Aug. 8, 2005

The one thing I love about vacation is the getting away. The thing that I hate the most is the packing. Do you have the right clothes, not enough clothes?

Then when you're at the airport, you always figure out that you forgot something.

Just some random thoughts before I put the computer away for a couple of weeks.


Chris Kopec, one of the more popular drivers on the modified tour has decided to hang up his helmet.

Kopec, from Ware, MA was a former Riverside Park Speedway and joined the modified tour becoming one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit.

Kopec is retiring due to health issues. Kopec suffered an injury at the season ending World Series at Thompson in 2003 and then decided to sit out the 2004 season before coming back this year.

Mike Stefanik filled his seat for one year; in fact, Stefanik won the season ending World Series in 2004.

Kopec, a two time winner on the tour, he also had 24 top five's and 59 top tens in his 172 starts on the modified tour, all while driving for car owner, Eric Sanderson.

Chris will continue to be the team manager for the Flamingo Motorsports team and a new driver will be named for the remainder of the 2005 season.


The second of two races at the Riverhead Raceway is the start of the second half of the season. It is also a race that can directly affect who will be crowned the 2005 champion.

In talking with both Ted Christopher and Tony Hirschman, both drivers like their chances at the remaining races on the schedule and it isn't that they don't like Riverhead, it's just the uncertainly they can't be sure of.

Riverhead is a slam bang affair. And many times, the driver in an accident isn't the ones that started it; they are just the innocent bystanders.

That's why both Hirschman and Christopher, along with the other title contenders fear Riverhead.

The past weekends 200 lap event will surely play an important part in seeing who will be crowned the first champion under Whelen's title sponsorship.


At the drivers meeting last weekend at the Seekonk Speedway, Ed Cox, tour director for the NASCAR modifieds told drivers, owners and crews that the Martinsville Whelen Made in America 300 will be stopped after 125 laps.

Almost like half time. That drew many complaints from everyone at the meeting.

When Cox was asked why, he replied, "Because that's what the promoter wants."

In reality, it most likely is because the race is a combination event with the Southern modified tour and they don't have live pit stops on their circuit.

All teams on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour, northern division, have crew helmets and fire suits while their southern brethren don't and thus the disparity.

Regardless, the Made in America 300 is going to be an event that no modified fan is going to want to miss and with the race falling on a long weekend, fans can make the trek south and still be home for the annual Labor Day picnic


If you are an avid fan of the modifieds, two names have jumped out at you in 2005, Steve Whitt and Matt Hirschman.

Whitt showed what a new crew chief could be to a driver as he recently hired Peter Morgan from North Carolina and the results have been amazing.

Whitt at New Hampshire led for many laps before settling for a top five finish and then at Beech Ridge, he topped that off with a fourth place finish.

Speaking on Gary Danko's Speedway Line Report, Whitt said of his new crew chief, "It's been working well. We are getting the feel for each other."

While he had a 24th place finish at Seekonk, he spun while running in the top ten; he did record his best ever qualifying effort turning the second fastest time.

Whitt has moved into 14th in the points and with him building more confidence along with guidance from his new head wrench, Whitt and his team could be seeking that first NASCAR modified tour win very soon.

For Matt Hirschman, the old theory that the nut doesn't fall very far from the tree is true.

And no Tony, Jr., I am not implying that your brother is nuts.

Matt, in only his third start ran in the top three for most of the race and is destined to get a win as he raced his Northampton, PA neighbor, Eric Beers for the victory at Seekonk before he was dumped about two-thirds into the race.

After the race, Matt was upset.

"I am glad that we ran good, we showed that we're getting better but we had a chance to win. That's what I am upset about." Matt replied.

John Blewett, III got into little Hirschman while he was running second to leader, Eric Beers.

"Hey, if he was faster go around me, I gave him plenty of room, but instead, he went through me."

While Matt was looking for his third straight top ten finish, he came away knowing that sometimes the fastest car doesn't always win.

Matt will get his share of wins on the modified tour as will Steve Whitt. These are two good reasons why the modified tour is as strong as ever.


It's hard to believe that the 2005 season is halfway home.

Nine races have been placed into the record books and if the second nine are half as exciting as the first nine, everyone should be in for tons of open wheeled excitement.

Ted Christopher, who is no stranger to championships, having secured many titles at the Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson Speedway and New Smyrna Speedway in Florida is leading the tour at the crossed flags.

While Teddy has been the big winner, notching four checkers heading into Riverhead, he has a slim 60 point's margin a driver who knows how to win championships, Tony Hirschman.

Lurking in third, and by no means out of it is Chuck Hossfeld, just 84 points behind with former champion, Jerry Marquis fourth, 172 points out with Donnie Lia fifth in the points, 188 markers back.

There have been five different winners on the series in the first nine races.


NASCAR officials have made some changes in hopes of making the Busch North series races exciting. I know you're all waiting for me to burst into laughter, but I am being serious.

NASCAR has gone to double file restarts in hopes of getting more side by side racing.

While the Busch North has had four races where the pole sitter has led every lap and won, the series does have talented drivers on the circuit.

NASCAR needs to allow teams to take weight off the cumbersome cars and they need a tire that allows drivers to try and attempt to pass.

With names like Stefanik, Moore, Dion and Santerre, the series has marquis names, it's just the way the rules are now, it is providing boring races for both the fans and the competitors on the series.


As the season is nearing the end, it's time for the high profile races that always dot the second half of the schedule.

The Thompson 300, the Fall Final and the World Series are just a couple that come to mind and when teams of any series sign in at these two tracks, they know that they need to mortgage their houses to sign into the pit area.

For teams of the Whelen modified tours, these tracks allow up to 10 team members to sign in for $25.00, but I look at other divisions that don't have the luxury of that bonus.

Stafford does allow teams in the off season to purchase a season ticket to the pit area and that saves teams money if they took advantage of that but when one looks at what Thompson will be charging for the World Series, it is nothing short of highway robbery.

$75.00 folks is what you're going to have to fork over for the right to be in the pit area at Thompson. And with 800 different divisions running the World Series, the pits are sure to be jammed, which will keep the Brink's truck running to the bank daily for Don Hoenig.

Now I don't blame anyone who charges for something and gets it, I blame the fool who pays it.

Memo to the Outlaw mini stocks teams that are always a part of the card. Put your $75.00 per person into a pot, what you would have paid Thompson, and take your wives or girlfriends over to Mohegan Sun Casino for a night of dinner and dancing and try your luck at the casino.

You're going to get a lot more with your $75.00 that way instead of getting $25.00 to finish fifth.

Denise Barry Dion, daughter of longtime modified car owner, Art Barry, died suddenly on August 3rd. Denise was the longtime spotter for her fathers modified and always a smiling fixture on the tour. Denise was also married to longtime Seekonk driver, Wayne Dion. Our prayers and thoughts go out to the entire Barry family and friends on the loss of Denise.


Well, it's time to close. Polly Reid will have all the race reports from Riverhead, Stafford and Thompson.

I'll be off for a week in Los Angeles and then 8 days in Las Vegas. I'll still get my race fix by going to the Bullring at the Las Vegas Speedway.

My brothers' auto racing radio show, which airs Monday locally in Connecticut on WATR 1320, can be heard now same day on his website. Log onto any time after 10 p.m. on Mondays.

My columns and race story will also appear along with stories from the Hartford Courant and other racing authors and notables.