SK Modifieds: Gada Grabs Waterford Checkers
Although there were several restarts in the SK Modified® feature Saturday night at Waterford Speedbowl (CT), Dennis Gada only needed to master one on route to his first victory of the year. Jeff Paul powered to the lead from his outside pole starting spot on the green flag. The field battled side by side behind, with the first caution waving just two laps in when sixteen year old Joey Gada was stranded on the apron of turn two. Corey Hutchings went to work on Paul on the restart while Gada, the seven-time Speedbowl track champion, made his presence felt early in the event working around the outside of Jeff Pearl for third. Hutchings took the lead with an inside move on lap five, but in the back half of the top ten the action got a little too heated resulting in Bert Marvin spinning across the frontstretch into turn one and bringing out caution.
Hutchings jumped out front on several restart attempts with Dennis Gada, Todd Ceravolo, and Jeffrey Paul all dicing for position behind. Action in the pit area was also heating up as several teams took advantage of multiple caution periods to make adjustments on their cars, including the #57 of two-time winner Keith Rocco.
At halfway Hutchings continued to lead Gada, Paul, Ceravolo and Ron Yuhas. Keith Rocco was working his way from the rear of the field as was Jeff Pearl. Ceravolo spun in the middle of turn 4 to bring out caution with 15 laps to go, falling from the battle for the top-five. Gada’s opportunity came when Hutchings bobbled in turn two with seven laps remaining, losing several positions to gather back his car, handing the lead to Gada. Gada, owner of 63 career ‘Bowl wins, was tested on a restart with three laps to go beating back the challenges of Shawn Solomito to go on to his first victory of the 2009 season. Paul and Janovic slipped by Solomito in the closing laps, with Keith Rocco rebounding for fifth after pitting early and also being involved in a mid-race skirmish.
DIRT Modifieds: Ken Brenn Jr. In Northeast Modified Hall of Fame Class Of '09
Garden State standout Ken Brenn Jr. has been selected as a 2009 inductee into the Northeast Modified Hall of Fame. Driver inductions and special award ceremonies are scheduled for Sunday, May 24 on the Cayuga County Fairgrounds in conjunction with the annual Memorial Day Weekend holiday show at the adjacent speedway.
Brenn had an advantage in racing that few rookie racers have. When he began his career in the high-powered world of dirt-track Modified stock-car competition, his first car owner – his father – was a man who was familiar with winning.
A well-respected Midget owner in United States Auto Club and American Racing Drivers Club circles, Ken Brenn Sr. got into the Modifieds in the early 1970s when interest in the open-cockpit mighty-mites began to fade. And since he knew what it took to field a winning race car, he purchased a 427-cubic-inch Chevrolet-powered 1937 Chevy coupe that was built by Northeast Modified Hall of Fame member Budd Olsen and he put Stan Ploski, another Northeast Modified Hall of Famer, into its cockpit.
As a kid growing up, Ken Jr. often went with his father to the Midget races, but as he got older other things occupied his time. Yet just that simple formation of the new Modified-oriented No. 24 Ken Brenn Racing Team was enough to regenerate the youngster’s interest in racing. And when that operation brought forth young Brenn’s desire to get behind the steering wheel, he took full advantage of his situation and developed into one of the most successful drivers on New Jersey’s tough Flemington Fair Speedway and East Windsor Speedway circuit.
“I’m not a win-or-spin, guy,” Ken Jr. said some years ago when he was asked to evaluate his driving style. “I want to be there at the end.” Being there at the end, of course, meant that he had a chance to win the race. And at Flemington and East Windsor he did so a bunch of times.
The first-ever Rookie Champion at Flemington in 1972, Ken Jr. turned that trick in the same yellow No. 24 ’37 Chevy coupe that Ploski first drove under the Ken Brenn Racing Team colors. And then, after this three-year apprenticeship in the Sportsman ranks was through, he moved up to the Modifieds and began to make a name for himself as a top-flight competitor.
In 1975, Ken Jr. posted the first of his 18 Modified victories at the old half-mile East Windsor Speedway, and he was a frontrunner there each Friday night until the end of the 1980 season when the track converted its headline class into a proprietary but highly competitive Small-Block Modified operation.
