51's MODIFIED MADNESS Presented by Advance Auto PartsCompiled by Mike Twist
News From Throughout The Mod-ern World - North and South, Asphalt and Dirt
DIRT: IT’S HEARN AGAIN
Florida Winternationals champion Brett Hearn picked up right where he left off as he captured the 'North-South Shootout 100' to open the 2006 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series at Hagerstown Speedway. Coming off two straight feature wins to close out the Florida Tour in February, Hearn kicked off the Advance Auto Parts points trail with his first-ever DIRT-sanctioned victory at the Maryland oval.
national championship in 2001 and regional titles in 2000 and 2001.
He has also raced on a national level – competing in five NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races, 21 NASCAR Busch Series races and two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races. Christopher made his AutoZone West Series debut in Phoenix last year, but mechanical trouble sidelined him early.
Other drivers from the Busch East Series have also made the trek west for several years to compete in the AutoZone West Series season opener at Phoenix in January. Matt Kobyluck has made four visits to the Valley of the Sun – finishing third on two occasions. Dale Quarterley registered two top-10 finishes in three AutoZone West Series races at Phoenix. Other East Coast drivers to visit PIR include Ryan Moore and Jeff Anton. Kobyluck, of Uncasville, Conn., is also scheduled to return for the April 20 event at Phoenix.
"The traffic was pretty tough out there tonight, you just couldn’t make a mistake or it would be all over," said Hearn, 47, following his third straight victory at Hagerstown. Already in March he posted a pair of open-wheel feature wins and his recent 100-lap triumph was the 21st registered at promoter Frank Plessinger's popular half-miler. “It’s been like direct deposit around here lately, hopefully we can keep it going back up north when the series continues."
Six qualifying heats and three consolation races reduced the stellar field of 54 big-block entries to 32 starters for the 50-mile finale. After winning his preliminary race and selecting the #1 pill in the customary pre-race draw,
Hearn out-dragged front row partner Frank Cozze to take command early with veterans Kenny Tremont, reigning Mr. DIRT champ Tim Fuller and Jimmy Horton in tow after the initial five circuits.
Fuller moved in to shadow Hearn a quarter of the way through with 11th-place starter and fast timer Billy Decker on the move cracking the top-five with 27 laps scored. Just two circuits later the leaders suddenly skated to the top side with Fuller slamming the turn three wall and Hearn slowing just in time to save the no. 20 mount. Moments earlier Kevin Hirthler’s machine had dropped fluid between the turns leaving the pair helpless while third-place runner Kenny Tremont took immediate action to assume the point.
With cautions counting after lap 25, Tremont’s lead lasted only until the ensuing lap 34 restart when Hearn regained a lead he would ultimately hold on to until the end. But with the last 58 laps run straight through under green, continuous encounters with traffic kept the finishing order in doubt until the checkered flag flew for the final time.
Halfway through the Modified main Hearn held the lead ahead of Decker, Tremont, Cozze, Alan Johnson and Horton. Johnson had won his qualifying heat and drew inside second row to start the century grind yet his choice of a Hoosier hard tire compound had dropped him as far back as eighth in the early stages.
In a gallant effort to defend his race title garnered last summer, Johnson slipped past Tremont for third on lap 61 and word spread fast that ‘A.J. Slideways’ was making his patented late-race charge towards the front. With 85 circuits complete 15 cars still remained on the lead lap yet it was only the top-three that seemed to matter as they waged a torrid battle weaving through traffic as the laps dwindled.
Johnson made his first bid for second on lap 92 with Decker riding him up to the wall as the duo rolled out of turn two. The next time around Decker managed to sneak a peak under Hearn coming into turn four although the ‘Jet’ never flinched as the leaders crossed the stripe in the same order. With one more lap down Johnson was able to keep his momentum
exiting turn four to finally secure the runner-up position. But that was as far as Jeff Rudalavage’s no. 14j speed wagon would carry him as second-place was all he could muster on unseasonably cold night south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“I had to wait for the (hard) tires to finally come in, but I think if we still had a few more laps to go Billy would’ve got us both by then,” said DIRT MotorSports NorthEast’s all-time big-block Modified feature winner with 329 career open-wheel triumphs since the organization started in 1976. “Still, looking at the quality of the cars out here tonight it’s DIRT’s best and second is really quite an accomplishment.”
