51's Modified Madness Presented by Advance Auto Parts Compiled by Mike Twist
North, South, Dirt and Asphalt...All The Latest From the Mod-ern Racing World
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR: SILK RIDES MOMENTUM INTO SIZZLER
Fresh off a career best third place finish at Thompson International Speedway in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener Ronnie Silk of Norwalk, Conn. heads to Stafford Motor Speedway’s Carquest Tech Net Spring Sizzler on Sunday April 29 hoping for another solid outing.
Ronnie Silk's #19 (Jim DuPont Photo)
“That was a great start to the season,” said Silk. “Now we’re going to a track where I have a lot of experience and even had some success in other divisions.”
Silk competed in the NASCAR SK Modified ranks at Stafford during the 2001 and 2002 seasons at Stafford. He collected four wins and finished second in the track point chase in 2002.
The 200 lap Tech-Net Spring Sizzler at the .5-mile oval in Stafford Springs, Conn. is one of the most prestigious races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Schedule. Known as the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring,” the event predates the existence of the Tour, as the first Sizzler was run in 1972.
“Stafford has always been one of my favorite tracks,” Silk said. “Last season we had a strong car when we raced at Stafford but had some bad luck. We did manage a Top-10 finish at the last race. I’d love to get my first win on the series at Stafford.”
Silk is in his second season driving for George Bierce and the Major Motion/Silk Plumbing and Heating Chevrolet.
“This deal came together a few weeks before the start of 2006,” said Silk. “We are better prepared coming into 2007. We have two cars available and we’re hoping to run up front.”
Silk thinks the team will be competitive all year.
“We have the core of the team returning in 2007,” said Silk. ”And I now have experience at some of the tracks we will race at later in the year from last season. I’m looking forward to Stafford but I’m also looking forward to the whole season.”
The Spring Sizzler is scheduled to get the green at 2:30 on April 29. Qualifying for the 200-lap event is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on April 28.
DIRT: YELEY IS BACK IN A BIG BLOCK
With the list of probable entries growing as the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series ‘Thursday Thunder’ quickly approaches at Bill Sawyer’s Virginia Motor Speedway, the latest addition marked the first confirmation by a Cup driver to compete in the May 3 Big-Block Modified tour event. Not much of a surprise to anyone including the driver himself, it was former USAC star and current Cup competitor J.J. Yeley from Phoenix, Arizona jumping on the DIRT bandwagon.
headline Modified event paying the winner $6,000 from the race day purse in excess of $30,000 with $400 posted to start the 30-mile main. VMS pits gates will swing open at 3pm and grandstands are scheduled to open at 5pm while Integra Shocks Time Trials for the Big-Block Modifieds follow 6:15pm practice with qualifying heats coming immediately after.
The Virginia show will mark Yeley’s sixth-ever appearance in a DIRT Modified. The driver of the Gibbs Racing no. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet set 20th fastest time at Canandaigua before finishing 22nd and steering Dave Rauscher’s no. 48too Magee Transportation Services-Monadnock Disposal Service/Bicknell
ride in 2005 he time trialed 14th quickest before crossing the line in 21st position.
Yeley also ran the Syracuse Mile during Super DIRT Week on two occasions while chauffeuring a small-block at Rolling Wheels Raceway prior to his latest trip to the Empire State. He also won the ‘Salt City 100’ USAC Silver Crown Championship at the NYS Fairgrounds in both 2002 and ’03. “I remember that first trip to Canandaigua really well…we crashed in the heat, won a consi and got up to ninth in the feature before getting a flat,” reminisced Yeley before buckling into John Wight’s Gypsum ride the following summer. “We’re looking forward to getting another chance, the Big-Blocks are a real lot of fun to drive.”
Highlighted alongside Yeley on the list of pre-race entries are ’07 Advance Auto Parts SDS opening day Hagerstown winner Tim Fuller, reigning Mr. DIRT points king and winningest Big-Block Modified driver Alan Johnson, four-time Eckerd 200 titlist Billy Decker, all-time Advance Auto Parts SDS race winner Brett Hearn, ‘04 Mr. DIRT titlist and 3rd-place Hagerstown finisher Gary Tomkins, third-year tour follower Jimmy Phelps, rising star Matt Sheppard, early season threat to his older brother’s throne Danny Johnson, Canandaigua (NY) Speedway record-setter Steve Paine, full-time follower Dale Planck, Keystone State open-wheel veteran Frank Cozze, past Super DIRT Week champion Vic Coffey, top tour rookie contenders Russ Hefti and David VanHorn Jr., and 2006 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Champion Tim McCreadie.
