The Beech Ridge victory was Evonsion’s first in True Value Mods. In a career where he has raced everything from Hooters Cup cars to Mods, he’s happy to be back “home.”
“I grew up since I was about two going to the racetrack and watching my dad run Modifieds,” said Evonsion. “This is definitely where I’d like to be. It’s what I can afford. I went off to run racecars with fenders and that was fun, but it’s a lot of money and traveling.”
In that career, Evonsion had definitely encountered more than his share of rough racing luck. But on Saturday night, it was everyone else’s turn for that.
WHAT'S OLD IS NEW AGAIN AT BEECH RIDGE by Mike Twist
Evonsion Wins First TVMRS Race, But It All Seems Familar
Going back in Modified racing history nearly 20 years ago, there were always a few things that were constants. The ground pounders raced on Saturday night at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, a car sponsored by Teddy Bear Pools would likely be in victory lane on any given week and there would be an Evonsion somewhere near the front wherever the Mods were racing.
But times have changed. The Mods left Beech Ridge as a weekly division, Reggie Ruggiero moved on from the famed Teddy Bear Pools #44 that he tore up New England tracks with and S.J. Evonsion has retired from driving.
Saturday night, the old became new again – with a modern twist. Beech Ridge was buzzing with Modifieds when the True Value Modified Racing Series came to town. After 100 laps, the latest generation of Evonsions, S.J.’s son Dale, was standing in victory lane next to his Teddy Bear Pools-sponsored #35 ride.
“I still can’t believe that we won,” said Evonsion. “We came here with high hopes because we ran in the top five here last year.”
Evonsion (#35), Bateman (#17), Mechalides (#40) and Ricci (#4) all appeared to have cars that could win the race. But only Evonsion was able to make avoid trouble.
Jack Bateman led the first 56 green flag laps of the race, but a bizarre restart incident took him out of contention. On a restart just past the halfway mark, Bateman was right on the coattails of the pace truck when it started to acceleration to get off the track. Bateman also sped up and the truck could not get off the track quickly enough to avoid a bottleneck behind it in turns three and four. Bateman avoided hitting the pace truck, but spun himself out in the process. Evonsion inherited the led at that point after working his way to second from the sixth starting position.
Tony Ricci and Louie Mechalides both started outside the top 10, but had what appeared to be the two quickest cars as they worked their way up through the pack. Ricci, who mastered the outside groove on a narrow
The Modifieds used to race weekly at Beech Ridge, now they visit once a season. (Jamie Williams Photos)
racetrack, made his way to second place. Then Mechalides got by him. Then Ricci pressured him to get the runner-up spot back. The fans were treated to a great battle between the two drivers who split their driving time between Super Late Models and Modifieds until things went wrong on lap 60.
Entering turn one, Ricci had a run on Mechalides and looked underneath him for the second position. Mechalides came down and it was soon discovered that two cars cannot fit into a spot designed for one. Mechalides spun out of contention in one swoop move.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Race officials figured that where there was smoke, there was fire and sent Ricci to the rear for his role in the incident. While serving his penalty and waiting for the field to go by, Mechalides brushed the side of Ricci’s parked racecar, adding heat to an already boiling situation. What had started out as a simple racing incident took away the chances of either driver battling with Evonsion for the victory.
After the race, both drivers gave their sides of the story to Speed51.com, and we will have that for you in our leftovers later this week. Needless to say, nobody earned their way onto the other driver’s Christmas Card list.
While those drivers were having problems, it was smooth sailing for Evonsion.
“The heat race was fair and after about 15-20 laps of the feature I kept thinking that the car was too good and that it would start falling off. It didn’t. We finally hit on something that works.”
Near the end of the race, point leader Dwight Jarvis and Beech Ridge veteran David Pinkham battled side-by-side for second place, with Pinkham edging ahead barely on the final lap. The two closed up to near the lead, but never seriously challenged Evonsion, who would have been ready for them nonetheless.
“This a tough place to pass, so I was just trying to run a consistent line down bottom and let them pass me on the outside if they wanted to,” said Evonsion. “I knew that Dwight would run me clean and that the #25 was coming, so that put some pressure on me at the end.”
The stands at Beech Ridge held a healthy crowd, but there was one face at the track who Evonsion was especially happy to see – that of his father S.J.
“It was pretty important to me [to win in a Modified],” said Evonsion. “We’ve been close before, but I think that I just about gave my dad a heart attack tonight. I’m just happy that he was here. He hasn’t been to all of my races in the past year and a half because he is building a place in Maine. He was afraid that he would miss my first win, but we’re in Maine and he came down tonight for the first one.”
Evonsion's #35 crosses the finish line.
And as far as the Teddy Bear Pools tie-in goes, the elder Evonsion had seen that sponsor in victory lane numerous times. Unfortunately for him, it was with Ruggiero behind the wheel.
“I’ve watched my father follow Reggie around many times, at Riverside especially, so it’s definitely good to get Teddy Hebert [of Teddy Bear Pools] in victory lane. Without my sponsors, I wouldn’t be able to make it week in and week out.”
Hebert wasn’t at Beech Ridge to witness the victory himself, but he had a pretty good excuse for being at another racetrack.
“Teddy’s back driving himself,” explained Evonsion. “He was running at Monadnock tonight. Teddy had been racing for years and took some time off, but a Pro Stock team that he sponsors took out the back-up car for him to race tonight.”
Rounding out the top five finishers were Ed Dachenhausen and newcomer Ryan Preece. The True Value Modifieds head next to Star Speedway this Saturday night, while Speed51.com will have more from Beech Ridge in our Leftovers later this week.