September 10, 2012

ARCHIVES                                         

By Brian Danko                           

Thompson, Ct.----The second annual UNOH showdown at the Thompson International Speedway has been the talk since the season began and once again, one of the big draws for the fan appreciation party was North Carolina’s Burt Myers.

Myers, one of the ‘stars’ on the History Channels presentation of the ‘Mad House’ which portrayed the weekly racing at the historic Bowman-Gray Stadium and  was clearly one of the favorites with the fans. “We look forward to this race.” Burt said. “This is one of the races that we look forward to. We enjoy coming up here and the Hoenig family has gone out of their way to make it easier for us from the south.”

While Myers loves racing at the Thompson Speedway, it costs him and all of the southern competitors a lot because of their much smaller budgets.

“One of the reasons that we love coming back here is the passion of the fans and how much they love the modifieds. We have pockets of fan support but not like up here. This is modified country.” Burt said winning over more of the ‘Yankee’ fans with his quick smile.

While Myers would like to see a track down south reciprocate and run twin races like here at Thompson and then a shootout, he realizes that it is tough.

“You look at some of our races this year, we’d have 25 cars and at some of the races we’d only have 15 so it’s kind of a hit and miss.”

When I asked Burt what would be the perfect track to host a mod tour doubleheader and shootout, he naturally said Bowman-Gray Stadium. “Could you imagine that? I can tell you one thing is that it would be entertaining. Then with the shootout….”

When you think about it, it would be the only track that realistically could play host in separate paying tour shows. They traditionally draw anywhere from 10,000 to upwards to 18,000 fans on a WEEKLY basis and it could get downright ugly if an incident occurred with a southern driver and a guy from the north. But wouldn’t it be a great event!

While Myers would like to make more starts at other tracks in the northeast, he said he must weigh his racing budget.

“I would love to race at Hew Hampshire. That is definitely on my bucket list.” Burt said as the line of autograph seekers continued to get bigger. “I would love it but you’d have to manage it just right. It’s hard to spend money like that for just one race when we could race a lot of southern races with that money.”

When I brought up the race at Daytona Speedway during Speedweeks, he said that is another track and race that he would love to be a part of and it would be nice if he had that guaranteed spot that comes with winning a modified series event.

“That is a long way to go and not get in the show, though I am sure that we would and it would be something to race at Daytona and win that race.”

While Myers priorities are running the southern modified tour and the weekly series at Bowman-Gray, he always looks forward to seeing his northern competitors and friends.

“As I said, we look forward to this because of the way the Hoenig’s help all of us out from the southern tour and how much we enjoy racing at Thompson speedway.”

COBY COUNTING DOWN

Doug Coby has had a ‘dream season’ in many ways on the modified tour but don’t expect him to say that.

Coby, of Milford, CT is the current modified tour point’s leader and has been the most consistent driver on the tour. Coby is also the defending champion of the UNOH shootout as well as northern modified tour feature and earned over $25,000 for his days work last year in his major break out win.

“I’d like to have the same kind of results today.” joked Doug. When asked about the ‘dream season’ he said he doesn’t look at it that way. “As a driver, you go to each race thinking that you are going to win but you know realistically, that isn’t going to happen.”

Coby driving the Reynolds Auto Wrecking/Furnace and Duct Supply Company #52 has three wins at Stafford this year on the tour and one at Waterford and has a 27 point cushion over last year’s champion Ronnie Silk.

With just five races left in the 2012 season, I asked if there is a point when you are points racing instead of racing to win.

“Well, I’d say you have to wait at least until after New Hampshire before you can afford to do that. You have to get through today and then the wildcard in Riverhead and who knows what can happen at New Hampshire.”

But, Doug said in a perfect world, he love to have a good lead heading into Stafford, the second to last points race of the year before he’d think about points racing.

“Right now, we are just focused on today race and when it’s over we’ll look at Riverhead. That could be the key race for this year. We would love to win at New Hampshire because it’s New Hampshire.  Once we get through the next few races we’ll know better where we are. A couple of bad races and you can go from 30 up to 30 down so the best way is one race at a time.

OLD FRIENDS

As I walked through the pit area, I ran into many long time friends who ran the tour when I covered the series from 1985 to 2007 full time.

Reggie Ruggiero was seen walking through the pit area talking with many people as way his long time car owner, Mario Fiore.

Had the chance to talk with former modified tour champion, Wayne Anderson from Long Island. Wayne was the 1994 series champion driving the Len Boehler modified.

Wayne is still involved with racing, owning a car at the Riverhead Raceway where Ted Christopher ran it in the top five on a consistent basis ending up fourth in points and TC missed two shows because of a tour commitment.

Talked with both Tony Hirschman, Sr. and Tony Jr. Senior is now following and helping out with his son, Matt’s career. Matt was making a start in the southern modified tour race as the youngest Hirschman has won every big modified race in both prestige as well as purse wise.

Young Tony is spotting for Kyle Busch on the Sprint Cup series as well as spotting for current truck points leader Timothy Peters but he has to come back ‘home’ to get his modified fix.

Also chatted with Charlie Pasteryak and brother, Carl. Charlie son, Chris is an upcoming modified driver on the Modified Racing Series and finished second at Waterford Saturday night. Also in the pit area was Kevin “Bono’ Manion, crew chief for Jamie McMurray on the Sprint Cup series.

RACES REDUCED

The twin races for the 2012 edition of the UNOH Shootout were reduced from 125 laps last year to 75 laps this year and most people expect that to make the races much better this year. While each race pays separate points and is important to the overall series champion, many drivers are concerned with keeping their cars ready for the $50,000 shootout portion of the shootout plus with the additional Lap money, one driver, like Doug Coby last year, could walk away with over a combined pay day of over $25,000.

DRIVERS LOCKED IN FOR DAYTONA SHOOTOUT

With the Thompson win. Seuss now joins George Brunnhoelzl, III, Brian Loftin, Brandon Ward and Jason Myers as southern winners and a guaranteed spot in Daytona from the southern series while on the northern side, Doug Coby, Ron Silk, Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Justin Bonsignore and Donny Lia all have northern spots all sewed up.

CROWD GOOD BUT NOT GREAT

The crowd for the second annual race was good but certainly not great. With the opening of the NFL season, kids back in school and hundreds of New England Fairs to attend it wasn’t quite what the Thompson Speedway management was hoping for. Also, a $55.00 adult admission is still very tough to swallow in this very poor economy, especially in the eastern part of Connecticut.

SEUSS WINS SOUTHERN 75

While Andy Seuss may talk with a New Hampshire accent, he won the 75 lap feature for the southern modified tour in a race that ran green to checker. Matt Hirschman chased him across the line with pole sitter, Robby Fuller third.

Fuller, who set the fastest lap in time trials, was forced to start last when his crew chief missed the drivers meeting but still worked his way back to the front in a very entertaining race.

Burt Myers was fourth and fifth was Tim Brown while points leader George Brunnhoelzl, III was eighth but extended his points lead over Jason Myers who was 12th.

BONSIGNORE CAPTURES NORTHERN 75

Justin Bonsignore used a great move on lap 68 to secure his first modified tour win of 2012 season as he passed Ryan Preece to earn his second career win.

Bobby Santos was second followed by Ryan Preece, Todd Szegedy and Ted Christopher. The race only had three cautions but it ended when Ronnie Silk bounced off the wall and then crashed hard in turn one after the leaders had taken the white flag.

Doug Coby had a miserable day as he finished 13th but extended his points lead with Silks bad finish although Preece cut into points off the runner up spot.