SPEEDWEEK LEFTOVERS: SLM & MODS by Jeremy Trioano and Matt Kentfield
Cassill, Hossfeld, Seuss, Points, Rogers & Much More
SEUSS WAS “THIS CLOSE” TO NO TITLE
Andy Seuss won the Modified championship at New Smyrna Speedway last week, marking what was for sure the biggest achievement of his young racing career.
But unless you were at the track on Friday night during the Richie Evans Memorial, you would have no idea how close Seuss came to actually not winning the title.
Andy Seuss' team actually took the car back behind pit road to work on it on Friday, but stayed on the lead lap the whole time.
The Evans Memorial, the Modifieds’ 100-lapper on Friday night, uses a few different rules. Caution laps are counted, but drivers in the pits cannot lose laps under caution. Laps can only be lost under green flag conditions.
Therefore, early in the event, when Seuss and Zach Sylvester got together, things looked bleak for Seuss. Something had broken in the rear of his car, causing Seuss to visit pit road under caution. Eventually, the team took the #70 back to their hauler in the infield for repairs.
But luck was shining on the team.
They continued to work under the current caution and were not yet finished when the “one to go” was given to the field. As the team continued to make repairs to the rearend problems, the green flag waved. In a lap, Seuss would be one lap down and as the laps continued to be knocked off, he’d go down even further.
However, just as the green was displayed, a multi-car accident going into turn one put the field again under caution without completing a green flag lap, giving Seuss and his team even more time to fix the ride and keeping him, amazingly, on the lead lap. With it taking to much time to clean up the multi-car accident site, Seuss and his team had plenty of time to get the car fixed and back out on the track without losing a lap.
He eventually finished fifth and that helped him extend his points lead, eventually leading to the points championship.
“The one time we were in trouble and guys could have gained a lot of points on us, the crew was right here,” said Seuss, looking back on the Friday night issues after earning the title. “There was some panic about last night. Those guys got it fixed. They are incredible. That is what it is all about. Even when the car was messed up, the car finished fifth in the Richie Evans 100. You knew things were going out way then.”
A NUMBERS GAME
While it is nearly impossible to get an exact count as to how many cars actually took to the track during Smyrna Speedweeks considering some cars practice only and break or take qualifying laps to eventually not compete in that night’s events, the number of cars earning points in some of the biggest divisions showed yet another successful Speedweeks.
In the Super Late Models, 44 different drivers earned points during the week. Tarvis Kittlson came across as the SLM champion earning 230 points. Alan Gordon came home last in the standings, earning just four points after one night of racing.
There were more Super Late Models in the pits during the week than any other division.
In the Modifieds, 40 different drivers earned points during the week. Andy Seuss had the most, earning 650 points. Luke Fleming had the least, earning just 44.
In the Late Models, 43 different drivers earned at least one point in the final standings (with AJ Curelli winning the title), while 29 Florida/IMCA Modifieds competed and earned championship points (with Tank Tucker) earning the title.
Of the big-five classes, the SK Modifieds had the least amount of participants. Just 17 different drivers took points in the SKs.
Some drivers can bust them out at any time. Wit and humor comes easy for some people.
One of those is New Smyrna Super Late Model track champion and fan favorite driver David Rogers.
During introductions for Saturday night’s finale, the Pete Orr Memorial, drivers were individually introduced at the start/finish line, then walked to their cars. On the front row was Rogers, starting outside pole-sitter Landon Cassill. Rogers is 50 years old. Cassill is 16.
That is when Rogers ripped a classic one-liner, in joking fashion, about his front-row compadre.
“I have shoes older than him, most of which, I still wear.”
ANDERSON GIVE HIMSELF AVERAGE GRADE
Wayne Anderson, one of the best short track drivers in
the state of Florida and possibly in the entire Southeast, had a rather disappointing Speedweeks.
It started with a solid run on Friday night’s opener, but things got worse quickly. On Sunday night, Anderson went flipping down the backstretch following a violent accident. After that, Anderson broke out his backup car and was solid, but never was able to grab the win.
“I usually win a couple during Speedweeks,” said Anderson. “I finished second, third and had some other good runs this year, but I basically had a top five car this year and that’s it. It wasn’t our best Speedweeks, but you can’t win all of the time. We just had some issues with the tires and that got us behind, as did the accident.”
When asked if he was a teacher and what kind of grade he’d give himself, Anderson replied quickly.
“I would give myself a C. We were just about average.”
LONG TRIP HOME FOR HOSSFELD
The worst scenario for Chuck Hossfeld and his #22 team on the last night of Speedweeks action at New Smyrna Speedway came true. Not running well and not capitalizing on a shot at the Tour Type Modified championship was bad enough, but spending an entire day replacing the motor and still running poorly only to load up and spend hours and hours on the road back home to upstate New York made it even worse.
“We had a valve break last night so we got here at 7:00 in the morning to change our motor. We had a really long day,” said Hossfeld. “Last night we were involved in a crash and we got back out. The other night we spun in some oil and got back out. If the guys didn’t work so hard we wouldn’t have had a shot. It’s really tough because it’s been about a 12 hour day today and we still have to drive 24 hours home.
SHORT RACES NOT TO STORACE’S LIKING
In order to succeed on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series, patience is key when shooting for a win in a 150-lap race. In New
Smyrna, 25 lap features for the Tour-Type Modifieds are the norm, which makes drivers throw out strategy and go for broke from the drop of the green flag.
