51's Modified Madness  Presented by Advance Auto Parts
News From The Ground Pounders - Dirt, Asphalt, North and South
Compiled from Series, Team and Track PR Reports
TVMRS: JANOVIC MAKES WAY INTO TRUE VALUE SERIES

All it takes is one minute of conversation with Waterford, CT; SK Modified standout Rob Janovic, Jr and he’ll quickly point out, “I have been eyeing that series since it started.” That series, the 2007 Waterford track champion is focused on, is the True Value Modified Racing Series, and Janovic, with his race team, VOJAN Motorsports, has decided to “dip our foot in the True Value pool.”

The 45 year old auto dealership manager has done his homework in advance of the team’s decision to give the True Value series a shot. The 2008 Waterford “Sportsman of the Year” award recipient has paid particular attention to rules, and how the sixth year tour operates. Janovic likes what he’s seen, and what he’s heard, even more.

“I’ve known Mike Holdridge for a long time, we talk often, and he keeps telling me I have to give this tour a try.” Holdridge, coming off a fine 2008 season himself, always speaks highly of the series and its officials. “Mike raves about the series and the way competitors are treated,” said Janovic, adding, “That stood out to me and frankly I have talked to several people, Kirk Alexander included, and they all say the same thing. The officials are helpful and do the job.”  Janovic said the TVMRS was a perfect fit. “Lets face it; we could not afford the other tour.” Another reason why he’s leaning toward the New England based series.

Janovic is taking the same approach as Jeff Zuidema who recently disclosed his team will run a limited schedule. Janovic plans to run the two Waterford events May 9, and Aug 15, is giving strong consideration to the Seekonk dates, and if his schedule allows, may target the Oxford date in July. The mid week special, July 15, at Seekonk, also has the attention of the VOJAN team. Said Janovic, “We’ll see how it all falls in place, but we are looking at four to six races and an even bigger assault next year.”

Janovic and the VOJAN team want to be ready when they take their first TVMRS green flag this spring.

“We have to teach ourselves a lot of things, we have a lot to learn. We are going to be out of our comfort zone, our team has been at Waterford a long time.” “We’ll need the help, that’s for sure. We want to be good enough especially at Waterford and to be competitive.”

Janovic is anxious to learn.

DIRT: O'BRIEN READY FOR HAGERSTOWN OPENER

The upcoming Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series opener at Hagerstown Speedway is expected to attract one of the finest fields of the season to the storied Maryland oval, including invading New Yorker Billy Decker, the reigning overall Mr. DIRTcar points king.

On the other end of the spectrum, finishing 15th ---final point fund payoff spot--- in the Big-Block standings a year ago, Decker’s Gypsum teammate Pat O’Brien from Kingston, Ontario will also be back. In 2009, his sights are clearly set on improving from his ’08 debut made following the premier tour of its kind on both sides of the border.

“Obviously, we didn’t have nearly the kind of year that we had hoped for when the series started,” admitted O’Brien, 44, who wound up with just two Top-10 finishes in 17 of the 26 Advance Series events attended. Despite missing some Saturday shows at weekly stop Can-Am Motorsports Park, he placed fourth in the track standings with a pair of feature wins to his credit. “Our intent again is to try and run the whole series.”

“The toughest part is the lack of experience compared to the teams that have traveled the tour for years. A couple tracks we’ve never even been to, and most of the others just not enough laps to make an impact. Places like Can-Am (9th) and Fulton (8th, set fast time) we feel most comfortable and the results showed. Whatever happens this year, continuing to improve is our primary goal. If we can run decent, we plan to stay at it and make them all,” remarked O’Brien, who opens the ’09 trail at Hagerstown and Big Diamond, the only tracks on tour he has yet to compete in a quarter-century of racing.

The 2009 Advance Series begins at Hagerstown on Saturday, March 28 with the $6,000-to-win 'North-South Shootout 100' scheduled to kick off for the 10th consecutive year below the Mason-Dixon Line. Seven straight months on the trail will provide the second-generation standout plenty of experience yet offer no guarantees as he takes on the best in the Big-Block business at 19 tracks around the DIRTcar Northeast circuit.

