Speed51.com's Leftovers: Mod Tour at Thompson by Denise Dupont and Mike Twist
Silk, Seuss, Santos and a Few Drivers Whose Names Don't Start With an "S"
“The cautions were good for me. I needed the cautions. The biggest thing that killed me was I hit the safety switch and kept shutting of the motor. That kind of hurt me.”
Santos is known for driving true open wheeled cars, like Sprints, Midgets and Supermodifieds, but he always enjoys wheeling a Tour mod as well.
“Modified cars are fun. I like driving all open wheel race cars. I enjoy it a lot. As long as I am running good, I like any race car. “
Santos finished third at Thompson.
REEN RUNS WITH THE BIG DOGS
For the first time in his NWMT racing career, Gen Reen raced in the top five with the lead cars during the last 50 laps of a race.
“It was definitely a new experience and an honor to run with those guys,” said Reen, who had started the race in eighteenth after rain cancelled time trial qualifying.
Glen Reen (#17) races with WMT point leader Chuck Hossfeld (#4). (Jim Dupont Photo)
SANTOS' SHOT AT WINNING IS SWITCHED OFF
During the Thompson Speedway New England Dodge Dealers Budweiser 150 race at Thompson, Bobby Santos, III was up front vying for the lead. Then the next thing you knew, his was dropping back in the field. It appeared that the car was running inconsistently because of a problem…and it was.
“I had a real good car. I just caught the kill switch on the wheel and I think that I hit it four times during the race,” said Santos. “Every time we were up to about third and fell back to tenth so I was disappointed about that. I should have had my wheel in a different position.”
Santos's car was fast on the track and he came back after dropping back in the field from his mistake several times. He finished the race with a strong third place finish and if he had not made a few mistakes or he had a few more laps, he may have won the race.
“I think that we had a car that could have won. We had a pretty good car on short runs and I cannot complain the car is in one piece.”
There were an abundance of cautions as the full moon rose over the Thompson Speedway and Santos used them to his advantage.
Bobby Santos, III (#98) races with the #59 of Matt Hirschman. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
As one of the 2008 rookies, Reen has shown that he has talent and can run with the seasoned veterans of the series but he knows he still has to earn their respect. He managed to drive a clean race avoiding a lot of mishaps as cautions plagued the running of the New England Dodge Dealers Budweiser 150 race.
“The cautions did not bother us much.” Said Reen as he reflected on the race. “I was a little disappointed up front with some of the things that happened. A little more respect would have been nice. But I understand that I am a rookie so I understand that you get the hazing. But I will take it. You get bumps and bruises and with fifteen laps to go in the race we got into a little altercation with somebody and the left front broke a caster rod. It is completely off so the wheel was freely moving.”
Right now Reen is leading the series for 2008 Rookie of the Year point standings.
“We are leading right now in Rookie points but I just want seat time and experience. To get rookie of the year would be nice, do not get me wrong. We are just going every race one at a time. That is what we are doing.”
Silk started the race in ninth and had a fast car that won him the race. But winning and getting to the lead did not come without its challenges. On lap 73, Ed Flemke was running with the front of the pack when he got squirrelly going into turn four. Flemke hit Silk who was running third at the time. Silk had to go to the back and make a run to the front again.
“I was comfortable in the beginning and then we got dumped over there down in turn three and four. We waited a while to pit. When we got spun out it forced our hand to pit and we got new tires. So I had a little bit better tires then everyone at the end.”
In the end, Silk had the dominant car and the race was his once he stayed clear and got to the front. “
All night we had a great car. I just love coming to this place. We always seem to be up the front here.”
Weather was threatening all night at Thompson. NASCAR, crew members, track officials and fans all alike we looking at their cell phones and PCs for when the weather would hit the track.
“Luckily we got the full race in and our strategy could have bit us waiting until later to pit. But it did not everything worked out so it just worked out good.
This is the third win for Ronnie Silk at Thompson Speedway in the Hill Brothers owned #79 car.
“I love it. Maybe I should try to find an SK ride here for every week. I am eager to win some where else believe me, but I love coming to this track. It is just in my opinion the best track that we race on. It is fun to drive. It has a great big beautiful facility.”
Ronnie Silk is a guaranteed starter for the North South Shootout thanks to his Thompson victory. (Jim Dupont Photo)
When Reen moved from the Stafford SK light division up to compete with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, he said that he was ready to make the move and the whole thing was just like a dream. Running in the top five with the same racers that he has watched compete as he grew up was a magical night for him.
“I was living my dream tonight. To run door to door with Teddy Christopher and nose to tail is just great. He was my idol growing up. So to be out there with him and to have him give me that respect was unreal. It was cool.”
Thompson is a big, fast track and a challenge for new tour competitors to conquer. Reen for one, has learned his learned his lessons fast there.
“We have raced here at Thompson three times. The first time, I got wrecked with five laps in the race and I finished eleven laps down. The next time we got wrecked again, the same thing as this. The caster arm broke in a wreck and we finished on the lead lap but it was around eighteenth or twentieth.”
