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11-18-13: Flemke, SR Saw Potential In Artist, Just As He Saw It In Racers: Mention the name “Zarrella” in auto racing, especially around the families central Connecticut Southington home and it gets immediate attention. Jeff Zarrella, longtime modified crew member for Mario Fiore’s potent #44 driven to hundreds of wins by modified legend, Reggie Ruggiero. Jeff is now the tire specialist for Danica Patrick’s Sprint Cup team but also mention “Zarrella” in Southington and many people think of Jeff’s younger brother, Dale , who not only is a nationally known artist and sculptor but also internationally known in the arts world. Dale Zarrella has been described as a master visionary, master artist, and a master craftsman. Those are the words of Dewitt Jones, one of America’s top professional photographers for National Geographic and as a film director who had two films nominated for Academy Awards. Dale Zarrella is a painter, sculptor, speaker and more. He is an Artist. Zarrella, who grew up in Southington is one of the top sculptors in the world and while he left behind his Southington roots some 29 years ago, to move to Hawaii in order to perfect his craft and his vision, he still comes back home to see his family and many friends. MORE>>
11-18-13: Brian Ross Inducted into New England Auto Racers' Hall of Fame: When one thinks of Brian Ross, they think of a smart racer. Smart in both the sense that he could drive but that he also had the talent to build race cars. Ross of Ballston Spa, N.Y. was a thinking man’s racer. Ross is now a New England Auto Racing Hall of Famer as the soft spoken driver was inducted into the NEAR annual banquet Sunday, November 10 at the Manelley’s Banquet Hall in South Windsor, CT. Ross was one of eight inductees in the prestigious Hall of Fame and when Ross was clearly humbled when asked about being in the Class of 2013. “I really don’t know what I am doing here.” Brian told me as we renewed a longtime friendship. “This is hard for me to think about. I look at the names in this HOF and I wonder why I am here.” Ross, who had seven modified tour wins in his career and also won the 1984 Race of Champions and the 1986 Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway, Ross began to follow the tour when it started in 1985 and left the tour after the 1990 season. Brian did run some Busch north events and won a Busch race at the Holland Speedway in upstate New York and ran his last race in 2000. MORE>>
10-23-13: THOMPSON, CT.  The Thompson Speedway, as I have known it for almost 40 years is undergoing a massive and major change. New buildings have been built, garages are under construction, and paving for the new road course has been done. The multimillion dollar 1.7 mile road course is set to debut next season. With a tight economy and not a lot of free money floating around, it will be interesting to see how many people have the cash to spend the $25,000 yearly fee to bring your sportscar out and play. Your membership does include membership to the 18 hole championship golf course as well as other perks. But the speedway and its management team is showing what their priorities are. And it is not to the oval racing. What many on the modified tour have wondered, and rightfully so, what other major changes would be on the way and if so, would the tour be a part of it for the 2014 season. Well, the good news is, the Whelen modified tour will be back at the Big T three times during the 2014 season. The season will kick off with the traditional Icebreaker the weekend of April 5th and 6th. It will also include 8 other divisions. The second event will be the week night special on Wednesday, August 13th and the season ending, the World Series of Speedway racing will take place on October 17th -19th. MORE>>
02-25-13: As a lifetime fan of the modified series, I was waiting with anticipation to watch the ‘Battle on the Beach’. It was a concept put together from the people in Daytona Beach at NASCAR, with UNOH, the University of Northern Ohio as the main sponsor and Speed Channel agreeing to showcase the two night affair on television, you could see why the build up was talked about for months. It had the making of a terrific winter treat for the fans as well as the competitors of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series, the NASCAR Whelen modified tour as well as their southern cousins and the K&N East and West series. On the first night, after seeing the track and watching the first few laps, you knew it was going to be messy. You just didn’t know how much or to what the damage would look like until the last checkered flag fell on Tuesday night. Folks, it was UGLY. Some of the problem was the configuration of the track, some was over aggressive driving by the drivers and most was the NASCAR officiating, especially when all three leaders in all three races on the white flag lap were dumped by the second place car and NASCAR officials sat in the control tower and did nothing. MORE>>
10-15-12: The Thompson Speedway has hosted the most modified tour races than any speedway in the east coast having opened their gates to NASCAR’s oldest division 119 previous times but rumors are abound that the speedway might drop short track racing in 2013 altogether or run anywhere from 4 to 8 special events. Thompson Speedway is in the midst of redoing their road course and according to RaceDay CT.com writer Shawn Courchesne; they are looking to make their road course a major part of their racing in 2013 and beyond looking to make a 5 million dollar investment. What that means for the modified tour and weekly NASCAR racing, which has been a part of the Thompson Speedway is now questionable. The Thompson Speedway and the Stafford Motor Speedway host a total of nine of the 14 race schedule in both 2011 and 2012 and them leaving the tour would be a serious blow to NASCAR and to the modified tour. The Thompson 5/8ths mile oval is one of NASCAR’s oldest tracks, which opened in May of 1940 following the Hurricane of 1938 and 2012 wraps up their 31st season as a member of the NASCAR Whelen All American series. MORE>>
09-23-12: There was a time, not long ago when the pit area at the New Hampshire was overrun with the NASCAR Whelen modified tour cars. Sadly, today, that is not the case. With a starting field set for 38 cars, only 31 took the green. Now, there are many reasons, the economy continues to force teams to sit out races or completely get out of racing but in the past the modifieds always looked at New Hampshire as there Daytona. The purse for the 100 lap modified event was $159, 528. With Doug Coby earning $12,000 plus for his win, a nice amount but when one considers past winners were earning upwards of $18,000 grand, that is a big drop. Donny Lia earned $8,600 for second and Ronnie Silk earned $6,600 for third but the big question is why wasn’t the field filled, even if it was teams pulling out a backup car just to do a start and park for the roughly $2,000 to take the green. In the past, that was a common factor but with the field being short, that $159,000 purse was reduced by $10,000. MORE>>
09-10-12: 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. MORE>>
10-18-11: On the 52nd lap of the 150 lap season ending Whelen modified tour event at the Thompson Speedway, point’s leader Ron Silk of Norwalk, CT.  thought his dreams of capturing his first NASCAR touring series title went away. He slid his car backwards into the wall and then was hit by a sliding Tony Ferrante, Jr. as both cars were caught up in someone dumping oil on the track. But the crew worked to keep Silk on the track and despite being 9 laps down at one time, Silk managed to survive the carnage that was the modified tour finish and win his first title. Silk entered the race with a 54 point advantage over past series champion, Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT. and after Szegedy led early to give himself an extra five points towards the title, Szegedy always seemed to be in the middle of action on the track and when the race restarted a green-white-checkered finish on lap 149, Szegedy got caught up in a wreck in turn four to officially hand Silk the title as Szegedy’s car went off the track hammock style. MORE>>

09-26-11: Ronnie Silk of Norwalk, CT won his third race of the year and his second at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway in another classic modified tour race in the F.W. Webb 100. The modified tour had a awful race in July as only three lead changes highlighted the race but in a clean race broadcast live on Speed Network gave the fans a taste of what modified racing at New Hampshire is all about as there was 23 unofficial lead changes that was only slowed by three cautions, one for a light mist. A green-white-checker finish was in play when Ryan Preece spun with less than five laps to go but Silk, who led the most laps, was able to hold on for the big win. Todd Szegedy, the points leader heading into the race was second with Justin Bonsignore third and Teddy Christopher fourth. Unofficially it appears that Silk by virtue of the win and leading the most laps retook the points lead as the tour heads to the Stafford Motor Speedway next weekend. Other than Silk and Roman Pennick, who put on a great battle for most of the race, the other most impressive drive was that of Christopher, who was forced to start last when he had to miss time trials because his wife was injured. Eric Beers also had quite an impressive day to finish fifth. Pennick had a problem and pulled off on the white flag lap and finished 22nd but he and the rest of the modified teams put on a great battle at overcast New Hampshire Speedway. MORE>>

