“I’m not intimidated by anyone,” said Christopher. “There’s a guy with no talent. I cleared the guy on the start and then he pulls in and drills me like friggin’ 10 men trying to get me of the way. He f****d himself up, so too bad for him. He’s a rich kid whose parents pay for everything. He doesn’t do anything. You know what they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree? It’s true, they are two idiots – the old man and his kid.
Civalli was so unhappy after losing the race to Christopher, that he also lost his runner-up finish. He skipped going to the tech area after the race, electing to drive straight to his trailer and load up instead. That led to a disqualification from the race.
Some drivers commended the track for getting the show underway though.
“This morning things weren’t looking too good,” said NEMA Midget driver Ben Seitz. “It’s such a tough call for them because I’m sure that they could have gotten more fans in the seats if they postponed it. Most tracks would have canceled. Even if it had rained all day, you can’t blame them for trying to race. As it turned out, you couldn’t have asked for a better day to race.”
One racer even suggested that the Arute family [owners of the track] might have had some help from above.
“I can’t believe we even raced today, can you believe it?” said Charlie Pasteryak. “I guess that the Arutes must have made a deal with the new Pope.”
BEERS BACK AT THE TRACK
There were thousands of spectators at Stafford, but one in particular really would have rather been racing.
Eric Beers returned to the track after he broke his collarbone and a few ribs in a wreck at the season-opening Modified Tour race two weeks ago at Thompson Speedway. Beers had Todd Szegedy fill in for him at Stafford in the #3 Boehler Racing Enterprises car and was there to help out the team.
NASCAR WHELEN MOD LEFTOVERS: SPRING SIZZLERby Mike Twist & Matthew Dillner
Pasteryak, Christopher (Ted & Mike), Racing In The Rain?, Beers & More
TO RACE OR NOT RACE AFTER THE RAIN?
The controversy for this year’s Spring Sizzler started before time trials even began on Sunday. It had rained throughout the day on Saturday and the early part of Sunday morning, so the question of whether to call off the race or continue with plans to run it was one that everybody was talking about.
The forecast called for clearing skies around lunchtime and that proved to be accurate. But competitors were concerned about a wet infield and possible problems related to cars sliding through it. Their fears weren’t without merit. Last season at Thompson, Tom Baldwin’s fatal wreck came in the early laps of a race delayed by showers. The wet infield may or may not have played a role in that accident.
One driver who was close to Baldwin, Long Islander Howie Brode, didn’t think that it was even worth sticking around to possibly tempt fate. He loaded up and went home before time trials.
“If I had had my choice, we would have gone home even though everything turned out great. I did notice that on the backstretch, they have drains where I don’t think Thompson does. It ended up much more dried out than I thought it would be.”
The skies cleared up and the track dried out, but the results of the rains were still felt. Ironically though, it might have kept things cleaner early in the 200-lap race.
“When we started the race today with the track situation, it was really icky,” said Tomaino. “Everyone had to drive with their heads a little more because you couldn’t use the gas pedal. One the cars started biting and they would stick a little more, all hell broke loose.”
“It feels good to be out of the house and at the races again,” said Beers. “I’ve been going crazy just sitting at home. It’s great to see everyone here and just to talk to everyone is awesome. Everyone is coming up to me and seeing how I am doing.”
Beers isn’t in as much physical pain that he was in the days after the accident, but it still is far from being comfortable for him to walk around with tender ribs and one arm in a sling.
“It’s not as bad as it had been,” said Beers. “I have good days and bad days. The ribs are probably the most painful thing because I can’t get up when I sit down. They’re really sore. Once they heal up, I’ll be in good shape.”
Nevin George races by the wet infield.
“I just don’t think that it will be a safe day to race and I have more important things to do in my life than to worry about getting hurt on a racetrack that is very unsafe to race on,” said Brode. “All that water out there. We lost somebody last year with the wet grass and I’m not saying that would happen today, but it’s not that important to me. The infield is so saturated with water, if anyone gets down to the infield, the cars will get filled with water. That’s retarded. I’m not going to do it.
“I’m sick to my stomach that people who are higher up can’t make a good decision. It’s all about money and I’ve had enough. I have two children and things that are more important. To go out and run around in the water isn’t worth it. These racecars aren’t cheap. If you get it the grass and that water gets into the carburetor, that’s a $40,000 motor.”
