RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit; Fifth Week Of November

RPW Exclusive Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Five years ago, 2014, The Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey closed out the 2014 racing season in the northeast with their annual Turkey Derby.

Included in the many divisions in competition were Tour Type Modifieds and Wall SK type Modifieds. The Wall SK types qualified on Friday under blustery but sunny skies. There were 32 SK types on hand for qualifying runs. During the Friday morning’s drivers meeting it was said that there would not be a consolation race for the Wall/SK Modified division. There were 24 cars that made the field from time trials plus a Promoter’s Choice provisional and a Fan’s Choice provisional.

Setting fast time was New York invader Matt Hirschman who toured the high banked oval that was fashioned after the now gone Rhode Island Lonsdale Arena in 12.199 seconds. Second fastest was Eric Mauriello who turned a 12.21. Third was Jimmy Blewett with a 12.229. Rounding out the top five were Steven Reed and Shannon Mongeau. Among those who missed the cut were Danny Cates, 26th fastest, Dennis Perry, 27th fastest, former NASCAR Cup star Jeremy Mayfield, 28th fastest, Max Zachem, 30th fastest and Mike Benevides, 31st fastest. Dennis Perry was awarded the promoter’s choice spot and Jeremy Mayfield received the fan’s choice provisional.

A brisk 30degree temp & lite snow didn’t stop race fans from attending Turkey Derby 41as the Jersey shore speed plant was packed to the rafters. Thirty nine Tour Type Modifieds were on hand for qualifying. Setting fast time for the pole in the Turkey Derby was Dave Sapienza who toured the Jersey oval in 11.937 seconds. Second fastest for the outside pole was Eric Mauriello at 11.951 seconds.Third was Danny Bohn who was followed by Jimmy Blewett and Matt Hirschman.

Eric Mauriello won his first Turkey Derby 150 over Les Hinckley, Jimmy Blewett, Anthony Sesely, and Shaun Carrig. Mauriello, who is a Wall regular, took the lead with 50 laps to go and never looked back at the action behind him. From the drop of the green, Sapienza led the first 98 laps before heading to pit road under caution and surrendering the lead to Mauriello. Mauriello would end up being passed by Bowman Gray Stadium champion Danny Bohn, but he took the lead back a few laps later and was able to stay in the lead to the finish. New Englander and Valenti Modified Racing regular Les Hinckley ended up second with Jimmy Blewett, third. Anthony Sesley and Doug Coby rounded out the top five.

Jimmy Blewett won the SK 100 over Jonathan Mandato in what turned out to be a slam-bang event. Shannon Mongeau finished third with Matt Hirschman, fourth. Michael Gervais rounded out the top five. Dennis Perry was headed for a possible top five when a fire erupted with seven laps remaining cutting his day short.

Big news came from the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (TSMP) in Connecticut and the American Canadian Tour (ACT), based in Waterbury, VT who agreed that the 2015 ACT Championship Late Model stock car season would crown the ACT Champion at the famed Thompson World Series event on Saturday, October 17, 2015. ACT would join over 15 other divisions at TSMP in a year-end celebration for both fendered and open wheeled race cars.

The Thompson track also announced a few changes to their racing rules for 2015 most notably awarding points for heat finishing positions.

Drivers will earn points based on finishing position in both the heat and feature races.

It looked like the “Battle at the Beach at the Daytona International Speedway was a dead issue and is now history. In a NASCAR Statement from George Silbermann, NASCAR Vice President, Regional and Touring Series, Regarding UNOH Battle At The Beach, “The UNOH Battle at the Beach provided NASCAR’s stars of tomorrow an excellent opportunity to participate at The World Center of Racing, but it isn’t feasible to continue the event given the progress with the DAYTONA Rising project.

Congratulations went out to Mr and Mrs Gary DeSarro who became Grandparents. The late Fred DeSarro would have been a proud Great Grandfather as Linda DeSarro-Palardy is a proud Great Grandmother. Just think, Fred DeSarro Sr would have been pouring down the Scope to celebrate being a Great-Great Grandfather.

On a sad note, Don Flynn a noted Modified driver and car owner passed away, Flynn’s signature No. 25’s were always in contention for Best Appearing. Flynn owned Standard Auto Body and Bradley Air Parking. He was a former amateur boxer who had a tussle with Leo Cleary in the first turn at Stafford with both of them out of their cars and slugging it out on the track surface.

Flynn passed away Thursday Morning, November 27th, after an extended series of illnesses.

Last year, 2018, The northeast outdoor racing came to an end with the running of the Annual Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium in New Jersey.

Dave Sapienza, a five year veteran of the Whelen Modified Tour Series, has bounced off his share of walls and only had seven top fives in 75 races. He put all that behind him as he scored an upset victory in the season ending classic at the Jersey shore. Jimmy Blewett ran second to Matt Hirschman most of the race, but the two tangled with about 30 laps to go in the 150 lap event.

Hirschman felt that Blewett intentionally took him out. Blewett showed his true colors as he punted anyone who he got close to. Rather than drive around he chose to dump them. The finish: Dave Sapienza, Zane Zeiner, Ron Frees, Blake Barney, Jimmy Blewett, Matt Hirschman, Derek Hopkinson, Chas Okerson, Keith Rocco and Matt Swanson.

NASCAR announced it’s 2019 Whelen Modified Tour Schedule and the Stafford Motor Speedway announced their 2019 schedule.

The 16-race Whelen Modified Tour would visit seven states and features the return to Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey. The tour had run three events at the high-banked third-mile oval, most recently in 2007. For the third straight season, the Whelen Modified Tour will kick off at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway. The race on Saturday, March 16, would precede the return of the tour to Virginia’s South Boston Speedway. Following the southern swing, the tour would kickoff the New England racing season as the headliner for a pair of landmark Connecticut race weekends: the 46th annual Icebreaker weekend at Thompson Motorsports Park on Sunday, April 7, and the 48th annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler on Sunday, April 28.