07-18-11: Whenever the NASCAR  modified tour returns to the New Hampshire Motor speedway, from the fans up to the competitors, they  know that it is going to be one of the must see races of the year but this year, fans who were used to seeing the high powered rockets won’t be able to watch either live or on tape delayed because the spring race won’t be broadcast. After watching the race, it’s a good thing as the race wasn’t one of the best. Last year, fans of the open wheel series and fans of racing in general knew watching the mods at the one mile speedway was something special but this year fans will only be able to watch the modifieds twice on the tube this year beginning with the mid August race at Bristol and the fall race here at New Hampshire. Both of those races will be shown live on Speed. Part of the problem was when the parent company of Versus was sold and they changed their upper management and dropped the coverage of the modified tour that they had in 2010, which consisted of at least 8 races, taped for a later broadcast and shown in a one hour version. MORE>>
06-20-11: How many people are there who go by one name and you know immediately who they are. Elvis, Cher, Madonna, Oprah and Richie. Well certainly all but Richie are internationally known but in the auto racing world mention Richie and people automatically know who you are talking about. Richie Evans was modified racing. He personified what it meant to be a modified driver and now, he is where he should be, in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Last week, Evans was included in the third class of NASCAR’s elite.  Richie you see wasn’t just a nine time champion, who won more than 475 races,  he defined a division. There have been thousands of drivers who have raced in the modified division but there was only one driver whose name was just as large as the division he raced in. I have to admit that when the Hall of Fame was conceived, I said they should call it the NASCAR Sprint Cup Hall of Fame because I feared that is what it would be and I now will say sorry. Sorry to NASCAR for assuming that they would only want the Cuppers in the Hall of Fame. To NASCAR and to the voters, thank you for making me say I am sorry. MORE>>
05-02-11: When Bobby Santos crossed the finish line to capture the 40th edition of the Spring Sizzler at the Stafford Motor Speedway, he etched his name into modified history. The victory, his first of the 2011 season for the defending modified tour champion and it was witnessed by a packed house underneath sun drenched blue skies. But after walking around the pit area, talking with current car owners, past car owners, crew members and drivers, those dark clouds building in the horizon should be clouds of concern for everyone connected with the modified tour. A total of 31 cars started the 200 lap race at Mark Arutes half mile oval and if that isn’t a cause for concern, then the people in power are naive and maybe need to get the blinders off from their eyes. The modified tour was once turning away 15 to 20 cars just a few short years ago and you know that when you start with only 31 cars at Stafford and 33 at Thompson (both were short fields) that can’t bode well for the months of August, September and October. MORE>>
05-02-11: The Spring Sizzler. Just mention those words to a NASCAR modified tour driver and it will evoke good memories to the winners and bring a frown to the losers of the ‘Biggest race in the history of spring. This weekend, the gates of the Stafford Motor Speedway will swing open to usher in the spring and to celebrate the 40th annual Spring Sizzler. While the Arute family has fostered the Sizzler and made it, its biggest race at the speedway annually, it wasn’t the Arutes that initiated the Sizzler but a trio of three friends. In the off season of 1971, Dick Berggren, yes, the same gentleman working on Fox during the NASCAR races, along with Lew Boyd and Bruce Cohen came up the idea of opening the season with a high paying modified race that would bring out the best drivers in the northeast and then including the southeast. So the trio rented the track for a $1,000 and spring time magic was made as over 137 cars registered for the 33 car starting field for a 80 lap race and despite threatening clouds all day, 11,500 fans jammed every last seat in the speedway making the inaugural race both a financial success as well as a artistic event. MORE>>
10-31-10: When I heard the news that Jim Hunter, a vice president for NASCAR’s corporate communications died, I was quite saddened.I knew that Jim had been quite ill battling cancer and finally, like many, he too lost the fight. Besides his family and many thousands of friends, he will be missed by all in motorsports. He will certainly be missed on the NASCAR modified tour. While Jim was a major player in NASCAR, he related to the plight of the short tracks and the touring series. He understood the dedication of the teams that participate in the Whelen All American weekly series as well as those who follow a touring series. I got to meet and then know Jim during the mid 80’s and unlike many at NASCAR who think they know all the answers to the problems of the promoters and race teams, Jim would often seek out those who followed a series to pick their brains. I was quite honored when Jim would search me out at a track and ask what I thought could be done to help the modified tour. You see, Jim was quite passionate about the modified tour too. MORE>>
10-18-10: Ted Christopher won the battle but Bobby Santos won the war. In one of the more entertaining races of the entire 2010 season, Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT powered by Doug Coby with three laps to win the season ending World Series of Racing at the Thompson International Speedway. It appeared the Coby, the best driver on the modified tour not to have a full time ride, looked to have the victory in hand, but a couple of late races cautions, slowed the field and allowed TC to pull alongside on each restart. All the while Bobby Santos did just he needed to do as he pitted on lap 47 and then kept Mike Stefanik in his vision to capture his first ever championship of any kind and he gave longtime modified car owner his second straight title and his third title in the last four years. RUMOR SEASON ALREADY? The 2010 racing hadn’t even taken the checkered flag and already, they are rumors of driver changes for the 2011 season are in full rumor mode. But one driver who will remain in the same seat is that of James Civali. Civali, who finished third in the southern modified tour, will return to the seat of Roger and Sandy Hill owned, Coors Lights sponsored Pontiac. That is about the only constant as the calendar turns the page in 11 weeks. Some major changes are in store if the rumors pan out. It should be to be an interesting off season. MORE>>
09-20-10: Doug Coby, always the first man to draw the short straw when it comes time to getting a ride on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour nearly pulled off the upsets of upsets at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Coby, who started dead last in the field after blowing a motor on Thursday during qualifying came up one lap short and a couple of turns short in  winning the F.W. Webb 100 and while he would finish fourth, he impressed many people after taking  the lead from Ryan Newman on the restart with two to go. “I guess it’s not a fairy tale unless you win.” Doug said after climbing out of the car owned by Eddie Partridge and sponsored by T.S. Haulers. “When you have your buddies racing with you (Jimmy Blewett and Ronnie Silk) you want to get the Cup driver and hope that one of you can win.” Coby saw that go by the wayside when Jimmy Blewett passed him in turn one of the final lap and forced Coby to drift up and break his momentum and while he wishes Blewett waited a bit, he was thrilled with the run. Jimmy Blewett then made one last charge at Newman but couldn’t get the car to stick in turn three on the final lap. MORE>>
07-05-10: It was wine and cheese fans move over, the beer drinking, hot dog eating fans of NASCAR took over the Lime Rock Park  for the day and what they saw was a historic first and not a bad race as the Whelen modified tour made their first ever stop at the historic road course located in the northwest corner of Connecticut. When the schedule was released it was circled on many in the modified communities calendar and while the tour supplied just 25 cars, it proved to be an entertaining event that was dominated by Todd Szegedy but won by road racing specialist , Dale Quarterley as he pass Todd with just four laps remaining. It also proved to be a good days for the points chasers as points leader, Bobby Santos III suffered his first DNF of the season as he hand grenaded a motor towards the end of the race, bringing out the final caution with fewer than 10 laps remaining. While it did close up the points somewhat, Santos did manage to record a 17th place finish while T.C., Ted Christopher managed a fifth place tally after running second most of the race, at times swapping the spot with Mike Stefanik. MORE>>
06-10-10: Since the inception of the NASCAR modified tour, drivers, owners and fans have been able to watch their hero’s on two of the nation’s two best short tracks in the country, the Thompson International Speedway and the Stafford Motor Speedway. While the Thompson Speedway just celebrated its birthday last week of the first race held at the 5/8th mile oval some 70 years ago, the Stafford Motor Speedway too has a long history associated with it. Where the track sits now was called the Stafford Spring Agricultural Park and way back in 1870, people would flock to the little town and watch racing of a different breed, actual horsepower. Horse and Trotter racing continued at the grounds until the end of World War II. As race tracks were springing up across the country after the Great War and small cars later known as midgets began to take the country by storm as people gathered to watch their neighbors compete in motorized cars. It wasn’t long before Stafford became a weekly stop for daredevils. MORE>>