Even some of the drivers who stuck around were against racing.
“I was totally against it,” said Jamie Tomaino. “I wanted to race, but because of what happened to Tommy last year, I felt that we should have learned a lesson from that. When we go on the race track and its perfect, there are already enough obstacles to avoid people from crashing and getting hurt. When you throw one more thing in, it makes everything more difficult.”
And they did. To say that the SK Modified feature was wild would be an understatement. There were several cautions and bent up cars in the race, but no incident caused as much fur to fly as the one between Ted Christopher, the eventual winner, and James Civalli, who crossed the line in second place.
Civalli booted TC out of the lead in the middle stages of the race. Christopher worked his way back to the lead later on and passed Civalli clean, much to the disappointment of the crowd at the time. But things
Howie Brode's hauler leaving the track. (51 Photos)
There is a month left before the next NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event. That race will be May 27th at Stafford and Beers thinks he’ll be able to make his return to the cockpit there.
“I can’t say definitely, it’s up to my doctor to say when I can definitely race again,” said Beers. “I definitely want to be ready and not miss any more races. It’s killing me just missing one. I think that I’ll be in good shape for that race.”
For Beers’ sake, he’d better be ready. It wasn’t easy to be at the track without driving.
“It’s tough not being in the car that you should be racing,” said Beers. “But the guys are behind me and they want me back when I healed. That’s the greatest thing.”
SK RACE TURNS INTO A BARE KNUCKLED BRAWL
There were supposed to be two SK Modified features at Stafford this weekend. A 21-lap feature was scheduled for Saturday, but washed out and rescheduled for this Friday night. That led to the drivers in the division cramming all of their frustrations from the weekend into Sunday’s 40-lap main event.
51's Mike Twist (right) interviews Eric Beers on his return to the race track after the accident at Thompson a few weeks ago.
would heat up again after Civalli apparently took exception to the lead that TC pulled away to after the final restart.
After the race, Civalli drove into Christopher’s #13 on the cool-down lap. This didn’t intimidate TC. He just hit Civalli’s #29 back. Civalli took another run at him on the backstretch and that was that. At least until the war of words began.
TC had a good run in his Late Model, but was later DQed.
The fun didn’t end there either. Later in the week, Stafford Motor Speedway announced that Civalli had been indefinitely suspended from the track after what it deemed were actions detrimental to the sport.
TC’s DAY GOES DOWNHILL AFTER SK RACE
Ted Christopher wasn’t quite as happy after the next feature of the day. He hopped into the #13 Late Model and brought home an apparent runner-up finish. However, that did not stand up. Christopher was disqualified for an illegal rear end part after the race. The infraction was discovered and announced during the Modified Tour race.
After the races were over, TC didn’t quite know what to think yet.
included a flight from Phoenix to Connecticut in the wee hours of Friday morning to get to the track fro practice in his Late Model and SK Modified.
When we asked TC about running four races in one week, he corrected us and said that he had only ran three – the SK race, the Late Model race and the NASCAR Modified event. We pointed out Thursday's NASCAR West race at Phoenix Int'l Raceway to him, which had slipped his mind.
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that one,” he said with a smile.
Then again, with a schedule like his, forgetting a race or two here and there can be easily excused.
THE REG HAS GOOD DAY
Reggie Ruggiero has won the Spring Sizzler twice, so you’d think that finishing fourth in Sunday’s race wouldn’t be something that he was too excited about. But that wasn’t the case. After the race, Ruggiero was very happy with his race.
“They say that I got disqualified, what happened?” was his response when asked about the infraction. “That’s the first that I know about that. That sucks. I wonder what happened. Oh well, I just do that for fun.”
Finishing fifth in the Modified Tour race wasn’t what he wanted either.
“It was a shitty day,” said Christopher. “The stagger never closed up. What are you going to do? I wanted to be better at the end.”
That capped a busy weekend for Christopher which
Someone even showed up in Victory Lane to boo Ted Christopher.
Ted Christopher (#13) gets pushed by James Civalli (#29).
