Monday October 23, 2006

By Brian Danko                                  CLICK IN ANY PHOTO FOR FULL SIZE

As the modified tour prepares for the final race of the 2006 season, we'll take a quick look back at what has transpired since the first race back in April. But before we look back we have to look over a few penalties that were handed down to drivers Carl Pasteryak and Matt Hirschman following the event at the Thompson Speedway.

Both drivers were cited under section 12-4-A, which is described as actions detrimental to auto racing under the NASCAR rulebook. Carl was suspended from NASCAR until October 30th, 2006 while Matt is on NASCAR probation until December 31, 2006. Carl was also cited with altercations with another driver on the track as well as verbal abuse to a NASCAR official and failure to follow a directive from a NASCAR official.

I contacted Carl when the suspension came out and Carl said, "I can't talk about anything right now. I will be glad to talk with you following the Stafford race."

Matt was cited for failure to comply with a NASCAR official's directive. I contacted Matt at his garage last week and the young, talented driver told me what happened.

"On the final restart, I was fifth and Jerry Marquis was fourth and he got past Richard Savery. I got to the 20 (Savery) and he was getting looser and I passed him. There was no contact." "As we took the white flag, I was fourth and he was fifth and clearly ahead of him and he slammed me into the wall." Matt said. "It was a stupid move on his part, we're running fourth and fifth and it would have been a good finish for both of us and now we both have wrecked cars on the last lap."

Matt then unbuckled out of the car and went to ask Savery what he was doing and leave it at that."

"I wasn't going to fight, I just wanted to let him know that I wasn't happy with him and Bill Brice (NASCAR official) felt I didn't listen to him on the track. NASCAR doesn't know what led up to the incident, I was trying to explain."

Matt said he will accept the NASCAR penalty and go on with racing but added, "I am trying to get into the top ten in points and to have this happen is uncalled for. NASCAR said they didn't see it, they were watching the leaders."

On a personal note, racing on the NASCAR modified tour has gotten way out of hand. Many of us who cover the modified tour feel NASCAR officials are looking at things with a blind eye.

Reggie Ruggiero, who won the race when Ted Christopher and John Blewett crashed, near the end of the event. Reggie said that 'nobody wanted to win today.'Jerry Marquis, who finished third in the event, also, questioned the driving tactics of several drivers out there.

NASCAR officials can't say they didn't see incidents because it was all over the track. One driver told me before the race that 'NASCAR has lost control of the series and drivers are taking matters into their own hands.'

Bobby Grigas, who is a competitor on the True Value modified series was personally responsible for three accidents on the track and should have been parked but NASCAR, allowed him to continue.

NASCAR officials are scheduled to talk with drivers Ted Christopher and John Blewett at Stafford concerning the incident at Thompson both last week and at the race in August. That is all well and good but the season ends this coming weekend with the Fall Final.

NASCAR has a very good touring series in the modified tour. They have dedicated drivers and car owners and a large fan base but if this action continues, it will leave car owners out of money and fan discouraged and possibly a driver injured or worse.

The time is now to nip any feuds in the bud, don't wait until an on the track incident occurs. 2007 is right around the corner and once again should be a banner year for the modifieds but action needs to be taken when it occurs not three weeks later.

When the 2006 campaign kicked off at the Thompson Speedway, a few drivers rose to the top when asked who the champion would be at season's end. The familiar names were there Hirschman, Christopher, and Marquis and of course, six time series champion Mike Stefanik. After Mike won the Icebreaker, many knew he meant business and when he takes the green at Stafford, add title number seven for Steffy in the modifieds as well as two more in the Busch East. While it wasn't a typical Stefanik season with many checkers, it was the consistent top five's that produced the first title for car owner Eric Sanderson. In 15 events, Mike records shows one win, ten top five's and 14 top tens.

A good battle is brewing for the second spot as Ted Christopher leads Eddie Flemke, Jr. by a mere 49 points.

Christopher's season was disrupted in midseason when the federal government took control of his racecars when car owner, James Galante was brought up on charges of racketeering and ties to the underworld. Teddy then hooked up with Ed Whelen and promptly won their first race together at the Jennerstown Speedway. Whelen and Christopher will part ways for the 2007 season but they are tied with John Blewett, III for three wins on the tour, the most by any driver.

For Eddie Flemke, this year is a redemption year after losing the title to Tony Hirschman in 2005 driving for car owner, Roger Hill. Last season, Flemke teamed with Gary Teto and the team has prospered in 2006 and although winless, Eddie still has six top five's and 11 top tens, the same number as TC.

Defending series champion Tony Hirschman is currently fourth just 20 ahead of James Civali going into Stafford. While Tony did win the Bud Pole Award for the season, it wasn't a typical Tony Hirschman year. Tony managed just one win and only five top five's and nine top tens to show for it. Tony also managed to be involved in wrecks that he was either right in back of or in the middle with none his fault.

One of the biggest stories of the year was that of rookie, James Civali. Civali, who ran a few races on the tour in 2005, as well as the Busch East, and many wondered how he would react following a rough 2005. Civali, to put it bluntly, had an attitude problem but when NASCAR set him down near the end of last year, it was the best thing that happened to him.

He captured his first race at Stafford in August and nearly won at New Hampshire in one of the closest finishes ever at the 'Magic Mile.' James had five top five's and eight top tens for car owner, Don King. Civali also won the 2006 Rookie of the Year title. Many in the media feel Civali prospered under the guidance of King and this should be a tough team next year.

Todd Szegedy the 2003 champion was back for another year after trying his hand down south. But without getting a proper chance, Szegedy agreed to return home and run the full year for car owner, Mike Smeriglio. Todd has one win, three top five's and 8 top tens driving the Wisk Ford prepared by Phil Moran, who will be leaving to take a job next year for Bill Davis Racing.

Jerry Marquis has had another tough luck season driving for Bob Garbarino. He has no wins but a steady diet of top five's and nine top tens has him in the seventh points position. If Marquis could catch a break, it would certainly have been a run for the title but a few bad pit stops and accidents in front of him hampered the 2000 modified tour champion.

Donny Lia struggled for most of the 2006 season but finally caught fire after winning at Waterford earlier this month and another strong run at Thompson. Lia is currently eighth with a win, five top five's and six top tens.

Zack Sylvester is ninth with three top five's and six top tens. Zack had many great runs this year only to run into problems on the track.

Eric Beers is currently holding down the tenth spot. He has a challenge from Dick Houlihan. Houlihan is just 10 points behind Beers with Matt Hirschman just 12 markers out of tenth. While Beers did have a win this year at Thompson, it was another rough year for the talented driver from Northampton, PA.

The Carquest Fall Final will conclude the 2006 season and it will be run on Saturday, October 28th. They will once again host their annual pit party. Check Stafford's web site for the latest news and times for the one-day only show. Qualifying has already taken place for the 150-lap race.