06-01-10: It isn’t often that a driver gets schooled once and wins a race but what are the odds that a driver gets taken to school twice on back to back restarts and still takes the checkered flag. That was what happened to Bobby Santos Friday night as the 24 year old won his second race of the season winning the TSI Harley Davidson 125 at the Stafford Motor Speedway. “Jimmy took me to school on those two restarts.” Said the soft spoken driver, “I guess I was lucky to win tonight. But I’d rather be lucky than good any day.” Twice on restarts, Santos got the jump as the field rumbled into turn one but both times, Santos drifted up and Blewett in the Dick Barney #14 shot underneath to garner the lead but each time a caution flew, thus, giving the lead back to Santos. The race was extended to 137 laps and on the restart on lap 135, Santos took off midway between turns three and four and powered out front off turn four but NASCAR radioed back to the 4 crew and told Santos to let Blewett back to his side. Santos was able to get the lead back as they headed off turn two as Blewett finished second, with a flat tire and Todd Szegedy was third. MORE>>
05-11-10: Ted Christopher has certainly taken a lot out of auto racing, now the Plainville, CT is giving something back and in a big way. Christopher, who competes weekly at Stafford Motor Speedway beside the modified tour and other racing venues, will help raise money to cure Breast cancer. “Last year at a Christmas party, my wife, Quinn, was telling me about a co-worker who had breast cancer and had to have one removed and then again had to have the second removed and I thought that maybe I can do something to help find a cure by raising money for it.” Teddy said at his shop just days after winning his sixth Spring Sizzler. Christopher is going to donate one dollar for every lap he runs in the feature events at the Stafford Speedway and last weekend, he put in $340.00 on the first weekend. He is also going to add $100.00 for every feature win at Stafford. The $340.00 was for running 200 laps in the modified tour race, an extra $100 for winning and then $40.00 for running the 40 lap SK modified feature. “I don’t care what feature it is that I run at Stafford, whether it’s the SK modifieds, the late models or the midgets, I’ll give one dollar for every lap and $100.00 for every win.” MORE>>
04-24-10: Scott Zipadelli has been around racing since he was a youngster. From the time his father and uncle owned modified race teams in Connecticut to now being a Nationwide Crew Chief for driver, Jason Leffler and Braun Racing, the 40 year old has seen and done plenty. Zipadelli, like his brother, Greg, has been living down south since packing his bags after making an attempt at driving a race car, a failed attempt. “I’ll never forget it, I was racing at Stafford in a late model and I had a bad night and I remember Mike McLaughlin coming over to me and telling me to forget about driving and move south and get a job working on race cars.” Scott said laughing. While both Scott and Greg worked as crew members on their Uncle Bill Corazzo’s modifieds, winning the title in 1988 when McLaughlin wheeled the Sherri Cup #12 to the NASCAR Whelen modified tour championship but now it was time to move south and pursue a career in NASCAR. When I asked Scott, if a race car is just another race car, he thought about it for a minute before answering. MORE>>
04-13-10: YOUNG GUNS HOLD OFF PAST CHAMPIONS The Modified tour might be in good hands. On Sunday, Bobby Santos capped off a perfect weekend as he captured the Icebreaker and in the process held off Ryan Preece to win the season opener. Both Santos and Preece should contend for the title as they bested three of the best drivers on the tour to the checkers, the three are all past champions. Finishing third through fifth was seven time champion Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher and Todd Szegedy. Burt Myers of ‘Madhouse’ fame finished 14th in a well run opening program for the NASCAR modified tour. OPENING DAY The first race is the spring is always magical. Whether your team has a legitimate shot to win races or to win a championship, the hope is always there. The first race of the New Year always brings out all of the cars with new paint schemes, some teams with new drivers and sponsors. Getting off to a good start is always beneficial if your team hopes to win a title and with only 13 races on the 2010 schedule, DNF’s must be kept to one or two to have a shot at the coveted championship. MORE>>
03-29-10: When NASCAR announced back a couple of weeks ago, that it was cutting the number of drivers and owners participating in the season ending points fund, it certainly caused some drivers and owners to be quite upset. In the past, NASCAR used to reward the top 20 drivers in points with season ending money, which most teams will tell you kept them coming back the following year but now with the news that NASCAR is only paying out the top 15 in points, it will be interested in seeing if the number of teams that follow any of NASCAR’s touring series remain the same. One driver told me, “They send out a notice that because of the economy they weren’t going to cut our purses but in the next paragraph, that they are cutting the number of teams in the payout by 25%.” Last year, a total of 17 drivers on the modified tour went to each and every race and if that number follows through this year, two drivers who supported the tour will be on the outside looking in. MORE>>
03-15-10: Jim ‘Cheech’ Garde has long been a part of the NASCAR racing scene on both the Sprint Cup series but also on the northeast modified scene building cars and racing. But now, Garde is embarking on something bigger than auto racing, it is representing his country. Garde will be in charge of the building and maintaining the United States Bobsleds. The USA bobsleds will be moving shop to North Carolina from Connecticut, where since the inception; they were designed and built under the masterful eyes and engineering knowledge of Bob Cuneo of Chassis Dynamics, long one of the premier fabricators and builders of modified race cars. Garde will also receive help from 1988 NASCAR modified tour champion, Mike McLaughlin, once fabricating is essential for speed and performance. MORE>>
01-10-10: Jeff Zarrella has been involved in auto racing for many years. From the time as a fan 40 years ago to now working for Stewart-Haas Racing and driver, Ryan Newman. Zarrella has seen it all. Zarrella, who hails from Southington, Ct., a town of 50,000 that is known throughout the state as a sports town but what are the odds that Zarrella and a few of his Southington friends would be involved in NASCAR racing in one form or another all these year later.Friends from town would include a Nationwide Crew chief, an award winning writer and author of many racing books, a radio host of a weekly racing show, a writer covering the modified tour and other NASCAR events, an award winning photo journalist, a NASCAR modified driver and modified tour crew chief. MORE>>
11-21-09: Was Moving The Modified Tour Banquet A Good Idea? Recently, NASCAR honored its regional series champions with one gala affair in Charlotte, N.C. It replaced all of the regional banquets that were originally held at various locations in the United States, at places close to where a particular NASCAR Tour/Series regularly competed. When NASCAR unveiled its master plan for the single banquet last April, it was met with much disdain from almost all that were involved with the Tours. But it seemed that the people of the NASCAR Modified Tour were the most upset with it. That set off a blog in the Connecticut-based Hartford Courant newspaper. There, fans of the Modified Tour blasted NASCAR from moving the banquet from its location of the past several years, Ct.’s Mohegan Sun Casino, to Charlotte. What upset many of the competitors the most was that they were forced to sign a letter stating that NASCAR could withhold their post season winnings if they didn’t attend the banquet. It was about 10 days later that NASCAR announced the banquets would be replaced with one in North Carolina. MORE>>
11-03-09: Ryan Preece may have just lost out on the 2009 NASCAR Whelen modified tour championship, but the 19 year old served noticed that he will be a force to contend with the next few years. Last week at the Thompson Speedway, Preece did what he needed to do to capture the championship, finishing second to race winner, Teddy Christopher but lost out on the season long chase by a mere 16 points to Donny Lia who finished fourth in the race. So close, yet so far. When I asked Ryan if he looked back at some races, the college freshman said no, “because you beat yourself up over a race here or there.” “It’s one of those deals where you can’t look back. Donny finished fourth so even if I won the race, he would have won the title by six points. That might have hurt more, losing by that close.” Ryan said with a laugh. While losing the title was tough, the driver had nothing but good things to say about Lia and the Bob Garbarino owned team who won their second title in three years. MORE>>
10-12-09: Many came to relive their past while other came to renew life long friendships but whatever the reasons, car owners, drivers and fans came out to the First annual Plainville Stadium Reunion at the Berlin Fair grounds on Saturday. Drivers from all eras of Plainville Stadium were on hand swapping stories and telling white lies but all was in good fun as several hundred fans also paid to relive their youth at the long defunct speedway located where the Lowes on New Britain Ave is now. George Lombardo of New Britain, CT. was one of the early big winners at the tight quarter-mile and recalled the track with fond memories. “If I had money to build a race track now, I’d make it like Plainville Stadium was because it was a flat track and to get around it, you had to handle.” The 85 year old Lombardo who recorded over 150 wins in his career said. MORE>>
