LOUDON, NH--------The NASCAR modifieds have always
put been the best show at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway and this past
weekend it was more of the same excitement. But this time it also
produced some heavily damaged race cars.
In another modified finish that will be talked about for many years,
five cars came off turn four heading for the checkered flag when all
hell broke loose with the potentially winning cars of Todd Szegedy and
Ted Christopher riding the wall after several cars made contact off of
TC & Todd Szegedy ride the wall. Getty
Images for NASCAR
That was the needed space for Donnie Lia to avoid the
debris to win the New England 100 edging out Eddie Flemke, Jr. and Ronnie
Silk for the popular win before a great Saturday crowd on a perfect summer
It was after the race that many drivers were questioning the tactics of
themselves and how they race, especially at the end of the race.
Eddie Flemke, Jr., a longtime veteran says they all need to look at
themselves in the mirror.
“A lot of times we are getting rewarded for some of the moves that we make
on the racetrack. If you’re willing to take the chance, you get the trophy
and you get the girl.” Eddie said but added, “At what cost.”
“I just sat back and watched it happen because it wasn’t good. Either you
get up there and push with them or you step back. This time I stepped back
and it paid off. I’m happy, a second place finish is best we’ve finished
here.” The Southington, CT resident said.
Many drivers were openly questioning the tactics of Ted Christopher over the
final 15 laps when he recovered from being a lap down early in the event. On
several occasions, Christopher dived into turn one moving up several drivers
and when asked if Christopher was better on the bottom, Ronnie Silk said,
“No, he’s just willing to take more chances with his car.”
Ronnie Silk said he might have been the cause of the last lap incident
saying he just misjudged his place on the track and just got into Lia. “I
just clipped the 4 car (Lia) and that’ how it started, I hate it for the
guys who hit the wall on the last lap but there was nothing I could do. I
was trying to get to the bottom just like they had before I misjudged by
about and inch.”
As the gaggle of cars came off four it was Christopher, Szegedy and Lia with
Silk and Flemke but soon Christopher was rim riding the wall with Szegedy
being sucked into the wall as both cars suffered heavy damage and limped to
the checkered flag with Lia leading the way as he earned his 12th career win
on the modified tour and his second at New Hampshire.
“I tried to get it between the 2 (Szegedy) and the 36 (Christopher) and keep
my foot into it.” Lia told the media assembled after the race but added, “We
need to get away from this type racing.”
Lia figured that he made his move to soon on TC but as the trio headed into
four, “I made the move and then (Szegedy) came all the way on the bottom, I
just saw him coming so I rolled out early and tried to cross them both up to
go three wide down the middle. Whoever was on the bottom tried to move up. I
had nowhere to go; somebody was on the outside of me. I got the two cars
mixed up; I don’t know if it was Teddy or Todd.”
“They tried to run me up but I stayed there. I hate it that they wrecked
coming to the line, but you have three racecars and you only have so much
But it is exactly this type of hard nosed, no holds barred racing that have
made the modifieds the favorite series to watch at New Hampshire but you can
also understand the logic of the drivers so the question is, who is going to
back off on the lap few laps with a possible win at the premier track for
While the drivers are responsible for the great racing at New Hampshire, it
is also themselves that are responsible for some ill advised moves that put
other drivers in dangerous positions.
Who though is going to be the driver to back off in turn four for a shot at
the win? My thinking is no one.
Ted Christopher, driver of the No. 36
Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
While Ted Christopher was looking to add another win
to his early 2009 win total, the Plainville, CT race was forced to pit
early when an oil line came loose on the first lap of the race.
Christopher then fought to be the first car one lap down to earn the
‘Lucky Dog’ pass through but it seemed as though another caution might
Then with about 35 laps left, the caution flew and that allowed
Christopher to move around the field and run up front and it was no time
before the defending series champion was knocking on the leaders door
and when TC took the lead with a hand full of laps left, many felt it
was all she wrote but it just wasn’t to be.
Last year, Teddy was leading Chuck Hossfeld coming off
four but it was Hossfeld winning the closest race in the history of the
modified tour by .001 seconds.
This year, it is Christopher in a wreck and Lia, driving the same car as
Hossfeld snatching the win.
SZEGEDY AND NEWMAN THE EARLY CLASS
While it will be the ending of the race that everyone is talking about, it
was nearly a runaway for Todd Szegedy and Ryan Newman who was running rough
shod over the field pulling away and opening a five second advantage over
the third place car during the middle stages of the race. Newman and Szegedy
swapped the lead several times.
Newman, who plans on running the September modified here is also likely to
be behind of the wheel for the Bristol modified event as well and Newman
showed his open wheel prowess but his afternoon came to and end on lap on
lap 64 when he lost control of the car heading into turn two, looped the car
and backed it into the wall, all while running second.
It was on the ensuing restart, that Sprint Cup regular, Kasey Kahne was
caught up in a restart accident ending his day while running in the sixth
NO TALKING AT THE DRIVERS MEETING
The NASCAR modified tour head officials, Chad Little and Brian Vance laid
the law down at the drivers meeting that no drivers opinions are necessary
at the DRIVERS meeting or even wanted. NASCAR maintains that if drivers have
questions, that they have an open door policy, either before the drivers
meeting or after, but not during.
Vance said the purpose of the drivers meeting is to go over race procedures
and rules. Doesn’t it make sense that if drivers have a question on a rule
or procedure that the drivers are allows to speak up at a drivers meeting to
get clarification of a rule but evidently not in the world of NASCAR.