With East Windsor now a thing of the past, the 1978 New Jersey State Modified Champion now focused his efforts on the Saturday night Modified action at Flemington’s famed Route 31 speed plant where he was also one of the top drivers.
In 1982 and 1983, the Warren, New Jersey, hot shoe won Flemington’s highly-coveted Modified titles, and his total number of 59 triumphs there places him fourth on “The Square’s” All-Time Dirt-Track Modified Victory List behind Billy Pauch (114), Northeast Modified Hall of Fame member Al Tasnady (96) and Ploski (74). Ken Jr. also won the 1979 & 1980 Tri-Track 100s on the old Flemington layout and he won at least one feature race on the venerable dirt surface for 12 consecutive seasons (1976-1987).
After Flemington’s famed 5/8-mile racing surface was paved for the 1991 season, the former dirt-track ace continued to compete there until the track closed for good at the end of 2000. He liked the asphalt and said that it was fun to drive on it, and he proved his blacktop talents by sharing Flemington’s 1996 Small-Block Modified title with Dean Gulick.
In general terms, Ken Jr. raced mostly close to home, but the competition that he faced in the Garden State was some of the best in Modified racing. However, when he did go off and travel to some of the bigger races he could hold his own just about anywhere that he went. And this was underscored by the big win that he posted at Syracuse on July 3, 1983, in a No. 24 Ken Brenn Racing Team entry that was built by Sprint Car wizard Gary Stanton.
His racing luck, however, wasn’t all that great at the New York State Fairgrounds though when it came to Super DIRT Week. In a recounting of his long career, Ken Jr. cites winning the pole position (34.524 seconds/104.275 mph) at the 1979 Rite Aid 200 as one of his biggest accomplishments.
But although the trimly-built driver with the flowing Sam Elliott moustache was always fast on the “Moody Mile,” he surprisingly only had two top-five finishes (third in 1979 and fifth in 1980) in his 17 Super DIRT Week starts (1976-1992). And equally as amazing is the fact that he only led 40 laps in all those years as mechanical problems or accidents often hurt his chances to win the sport’s biggest race.
There are two other interesting notes about Ken Brenn Jr.’s career: he didn’t make any money driving a race car until after he joined up with Mike O’Shea’s No. 74 Trenton Mack team in the early 1980s; and, no matter who he drove for, he always had good equipment.
With regard to his racing income, that wasn’t even a question when he drove for his father. For the Ken Brenn Team racing was always considered to be a hobby; a way for the father and son to relax and enjoy something together after the work at the family business – Brenn Construction – was finished. But the operation was run under a business-like atmosphere where they tried not to spend money where they didn’t have to. And since all the team’s winnings were put back into its budget, that had an influence on the way that Ken Jr. drove.
On the race track, he was aggressive when he had to be, but not so foolhardy that his car ended up being returned to the pits hanging from the business end of a wrecker.
“When I drove for my father, I fixed the car when I wrecked it,” he said. “So you learn that it’s harder to fix it than it is to crash it. We were competitive because we restricted ourselves. If you’ve got enough time to prepare leisurely and do it right, you are gonna finish up front or be a contender, at least. You’ve gotta be there at the end to win and preparation is 90 percent of that.”
On the mechanical side of things, Ken Jr. raced for owners who only fielded first-class rides. His father’s No. 24s – both the old Chevy coupes and the more-modern Gremlins – were some of the top cars of their era. O’Shea’s No. 74 cars were also of that same order. And Benny Scheer always spent his money where it counted when he built a race car and that put his No. 1a A & B Garage Small-Block Modified at the top of its class.
Ken Jr. also had the unique experience in 1976 of driving in and winning with the first Gremlin Modified to come out of the Indianapolis, Indiana, shops of legendary open-wheel car builder Grant King. And he also drove the 14th and last King Modified that was ever built.
“We originally went to Grant and wanted him to update a car that we had,” Ken Jr. once explained. “But Grant said, ‘No,’ he wanted to build his own. The only thing that he wanted was for us to bring him what we had so that he could look at it and know what he was doing. And that’s how the Grant King cars came about.