09-21-09: The NASCAR Whelen modified tour made their 50th visit to the one mile oval and while the race won’t rank as one of the top five events of all time, don’t tell that that to first time winner Ronnie Silk as he passed six time race winner, Reggie Ruggiero on the final lap to win the New Hampshire 100 before over 50,000 fans on a sun drenched autumn afternoon in southern New Hampshire. Silk, who quit his full time ride in the Roger and Sandy Hill, owned modified back a few months ago teamed up with Eddie Partridge to win the prestigious event getting past modified legend Reggie Ruggiero in one of his best races in years in the Dick Barney owned modified. “I can’t believe that I won here.” Ronnie said over and over in the media center. “This race is the biggest race of the year for us in the modifieds, I’m still in shock.” Of the previous 49 events held here, only 6 races have been decided by MORE than one second. With results like that, it’s easy to see why the modifieds are picked on the NHMS website as the race that most fans anticipate each year at the ‘Magic Mile.’ MORE>>
09-14-09: Ahhh, the good ole days. Everybody talks about how things were better ‘in the good ole days.’ Not only was living it seemed easier, but our sports were better. Or were they? I was thinking about that as the NASCAR Whelen modified tour is getting ready to head to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the second and final time of the 2009 season. What made me thinking about it was it seemed that the racing at the ‘Magic Mile’ was better when the modified tour made their first visits to the ‘new’ track back in the early 90’s.It seemed that there were more lead changes among more drivers than lately and that made me scourer through the record books at New Hampshire to get the facts. I also talked with drivers Eddie Flemke. Jr. and Ted Christopher to get their views to see if they felt the racing was better in back then or now. Eddie Flemke, Jr. is one of the drivers’ who thinks the racing was a little better back then but not by much. MORE>>
08-24-09: Yes, I generally write about Northeastern pavement Modifieds. Then why, you may ask, is Brian Danko covering a rodeo? When I went away on vacation, my usual, two week tour of the country, I figured that I wanted to do something “racing connected,” but featuring a different sport. One of the towns that I visited was Cody, Wyoming, also known as “The Rodeo Capital of the Country.” The Rodeo and more specifically, bull riding, has been gaining more and more fans across the country, even being featured on ESPN and other television networks. Now, honest, did you even think that Poker would be so big? I know, you’re saying what do auto racing and rodeo have in common? Well, actually it is more than you might think. As my friend and I embarked on out first rodeo adventure, I was excited about what I was to see. At the end of the night, I wasn’t disappointed. In my quest for information, I asked several in the rodeo whom I should talk with. One of the first people I talked with was Mark Cotter, a breeder of horses. Perhaps he could be compared to the “racing chassis fabricator” or “car builder.” Mark hoped that some of them will become the “bucking horses.” My first question to him, after looking at all of the youthful faces in the “pit area” was, “Do kids start out young doing this, much like children running Go-karts, to get experience?” MORE>>
06-30-09: 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 turn four. hat 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 weekend day. 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. MORE>>
05-28-09: As the 24 hours of Charlotte was getting to ready to wrap up and NASCAR, in the midst of a downpour for nearly 30 minutes before they decided to end the torture for the teams and more importantly the fans, Mike Joy, NASCAR on Fox lead announcer said that NASCAR was planning on meeting with the teams on Tuesday. It was a meeting with the car owners on the Sprint Cup series and then just the drivers. The idea was to talk about any concerns, problems or ideas that might arise during the course of the year. It was then that I wondered if the NASCAR officials would schedule such a meeting with the car owners on the modified tour and then one for the drivers and after I realized what a good idea it would be, I knew then it wouldn’t happen because NASCAR might not like what the owners and drivers might have too say. The modified tour teams returned to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the TSI 100 in a race that saw Jimmy Blewett end Ted Christopher’s string of early season wins but it was at the drivers meeting that things became very interesting when drivers Mike Stefanik and Eddie Flemke, Jr. asked a question and then were told to see the officials after the meeting for a clarification of the restart rule. MORE>>
04-30-09: It’s been a while since I've written, but certainly it hasn’t been for lack of news lately and that brings up a few items of interest that has come to light on the modified tour the last couple of weeks. It was first reported by NASCAR, that the annual individual banquets for each of their series would be replaced with one ‘Champions Banquet’….oh and by the way it will be in Charlotte, N.C. That in itself left everyone connected with the modified tour up in arms because everyone enjoyed the festive atmosphere at Mohegan Sun Casino in southeastern Connecticut. Then the modified heads off to the Spring Sizzler and thanks to record breaking weather, over 8000 fans file into the Stafford Motor Speedway to watch Ted Christopher work his way from the back of the pack after spinning and win his fifth Sizzler event but all of the good mood from Stafford was wiped away on Monday when the entry blank for the next tour race, a Memorial Day Friday race back at Stafford was a reduced purse and reduced laps. The purse last year was $89,000 for 150 laps while this year’s event will be $69,880 for a 100 lap race. MORE>>
02-16-09: While many people were able to get away and enjoy some of the Florida sun for a week or so, it seems that many, many have stayed away in droves because of the economy. Now, with everything in the country going on, people losing their jobs by the hundreds of thousands each week, Daytona and Speedweeks is just the first track to be hit with the sudden stoppage of the corporate greed that had gripped the country the past decade or so. I have to admit though, that while I feel bad for anyone who has lost their jobs, health care coverage and in some cases, their life 'nest egg'. The tracks and the ancillary products that go with attending a race I am not feeling one bit sorry for and that goes for all the fine folks in Daytona. Tracks are cutting their prices, dropping their food prices, hotels have more vacant rooms and are charging just half what they charged in the past and restaurants are near empty. The tracks, when NASCAR racing was booming, were taking advantage of the race fan, or as I like to refer to race fans as 'yahoo's' but now the shoe is on the other foot and they are doing everything in their power to get the fans to come with unbelievable ticket offers but the fans can't afford to go because of not only the fear of losing their jobs but that they can stay home and watch it on the tube for free. MORE>>
12-31-08: The 2009 NASCAR Whelen modified tour schedules for both the Northern modified series as well as the southern modified series was released and it featured a major surprise with the addition of a midweek race at the Bristol Motor Speedway in August. For the northern modifieds, it features just a 14-race schedule with races in five states at eight different tracks while the southern mods will have 16 races at nine different tracks. The races at Bristol as well as the race at Martinsville are combination races for the two series. I spoke with modified tour champion, Teddy Christopher of Plainville, CT to get his views on the schedule and needless to say, the man who loves to race wasn't too pleased with what NASCAR put out. "14 races. Come on." Said TC when first questioned about it. "I mean it nice that we are going to Bristol because that race will separate the men from the boys but I am not happy with just 14 races." MORE>>
11-01-08: If you prescribe to the theory in sports, that in order to first win a championship, you must first lose a championship. As Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT headed into the season finale at the Thompson International Speedway with the championship on the line, it must have seemed like the movie “Ground Hog Day” where everything kept repeating itself. But this time, Christopher didn’t lose the title and captured his first ever NASCAR Whelen Modified tour championship, as he not only won the title but the race too. “Being a modified racer, this championship is the ultimate. It is what we all strive for at the beginning of the season.” Christopher said from his business. “We have been running the modified tour for the last 8 or 9 years and we have always been close but this year we were able to close it out.” MORE>>
06-30-08: What can you say about the NASCAR modifieds at the one-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Sorry Cup fans and Nationwide fans but at NHMS, the modifieds rule and they showed why in a dramatic race won by Chuck Hossfeld edging Ted Christopher by .001 seconds. It was most likely the closest finish in the history of the modified tour. It was a race that kept the fans on their collective feet the final 20 laps and they cheered the longest when Chuck emerged in Victory Lane. Christopher was the dominate car leading 93 laps in the 100 lap event but don’t think for a minute it was boring as there was probably 24 or so ‘unofficial lead’ changes in the event that saw the caution just fly four times. It was the collective cars of TC, Chuck, as well as Eddie Flemke, Jr., who finished third along with Eric Beers and Bobby Santos, III that kept the fans thrilled with the bump draft and swapping the lead ‘unofficially’ every other lap. To put it the best, it is what modified racing at New Hampshire is all about. The legend of the modifieds at NHMS continues to grow. MORE>>
