Summers is the Leading Man in All-Star Mod Open by Mike Twist
Seuss and Christopher See Their Chances Go Away After Caution Period Tangle
Some people spend their Saturday nights going to the movie theater to be entertained. Some go to the racetrack for the same purpose.
Track owner Bobby McArthur (L) was the producer and Robbie Summers (R) was the leading man in an "All-Star" story on Saturday night. (Jamiw Williams Photo)
On Saturday night at All-Star Speedway (NH), the races were what played out just like a Hollywood movie script in the USG Sheetrock 150. During the Modified open show, there were some marquee names. There were some plot twists, including a bizarre incident that changed the outcome of the race. There was a hometown hero who had to battle adversity all day long. There was the villain of sorts, a journeyman character with a record of donning a black hat to take whatever loot and victory lane trophies that he can get his hands on.
And then there was the quiet supporting actor who nobody really saw coming, but ended up with the girl…well in this case the winner’s check…right before the closing credits rolled.
The producer of the race was Bobby McArthur. A former Super Late Model driver himself, McArthur bought Star Speedway over the off-season and immediately started to make improvement to the facility. He got his first taste of putting on a major open competition show this weekend by inviting Modified teams from all over to come to the newly renamed All-Star Speedway on an off weekend for both the NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour and the True Value Modified Racing Series. McArthur posted a purse of $4,000 to win and $100 for each lap led.
While the entry list ended up being only moderately long, it was filled with some big names. Nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik was there. As were Ted Christopher and Jerry Marquis. The father and son team of Charlie and Chris Pasteryak both ran in the event. 2007’s breakthrough driver on the NASCAR Mod Tour, Ronnie Silk, towed up from Connecticut. Local boys done well Andy Seuss, Jon McKennedy and Louie Mechalides came back to a familiar track. The most recent winner in TVMRS action, Les Hinckley, was on hand as well.
The #13 of Summers and the #73 of Jon McKennedy finished first and second. (Jamie Williams Photo)
Overlooked by a few observers before the raceday got going might have been Rob Summers. The Connecticut driver brought his converted SK Modified to All-Star with a pretty good pedigree so far this year. In two 2007 starts, he wheeled it to a near-win in the SK Nationals at Waterford and a victory in the TVMRS opener at the same track in Connecticut. But Summers’ quiet demeanor kept him under the radar heading into the event.
That changed when Summers unloaded his car and posted the quickest lap times of the opening practice session. Maybe he would be one to watch after all.
Meanwhile, the driver who was second quickest in the opening practice session saw his day turn dramatic quickly. Andy Seuss, whose biggest career moments have occurred at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida and at Nashville’s Music City Motorplex, was a
favorite heading into the weekend. With his home only 20 minutes from the track, a large cheering section would be assured for the 20-year-old driver. That cheering section almost was silenced though when Seuss blew an engine in the first practice session. His low-budget team did not have a back-up powerplant, nor could they find one available in the pit area.
Seuss’ team didn’t plan to give up though. They worked the phones and found that fellow Modified racer Gary Casella would lend them his engine if they could drive down to his Massachusetts shop to pick it up. So as most of the Seuss crew worked to pull out the bad engine, another crew member hit the road to go and get its replacement.
Jerry Marquis had some drama of his own to deal with as well. A spindle sheered apart in his heat race, sending the left front hub and wheel assembly rolling off his car and into the path of Les Hinckley’s #06 machine. It then bounced off Hinckley’s car and headed skyward. Nobody was hit and the #06 wasn’t badly damaged, but Marquis’ team had a fair amount of repair work to get ready for the feature race.
Three haulers away, the Seuss team was still plugging along. They skipped their heat race and took only a few hot laps to check out the new engine. A few more adjustments were made and as the rest of the field headed out onto the track for driver intros, the #70 headed to the scales for its pre-race weight-in.
#36 car. Seuss tried to pass on the outside, then the inside, then the outside again. But everywhere he attempted a pass, the #36 went first. Seuss even took a ride through the backstretch dirt to avoid running into the back of Christopher.
With one lap to go before a 10-minute halfway break, Christopher threw a block on Seuss that had a bad outcome for both parties. That was when Jon McKennedy dove underneath from third to take the lead. It was a good prediction of what was going to happen much later on.
“The crew did an awesome job changing the motor,” said Seuss. “They drove an hour to pick up another one and got it back in there. It was great to see the team work like that.”
Seuss started scratch on the field and immediately began to march forward. By lap 16, he was in the top 10. By lap 28, he was in the top five.
But up front at that point, it was all Summers. After winning his heat race, he led from the pole and stayed out front for the first 49 laps. As Summers collected hundred dollar bills each time around the quarter-mile oval, one of his tires started to go soft in what was the night’s first plot twist.
