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
DIRT: ROSS MOTORSPORTS MAKES SUPER SIGNING WITH SHEPPARD

They share in common the same hometown of Waterloo, New York and a collegiate experience at the Rochester (NY) Institute of Technology, with each taking full advantage of a career opportunity that came their way in the year 2004.  Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series standout Matt Sheppard is hoping the similarities with Super Bowl Champion New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin don’t stop there as his first priority is also a world championship --- his sought in the premier Big-Modified class that opens the 2008 DIRTcar Racing NorthEast season in the Sunshine State.
The Advance Auto Parts Modified mini-series includes three 30-lap main events with a 50-lap finale closing out the '08 trip, February 13-16. An optional practice is reserved for Tue., Feb. 12. Ross Motorsports will be looking to improve on a seventh-place showing in last winter’s Alltel DIRTcar Nationals standings in Sheppard’s third-ever trip to VSP.

“I’ll be back home trying to sew up some loose ends,” added car owner Ross, who was recognized at the DIRTcar NE Banquet last November with a special achievement award that commemorated his 20th Anniversary of Big-Block competition. Ready to open their fifth straight season together, Sheppard continues the winning tradition for Ross Motorsports, having already scored 27 DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature wins with four registered in the highly competitive Advance Series where he has placed among the top-10 in the overall Mr. DIRTcar Modified standings every year --- 7th-2007, 8th-2006, 5th-2005, 6th-2004.

“Right now I’m just hoping to get the program together and keep it going. What happens in the next two weeks will probably determine our plans for the rest of the year. We’re looking at a few options but its just too earlier to take a solid stance in any one direction. Following the Advance Series is still our primary goal,” Ross said.

Joining Sheppard in the all-star cast of 40 chauffeurs scheduled to make the haul south are all-time Alltel Nationals Big-Block feature winner Brett Hearn, defending Florida Tour Champion Danny Johnson, New York veterans Alan Johnson, Billy Decker and Jimmy Phelps, along with New Jersey star Jimmy Horton and Delaware driver Jamie Mills.

TVMRS: TWIN STATE RACE ADDED TO ’08 SCHEDULE

In a joint announcement Dennis Fleury Owner/Promoter of Twin State Speedway and Jack Bateman president of the True Value Modified Racing series announced that on Sunday Sept. 28th  the True Value Modified Racing  Series will make their 1st appearance at the Claremont, N.H. 1/3 mile oval. Twin State becomes the third new venue on the 2008 True Value Modified Racing Schedule, increasing the number of races for the upcoming season to 19. The 100 lap race will be held on Sunday, Sept. 28 and will be a one day event. It will be part of an exciting two day weekend racing festival to close out the season at Twin State.
“I never met (Coughlin) but I’m still a big Giants fan and it was great to see them win again,” said Sheppard, 25, a Waterloo native now residing in Albany to be close to the Ross Motorsports shop in New York’s Capital District. While Waterloo High School (1964) alum Coughlin coached football at RIT from 1970-73, ‘Super Matt’ earned his Mechanical Engineering Technology degree in 2006 from the Flower City facility. 2004 marked Coughlin’s latest hiring by the Giants’ front office as well as Sheppard’s inaugural season behind the wheel of owner Randy Ross’ high-profile Big-Block entry.

When the 37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park kicks off the Big-Block Modified portion of its schedule next week, Sheppard will be back aboard the potent Ross Motorsports no. 44s Adam Ross Cut Stone-Magee Transport-Seneca Auto Sales machine hoping to begin that elusive championship run. It will be a Super Series ‘Tribute’ sculpture in place of the Super Bowl ‘Lombardi Trophy’ that will be the top prize on his own agenda for DIRTcar’s 2003 Big-Block Rookie of the Year.

“We missed a lot on the set-up last year at Volusia so I’m anxious to get back out and try a few new things with the car,” noted Sheppard, who will be buckled into an ’08 Bicknell mount picked up last August from the St. Catharines, Ontario chassis builder. “I just couldn’t get the car to turn all week. It’s a big, wide track that’s pretty fast and if your car is handling good it’s a lot of fun getting around. Whatever happens, its still nice to get out of New York this time of year.”
“We are pleased to add Twin State Speedway to our schedule,” said True Value Modified Racing Series President Jack Bateman. “After a long period of time and planning, and looking at race dates, we were finally able to put it together. Hopefully this is the 1st step in a long working relationship between Twin State and TVMRS. The track has a rich history for modified racing and the drivers on our series will certainly look forward to this event.”
  
