Monday Sept. 12, 2005
300-WORDS FLY BETWEEN COBY AND LIA
Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT scored
one of his biggest modified wins when the NASCAR Whelen modified tour points
leader captured the Thompson Sunoco 300 at the Thompson International Speedway.
Christopher, notching his 22nd career win and his second straight big win after taking the Made in America 300 one week earlier at Martinsville, VA.
He will go for the trifecta this Friday
at the New Hampshire International Speedway.
Christopher edged out Tony Hirschman for
second with defending 300 Eddie Flemke, Jr. third, Jerry Marquis fourth and Mike
But all eyes were on the battle for
second between young Doug Coby and Donny Lia.
a strange situation, Donny Lia hit Coby under caution and sent Coby into
the wall as a stunned crowd watched as the field slowed for debris on the track.
As in all stories, there are two sides
to it and while Coby was smiling on the outside after the race, he was seething
"I ran him up in turn one and took the
spot." Coby said when asked about the incident. " Next thing I know I'm in the
When Coby was asked if he was already
for Christopher on the restart, his eyes gleamed with excitement, almost knowing
that the 300 could be his race.
"I knew that we'd have something for
After track officials removed Coby, who
was waiting for Lia on the track, NASCAR officials promptly gave Lia the rest of
the afternoon off for rough riding.
When I reached Lia, he sat on the back
of his hauler, looking remorseful over the turn of events.
"It wasn't intentional." Lia said. "I
didn't anticipate it happening, in fact, I don't know what happened."
"I would never do that, that isn't the
way that I race. I was going to rub up against him to say, hey, I wasn't to
pleased with that."
But Coby begged to differ.
"Here is a guy who has been in racing
for four years and he thinks he knows it all." Coby added, "Mike Stefanik would
never do that and neither would Tony Hirschman, that's why they are champions."
Coby, who has been knocking on victory
lanes door seemed to have the fastest car the last 30 laps and once he
admitingly drove Lia up the track to claim the second spot, he seemed to be in
Coby, just 26 years old has played the
part of veteran since teaming up with the Curt Chase team late last season and
has been a consistent top five driver each week.
While the Chase crew was repairing the
damage to the #77, Curt Chase yelled out that NASCAR did a lousy job allowing
much slower cars to stay on the track and impede the front runners all
Coby agreed with Chase concerning the
lapped cars. “It seemed that every couple of laps we were lapping some of the
slower cars. They weren’t living up to the minimum speed.”
The incident between Lia and Coby ruined
what was one of the most enjoyable Thompson 300's to date, a race that goes back
over 26 years.
300-THE WAY IT SHOULD BE
The Thompson 300 was just that. A
300-lap, flat out racing and the drivers, owners and crews couldn't have been
Last Saturday, during the drivers
meeting at the Made in America 300 at the Martinsville Speedway, Don Hawk of
NASCAR announced that Thompson Speedway officials decided not to do a stop at
the 150-lap marker.
"We are going to put the wheel back into
the hands of the drivers and the pit crews make changes like always." Hawk said
drawing a hearty round of applause from the modified tour competitors.
The 300, which last year was 3 100-lap races with the drivers finishes being divided by 3 to give the driver his overall finish.
It was confusing to both the teams and
During the week, I contacted Ben Dodge,
Jr., who is a consultant for the Thompson Speedway and according to Ben, there
was no 'determining factor' in returning the race to its history of 300 laps of
racing with regular pit stops, not a mandatory stop at the half way point.
"Don (Hoenig, track owner and promoter)
said if they don't want to stop, they don't have to." Ben said when asked about
the change of heart.
There were conflicting reports as to why
the Thompson 300, one of the most prestigious races on the modified circuit was
undergoing a change the last couple years and whose idea it was.
NASCAR officials said that Thompson
officials were behind it that they are the ones posting the purses and they
could do what they wanted but according to Dodge, NASCAR needs to take some
"Last year, when the 300 race was run in
3 segments, it was apparent that it was a fiasco." Ben said, "Don Hawk told Don
Hoenig, 'next year we need to do a stop at 150, this isn't going to work this
Dodge said Hoenig's reasoning in doing
it was that those competitors who might have received some minor damage or
needed to replace a shock or something similar might be able to without taking
themselves out of the race.
What irked Thompson officials is that no
one from the tour, whether it was drivers or owners called Thompson Speedway to
voice their displeasure with the revamped 300.
