Beautiful weather and a large crowd showed up for conclusion of the 13th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals. So did Groton, CT native Ron Yuhas Jr. Yuhas prevailed in a caution filled SK-150, but mastered every restart thrown his way to win the $5,000 jackpot for the first time in his storied Speedbowl career.
The Budweiser Modified Nationals SK-150 got underway with Frank Ruocco and Jeff Paul leading the star-studded 26-car field to green. The pair spent the first five laps side-by-side with Paul inching his way to the lead when caution waved for debris on lap five. Yuhas made his presence felt early, moving to second on the restart. The outside lane was working for Doug Coby who had advanced to the top three by lap 26 from his eighth starting spot. Yuhas would take the lead from Paul in the outside lane on lap 32 following a restart. Cautions in the early portions of the event prevented the field from settling in and took their toll on the second half of the pack.
The running order as the race approached halfway for a lap 73 restart was Yuhas, Paul, Keith Rocco, Coby, Tyler Chadwick, Ted Christopher - who started the event deep in the field, Rob Janovic Jr., Diego Monahan, Mark Bakaj, and Dennis Gada - who was recovering from an early race incident and pit stop.
Cautions continued to mount, preventing the field from getting into any established rhythm. Yuhas, a seasoned Speedbowl Modified competitor, would prove up to the challenge of every restart. The top-five positions swapped over the restarts, with Christopher moving to fourth on lap 90 with his eyes set on pressuring the top three of Yuhas, Rocco, and Coby. Christopher found trouble on lap 100 however, when overheating forced him to retire from the event.
The race would finally settle in to an extended run with Dennis Gada, the seven-time Speedbowl champion and defending 150 race winner, advancing to fourth looking poised to become a factor in the final third of the event. Coby worked his way outside Rocco and into second on lap 114, while Gada duplicated the move and completed the pass on Rocco for third on lap 118. In the meantime, Yuhas had opened up a commanding straightaway lead during green flag conditions leaving Coby and Gada to try and run him down.
The event’s final caution waved with just nine laps remaining when Wendell Dailey could not save his car after getting loose off turn four, spinning into the fronstretch and erasing Yuhas’ advantage. The restart would pit Coby, a self-proclaimed “big fan” of the Speedbowl’s capable outside groove against Yuhas, hungry for his first triumph in the 150 after several starts in the race. Yuhas again powered out to a car length lead by turn one on the restart, eliminating any chance for Coby to utilize the outside and challenge. Yuhas went on to the win by a car length.
“This is the one that’s always gotten away from us” offered a jubilant Yuhas. Starting the event from third was a factor in his strategy. “Starting up front was key, I’ve wrecked early on in this race before. Once we got to the lead I tried to conserve in the middle of the race and save something if we needed it for the end.” Although admittedly getting loose towards the end, Yuhas’ was still the car to beat. “That’s all the crew. They did a great job. I’m just happy for the Murphy family and my whole crew.”
After the race, Coby was quick to praise the winner. “I don’t think I had anything for Ronnie. He was really good on those restarts. I was good on the outside tonight and if I could have gotten to him I would have tried something, but he was just too good.”
Rocco rebounded on the final restart to finish third. “Every restart we’d be good for about five laps and the car would go away. We debated about pitting for adjustments, but never ended up coming in.”
Gada recovered from an early race incident that damaged his front end, pitted for adjustments, and finished solidly in fourth. Tyler Chadwick ran with the leaders all night and ended up fifth.
With the win, Yuhas becomes the first SK Modified® driver in Speedbowl history to win each of the ‘Bowl’s Triple Crown events in their career – the Budweiser Modified Nationals, Pepsi 300, and Finale extra distance events. He had previously won two Pepsi 300’s and three Finale 100-lappers. Yuhas is now one win away from moving into the top five in career wins in the division, and has reached 20 wins.
Final event results:
Budweiser Modified Nationals SK Modifieds (150-laps): 1. Ron Yuhas Jr., Groton; 2. Doug Coby, Milford; 3. Keith Rocco, Wallingford; 4. Dennis Gada, Salem; 5. Tyler Chadwick, Ledyard; 6. Mark Bakaj, Lebanon; 7. Jeff Pearl, Salem; 8. Jeffrey Paul, Groton; 9. Diego Monahan, Quaker Hill; 10. Frank Ruocco, North Haven; 11. Frank Mucciacciaro Jr., Milford; 12. Mike Sweeney, Middletown; 13. Wendell Dailey, Gales Ferry; 14. Rob Janovic Jr., Waterford; 15. Corey Hutchings, Salem; 16. Kevin Shea, Mystic; 17. Joe Perry, Ashaway, RI; 18. Eric Goodale, Riverhead, NY; 19. Ted Christopher, Plainville; 20. Kenny Horton, Guilford; 21. Tom Abele Jr., Norwich; 22. Wayne Arute, Berlin; 23. Don Fowler, Clinton; 24. Rich Hammann, Tolland; 25. Joe Gada, Salem; 26. Justin Gaydosh, Newtown