06-11-08: Tony Hirschman, Jr. is living large these days. Hirschman, the son of five time modified tour champion, Tony, Sr., is currently spotting full time on the Sprint Cup series for driver David Ragan. “Things are going great.” Tony said sitting outside the AAA Insurance Ford hauler of Roush Fenway Racing. “This weekend is great because I am close to home and I also get to see a lot of friends.” Hirschman began his career, like many racers at the local tracks where he spotted for his father for many years and then his brother before he was getting noticed by upper NASCAR teams on the Craftsman Truck, Nationwide Series and the Sprint Cup circuit. He feels like he his playing a small part in the success that Ragan has shown this year and Ragan himself praised Tony after the Dover race in which Tony helped guide David through the massive wreck off turn two. MORE>>

2007

12-17-07: The 2007 NASCAR Whelen modified tour season officially came to a close when Donny Lia and Bob Garbarino were honored as champions of the modified tour. Lia, from Jericho, NY teamed with veteran car owner, Bob Garbarino in late January and the team clicked and each was rewarded with their first titles. The annual awards banquet was again held at the magnificent Mohegan Sun Casino on Friday night and it also featured all living past champions of modified racing including Bobby Allison from Hueytown, AL. Garbarino did receive a standing ovation from the crowd of the 600 invited guests for supporting the modifieds for 45 years as a car owner. Garbarino thanked NASCAR for sanctioning the modifieds and Whelen for putting end an end to the doom and gloom that many media felt was in the future for the modifieds and NASCAR. Phil Kurze, the motorsports director for Whelen and George Silbermann of NASCAR also announced an extension of the current contract to sponsor not only the modified tour but also the southern modified tour until 2016. That news was applauded by all in the great hall where the dinner/awards were held. MORE>>
12-10-07: Since I was a child, I always looked forward to the coming of March and April. Not only did it mean that winter was behind us but that the start of the racing season was close at hand. But come this March, it will only mean the start of the baseball season. The reason being that for the first time since 1977, I will not be covering the sport of the auto racing and the division that I love the most, the modifieds. I have been so fortunate that for the past 31 years that I have been able to cover modified racing, first at local tracks like Stafford, Thompson and Riverside Park but then across the country when I began covering the modified tour. I have met and become friends with hundreds, possibly thousands of people in that time and are still close with many of them and their friendship, laughter and jokes is what I will miss the most. MORE>>
12-03-07: When Donny Lia strolls to the podium to collect the lion's share of the NASCAR Whelen modified tour points fund as the 2007 champion, he will become the unlikeliest of champions over the past few years. It isn't that Lia and car owner Bob Garbarino weren't deserving because they were certainly the best team throughout the season, winning a total of six times. It was the manner that they came together in mid-January when all rumors had Garbarino retiring. It was a cold call the eventually brought Lia, who was looking to just drive instead of being owner/driver and the veteran car owner as a team at the end of January. "This is just an awesome car and an awesome team." Lia told the media after winning the Spring Sizzler in April. MORE>>
11-05-07: When the first word of a possible impending sale of the New Hampshire International Speedway began on Halloween Day, many connected with the modifieds wondered if this was a cruel trick or a possible treat for the beloved open wheeled modifieds. When word was '99%' on Thursday that indeed Bob Bahre was selling his 18 year old speedway to O. Bruton Smith, many wondered, would the track lose it modified tour dates. Would the 2 Nextel Cup races that thousands of New Englanders enjoy each summer and early fall be a thing of the past? While Smith wasn't about to comment on anything at the press conference announcing the sale of the 1.058-mile oval located just north of Concord, NH, one thing that you can count on is that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which it will be called now, won't look like the New Hampshire International Speedway that we have all known and loved for 18 years. Smith will make dramatic changes to the speedway and most of all of them will be good for the track, NASCAR and the fans. MORE>>
10-15-07: A lot has changed since Bob Garbarino first owned a modified stock car. The bodies were coupes, the tires were smaller and the speeds certainly were slower. The year was 1961 and Garbarino was venturing into the sport of auto racing and for the past 46 years, the well liked, soft-spoken car owner has owned just modified stock cars. He has won his share of weekly races and big modified events but the one thing that has eluded the owner from Mystic, CT was a NASCAR championship. That is until this year. This year the veteran car owner, who has had many 'name' drivers strap into his car finally will feel what it's like to be the last car owner standing at the annual NASCAR banquet and it's an unlikely story. MORE>>
10-01-07: It was a day for the old folks on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour and for Mike Stefanik, it was a long time coming. Stefanik, of Coventry, RI, the seven time modified tour champion and the defending champion notched his first win since winning the 2006 season opener Icebreaker last year. Stefanik, in the # 16 owned by Eric Sanderson and sponsored by Diversified Metals took control of the lead on lap 92 and then held off the charges of fellow 'old guys' of Tony Hirschman and Ted Christopher to win the 35th annual Carquest Fall Final. It was also the day that longtime modified car owner, Bob Garbarino realized his dream of capturing the championship when Donny Lia finished seventh to win the first title for both owner and driver. "We've struggled. There is no doubt about it." Mike told the media after celebrating his 19th victory at the Stafford Motor Speedway and the 68th of his illustrious career. "It was so bad that several teams came over to us and offered to help us out. This win is great for the team, it keeps the moral up especially with the season that we've just had." MORE>>
09-24-07: There is nothing like watching a driver earn his first career win. The emotion, the elation and of course the victory lane photos and that is just what a good Sunday afternoon crowd got to see as Ronnie Silk of Norwalk, CT captured his first ever NASCAR modified tour win. Silk, who finished second to Todd Szegedy last week at NHIS passed longtime modified tour competitor Reggie Ruggiero who 13 laps remaining to win the Modified Mania 150 at the Thompson International Speedway. Silk ran up front all week, just like last week at New Hampshire but this time, Silk was able to bring the car into victory lane. "I've been close a lot. I am really happy to be here." Silk told the crowd as he exited his car following the exciting win over Ruggiero and Silk's longtime friend, Todd Szegedy. MORE>>
09-17-07: Todd Szegedy knew that someday he might win a race at the New Hampshire International Speedway. He sure found enough ways not to win them before. But on Saturday afternoon, Szegedy made all the right moves to hold off a last lap charge by Donny Lia and Ronnie Silk to win the weather shortened New Hampshire 100 which was cut to 75 laps before the race started. "I've been second a lot of times here. I've been airborne before on last lap battles and I've screwed up on last laps." Todd said smiling. Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT knew that the last few laps of the modified race would be entertaining, they usually are. The last laps featured Szegedy, Silk, Lia and Bobby Santos, III, as all four cars broke away to settle it among themselves and Szegedy knew what not to do on the last lap, and that was give the guys behind him an opportunity. MORE>>
09-03-07: “One Shining Moment” is the song that CBS television ends the NCAA men’s basketball tournament with. The snippets of videos highlighting the great passes, dunks and buzzer beaters are a staple of the network and the tournament. ‘‘One Shining Moment” won’t be the theme song that NASCAR will use at the Mohegan Sun Casino in December’s banquet to highlight the modified tour in 2007. To say that the 2007 version of the modified tour has been disappointing is an understatement and that is not to take away from the tremendous breakout season that Donny Lia has had or the strides that young drivers, James Civali and Matt Hirschman have shown. The 2007 season will be marked forever by the tragic death of John Blewett, III at the Thompson Speedway and that will be with the tour forever, just as the death of Tommy Baldwin will be. No, bad decisions, bad races, too many caution laps and poor scheduling will mark the 2007 NASCAR modified tour season. The year got off to a bad start when NASCAR ‘showed’ off the 2007 schedule that was Low lighted by three ‘Flash event’. If NASCAR is claiming the fans want it, I would ask where were they at Wall Speedway and the Twin States Speedway in New Hampshire and I can’t talk about the crowd at Riverhead because I wasn’t there. MORE>>
08-22-07: The news hit like the heat of the desert. That’s what it felt like when my brother, Gary, called me while I was on vacation in Phoenix, AZ. and said that John Blewett, III, had lost his life in a racing accident at the Thompson International Speedway. I was stunned, sickened and saddened about John’s death and then when I heard that his brother, Jimmy, was the car involved in the lap 107 accident, my thoughts immediately turned to the well being of Jimmy and his family and how they would cope with this racing tragedy but more importantly, family tragedy. I got to know John when he first came on the modified tour but had followed his exploits running at Flemington Speedway and Wall Stadium and I was impressed with his winning ways at such a early age. John not only won NASCAR track championships but also won the 1996 NASCAR Northeast Regional championship. MORE>>
