LIA SCORES THOMPSON RoC VICTORY BY STAYING OUT by Mike Twist
Not Pitting for Tires is Key to Winning in Battle of Mod Tour Invaders
There were no shortage of cars in the pit area when the Race of Champions Modified tour visited the Thompson Speedway (CT) for the first time on Saturday night. An off weekend for the NASCAR Modified Series and strong local interest in the division swelled the entry list to over 30 cars for the event.
Meanwhile, Christopher restarted 13th and passed at least a car per lap right after the green flag flew. However, tire problems took their toll on TC and he could get no higher than fourth place.
Inside of ten laps to go, Lia sized up Ferrante high and low. On lap 93, he set up his fellow New Yorker in turn one and completed a pass down the backstretch. Lia would roll to
the checkered flag for his first victory of 2004, while Ferrante, Storace, Christopher and George Kent rounded out the top five finishers.
The late race battle between Lia and Ferrante was a spirited one.
Early on, it was obvious that the drivers and teams with NASCAR Modified experience would be the guys to beat. Ted Christopher and Donny Lia pulled away at the start and had a half lap on the rest of the field before a lap 31 caution flag flew. Although they were ahead of the competition early on, the two drivers were well matched. Christopher
led early with Lia poking underneath, but not quite able to complete a pass, on several occasions. Before the halfway mark, Lia did get out front and when the caution flag flew on lap 51 he elected to keep the lead as over half of the field pitted for fresh tires.
"It was close out there and we were an even match," said Lia. "I could get into the corner real well and he could get off the corner really well. I knew that I needed to get right up to his bumper getting into
the corner to be able to do anything with him. I got underneath him in turn one and we might have touched a little bit. He got out of shape and I got by. It was a deal where things had to play out just right to get by. I was able to stay with him and move around my line a little bit. I stayed with him after he passed me and I just had to wait for the right opportunity at the end."
Finishing second was a mixed bag of feelings for Ferrante.
"I'm proud, but I'm also disappointed," said Ferrante. "We were close again and I thought that this time was it - I thought this was my race. We pitted early. That was our strategy and it worked. When we got past Donny, I never expected him to have anything left. I thought that we could drive away from him. When I was behind him, his entry was high and he stayed at the top of the racetrack. When I got into the lead, I never, ever expected that he could get his nose under me like that. He got into me a little bit, but that's racing and we were going for the lead. There are no hard feelings."
"We were going to decide on whether to pit or not based on how much our lap times dropped off and we didn't lose much," said Lia. "So we said 'we don't have anything to lose' and decided to stay on the track."
A few of the other cars that did not pit were Tony Ferrante, who made his stop earlier in the race and Jim Storace, who elected to try a no pit strategy.
In the second half, Ferrante, Lia and Storace were the top three drivers and all three showed to be stong enough to get out front. Ferrante got under Lia with 20 laps to go to take over the top spot, but was not able to pull out to much of a lead.
Donny Lia has been quick this season, but Thompson was his first win of '04. (51 Photo)
The tires that were key to Lia's victory show signs of wear as he is interveiwed in his car after the race. (51 Photo)