YOUNG GUNS HOLD OFF PAST CHAMPIONS
The Modified tour might be in good
hands. On Sunday, Bobby Santos capped off a perfect weekend as he captured
the Icebreaker and in the process held off Ryan Preece to win the season
opener. Both Santos and Preece should contend for the title as they bested
three of the best drivers on the tour to the checkers, the three are all
Finishing third through fifth was seven
time champion Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher and Todd Szegedy.
Burt Myers of ‘Madhouse’ fame finished
14th in a well run opening program for the NASCAR modified tour.
The first race is the spring is always
magical. Whether your team has a legitimate shot to win races or to win a
championship, the hope is always there.
The first race of the New Year always
brings out all of the cars with new paint schemes, some teams with new
drivers and sponsors.
Getting off to a good start is always
beneficial if your team hopes to win a title and with only 13 races on the
2010 schedule, DNF’s must be kept to one or two to have a shot at the
HILLS TO COMPETE FOR TWO TITLES
Roger Hill and his family, despite
living in North Carolina have always been dedicated to the NASCAR Whelen
modified tour and despite the mileage and hours spent on the road each and
every week; they are dedicated to the northern modified tour.
This year, the Hill’s have their sights
set on capturing not one title but two as they plan on running for the both
northern and southern modified tour titles.
The southern modified tour has only 10
races and three of them have already been run and James Civali, the Hill’s
driver is leading the chase as they head into their spring hiatus.
“We are going to try for it.” Both
Roger and his son, David said at Thompson as they prepared for the
Icebreaker, the opener for the northern tour.
“We are able to because of where we
live and because we can try it.” David said. “We are already 30% through
with the southern tour.”
While in the past, the Hills have
always bypassed southern races if they conflicted with Northern races, this
year on two occasions, it will test them as the first conflict will come
when the modified tour is at Lime Rock Park and the southern tour is at
Caraway while the second one will be one month later when the mods are at
Stafford and the southern mods are at Bowman Grey Stadium.
“That will be a tough one.” David said
while working on the Coors Light Pontiac. “We qualify at Lime Rock on a
Friday and the race at Caraway is that night. I am trying to get a plane
lined up that can get us out of there and get us down to Caraway and then be
able to fly us back to Lime Rock after the event.”
“We will qualify at Bowman Grey on
Friday and we race at Stafford the same day. I guess there we might just
have to start in the back at Bowman Grey and that may not be a bad thing.”
David said laughing.
The Hills have already won twice on the
southern tour, the first one was with Cory Lajoie winning at Atlanta and the
second was James Civali winning at South Boston Speedway.
“We are excited about trying it.” Roger
said the patriarch of the family. “With the schedules the way they are,
we’ll give it a go.”
The Hills have always earned the
respect of the northern competitors with their dedication to the tour and
all will be pulling for them to win the southern title, the northern title,
well that is a whole different story.
MADHOUSE COMES TO THOMPSON
Whether or not you watch the History
Channel and the reality based ‘Madhouse’ and actually believe all of the
drama that takes place each race between Junior Miller and the Myers
Brothers, it is great to see modifieds on television.
One of the main characters of the show,
Burt Myers made his first trip up to the Thompson Speedway and needless to
say, the Myers car was the one that most people in the pit area were
swarming over to.
Myers has always wanted to compete at
several events on the modified tour but was unable to because of scheduling
conflicts with either the southern tour or Bowman Grey Stadium.
Myers did himself quite proud as he
qualified fifth for his first time at the big 5/8ths mile
speedway. On Saturday night, he was able to get a ride for the SK race at
the Waterford Speedbowl, an event that was called after just 12 laps because
of the carnage on the track.
Myers was himself caught up on a lap
six wreck, which sidelined him for the night but he told a funny story
afterwards about his Waterford experience.
“At Bowman Grey, we at least wait till
the last 10 laps before we start wrecking each other, but here that started
right off at the drop of the green.”
SANTOS EARNS POLE
Bobby Santos proved that he hasn’t
forgotten how to drive a modified as the first year driver for car owner,
Bob Garbarino captured the fast time for the Icebreaker.
Santos, a master on the midget circuit
and a driver who has proven that he can drive just about anything with
wheels on it toured the Thompson Speedway in 18.418 seconds, 122.163 MPH. It
was not only his first career tour pole but it also was a track record.
Santos should be a natural fit for
Garbarino as he looks to bring the well respected car owner his first title,
without Donny Lia behind the wheel.
The Thompson Speedway is celebrating
their 70th year as a racetrack. The track was carved out of what
was left after the deadly Hurricane of 1938 decimated the John Hoenig
landscape. In fact, Thompson Speedway was the first paved oval in the
The track opened on May 26, 1040 and
when it did, it was the largest oval in New England. The Thompson Speedway
has also hosted three Sprint Cup series races, the first in 1951 and the
last two in 1969 and 1970.
Since then, the track, now operated by
Don Hoenig and his son, D.R., have made the track one of the best operated
ovals in the United States.
The track has also hosted 109 Whelen
modified tour events; the most at any facility that has run the NASCAR
In the 109 races, there have been 29
different race winners with Mike Stefanik leading all drivers with 14 wins.
Jeff Fuller, another terror at the
Thompson oval leads all drivers with 36 poles.
Last year, Ted Christopher won both the
pole and the race for the Icebreaker.
The Speedway will also host the tour in
mid August and then the season finale in October.
The modified tour is starting its 26th
season and in that time a total of 516 modified tour races have been run
from North Carolina and Virginia to west as far as Indianapolis Raceway Park
to Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.
Jamie Tomaino has run in all but 5 tour
events, although he has been to each and every one.
While the Thompson Speedway will host
the Whelen modified tour three times in 2010, it will also host the Bob
Valenti AutoMall modified series cars twice. In addition to all that the
speedway, which runs every Thursday night starting on May 6th
runs the Whelen All American series which is a six division program
featuring the SK Sunoco modifieds.
HATS OFF TO THE JET
Jeff Zarrella finally is a Sprint Cup
race winner. Zarrella, a childhood friend of mine from Southington, CT. has
been a longtime Sprint Cup crew member and while he has tasted the fruits of
his labor in other NASCAR divisions, Jeff couldn’t get into Sprint Cup
That was until Ryan Newman won the race
at the Phoenix International Raceway. The ‘Jet’ as he is known on the
modified series is the tire specialist for Newman’s team and in fact, Newman
credited Jeff in Victory lane for getting the tires just right.
After many, many years as the tire
Specialist for Paul Menard, Jeff left and joined Stewart-Haas Racing and now
Jet, congratulations and hopefully it
is the first of many.
FIRST CLASS PROGRAM
The Thompson Speedway Icebreaker
couldn’t have gone much better as the weather was perfect and a great crowd
turned out for the mod tour opener.
Thanks to Don Hoenig, Ben Dodge and
Russ Dowd for a great weekend that saw the track have to waste time as they
were so far ahead on their schedule.