07-02-07: Donny Lia of Jericho, NY is living a dream right now. For the fourth time in the last five races, Donny Lia found the way to victory lane and it was a typical New Hampshire finish as Lia bested Ted Christopher, Eddie Flemke, Jr., Matt Hirschman and Todd Szegedy to win the New England 100. After a caution on lap 73, NASCAR notified the modified teams that the race would end l2 laps from there and everyone knew it would be a wild finish. "I just tried to stayed focused and not look in my mirror." Lia said when asked how to prepare for the shoot-out. " I can¹t believe this right now, I know I'll wake up soon."  Lia won $15,400. For his first win at NewHampshire. For car owner Bob Garbarino, it was another step towards a first ever-modified tour championship, something that has eluded the veteran owner in over 40 years of racing. MORE>>
06-25-07: 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." MORE>>
06-18-07: Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT received an early birthday gift when Roger and Sandra Hill of Westfield, NC named the 2006 NASCAR Regional Champion as driver of the Hillbilly Racing #79. Pitkat, who will turn 28 on July 7th found he was the choice when notified by the Hills on Tuesday evening, June 12th and the defending Thompson Speedway SK modified champion was elated with the news. "I can't believe this." Woody said by phone of the news. "This is an incredible opportunity for me. I've worked hard for the last 10 years to get to this point. I am just very thankful to the people who have helped me along the way." MORE>>
06-11-07: While the modified tour heads into the middle of its mid spring sabatical, a change took place on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour when Chuck Hossfeld was released as driver of the Roger and Sandra Hill owned, Coors Light sponsored #79. The news broke on Wednesday, June 6th and for many it wasn't a surprise as the results weren't what either side wanted. On Thursday, I was able to talk with David Hill, son of the car owners and crew chief on the modified and according to him; it was his fathers' decision. "My dad said this is strictly a performance based decision. He certainly had no luck and not everything is his fault. We've been around forever and Chuck just wasn't adapting to the Race Works chassis." Dave added that Chuck was 'sort of set in his own ways and sometimes didn't want to try something new.' Hossfeld is used to running Troyer Chassis. "I wish that Chuck would have called Eddie (Flemke) or Reggie (Ruggiero) over at Race Works and ask for a little help in figuring out what was wrong." MORE>>
05-28-07: It's funny how in Victory Lane, you'll hear drivers thank God, the crew and the sponsors but usually never thank lady luck. But, Donny Lia of Jericho, NY knew that his second win of the young season had a lot of luck in it as Lia proved to be the class of the field winning the 17th annual Connecticut Classic 150 at the Stafford Motor Speedway. The rest of the top five was James Civali, Eddie Flemke, Jr., Zach Sylvester and Todd Szegedy. First off, Lia, has been trying to win at the tough Stafford Speedway since he broke onto the modified tour five years ago and now, less than one month after winning the Spring Sizzler at the famed Connecticut oval, he follows it up with another win. "Just luck." Donny told the media after winning his second straight race at the speedway and became the first repeat winner in 2007. "You know it's just racing and racing, like a lot of things goes in cycles but it was luck." MORE>>
05-07-07: It seemed that as soon as the 2006 NASCAR Whelen modified tour season ended, that changes were on the way for the 2007 modified tour, changes that were not going to be welcomed by owners, drivers and crews. These changes were so called 'Flash Races', a race that is short in distance and short in the payoff line at the end of the night. Well this past weekend, the Flash came home to roost as the first of three Flash races took place at the Wall Township Speedway on the New Jersey shoreline. NASCAR officials (i.e. Daytona Beach) felt that because the tour was losing tracks they couldn't afford to run a regular full purse race that they would offer these new tracks a cut rate purse. A track on a $90,000 race purse pays about $60,000 cash for the event, the Flash races total purse is about $59,000 meaning the cash obligation to a Flash promoter is about $34,000. MORE>>
04-30-07: Donny Lia of Jericho, NY wasn't even born when the first Spring Sizzler went green in 1972 but he appreciates the history of the "Greatest Race in the history of Spring". Now, his name is among the winners of the Sizzler as he battled Todd Szegedy for the win taking the lead with two laps left after Szegedy had passed him with four laps remaining. "He was racing me so hard." Donny told the media after the event, "When he got by me, I didn't think I'd get him back." While Lia, who teamed with veteran car owner, Bob Garbarino in January after running his own team, he didn't know they'd hit off like this. "This was a real team effort. I have always wanted to win a tour race here at Stafford but to win the Spring Sizzler, I'm just a little speechless." MORE>>
04-23-07: James Civali of Meriden, CT scored his second modified tour career win when the 2006 NASCAR Whelen modified tour Rookie of the Year captured the Icebreaker in the Don King owned #28 Chevrolet. Civali, who came into the series as a driver with a chip on his shoulder, has earned the respect of everyone as they have watched the kid become a driver. "It was a very interesting day." James told the media after the race that saw his hold off Chuck Hossfeld of Ransomville, NY on a green/white/checkered finish. The rest of the top five included Ronnie Silk in third, Jimmy Blewett fourth and Matt Hirschman fifth. MORE>>
04-16-07: The season opening Icebreaker scheduled for the Thompson Speedway was postponed late Saturday afternoon as weather reports of 2 to 4 inches of rain from a powerful nor'eastern forced track officials to pull the plug. The event will be made up this coming Sunday, April 22nd. While the race itself was rained out, there was a lot of news and it wasn't especially what competitors on the modified tour exactly wanted to hear. On Thursday night, April 12th, NASCAR held a meeting at the Thompson Speedway with drivers and owners on the 2007 season but specifically concerning the "Flash" races that are set to be held at the Wall Township Speedway on Sunday, May 6th. Other events include the Twin States Speedway in New Hampshire on Sunday, July 8th and Riverhead Raceway on Saturday, August 4th. MORE>>
04-09-07: Auto racing fans in the state of Connecticut and particularly, fans of the NASCAR Whelen modified tour are lucky. They are lucky in the sense that the states major papers, The Hartford Courant, the Connecticut Post, the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, the New London Day and the Hour out of Norwalk, CT are just some of the dailies that cover auto racing on a weekly basis. For many years, the Courant, the states largest paper was criticized for its lack of auto racing coverage but that certainly hasn't been true the past 18 years or so. Shawn Courchesne has been the auto racing writer the past few years and recently he started an auto racing blog, which according to all reports has been a hit with race fans. On March 30th, Shawn had one blog titled, 'Watching the Modified Tour die' and that naturally grabbed my attention. Shawn was saying that 'the writing is on the wall' and that fans of the tour might want to soak in all the races that are on tap this season and possibly next, because the end is near. MORE>>
04-02-07: When Matt Hirschman was born on November 29th, 1982, his life was pretty much pre-destined for him. He knew that someday, he too would be a racer, just like his father, and Matt couldn't have written a better script. "I've always said that this is what I wanted to be. Even in grade school when the teacher would ask you what you wanted to be, I always said a race car driver. I wonder how many of my classmates can say they are doing what they wanted to do?" Matt said recently." One might think that growing up in a family that has know only traveling to a race track each weekend in spring, summer and fall, that naturally Matt would want to settle into some role in racing. MORE>>
03-26-07: For Jerry Marquis of Broad Brook, CT, the past couple of months haven't been the best in the life of the 2000 NASCAR Whelen modified tour champions life. Marquis was notified in mid January by car owner, Bob Garbarino that he was shutting down the team because the crew chief, Greg Schroder, was leaving his employment at the Mystic River Marina and didn't want to run the car without giving it 100% effort. Marquis, was then left to scramble and find a ride and sponsors and thankfully for one of the modified tours most consistent drivers, he was able to hook up with long time modified car owner, Joe Brady and the famous 00 Brady Bunch Chevrolet. "It's a load off my mind to finally get this done. I am excited about getting together with Joe and making this work out for the both of us." Jerry said by phone. MORE>>
02-26-07: Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT always makes the trek to Florida during Speedweeks in Daytona. While Teddy goes for the fun, the sun, he is usually used to bringing back a lot of hardware from the week but 2007 at the New Smyrna Speedway didn't shine brightly on the veteran driver. Last week, I caught up with the Northeast terror of the short tracks to get his views on the recently completed Speedweeks. "It wasn't the best week we'd ever had." Teddy joked when asked; "We had some issues down there with parts falling off and some wrecks." Christopher's best finish of the week was second place in the Richie Evans Memorial 100 lap race while he also had 2 fourths, a 15th, 16th, 19th and 21st in the modified tour type division. MORE>>
