51 Leftovers: NASCAR Whelen Mod Tour at NHMS By Mike Twist
TC, Hirschman, Sammons, Preece and More
TC GETS BACK TO A FAMILAR PLACE
He's been there after NASCAR Busch North Series races. He's been there after NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races and Ted Christopher ended his day Saturday right there too.
The place? Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. For the 10th time in his career, Christopher won at the Magic Mile and this time it was on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“This place has always been special to me,” said Christopher. “They told me that I have the track record of nine…[make that] ten…wins at this place. Since the first time that I ever came here, we ran up front. I've been on the pole a bunch of times and then we finally started winning races in the Busch [now Camping World East] Series and the Modifieds. So this felt good. Last time, we lost by an inch. But you learn from your mistakes sometimes.”
This race, Christopher competed against Jimmy Blewett and Ryan Preece in the final stages of the race. In the end, he held on for a victory margin of .095 seconds over Blewett, but TC didn't think the race was really that close.
“I was just so much better in the middle and coming off. I tried to stay low coming out of the corner. If that caution didn't come out, I could have probably had five or six cars on him at the end.”
TITLE FIGHT ENTERS HOMESTRETCH
There are four races to go on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule and after the New Hampshire event, Ted Christopher heads down the homestretch with a 99-point lead over Matt Hirschman in the standings.
“We had a good points day, but there are still four races left so we'll see what happens,” said Christopher. “I told everyone that I was worried about here and Martinsville. They start a lot of
cars here and at Martinsville, so if you can stay out of trouble both places, it's good. We got a win here, so that's good. But we'll see what happens at Martinsville.”
Hirschman isn't playing dead yet though.
“We're hanging in there, but you can't count on someone to have problems,” said Hirschman. “Right now, we're not going to beat Teddy unless he has bad luck. We need to beat him on the racetrack and we didn't do that today. We can do it next week, but we need to do just a little bit better.”
Chuck Hossfeld sits third in the standings and lost valuable ground at NHMS when he tangled with a lapped car while leading. Hossfeld was credited with a finish of 29th.
TOP FIVE IS THE LATEST THING FOR SAMMONS TO SMILE ABOUT
Danny Sammons was all smiles after finishing fifth at New Hampshire. Things have been looking up lately for the driver of Ralph Solhem's #0 Modified and the finish at NHMS was definitely better than when Sammons raced there last September.
TC in victory lane with car owner Ed Whelan. Will the champion's table be their next stop? (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Sammons' #0 (Rick Ibsen Photo)
But the engine wasn't the only problem on Saturday. A clutch failure dropped Lia out of the race early and left him with an official finish of 32nd.
“Then we had a problem with the clutch in the race. But when it rains, it pours. One problem turns into another problem. But those guys kept their heads up and I have to thank Billy Colton, John Holland and Al Heinke at H&H Motorsports.”
With the #96 retired, Lia then turned his focus to his Randy Moss Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado and ran that machine in the top 10 of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Lia was taken out in a wreck with David Starr though and finished back in the 29th position.
But Lia's racing day wasn't over after the Truck race. Because the Modified race had so many stoppages, it was split into two portions. The final 38 laps were run after the Truck race, so Lia picked up a ride relief driving for Robbie Summers in the TG Racing #1 Modified owned by Bill Frasco and Guy Ronzoni. Lia advanced that from 10th at the break to a finish of fourth.
“This thing was good. Robbie left to race a Supermodified, so Guy asked if I would jump in it to finish the race out. We got fourth, so that's pretty good.
“I'm glad that I got to do it again because our day was cut short with the other car. There's nothing like running a Modified at Loudon. If we were just a little tighter, I think we would have been racing up there for the lead.”
Lia had no trouble adjusting to the #1 Modified despite not practicing it.
“It's the same thing. It's a Troyer with the same stuff. I actually fit into the car, so that was good.”
So even though Lia's day was far from perfect, he was still satisfied with the way things worked out in the end.
“It was a fun day to run in the top 10 in the Truck race and finish in the top five in the Modified race.”
DOUBLE DUTY HIRSCHY
On Saturday morning, Matt Hirschman made his NASCAR Camping World East Series debut
at New Hampshire, finishing fourth in an Evernham-Gillet Motorsports Dodge.
“The East race went really great,” said Hirschman. “It was a good day. I raced well, the car
was good and the team made good decisions. It was a pleasure to work with those guys
and a great opportunity.”
Then Hirschman finished sixth in the Whelen Modified Tour feature.
“The Modified race was pretty rough. For us, we really just survived and ended up sixth. I
would have liked to be a little bit more competitive. We really need to do something extra to
run with those top couple of guys here. We raced hard and finished sixth.”
FROM THE BACK TO THE PODIUM FOR PREECE
Things weren't looking too good for Ryan Preece in the days leading up to the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour event at NHMS. On Thursday, he had an engine problem in practice
and missed qualifying. His team worked all day Friday to get a new engine in their Ole'
Blue #3 and even though he started in the back on Saturday, Preece ended up with a third-
“It was a fun day,” said Preece. “I'm real happy with where we finished. I think that we got
the Most Improved driver award and that's nice.