One driver after the meeting told me, “This is a waste of time. Just write
the rules on paper and hand out copies.”
If these two ever leave NASCAR, they would be great spokesman for the ruling
clerics over in Iran.
COBY EARNS POLE
Doug Coby has always been one of the drivers that people would look to
for picking a winner at a modified tour race and on Thursday, the
Milford, CT driver earned the pole for the mod 100 lapper.
Coby, who earned his only tour win, winning the Spring Sizzler driving
for the Curt Chase team was thrilled to get the coveted pole at NHMS.
“Finally I am able to get a pole here at New Hampshire. What I would
really like is to get a win here.”
Doug Coby earned the Coors Light Pole
Award. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for NASCAR)
Coby said his recent good runs still won’t allow the team
to compete on the entire modified tour series as they plan on missing races
at Spencer, Riverhead, Chemung, Bristol and Martinsville.
Coby said though that he hopes to get a ride for Bristol and compete one day
after his 30th birthday. ‘That would be a great birthday present for me.”
The likeable Coby said sitting on pit road.
While Doug will be missing from several mod races, he still will be busy
running his SK at Stafford and running some Waterford events as well as some
True Value Series races.
GOOD NEWS FOR THE TOUR
The modified tour received some great news on Saturday at the drivers
meeting when it was announced that the modified tour race from Bristol will
be shown on a same day, delayed basis and that the modified tour will also
be taped in September when the modified tour returns to the ‘Magic Mile’.
While TV is not the end all for the division, it will help show the
excitement that the modified tour can produce. It’s just too bad that the
cameras weren’t rolling for this weekend’s exciting finish.
The two races will be shown on the Speed Channel and the September mod race
will be shown October 15th.
SMITH BIG FAN OF THE MODS
When Bruton Smith bought the then New Hampshire International Speedway, many
openly wondered if the days of the modified tour in New Hampshire were over
but the modifieds, with their wildly entertaining brand of racing have won
over the chairman of Speedway Motorsports.
Track president, Jerry Gappens told the drivers meeting that Smith is ‘a big
fan’, even going into the stands to watch when the modifieds are out there.
In a poll on the NHMS website, it asked fans what their favorite series to
watch at the one mile oval and it was over 61% favoring the mods over the
Nationwide, Sprint Cup and Camping Series East.
Gappens also told the group that he wants the modifieds to feel that New
Hampshire is their Super Bowl of racing.
NHMS A CHANCE FOR FRIENDS TO RECONNECT
When teams on the Cup, Nationwide and Trucks make the trek north to New
Hampshire, it is a chance for many former modified crew members to catch up
and meet with many former colleagues from the modified tour days.
I caught up with former driver, Bruce D’Alessandro, now working with Joey
Logano and the Joe Gibbs team. Former tire specialist for Reggie Ruggiero
and former Southington, CT resident, Jeff Zarrella is now in his 11th year
as a tire specialist for Paul Menard.
Former modified tour champion crew chief, Phil Moran is now working for
Tommy Baldwin Racing. A host of many other familiar faces dotted the garage
and all couldn’t wait to steal a minute and gets over and catch the
modifieds in action.
I also talked with former Mike McLaughlin crew member on the 1988 tour
championship team, Scott Zipadelli, now the crew chief for Jason Leffler and
spotted his brother, Greg Zipadelli, the longtime crew chief for Tony
Stewart and now Joey Logano.. Both Zipadelli’s are from Berlin, CT while
Aaron Kuhen, a tire specialist for Tony Stewart is also a resident of
Berlin. Also on hand, was nationally known racing author, Bones Bourcier,
himself a longtime modified fan from Connecticut, now living in
MAJOR CHANGES IN INFIELD
One thing is certain that if Bruton Smith owns a race track, major changes
or additions are coming and this week, the track showed off their new
With four divisions running at the one mile oval, needless to say, the
infield can get pretty crowded with hundreds of cars and haulers.
The most impressive improvement is the expansion of the infield resulting in
over 400 percent in useable land. Overall, this portion of the infield has
grown from one and a half usable acres to nearly seven.
Fencing installation was another big project at the speedway. Interior
fencing in the infield was replaced with new, black chain link.
They also redid Victory Lane which will serve as the interim Victory lane.
The physical construction only took two months but the project is the result
of 18 months of rigorous planning and approval.
While former track owner, Bob Bahre had an agreement with the town, that
they wouldn’t add lights, rumor is that it is one of the projects on the
docket for the future is lights and knowing that what Bruton Smith usually
wants, he usually gets it.
While the economy has played havoc with people’s lives and with many people
unemployed, New Hampshire Motor Speedway offered fans a variety of ticket
options including tickets for the Cup race for just $39.00. The speedway
also had a package that was $99.00 and included everything at the track. It
is easy selling tickets when the economy is good but it is in the hard times
that people need to get their hard earned monies worth and the folks at NHMS
are putting it to the test.
Competitors in all four divisions this weekend raced for a record purse at
NHMS as nearly $7,005,549 was up for grabs. The Cup was competing for
$5,423,189 while the Nationwide series drivers were running for $1,197,559
followed by the Camping Series East running for $217,884 and the best show
of the weekend, the modifieds running for $166,917.
When Bob Bahre owned the Speedway, Everyone was treated like family and made
to feel welcome at the track and that same friendly atmosphere remains the
same with Bruton Smith in charge. It still is customers first.