Racing Courtesy and Late Lap Conflict Give Lia Fifth Win of Season  by Amie Campbell
Riverhead Mod Tour Battle Comes Down to Who Wrecked and Who Didn't
The Whelen Modified Tour made their lone stop to this tight track for the final of three flash-format races, and it was Ted Christopher scoring the pole through the time trial portion of the event, narrowly edging out Riverhead locals, Bill Park and Howie Brode.  After a pair of 25 lap heat races set the remainder of 28 car field, the race would finally begin about an hour behind schedule due to a problem with the lighting in turn one.

Mike Stefanik, the reigning tour Champion, led the first 114 laps of the race, a stretch marked by lots of nose-to-tail racing and caution flags for single car spins.  It was one of those spins, one that didn’t draw a caution, that turned the lead over to Christopher on lap 115 when smoke filled the frontstretch.

Stefanik and Christopher battled hard and often side by side over the next 20 laps, with Christopher ghosting against the wall at one point and Stefanik kicking up dust from the infield.  When lap traffic started to bottle things up in front of them, Stefanik and Christopher got together again, damaging both of their vehicles out of contention.

Donny Lia would move from third to first and he never looked back, taking the win on lap 144 after the race extended into overtime for a green-white-checker finish.  Park finished second, with Ronnie Silk, Justin Bonsignore and James Civali rounding out the top five.  Bonsignore, another Riverhead local, had only recently returned behind the wheel after breaking his wrist earlier in the season.

“I had a little something for Donny at the end, but he ran me good a couple of weeks ago here (Riverhead) for the 77 lapper,” said Park after the race.  “I’m leading the points here.  He was behind me with five laps to go, he never bumped me and I owed him the same courtesy.  If I could have gotten him, I would have but I was not going to bump him out of the way to do it.”
Donny Lia (#4) and Bill Park (#20) raced each other clean at the end of the Riverhead race.  They were rewarded by finishes of first and second.  (Rick Ibsen Photos)
Riverhead Raceway (NY) is a quarter-mile bullring, a tricky little track where you’re not just racing but also trying to survive the mayhem.  Bumping, banging, and lots of caution periods are common, as are cars with their front nerf bars completely vertical after a race. 
Lia remembered the race Park spoke of, the 77 lap feature held annually in memory of some of Riverhead’s legendary drivers who have passed away.  “We were going for fifth or something like that,” recalled Lia.  “ I probably could have driven him a little bit harder and forced the issue but like I told my guys, the guy is here racing all year long, he’s going for a championship, we’re here for one race.  I wouldn’t want to be going for a championship and have someone take me out.  I guess tonight was a little bit of payback.  I want to thank him for that, for remembering.  It’s funny how things work.”

While Lia stood in victory lane, he mused that to finish first, first you must finish.  It was a lesson that Christopher and Stefanik seem to forget this race, but one that Lia did not.

“We had some give and take there and the 16 (Stefanik) and 36 (Christopher) had no give and take and I guess they didn’t end up making out too well,” said Lia.  “They had the two best cars tonight.  We did not have a car to win; I’m not ashamed to admit it.  Sometimes you’ve just got to hang in there and get whatever you can get.  Tonight, we were able to get a win.”

The victory extended Lia’s point lead over Matt Hirschman to 92 points.  The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action this Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT).
Riverhead Raceway
Riverhead, NY

(Starting position in parentheses)

1. (3) Donny Lia, Jericho N.Y., Dodge, 144
2. (7) Bill Park, Manorville N.Y., Chevrolet, 144
3. (15) Ronnie Silk, Norwalk Conn., Chevrolet, 144
4. (11) Justin Bonsignore, Holtsville N.Y., Chevrolet, 144
5. (9) James Civali, Meriden Conn., Chevrolet, 144
6. (21) Danny Sammons, Hamilton N.J., Chevrolet, 144
7. (24) Matt Hirschman, Northampton Penn., Dodge, 144
8. (5) Howie Brode, East Islap N.Y., Chevrolet, 144
9. (26) Jamie Tomaino, Howell N.J., Chevrolet, 144
10. (19) Ryan Preece, Kensington Conn., Chevrolet, 144
11. (1) Michael Stefanik, Coventry R.I., Pontiac, 144
12. (8) Jimmy Blewett, Calverton N.Y., Chevrolet, 143
13. (20) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley Penn., Chevrolet, 143
14. (17) Ed Flemke, Jr, Southington Conn., Chevrolet, 143
15. (4) Ted Christopher, Plainville Conn., Chevrolet, 143
16. (25) Todd Szegedy, Ridgefield Conn., Ford, 140
17. (23) Kevin Goodale, Riverhead N.Y., Chevrolet, 140
18. (13) J.R. Bertuccio, Jr, Centereach N.Y., Chevrolet, 138, Nerf bar
19. (14) Eric Beers, Northampton Penn., Chevrolet, 138
20. (10) Dan Jivanelli, Hampton Bays N.Y., Chevrolet, 133, Bumper
21. (6) Jerry Marquis, Broad Brook Conn., Dodge, 103, Accident
22. (22) Richard Savary, Canton Mass., Chevrolet, 94, Accident
23. (12) Chuck Steuer, Bohemia N.Y., Chevrolet, 89, Bumper
24. (28) Glenn Tyler, Hampton Bays N.Y., Chevrolet, 84, Accident
25. (2) Anthony Ferrante, Jr, New Hyde Park N.Y., Chevrolet, 83, Accident
26. (16) Wayne Anderson, Yaphink N.Y., Chevrolet, 82, Accident
27. (18) Dick Houlihan, Bridgewater Mass., Chevrolet, 69, Accident
28. (27) Wade Cole, Riverton Conn., Chevrolet, 58, Accident

Race statistics
Caution Flags: 7 for 66 laps.
Lap Leaders: Stefanik 1-114, Christopher 115-136, Stefanik 137-138, Lia 139-144.
Total Laps Led: Stefanik 116, Christopher 22, Lia 6.  3 changes involving 3 drivers.
Next Race: Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, Friday, Aug. 10

Mike Stefanik (#16) and Ted Christopher (#36) got too aggressive with each other at the end - and lost their chances at winning.