Start things off; let’s get NASCAR Cup out of the way. Last year was the “Bad Year 400″. They couldn’t possibly make that mistake again, so it was more or less back to business as usual for NASCAR Cup at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for this year’s Brickyard 400. I guess the main difference would be the automatic double file restart coming to Indy. I thought the race was a bore. It started out looking good but that didn’t last long. Seems like the same drivers keep winning this one. But I guess come this time next year, I’ll be marking out for it again. Wouldn’t it be something if this coming weeks Pocono race winds up being better? I placed Pocono as the absolute bottom of the barrel when it comes to the Cup tracks. That’s even ranking below the cookie cutter tracks because Pocono came before they did and I always thought that Pocono was the pits. And just in case you might be thinking that ole Jalopy Jack don’t know what he’s talking about because he’s never seen the race at Pocono, the fact is that I’ve never seen Cup race there but I took advantage of a free ticket last year to see an ARCA race there and I wasn’t disappointed. How could I be disappointed when I knew what to expect? There’s one point in the race that there was a red flag. The sightlines were so bad that I couldn’t even see where the cars had lined up. And just to prove to me that it was big league; it took an hour to get out of the parking lot after the race. The only nice thing I could say about the place was that there were plenty of bathrooms. I do wish I could’ve been there when they used the 3/4 mile track. Just one of many things I have missed in racing.
In the stands at Wall Stadium this past Saturday, I was asking some people if they ever heard of, or remember Modified drivers like Bugs Stevens, Leo Cleary, Rene Charland, etc. I didn’t get one positive answer. The reason I brought this up is because I thought they might’ve been interested in a little story I’m about to tell you. Up in New England is a fine organization called “Pro Four Modifieds”. I still call them “Mini-Modifieds”. They’re hurting in car counts this year, but they put on one hell of a show and every car’s a work of art. In a recent race at Seekonk, Norm Wrenn was looking to remain undefeated for the season. Upsetting Wrenn for the win for the grandson of Leo Cleary, Cory Cleary. Just thought that would interest somebody and I’m sure some of you readers know what’s going on.
So it was Wall Stadium for the Tony Romit Memorial race going 35 laps for the TQ Midgets. They did have 20 cars there but only 19 made the post. It didn’t take long to see who the dominant cars were. Joey Payne in the black #36 powered to the lead but it wasn’t long before the potent #26 of Frank Fischer found the clear space between Payne and the pack. He then ran Payne down and made the past for the lead and nobody could touch those two. Donnie Adams was in the electrifying #51. A minor skirmish ruined his night but whether he had enough for the top 2, I really doubt it. Next strongest was the obvious third Ian Cumens #79. Just maybe a restart would’ve given the #79 a chance, but I doubt that too.
As for the “People’s Champion”, Mike Tidaback, he started inside the 7th row and struggled all the way good for a 7th place finish. Mike has been showing flashes of brilliance this season, but can no longer afford every race. The $5,000 he won in the #08 Atlantic City race will only get you so far. Even Mike’s car is no longer a 3/4 Midget. It’s somewhere between a 3/4 Midget and what the front runners have become. If you knew what 3/4 Midgets still look like around the rest of the country, you’d know what I mean. The ATQMRA are 3/4 Midgets in size only. Why don’t they call them what they really are, “Mini Super Modifieds”. That’s what they’re shaped like and that’s what they run like. And that’s what they’re costing expense wise too. I didn’t ask otherwise or was told otherwise but as far as I know, this race was one of the better paying ones offering $750 to win. I’d say that just to keep from getting lapped, you need to pour more into the car then that every single race.
And I was very disappointed on information that I got from club president, Blu Metz, before the show. At 4:55PM, I asked him if the club’s having a separate drivers meeting. He said at 5:30PM. I then asked him if the TQ’s are having another practice session. He said yes. I then went out to the stands expecting that final practice session and then I was going to go back to the pits to attend their drivers meeting. Well, I got neither. They never came out for another practice session and while I was in the stands, somebody approached me at around 5:15PM and told me they’re in the middle of the drivers meeting. This is very disappointing and I feel inappropriate.