At the wire it was Hearn nipping Johnson by a car-length while Decker, Tremont and Cozze settled into front-five positions. Steve Paine, race hard charger Pat Ward (started 28th), Matt Sheppard, Tim McCreadie and teammate Vic Coffey rounded out the top-10 while 14th-place finisher Justin Haers was the last driver to complete the entire 100-lap distance.
After a month off from tour competition, Hearn leads the ground-pounding Advance Auto Parts Modifieds back into action at Rolling Wheels Raceway on Sunday, May 7 for the 26th Annual DIRT Challenge Cup, a title event featuring a pair of $3,000-to-win 50-lap main events offering points towards the overall Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT Championship.
NASCAR WMT: TC ALREADY OFF AND RUNNING
While most competitors in the Northeast part of the country are waiting for warmer temperatures to go racing, Ted Christopher has already taken the green flag on his 2006 season.
SK MODS: WATERFORD NATIONALS SET FOR THIS WEEKEND
The SK-150, the oldest of the major events for the SK-Modified division, headlines this weekend’s 10th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals at Waterford Speedbowl. A banner field is expected as the Speedbowl puts the New England auto racing season in motion. Tom Fox will be seeking a second straight SK-150, Sunday’s (April 2) event topping a two-day, nine-division extravaganza. The 150 has never failed to provide high drama and a surprise or two.
In addition to the Speedbowl’s Late Model, Sportsman, Mini Stock and Legends divisions, NEMA Midgets, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Trucks (25) and Allison Legacy Cars (25) are also on the menu.
have a big event,” recalls Speedbowl owner Terry Eames. “It was the first big money show for SKs and the first time they ran time trials.”
Eric Berndt is the only two-time SK-150 winner, doing it back-to-back in 2001-2002. Fox hopes to equal that accomplishment. Ted Christopher (1999) and Dennis Gada (2003) are also in that category.
Last season, veteran Jim Broderick surprised everybody with a 14.376 qualifying effort. Chris Pasteryak’s 2003 run (14.360) remains the Mod Nats standard, a target for accomplished time trialers like Ronnie Silk, Gada, Jeff Pearl and Frank Mucciacciaro.
Rob Janovic Jr. and Pearl, the latter part of the Speedbowl’s royalty along with Fox and five-time champion Gada, head up a group of contenders for both the Mod Nats and championship honors. Others poised to wrestle the crown away from Rob Summers include Mucciacciaro, Dennis Charette, Jay Miller, Pasteryak and Shawn and Diego Monahan.
TVMRS: PRACTICE IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER
Before the True Value Modified Racing Series season kicks off on April 15th, at Monadnock Speedway, the tour will host a practice day on April 8th at the track. Pi gates open at 10am and the track is set to go green at Noon.
NASCAR WEEKLY RACING SERIES: VIGEROLLO INKS DEAL
Frank Vigerollo, Jr. will drive a car for Bear Motorsports in the Modified division at Riverhead Raceway for the full 2006 season.
SK LIGHTS: ARUTE SIGNS A DRIVER
When Stafford Motor Speedway’s newest division, the SK Light Modified series, takes to the track as part of the track’s season opener, there will be a driver in a seat that has traded hockey gear for racing gear.
Rich Pallai, Jr. (Stafford Motor Speedway Photo)
All qualifying, starting with SK time trials at 1 PM, will be on Saturday (April 1) followed by the Legends, Pro4, and Allison Legacy and AllStar Truck features. The Midgets, back on the Nats roster after a two-year absence, will join the SKs, Late Models, Minis and Sportsmen on Sunday.
The traditional Pit Party which usually results in a bonanza for collectors, kicks things off on Sunday at 10:30 AM.
It was in celebration of its long association with Modifieds that the Speedbowl came up with Nationals in 1997. “We felt the time was right for the SK division to
Brett Hearn. (DIRT Photo)
The SKs at Waterford are going to rumble this weekend. (Waterford Speedbowl Photo)
Christopher – a regular in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series for more than a decade – won the season opener for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour at Caraway Speedway in North Carolina last Saturday.
Up next for the Plainville, Conn. driver is the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker 150 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway – followed by a trip west to Phoenix International Raceway for the NASCAR Grand National Division, AutoZone West Series race on April 20.
Race fans across the country are quickly learning what fans in the Northeast have known for some time – Christopher will go racing any time, any place. And don’t be surprised to see him up front when the checkered flag waves.
