Gada Adds to His Waterford Record With Bud Nationals Victory by Amie Campbell
Track Veteran Holds Off Some Big Name Mod Pilots
At Connecticut's Waterford Speedbowl, there are several names synonymous with the tight 1/3 mile track. Names like Bob Potter, George “Moose” Hewitt, and Don Collins will undoubtedly remind folks of times past, but in recent years, the most prominent and consistent name has been that of Dennis Gada.
Sunday, Gada earned his 58th career modified win and 60th overall win in becoming just the second driver to win Waterford's 150 lap Budweiser Modified Nationals twice. Only Eric Berndt had accomplished that feat prior to this weekend.
To get his latest win, Gada had to top a field that was stocked full of some of the biggest current names in the SK Modified racing….well, actually all of Modified racing even. Many of the entrants in this year's race were current, part-time or former competitors on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Jimmy Blewett, Matt Hirschman, Bobby Grigas, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby, Kenny Horton, Ron Yuhas, Frank Ruocco, Justin Gaydosh and Jeff Malave all fit that description. When you added Waterford masters like Gada, Jeff Pearl and Jay Miller as well as invaders from other Connecticut tracks such as Keith Rocco and Todd Ceravolo, you had a field that was literally full of potential winners.
Gada saved his best for after qualifying as well. While Doug Coby won the pole, Gada timed in for the eighth position. Coby drew a zero on the redrew, which meant that the top qualifier would all start in the same positions where they qualified.
While former Whelen Modified Tour winner Coby was the pole for the race, it didn't take very long for the show to become truly about Gada. The six-time track champion took the lead from Coby on lap eight and never relinquished it.
“Getting the lead early was key,” said an emotional Gada after the race. “Once the tires got old, it became a matter of holding these guys off. That's the nature of long events.”
Dennis Gada (#3) races with Kenny Horton (#19) for the lead at Waterford. (Rick Ibsen Photos)
had his car go off on the hook at one point, but due to an extended caution to clean up the track, never lost his lap. Woody Pitkat and Diego Monahan were involved in separate incidents earlier in the race but also finished inside the top 10.
In the end however, the car that dominated the day took home the big trophy and the big payday.
Gada hasn't built his racing resume by resting on his latest accomplishments though. While the Nationals victory is nice, the racing veteran will be back at work this coming Saturday night at Waterford as he chases down his yet another career track championship.
“The purse money we're taking home tonight will go a long way in helping me to pursue that seventh championship this year,” said Gada. “That's our goal in 2008, and this was obviously a great way to start the season.”
BUDWEISER MODIFIED NATIONALS
WATERFORD SPEEDBOWL (CT)
1. Dennis Gada, 2. Frank Ruocco, 3. Doug Coby, 4. Jimmy Blewett, 5. Jeff Pearl, 6. Keith Rocco, 7. Jay Lozyniak, 8. Woody Pitkat, 9. Diego Monahan, 10. Matt Hirschman, 11. Justin Gaydosh, 12. Jeff Malave, 13. Jay Miller, 14. Tyler Chadwick, 15. Eric Goodale, 16. Glenn Pressel III, 17. Kenny Horton, 18. Mike Sweeney, 19. Jeff Paul, 20. Ron Yuhas Jr., 21. Don Fowler, 22. Rob Janovic Jr., 23. Tommy Farrell III, 24. Dennis Charette, 25. Glenn Griswold, 26. Shawn Monahan, 27. Todd Ceravolo, 28, Frank Mucciacciaro Jr.
While Gada might have made it look easy, there were never challengers far behind him during the race. Drivers such as Coby, current Stafford Speedway regulars Kenny Horton and Frank Ruocco, and Speedbowl regular Jeff Pearl all challenged for the lead at various points in the race, but never able to complete the pass for the lead.
“Patience is the name of the game in these long races,” said Ruocco. “I didn't quite have the car tonight to get up on the outside to challenge Dennis, but there's always next week. I plan on being here at the Speedbowl next Saturday night so maybe I can make-up for it then”.
“I was surprised by the number of cars on the track at the end of the race,” said Coby. “I would have liked to pit and put on newer tires. But, I'm glad that after 150 laps I was able to bring the car home in one piece.”
Many other drivers weren't as fortunate. Eventual seventh place finisher Jay Lozyniak