NHIS MODIFIED LEFTOVERS by Mike Twist, Bob Dillner and Matt Dillner
Lia is Still Hot, A Cupper Looks Around and Baldwin Goes Boom
LIA CONTINUES HOT STREAK AT NEW HAMPSHIRE
One of the hottest drivers in the NASCAR Modified Series right now is Donny Lia. He won the RoC Modified race two weeks ago at the Thompson Speedway (CT), won the pole and finished second at Beech Ridge and was very quick at New Hampshire. He qualified and finished fifth, but in between he led laps and had to come back through the field after a midrace pit stop.
We had some terrible luck at the beginning of the year so now we’re on a little bit of a roll now,” said Lia. “I couldn’t be happier. As long as we keep on going like this we are going to gain on the points. I don’t want to wish anybody bad luck, but we’ve had our fair share, and a slip here and a slip there, and we’ll climb right back into this thing. We can still achieve top-5 in points; we have plenty of time with nine races left. Today was a good day because the guys in front of me in the standings had some problems.“
Donny Lia paces the pack at Loudon. (51 Photo)
Starting up front is the key to finishing up front according to Lia.
“As long as we just keep chugging a long and keep qualifying well, we’ll be fine,” said Lia. “We haven’t qualifed outside of the top-5 since Riverhead. If we can do that and then stay out of the wrecks in the races we are going to be in good shape.”
FLAMINGO FLIES AND ATTRACTS CUP OBSERVER
Normally, Mike Stefanik and Rob Summers split their seat time in the #16 Flamingo Motorsports cars. Stefanik races the car when his Busch North schedule allows and Summers fills in when needed. At New Hampshire however, they both got the chance to drive.
Stefanik drove the team’s #16 entry to a third place finish while Summers came home with the other car in the 19th spot.
An interested observer of the team’s cars over the weekend was NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Ryan Newman, who has a college degree in engineering.
Newman and his father gave the Flamingo cars a good examination while waiting to go out for Cup qualifying on Friday afternoon. The Indiana native has an open wheel racing background and was a USAC driver before getting noticed by Roger Penske’s organization and moving into a stock car racing career.
I was right back with the leaders and BOOM! Another heart-breaker for the Tom Baldwin Racing team. You can only race your car, you can’t control the guys in back of ya.”
Baldwin was credited with a 40th place finish.
BOUCHARD SIGHTED FOR SECOND RACE IN A ROW
Ryan Newman and his father look over Mike Stefanik's NASCAR Modified Series ride. (51 Photo)
BALDWIN GOES BOOM AFTER BUMP FROM BEHIND
Tom Baldwin qualified in the tenth position and had a reason to do well in the event. His son, NASCAR Nextel Cup crew chief Tom Baldwin, Jr., was calling the race from the television booth for the Speed TV broadcast.
Former NASCAR Modified legend and NASCAR Cup Series race winner Ron Bouchard was spotted in the pits for his second Modified Series event in a row.
Bouchard was at the Beech Ridge Modified race and also on pit road at New Hampshire, where he visited with several Modified drivers as well as NASCAR Nextel Cup star Rusty Wallace.
Bouchard still keeps his ties to the Modified Series. His chain of automobile dealerships is the sponsor of Eddie Flemke’s #79 car and his brother Ken, the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, has made several starts in 2004 behind the wheel of the #55 machine.
FULTZ HAS BAD TRIP TO NEW ENGLAND
Jeff Fultz, the current NASCAR Southeast Series point leader, took advantage of an open weekend on his racing calendar to come up to New Hampshire and drive the #00 Brady Bunch Modified. However, the race was far from a relaxing vacation for him.
“We had changed four shocks, springs and the kitchen sink on this thing” said Fultz. “From the center off I couldn’t drive it. We kept on changing stuff and nothing helped it, so before I tore the car all to hell or wrecked somebody, I decided to pull it in. And now they tell me the axle is broke. I’d like to thank Joe Brady for this, but I’m frustrated. I can’t wait to get to the airport.”
The disappointment that Fultz felt was obvious after the race.
“This sport can be humbling, especially when we have such high hopes,” said Fultz. “We ran so well here last year until we ran out of fuel. I thought we were going to be a contender today.
REG HAS MOTOR PROBLEMS
A good finish was not to be for Reggie Ruggeiro. An engine problem sent him to the garage the race was six laps old.
“Something happened in the bottom half of the motor,” said Ruggiero. “We have a hole in the oil pan so something came out of there and that’s usually not a pretty good sign.”
A good run at New Hampshire would have been valuable to the Dick Barney-owned team.
“It’s a shame because this is a great paying race for the Modifieds and we had a good chance,” said Ruggiero. “And here we are, we are the first people out. We had a good qualifying spot and I was just playing up front, then something happened. We’ll be back.
Reggie throws in the towel after an engine expires. (51 Photo)
But a tap from behind took Baldwin out just shy and halfway. After the race, the Long Island veteran was animated about what happened to him.
“I guess who ever was behind me, Bolles, Pasteryak, I don’t know, just never lifted and just wrecked me,” said Baldwin. “You could see everybody was getting out of control, so I glided it in, but they just came with a full head of steam. We had a great car, a great tire change and BOOM, party’s over. We were running good. The first set we missed it a little bit, but this set was going to be it. You saw me, I was coming right back through; I passed 12-cars. I was right back with the
Tom Baldwin limps around NHIS after getting tagged from behind (Howard Hodge Photo)
Ron Bouchard (L) talks with Reggie Ruggiero (R) on pit road. (51 Photo)