NORTH VS. SOUTH SHOOTOUT: FRIDAY NOTES By Matt Dillner & J. Kaplan
Blewett on Pole, No Mods for Szeg, Query is in, Park & Pack Tangle
UNDERDOG BLEWETT SCORES POLE IN FAMILY RIDE
John Blewett III came into the 2nd Annual North South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park, the defending champ, but also surprisingly an underdog. After parting ways with his long-time car owner Curt Chase and the familiar #77, Blewett's future in the Mod ranks has been a big question mark. Well, with a family owned car, Blewett erased any doubts turning in a blistering lap to take the pole for Saturday's Shootout.
On a late-race restart during the third heat race, Bob Park jumped past Brian Pack for the final transfer spot. Park's car, which was involved in a tangle with John Smith earlier in the race, was extremely towed out. But to many people's disbelief, Park charged hard with the disabled racer and nearly snuck into the show. He had the transfer spot going into turn three, but contact from Brian Pack sent both cars crashing just short of the finish line and a starting spot for the Shootout.
“On that last restart I was fifth and Buddy (Bob's crew chief) told me if I would get one more spot, I'd be in," explained Park. "I was lucky that my lane moved on the
“I put a lot of effort into this deal," said Blewett. "I put a lot of money into this motor. I went to Loudon and checked out the car. I came back from there and said I am out of my league, so we went to Bob Bruneau and he just totally overhauled my entire motor and built us a real strong piece. I can't say that there is anything out there better.”
“It does feel good to come out here and prove to everyone else and yourself that you can do this. It doesn't matter what car you drive, you start to doubt yourself when you struggle. I know it's only time-trials but it's a big part of it and it's a good moral boost for me and the guys.”
John Blewett (left) with his father in v-lane. (51 Photos)
HIRSCHMAN MAKES THE FIELD...MATT THAT IS!
ROC Mod regular Matt Hirschman, son of Featherlite Mod Champ Tony Hirschman, overcame a ton of adversity to make it into the field for the North vs. South Shootout.
First the young Hirschman had to just figure out getting around the tricky ½ oval. And if that weren't enough of a challenge, his track time was cut short after he crashed his #52 in practice.
Pack and Park aren't the best of friends.
restart and away I went. I was running fourth with one corner to go and that kid turned me around. That's racin' I guess.”
Although Park's people thought they were done wrong, Pack wasn't too happy with Park after the incident.
“Me and Bob don't get along anyway. Everytime he gets behind me he hits me anyway. I was going for fourth and I got into him a little bit and I let up and he checked up and we spun. I hit him as hard as he hits me. He jumped the start and they don't do nothing about it. I just run my race, that's it.”
Park and Pack will have one more chance to make it into the show when they race in the consi (last chance race) on Saturday.
Todd Szegedy was having fun strolling the Concord pits and is optimistic about his future in the sport.
“I was just getting comfortable with the track and somebody must have blown a rear-end and was dropping gear lube all over the track and there were cars spinning everywhere,” said Hirschman. “I spun and kept it off the wall and someone else came in and hit me pretty good in the front end.”
But the Hirschman family and crew went to work on the car and got it ready for qualifying. Matt put in a good lap but did not make the top-five qualifying transfer. So, it was off to the heat race. The heat race didn't go too smoothly, but Hirschman escaped some near disasters and a loose racecar to finish third in his heat and make the field for the star-studded event.
“It's kinda been a roller coaster day. Now that we are in, I can sit down and try and think about the car tonight and hopefully make it better. That practice wreck really got us behind for the day and got me behind just getting the feel of the track. Hopefully we are caught back up again and will be good for the race.”
BURT PLAYS MUSICAL CARS
Both Myers boys will be in the field for the North vs. South Shootout this year. But for Burt, the older of the third generation Myers clan, it wasn't so easy.
“We had our new car and we were getting it running real good and the rear-end broke. We then took the rear end out of our backup car and put it in our new car. We finally got it ready with about 15 minutes left in that last practice and we blew a motor. So we took the rear end out of the new car and then put it back in the old car and we didn't get any practice with the second car. We just kept diggin because thats what we know how to do.”
FOLEY A SLEEPER?
In the Northeast, Len Bohler's cars were always sleepers. By this I mean that at first glance, they weren't the flashiest of cars... but they were fast. In the south, that sleeper may very well be Jay Foley. Jay's car isn't the prettiest car in the field but it sure has one heck of an engine. And the low key Foley can wheel that #57 with the best of them.
Jay Hedgecock says that Foley could very well be the southern guy to step it up and suprise them all on Saturday.