“Dad knows a lot of people who are smart and know a lot of things, so it helped me that way (in my racing career).”
But while all of that last statement about his father may be true, Ken Brenn Jr. realized the fortunate situation that he was in and – along with a lot of natural talent and ability – he went on to take advantage of it and author a Hall of Fame racing career.
Bowman Gray: Brown Bags Another One at Bowman Gray
“Right now the sun is shining on Tim, and the shadow’s on me,’ said Walnut Cove resident Burt Myers about his continuing streak of bad luck.
Myers led the first 30 laps of the Bowman Gray Gear 100 for the Farm Bureau Insurance Modified Series on Saturday, battling transmission problems the whole time. Myers was caught unaware of his mechanical issues after a rainstorm caused pre-race practice sessions to be cancelled. The track was dried and race-ready, but Myers’ car was not.
“If we could’ve had two laps of practice, I would’ve known it. The transmission was popping on the pace laps,” said Myers. “I was just a wounded duck.”
Myers started on the outside pole beside Dean Ward of Winston-Salem, and the #1 car of Myers was able to claim the lead as the green flag fell. The first caution brought about the first Double-File “Choice” Restart, with Jonathan Brown of Winston-Salem moving up to the outside behind Myers.
On the restart, Myers held the lead with Brown filing back into second. A few laps later, another caution gave Brown a second chance. Myers stayed in the lead again this time, although Brown came much closer to getting by him. Unfortunately, Myers’ transmission problems were getting worse.
When a third caution gave Brown another chance to challenge Myers from the outside, Brown beat Myers into turn one and claimed the lead. As Burt Myers’ limping car was caught on the outside, Tim Brown of Cana, Va. slipped by to claim second place.
Now, Jonathan Brown’s greatest fear was the very thing that helped him pass Myers: the Double-File Restart. Jonathan Brown’s fears came true on lap 63.
“I did not want to see that caution. Not at all whatsoever,” said Brown. When the drivers chose lanes for the Double-File Restart, Tim Brown moved to the outside of Jonathan Brown to vie for the lead. Tim Brown barely got enough distance between his car and the car of Jonathan Brown to duck inside and take over the lead. “My hat’s off to Jonathan. It was close getting in down there,” said Tim Brown.
“I just stayed focused and tried not to make mistakes,” said Brown about his performance for the remainder of the race. The #83 car of Tim Brown was able to lead the rest of the way, with no other caution occurring in the race. “Everything went my way tonight. Things went our way and we won the race.”
Jonathan Brown took second, and Burt Myers ended up taking third. “As bad of luck as I had with the transmission braking, I was lucky to finish third. We had a 10th place car tonight,” said Myers.
Tracks: Volusia Speedway Park takes the Weekend Off, Returns May 23rd
Volusia Speedway Park will take this Saturday night off but will return May 23rd with Hero Night. All Law Enforcement, Military and Fire/Rescue will be admitted free with ID. On the program for May 23rd will be the Late Models, Modifieds, Street Stocks, Thunder Stocks and 4 Cylinder Challengers.
Last Saturday night, Rob Underwood took his second Modified win in a row. Underwood and Jason Davis put on a great show going for the lead but Davis had problems and ended up 11th while Underwood got his second win in a row and took over the Modified points lead.
On Saturday, May 23rd, pit gate opens at 4:30 with grandstands at 5:30. Racing starts at 7:30 pm.
Regular adult admission is only $10.00 with students 11-15 $5.00. Kids 10 and under are FREE and drive-in parking is only $10.00 per car.
Mahoning Valley: Strohl Strolls to a Close Victory
In what was arguably the best feature thus far of 2009, Lou Strohl raced to a nail biting win in Saturday’s 35-lap nonstop Modified contest at Mahoning Valley Speedway as he edged point leader John Bennett and Rick Kirkendall en-route to his first win of the season.
In a race that took just ten minutes to run, Strohl, who started from the pole, had a race long handful of Bennett and Kirkendall to deal with as well as Mike Quinn and Stacey Brown who completed the top five.
The race actually did have one caution but it occurred before any laps where recorded. Kory Rabenold was eliminated after he was shuffled around and wound up breaking the right front suspension.