“The car was going really good today,” said Ruggiero. “The second set of tires got really loose on me. At the end, we developed a miss in the motor somewhere and I couldn’t go any further. Fourth was the best that we could do. All in all, we had a pretty good day for this being the first race of the year for an old man.”
Ruggiero is driving a limited schedule this season for car owner Dick Barney. His next race will be May 27th at Stafford and every event that he runs, his only goal is to finish as high as possible.
“We only run six or seven races and we come loaded for bear,” said Ruggiero. “We give it our all. We don’t have to compromise on tires or anything. It makes it better.”
COBY AND CHRISTOPHER GET TOGETHER, BIG WRECK RESULTS
The biggest wreck of the entire day occurred when 14 cars got into a pigpile in turn one. The melee happened on lap 49 and got started when the cars of Eric Berndt, Doug Coby and Mike Christopher were running nose-to-tail down the front straightaway.
“I got into the #77 [Coby] a little and he got into the #64 [Berndt],” said Christopher. “We got around backwards. I just got in there a little too hot that’s all.”
Reggie Ruggiero's #41.
Coby (#77) wasn't really happy with Mike Christopher (#79).
“He’s no rookie, he knows what the hell he is doing. I don’t know what you need to do to let people know that lap 50 isn’t time to start shoving cars around.”
“The car behind me [Mike Christopher] decided that he wanted to get into the corner a little bit faster than me,” said Coby. “He took us out. He had hit us a couple times earlier in the race around lap 20 or 25. I waved my hand to him telling him to calm the hell down because it was early. Then we pulled away from him because we were faster. Then on the restart, we were in line again with Eric Bernt ahead of me. We all had chunks missing from our tires and we were loose. I was letting Eric gather his car back up and we were at the starter’s stand when I got hit. I got off the gas and on the brake to make the corner and I got hit again. That shoved me into the #64 and we wrecked. It wrecked the front of my car and a lot of cars behind us too.”
Coby (#77) and Berndt (#64) crash.
“I had a car that I believe that we could have run in the top five with,” said Coby. “We wrecked the car, got back onto the track and were running as fast as the leaders. I hate things like that, it’s a little bit of consolation for a bad day, but the car’s still bent.”
Not only was the car bent, it also had a few other issues that should have turned it into t field filler. However, the #77 was still quick after being damaged.
“The left front shock is on the right front, the tires on the right side are the ones that we ran at Thompson for 40 laps and we were still running 18.9s and 19.0s.”
On the bright side, the rest of the race might prove to be a valuable test session for Coby.
“Towards the end, we pitted a few times to try some things for the next time that we come here,” said Coby. “I really think that if we can stay out of trouble, we’ve got a car that can contend for wins here.”
WRECK PUTS BERNDT’S DAY OUT OF ITS MISERY
On the other hand, the wreck might not have ruined Berndt’s day by very much. He had bigger problems that may have been about the surface.
“I don’t think that we would have lasted much longer anyways,” said Berndt. “It looks like our oil pump was seizing up, so this was just another kick.”
SZEGEDY RETURNS NORTH AND HAS GREAT RUN
With Eric Beers being injured and unable to race the #3 Boehler Racing Enterprises “Ole’ Blue”, Todd Szegedy got the chance to return to the NASCAR Modified Tour in a one-race deal. Szegedy had vacated the #50 car last season and moved down to North Carolina to further his racing career.
Since moving down to North Carolina, Szegedy has taken a job working in the shock department of Robert Yates Racing. He is said to be under consideration for a Busch Series test with the team, but as of right now has no driving jobs lined up.
“It feels really good to be back behind the wheel. This keeps my confidence level really up. There are choices you have to make in your life. When you conquer something, not that I have conquered this deal, but when you win a championship you’ve got to move on and improve yourself in higher divisions. If it doesn’t work out I feel like I always have a home here. I like it down South. It’s a lot cheaper. I am having a good time.”
HOSSFELD CONTINUES TO CLICK WITH NEW TEAM
Meanwhile, back at Szegedy’s old ride, the #50, Chuck Hossfeld has fit right in with a pole and two top-10 finishes to start off the season. He ended up sixth at Stafford and wasn’t helped by the two caution periods in the final 10 laps.