“Foley gets around here good and qualifies good here,” said Hedgecock. “It's just a matter of making it last 100 laps. I wouldn't count him out. He raced real fast when we were down here with the SMART Tour. He should be one to watch for. His cars aren't real flashy but on the track he gets it done and that's what it takes.”
Query got some time in a modifed a few weeks ago during the SMART Tour show at Cocord, but blew up after only 20 laps.
Still relatively unfamiliar with these racecars, Query adapted quickly and shocked the mod world qualifying fourth in time trials.
“We were pretty shocked about how well we did,” said Query. “I've got a lot of laps around this place and that probably helps. It's like a lot of things in the world. The people who you know is what counts. I leaned on a lot of people who knew Modified cars and they helped me
figure these cars out. I was worried that they weren't going to be like what my car (Super Late Model) is like. I've dealt with every type of stock car but not open wheel. The people I talked with told me just to treat it like my Late Model. When I did that, I really came around.
“When I raced that race the other week, I got here late and hopped in and started in the rear. I passed a bunch of cars before we blew up. I didn't know what I was getting into. I just knew it had a steering wheel and pedals. When you are out there by yourself, you see those big ol' tires out there but when you are racing with other cars you forget about that.”
They are neat. They are like Go-Karts on steroids.”
NO MODS FOR SZEGEDY, BUT A 51 ANALYST?
2003 Featherlite Mod Champ Todd Szegedy was at the track, but in street clothes. The Tour regular ran select Busch races this year for NEMCO along with most of the Featherlite Mod shows. Although a proven talent, Szegedy does not know where his helmet will hang next season.
The pole was also special for the entire Blewett family. John, won his first modified race running his father's famous red, white and blue #76. Tonight John took the top spot at Concord in what else, a red, white and blue #66.
"I'll tell you, it wouldn't be a Blewett car if it wasn't red, white and blue. My grandfather is the motivating factor behind all of my racing. My father and I do the work and he is the motivator. He's 74 going on 20 and has a lot of drive and energy. He never lets you quit and keeps pushing you.”
Blewett, Eric Beers, Nevin George, Freddie Query, and Eddie Flemke made the show on time.
PACK AND PARK TANGLE
Things got a little heated on the track and off the track during the final qualification race on Friday night.
QUERY IMPRESSIVE IN ANYTHING AT CONCORD
Anyone who knows Late Model racing, knows Freddie Query is “the man” at Concord Motorsports Park. He is the all-time win leader at Concord and dominates the Big-10 Series at the track. But Freddie Query in a modified? Why not? The man is a certified bad-ass in the short track world and wanted to try his hand at some open wheel action.
“I came down here to North Carolina to look for places to live just in case I get a deal, says Szegedy. “Im kinda shooting in the dark right now but I am where I need to be. I would definitely like to be running this race but my car owner is still deciding what he wants to do next year. That deal is up in the air. I know I am not going to be running the modifieds next year. Otherwise I am just enjoying the race sitting on the sidelines. What I am doing here, is giving up something I have for something I don't have right now. So that is a gamble where I might not have a ride at all next year. But I won the Tour Championship last year and what do I have to lose? I am 28-years old and I've got to go for it.”
Todd Szegedy took the time to be an analyst for Speed51.com during the interview and this is what the mod champ had to say:
“I think the North guys are strong and of course they have the superior equipment. As far as the fastest southern guy, LW Miller will be the best shot at breaking through and having a shot at the win. He knows what it takes to win up north. And by far the northern guys are the toughest guys."
"From the north, John Blewett will be tough to beat. Lia is very good, but Blewett has one up on everybody. He has something to prove this weekend in his own car. Teddy's always strong too, but I think John is the man to beat.”
THE MONEY IS THERE...WHERE ARE THE CARS?
Ted Christopher was one of many drivers miffed at the lack of cars that showed up for the North vs. South Shootout.
“I am very surprised with the lack of cars for this race,” said TC. “I don't know why? They are paying for time trials, paying for the qualifying races, the same lap money. The pay is actually better this year. There is more money to start this year. I don't get it. Some of these tracks put up real good money purses and the drivers just don't show up and then they bitch because they go on the tour and run 150 laps for four-thousand dollars? Go figure!”
LAST SECOND TIRE RULE HAS TEAMS HAPPY
At the drivers meeting on Friday, it was announced that teams would receive their tires right before qualifying and basically roll right out on the grid. The teams were informed that they would be able to fill up the tires and only make air pressure adjustments once they rolled the cars to the scales and the qualifying grid. The announcement raised some questions at the meeting, but was received very well by the competitors.