“Over the winter we took a long look at everything we had going, evaluated the entire program inside-out and found that we weren’t really doing anything wrong, weren’t that far off,” figured O’Brien, who will be back aboard the red Gypsum Racing no. 6 730 Truck Stop-Gypsum Logistics-Milestone Concrete/Bicknell entry. Plans include starting out the year with a freshened Enders powerplant under the hood and as the season unfolds he expects to experiment with an in-house engine program recently expensed by Gypsum Express Ltd. President/Owner John Wight. “We’re still confident with our team’s ability to contend and the new motor program should help out.”

“When we ran against a lot of the tour guys regularly in the past at Can-Am and Thunder Alley we managed to hold our own. So starting out the series last year we thought that the top-5 and top-10 series finishes we always had would carry over to the other tracks. A lot of guys usually shoot for a win whenever they show up, but running consistent and being better at the end of the year than at the beginning is something we always try to focus on. The Advance Series presents one of the biggest challenges with so many top teams and we want to think we’re one of them. Hopefully we can turn the corner this year and run a little more respectable. On tour is a nice place to be for the next few years if we can find some success at it,” O’Brien said.

Firmly established in the Small-Block ranks, O’Brien joins DIRTcar’s all-time Big-Block winner Alan Johnson as the only other four-time Mr. DIRTcar 358-Modified Champion. Those titles were earned from 1988-95 and he stands fourth on the all-time DIRTcar Small-Block list with 142 feature wins. Another 26 victories are chronicled in the Big-Block record book with two of those registered in Advance Series competition at Can-Am (1990) and Brockville Ontario Speedway (2007).

“There’s not much of a difference from the 358s and I’ve run against most of the tour guys for a lot of years now,” said O’Brien, who also ran Brewerton Speedway regularly in 2008. “There are probably more quality cars running the Big-Block Series on a regular basis throughout the entire year, but you see those same names at all the major 358 races once the track points finish.”

“I generally like the tracks we do good at and have had more laps. Over the years I’ve felt comfortable going to Canandaigua and Brewerton, and Rolling Wheels is right up there too with all the times we’ve run there in the Small-Block. We’re looking forward to going back for the Canadian swing in July and putting on a better show at the tracks closer to home. All the travelers are just as familiar at those same places, we just want to figure in the Top-5 a little more often,” smiled O’Brien.

O’Brien adds his name to Hagerstown’s all-star roster of Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series standouts, already spotlighting defending Mr. DIRTcar Champ Decker, Jimmy Phelps, Dale Planck, Gary Tomkins and all-time Advance Series winner Brett Hearn. The list of top tour challengers in 2009 also includes Matt Sheppard, Frankie Capara, Steve Paine, Ryan Phelps, Justin Haers, Billy Dunn, Larry Wight, Jeff Brownell Jr. and the Johnson brothers, Alan and Danny.

SK MODIFIEDS: GADA'S SEASON STARTS ON A HIGH NOTE

Dennis Gada left this past weekend’s annual SpeedwayEXPO event by capturing the first of what he hopes is many pieces of hardware for the 2009 season.   Gada, the only seven-time track champion in Waterford Speedbowl (CT) history, was bestowed the 2009 Speedy Award for ‘Best Weekly Racer’. 

The ‘Best Weekly Racer’ Award celebrates a competitor who consistently ran at a higher level of performance week after week during the 2008 season.   Gada’s mastery of the ‘Bowl’s outside groove led him to the record-setting championship  in 2008 as well as helped vault him to 62 career victories at the famed shoreline oval.

