CT---------Right now, Donny Lia of Jericho, NY is one such a roll, he hopes the
train doesn't stop. Last Thursday night at the Thompson Speedway, Lia captured
his third race of the season winning the Charter Cable 150 when thunderstorms
and rain forced the race to be called on lap 100. The win was the eighth of his
modified career but even this incredible run of good luck has him stunned. "I
just can't believe it." Donny told the fans as they poured into the parking lots
as lightning danced around the racetrack. "I never thought that we'd win three
of the first five races of the year."
The rest of the top five was Ted Christopher, Bobby Santos, III, Tony Hirschman
and Todd Szegedy.
While his crew and well wishers were congratulating Lia, Ted Christopher wasn't
a happy man. "Well, here is an example of the fastest car not winning the race."
TC said in the media center, "Second really sucks." Christopher was forced to
start in the pack of the 36 car as his car developed a flat tire while the cars
were impounded. Christopher was weaving his way through the field and took over
second on lap 68 getting by Eddie Flemke, Jr. who was falling backwards after a
strong first 50 laps. He then closed the gap on Lia every lap and as most
drivers and crews, he had his eyes on the track and on the skies. "It was just a
matter of time." He added, before how long it would have taken to pass Lia while
steaming over the second place finish. When Christopher was asked if he would
have had enough, he replied, "I passed 30 something cars, I think I could have
gotten one more" and then added, "I didn't expect it to rain."
The night at the Thompson Speedway started with clear weather but threats of
afternoon storms are always on the horizon. Thanks to Thompson Speedway regular
divisions running smoothly, the modified tour feature started right at the
advertised time of 8:30 p.m. with rookie Ryan Preece and James Civali on the
front row. Civali, who won the season opening Icebreaker took control with Eddie
Flemke, Jr. moving into second on the third lap and this turned out to be quite
a show between the student, Civali and the teacher, Flemke.
The first caution came out on lap 9 when Jerry Marquis couldn't quite make it to
pit road after he and Mike Stefanik came together a couple of laps earlier. On
the lap 13 restart, Flemke used a nice cross-over move to take the lead from
Civali while James used to same move to lead the 15th circuit before Flemke
crossover again to take the lead on lap 16. Civali, the points leader heading to
the Thompson race then passed Flemke on lap 22 and these two driver were pulling
away from the field before Flemke retook the pin on lap 23. While the duo of
Flemke and Civali were battling and encountering slower, lapped traffic, Donnie
Lia was making his was to the front, in a hurry. On the 34th lap, Lia got by
Civali and Flemke at the line as lightning was lighting up the skies to the
northeast. Zach Sylvester running in the top 15 then slowed on lap 38 and pitted
while two laps later, a spin involving John Blewett, III, brought out the second
caution. Once the teams went back to green on lap 45, a Billy Pauch, Jr spun
slowed the field again. As in racing in particular, cautions breed
cautions and again on a lap 51 restart, pole sitter Ryan Preece was hit by Ted
Christopher, overcorrected the car and shot up the turn two banking in front of
the rest of the field. John Blewett took the worst of it and was done for the
remainder of the night, although Preece would continue after making some
repairs. Several drivers decided to pit, most likely confident that that rains
wouldn't come and included Civali, Mike Stefanik, Matt Hirschman, and Ron Yuhas.
of the media were watching the Doppler weather on the computer, watching a line
of thunderstorms moving from nearby Worcester, MA towards Thompson, CT. Finally,
after wasted laps of parading under caution, NASCAR threw the green and
Christopher spent little time getting by Flemke for second with Bobby Santos,
III, following TC. As the fans, drivers and crew were watching the scoreboard
click off laps, 76 were needed for an official race, and within the top five
were Lia, Christopher, Santos, Tony Hirschman and Todd Szegedy. A spin on lap 75
by Joe Hartmann brought out another caution but an official race was also in the
books. Mike Stefanik pitted a second time tonight while other drivers gambling
and pitting were Richard Savery, having a good top ten run along with Eric
Beers, Rick Fuller Danny Sammons and Richard Houlihan. While it was now spitting
outside, it wasn't a threat and the race went back green but a hard wreck in
turn four took out Renee Dupuis and Eric Berndt. While both cars suffered
damage, especially Dupuis, both drivers walked away. As the drivers circled the
track, the rain began to intensify but NASCAR officials, hoping this shower
would blow by kept the cars on the track to keep heat in the track. After
getting to lap 100, NASCAR officials continued to have the cars stay on the
track but stopped counting cautions and finally, it became apparent that the
track was lost, NASCAR brought the cars into pit road. The Thompson Speedway Jet
Dryer was then brought out but it was too late and Lia was declared the winner
as fans ran towards their cars hopping to avoid heavier rains, which by the way
never came. "I knew the rain the coming and I wanted to get to the front." Lia
told the media and fans, "I then wanted to hold them off once I got the lead, we
were going all the way then." Lia also took over the point's lead, just about
one third through the 2007 season. When asked if he could win the championship,
which would be a first for longtime modified car owner, Bob Garbarino, he
replied, "Yes, but you need to take it one race at a time and need to stay out
of trouble." Lia is certainly hot but to win three out of five races is
something even Lia didn't think was possible. The rest of the top ten was Ronnie
Silk, James Civali, Jimmy Blewett, Kevin Goodale and Jamie Tomaino.
MOD SERIES NOTES
Bobby Santos, III, the next superstar in racing was third and thrilled with
having a good run in the Mike Boehler owned #3."I wish we ran to the end, I
needed a 10 to 15 lap run to get going but we had a real good racecar. The crew
has done a great job repairing it." Santos is under contract with Bill Davis
Racing and besides running several Busch series events along with a few ARCA
races, the versatile young driver also runs in sprints, midgets and modifieds.
"We have a pretty busy year. I'll run 20 races for Bill Davis and then fill in
my schedule with other divisions." When asked if it was hard running different
divisions sometimes on one day, Santos smiled and said, "No, its fun. It really
I wish someone in NASCAR would let me know why they continue to parade cars
under caution for a minor spin. It doesn't just happen on the modified tour but
Cup and Busch. At Thompson, with the threat of rain a reality, a driver spun and
it took six laps before going back to green while the spin and safety trucks
were off in one lap.
The purse for the Charter Cable 150 was $86,595. Lia won over $7,400 with the
win and took over the point's lead. Christopher earned $4,000 while Santos
garnered $2,700 for third.
Woody Pitkat made his debut in the Hill Enterprises #79 and it was an
interesting night to say the least. The primary car developed engine problems
and they rolled out the back up and Pitkat got into the wall. While the damage
was repairable, he had to take a provisional but he did finish 12th.
38 cars attempted to qualify for the race and two veterans didn't qualify
including a past winner at Thompson, Charlie Pasteryak and Kenny Bouchard.
The modified tour heads to the 1.058 mile New Hampshire International Speedway
and will again be the best show at Loudon, NH on next weekend. The modified tour
is scheduled to take the green at 1:10 p.m. and will be taped for Speed to air
The Charter Cable 150 was the second of five modified tour events at the 5/8ths
mile Thompson International Speedway.