51 Leftovers: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Twin State by Denise DuPont and Mike Twist
Before The Tour Gets Back on Track at Riverhead, Catch Up With What Happened in the Last Race
Lia's #4 at Twin State. (51 Photo)
TOP FIVE IS FINE FOR LIA
After winning four of the first six races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule this year, it would be easy to think that Donny Lia would set the bar high each time that he heads to the track. Maybe even too high. In fact, you might think that finishing fourth at Twin State would be a disappointment for him and the #4 Mystic Missile team.
But that wasn’t the case at all. Lia was content with his finish in the latest race on the Tour schedule.
“We knew what we had to do,” said Lia. “We kept all four wheels on it and came out of here with a top-five finish. These guys did a good job and we had a good racecar. We qualified towards the front and finished towards the front. We couldn’t ask for more than that – except to win of course.”
So with all of the winning that Lia has done in 2007, does that mean that he might just have tired of doing that again? Fat chance.
“No,” Lia laughed. “I never get tired of winning.”
The Twin State race was also productive in another way for the Mystic Missile team. It should help them prepare for the upcoming race at Riverhead Raceway (NY).
“We learned a little bit,” said Lia. “We know why we didn’t have a car that could win the race. We’ll put that in the memory bank and move on. We’ve got Riverhead coming up, so even though this place isn’t exactly like Riverhead, some of the general ideas are the same so now we have a better idea of what we are going to bring there. We came out of here learning something.”
SILK CONTINUES CAREER SEASON
Ronnie Silk has been up towards the front a lot more this year on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. At Twin State, he set fast time and finished third.
”It was a good race,” said Silk. “I won the pole which is real good. I have been so close several times. The car started out good and then I missed the shift and backed up. I had to work hard to get back up to third which just used the car up. The last 10 laps or so the car was gone I just had to hold on.”
Silk is currently ranked fifth in the Tour standings, which is the latest step in his racing career.
“I spent a year at Waterford. Then I moved to get seat time at Thompson and Stafford. The more time that have at short tracks the better off you are. The short tracks are tough and you need to learn how to drive them.”
BLEWETT COMES BACK FROM HEAT RACE TROUBLES
Jimmy Blewett won the first ever NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour “Flash” race earlier this season at Wall Township Raceway (NJ). At Twin State, he had to settle for a finish of 10th.
But after starting 25th due to problems in the heat race, a hard-fought top-10 was still reason to be happy.
“It’s a shame that we started where we did because the rear end broke in the heat race,” said Blewett. “We started 26th and finished 10th. I passed more cars than
anyone tonight and that’s what we come here to do. So we’re happy with a 10th-place finish.”
CIVALI CLICKS WITH TWIN STATE TRACK
James Civali was probably the happiest driver about the Modified Tour’s return to Twin State after a two-decade absence. After all, the young driver won the race in his first time ever even going to the New Hampshire track.
Silk's Bud Pole award (Top - Mary Hodge Photo) and his #19 Modified. (Bottom - Jim DuPont Photo)
“It was a great race. I enjoyed the track.” said Civali. “You could pass here unlike Wall Stadium. Today was the first time that I saw the track and raced on it. Unlike Wall Stadium, the track has an outside groove.”
To win the event, Civali had to keep the charging #59 of Matt Hirschman at bay.
“Matt had a great car and was faster then me at the end. It took all that I had to hold him off. We had a great run side by side and the car was pretty even for a while.”
LIL’ HIRSCHY LIKES THE BULLRINGS
Between his schedule on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the Race of Champions Modified tour, not to mention several open shows, Matt Hirschman visits dozens of racetracks every year to race.
And he loves tight bullrings like Twin State.
“A lot of people say that these tracks are too small for the Modifieds, but that is not the case. These places are the bullrings where Modified races started. Finishing second to me in places like this means more to me sometimes then winning. There is nothing like winning, but when you can have a good time at a Modified race, that is what counts. That is all about racing in general. We put on great show here and hopefully everyone enjoyed it.
“We need to add more short tracks to the schedule and race more often, if we add more race tracks like this to the schedule we could be racing every weekend. We need to get out there and race.”
FLEMKE ENJOYS TWIN STATE, BUT…
Matt Hirschman felt very welcome at Twin State with his #59 Modified. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Civali's #28 Modified. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Eddie Flemke (Center) was one of several drivers who got to meet area race fans up close in the midway area. (Leif Tillotson Photo)
“Great race, great little short track and most entertaining race of the year,” said Hirschman after the checkers at Twin State.
“They need to eliminate the heat races. Just shorten the race if the have to, but the purse has to be there also. We cannot race and keep on losing money. They have to keep on working on it until they can come up with the right combination. The division started out running at a bunch of short tracks”
TIRE MYSTERY DROPS BEERS BACK
In practice and in his heat race, it looked liked Eric Beers would have a car to contend with at Twin State. However, tire troubles left him with a finish of 16th in the feature.
“The only thing that hurt us tonight was that the right rear grew over an inch during the race. I have no idea why,” said Beers. “We started out with 3 5/8th (inches of stagger) and came in with over 4 ½. Wow. And you can’t change a tire. So we lived with it and we’re still in the top 10 until there were about 10 laps to go. That’s when a couple of guys checked up in the top 10 and I got sideways. I lost a ton of spots.”
“We ran real well today. We practiced well, time trialed well and we were racing well. But the thing just kept getting looser and looser. It’s just one of those things that happens.”
Beers joined the #94 Gaydosh team at the beginning of the season and after some early struggles, they have been coming together very nicely over the past several events.
“Our team is still working on pulling it all together,” said Beers. “We are getting better and it is a great team.”
GRIGAS RIDES OLE’ BLUE
Bobby Grigas, III got to live a little bit of Modified racing history at Twin State Speedway. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie drove the legendary ‘Ole Blue #3 car fielded by the Boehler family in the race. By just strapping into the car, Grigas was following in the footsteps of such great drivers as Bugsy Stevens, Tony Hirschman, Ron Bouchard, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin and the late Fred DeSarro behind the wheel of ‘Ole Blue.
“It was a great opportunity to drive a piece of Modified history,” said Grigas. “I just wish
that I could have had a better finish.”
Grigas started 23rd and finished 21st. He struggled with handling problems in qualifying
and the heat race. He was adapting to the unfamiliar car as the race clicked on, but
once again bad luck found its way into Grigas’ race.
“We missed the set-up a little bit, but I have to say that the team did an awesome job.
They really put their best foot forward,” said Grigas. “The car started to come to me in
the middle of the race and was halfway decent on the outside. I tried to make a lane,
but everyone who I tried to pass kept pushing up the racetrack. The last wreck, my
spotter said to go high and that is when [Richard] Savary hooked to the right. We’ve
had a lot of bad luck lately, but what can you do?”
Grigas in the #3 (Jim DuPont Photo)
Eddie Flemke finished 13th and also enjoyed the on-track portion of the Mod Tour race at Twin State. However, he was not as impressed with the Flash format or its reduced purse that was in effect there.
“This was a fun track and we could race it.,” said Flemke. “I do not mind coming to tracks like this to race they are fun. But one again we need to make it worth the while of the competitors and teams to be able to travel and afford to race. The money has to be there. We cannot continue to just loose money and use up our equipment.