The 2 best races of the night were the first and the last. Roger Coss won the Legends feature on the final lap. He was the first to win 3 features this season at Wall. Later on, #11 Carl Thomas did the same in Street Stocks and then “Showtime” Jimmy Blewett did the same in Modifieds. Both Thomas and Blewett overpowered their respective fields. Now there was one driver that had the chance to become the first this year to win 2 in a row. The #48 Sportsman Kevin Davison won the previous week from the pole in a real surprise. This week he had cars to pass and he got the lead and then had Kevin Eyres on his tail for quite a number of laps. With 4 to go, Davison blew it. He checked up in Turn 3 and Eyres had no choice but to tap him and send him around. Eyres won with #50 Robert Sutphin finished close to Eyres for second place. It was the third straight time the #50 was first or second. This is a good clean driver who always gives a good account of himself. But I mentioned the last race was one of the good ones and that brings us once again, to the good old Factory Stocks. Nineteen of them started the 20 lap feature. The #22 Tom Fratesi powered to the lead and it looked like it was over. In the meantime, Ricky Williams made his way to second. He was driving the winning car from last week who then had Vinny Greene Jr. aboard. A restart brought #22 and #61 closer together.
This restart was caused by a FLIP. That’s right fans, a real, actual FLIP. Let me not forget that before finishing up for this week. I believe this was the first FLIP of the season at Wall. This car has been loose all season and the driver has been improving, but this time he hit the second corner wall a little too hard and unbalanced and slid on his roof to the infield. This put the #61 Ricky Williams in back of #22 Tom Fratesi and when the green flag flew again, we had a race. The #22 seemed to be playing “bump and run” in reverse. He’d let the #61 bump him in the second corner and #61 would get upset. Next time the #22 tried that, the #61 ducked under and as they went down the backstretch, the #22, still with the advantage, went as low as he could. But Williams wouldn’t back down. The third corner and #22 was forced high. Also getting by was #5 Mile Bilello and that’s how they finished followed by #22 Tom Fratesi and the original “People’s Driver”, Richard Petey.
This coming week at Wall, all 5 divisions of racing are on hand and one of my favorite annual events will take place. This is the 40 lapper for the Legends cars. As NASCAR Cup’s right over in Pocono, this should allow the previous week’s winner Ryan Flores to once again appear in a Legends car. It’ll be interesting to see if it’s once again the #11. This past week, #11 wasn’t there. Flores didn’t win this event 2 years ago [don't forget Wall was closed last year] as he was caught in a hard second turn pile up that night. The previous 2 years he won the 40 lapper. And Ryan also won both days of Turkey Derby last year. You never know who’ll show up for this 40 lap Legends Stock championship feature. One driver who very well may not be there this Saturday is Jimmy Blewett. He’s expected to be at Riverhead for an appearance of the Whelen tour Modifieds. Getting back to the Legends 40 lapper, expected format’s time trials with the fastest date redrawing for starting positions. It should be fun. Expected starting time’s 6-6:15PM for Heats and Time Trials and feature races at 7:30PM sharp.
I mentioned a flip before, kind of rare to see anybody flip anymore at pave tracks. This used to be a weekly occurrence. Could this be one of the reasons fans don’t come out anymore? Yes, we’re addressing the expediency of the shows, but along with the flips I still feel going back to totally inverted starts and open trailers for most classes, to promote visibility of the race cars all week long, are tools for improvement of weekly crowds at our speedways. Even though it’s midseason now, there are still reports of speedways closing and others considering it. So don’t take any of this for granted. Get out there and have fun and if a friend owes you a favor, tell him or her that they can repay you by treating you to a night at the races.
Don’t forget to call my hotline WLAR [We Love Auto Racing] at 718-707-1052. Finally got to get out of here, so for another week, keeping the fans in the stands and the cars on the track, this has been Jalopy Jack.