That’s not Jim Storace’s style. He made the trip from Kingston, NH down to New Smyrna with good intentions but had a rude awakening to the style of racing that happens in such short events.
“It’s discouraging to see how these guys race out here,” said Storace. “These 25 lap races are like Saturday night features. It’s disgusting that guys are driving like this. This doesn’t happen that much on the Tour, but I guess that’s just what happens down here in New Smyrna.”
BACK FROM SPEEDWEEKS? NOW DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Landon Cassill has been one of the brightest young stars to emerge on the short track racing scene in recent years. Sure he’s been racing every chance he’s gotten, but since Cassill is only 16 years old, he’s been out looking to have a little bit of fun while on the road chasing wins in his Super Late Model as well.
Cassill and his family-owned team made the trip down to New Smyrna and came agonizingly close to capturing the Super Late Model championship. Had it not been for mechanical issues on the last two nights, Cassill would be taking the track title back to Iowa with him. Instead he’s going back with a bunch of fun memories from the 9 nights of Speedweeks.
“We’ve definitely had fun down here,” said Cassill. “We’ve had a good car and I think we’ve had the car to beat. Everyone’s been talking about us so that’s a good thing. I’ve still been able to go out and have a good time. I went to Orlando and went go-kart racing a couple of times. We went to the Mall of Millenia, too. Actually B.J. McLeod and I got kicked out of the go-kart track the other night. We had a blast out there.”
Winning races at Speedweeks doesn't mean you still don't have to do your homework. Just ask Landon Cassill.
But when he gets back home, reality will set back in for the high schooler.
“It’s definitely nice to come down here to race, but when I get back home I’m going to have a lot of schoolwork to catch up on.”
LIA SPORTS SPEEDWAY LOGO
When Donny Lia straps into the Hagans Racing #9 ARCA RE/MAX Series Dodge for his first race on April 15 at Nashville Superspeedway, veteran short tracker Bobby Blount will be leading the way as his crew chief. Blount, who led Matt Hagans to a third place finish in the season-opening Daytona ARCA race, announced during Florida Speedweeks that he has been hired on as part of the management group that recently purchased the Plymouth Speedway (IN).
Chuck Hossfeld races a long way from home at New Smyrna.
Blount visited with Lia on several occasions during the New Smyrna action, so to show the support back to him Lia put the logo of Blount’s new track on the front sheet metal of his #18 LMI Modified.
FAMILIAR FACES IN THE NEW SMYRNA PIT AREA
In addition to Blount, the entire Hagans Racing team, including owner and Daytona driver Matt Hagans, went to watch their new ARCA pilot race at New Smyrna on the first night of racing at the half-mile. Hagans wasn’t the only ARCA star in attendance during Speedweeks, either. Several drivers who took part in the Daytona 200 ARCA race, such as Tim Russell, Matt McCall, and Danny O’Quinn, were all seen in the Smyrna pits throughout Speedweeks.
It wasn’t just ARCA stars that were roaming around New Smyrna, either. NASCAR Modified drivers Tony Ferrante, Jr. and Eddie Flemke were in attendance but not racing, as was former Mod starts Jimmy Spencer and Jeff Fuller.
Former ARCA turned Craftsman Truck Series driver David Ragan and fellow Truck rookie Boston Reid, as well as NASCAR Busch East driver Charles Lewandoski, were all seen in the pits on occasion, as was newly-signed Roush driver Peter Shepard.
Here are the top-10 finishers in the point standings for the “big five” divisions following the nine night’s of action at New Smyrna Speedway.
SUPER LATE MODEL
88 TRAVIS KITTLESON 230
7 LANDON CASSILL 198
11 DAVID ROGERS 194
84 WAYNE ANDERSON 180
70 JEFF CHOQUETTE 178
29 TED CHRISTOPHER 170
10 JACK LANDIS 154
8 JOHN RYAN FITZPATRICK 154
23 EDDIE VAN METER 142
78 BJ MCLEOD 110
NORTHERN TOUR MODIFIEDS
70 ANDY SEUSS 650
22 CHUCK HOSSFELD 635
9 ERIC BEERS 629
58 KEVIN GOODALE 626
0 JOHN BLEWITT 588
12 JIMMY BLEWITT 577
8 JON MCKENNEDY 556
25 J. WESLEY SWORTOUT 538
81 EARL PAULES 538
19 ROBBIE SUMMERS 521
12 JIMMY BLEWITT 668
8 TOM FERRILL 667
11 BILLY ANDERSON 643
99 TONY HANBURY 634
27 JOHN WHITE 632
85 RICK GOULD 626
91 JOHN JENSEN 599
76 SHELLY PERRY 588
3 GEORGE BIERCE 554
75 JASON WILLETT 352
2 A.J. CURRELI 358
21 DERRICK KELLEY 282
26 MIKE MURPHY 226
1X CHUCK BURKHALTER 182
17 RAY PARENT 172
38 KIRK HOOKER 170
4 RANDY FOX 138
9 RICH CLOUSER 126
82 DANNY MADDOX 122
15 STEVE DOSMARAIS 114
FL/IMCA OPEN WHEEL MODIFIED
15 TANK TUCKER 326
66 JERRY SYMONS 306
89 LEE COLLINS 302
57 JIM FLYNN 278
12 COREY FREED 194
36 RODNEY BROOKS 158
4B ALAN BRUNS 154
45 DENIS PIERCE 142
2X JARED ALLISON 106
51 CHUCK BURKHALTER 102
Donny Lia carried this sticker on the nose of his Modified in Speedweeks.