Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Tri-Track Modified Series was the headline event in New England this past weekend. Named the Haunted Hundred at the Seekonk Speedway the event drew 38 cars which were in competition for 26 starting spots.
Heat winners were Derek Robie over Kirk Alexander in the first qualifier, Ron Williams over Keith Rocco and Matt Hirschman in the second heat, Matt Galko over Les Hinkley in the third heat and Chase Dowling over Woody Pitkat in the fourth heat. During the running of the heat Races there was accidents that took some of the mods out of action. The most severe was Mike Holdridge whose modified had its roof cut off in order to safely extract him from the car. Coming out of turn four his car went over the tires of another mod and he was propelled in the air into the turn four wall. Holdridge was conscience after the incident, but as a precaution track crew selected to take him out of the car gingerly and get him to the ambulance to be evaluated. Holdridge did complain about his back being sore. Holdredge was transported to the Rhode Island Hospitol in near-by Providence where it was determined that his sternum was fractured and doctors were trying to find out the severity of his back fracture. He was put in a back brace..Brian Robie and Richard Savory finished one-two in the consi.
A re-draw of the qualified cars saw Woody Pitkat picking the pole with Matt Galko picking the outside spot. Picking third was Les Hinkley with Chris Pasteryak and Matt Hirschman rounding out the top five.
The Haunted Hundred was Matt Hirschman’s race to win or lose. After a spirited battle with Ron Silk Hirschman crossed the finish line first while Silk was sitting stalled after being bonsaied by Hirschman. Race officials made the decision that Hirschman had deliberately caused Silk to spin out and stripped him of the win, placing him last on the lead lap. Chase Dowling, who was running fourth behind the two leaders was awarded the win. Collateral damage included third place Matt Swanson and fifth place running Ronnie Williams.
The Haunted Hundred Tri-Track finale got the green as the sun was setting at 5:15pm. Pitkat jumped out in the lead and was followed by Pasteryak and Galko. The first caution flew on lap 1 when Andy Jankowiak and Kirk Alexander spun in turn one. Pasteryak inherited the lead when Pitkat’s car stalled and he was towed to the pit. The second caution flew on lap 44 when Joey Muccicarro stopped on the track. Pasteryak pitted and Hirschman inherited the lead. The third caution was displayed on lap 45 when Derek Robbie suffered a broken steering box. At the half way mark Hirschman had the lead and was followed by Ronnie Williams and Matt Swanson.
The fourth caution flew on lap 53 when Joey Cipriano stopped on the track near the pit entrance. The fifth caution came onlap 67 for Calvin Carroll who spun on the front chute. When the field went back to green Matt Swanson moved into the second spot. By lap 75 Silk was on the move as be broke into the top five. The sixth caution was for Pasteryak who spun on the back chute. Derek Robbie spun near the pit entrance on lap 85 bringing out the seventh caution. When the field went bac to green Hirschman was in the lead and was followed by Swanson and Silk. Russ Hersey brought out caution no. 8 when he spun on the front chute. On the restart, Silk moved by Swanson and took over the second spot. The ninth and final caution flew on lap 90 when Les Hinkley hit the wall in turn one.
With ten to go the stage was set for an epic battle between Hirschman and Silk. Silk went under Hirschman between turns one and two to take the lead. As theywent between turns three and four Hirschman was in the grass, came up and took Silk out. Chase Dowling was awarded the win after Hirschman was disqualified. Keith Rocco ended up second with Jankowiak, third. Tommy Barrett and Matt Galko rounded out the top five. Richard Savory, Chris Pasteryak, Dylan Izzo, Mike Gervais and Jon Kievman rounded out the top ten. Swanson ended up 19th and Williams, 20th. Williams was awarded the 2019 series championship.
Matt Hirschman made the following statement on Sunday morning. “After watching the video I would like to release a statement in regards to the finish of yesterday’s Tri-Track event at Seekonk Speedway. Upon taking the white flag when I rolled out of the throttle entering turn 1. The 50 of Ron Silk came to my inside and we made side to side contact. With less than a lap to go in the heat of the moment I drove into turn 3 across the curb, left sides through the grass and into the side of the 50. Unfortunately, he spun and others received damage in the process. For this I apologize to all involved. As a result, I was disqualified, and this reflects poorly on myself and our team. In my racing career I have been on both ends of situations like this and all I can say is I hate being on this end even more than the other. I will learn from this and try to do better next time.”
In companion races Derek Gluchacki of N. Dartmouth, MA, took down his first career late Model win at Seekonk Speedway in spectacular fashion. Mike Hopkins, of Herman, ME, was victorious in Pro All Star Series (PASS) North competition with DJ Shaw of Center Conway, NH, winning his second straight Series championship.
In some promising news, Steve Barrick of Area Auto Racing News, America’s No, 1 Racing Newspaper, says that Bruce Bemer, owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, has put a halt on construction at the Connecticut shoreline oval for now but intends to resume work next year. According to a source, all necessary permits have been approved by the town of Waterford with the hope that racing will resume in 2020.
In a non related manner, Barrick also stated that Race of Championship drivers Tyler Rypkema and Andy Jankowiak have indicated a preference for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series in 2020 over the New York state based Race of Champions Series.
The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island is getting a leg up on the 2020 season as they are doing numerous upgrades on the Eastern Long Island speedway. After repaving turns three and four last year the management is finishing paving turns one and two. It is expected that Riverhead will again host two Whelen Modified Tour series events in 2020.
Brian France is now far removed from management end of NASCAR and the sport itself, his departure from the family business becoming officially on Friday, Oct 18 when NASCAR and sister company International Speedway Corp. merged into one organization with NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France continuing in the same role.
ISC chief executive Lesa France Kennedy was named executive chair and NASCAR president Steve Phelps tabbed president in charge of overseeing day-to- day operations of the merged companies.
Brian France, who stepped away as CEO of NASCAR following his August 2018 drunken-driving arrest, is not named in the new leadership structure.
Jim France has said very little publicly since replacing his nephew nearly 15 months ago and he leaves it to Phelps to talk about the future of NASCAR.
But it is no coincidence that business has been rolling since Brian France stepped down and his uncle steadied a seemingly sinking ship. Booming might be a stretch, but things are happening behind the scenes at a markedly improved pace that has benefited the product.
A new rules package was rolled out this year designed to make the racing better, and although it has received mixed reviews, the on-track action is better than it has been the past several seasons.
Work continues to be done on the “Next Gen” car scheduled to be introduced in 2021; the car is intended to reduce costs, in large part via common parts from approved vendors, which will shrink the required workforce and tighten many loopholes for creativity and innovation.
The hard work is in keeping older fans, attracting new ones and marketing NASCAR, particularly its playoffs, as can’t-miss-viewing.
Those who have watched through the first two rounds have seen an intense and sometimes heated scramble for points and positions as no driver has emerged as the clear favorite.