“We needed to go green because we didn’t have anything for the leaders,” said Hossfeld. “We just had a free car. It rained all day yesterday and we didn’t get much practice. We had the car too loose. We made adjustments on the pit stops, but that only helped for a little while.”
Beating Tony Hirschman would have been tough for just about anyone Hossfeld thinks.
“It’s pretty awesome and it is an honor,” Szegedy said of his ride in the #3. “Not many people get this chance to drive for a team like this. Not many people get a chance to run a Modified and get a chance to drive for a Legend. It was a pleasure to come up here and I had a good time.”
Szegedy led laps in the race and finished third.
“I could have probably led the whole thing from the beginning. When those guys got a run on me I just let them go. I wasn’t going to beat the car up. They were awesome and I just let them go do what they wanted to do and knew my car come in.”
Chuck Hossfeld is clicking well with his new team.
“Everyone was fighting for position and none of us had a perfect car. Tony looked like he was pretty much the class of the field and Zach Sylvester was doing pretty good.”
The racer in Hossfeld wasn’t happy with a finish of sixth, but he was also able to put things in perspective after the race.
“It’s not exactly what I want. I want to win, but sometimes you have to take that. For a points day, it was great. When you look at the big picture, this is great. We’ve got great things ahead of us.”
“I’ll tell you, this isn’t exactly the best way to end the day, but when things aren’t perfect, it is a good way to end the day rather than to end up on the end of a tow truck.”
Hossfeld is thrilled with his new surroundings.
“I think that we are doing very well out of the gate,” said Hossfeld. “It’s just a matter of getting some laps under us. We have some smart guys that work their asses off. I can’t say enough about everyone.”
KOPEC CLAWS HIS WAY TO A TOP 10 FINISH
Going down a lap down once was bad enough, making it up and going back down again was even worse. But thanks to some heads up driving and the new for 2005 lucky dog pass, Chris Kopec was able to come back and finish tenth at Stafford.
With three laps left on the scoreboard, Donny Lia was on fresh tires and trying to get the highest finish possible. He ended up three-wide with Charlie Pasteryak and Tom Bolles for the better part of one lap before that stopped working. Lia hit the wall hard in turn four and rode down the frontstretch with heavy damage to his #18. He was unhurt, but his day was over and he ended up 15th.
“My spotter told me it was three wide off of turn two and I was waiting to get put up into the fence there,” said Lia. “That didn’t happen. We made it over to turn four until we wrecked. There might have been some contact getting in and I was up in the marbles. I guess that we made it further than I thought that we would without wrecking.”
“We survived today,” said Kopec. “That lucky dog deal was good for us today. We got it twice. It was all uphill all day long. Early in the race, I picked up the throttle and it went around on me. Luckily nobody got into us and we didn’t get into anybody. We kept adjusting and dancing around. We’d go from a little on the loose side and then it would tighten up, we just couldn’t hit it right. But we finished with it in one piece.”
Kopec has returned to racing this year after sitting out for the 2004 season. He now has two top ten finishes in the first couple of races and credits his team for that fact.
“It’s a real good deal here,” said Kopec. “We’ve got a great group of guys who and it’s fun. They never give up and that’s what’s cool. I’m just having fun being back racing. “
THREE-WIDE DOESN’T WORK OUT WELL FOR LIA
Donny Lia (outside) went three-wide, but it cost him after he got into the wall coming out of turn four.
“The #5 got under me and the #18 was on the outside and hopefully we were going to be alright,” said Bolles. “We were, but the #18 got real aggressive on the outside where there were a lot of marbles.”
Racing up high was like driving on ice.
“There was no grip up there,” said Lia. “I tried to give it some throttle to get it sideways and turned down. It didn’t turn at all and basically it drove itself straight into the fence. That was it.”
Lia is a hard charger and even though his run up high was risky, he thought that it was a chance worth taking at the time.
“We were trying to make something out of nothing,” said Lia. “I was driving it real hard, maybe a little too hard actually.
SYLVESTER BECOMES A CONTENDER & THE TOUR POINTS LEADER
For the second-straight race, sophomore driver Zach Sylvester finished in second place. The second-place finish also gave him the points lead after two races in the 2005 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
He is still looking for his first victory, but his improvement over 2004, when he had only three top five finishes all season long, is very obvious.