“I love running dirt tracks, that’s where I came from,” declared Yeley, just prior to climbing into the back-up LJL Racing no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium International/Bicknell entry last August to run the Advance Auto Parts SDS main at Canandaigua (NY) Speedway. A ride is currently being lined-up for the VMS shootout in May and is expected to be announced in the beginning of the month. “If I could I’d probably run a lot more but NASCAR keeps us guys pretty busy most of the year.”
Yeley joins an all-star cast of drivers ready to make their debut racing in the Old Dominion State in just one more week. The stop at Virginia Motor Speedway will be the first-ever series event staged at the popular Saluda, VA. oval since the tour originated in 1980. The inaugural Advance Auto Parts Series stop stands as part of a big mid-week doubleheader featuring both the Big-Block and Super Late Model events.
The 60-lap Paul Sawyer Memorial presented by Thurston Spring Service, Inc. is the
J.J. Yeley (NASCAR Photo)
SUNOCO MODS: BLEWETT WINS AT THOMPSON
In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series weekly action at the Thompson International Speedway’s Icebreaker, Jimmy Blewett of Howell, NJ was victorious in Sunoco Modified action.
Todd Ceravolo held the early lead over Woody Pitkat. A pack of hungry drivers, Jimmy Blewett, Keith Rocco, and Tommy Cravenho, were bearing down on the leaders. Slight contact between the lead duo opened the door for Ji. Blewett, who grabbed the second spot before the caution flew for Roland Bergeron.
After a false start, racing resumed with Ceravolo retaining his lead. Contact between Pitkat and Rocco send Rocco hard into the turn two wall. Jimmy Blewett was able to take over the lead once racing resumed. A single lap later contact between Cravenho and Bert Marvin sent Cravenho spinning. A chain reaction accident claimed the cars of John Catania, Buddy Charette, and others. Marvin was sent to the rear for his involvement in the accident.
Jimmy Blewett continued to lead Ceravolo and now his brother John when racing went back to green. Pitkat and Kerry Malone sat inside the top five. Pitkat was getting racy with Jo. Blewett while the leader had his hands full with Ceravolo. The top four cars began to get some distance on Malone in fifth. Just after halfway, the caution flew when Harry Rheaume and Marvin made contact. Both cars were able to continue.
On the restart, Ji. Blewett and Ceravolo were side by side for the lead; meanwhile, things got messy from third position on back. Pitkat and Marvin both sustained extensive damage in the melee. Also involved was third-running Jo. Blewett.
The battle for the lead was just as furious when the race resumed. While Ji. Blewett and Ceravolo began to distance themselves from the rest of the pack, Kerry Malone headed down pit road, relinquishing the third spot. The final dash to the checkers found Ji. Blewett gaining some breathing room over Ceravolo. Dave Salzarulo and Danny Cates had great finish runs. Tommy Cravenho and Jo. Blewett had stormed back through the pack and put on a great show battling for the fifth position.
At the checkers, Ji. Blewett scored the win over Ceravolo and Salzarulo. The rookie Danny Cates finished fourth in only his second Sunoco Modified start. Jo. Blewett recovered to finish fifth.
BOWMAN-GRAY: SEASON SET TO START
The roaring engines of NASCAR’s most powerful cars will be heard once again this Saturday night in the Tucson 200 as legendary Bowman Gray Stadium starts its 59th season of racing.
The pre-season rumors and predictions started, for many fans, months ago. We asked a panel of local racing experts, including many local area reporters, to chime in with their thoughts on who would be the drivers to watch in this year’s GMAC Insurance Personal Pit Crew Modified Series.
The name that came up most often was no surprise: Junior Miller. The “King” was practically unstoppable in 2006. But this year, Miller’s jumping behind the wheel of the #53 Modified instead of the #69 Modified that he drove last season. Many wonder whether Junior will be able to continue his dominance in 2007.
