Summers Gets Springtime True Value Mod Win at Waterford by Denise DuPont
100 Laps of Racing Fills a Picture Perfect Night
The opening race for the 2007 season of the True Value Modified Racing Series was at Waterford Speedbowl (CT) on Saturday, April 21st. Since the series inception four years ago, the opening race was a Monadnock Speedway tradition, but this year because of snow, Monadnock Speedway’s first race was postponed until Saturday, April 28th.
There were Modifieds everywhere in the Modified pits as the TVMRS season started at Waterford. (Jim DuPont Photo)
The first order of business for the TVMRS were qualifying races that included several of the Waterford SK Modifieds, which were changed over to conform to TVMRS rules. There were 47 cars in the pits ready to qualify for the twenty-six starting positions.
After qualifying races were completed, seven of the 16 finishers were Waterford cars who would be among the pack of cars starting the 100 green lap race. Waterford’s Kenny Horton, Rob Summers, Chris Pasteryak and Jeff Pearl. They all made the race by finishing in the top four positions of their qualifying heats. Meanwhile, Frank Ruocco and Dennis Gada were automatically eligible to start the race after earning starting spots at a Waterford qualifying race that was held on Saturday, April 14th.
Mike Holdridge, who was a Sportsman, Late Model and Modified Rookie of the Year at Waterford, won the first consi race. This brought the number of Waterford competitors in the TVMRS to eight. Close to one-third of the starting field of cars were manned with local track drivers and their SK cars.
“It was not a negative thing having so many local drivers in the race. Actually, having local drivers in the race raised the expectation bar on the series”, said two-time TVMRS champion Kirk Alexander.
After post-qualifying inspection, Chris Wenzel was disqualified from the race. So Todd Patnode, who had completed the consi race in fourth position, was able to take over Wenzel’s starting spot.
“I have not driven a modified car in eight years and I love it. I know if I got to start the race I would have a chance to win.” Patnode said when he heard he was in the race
During the second consi race there was a lot of bumping, spinning and scraping of cars. The race was dominated by Bryan Shumway, a youngster from Belchertown, MA and the experienced older driver from NH, Jack Bateman. Tony Ricci who scraped the front stretch wall midway through the event, went across the line to take the third qualifying position.
The heat races were a full-contact sport. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Ricci’s car had blown an intake gasket during practice and his team had to do a lot of scrambling to get the car in the consi race. There were signs of smoke at the end of the consi race though and it was just a sign of what was to come. Ricci’s car did not make it through the feature due to engine problems that continued to plague the team.
Provisional positions for the first three races will be based on last year’s driver’s points and rules. Kirk Alexander selected to take a provisional position rather then competing in a consi race. The second provisional spot was taken by new driver of the Brian Schofield #07 car, Andy Seuss.
Seuss had tried to get into the main event by running the consi but the new team are still working on getting the car dialed in.
As the cars came out on the track behind the pace car to start the race, the #06 car of Les Hinckley stopped on the front stretch. The car and driver had to be pushed off the
track. The team was unable to return to the event due to dead car battery. So without power, Hinckley’s night ended early with disappointment.
As the green flag flew to begin the race, cars went into turn one and then around the track to fourth turn in a close knit pack bumping and scrapping and fighting for the lead. As things shook out Ed Dauchenhausen, a prior Waterford competitor and TVMRS regular, fought his way to the lead
When it began to look as though the incident filled night of racing at the track was behind all, lap number seven began a whole new series of track cautions. Cars came four wide around the track to turn four vying for position. As the cars went across the start finish line, a tire and its axle went flying across the track as Bryan Shumway hit the wall hard in front of the starter's stand.
“The guys just hit me and put me in the wall,” said Shumway. “It is a tough way to start the beginning of a race.”
Kevin Konopka, who was involved in the four abreast tangle, hit the front stretch wall just after the starter’s stand and continued to run along the wall scrapping it hard until the wall turned to make first turn of the oval and the car did not. The car hit the first turn wall hard.
Yellow was the color of the night at Waterford. This caution was for Ben Rowe's hard wreck. (Jim DuPont Photo)
“Two cars got into me and put me into the first turn wall,” said Konopka.
The red flag was thrown as cars, drivers and the track were attended to by the track crew. The drivers were able to walk from their cars but their cars went off the track hanging on the hook of tow trucks.
Racing resumed until lap 12, when Jack Bateman’s car kissed the front stretch wall bringing out the second caution. The top five cars at this time were Dauchenhausen, Lou Mechalides, Pasteryak, Summers and Horton.