“The True Value Modified Racing Series is a perfect fit for Twin State, “ said track President Dennis Fluery. “Many of the competitors currently on the series have raced at Twin State in their careers. It will be a homecoming for some them. Our fans will be looking forward to the return of multi-time track champion Dwight Jarvis. It will be fun to watch Dwight come back to Twin State where he cut his teeth in modified racing. As well as Kirk Alexander, Les Hinckley, Sean Bodreau, Peter Jarvis, Rob Goodenough, Todd Patnode, all these guys have many years of experience at the Thrasher road oval.”
Twin State Speedway   (51 Photo)
This will be the first visit to the 1/3 mile track for the series and will be the fourth speedway in New Hampshire scheduled to host an event in 2008. The True Value Modified Racing series will compete in five of the six New England states, the only touring modified series which encompasses all of New England.
   
“With the addition of Twin State Speedway our series is scheduled to race at 11 different speedways in New England,” said Bateman. “We are excited  about bringing our series to the great venues in this part of the country which has so many modified fans.”
   
The event will be a part of Twin State’s 2nd Annual Fall Classic. There will be racing all weekend long and as of press time the weekend will be divided up into to separate shows. Saturday’s portion will host all the Full Fendered divisions including Late Models, Super Streets, All Star Race Trucks, Legacy Cars, Strictly Stocks, Youth Sportsman and our Wildcat (4cyl Enduro) Division. Then on Sunday it will turn into Open Wheel Madness as just open wheel divisions will take to the speedway. The True Value Modifieds will be headline of day, but also on tap will be the ultra fast NEMA Midgets, the NEMA Lite’s, and Twin State Speedway’s own Pepsi Modifieds. The Speedway is still in talks with additional open wheel series to complete the day. More info will be announced over the coming months about this event.   
   
The first “official” event for the True Value Modified Racing Series is scheduled for Feb. 8, 9 and 10 at the annual Frank Maratta Show of Dreams. The series will have a display, featuring the cars of Jeff Pearl and Jack Bateman, at the 49th annual show currently held at the Connecticut Expo Center.
   
The 2008 True Value Modified Racing Series will open at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. on April 12.

SKs: JEFF PAUL PREPARES FOR ’08 SEASON AT THE BOWL

Already a seasoned competitor at age 20, Waterford Speedbowl SK Modified competitor Jeff Paul is gearing up for a run at the 2008 championship. The team is preparing for its third SK season at the always-tight Speedbowl.
The Speedbowl opens the 2008 campaign on April 12-13 with the 11th annual Modified Nationals. Highlighted by the lucrative SK-150, the weekend also includes the NASCAR Whelen All American Series Late Models, Sportsman, and Mini Stocks. The NEMA Midgets, Legends, AllStar Race Trucks, Pro4 Modifieds, and Allison Legacy Cars are part of a busy agenda as well.

The well-spoken Paul is part of an emerging new “youth group” at the Bowl along with 19-year old Tyler Chadwick and 2007 Rookie of the Year Glenn Pressel III.

“Last year we placed fifth in the final standings, and it left us with a really positive outlook,” said Paul. “We struggled with handling issues after wrecking early in the season and it slowed our program a bit. Had that not been the case, I think our showing would have been better.”

Seventeenth in last year’s SK-150, Paul understands the importance of a quick start in the points war. In addition to Speedbowl regulars like 2007 150 winner Jeff Pearl, defending champion Rob Janovic, all-time SK winner Dennis Gada and Dennis Charette, 2006 winner Ron Yuhas, Frank Ruocco, Kenny Horton, Rob Summers and Doug Coby are all 150 probables.

Paul spent his “formative” years in quarter midgets before finding considerable success in the Speedbowl Legends class.

“I found it more difficult going to the SK Modifieds than I did advancing from quarter midgets to the Legends,” Paul says. “Everybody is so equal. You have to be on the top of your game all the time. There’s no slacking-off in the division, especially at Waterford where everyone runs so tight, and there are so many good teams.”

Paul was a consistent performer in both the Legends and Wild n’ Wacky Wednesday X-Modifieds, actually winning 11 overall features and the Saturday night Legends title in 2005. Paul won his first SK feature on the way to he 2006 Rookie of the Year trophy. He won again in 2007.

Paul maintains a busy schedule outside of racing. A sophomore at Three Rivers Community College he is also a working apprentice in the field of television satellite installation.

“I’m very fortunate that I have such a dedicated and knowledgeable crew. If it were not for their efforts each and every week, I’d not be competing at this level,” he points out. “I never have to worry about how the car is prepared, because I know it’s going to right each time. That in itself instills a lot of confidence in a driver.“

For 2008, the team will maintain a two-car stable, again carrying Paul’s TV of Groton as their primary sponsor.

“Both cars are nearly identical which helps on the technical-side of things, and both are powered by Larry’s Auto Machine,” Paul says. “Consistency is a huge part of it, and we’re going to put a great deal of effort into being there at the end of each event. We managed to win twice last year, and with a little luck, I’m confident we can better that record.”