“Typically with the SMART Tour rules you mount up your tires at the tire truck but then a half hour before qualifying or at the driver's meeting they give you your tires,” explains SMART Tour Champ LW Miller. “Here you bolt them on when you roll across the scales and you go directly on the grid for qualitying. I applaud them 100% for what they did. It is the smartest thing they have ever done with this race. I'm not saying that in the past people did cheat, but there was opportunity to cheat and now, that is almost gone. With the SMART Tour we would have 25 cars and enough inspectors and competitors to police the deal. With about 50 cars here and only a handfull of officials it's impossible to police it. You would get your tires and you could go back to the trailer for a half an hour to mess with them. Now they have taken that possiblity away.
Jason Myers agrees that it was a good idea but still has doubts about it eliminating tire trickery.
“It's a good deal, said Myers. “It keeps it fair for everybody. I don't think you can ever put an end to the cheating out here. I'd still say there are a few that have a certain advantage out here with the tires. But now this eliminates the guys from bolting on a special set of tires for qualifying. But with a race down here like this, you never know what your gonna get and you don't know what your running against. Yeah they may come off a truck, but we don't know where they were before they were on there.”
The defending Shootout Champ not only thinks it was a good call but was quick to commend the tire providers for making it go smoothly.
“The tire guys here did a good job today, said Blewett. “If the tour guys were as diligent as the guys here on the tire truck there would be less nonsense going on back home. There are some things the people can learn from the tire guys here.”
THE BROTHERS PARK RACING TOGETHER AGAIN
If you have ever watched modified racing on Long Island, you are probably familiar with watching at least one of the Park family racing a modified. Of course, many know the most famous of the Park family... former Cup star turned Craftsman Truck driver Steve Park. But the Racing Parks started with Steven's dad, Bob Park, and uncle Bill Park (a Riverhead Raceway regular).
Well it was a flashback moment for Long Island mod followers in the Carolinas on Friday as Bob's famed yellow #19 went door to door with his brother's orange #20 once again. The duo hadn't raced together in about seven years. Although the two drivers had a brotherly rivalry of there own in the past., they were parked next to eachother in the pits and helped eachother out all day long at Concord.
BEERS GETS IN TOP 5
Eric Beers only ran a handful of laps at Concord last year before blowing an engine. So he entered the 2nd Annual Shootout still a virtual rookie at Concord. Beers figured it out quickly and was absolutely pumped with his second place qualifying lap.
“To get in the top-five is huge. To run a three here...holy s#$% I was holding on! It's like a big amusement park out there. You drive into one turn and the thing cuts you this way. Then you drive wide open down there and then you go into a flat turn. It's just a crazy place but its so much fun to race here. Our goal was to get in the top-five and we did it.”
HEAT RACE ACTION...FOUR ADVANCE
Donny Lia, who was probably the fastest car throughout the day at Concord, won his heat race in decisive fashion. Ted Christopher finished second followed by Jay Foley and Pete Brittain.
Ronnie Silk won the second heat race over up and coming short track star Bobby Santos III in the Boehler #34. Southern Mod ace Jay Hedgecock was third followed by Charlie Pasteryak.
The third heat race saw Jerry Marquis take the checkers. Doug Coby, driving the Chase Racing #77 mount that John Blewett II piloted to victory last year, finished in the runner-up spot. Matt Hischman was third followed by Jason Myers.
These drivers, plus the five fastest qualifiers from time-trials advance. The remainder of the field will run a consi race. Those who do not make the field in the consi will run a non-qualifiers race.
- 44 Modifieds were on hand for the 2nd Annual Shootout.
- Jim Storace ran the Roger Hill #97 (backup to Eddie Flemke). His stint with the team proved short as Storace stuffed it in the fence and the team loaded the car on the transporter for good.
- “King of the Southern Modifieds" Junior Miller crashed in his heat race and will have to run in the consi to make the show.
- John Smith, Brian Cramner, JR Bertuccio, Jeff Pearsall, and Frank Fleming were among those involved in incidents during their qualifying races and will have to run in the consi events.
- Among the other notables that will be running the consi: Reggie Ruggiero, LW Miller, Carl Pasteryak, Brian Loftin, Randy Butner, and Jamie Tomaino.
- Much talk around the Southern Modified pit area surrounded the future of ASA. Most in the ASA/SMART Tour community have heard no word on how ASA's recent troubles will effect the sanctioning body's involvement with the series next season. Speed51.com will have more on this issue in the coming weeks.
Donny Lia was all smiles after winnning his heat race at Concord.
Junior Miller and the Riggs Racing Team did not have a good night.
Freddie Query is having fun with open wheels.
Matt Hirschman and his dad Tony Hirschman (right) fix the #52 after a practice crash.