RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Whelen Mods & SK’s At Stafford, Racing At The Speedbowl, Riverhead & More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night the Whelen Modified Tour Series was in the house along with the Regular weekly divisions.

Doug Coby ended a long dry spell as he won the Starrett 150, Glen Reen won in the SK Modified® feature, Tom Fearn became Stafford’s winningest Late Model driver in history with his 46th career win in the Late Model feature, Mark Bakaj became a 2-time winner this season in the SK Light feature that saw a spectacular 3-wide photo finish at the finish, Jeremy Lavoie won for the 8th time this season in the Limited Late Model feature, and Tess Beyer won for the second time this year in the Street Stock feature.

The victory in the Starrett 150 was the first of the season for Coby, his 24th career in Whelen Modified Tour competition and the 11th of his career at the historic Stafford half-mile. Coby found himself racing Justin Bonsignore for the lead on lap 13 when the two made contact and Coby went sliding through the grass, narrowly avoiding disaster and entering the track back in the 15th position. Luckily for him, the wreck left him with no damage, but from there, it was an uphill battle for the veteran. After pitting numerous times, he slowly worked his way back up through the field, and stayed out during a caution on lap 118, taking the lead of the race and putting himself in position to control the finish.

A caution on lap 140 gave the field one more chance to pass Coby, but no one could make it happen. Woody Pitkat charged through the field after pitting for fresh Hoosier rubber during a caution late and crossed the line second. Eric Goodale made a charge through the field late and finished third, followed by Rowan Pennink, who led a race-high 50 laps. Timmy Solomito rounded out the top five. Craig Lutz was sixth, followed by Justin Bonsignore, Jimmy Blewett, Kyle Bonsignore and Chris Pasteryak.

Nearly 1/3 of the event was run under caution as the yellow flag flew on 11 occasions for 47 laps. Among those who failed to finish were Bobby Santos who crashed on lap 139, Jon McKennedy who had suspension problems on lap 132, Ron Williams had suspension problems on lap 121, Chase Dowling crashed on lap 83, Burt Myers lost his power steering on lap 42, Melissa Fifield dropped out on lap 23 and Dave Sapienza who’s car died on the start.

Among the missing from the WMT line-up was Ryan Preece. Preece was at Watkins Glen, NY practicing for last Saturday’s Xfinity Series event in which he finished fourth. It was recently announced that Joe Gibbs Racing had signed Craftsman Tools as a primary sponsor for Preece in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for multiple races for the remainder of 2018, which will add at least four more races to his venue. Modified car owner Eddie Partridge will continue to field a car for Preece when he is available.

In the 40 lap SK Modified feature, Reen took the lead on the restart following a caution on lap 32 with Matt Galko applying heavy pressure from second. Tom Bolles was third with Tyler Hines in fourth and Todd Owen in fifth. Mike Christopher Jr was just behind Owen in sixth after an earlier spin. Reen held Galko off to the checkered flag to pick up his first feature win of the season to go along with his victory in the July 13 TC 13 Shoot Out. Bolles finished third with Hines and Christopher rounding out the top-5.

On the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, races were cancelled shortly after 2:00pm because of heavy rain. Sunday was designated as a rain date and boy, was it hot! Fans and competitors endured as the entire race program was run off in temperatures over 90 deg.

Rob Janovic was the winner of the left over SK Modified event. Kyle James finished second with Andrew Molleur, third. James won the regular SK Modified feature over Justin Albernaz and Janovic. Anthony Flannery won a spirited battle over Ryan Morgan in the Late Models and Peter Bennett was victorious in the Legends. Twin features were run for the Limited Sportsman with Al Stone III and Jason Chicolas taking the wins. Shawn Monahan was the Outlaw Street winner and Brett Meservy took the top spot in the Pro Fours.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Jason Myers dominated the last 40 laps of the 100-lap Modified race to win his third race of the season. It was also his 33rd career win at Bowman Gray, tying him with Robert Jeffreys on the careers wins list. John Smith was second, Bobby Measmer Jr. was third, Jonathan Brown was fourth and Tim Brown was fifth. Myers started 13th and weaved his way to first with about a third of the race remaining.

Racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island went on in spite of a threat of rain. Timmy Solomito of Islip made a surprise visit to his old stomping grounds Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway and promptly went out and mastered a late race restart to win the night’s 50-lap NASCAR Modified feature event for his 20th career victory tying him with Howie Brode and Ronnie Herra for 18th on the all time win list. Making the win sweeter for the driver known as “The Natural” was his brother Shawn, a former two time champion at Riverhead called the shots as his crew chief.