From that point on it was flat out. At first Strohl led a single file line with Kirkendall, Troy Bollinger, Quinn and Brown in tow.
Just past halfway Bollinger bowed out and it was then that Kirkendall began pulling near even with Strohl while 12th starting Bennett was making his way into the top five. At lap 18 Bennett was now a factor and the intense battle at the front was underway.
Strohl was doing all he could to protect both the high and low lanes as Kirkendall and Bennett ran two-wide behind him. Just as close remained Quinn and Brown.
As the laps ticked down Strohl remained on the defensive as Bennett and Kirkendall never let up while still running side-by-side and it stayed that way to the end.
“I’m tired man. That car was a handful and I’m worn out. This was hard fought. It was harder then coming from 15th to first. To run nonstop like we did just goes to show the caliber of drivers we have here at Mahoning,” said an exhausted Strohl.
“I have to thank Rick (Kirkendall) and John (Bennett). We ran each other clean. I saw them next to me a few times.”
The win marked his 32nd victory which keeps him ranked number one in career Modified wins. It also eases the first three races of the season which have been lackluster runs at best.
“We’ve had a fast car the last few weeks but dumb things just kept happening. I hate to win from the pole but a win is a win,” added Strohl who hadn’t finished any better than 14th in three previous outings.
At the finish Bennett just nipped Kirkendall giving him his third straight top two which includes back-to-back wins.
“That was a great battle between me, Rick and Lou. Louie pulled one off. I wish I could have won it and go for three in a row but I’m glad to see Lou win. He’s a great driver and I enjoy competing against him,” said Bennett.
“He was doing what he had to do and had the perfect line to try and maintain. He was plenty fast enough to keep it.”
SuperClean Modifieds: Las Vegas is This Weekend's Stop
The SuperClean Modified Racing Series rolls into Las Vegas for round three of their exciting 2009 season this Saturday night, May 16th. Their feature race will be 75 full green flag laps, caution laps will not be counted, on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's three eighths of a mile oval known as "The Bullring." The race sponsor for this special event is the Minnesota based Poly Dome Plastic Products.
This outstanding regional touring series is again enjoying a healthy car count and a full field of 24 cars will be lined up for the Poly Dome Plastic Products 75. This event will also feature some of the best open wheel driving talent from the western states area who will be charging hard to get to the front to claim the winner's check worth $1,000.
But to make it to the checkered flag they first have to make it through the qualifying session which very often is not that easy. In the past the lap time separation between the fastest and slowest car in the field has often been less than a second. The qualifying times will set the first 16 positions in the starting field for the feature. Positions 17 through 20 will be filled by a B main race which can often get just as intense as the 75 lap feature. The final four starting spots will be provisionals based on the decision of the series' promoter. Each driver in the A feature is guaranteed at least $250 just for starting the race.
The drivers in the SuperClean Modified Racing Series are also competing for championship points along with the big pay off in bonus money at the end of the season. With two races already on the books this year it's already becoming apparent that the championship run could get extremely dramatic.Going into Saturday's Las Vegas event the top two drivers are tied for the points lead, there are only 10 points separating the top four in the standings and 14 points between first and fifth.
Wall Modifieds: Twin 30s To Hit the Stadium on May 23rd
With two highly successful stock car racing programs already in the books for the 2009 season, Wall Stadium promoter Jim Morton is ready to kick off the 2009 summer season with “Twin 30” lap main events for the Red Bank Sleep Shoppe Modified stock cars on Saturday night, May 23. The Memorial Day weekend event will follow the same time schedule as the preceding two race dates with main events starting at 7:00 p.m. and qualifying beginning at 5:00 p.m.
“That time schedule has worked really well for us in the first two races,” Morton said. “Starting the feature races at 7:00 p.m. has allowed us to throw the final checker flag at around 9:30 p.m. That allows families the chance to either head home early to put the kids to bed or head into the pit area to meet our drivers.
“So far this year I can’t believe the number of kids I’ve been seeing at the track and the number of kids that are visiting the pit area with their parents to meet the drivers after the races. That is a good thing for our sport.”