The drivers continued to race hard for the lead until Summers, a regular of Waterford, bumped Mechalides’ car to take over the second position on lap 35. Mechalides had been a strong contender in the race. He had maintained the second spot since the beginning laps of the race.
On lap 36, Andy Seuss and Jimmy Kun tangled as they approached turn one and went through the standing water on the edge of the infield spewing water on the track. After sliding through
the water, Seuss’ car shot across the track and hit the Armco barrier between turn one and two. Seuss was able to drive away to the pits, but the track crew had to once again get out the speedy dry to clear up the track. All night drivers said that the track was slippery in between turn one and two. It was as tough the track was saturated with water.
On the caution restart, Summers took over the lead from Dauchenhausen, bringing TC to the front of the pack with him. Dauchenhausen went back to third spot and pushed Mechalides back to fourth. Dauchenhausen had led the first 34 laps. It only took one lap after this move before TC maneuvered to take over the lead from Summers.
Cars tried a three wide move again as they came out of turn four on the track on lap 34. Ben Rowe was a victim in the action when his car was pinched into the wall on the front straight away. Momentum carried the car along the wall until the car hit the turn one wall ,much as Konopka’s car had done earlier. Also involved in the incident was Dale Evonsion whose car was damaged enough to be towed off the track.
“It is too bad, we were having a lot of fun,” said Rowe. “This is a great little track. You can get out on the outside of the track and go. There is quite a bit of damage on the car”
On the restart, Summers rocketed pass TC for the lead coming off of turn two. Half-way through the race, Summers led the field followed closely by TC and Dauchenhausen. TC was all over the back of Summers’ car as they went around the track bump drafting.
Jack Bateman gave his car a Saturday night bath on lap 54 as he took his turn to go into the water in turn one bringing out another caution. The track crew got their brooms and the speedy dry out to dry up the track again.
With the heavy down pours that covered the state of Connecticut during the week’s “Nor’easter”, there was a major puddle in turn one that resembled a small pond. All night, cars just had to go over the track’s bottom line and water spread to drench the track. There were over 50 laps of caution and most were to allow the track crew to clean off water from turn one.
On lap 54, the race was restarted single file. There were only 14 cars left due to the high race attrition. The track was also messy and white all over with residue of speedy dry.
TC had something break in the right back of his car on lap 62, as he drove around the
bottom of the track. A shock mount broke, which caused the right rear to drag close to the track. He had to park the car for the night.
Summers continued to lead the race followed by Dauchenhausen, with Patrnode bump drafting on Summers’ bumper. They were followed by the pack of Alexander, Kuhn and Pasteryak. On lap 83, Patnode came under Dachenhausen causing Ed to spin in turn two. After a good race, Dauchenhausen had to go to the back of the pack to fight his way back to the front.
With 10 laps to go Summers continued to led the race with Patnode now on his bumper. Patnode tried hard to get around from the top and bottom, but Summers would not let him.
It look like the race was Summers’ when with only two laps to go Mike Holdridge spun and hit the first turn wall.
What was Rob Summers thinking as the cars went around the track with the caution? Was it here we go again? Is this a repeat of the Bud Modified National race where he lost the race with three laps to go?
“We did not pull off the win for the Bud National race after the caution,” recalled Summers. “We needed this one bad being a hometown boy. Racing with these cars is awesome. “
The lap counter was reset for a green, white, checker finish and Summers was able to stay out front.
“Rockin” Rob Summers went on to win the race followed across the finish line by Todd Patnode and Kirk Alexander, Jimmy Kuhn and Chris Pasteryak. This was Summers’ first TVMRS win.
“The outside groove was really the place to be tonight,” commented Summers after the race. “The infield was wet, so every time a car went near it, they put water out on the track so it made the bottom of the track tough. “
Todd Patnode had started last and managed to bring his car to the front of the pack to take second position.
“The car was awesome,” said Patnode. “The guys threw the kitchen sink at it. We changed everything in this car from one end to another after the consi race. We then
had it dialed in. I thought that I had a run at it one, but I just could not quite get there. I came here and practiced a few weeks ago. Before that I have never seen the track. There is nothing better then a modified!”
Kirk Alexander had spun three or four times on the track but hung on to the wheel of his car to come in third.
“I am really happy with a third place here,” said Alexander. “This track is a tough track to run. The car was a hand full in the beginning, but we got her dialed in pretty good.
It is just survival out here.”
Kirk had one two times previously at Waterford and is already looking forward to going back there.
“We love racing here,” said Alexander in his podium interview. “It was a good time. Hope you enjoyed this race.”