“I don’t know if I’ve really stepped up, but this crew sure has,” said Sylvester. “The crew has done a fantastic job. They have really gotten organized and they work together really well.
Does this mean that the #15 is one of the guys to beat every week now?
“You hope so,” said Sylvester. “If things go our way, I would say yes.”
STEFANIK GETS SUCKED INTO A WRECK
Mike Stefanik's #00 sits with heavy damage following a wild accident.
that, it’s just the way that his car went. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time I guess.”
MATT HIRSCHMAN GETS TO COME TO STAFFORD
Young Matt Hirschman isn’t going to get the chance to see his father Tony race much this season. A plan of Race of Champions Modified events and a few Modified Tour starts as a driver will be keeping busy for much of the season. But when his designated race as a driver got rained out early, Hirschman was able to hop on the road and go to Stafford to help out.
“It worked out that the RoC race was canceled and I got a chance to come up here and help him out,” said Hirschman. “Both of us are off to a good start this year. Last week I won the 50-lap opener at Mountain Speedway and he had a real good car at the Icebreaker. I wasn’t there and they made the wrong call in pitting. It could have been a win there too. Coming here today, he got out front and was done.“
During his father's championship season last year, Hirschman was able to find some pretty good set-ups as his co-crew chief. This season though, getting used to a new tire has everyone guessing according to Hirschman.
“This new tire is real tough and you can see that in the first two races,” said Hirschman. “It’s going to take a while to figure out. I don’t think anybody out there had a perfect car today. He was happy with the car but we felt we had a better car here last year. With the new tire a lot of things are different. Because of the tire, everybody is going to have to chase it a little bit.
PASTERYAK GETS CHANCE TO LOG SOME LAPS, FINISHES EIGHTH
The Stafford race was pretty much the first time that Charlie Pasteryak got to try out what was essentially a new car. The result? An eighth-place finish.
The first wreck of the day happened 39 laps in when Jerry Marquis’ #4 car slowed on the backstretch. It stayed up near the outside wall until it cut left abruptly and got into Mike Stefanik’s #00. Stefanik then went backwards hard into the turn three wall.
“I saw Jerry up against the wall going slow and everyone moved to the left,” said Stefanik. “I moved down there and he just came out of nowhere across the track, caught me in the right rear and spun me around. I thought that he was going to stay in the wall and I guess that he didn’t.”
“He just shot across the track, if I wasn’t there he would have gone into the infield. I don’t know if why he did
Charlie Pasteryak (#5) dives underneath Mike Christopher (#79).
“This is pretty much a brand new car,” said Pasteryak. “I wrecked it so bad at New Smyrna, so about all that’s original on it now is the seat area. It has a new style front clip and rear clip.”
“We didn’t get to run it for long at Thompson. We got goofed up there with a wheel problem, so we didn’t get to try it out for very long. We have no history on it.”
“I figured that we would just try to come and run it today to see what we had and it went really good. I’m very happy with it. I’ve struggled at Stafford lately and this is the best car that I’ve here in quite some time. “
And most of all…
“It was fun today,” said Pasteryak. “I enjoyed racing out there.”
MIKE CHRISTOPHER HAS ANOTHER EVENTFUL DAY
In the season opener at Thompson, Mike Christopher had a fast car, but was plagued by transmission troubles, contact with other cars and a few other woes. This week had about the same amount of bad luck for his and the #79 team
“We did everything but hit the wall today,” said Christopher. “It was one of those days, we’d get up there and something would happen.”
Berndt didn’t know what happened when he got slammed from behind.
“I took it in nice and easy because it was a long race,” said Bernt. “I think that the guy two cars behind me got into the guy behind me and spun him into me. It was a chain reaction event and I was the pinball that went for a ride.”
Christopher got through this incident pretty much unharmed, but later in the race he got banging around a little bit which resulting in him being the spinner.
“That #91 [Frank Ruocco], I got on the outside of him clean and he just slammed his whole car into me and put me around,” said Christopher.
CRASH KEEPS COBY DOWN
Doug Coby was making forward progress at the time of the crash and the whole incident kept him from the kind of finish that he knows his #77 Curt Chase team was capable of at Stafford.