“My crew put a lot of hours in yesterday putting that motor in. We also got my car, the #40 car, ready just in case we had a problem in happy hour. Everyone on my crew was helping and putting in a big effort. We didn't let the motor blowing get to us.”
Lia started the day in the #96 Modified. (51 Photo)
During the second act of the Modified race, Preece worked with Jimmy Blewett in the draft.
“That whole two hour break during the Truck race, we talked about what we had to do. We knew we had to draft together and work together. Then we hoped to duke it out on the last two laps. There was once where I thought that we got Teddy, but Teddy got us. For me, third was fine. A first or second would have been better, but considering how the weekend started, I'm definitely happy.”
WORTH THE WAIT
The first 62 laps of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at NHMS were ran in the early afternoon. Three red flag periods took their toll though and with TV commitments coming up, the race faced an intermission of several hours while the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race was run.
In the past, Mod races that ran late were cut short. This time, the track and NASCAR worked out a plan to let the fans see every lap of race. Those fans who stayed were rewarded with a good show.
“I'm glad they stayed,” said Ted Christopher. “I'm glad that we got to run those laps too. I knew that we had a good car for the race and it turned out well. It was good racing.”
“I hope that they did [think the wait was worth it],” said Jimmy Blewett. “I really didn't mind them changing the show the way that they did. We came here to race and that's what we did.”
NOT QUITE ENOUGH FOR BLEWETT
Chuck Hossfeld, Ryan Newman, Todd Szegedy and Eric Beers all tried to de-throne Ted Christopher, but they weren't around at the end of the Mod Tour race at NHMS.
Jimmy Blewett was the only driver who appeared to have anything near the end for TC.
But, it just wasn't quite enough.
“My car just got too tight at the end,” said Blewett. “I think if we were a little bit more
free, I would have got him. He did have fresher tires though. But whatever the case
may be, second place is great. To finally come here and actually finish is great.
Every time I come here, I have no luck. I wish we had a little bit more, but there's
always next time.”
Blewett did enjoy racing hard, but clean with the race winner.
“I'd like to thank him,” said Blewett. “He ran me exceptionally clean and there was a l
ot of courtesy out there. He gave me the lane and I'd give him the lane.”
PITKAT GETS A TOP TEN FINISH
Woody Pitkat spent this past weekend competing on the longest track that the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour visits. He notched an eighth place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in a race where survival was a tall task. Three red flag periods and numerous wrecks took its toll on competitors, but Pitkat stayed out of trouble and posted a solid finish.
“I was pretty happy. With all of the wrecks that we had to miss, that was really good. I was sixth at the end and I would have liked to finish there, but the car was tight. I had to be lower in the track to make up for that and I couldn't get down there.”
Pitkat is currently sharing the seat of the Don King-owned Modified on the NASCAR Tour. At NHMS, King fielded entries for both drivers.
“A lot of it is seat time here and Don's main reason to want to race here with Doug was because he had experience here. So I asked him if we could do a two-car team for me to just get some more laps here. He said without a doubt.”
After Coby retired as a result of a first lap wreck, having Pitkat still on the track was a boost to the King team.
“After Doug got wrecked, I told everyone not to get down. It was too bad that car got wrecked, but I told the team that I wasn't going to give up on them. My goal was to finish in the top 10 and that's what happened, so I'm happy.”
Matt Hirschman buckles into his CW East ride. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Jimmy Blewett (#19) and Ted Christopher (#36) battle for the lead. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Woody Pitkat (Jim Dupont Photo)
“This is huge for us,” said Sammons. I shattered my foot in this race last year, so to come back and run in the top five is big.
“Things are going really well. We didn't have any top tens for a long time and now we have three or so in the last five races. We're really running good. This is one of the only home built deals around and you can't get much more low budget then this. So to go out there and run with the big guys on the biggest track there is really means a lot to this team and I'm really happy for them. We've been working really hard and getting better and better, so to get a top five in the biggest race of the year is good.”
Does this mean that Sammons has a little bit of momentum on his side entering this coming weekend's race at Martinsville?
“I think it does,” said Sammons. “We've run well at Martinsville both years that we went there. We had an ignition problem there one year and then blew the clutch out the other year. I've had some of my best cars at Martinsville.”
TWO CARS LEAD TO TOP FIVE FINISH FOR LIA
It's not very often anymore when NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Donny Lia gets to return to his racing roots and can compete on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Lia loves racing on the Tour and is the 2007 champion, so whenever he does get the opportunity to return home and race - he makes it count.
In Saturday's event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, that meant running two cars in one race.
Lia entered the event as the driver of the #96 H&H Motorsports Troyer. He qualifying 10th with that car, but the team had to change engines at the last minute when a problem was discovered during he final practice session on Saturday morning.
“I've got to say what a good job those guys did,” said Lia. “They worked their tails off changing a motor in that thing. “