drivers struggled to figure out how to set up their cars in order to achieve success on the unique quarter-mile bullring.
Ted Christopher had the fastest lap in time trials, proving that he isn’t one of the Tour drivers who have difficulty keeping up with the Riverhead boys. As was to be expected, other drivers were not so lucky. Riverhead lived up to its reputation, and Tour drivers Jimmy Blewett, Doug Coby, Ken Barry, Kevin Goodale, Danny Sammons, Steve Whitt, Ron Yuhas, Jake Marosz, Jimmy Storace and Wade Cole were sent home.
“A lot of good cars go home from this race every year,” said Blewett. “I’ve seen my brother not qualify for this race twice, and my brother’s also won it twice. So, you know, it’s also luck of the draw.”
Doug Coby was frustrated, but it wasn’t the first time he missed a race at Riverhead. He admitted that he and his team couldn’t blame anyone but themselves for not making it into the show.
TC COMES OUT ON TOP IN BATTLE OF LOCALS AND TOURERS by April Barker
At Riverhead, It's Tough to Qualify - Much Less Win
Every time that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visits Riverhead Raceway (NY), a good old fashioned turf war ensues. The locals pit their knowledge of the track against the resources and experience of the Tour runners, with the winner’s trophy the reward at the end of the night.
On Saturday at Riverhead, the locals looked like the dominant cars in time-trials, but Ted Christopher charged to the front of the pack and never looked back during the Miller Lite 200. When all was said and done, Christopher earned his second Whelen Modified Tour victory of the season.
Every racetrack has its own unique challenges that a driver must overcome. At Riverhead, the challenge is qualifying. Each year, the Whelen Modified Tour regulars come to “The Head” knowing that they need to step up their performance in order to compete with the locals or they could be headed home early. This year, many
Jimmy "Showtime" Blewett watches his #12 get loaded up early. (Top - April Barker Photo), but he had a sense of humor about it later on. (Bottom - Howie Hodge Photo)
The Tour race at Riverhead attracted plenty of entries - and watchers. (April Barker Photo)
the right moves at the right time. It’s just as easy to zag when you should have zigged, and vice versa. So I zigged when I should have, and I zagged when I should have.”
Stefanik wasn’t the only driver who made drastic changes to the setup of his car en route to gaining ground for the race. Rob Summers and Todd Szegedy
both showed signs of discouragement after time-trials but took home fifth and ninth place finishes, respectively.
“I was nervous, I’ll tell ya. After practice, I was real
nervous,” said Summers. “We struggled all day in
practice and didn’t time-trial too well, so I didn’t know
exactly what was gonna happen. The whole team made
a bunch of good calls, changed everything on the car,
and it came to us. I didn’t know what to expect, but we
got in and had a good race, which we really needed.”
Szegedy joined fellow champions Stefanik and Jamie
Tomaino in provisional-land, starting from the 26th spot.
“I enjoy coming here, because every time I come here I
do crappy,” said Szegedy sarcastically before the race.
“But, it gives me a reason to come back and try to do better.” He predicted that his car would be better in the race than it was in time-trials, and he was right. After narrowly escaping a few on-track incidents Szegedy crossed the line in the top 10..
Ted Christopher was one of the few Tour drivers that showed no signs of struggling all day. After the re-draw, TC started in eighth position but quickly worked his way up to the front.
“I was a little worried, starting eighth and at this place it’s so hard to pass. But man, I moved up right away,” said Christopher. “I hung in fourth there, and our other guy Mike Andrews was on the inside, and he let me in the one time because I wasn’t really quite sure if I wanted to run the outside, and then I said ‘you know what, next time I’m going to just hang it out there and see if I can do it,’ and I did.
“We should’ve been better and we weren’t, so we got bumped, and we’re not racing,” said Coby after time-trials. “These [local] guys, I give them credit for qualifying because that’s the name of the game here, but 15 laps into the race they’re gonna be going backwards, and I’d put my money on a Tour regular winning the race.”
Coby would have won that bet. Ted Christopher took home the trophy after holding a commanding lead for the last 135 laps of the race. He was followed over the line by Mod Tour regulars Chuck Hossfeld, Jerry Marquis, Mike Stefanik and Rob Summers.
Stefanik struggled with the setup on his car all day and was forced to take a provisional. The six-time winner at Riverhead worked his way up to fourth from the 24th starting spot by making some key changes before the race, making the right moves during the race, and relying on a little luck to get him through any trouble.
“I got gun-shy, made an adjustment and it really hurt us, put us way back there, so we were [provisional] one,” said Stefanik. “I’m thrilled for our team. We’ve been working on this car, and we’ve had nothing but little problems since we got here.”
Even though the #16 team had problems before the race, Stefanik was surprisingly calm all day and wouldn’t say anything negative.
“We started 24th on a tough little bullring,” said Stefanik. “That’s why I never get negative about this place. This place is so challenging. It challenges your patience, it challenges your throttle foot. I don’t even think I floored the car maybe three times in the whole day. It’s just so hard to get the throttle down. You’ve just got to drive it with an egg under your foot, as the term goes... I made
"I got to third at that point, and the next time got to second and I said, ‘well we were good on the outside that other time, I’m gonna try it with Chucky [Steuer].’ Chucky ran me real clean, and that was a fun race with him side-by-side. I just kept getting the bite and going, and anytime you can start back there at Riverhead and drive around people for the lead to win, that’s the way to do it. It’s real gratifying.”
It’s even more gratifying for a driver who has had his share of ups-and-downs off the track this season.
“Everybody else, they’ve got teams that they’ve been with all year,” said Christopher. “For me, and my circumstances with losing the #13 ride and all that, and for Eddie [Whelan] coming on board and letting me drive for him, now it’s starting to gel really well. We ran really well at Holland last week, and ran good tonight. Now we’re going to tracks that I really like a lot and have done well at, and hopefully maybe we can win a championship this year with Eddie.”
The New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday, August 11, is the next stop on the Whelen Modified Tour. TC already has five wins and a pole at Stafford on his NASCAR Modified resume, so it’s
Ted Christopher celebrates his victory at Riverhead. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Ted Christopher (#36) dices it up with Chuck Hossfeld (#79). (Howie Hodge Photo)
not surprising that he is optimistic about his chance performing well next week. He figured out Riverhead while many of his competitors struggled, so watch for him to be in contention at Stafford.