“Those last 15 laps [in this race] were a handful. t was tough. I had my hands full for sure. If I needed to save the car, it would not go right. As soon as I touched the brakes, the left wheel would dive in to the left. So I had to wait until the very last moment to hit the brakes and turn left. If I had hit it early, the car would have just turned into the infield. I told the guys that the next time we come here, we should make one out of solid steel.”
So finishing sixth behind some of the great legends in modified racing such as TC and Mike Stefanik , was a lesson filled dream that the young rookie will never forget.
“So the third time is the charm,” Reen said.
SMOOTH AS SILK
Ronnie Silk won the Thompson Speedway New England Dodge Dealers Bud 150 and also became a guaranteed starter in the North South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park (NC) in the fall.
With more than a dozen cautions, Drivers and teams had to pull together the best strategy they could to survive and win. “We had a really good car tonight and the cautions did not really make a difference.”
On lap 130, being the leader and seeing the straightaway in front of him saved Silk and his car as the lapped car of Jake Marosz spun right in front of the leaders as they raced into turn three.
“I was coming out of turn two and Jake Marosz on his own spun out and was stuck up in the fence. I saw him because I was leading but it took a long time for the yellow to come out. A lot of people behind me drove down into turn three real hard and then saw that someone was spun out in the middle of the track. That was what caused them the melee there.”
But on lap 139, Silk was not as lucky. Matt Hirschman passed Silk for the lead on a restart and this caution almost made the difference between a first or second place finish for Silk.
“The long caution that had all the speedy-dry between turns three and four at the end hurt me. Matty was able to get me on that restart and luckily we were able to get back by him. I would have rather just see it go and go and run straight to the end.”
Silk summarized the great run that the #79 Hills Brothers car has had with the NWMT during the past few races.
“We finished second at Spencer and Riverhead. We have been up front. We were up front at Stafford last week and we broke a motor up. We are good at Thompson and we have been good every where else too. “
GRIGAS GETS NO RAIN TO FLOAT HIM TO VICTORY LANE
Bobby Grigas, Jr. led in the middle stages of the race and his team gambled a little bit
that the race might get rained out before its scheduled completion. That didn't happen
and Grigas later had a flat tire. He recovered to finish 10th.
“I was expecting rain and we would have been in good shape if that happened. But we
finished the race and that's good. It's definitely better than what we have been doing.
So we finished 10th. That's not great, but it's not bad either.”
Grigas has had more than his share of bad luck lately, so leading the race was a big
boost to him.
“It was good to be up there,” said Grigas. “Hopefully, everything keeps working out.“
A BAD NIGHT FOR PITKAT
Woody Pitkat's first Tour ride since it was announced that he would co-drive the #28 King Racing Modified for the rest of the year with Doug Coby was a long night. Pitkat got caught in a wreck early, fought back into the top 10 and then got wrecked hard late in the going.
“The last couple weeks, we've had no luck. This is pretty frustrating,” said Pitkat. “We got spun early in the race, just four laps in, and tried to battle, battle, battle back from there.”
Things didn't go much better in the Sunoco Modified race at Thompson. Grigas has won three of those features this year at the track, but on this night he was a DNF.
“We blew the throw-out bearing out of it and the clutch was full of oil and it wouldn't go,” said Pitkat.
HIRSCHMAN IS SECOND AT THOMPSON
Matt Hirschman came to Thompson hoping to get into the winner's circle. He was there but it was only as a bridesmaid, not as the winner.
“We had a good ca,” said Hirschman. “We were close but just not close enough. It is a tough series and the #79 has been running good. I certainly wanted to win tonight since they honored Dad and his championships. I know that he wanted me to win and I wanted to win for him. It was pretty close but just not good enough. Congratulations to Ronnie. They have been good. He was good at the beginning and got all the way up there and then he got us so we were pretty much second best.”
There were a lot of cautions during the New England Dodge Dealers Bud 150 that may have helped or hurt some of the competitors. Race runner up Matt Hirschman felt that the caution helped him. “
Bobby Grigas, Jr.'s #09 (Jim Dupont Photo)
Andy Seuss' #70 races at All-Star - minus its hood. (Jim Dupont Photo)
The cautions actually helped us get the lead back the last restart, so that one worked in our favor.”
But even though the cautions may have helped Matt, they did not help the fact that his car was just not the number one car at the track.
“We really were a second place car unfortunately. It is a little bit disappointing to get second after we had the lead. We certainly wanted the win pretty bad tonight. But we were second best so we did not get anything more than we should have and we did not loose anything. So we should not be disappointed, but for my own personal reason I would have liked to have won tonight. But it was a pretty good run for us.”
“They honored my Dad for his championships tonight so it was his night tonight. It would have been nice to win on his night that is for sure.”