Gada will return in 2009 to defend his title and has his eyes set on adding to what’s become a legendary Speedbowl resume.   He will reunite with long-time car owner Harry Wyant for the ‘09 campaign.  The Gada/Wyant combo was responsible for five of Gada’s seven championships, occurring in impressive fashion consecutively from 1999-2003.  In the past 10 seasons Gada has held a stranglehold on the SK division, amassing seven titles and never finishing lower than 3rd in the season points.   The Gada name is no stranger to Speedbowl glory.  Dennis joins older brother David, a two-time SK Modified® champion (1990, 1994) and father Bob (two-time champion in the 70’s) on the Track Champion’s list.

“I’m excited to get back to the track and to be back with Harry” offered Gada, a Salem, Connecticut native.  “The preparation on Harry’s car is always top-notch and I think we have a real good shot at another championship.   The competition at the Speedbowl is just so close - we’re ready for a battle.”   Rob Janovic Jr. (2007 Champion and 2008 runner-up), Keith Rocco (2008 NASCAR State Champion), young guns Tyler Chadwick and Jeffrey Paul, and veterans Jeff Pearl and Ron Yuhas Jr. all factor in to derail Gada.

The 2009 season kicks off with the 13th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals on March 28-29.  Gada, the two-time and defending event winner, is seeking a repeat in the $5,000 to win, 150-lap SK thriller.  The event stages many of the best Modified racers across the region on the ‘Bowl’s traditional two-groove racing surface. 

SK MODIFIEDS: ONE NEWBIE, ONE VETERAN MAKE UP ONE TEAM

There is an old adage that says "out with the old and in with the new", but in the case of Bob Parker Motorsports, they will have both the old and the new as they prepare for the 2009 season of SK Modified® racing at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT). 

Parker will team rookie Brett Gonyaw with veteran Willie Hardie in a full-time two-car effort with Darin Renihan driving a third car on a limited basis.  Hardie will pilot the #48 and Gonyaw will be behind the wheel of the #84, with both cars carrying sponsorship from United Roll Off Services.

TRACKS: THOMPSON TEST IS COMING UP

March arrived in New England like a lion. A major late winter snow storm blanketed the Thompson International Speedway with over a foot of snow. However, this has not changed the goal of having the historic oval open for the first practice session of the new season on March 21st.

A few warm days to melt the snow and allow the ground to dry is all that’s needed for the crews to ready the speedway for the first of two scheduled open practice sessions leading up to ICEBREKER ’09  slated for the first weekend in April.

Thompson management is determined to have the track race ready for both March 21st and again on March 28th.  “We feel that these two open practice sessions are extremely important for competitors,” said owner and promoter, Don Hoenig.  “Every year, we schedule these dates so that race teams can get their cars out on the track and get them race ready before one of the biggest races of the season. The ICEBREAKER is a New England tradition and doing well in that event usually sets the stage for a successful season,” Hoenig stated.

The Thompson open practice sessions are designed to provide valuable track time for new and veteran teams and seat time for new drivers. The speedway is scheduled to be open from 11 AM until 6 PM on both the 21st and the 28th.  Any and all race cars are welcome to participate in the “round robin” format that goes non-stop for all seven hours on each of the two days.

“We open the track to everyone who may be competing here or at other New England ovals during the ’09 racing season.  We deliberately do not limit these dates to race teams that will be regular weekly competitors at Thompson. Our goal is to provide an opportunity for racers to get a ‘heads up’ on the season and to also provide teams that are trying new ideas the chance to test those ideas before race day,” Hoenig concluded      

In addition to the track being open for practice, 2009 NASCAR licenses will be available. Race teams will also be able to work with track officials to be sure that their cars meet the technical requirements of their respective divisions.

The grandstands will not be open to the public for either of these events, but anyone sixteen years of age or older is welcome to sign into the Thompson pit area and may watch the on-track activity from the pit grandstands.

DIRT: DIRTCar TO BE SHOWCASED AT SYRACUSE SHOW

The DIRTcar Racing Northeast circuit will once again take center stage with participation by many of its cars and stars headlining Motorsports Expo '09, March 14-15, in the Center of Progress Building at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse.