A bunch of cars were caught up in this wreck.
Mike Christopher wasn't all smiles after the race.
“It seems like the last two weeks, all we’ve been doing out there is spinning out. We’ve got to stop this. We were pretty loose early and we were going to ride it out but I guess that people’s spotters aren’t looking ahead because we all piled into that wreck.”
Around the time that many of the lead lap cars pitted, Christopher was up to fifth. He came in for new rubber and looked to be set for the finish, but upon leaving pit road, he took his fuel can with him. That’s a NASCAR no-no, so Christopher had to come back for a stop and go penalty once the race went green.
“We were good when we had that pit stop,” said Christopher. “We were going to be so good, but we had to come back in. I waited a few laps [to heed the black flag] thinking that there was going to be a caution. I thought for sure there would be one, but it never came. That killed us, but what are you going to do? We’re good, and we’re getting there.”
BARRY JUST WANTS TO BE SEEN
Ken Barry had another race that he would like to forget. At Thompson, he was involved in a few incidents during the day. At Stafford, he also seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – a few times.
Jamie Tomaino is a fixture of the Mod Tour and the Sizzler. A young Jamie poses by his #09 in the pits for the '82 Edition of the Sizzler. (John Lusk Photo)
“Back then when it was 80 laps with no tires rules. There were no real rules at all. Back then it was completely nuts. There were guys with big blocks, guys with small blocks. The cars were safe, but you could do whatever you wanted to. Guys would pit with 10 laps to go to put tires on to try and win an 80-lap race. There were cars passing everywhere.
“Now we have way more rules and it takes away from things a little bit. You’ll never beat the old days, I don’t care what division it is from Nextel Cup down to Modifieds, the old days of racing were much better.”
“The 1980’s in racing were a time of its own. The 1970’s probably were too, but I wasn’t as much in it yet. In the 80’s, I was someone to contend with and I raced against
some great guys. I still am today, but it’s different. It will never be the same.”
Tomaino has been the fastest qualifier in for a race that he considers to be one of the biggest, but his best finish has been a pair of thirds in 1985 and 1986
PERFORMANCE IS THERE FOR FLEMKE AND HIS NEW TEAM, LUCK ISN’T
For the second race in a row, Eddie Flemke and the pairing of the #10 Gary Teto team was quick. They qualified well, just like at Thompson, they ran well in the race, just like at Thompson and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, just like at Thompson.
This time, Flemke got caught in an early wreck and the team lost laps replacing a nerf bar.
Eddie Flemke Jr.
NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY FIGHT FOR SAME TURF
New York’s Kevin Goodale and New Jersey’s Jamie Tomaino both tried to put their racecars in the same place at the same time at Stafford.
It didn’t work out two well.
Still, Flemke was buoyed by the performance of the team and thankfully for a present from NASCAR on the same day as his 50th birthday.
“It was all good,” said Flemke. “I got a lucky dog pass on my birthday. I thought that was neat.”
“It was a good day. I’m happy that we went 200 laps on the same tires except for the flat that we got. At one point, when everyone was on old tires, we were quicker than the leaders by a tenth. We were ten laps down, but so what? To lose only three laps changing a right side nerf bar is pretty good. We got one of them back with the lucky dog and then we were the next caution. It’s too bad that we got caught up in the second wreck.”
Flemke finished the race in the 17th position.
Jamie Tomaino (#99) and Kevin Goodale (#58) make contact and Goodale goes for a spin.
“I got stuck on the outside on a restart,” said Goodale. “Ferrante couldn’t do anything out there, so I was behind him waiting for a clearing. We got behind Pasteryak and then Tomaino threw it up into me getting into turn one. He got into me and I went around. I was sitting sideways on the track and Flemke came around and got right into the side of me.”
That impact caused enough damage to knock Goodale out of the event.
“It’s definitely not fixable.”
LIA HAS BUSY DAY
Donny Lia won the pole for the Spring Sizzler, but didn’t get to savor it at all.. He had to bypass the traditional Bud Pole Award photo shoot to hop into the SK Modified for 40 laps of action.
Things didn’t get off to a good start for Lia in that race. On just the third lap, a major wreck in turn one sent Lia’s car airborne. The car was still drivable and the #47 team was able to get Lia back into the race at the tail end of the field.