Many competitors had a tough day int he Sunoco Modified feature at Thompson, but Jimmy Blewett and his #12 team had a wonderful day thanks to their winning performance. (Rick Ibsen Photos)
It's time for racing at Bowman-Gray. (BG Photo)
Burt Myers and Tim Brown were names that were mentioned, although rumors abound that they may not race a full season at the Stadium.
Some say that 2007 will be Michael Clifton’s year. The #50 Modified has been a competitive force for many years at the Stadium, but so far Clifton has yet to claim a championship. In 2004, Clifton was literally feet away from winning the Modified crown when points contender Tim Brown spun out Clifton and claimed the championship for himself. Clifton tied for the most poles in 2006, and has the aggressiveness needed to be successful at the legendary quarter-mile.
John Smith was another name that came up often. Smith is known as a smart and patient driver - he’s the type who will climb from the back to the front without making a sound. Smith was a serious points contender in 2005 and ended up finishing second in the standings.
The #14 car of Bobby Hutchens many predict will spend a lot of time in Victory Lane. His responsibilities with Richard Childress Racing had left Hutchens unable to race a full season in quite some time. But in 2006, Hutchens buckled down and proved himself a force to be reckoned with. With a little improvement to his qualifying, there’s a very good chance that Hutchens could go all the way.
Rounding out the list was Randy Butner. It’s no secret that Butner has been aiming for the championship for a while. He’s not a flashy driver, not an aggressive one – but Butner is the type that consistently finishes high and stays out of trouble.
In addition to the Tucson 200, the racing schedule for this Saturday also features races for the Sportsman, Street Stock, and Stadium Stock Divisions.
The first round of qualifying for the Modified Division is scheduled for Friday night, April 27, from 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM. On Saturday night, April 28, ticket gates open at 6:00 for practice, the second and final round of qualifying begins at 7:20, and the first race begins at 8:00 PM.
ASA MODIFIEDS: MYERS WINS AT FRIENDSHIP
Burt Myers claimed won in the season opener for the ASA Southern Modified Race Tour on a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the North Carolina foothills.
Burt Myers continued on his “hot” qualifying run at Friendship setting a new track record by almost two tenths of a second. Myers lap at 16.682 seconds earned him his fifth consecutive Modified pole and edged his brother Jason for the top spot. Junior Miller made his first start in the #53 Modified owned by “Puddin” Swisher and qualified solidly in third spot with Jay Foley, Brian King, “Rupert” Sink, Gene Pack, Greg Butcher, Darrel Krentz and Jason Trincher rounding out the top ten qualifiers.
Burt Myers got away from brother Jason on the start and the field settled in behind with Miller, Foley and King staying close. A lap six spin by Brody Jones kept the field close to Myers. Myers stayed at the point until a three car tangle in turn four bunched the pack. Foley spun after contact from Miller and Rupert Sink’s day ended on a sour note when his car suffered front end damage in the incident. All the cars at the front of the pack made their mandatory pit stop during the caution period except for Krentz who remained on the track at the point. Krentz remained the leader for the next 29 laps until Burt Myers managed to work his way past on lap 63. Myers had his way at the front of the pack but for the next several laps but Krentz, Kevin Powell, Trincher and Al Hill kept things interesting and Jay Foley was charging back through the pack after his early race spin.
Jason Myers and Miller also waged a pretty tough battle through the mid-point of the race and Brian King kept things interesting during that time. By lap 100 it was Burt Myers at the point with Jason Myers, Miller, Gene Pack, King, Foley and Krentz in tow. Lap 125 had the Myers brothers at the point with Miller third and Foley beginning to fill his mirror. A little help from Foley’s chrome horn helped him move past Miller on lap 131 and he set his sights on the leaders. Caution on lap 149 set up a green-white-checkered flag finish. Burt Myers
slipped away from brother Jason who misses a shift on the restart allowing Foley a chance at second spot. The pair bumped on the restart and the contact caused a leak in Myers right rear tire and he had his hands full holding off Foley for second spot. King managed a fourth place finish in his first ASA Modified start ahead of Miller, Pack, Powell, Trinchere, Hill and Kevin Wilson.
The ASA Southern Modified Race Tour returns to Friendship Motor Speedway on May 11th for another 150 lapper along with action for the Thunder Roadsters from INEX.