“It was good, then we got that flat right rear and it turned into a nightmare,” said Summers. “That’s why we pitted. I felt it. That’s why everyone started blowing by me. I knew that a tire was going down, I wasn’t sure if it was the right front or the right rear, but I knew that we needed a caution before we got wrecked or run over.”
As Summers slid backwards, Ted Christopher took over the lead. TC’s win-at-all-costs style was well known by the fans, who were already expecting some more drama.
They got exactly that less than 10 laps later when Seuss closed up on Christopher’s
this point, Seuss was moving up in the world and Summers was backsliding with handling issues.
“We found out after the race that the stagger opened up over an inch. The car was a handful after the halfway break,” said Summers.
Christopher proved hard to pass again. Seuss kept glued to his rear bumper though and the two racers promised to make the finish a memorable one.
Andy Seuss' #70 changes engines before the feature. (51 Photo)
Ted Christopher (#36) and Andy Seuss raced hard for the lead. Later on, things would gte even more heated. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Christopher called the incident “just racing” and was happy with his performance as well.
“We came from 10th to lead,” said Christopher. “That was pretty good.”
Summers on the other hand, wasn’t out of the picture either. He was well within the top 10 at halfway.
“Once we put tires on, we went back towards to front,” said Summers. “We went from last to seventh [at the halfway break].”
In the second half, Christopher did battle with a local youngster again, but this time it was Jon McKennedy on the hot seat. TC became very familiar with McKennedy’s rear bumper before using a lapped car as a pick to retake the lead. Seuss slid back out of the top five for awhile, but started to come back to the front a short while later. On lap 114, he passed Summers for second-place and had his sights set on Christopher. At
They did just that. But it wasn’t quite how they wanted it to be either.
With eight laps to go, Les Hinckley spun in turn two. Seuss had been setting up Christopher down low and dove underneath him to make a pass as the caution flew. On the backstretch, Christopher pulled along the outside and Seuss and turned left to show his displeasure with the move. The cars touched and TC spun to the infield. The crowd when wild and Christopher soon pulled off the track for what appeared to be a flat tire. But he never returned. The damage was race-ending for the #36 car and an almost certain podium finish, and quite possibly a victory, was now history for Christopher.
What exactly happened? The drivers involved couldn’t really say for sure.
“Under the caution, he drove into me and I guess that I ended up running into him,” said Christopher. “I don’t know if it was when he got into me or when I got into him, but it got the rear [end] and ended up breaking an axle. I don’t know why he drove over me when the caution came out. You don’t race back to the yellow.”
“We were racing hard,” said Seuss. “I knew that the #06 car [Hinckley] was spinning, but the caution had not come out yet, so I went by him [Christopher]. I didn’t touch him. He must have thought that it was wrong, so he came down the backstretch on the outside of me and turned into my right front under caution. That damaged both cars and it took him out of the race. My rim was bent and I’m sure that there was all kinds of other front end damage because the car pushed like a truck after the restart. [Later on, Seuss’ team found out that they had a broken spindle and the toe was knocked out four inches from the incident] It was unfortunate that happened.”
Summers lined up third on the ensuing restart. Seuss tried to hold off McKennedy, but with a badly wounded car, that wasn’t going to happen for long. The two made slight contact and this time, Summers slipped by for the lead. He kept it to win the race, reversing his early bad luck and getting a little bit of good luck to save the day.
“I was pretty fortunate, but I’ll take that right now because we’ve had no luck lately,” said Summers. “There’s a lot of luck involved in racing. I’ve had my share of bad luck and good luck, so when this happens, I’ll take it. I saw that Jon got into the back of Andy and they got kind of loose, so I went by them both into the lead and hung on.
“We’ve led laps in every race that this car has been in this year. It’s an awesome car. I
love these shows. I just hope that some of this will spill over to the Modified Tour. We’ve
had the worst luck there, but we’ve been gaining on it.”
Christopher has had terrible luck on the Mod Tour this year as well. But that streak carried over to the open show at All-Star as well, leaving TC in the very unfamiliar position of stuck in Mid-May without a single Modified victory so far this season. He might have enjoyed racing at All-Star, but he left as a frustrated driver.
“It was fun,” said Christopher. “I love short track racing. Lapped cars come into effect and all kinds of things come into play. So I had fun tonight. It just wasn’t the ending that I wanted again. Damn. These races keep going well, but not ending well for us. But what are you going to do?”
McKennedy held on to finish second in the race over Seuss, Ronnie Silk and Chris Pasteryak.
Jon McKennedy's #73 (Jim DuPont Photo)
Seuss and Christopher mix it up under the spun car of Les Hinckley as the caution comes out. (Top - Rick Ibsen Photo). Moments later, Christopher cut his #36 down into Seuss' car to show his displeasure. That took both drivers out of contention for the victory. (Middle and Bottom - Jamie Williams Photos)