A handful of Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series drivers are scheduled to be in attendance for the 23rd Annual Exposition & Trade Show presented by the staff at Gater Racing Photo News, with the current list headed by Big-Block Modified standouts Gary Tomkins, Jimmy Phelps, Dale Planck and Ryan Phelps.

Each of these drivers will be on site Saturday, March 14 at 3pm for a special autograph session that also offers plenty of photo opportunities. They will be available to answer questions and reveal their race plans for the upcoming season, with Tomkins and Jimmy Phelps also discussing their recent trips around the world to Australia and Planck detailing his own journey south to Volusia Speedway Park in Florida for the Alltel DIRTcar Nationals By UNOH.

Along with the no. 91 Gypsum Wholesalers-Stadium Int'l-Quality Hardwoods/Bicknell entry steered by 2008 Mr. DIRTcar Modified Champion Billy Decker, the Big-Block car of Billy Dunn (#49), 358-Modified mount of ’08 Airborne Speedway points titlist Patrick Dupree (#24), Sportsman Modified ride of Brett Martin (#10), Pro Stock mount of his father Mike Martin (#99), Street Stock machine piloted by Mike Schultz (#16), plus the 4-Cylinder stocker of Brad Rathbun (#91) representing Black Rock Speedway will also be on display around the centrally located ‘DIRTcar Land’ throughout the weekend.

"This is always a big show as it comes right before our Advance Series opener (Hagerstown, March 28) and interest is high from all the fans and drivers that stop by," remarked DIRTcar Northeast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning Cory Reed. "It also means only one more month until our weekly season starts. We’ve got some exciting news to tell that should make 2009 one of our biggest seasons ever in Central New York, giving everybody even more to talk about during the months ahead.”

Helping make ‘DIRTcar Land’ the biggest ever at Motorsports Expo ’09, Airborne, Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Black Rock, Canandaigua Speedway, Cayuga County Fair Speedway, Genesee Speedway, Humberstone Speedway, Ransomville Speedway and Rolling Wheels Raceway Park information areas will be active during the two-day show as track representatives will be providing schedule cards as well as supplying important news about each.

Plenty of DVDs showcasing past race events will be stocked in the DIRTcar booth, where teammates can fill out an official 2009 DIRTcar License application form, learn about ‘09 rule book updates and pick up major series race schedules.

Crowning of Ms. DIRTcar 2009 highlights the first day of activity during the Exposition & Trade Show, with competition taking place Saturday, March 14 beginning at 7 p.m. Each entry in the 12th Ms. DIRTcar contest sponsored by Leaf Racewear will be judged in the customary round of sportswear plus an on-stage interview session.

The New York State Fairgrounds is located on State Fair Blvd., off Route 690, only minutes west from downtown Syracuse. Show hours in the Center of Progress Bldg. are 11am-9pm Sat. and 11am-4pm Sun. For more information, please contact Joe Patrick at 315/457-0175 during normal business hours or log into www.gaternews.com.

USCS: RASDON WINS FROSTBITE OPENER AT CENTRAL MISSISSIPPI

USCS Young Gun, Hunter Rasdon from Jonesboro, Arkansas raced from his outside front row starting position into the lead in turn one of the Rislone USCS (Oil Stabilizer) Modified Touring Series feature race into victory lane at Central Mississippi Speedway on Saturday night. Rasdon led all 25 laps of the main event in the USCS season-opener. Rasdon also drove his #R5 ATG Electrical Contractors/Integra Shocks/GRT car to a win his qualifying race on Friday night to put himself on the front row at the start. Rasdon had to hold off K&N Filters Pole Position starter Robby Arnold from Paragould, Arkansas for the 8+ mile distance to garner the win.

The win in the season-opener places Rasdon at the top of the Rislone USCS Modified Touring Series point standings by just one point ahead Arnold after round one of the 25+ race schedule. It was the 22 year-old Rasdon's third major win of the young 2009 season. He also won the Winter Classic at Columbus Speedway on January 31st and the Winterfest Race at Winchester Speedway on February 7th. . 