“Those guys did a good job,” said Lia. “I came in and they fixed it the best that they could. It helped that they built a really strong car. The fact that we could just put a wheel and tire on and get back out there was pretty good.”
Donny Lia's day in the Whelen Mod ended against the wall.
race and Lia was right there for that. However, some early fireworks also soured his day in that race as well.
“The #1 [Rick Fuller] came down on me and got the right front. It toed it in pretty good. We came in and fixed it close enough. I wasn’t perfect, but it was good enough to keep going. For a while, it wasn’t too bad. We were riding along.”
Towards the end of the feature, Lia was in the top five, but with older tires. He fell back a few spots in with just a few laps to go in the race and that led to a gusty decision with only ten laps left.
“We had that late yellow and this racecar doesn’t like caution laps,” said Lia. “I knew that we would have been going back to the back when the race went green. We had two tires left, so even with a few laps left I thought that it would work out for us. I didn’t realize how few laps of green we would have left.”
The tires made Lia fast enough to pass car but it also led the three-wide battle with Tom Bolles and Charlie Pasteryak that caused Lia to hit the wall hard, as described earlier. Lia’s race was done and he was left with a finish of 15th.
“These are races of attrition,” said Lia. “I guess that we could have ended up a lot worse off if so many other people didn’t have trouble before we did.”
SEITZ WINS BIG IN MIDGETS
Also at Stafford were the NEMA midgets. Their feature was run immediately after the Modified Tour race. Defending NEMA champ Ben Seitz took the lead on lap 12 and drove his #17 car to the victory.
It was a big win for Seitz in front of an audience of Modified teams and fans.
Lia got caught in another multi-car wreck a few laps later, but recovered to finish seventh.
“That was a fun race and I think that we could have made a lot more progress in it if we didn’t have some problems. After we bent something it the rear of the car, we got real loose and we had a few something wrong with the motor. It had a few stumbles there. It would stop running than it would run, so we just got what we could there.”
The next feature on the race card was the 200-lap Tour
“This is right up here with any of the biggest wins of my career,” said Seitz. “This is huge. What’s a bigger race than the Spring Sizzler? This is right up there. It is really a feather in our cap.”
“I think that it helps the club because a lot of people see us and I hope that put on a good show for them. In the middle of the summer, we’ll have more cars and will probably have an even better show.”
Hopping into another type of car at a future Spring Sizzler is something that Seitz would like to do.
“I’d love to drive a Modified. I’m trying to broaden my horizons with what I drive, so this win can only be a good thing. This is one of the toughest tracks to do well at, so to win here is big.”
SHIVERS HAS MECHANICAL GREMLINS
Greg Shivers qualified 18th and ran well for most of the day before mechanical problems pooped up near the end of the race.
Greg Shivers had a good run until mechanical woes slowed him down.
adjustment and be fine. Every adjustment that I make on this car does something. With the other car, we didn’t know what it would do.
TOP 10 QUITE ALRIGHT WITH TOMAINO
Despite an early spin, Jamie Tomaino rebounded to a seventh place finish.
“It was a good run,” said Tomaino. “Early in the race I was riding like I usually do when Mike Christopher got into the back of me and spun me. Sometimes things like that happen. I wasn’t the end of the world. We pitted to make an adjustment and I made the call to be put a right rear on. That was lap 75 and I never saw the pits again.”
For awhile, it looked like a top five might be in the cards for “The Jet”, but it wasn’t too be.
“We were probably going to be a third or fourth place car and we got into it with Hossfeld a little bit. It was nothing too crazy, but enough to let the other guys catch up to us.”
Still, a top 10 was enough to make Tomaino happy.
“I’ve raced over 475 races and over half have ended in the top 10,” said Tomaino. “As long as I keep finishing in the top 10, I can keep doing this. I’m not making a lot of money, but I’m having a lot of fun doing this.”
EARLY MOD RACES PRODUCE LOTS OF CARNAGE
For the second straight Modified Tour race, there were plenty of bent racecars and cautions resulting from the Spring Sizzler and the opinions on why, and even if it is anymore than usual vary.