As part of the season-long celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions, five-time
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titlist Tony Hirschman was honored at the New England
Dodge Dealers Bud 150 race. Tony Hirschman captured five NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour titles during a stellar 11-year span from 1995-2005. Thompson was a very
successful place for Hirschman. Of his 35 career wins, he had eight wins at Thompson.
Each time young Hirschman returns to Thompson he tries harder to get the illusive win.
“We are getting closer with the car at Thompson. We got third here last year. I think we
were fifth the last time that we were here. So with a second we are getting closer, but
just not close enough.”
July, 2008 was a dream time for Matt Hirschman and his career as a racer following his
“We had four in a row in July. When you are on a roll like that you just take them when you can get them because competition is tough every where you go. To get four in a row was just incredible. Now we have gone three or four races without a win. So it is one at a time. Every time you are out you just try to win. At the end of the year It is nice to have a lot of wins but it is also nice to know when you have finished with a lot of top five finishes. We are doing Ok with points to and hopefully that will continue. Then at the end of the year we will be sitting pretty good.”
The next race for the NWMT division at Thompson will be in early September as the Tour competes in the weekend of Mod Mania. Hirschman has a lot of racing to do between then and now but he will do his homework before he returns to Thompson.
“Mod Mania is a daytime race so it is a different track condition then so we will take what we learn tonight and put it towards that. We will also have my Race of Champions car here so we will be doing double duty and we try for two wins in a couple of weeks.”
SEUSS GETS SLAMMED OUT OF A TOP 10 RUN AT THOMPSON
Young and competitive Andy Seuss returned to Thompson on Thursday, August 14th to compete in the NWMT with the family owned #70 Rockingham Boat/Stuart Automotive sponsored race car. The Seuss team went to Thompson Speedway ready for time trials and an opportunity to start the race close to the front of the pack. But Mother Nature had different plans. Heavy rains and track flooding forced race teams to start the race based on their current point standings.
Seuss started the race at the rear of the field and slowly made his way to the front. On lap 60, Seuss into broke into the top five and moved into second by lap 73.
“The car was not perfect so we came in and tweaked it a little bit early and took tires early. We knew that that may hurt us in the long run but it played out great. As guys were pitting we were up in the top ten and then here and there we would pick off a car. Next thing you know we were in the top five. Then some more guys would pit and then we were in second.”
With more than a dozen cautions, drivers and teams had to pull together the best strategy they could to survive. Seuss had no where to go a couple of times and was caught in two cautions that damage the race car and shattered Seuss's hopes.
The first caution was on lap 73, as Ed Flemke made an aggressive move on the track, got squirrelly and hit lead cars as he tried to pass to advance to the front.
“The car was real good. Then when the #10 car (Ed Flemke) got into the #79 (Ronnie Silk) car he got into me.”
The incident damaged the #70 car as the cars tangled in the turn four incident.
But the team held on and continued their race to the front. On lap 130, Seuss's run ended when he was involved in a second incident that ended the team's goal for a top five finish. The lapped car of Jake Marosz spun right in front of the leaders as they raced into turn three and the cars had no where to go.
“For whatever reason there was a car stopped in turn three (Jake Marosz in #9 car) and I was committed to go to the outside. There was no talk or call on the NASCAR radio. The caution was not out. I was committed to go to the outside and I was stuck out
there. There were cars on my inside so I could not duck down. I tried to spin it out in the last second to keep it off but I ended up backing into him. I hate what happened to Jake. We have a torn up car now and we have to get it ready for the Mansfield race.”
After the race as they surveyed their damaged car, Seuss and the team held their chins up high, smiled and reflected optimistically on the night.
“We probably could have held on to a top ten. I know the car was better then than that because it was looking good. It was just not meant to be tonight.”
The team will regroup and get ready for another weekend jam packed full of racing.
“Next week on Friday we have Caraway and then it is Mansfield Saturday. If all goes well we will have two good cars in good shape for the end of the weekend.”
The Riggs owned #47 race car will be waiting in the pits at Caraway Speedway for Andy as he heads south to compete next Friday in the WSMT race.
“Caraway is a show up and drive race.” He then will head northwest from North Carolina to Ohio to compete in the NWMT. “Getting this car ready for Mansfield is going to take some work.”
HILLBILLY COMBINATION IS WORKING OUT
A good driver and crew chief combination is golden and the bond between Ronnie Silk and his top wrench, David Hill, has paid off with two victories so far this year.]
Silk is very happy with how the two work together since joining forces at the beginning of the season.
“David prepares the cars and works on them during the week,” Silk explained. “Once we get to the track, David, myself and Ryan Stone get together and talk about what to do with the car. David is an easy guy to work with. The Hills give us great equipment to race with and that is a great situation. We're getting off to a great start and we hope we can keep it going.”
Matt Hirschman #59) races with Bobby Grigas (#09). (Jim Dupont Photo)
Andy Seuss had a speedy racecar at Thompson (Top), but it got wrecked before the race was over. (Jim Dupont Photos)