"No one ever called. If they did, we
would have looked at it and said if these many people are calling, we need to so
something about it. No one called. We then get a call from Hawk on Saturday
morning, asking us to change it back which we did." Ben said.
Ben, a former promoter at the defunct
Riverside Park Speedway said Hoenig's intentions were to 'just enhance the 300
The Thompson 300 is the longest race on
the modified tour and at times, can become hard to follow with many slower cars
being lapped early in the race.
So, it can become difficult for fans to
follow the action and know who exactly is on the lead lap and who is a lap down.
But the history and the prestige of the
race is based on 300 laps of flat out hard racing.
Eddie Flemke, Jr., was the overall
winner of the 300 last year, a race that his father won in 1977.
Eddie Sr.won by beating the pace out of
the pits as many leaders pitted despite the threat of rain. It rained and Flemke
added to his legacy by winning using pit and race strategy.
This year, whomever wins it will know
that no special gimmicks were needed and that they and their crew were the best
in the most grueling race of the year.
WHELEN THRILLED OVER MADE IN AMERICA
No one really knew what to expect when
the NASCAR Whelen modified tour competitors pulled into the Martinsville
Speedway for the Made in America 300 last weekend.
What would the crowd be like, especially
with the escalating fuel cost be, how would the weather be?
Those questions and many others were
answered with a huge crowd, great weather and a great race, that saw Teddy
Christopher take the win over Mike Stefanik, passing the six time modified
champion with 24 laps remaining.
Phil Kurze, the man behind Whelen
Motorsports, who is the sponsor of not only the northern modified tour but also
the southern modified tour as well as the race sponsor, was ecstatic.
"It was terrific." Phil said about the
whole weekend. "The weather was fine, the track was great and the racing was
great. As an event sponsor and tour sponsor, it was just a great weekend."
"The staff of the Martinsville Speedway
did a great job accommodating the teams and making them feel special. We had
hero cards made up for all the teams and there were special commemorative tee
shirts made up and given to the crews of all teams."
Kurze said that he got a chance to meet
some of the southern drivers for the first time and he found them friendly and
"I hadn't met some of them before. It
was nice to finally get to met Junior Miller and Burt Myers and some of the
other teams." Kurze said with the excitement of the past weekend still fresh in
"We had a chance to witness history."
Phil said of the first ever race under the lights at the Martinsville Speedway;
a track that itself is steeped in not only modified history, but also NASCAR
"They are pros at Martinsville. They
know what they are doing and it was a enjoyable day for everyone connected with
The race was taped on Speed Channel for
showing in December if all reports are correct and Kurze said that is the only
"I wish the race would be seen earlier
than December but I guess a little TV is better than no TV."
Kurze said that he is already looking
forward to next year's race and making it better than it was in 2005.
PARK RETURNS TO
Steve Park, one of the modified tours
brightest stars is returning to his racing roots, when the driver on the
Craftsman Truck Series returns to his home track and runs in the Fall Final
weekend at the Stafford Motor Speedway.
Park, who finished second in points
twice in his career to Tony Hirschman has a total of 16 career wins and 23 Bud
Poles will attempt to qualify in a back up car of current modified tour point
leader, Ted Christopher.
Steve as most know was signed to a
contract with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and won the Rookie of the Year in the Busch
Series. He also has a couple of Nextel Cup victories to his credit but a
freakish crash during a Busch series race hampered his career.
Now, Park is back in the Truck series
and already has a win this season at the California Speedway and looking to make
a return to NASCAR's top series. But on October 2nd at Stafford, it will be a
chance to renew friendships and try and beat the best on the NASCAR modified
RICK FULLER HOPING FOR ANOTHER TOP TEN POINTS FINISH
Rick Fuller of Auburn, MA has been
around the NASCAR modified tour for years and his consistent finishes have
always led to finishing among the top points drivers on the tour.
Fuller, driving for the Curt Chase team
won the championship in 1993 and while the popular driver sponsored by Polar
Beverages of his hometown, has gone winless the past two seasons, he is showing
signs of breaking through for an overdo win.
Just how consistent has Fuller been, well, he has 10 top five-season ending point's tallies. He has finished in the top 10 15 times in his long modified career but the versatile driver has also driven on the NASCAR Busch North series as well as the NASCAR Busch series.