As the race hit it’s final five laps it appeared as though Tom Rogers had things in control and would be headed for his 50th career win in a NASCAR Modified. Low and behold a late race yellow would wave on lap 46 setting up a four lap dash for the cash and double file restart pitting Rogers against Solomito. As the field hit the throttle off turn four Rogers car broke ever so slightly loose off the corner allowing Solomito to ride the outside lane to the race lead. Once gaining the lead on the start of the 47th lap Solomito steering the Anti 3 Protect Services machine hit his marks on the final three laps to drive off to a very much needed and popular win. Tom Rogers Jr. with his runner-up finish in the Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm Chevy moved into the championship lead as he seeks his fifth career title reflected after the race, “guess Jim Malone Sr. was smiling down tonight and we’ll have to wait to get that 50th win to tie him. Great run by Timmy on the final restart, we still had a great night and were able to take advantage of Kyle’s early misfortune” Jon McKennedy was third over the line in the Accell Construction, Inc. Chevy. Young guns Chris Young of Calverton and John Fortin Jr. of Holtsville completed the top five with solid performances.

On a sad note, Jimmy “The Junkman” Savage passed away on Saturday at the age of 85. A friend to just about everyone, the Junkman lived and breathed all his life for Modified Racing. For over 60 years Savage was the heart and soul of Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile and Art Barry’s Racing Team. He is survived by his wife Pat and son Jimmy.

Jimmy was a Korean War Veteran, serving in the U.S. Army from 1953 to 1956. Shortly after his military service, he worked for Electric Boat for 34 years retiring in 1995 as a tank tester technician.

His greatest passion was building and maintaining NASCAR Whelen Modified race cars with the crews of Art Barry in Preston and Bob Garbarino in Mystic. Jim was also a 5 time NASCAR modified champion crew member.

Among the many testimonials was that of Donnie Lia. “RIP to Jim Savage. One of the best guys you could ever meet at the track and life in general. I had the honor and privilege to work with and become friends with him while driving for Bob. I can still hear him everyday “Do your best, and forget the rest” which he would tell me in my ear each and every time I got in the Race car. I’ll never forget that, and him. My heart goes out to Jim Savage and family on this sad day. RIP to a great man with an incredibly huge heart and personality.”

Dick Berggren, a highly respected member of the racing press pretty much summed it up, “He was very, very special.”

Savage was laid to rest on Tuesday, Aug 7 at 11am at the Riverbend Cemetary in Westerly, RI. Calling hours were from 5-8pm on Monday, Aug 6, at the Mystic Funeral Home in Mystic, Ct.

On the speedway stock market scene this week, all three speedway stocks ended the week on the positive side. The International Speedway Corporation led the pack as they went up 1.05 to 44.00. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.60 to 17.52 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.05 to 2.10. NASCAR cup series sponsor Monster Beverage went down 1.37 to 59.26 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 1.48 to 24.63 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 3.67 to 24.10. Two of the three car manufacturers had positive results for the week. Ford went up 0.11 to 10.04 and General Motors went up 0.20 to 37.73 while Toyota dropped 3.16 to 131.30. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 1.50 to 195.64 and Lowes dropped 0.37 to 97.63. In big team sponsors stocks, McDonalds dropped 1.27 to 156.21 and Dow-Dupont dropped 1.55 to 66.82 while Coca-Cola went up 9.55 to 149.48, Target went up 1.32 to 81.45 and Fedex went up 2.48 to 243.32.

On the tube this week:

Wednesday, August 8
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Net

Thursday, August 9
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN

Friday, August 10
12:00 PM, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Michigan practice, NBCSN
1:00 PM, NCWTS Michigan practice, FS1
3:00 PM, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Michigan final practice, FOX Sports 1
5:00 PM, MENCS Michigan qualifying, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN

Saturday, August 11
2:30 AM, NCWTS Michigan practice re-air, FS1
3:30 AM, NCWTS Michigan final practice re-air, FS1
9:30 AM, NCWTS Michigan qualifying, FS1
12:30 PM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:00 PM, NCWTS Michigan race, FS1
2:30 PM, NASCAR Xfinity Series Countdown to Green, NBCSN
3:00 PM, NXS Mid-Ohio race, NBCSN

Sunday, August 12
12:30 PM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
1:30 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
2:00 PM, MENCS Countdown to Green, NBCSN
2:30 PM, MENCS Michigan race, NBCSN
5:30 PM, MENCS Post Race Show, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Victory Lap, NBCSN

Monday, August 13
2:30 PM, NASCAR 120: MENCS Michigan race re-air, NBCSN
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1