DIRT: PLANCK AND TERRENCE TEAM UP FOR BIG BLOCK ASSAULT

At 37, talented second-generation DIRTcar Modified driver Dale Planck hopes to be reaching his peak at just the right time. Not only when it comes to the experience gained following the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series, but in sponsorship support that has come his way to begin the 2008 race season.
Jeff Paul  (Speedbowl Photo)
Matt Sheppard   (DIRT Photo)
“I’m going down there to win the whole thing (points) but I still don’t even have a win. That sounds kinda strange but last year we probably had the fastest car every night yet something always happened before the end. And we still managed some good finishes even with the car messed up after every race,” noted Planck, who has steered three different chassis the past three winters at Volusia. The Cortland, New York standout went from 21st in 2005 to runner-up status last February in the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals points chase, while settling for 4th-place laurels in 2006. Although posting five career DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature wins in his career, the ‘Natural’ is still in search of his first checkered flag in the Sunshine State.

“I’ve become good friends with all the chassis builders over the years and am pretty familiar with every style car. Bobby (Hearn, TEO Fabrications owner) has definitely made some changes since I last drove one of his in ’05. It’ll probably take a little time to get used to but I seem to do good under pressure. I don’t have any specific expectations at this point, just try to be prepared the best I can every time out,” Planck figured. 

Planck began following the Advance Auto Parts Series full-time in 2006 and has since posted a pair of 100-lap victories. He placed 11th in overall 2006 Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRTcar Championship points and moved up into the sixth slot last season by logging four top-five finishes in the 32-race tour, with his lone win registered at Brewerton (NY) Speedway.

“The biggest challenge right now is building a team capable of following the whole Advance Series around the Northeast,” added Planck, listing Taylor Hill as his crew chief to head the handful of helpers coming together for the trip to Florida. We’ve got three more weeks to put all the pieces in place, it’s a long way to go if you’re not prepared. And on this tour you’ve got to be prepared and organized. Its not as hard to run up front when you get to the track feeling confident. Last year we were twice as good as in ’06  so we’re hoping to keep improving and moving up the ladder.”

SUNOCO MODIFIEDS: ROCCO HONORED AS THOMPSON CHAMP

The Raceway Restaurant and Golf Club, on the grounds of the historic Thompson International Speedway, was the site of the two-day 2007 champions celebration. On Saturday night, Keith Rocco of Wallingford took center stage as the Sunoco Modified champion. He shared the spotlight with fellow titlists-Late Model ace Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, and TIS Modified champion Kurt Vigeant of Oxford, MA. A night earlier, Pro Stock Champion Mike O’Sullivan of Springfield, MA, was honored along with Limited Sportsman honoree Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA, and Mini Stock victor Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI. NASCAR’s Chad Little was on hand on Saturday night to present the champions with their wares.
Carey Terrance, welcome to the world of Big-Block Modified racing.

“There were some other commitments with last year’s team and Carey was around when I was looking for a new ride,” said Planck, who will now be recognized aboard his new owner’s RezX Racing no. 77x Grow It Hydroseeding-Action Race Parts entry with two brand new ---another with just four laps--- Teo Pro Car chassis, a trio of Kevlar motors and plenty of spare parts stocked away in their Hogansburg, New York garage. “We were friends before when I raced up north and I’ve helped him out in the past with set-ups. Carey still plans to follow the DIRTcar Small-Block Series so I hope he can make it out to see a lot of my Big-Block tour shows. But its mostly my deal now and he’s letting me call all the shots.”

Planck is among 40 entries already signed up for the  37th Annual Alltel DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida. Race action begins Wednesday, February 13 and concludes Saturday, Feb. 16 with a big $5,000-to-win 50-lapper. Two more Big-Block shows are scheduled in between on Feb. 14-15 with an optional practice day saved for Tuesday, Feb. 12.
Dale Planck and Carey Terrance (DIRT Photos)
A relative newcomer, Keith Rocco, in only his third year of Sunoco Modified racing beat the best-of-the-best to score his first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Championship in 2007. With a great car owner in Don Bannister and the backing of a strong race team led by Shane Hopkins, Rocco and his Interstate Diesel team ran consistency straight to the championship. Together the team posted four wins, 12 top-five finishes, and 14 top-ten finishes.

The chase for the championship went right down to the wire with the top-three of Rocco, Woody Pitkat, and Tommy Cravenho all within striking distance of the title. All three teams finished in the top-five on that final night, but it was Rocco claiming the title in exciting fashion and a six-point edge. Defending champions Woody Pitkat and car owners Robert Hitchcock and Kelly Iverson came home second over Tommy Cravenho and owners Al and Cathy Moniz.