02-05-07: As the calendar clicks away towards the middle of February, and with trace amounts of snow on the ground, many race fans minds are turning to spring and the start of another NASCAR Whelen modified tour season. Last week, I contacted both George Silbermann, the managing director of racing operations for NASCAR and Ed Cox, the longtime modified tour race director about the upcoming season and get their thoughts. I asked Silbermann why his speech at the NASCAR modified tour banquet in December wasn¹t more than a hand full of words and not a state of the modified tour, he joked that "maybe I just not as accomplished a speaker as my predecessors." Silbermann said taking the modified tour to other markets and seeing how it plays out is part of NASCAR¹s plan for the future. "We want to see how it goes for the promoter, the teams and the fans." George said from his Daytona office. MORE>>
01-22-07: Auto Racing and bobsled racing are about as far apart as well, the summer and winter are, but for the second straight year, they joined forces as the Chevrolet Geoff Bodine Bobsled challenge took place at the site of the 1932 and 1980 Olympics games back a few weeks ago. Geoff Bodine, the former modified ace and winner of the 1986 Daytona 500 started his interest in the bobsleds after watching the winter Olympics. When he found out that the American bobsleds were sleds used by Europeans and were bought by our Olympians, he decided that something needed to be done to insure that the Americans have the best bobsleds in the world. "I thought this isn't right that they have to buy their own sleds and they were old models used by the Europeans." Geoff said during a break in the practice runs. Bodine then teamed with modified car builder, Bob Cuneo, and together with other designers have built American made bobsleds that are now the top sleds in the bobsledding world. But designing and building these intricate sleds takes money, lots of  money, another thing in common with auto racing, and Bodine has hosted this event as a way of raising money and to build awareness for the Unites States national teams and future Olympians. MORE>>
01-08-07: LAKE PLACID, NY------- When it comes to racing in the northeast, not many can hold a candle to Mike Stefanik but when the nine time NASCAR champion rolled into the Lake Placid Olympic Sports complex, he was slightly at awe. "I wanted to go shopping with the girls." Mike said laughing about his initial Bobsled run as part of the Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge, a fund-raiser for the USA Bobsled team. "You're just out of your element here. It's like skydiving or skiing, if you haven't done it, you feel uneasy." A statement that makes a lot of sense and after Stefanik finished the first of his two runs. Mike said that he felt more and more at ease after getting in several runs of practice on Friday and it showed on Saturday. Stefanik was riding a white sled sponsored by Whelen and was teamed with a brakeman from the National Guard. MORE>>

2006

12-04-06: One of the most interesting is that the modified tour will run both of their races at the New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturdays. Last year, the modifieds and the Busch East each had one race on a Friday and one on a Saturday but NHIS officials, most notably that of track owner, Bob Bahre wanted the modifieds on Saturdays and what Bob wants, Bob usually gets. Last week, I talked with Bob about the change. "We had gotten a lot of calls as to when the modifieds would race. A lot of fans love to watch the modifieds at New Hampshire and many can't get here on a Friday. I asked NASCAR if we could do it and they said yes. We also have many Cup drivers who want to race the modifieds and this way everything can be on one day for them." Bob Said. "The modified put on a hellava show and now they will be apart of the weekend and the larger crowd on Saturdays." MORE>>
11-13-06: Who can blame Matt Hirschman if he wishes the calendar said April instead of November. One week after his big win in the North-South Shoot-out, the young driver from Northampton, PA is ready to keep on racing. "Right now, I just want to race. I am young and Hungary and I just want to keep racing." An excited Matt said from his shop last week. For a driver like Matt to win the Shoot-out, it says a lot about how far the son of five-time modified tour champion, Tony has come despite his early career success. MORE>>
10-30-06: Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT wanted to give his crew chief, Phil Moran another win before the season ended and Szegedy knew Stafford was just the place to do it. Szegedy wired the Carquest Fall Final on a cold, blustery day closing out the season and he did give Moran a going away present. Moran, a longtime modified crew chief is leaving to work at Bill Davis Racing working under Tom Baldwin, Jr. next year. "I have to thank Phil for putting a great car underneath me today." Todd said of his second tour win of the year. "To go on one set of tires, it was awesome but at the end, Ken Barry gave me all I could to hold on for the win." MORE>>
10-23-06: 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. MORE>>
10-16-06: Reggie Ruggiero has probably forgotten more about racing than most of the competitors on the modified tour have amassed in their career. Ruggiero knows that sometimes you have to slow down to go fast. That was never more evident as Ruggiero gave himself plenty of room in third place and watched the two leaders, Teddy Christopher and John Blewett, III slugged it out and crashed with just two laps left in the modified portion of the World Series at the Thompson Speedway. "Nobody wanted to win today." A happy Ruggiero told in the media center. The win was the 44th of his career and first since June of 2004 at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey. "I've been racing 1969 and I have learned a few things. I just watched the two in front of me and gave them plenty of room." MORE>>
10-09-06: Donny Lia of Jericho, NY has never backed down from a challenge before and Sunday night at the Waterford Speedbowl, the Long Island driver wasn't about to start. In a classic short track race, Lia and eventual runner up Eddie Flemke, JR of Southington, CT showed what open wheel modified racing is all about. Lia fought for over 50 laps to get by Flemke, who led from the opening green but Lia's persistence finally paid off getting by Flemke on lap 128. He was never headed in securing his first win of the year in winning the Whelen Volunteer Fire Department 150 at the Waterford Speedbowl. Third went to Ted Christopher with Mike Stefanik fourth and Zach Sylvester was fifth. MORE>>
09-18-06: SPECIAL-When one thinks of the Olympics, one doesn't think usually about auto racing but this past weekend the two came together to bring awareness to the United States Bob Sled program. Don Barker, former modified championship car owner, Bob Cuneo, designer of modified race cars as well as others forms of Motorsports and John Morgan, business development manager of the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project, Inc. were at the New Hampshire International Speedway to race and bring consciousness to the USA bobsled. The NASCAR Whelen modified tour machine was driven by Todd Bodine, whose brother, Geoff started the ball rolling on the bobsled back several years and since his involvement with the bobsleds, the Bo-Dyn sleds have become one of the best in the world. The Sleds are an all Connecticut project as they are designed and built in Oxford, CT. MORE>>
09-18-06: The NASCAR Whelen modified tour event at the New Hampshire International Speedway is always the best race of the weekend and this past Friday at the 'Magic Mile' it was no different as John Blewett, III won as he did in July, but this time without the controversy. Blewett took over the lead on lap 93 of the 100-lap event and then held off a third turn charge by Jerry Marquis to capture the New Hampshire 100. In the July race, NASCAR mistakenly sent James Civali to the winners circle as Blewett left the track to race in New Jersey, as he was leaving the speedway, NASCAR reviewed the scoring tapes and declared the Howell, NJ driver the winner. MORE>>
09-11-06: The Boehler family and the Thompson Speedway have quite a history together but the driver of the Boehler owned 'OLE Blue' #3 modified, Eric Beers, hasn't always met with much success, in fact, it's been quite a pain for him. Beers in his first race for the Boehlers last year suffered a broken shoulder and was sidelined a couple of weeks but on Sunday, Beers had it covered winning the NASCAR Whelen modified portion of the 'Modified Mania.' MORE>>
09-04-06: They say that you never forget your first love. For racers, it's their first win and Jimmy 'Showtime' Blewett of Howell, NJ will never forget his as he captured his first ever NASCAR Whelen modified tour race at the Martinsville Speedway on Saturday night. Blewett took over the lead on lap 181 when he pushed Mike Stefanik out of the way and then held on until NASCAR was forced to checker it on lap 200 because of persistent showers that popped up. The race was scheduled for 250 laps. MORE>>
07-17-06: t seemed for a while that the winner of the 2000 Presidential election might have taken less time than to figure out if John Blewett, III or young James Civali captured the New England 100 at the New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday. Civali was told that he had won the modified race but NASCAR officials later informed him that Blewett was declared the winner that left almost 45,000 fans standing in awe in another classic modified race at the ‘Magic Mile’. MORE>>
07-03-06: Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT wants potential car owners down south to know that he can still drive and win.