Robby Arnold who led the Pole Qualifying Night events on Friday and won the six-lap Rislone USCS Modified Power Dash on Saturday night to garner the K&N Pole Position for the main event followed Rasdon to the finish line in the main event. Duke Palasini from Leland, Mississippi garnered the other podium spot with a  third place finish. Palasini stands just six points out of first place in the standings after the race at CMS. The 2008 Rislone USCS Modified Series Rookie of the Year, Mike Palasini, Jr. also from Leland, Mississippi collected the fourth place position and Craig Vaughn from Hernando, Mississippi rounded out the top five. Vaughn started in the eleventh position.

John Polasini from Leland, Mississippi led the next group with a sixth place finish followed by Rusty Stagen from Oakland, Tennessee in seventh position. Justin Ross from Brandon, Mississippi finished in the eighth position after starting fourteenth. Joseph Leister from Olive Branch, Mississippi who finished in the runner-up spot in the 2008 series title chase finished ninth and Danny Gentry from Arlington,Tennessee rounded out the top ten.

Cliff Ross from Brandon, Mississippi made a gallant charge from ninth to fourth place at the finish of the race, but unfortunately his efforts were erased when his car came up light at the scales. Defending series Champion, Ashley Newman spun and left the race track in his borrowed Stinson Industrial #26s car while running fourth on lap twenty three and was scored in the fourteenth position. The Comp Cams Hardcharger Award went to Danny Gentry for advancing the most positions in the main event. The Tennison Brothers Metals Hard Luck award went to Justin Roberts from Paragould, Arkansas after he had a flat tire on the final lap while running in fourth place.

The next event for the Rislone USCS Modified Touring Series will be another two-day contest on March 20th -21st in the Bootheel 200 at Malden Speedway in Malden, MO.

DIRT: DAVIS WINS VOLUSIA SEASON OPENER

Volusia Speedway Park opened it's 2009 season with plenty of racing action.  Under a clear sky and almost full moon, fans saw heats and features in six divisions.  As it got closer to race time, the fans began to come in and by the time the first heat hit the dirt, the stands were fairly well packed. 

Modifieds saw James Smith on the pole for their feature but it was Jim Passino who quickly took the point over Smith, Jason Davis, Barry Sheffield, and Charlie Macnichol.  The caution comes out on lap 3 for Chris Littrell.  The field is realigned for the restart however it is a very short green as the yellow comes out again for Charlie Macnichol, Chris Littrell, and Larry Burkins who have all gotten together in turn 2.  Only Burkins was unable to continue as he was towed into the pits, down for the night.

Jason Davis holds the point for the restart but as fast as the green is shown, the yellow comes out again for debris on the track.  The debris is cleared and it is back to racing as Davis once again leads the way.  But the yellow is shown again for Littrell who is stopped still with a flat rear tire.  Littrell takes his machine to the pits for a new tire as the race goes back green with Davis on the point followed by Dave Barber, Jim Passino, Jr Hotovy, and Rob Underwood.  Lap 12 sees Daron Smith in the wall but okay.  The green is shown again only to have the yellow come out to restart the race single file now that the halfway point has been reached.

Davis takes the point on the restart followed by Barber, Passino, Hotovy, and Underwood.  Lap 16 sees Dale Murray bring out the yellow.  The race has one more caution for Nick Kirkus.  Jason Davis takes the checkered for his first feature win of 2009 followed by Dave Barber, Jim Passino, Jr Hotovy, and Barry Sheffield.  Dave Barber and Charlie Macnichol took the heat wins.







Rob Janovic was the 2007 SK Modified champion at Waterford Speedbowl.  (Waterford Speedbowl / Race Dog Photography Photo)
Pat O'Brien's DIRT Modified.  (DIRT Photo)
The track is almost ready to come alive again at Thompson.  (Jim Dupont Photo)
Dennis Gada's #3 SK Modified.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)
The Motorsports Expo in Syracuse.  (Gater Photo)
Hunter Rasdon in victory lane.  (USCS Photo)