Veteran campaigner Kerry Malone finished the season in fourth while underdog Paul “Buddy” Charette had a breakout season to finish fifth in the final point standings. Todd
Ceravolo, Bert Marvin, Danny Cates, Harry Rheaume and the late John Blewett III ended the season-long battle in sixth through tenth positions, respectively. Cates was also honored as the Rookie-of-the-Year. After catapulting from the Limited Sportman division to the Modifieds, Cates was impressive scoring three top-five and 10 top-ten finishes. Josh Steeves was recognized with the “Most Improved Driver” Award.
 
The newest division to the Thompson International Speedway, the TIS Modifieds, continues to grow stronger year-after-year. Still in its infancy stage, the division quickly evolved into one of the most competitive at the track. In 2007, Kurt Vigeant proved to be the leader of this spirited pack with three wins, 11 top-fives and 14 top-tens. Tim Sullivan pressured the champ until the end to finish second. Roger Larson, Jr., Shane Michalski, and Mike Viens rounded out the top five. Also honored on Saturday night were sixth through tenth respectively, Leo ‘Bim’ Adams, Richie Ferreira, Glenn Boss, Roger Ducharme, and Bart Ramos. Shane Michalski also received “Most Improved Driver” honors while Josh Walmsley was named Rookie-of-the-Year.

A very special award was presented by Speedway management on Saturday night. Track employee Mario Palladini was bestowed with a well-deserved honor when he was awarded with the prestigious John Hoenig Memorial Award. The award, named in honor of the track’s founder, is presented annually to the employee who exhibits a true dedication to the Speedway. Mario possess a genuine admiration for the Hoenig family, track management, his fellow employees, and the competitors. He is truly committed to maintaining the lore that is Thompson Speedway and to improving the weekly presentation.
  
In just over two months the excitement of the 2008 season starts with the annual ICEBREAKER. April 5-6 will mark the start of another chase for championship honors in all six of the Thompson Speedway divisions. The on-track activities will begin on March 22 and March 29 with test and tune sessions.

PASS MODIFIEDS: 2008 SCHEDULE IS SET

Mod division will kick off its fifth season in 2008 with a ten race confirmed schedule that will see New England's most affordable asphalt open wheel division in action at four of Maine and New Hampshire's toughest ovals.
Beech Ridge Speedway in Scarborough Maine will play host to the PASS Mods on three occasions; the season's lid lifter on April 19th, July 5th, and the big PASS 400 weekend on Friday September 19th through Sunday September 21st. Wiscasset (ME) Raceway will welcome the PASS Mods on May 18th, June 15th and August 16th and host the grand finale championship event on October 4th.

Groveton New Hampshire's Riverside Speedway fans can look forward to two PASS Mod appearances on May 10 and July 26th. A May 3rd appearance at Speedway 95 in Hermon Maine will round out the 2008 card. One additional race date is currently under negotiation at press time.
Twenty two drivers earned PASS Mod points in 2007, a 25% increase from 2006 and
almost 50% greater than the 2005 season. It’s a trend that pleases PASS President Tom Mayberry.

"We've worked hard to build the PASS Mod division, and slowly but surely the racers have responded," said Mayberry.  "It's a fast, exciting and relatively affordable way to participate in a touring series, and the PASS Mods put on a great show for the fans. I fully expect the steady growth to continue for 2008 and beyond."
TRACKS: NEW LIGHTS FOR THOMPSON

This winter, the sound of racecar engines has been replaced by the roar of bulldozers, graders, cranes, front end loaders, post hole diggers and cement trucks at Thompson International Speedway. All of this activity at the historic race track is part of a major improvement program that will feature all new lighting for the race track, the main pit area and midway.

TRACKS: NEW TIRE DISTRIBUTOR AT THE HEAD

Riverhead Raceway owners and promoters Barbara and Jim Cromarty announced today that Eddie Partridge of Calverton will be the new Hoosier Tire distributor for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. The 2008 campaign opens up on Saturday May 3rd with a six for one program that again features the NASCAR Modifieds as the premier division.
Partridge got his first taste of stock car racing by attending his first race as a 6-year old youth and ever since that first visit to Riverhead Raceway he has climbed up the ladder successfully as a sponsor and team owner, as well as becoming a very prominent business owner through his TS Haulers outfit.

Aside from taking on the bustling Hoosier Tire distributorship at Riverhead in 2008, Eddie will again chase the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship with his talented driver Jimmy “Showtime” Blewett of Howell, N.J. Plans also call for the TS Haulers team to again race for the Sunoco Modified title at on Thompson Speedway in Connecticut on Thursday nights along with running as often as they can at Riverhead Raceway.

Further details on 2008 Hoosier Tire pricing and as to how the tires will be distributed to teams at Riverhead Raceway will be forthcoming, but every division can expect to see less expensive pricing across the board for the new season.






Keith Rocco's #6  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Norm Marx Photo
Lighting is installed on the backstretch at Thompson.  (TIS Photo)