lead in turn 2. Dimatteo led the rest of the way with Puleo in the runner-up spot. Steven Chapman finished third. David Arute started 11th and staged a spirited battle with Todd Owen in the closing laps to finish fourth. Owen rounded out the top five. Rocco recovered from his spin to finish tenth and Jimmy Blewett finished 16th, three lap down, after his crew did a partial rebuild in the infield.
At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Timmy Solomito won the Bubba 150 Modified event over Chris Young, Kyle Elwood, John Beatty and Justin Brown. With the triumph Solomito moves to 15th on the Riverhead Raceway win list with 23 victories.
With Bob “Bubba” Patanjo’s granddaughter, Riely getting the race underway waving the green Solomito quickly moved out front ahead of Beatty for the first lap scored. Next circuit saw Justin Bonsignore in in the TBR Racing entry move by Beatty for second, As the field was trying to compete the third lap Mark Stewart was the victim of a left rear flat exiting the fourth corner drawing a caution flag, trapping Allan Pedersen with nowhere to go. Both continued.
What followed the early race caution was indeed an anomaly at Riverhead, 138 continuous laps of green flag racing. During the long caution free run there were two story lines fans were tracking.
First a titanic battle for the race lead between Solomito and Bonsignore that featured numerous crossover maneuvers as the duo swapped the lead just prior to and following the 50-lap mark of the race. While keeping an eye on the race for the lead, fans were peeking back at the progress Chris Young was making towards the top ten. Chris barnstormed his way into the top ten rather quickly getting to 8th prior to halfway.
As the race entered the final 50-lap segment Solomito was able to get away from Bonsignore some due in part to the arrival of Justin Brown to the third position. Brown pulled up to the rear spoiler of Bonsignore earlier and was all over the second-place car late in the race. Meanwhile, Chris Young in his march towards the front found another gear late in the tilt moving to 5th and appeared to have the fastest car on the track.
Then on lap 140 things heated up, and in a hurry. With Solomito out front comfortably, Bonsignore and Brown were working some lap traffic in Mark Stewart and Tom Rogers Jr., who were racing for position. The two made slight contact sending Rogers to the outside off the corner into the path of Bonsignore, who had to break momentum allowing Brown to come to second.
Unhappy with Rogers, Bonsignore gave Tom a shot in turn four to which Tom responded by slowing in front of Justin going into the first turn. End result was both of them tangling seconds later in turn four drawing a yellow with ten laps to go. Both drivers were sent to the rear on the ensuing restart for their actions.
With just ten laps remaining question became who would pit, who would stay out. Among the lead lap cars all pitted but Justin Brown who opted to restart with the race lead. Solomito, Ellwood, Beatty, Ellwood Young and Bonsignore all ducked in for their change tire. When the green waved for the final 10-lap run Solomito went right back to work moving by Brown for the race lead with Ellwood and Young also getting by Brown for second and third.
Young made a late race bid to pass Ellwood for second but by the time he did Solomito was again long gone. As the checker flag waved Timmy Solomito’s perfect season remained intact in the Kennedy L.I. Realty Chevy. After being greeted by Mike Patanjo and Dennis Freese of Oval Speed in victory lane,
Bonus money earned by Solomito on top of the $1,800 in purse money included, $2,500 for the Patanjo Family, $500 from Waddell Communications/Preece Racing for leading lap 125, $1,326 in lap money, $100 from the Righteous Window Cleaning Pole Award and the Natural Design Concepts & Apparel Most Laps Led $100 award.
Chris Young wowed the crowd and those watching on Flo Racing with his charge for the $2,500 Highmark Building Efficiency Challenge, which included a stipulation that the accepting driver would get $500 with a podium finish. So impressed was Rich Gerbe of Highmark, he doubled the bonus to $1,000 for Young and his Ace’s Landscaping team. Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead did a masterful job bringing the Matlach Motorsports racer home for third place money in just his second start in the car. John Beatty Jr. and Justin Brown of Manorville completed the top five.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium the local announcer stated that there were 17,000 spectators on hand for the season ending weekly scheduled 150 lap Modified event. Burt Myers started outside pole and took the lead shortly after the drop of the green and went on to record the win. Brandon Ward ended up with the track championship.
Tim Brown has won and lost championships at Bowman Gray Stadium every way possible throughout his career. One year ago, Brown won his record-setting 12th Modified track championship without winning a single race the entire season. This year, Brown entered the finale with four wins, and yet he still lost the title.
Brown needed to gain one more spot in the closing laps to keep Brandon Ward from winning his first championship. In an effort to gain that spot, Brown made a little bit too much contact with the back of Junior Snow’s car and turned Snow around. Snow made his displeasures known quickly as he slammed into the right rear of Brown’s car under caution. He then came back around and smashed the left front of Brown’s machine before finally exiting the race track. Ward went on to finish second in the 150-lap race to Burt Myers, which was good enough for Ward to claim his first Modified championship at Bowman Gray Stadium.
Ironically, Ward cost Burt Myers an 11th championship in 2021 in pretty similar circumstances to how he won the championship on Saturday night. Brown went on to win the championship that night instead of Myers.
Stafford Speedway regular Steven Kopcik was a surprise entry for the Cliff Krause Memorial 127 at the Wall Stadium on the New Jersey shore. Kopcik took the win over Jimmy Blewett, Anthony Sesely and Ron Silk..
In action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Kyle James has returned to weekly action and has been working with a newly formed team over the past few weeks. He started from the pole position to set the pace until Anthony Flannery shot on by taking Eric Berndt with him. Berndt quickly took over the lead but Flannery would not be denied again.
Berndt leveraged multiple attacks against Flannery over the course of the 35 lap main event trying both the inside and outside grooves with no success. After being denied on the final lap last time out, Flannery made sure it wouldn’t happen again, scoring his second win of the season. Berndt finished second with James, third. Rob Janovic and Joey Turnolo rounded out the top five.
The all new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, 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!
With the cooperation of the Arute family another 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).