Thursday night at the Thompson Speedway, the 2003 NASCAR Whelen modified tour champion reminded everyone on the tour that he is back and looking to reestablish his name. Szegedy took over the lead from Eddie Flemke, Jr. on lap 67 and then fought off Flemke and James Civali to capture the New England Dodge Dealers 100 before a packed house. MORE>>
06-19-06: While the NASCAR Whelen modified tour was off in the western hills of Pennsylvania at the Jennerstown Speedway, I decided to head off to the Connecticut shoreline and take in the newest rave for modified racing, the True Value Racing series. The True Value modifieds are the brainchild of former modified tour driver, Jack Bateman, who became disenchanted with the owners of the Claremont Speedway. MORE>>
06-12-06: Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT suddenly finds himself without a modified ride. Thanks to the federal government. Christopher, who drives the #13 Mystique Motorsports Chevrolet arrived at work on Friday, June 9th to find federal marshals loading up his race cars and equipment all due in part into an ongoing investigation into his car owner, James Galante of Danbury, CT. MORE>>
06-05-06: When word was leaking out that Don Hawk, the director of NASCAR's touring series had either resigned or was asked to leave, it set off shock waves in the modified community. While many people liked Hawk for his direct approach, many also viewed him as another in the long line of NASCAR mouthpieces telling people in the modified series what they wanted to hear. I called Phil Kurze, the director of Whelen Motorsports and the modified series sponsor, to get his reaction to Hawk leaving his post. MORE>>
05-08-06: When word was leaking out that Don Hawk, the director of NASCAR's touring series had either resigned or was asked to leave, it set off shock waves in the modified community. While many people liked Hawk for his direct approach, many also viewed him as another in the long line of NASCAR mouthpieces telling people in the modified series what they wanted to hear. I called Phil Kurze, the director of Whelen Motorsports and the modified series sponsor, to get his reaction to Hawk leaving his post. MORE>>
05-08-06: Officials of the Waterford Speedbowl announced this past weekend that they will host a second modified tour event during the 2006 season. It will either be held on Saturday, September 23rd or Sunday, September 24th as part of the Waterford Speedbowl season finale weekend. It was rumored lately that Waterford might get the 17th race of the season but many felt when Waterford opted to take a True Value modified event in June instead of a second tour race that they were happy with the one tour race. MORE>>
05-01-06: STAFFORD, CT----------Doug Coby of Milford, CT should have at least four or five wins on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour but various mechanical problems and crashes ended sure-fire trips to victory lane. So when Coby qualified poorly and needed to take a provisional just to get into the field for the Spring Sizzler, he wasn't high on the list of potential winners. But Coby proved everyone wrong and cruised to his first ever tour win in the most prestigious of all races of the modified tour, the Stafford Spring Sizzler. MORE>>
04-10-06: THOMPSON, CT-------Mike Stefanik of Coventry, RI proved that despite all of the young drivers on the Whelen modified tour, the tour still belongs to the 'old guys.' Stefanik, running full time on the modified tour this year because his Busch East team folded is focused on winning his seventh modified title and said winning at Thompson was a great way to start the hunt. Stefanik beat back the charges of Chuck Hossfeld, Reggie Ruggiero, Ted Christopher and defending series champion, Tony Hirschman. MORE>>
03-27-06: Well, it¹s been quite a while since I¹ve sat at my computer, but when youlive in Connecticut, there is something called college basketball that keeps you busy during the winter months. Since that time, a lot has gone on in the world of the NASCAR Whelen modified tour. The last time we looked at the 2006 schedule that NASCAR put out, there has been much discussion about it, most of it not good. NASCAR officials told me in February that they were still looking to add to the 14 races that will make up the 2006 season. When I talked with Ed Cox, the director of the modified tour this past week, he too said the goal was to add one or two races for 2006. MORE>>
01-09-06: Now that NASCAR has released a preview of the 2006 NASCAR Whelen modified tour, there has been much discussion on various modified chat rooms as well as word of mouth. Most are not pleased with a 14-race schedule and the fact that ten of the races are in Connecticut. When word was out that the Thompson 300, a race steeped in modified history was being replaced with a 150 lap Whelen modified tour event on that weekend. Also on the tap would be a 100-lap for the Race of Champions modifieds and a 100-lap event for the True Value modifieds as well as a 50 lap SK modified race. MORE>>

01-02-06:
When NASCAR officials spoke at the banquet just a couple of weeks ago they said most would be pleased with the schedule. One certainly finds this schedule hardly anything to get excited about. The Riverhead Raceway, which for years a staple on the series is only having one event instead of their usual two while the Waterford Speedway is losing one race from the last couple of years. MORE>>

01-02-06:
The 2005 NASCAR Whelen modified tour closed the season off on December 16th as Tony Hirschman of Northampton, PA was crowned the tour champion for the second straight year and the fifth time in his career. The gala banquet was held at the magnificent Mohegan Sun Casino in southeastern Connecticut and was attended by more than 500 people. It was the third straight year the banquet has been held at the Casino and judging by the response of those attending, the banquet has found a permanent home. MORE>>

2005

11-14-05: For the second straight year and for the fifth time in the past 11 season, the NASCAR Whelen modified tour championship will reside in Northampton, PA. When Tony Hirschman took the checkered flag at the Thompson International Speedway, he capped off another championship season but for the quite champion, it looked as though he might have to settle for the runner up position. MORE>>
10-31-05: One of the classiest teams and driver called it a career this past weekend at the Thompson International Speedway. The records will show no championships on the modified tour and no wins but the respect by everyone on the modified tour is immense. We are talking about the team of Tony Ferrante, Jr. and his father, Tony, Sr. MORE>>
10-24-05: For the third consecutive weekend, the big winner in racing has been Mother Nature as she once again caused the postponement of the World Series at the Thompson Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl finale. The northeast, which for most of the summer had no rain, now has seen well over two feet of rain in some parts of the New England region. As the skies have opened up and has caused havoc with schedules at Thompson, Waterford and many other race venues in the northeast. Thompson Speedway officials postponed the race on Friday afternoon after looking at the National Weather Service and then in a conference call with officials from NASCAR in Daytona Beach, FL decided to call it and move it back to the weekend of October 28th and 29th. MORE>>
10-10-05: For the third time and twice in the past weekend, the NASCAR Twin 100's featuring the season finale for the Busch North series and the second to last NASCAR modified tour race was rained out at the Thompson International Speedway. The Twin 100's now are set to the season finale for both of NASCAR's touring series in the northeast on Saturday, October 29th. The race was originally scheduled to be run in June but with humid conditions, thunderstorms popped up and forced NASCAR to reschedule the race for Saturday, October 8th. MORE>>
10-03-05: Tony Hirschman hardly shows much emotion. That is one of the reasons that you can't count out the four time modified tour champion because of his business like approach to racing. But Hirschman showed that the Carquest Fall Final meant a lot to his chances to win a fifth title as he dominated the race, leading 133 of the 150 lap event. Hirschman, of Northampton, Pa. won for the fifth time on the Whelen modified tour and cut the points lead deficit from 61 to 36 points over Ted Christopher, who finished fifth. MORE>>
9-26-05: What do NASCAR and the World Wrestling federation have in common? They both act and think like they are legitimate sports. In reality, they have nothing to do with real sports. That is the reaction that many people got following NASCAR's inaction following the Nextel Cup race at the New Hampshire International Speedway last week. How else can you explain drivers on the track throwing helmets and drivers purposely driving back on the track and running over another car and NASCAR saying in a rough tone 'don't do this again or else.' MORE>>
9-19-05: LOUDON, NH-----The NASCAR Whelen modified tour has always been the best division racing at the New Hampshire International Speedway but right now, Teddy Christopher is out to prove he is one of the best drivers at the demanding one mile oval. On Friday afternoon, Christopher captured not only the NASCAR Whelen modified tour 100 lapper but earlier in the day won the Busch North 125. MORE>>
9-12-05: THOMPSON, CT-------TC WINS 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. MORE>>
9-05-05: MARTINSVILLE, VA. ------- As the laps were winding down in the inaugural Made in America 300, Ted Christopher knew that he had one shot left to try and win. With just 24 laps remaining in the race, Christopher got a good jump on the lap 226 restart. He then nudged leader, Mike Stefanik in turn one and then went on to cruise to the win before more than 18,000 fans to witness the historic first night race at the Martinsville Speedway. MORE>>
8/29/05: WATERFORD, CT---------Jerry Marquis of Broadbrook, CT struggled so much early in the season, many wondered if he and new car owner, Bob Garbarino would gel before it was too late. MORE>>
8/8/05: Chris Kopec, one of the more popular drivers on the modified tour has decided to hang up his helmet. Kopec, from Ware, MA was a former Riverside Park Speedway and joined the modified tour becoming one of the most consistent drivers on the circuit. MORE>>

8/1/05: SEEKONK, MA------- For Eric Beers of Northampton, PA, it wasn’t a matter of if but when. When became a win on Saturday night when the ‘other’ driver from Northampton scored a win on the NASCAR Whelen modified tour MORE>>