BOOKS: STEADY EDDIE GETS READY TO HIT THE STREETS
Motorsports publisher Coastal 181 have announced the availability of STEADY EDDIE, Memories of Ed Flemke, Modified Racing's Fastest Professor. This stunning new biography of Eddie Flemke, one of America's greatest all-time stock car drivers, is edited and annotated by Bones Bourcier, author of acclaimed books on Tony Stewart, Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens, and Bill Simpson.
A New Britain, CT, native, Flemke raced from 1948 to 1978, winning over 500 features along the way. Early victories came at such New England outlaw tracks as Connecticut's West Haven, New London, and Plainville; Riverside Park in Massachusetts; and Menands in New York. In the 1960s Flemke was the leader of the so-called Eastern Bandits, a loose-fit group of New England racers who terrorized tracks from Maine to the Carolinas with their driving skills and checker-winning ways. By the 1970s, Flemke was spending more time on the local circuits and developing renown as a cutting-edge builder of racing chassis.
Popular and successful as he was, however, there was always something a little different about Flemke. Diminutive in stature and understated in temperament, he somehow managed to outmuscle the more broadshouldered and flashy competitors of his day. Additionally, in a time when wild abandon on and off the speedway was often condoned-even encouraged-Flemke was a calming source of reason and fairness for the entire racing community. He became a widely respected coach and mentor, and pupils such as Pete Hamilton, Ron Bouchard, and Denny Zimmerman went on to great success on the superspeedways.
Bones Bourcier, who grew up not far from Flemke's shop, has presented Eddie Flemke's story in an unusual and engaging way, through the eyes and words of 21 racing personalities and Flemke family members. He has perfectly captured the feel of short-track racing in this key time in its history, as well as the persona of one of its greatest players.
STEADY EDDIE will make its debut at the Stafford Speedway Spring Sizzler on Sunday, April 29, where Bones Bourcier and others featured in the book will be signing copies.
STEADY EDDIE is 256 pages and filled with historic photographs. It is available at $23.95 plus $6.00 S&H from Coastal 181, 29 Water Street, Newburyport, MA 01950. Phone orders are taken toll free at 877-907-8181 or online by clicking here to visit Coastal 181.
DIRT: HURRICANE WARNINGS SWEEP MID-ATLANTIC
For the first time in 10 years, Steve Paine will call Cayuga County Fair Speedway home on Sunday during the DIRTcar Racing season. Paine Motorsports entries have been a weekly fixture at nearby Canandaigua Speedway on the Ontario County Fairgrounds for a quarter-century and 2007 marks the return of his familiar yellowbird Big-Block Modifieds to DIRTcar NorthEast’s flagship track for the first season since 1997.
“I looked at this as a way to get a little more seat time and generate some additional income,” said Paine, 46, who began his 26th season of open-wheel competition with an 8th-place finish in the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series lead-off event at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway on March 31. Steering his familiar no. 7x Tallmadge Tire-Terrell’s Potato Chips-Swarthout Recycling-Pabst/TEO entry, the Waterloo warrior followed up last weekend with a 358-Modified win in Black Rock Speedway’s lid-lifter.
“I’ve been running decent, not real good, just okay but not where you need to be following the tour nowadays. For a short time I really dreaded running every week, that happens when you’re not finishing up front too much. After some success I concluded I still like being in racing and right now I can’t wait to get going again. We’re finally on the right track and that’s enough motivation,” added Paine, who owns point championships at Cayuga County in both Big-Block (1991 & ’93) and Small-Block (1995-97) Modified divisions while a title at Canandaigua this season will set a new DIRTcar NE record with eight straight at a single track.
Paine is anxious to return to the weekend wars with Sunoco Race Fuels sponsoring Fan Foto & Autograph Nights at both speedways. Canandaigua’s season kick-off on Saturday, April 21 features the ground-pounding DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds along with a full show of Sportsman Modified, Street Stock and PureStox action. Cayuga County follows up on Sunday, April 22 with a complete card of Modified, Sportsman, Street Stock and Enduro racing. Start time is 5 p.m. sharp with pit gates swinging open at 2 p.m. for each show with $12 the adult general admission ticket price, $10 for Seniors (65 yrs. plus) and $5 for children (10-14 yrs.) while fans 9 years and under are always free. Throughout the season unique 5-PAK ticket packages will be available for all regular events at Canandaigua and Cayuga County. Providing a great deal for fans, each 5-PAK of tickets can be purchased for $48.00 which results in the receipt of (1) free ticket.
