RUOCCO ENDURES TO WIN WATERFORD SK NATIONALS by Denise DuPont
Jimmy Blewett Dominates, But Fades Late in The Race
At the beginning of the 10th Annual Budweiser SK Nationals at Waterford Speedbowl (CT), there were 27 shiny SK Modifieds lined up on the frontstretch ready to race on the one-third mile asphalt oval track. The sun was shining bright and for April it was a warm day. All of the drivers were optimistic for a good finish after a long off-season.
John Brouwer Jr. went spinning when the race was 10 laps old. He wasn't alone. (Jim DuPont Photos)
By the end of the day, things were much different. Nine caution periods interrupted the 150 green flag laps of racing and there was not a stretch of green for more than 12 laps at a time during the afternoon.
And while 26 drivers didn’t get what they ultimately wanted out of the afternoon, Frank Ruocco was not among them. The Stafford Motor Speedway regular made the trip to Waterford and ended the day in victory lane. His excitement in getting there was probably enough for 27 men.
"What an unbelievable way to start the season,” said Ruocco. “What a great race. My kids and family are here. I had a great car no matter where I ran. The best place to pass was on the bottom, so I protected the bottom.”
Feeling as disappointed as Ruocco was excited was Jimmy Blewett. The New Jersey driver led 137 of the 150 laps, but got passed late by Ruocco and ended up fading to fourth at the finish.
Jimmy Blewett led otten...
Blewett and Ruocco had two different perspectives on the late race pass.
“The last few laps the car was loose,” said Blewett. “The only thing I could do is put it on the bottom of the track. If anyone wanted the lead they were going to have to work for it on the outside. I am here to race. People can say whatever they want. When have you ever been to a race where a guy just takes the lead over. Congratulations to Frank that he won the race, but he had to clean me out to win it.. So if he wants to clean me out to win a race, I will clean him out to win a race. There are no hard feelings, one favor just returns another.”
“Jimmy must have been getting loose and was using his brakes a lot which slowed him down,” said Ruocco. “I purposely tried not to turn him. This was good short track racing.”
Kenny Horton, who started his #19 car that was qualified in the third position by James Civali, finished second. Horton is another Stafford regular and Ruocco was glad to see his friend finish behind him.
...but Frank Ruocco (#97), Kenny Horton (#19) and Chris Pasteryak (#5) settled things among themselves when the lead mattered the most.
“As long as Kenny and I finish up front I am happy,” said Ruocco.
"We were out there racing real hard. Frank is my mentor in racing,” said Horton. “He is the one that got me involved about four years ago. I just went out there, never gave up and pushed it to the limit. I touched the wall. Look at the last 4 laps. At some point we were all sideways. We all wanted to win that race real bad. I had a great time, a lot of fun."
The trouble got started early in the race and this was one
race where qualifying certainly did not mirror the race itself. Robbie Summers set fast time in time trials on Saturday, but redrew 10th for the feature. Summers lost laps early after being caught in the pits after an incident on track. He never recovered from there, eventually finished 19th.
The Summers incident, which occurred on lap 10 in turn third, also involved John Brouwer Jr., Don Fowler, Tommy Fox and George Bierce. It was the first, but far from the last, caution.
While they were wrecking out back, Blewett rocketed to the front. Due to the draw the #12 of Blewett and the #91 Jeffery Paul would lead the charge to green. Paul would fall back leaving #81 Shawn Monahan in second. Blewett and Monahan would run tight with Monahan using the outside lane. After several side by side runs Monahan would spin in turn three.
"I guess he thought that he was going to muscle me around the track from the outside,” said Blewett of the incident with Monahan. “But obviously that was not happening. He just got on the outside and kept driving into the side of me. He did it until I went up the track a bit and then spun out all by himself.”
Ron Yuhas driving the #49 would then take the challenge to Blewett. Yuhas would run strong also using the outside only to suffer mechanical failure.
Chris Pastryak’s#5 would now have second with he #91of Frank Ruocco and Kenny Horton driving #19 in tow. Next the shuffling would begin. Ruocco and Hortonwould move by Pasteryak. Ruocco would move past Blewett. Horton was next by with Pasteryak holding fourth. Chris eventually passed Blewett for third and that is where he finished.
"I was real happy with the finish,” said Pasteryak. “It turns out that the left rear tire was going flat for about the last 20 laps or so. At the end it only had six or seven pounds of air, but it had four wheels on it. Push it in the trailer, nothing wrong with that. It is a real good day."
Other big guns were having long days. Ted Christopher was driving the Jensen owned 91 car, but suffered a left front flat and would not become a factor all day. Bowl regulars Brower, Janovic, Gada, Fox and Pearl all suffered from bouts with the wall or incidents on track.
Paul finished seventh, which was notable since he was a guinea pig of sorts as the only driver in the field running a crate engine that could be the way of the future in SK Modified racing.
"I think it might need a little work on the restarts,” said Paul of his engine package. “We just need to make some adjustments to it.”
In other action at Waterford, the Allison Cup car 20 lap feature winner was 12 year old Tayla Orleans from Wrentham, MA. Tayla has been racing since she was seven years old and started out the 2006 season in style. Corey Hutchings in the #36 car won the 30 lap Late Model feature with Jay Stuart in the #42 finishing in second.
Shawn Monahan ended up in the fence and Jimmy Blewett has his theories why that happened.