In 213 starts in the Whelen Modified Tour between 1988 and 2005, Christopher won 23 races – while also gathering 65 top-five and 103 top-10 finishes. In the Busch East Series, he recorded 10 wins, 20 top-five and 30 top-10 finishes in 84 races between 1992 and 2005. In addition, the 47-year-old driver has also made his mark in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series – winning the
Hearn in victory lane at Hagerstown. (DIRT / Christ Budihas Photo)
ABC Sportscaster, Jack Arute announced today that 16-year-old Rich Pallai, Jr. will wheel the Bosch Fan Experience number 14 for the 2006 season.
“When we started this project, we wanted to provide opportunities to aspiring young drivers,” said Arute who also serves as Stafford’s track president. “Rich fits the bill.”
Pallai started his racing career last summer when he wheeled a mini-sprint for both Arute and Dave Haskell Motorsports at the ¼ mile clay Whip City Speedway. In just a handful of starts, he displayed the ability that Arute was looking for with his Bosch SK Light project.
TVMRS: SEE THE CARS, MEET THE DRIVERS!
The True Value Modified Racing Series will hold their first annual Motorsports Madness show this weekend at Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey, New Hampshire.
Several drivers including Sean Bodreau, Rob Goodenough, Bob Donahue, Bruce Batchelder and two-time champion Kirk Alexander will be on hand.
The show takes place on Friday from 5pm-9pm, Saturday from 10am - 9pm and Sunday from 11am - 5pm. Adult Adult Admission is $10 with $2 Discount Coupons available at select Tire Warehouse Locations. Young fans are welcome too with children (12 and under) being admitted to the show for free.
“I had Rich on my short list right from the beginning,” Arute said. “His commitment to hockey was the only variable that we needed to address.”
Pallai is currently a freshman at the Berkshire School in Sheffield, MA and has lettered in Football and Hockey. His play on the school’s varsity puck squad has tabbed him as one of the sport’s future standouts. A native of Yorktown Heights, NY, the 6-foot one-inch 165 pounder should bring the same intensity that he shows on the hockey rink to Stafford’s half mile.
“He’s an athlete that has picked things up very quickly,” says Arute. “He likes to push the button. I just hope he remembers that checking someone into the boards is good in hockey. Checking someone into the wall on the track is NOT good ”
The Bosch Fan Experience SK Light includes a special fan participation program that will give sweepstakes winners a chance to serve as the team’s car owner for specific events throughout the season.
Arute’s Bosch Fan Experience SK Light is part of Jack’s racing stable that includes mini-sprints that he races when his schedule allows. “I’ll stay on the dirt,” chuckled Arute.” The pavement is for young guns.”
IMCA: TUCSON JOINS THE FOLD
Modifieds on the asphalt at Tucson Raceway Park will compete under the IMCA banner this season.
Opening night is April 8 at the 3/8 mile semi-banked oval, located at the Pima County Fairgrounds. Saturday night points races for the sanctioned class are scheduled through Sept. 23.
“We are a paved track in a sea of dirt tracks, but I believe there are enough IMCA Modified drivers in the area who will come to run on asphalt,” said track owner and general manager David Deery. “IMCA has a national set of rules and Modifieds as we know them are easy to work on, they’re affordable and they put on a good show.”
A native of the Midwest, Deery is familiar with IMCA from the early years of the Modified class.
“My family’s experience with IMCA is a big part of the decision to sanction and that’s why we went full blown with the concept,” he said. “In the long term, we plan to run IMCA Modified special events in the winter months. We also plan to go with national sets of rules in all our divisions.”
Tucson Raceway Park will be part of IMCA’s Western Region for Modifieds.
RoC DIRT: VARIN DOESN’T WANT TO SHARE THIS YEAR
Despite the best efforts of his grade school teachers, Bobby Varin isn't fond of sharing.
Especially when it comes to championships.
The Sharon Springs, N.Y., native ended in a deadlock with Mitch Gibbs for the 2005 Race of Champions Dirt Modified Tour overall title. This year, he's looking to drop the "co" from his championship status.
The Race of Champions Dirt Modified Tour opens its second season with the "Ice Jam" on Sat., April 8 at N.Y.'s Fonda Speedway, the historic half-mile fairgrounds oval known as the "Track of Champions."
The big-block/small-block Modifieds will compete in a 50-lap feature. Race one of the Tour's North Region will pay $4,000 to the winner plus a $500 small-block bonus.
Pit gates open at 10 a.m., grandstand gates at 11 a.m., with practice at noon and racing at 1 p.m. (Brett Deyo)
TC has already won this year at Florida Speedweeks and in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified opener.