The winds of change have certainly driven the ‘Hurricane’ since his last weekly jaunt to the Cayuga County Fairgrounds. During the past decade Paine married and along with his wife Stacy they have since been raising a family that today includes oldest son Billy (5 yrs.), Tommy (3) and Joey, the newest addition born last November.
“(Family life) has taken some time to get used to but it’s the only thing better than racing. This year I’d like to run a little better and enjoy it a little more, so getting a few more wins would take care of a lot. Consistency has always been my top priority. Half of racing is being fast, the other half is mechanical and that comes down to preparation most of the time. If you break or wreck that costs money. I’ve been able to avoid both pretty much and I expect to be around another 10 years if things stay that way,” figured Paine, who ranks sixth all-time on DIRTcar’s Big-Block Modified win (163) list with 74 checkered flags taken at Canandaigua and 10 more collected at Cayuga County.
In 2007, Paine will have to stave off the challenges of weekly rivals Gary Tomkins, Vic Coffey, Chuck Bower and Charlie Donk at Canandaigua’s ‘Land of Legends’ with a mix of seasoned veterans and talented young guns continuing to offer stiff competition each Sunday on the high-banked Weedsport oval.
USA MODIFIEDS: NESTER STARTS OFF SEASON WITH A WIN
The 2007 Season Opener for the O’Reilly USA Modified Series proved to be hot as 37 open wheeled monsters arrived at the famed Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio. Scott Tomasik of Avon, Indiana took fast time with a 16.810. Only .030 seconds separated the top 18 drivers with only the top 16 being locked into the A Main. Tomasik grabbed the win for the first 6 Fast Dash of the season. 2006 Championship Runner Up Tim Burkett of North Manchester, Indiana took the Heat Race victory. Two B Mains decided who would take the transfer spots and advance into the A Main. In the first B Main of the evening Cory Setser of Fort Wayne, Indiana took the win with Tim Taylor of Indianapolis, Indiana and Jason Dietsch of Edgerton, Ohio advancing into the Feature event. In the second B Main Shawn Stroble of Urbana, Ohio grabbed the checkers with St. Clair Shores, Michigan’s Claude Plante Jr. and Indianapolis, Indiana’s Mike Hadley Jr. both advancing into the Feature event.
Burkett and Tony Dager of Spencerville, Indiana would lead the field around to the green for the Toledo Speedway 50 Lap Feature Event. Burkett grabbed the early lead as the entire pack made their way into turn 1. Rodney Scott of New Castle, Indiana made light of an motor change earlier in the evening and started in the 5th position and worked himself around his father Harold Scott also of New Castle, Indiana then looked to the outside of Dager. On lap 17 the younger Scott made his way around Burkett to take the lead. A late race caution on lap 41 found the leader, Rodney Scott spinning in turn 3. Rodney Scott would be given his position back with Dager being sent to the tail for the caution. When the green flew it was a 9 lap dash to the checkered. Brian Nester of Edon, Ohio worked his way up from his 7th place starting position powered his way around Rodney Scott for the lead with only 7 laps remaining and would hang on for his first O’Reilly USA Modified Feature win of 2007. Rodney Scott was second with Kale Asztalos of Angola, Indiana taking third. 2006 O’Reilly USA Modified Champion Bob Curry of Plainwell, Michigan found a fourth place finish with the Allstar Performance Hard Charger of the race being fifth place finisher of Indianapolis, Indiana’s Mike Hadley Jr. The LEAF Racewear Hard Luck of the race recipient was Jon Beach of Mt Morris, Michigan, being the first driver to compete in all events not able to advance into the A Main.
The next event for the O’Reilly USA Modifieds is set for Saturday May 26 at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Indiana for the “Night Before the 500”.
Myers shows off his winning colors. (ASA Modified Photo)
Steve Paine wheels his Mod on the dirt. (Paine Motorsports Photo)
Nester in victory lane (USA Mod Photo)