“We lost a cylinder in the last 30 laps that we were out there,” said Shivers. “It was running good before that, we just lost power. Before that it was popping a little bit coming out of the corners and I thought it might be a carburetor. After losing power, I was just riding around and then it just locked up. It shut it down and rolled it in.”
Shivers debuted a new car this season and so far, he likes how it is working out.
“We always seemed to be chasing the other car to get it right. This one, it seems that we roll it out of the trailer and if it’s not right, it’s close. We can make an
“Nobody gives nobody anything in racing,” said Bo Gunning. “It’s dog eat dog and everyone is out for themselves.
“I see a lot of carnage,” said Chuck Hossfeld. “I don’t know, I guess it’s normal. I’ve been around awhile and I’ve seen plenty of it.”
“My gut feeling is that I don’t like this year’s tires,” said Tom Bolles. “I think that is making it tough on everybody.”
There are a few solutions too according to drivers.
“There’s got to be a little give and take in this game, especially in the long races,” said Bolles. “People have got to understand to be there in the end, you’ve got to pace yourself.”
“”You’re always going to hit and bang and that’s one thing,” said Jamie Tomaino. “You get off the gas and let the guy straighten himself up. I thought the race was going good today and then all hell broke loose.”
TOUGH WEEK FOR ROOKIES
With such limited practice for the Spring Sizzler, it wasn’t easy being a rookie and that was proven in time trials. Out of the four registered Rookie of the Year contenders, not one ended up in the event. Tyler Haydt, Darrin Stevens and Kelly McDougal did not make the show while Justin Gaydash did not enter the race.
SPRING SIZZLER HAS ALWAYS BEEN A TRULY DIFFERENT EVENT
There have been plenty of spins and crashes during the first two Mod races of the year.
Lew Boyd was on hand at the Sizzler with Coastal 181 publishing promoting their Short Track books to the race fans. But what many of those fans may not know is that Boyd, along with Dick Bergerren and Bruce Cohen, were the men behind promoting the first ever Spring Sizzler. But, it wasn't just the catchy name that made the Sizzler become the race often referred to as "the greatest race in the history of spring." Even from it's inception, the Sizzler was a unique event.
"The starter was Earl Grant, someone we chose cause he was in charge," said Boyd. "He accepted no instruction from the tower and no commentary from the
competitors. We knew we would need someone tough on the stand, cause we planned a show that could turn wild.
"We tried to do everything differently, and with the fans in mind, and we hoped other promoters might notice. To recap, it was one day, heats (and surely no time trials), an 80-lap sprint race, wide open comp, and the biggest purse in New England history. We wanted the winner to be the guy who got into the turn the deepest, not the best tire manager! We even had to make the trophy girl different. I know it can be said that Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen, and I had just as much appreciation for Linda Vaughn (famous Playboy trophy queen) as the next guy. However, we chose a disarmingly nice 12 year old girl named Annie Flanders. Annie was a great race fan, but had a short run. At the time of the Sizzler she was terminally ill and later passed away."
12-year old trophy girl Annie Flanders stands with the inaugural Sizzler winner Freddie DeSarro, who died weeks later in a crash at Thompson Speedway.
(Lew Boyd collection)
“It seems like the last two weeks, all we’ve been doing out there is spinning out. We’ve got to stop this. We were pretty loose early and we were going to ride it out but I guess that people’s spotters aren’t looking ahead because we all piled into that wreck.”
One incident stands out in his mind and it involved a driver who suffered an eye injury a few years ago and now races with one good eye and one glass eye.
“My buddy Bo Gunning got into my back again,” said Barry. “I don’t know where he was looking. I guess if you can’t see, you can’t see.”
Gunning didn’t have much to say about the incident.
“I don’t know, everybody piled up going into turn one,” said Gunning. “We got together a little bit. Other than that, I don’t know what happened.”
TOMAINO REMEMBERS GOOD OLD DAYS
Back in 1980, Jamie Tomaino was a young race entering his first Spring Sizzler. It was a year when Geoff Bodine held off Bugsy Stevens and Charlie Jarzombek for the victory. Since then, Tomaino has run 21 Sizzlers and collected 12 top ten finishes. A lot has changed during that time as well.
Ken Barry (#21) and Bo Gunning (#12) had a run in at Stafford.