Howell’s Jimmy Blewett will be one of the drivers to watch as the Modifieds battle in a pair of 30-lap main events. In addition to winning the tour type Modified portion of last November’s “Turkey Derby” here, Blewett has also won both 100-lap races for Modified style cars contested at the stadium thus far this season.
Also on the May 23 agenda will be the Calabreeze Pools Sportsman and Street Stock racers in 25-lappers and the Legend Cars and the Flanagan Retail Development Factory Stocks in 20-lap main events.
Again, main event action on Saturday, May 23, is slated to start at 7:00 p.m. sharp, with qualifying beginning at approximately 5:00 p.m., depending on the number of entries in each division. Grandstand seating will open at 4:00 p.m.
Wall Stadium is located on Route 34 in Wall Township, N.J., just one mile north of Garden State Parkway exit 98 and Interstate 195 exit 35B. The speedway office is open from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and all day Saturday during events. The speedway hotline number is 732-681-6400, while more information is also available at www.wallspeedway.com.
Pro Four Modifieds: Monadnock is a Washout
Due to heavy rains in the area and a forecast calling for much of the same, officials from both the Pro Four Modifieds of New England (PFMNE) and Monadnock Speedway were forced to postpone the race program originally scheduled for Saturday, May 9. The PFMNE will return to the Speedway next Saturday, May 16 to try and complete the race program along with the Monadnock Modifieds, Outlaw Pro Stocks, Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, and the All Star Race Trucks.
No qualifying heats were completed for PFMNE, however, heat lineups have been determined for the 11 cars signed into the paddock area. Any teams wishing to compete in the event are welcomed, as officials have announced that any car not present on May 9 will be added at the tail end of the field.
Heat races will begin at 6:00pm for the action-packed program with features immediately following. This race will be the first of the 2009 campaign for the New England based touring series.
History: Norwood Arena Reunion is Scheduled for June
The fifth annual gathering of the faithful for the Norwood Arena Reunion continues to take shape. Commitments for various drivers who raced at the venerable, but shuttered oval, have been made to be there. They include Dave Dion of Hudson, NH, Bill Slater of E. Hartford, CT, Leo Cleary of Hanover, Bill Harmon of CT, Stoughton's Jerry Capazzoli and car owner Joe Brady of Brockton along with Fred Luchesi of Pawtucket, RI, among several others.
Racecars from NEAR, STARS and ACOT are expected to return to the Bezema dealership on US Rt. 1, the AutoMile, on Sunday, June 7. The Norwood Arena ran various types of race cars from Midgets, Cutdowns, Modifieds and Late Models during the 25 years the venue conducted weekly racing events from April through October including some giant Demo Derbies. Also, sports car, motorcycle and drag races were held on the oval with the latter in the paved parking lot. Efforts are underway to get some of those vehicles to attend this year's event.
Over the past five years, a classic, muscle and antique cars show have been included in the presentation. It's a good fit because many of those restored street vehicles were driven by fans to the track on Saturday nights. All this adds to the nostalgia and memory of the Norwood Arena Speedway. This year the organizers expect an increase in the entries. The first 80 racecars, muscle, antique and classic cars, along with motorcycles, will receive a dash plaque. Also, a trophy will be awarded to the best appearing race car, street vehicle and motorcycle.
Collectable vendors and personal collectables will be on display along with a portable slot car track for the attendees to participate and enjoy. Also, those fans coming to this annual gathering are asked to bring along any scrapbooks, pictures and any other memorabilia. A table will be provided for that effort.
The Norwood Arena Speedway webmaster Don Thomas will also be on hand to give his annual show in the garage area. The Bezema family will also offer a light lunch to all attendees with such fun food items as hamburgers and hotdogs in the adjacent Marty's Cafe.
So if you have missed the four previous events you have another chance to take part in the fun. Also, if you have attended in previous years please come again and bring a relative or a friend. All are welcome. It's set for Sunday, June 7 from 10 a.m. To 4 p.m. rain or shine.
For more information call Bezema Buick, Pontiac, GMC at 781.769-4700. The dealership is located at 402 Providence Hwy., The AutoMile, in Norwood, MA 02062. You can also check out the http://norwoodarena.com web site on the internet for other details.