Tom Herzig's Trackside: Ollie Silva Memorial a big hit at Lee USA
Lee USA Speedway enjoyed a packed house last week for its Ollie Silva Memorial ISMA Supermodified event, which was won by Jon McKennedy. Eddie Witkum Jr. of Westford, Mass., and Ben Seitz of Bourne, Mass., completed the podium finish. The Benson Lumber and Hardware weekly Supermodified feature went to Jake Stergios. Rookie Kyle Sawyer and Tommy Tombarello Jr. placed second and third.
Tomorrow night, Lee’s tight Late Model Sportsman point battle resumes. Geoff Rollins of Groton, Mass. (464) leads Epping’s Ricky Porter (456) and Nick Maniatis of Hooksett (440).
Thunder Road races tonight with double Late Model features on the card and the New England Antique Racers (N.E.A.R.) in town. N.E.A.R. recently announced its class of 2014 Hall of Fame members. Among the inductees was Jim Martel of Ipswich, a two-time Supermodified champion back in the Ollie Silva/Don McClaren era, and a long-time car owner.
Nick Sweet of Barre, Vt. leads the Thunder Road Late Model standings. Sweet is ahead of defending champion Derrick O’Donnell of North Haverhill by 19 points. He’s coming off an American Canadian Tour win at Beech Ridge last weekend, having bested Ben Ashline, Joey Polewarczyk Jr., Eddie MacDonald and Jimmy Hebert.
The Valenti Modifieds are at Seekonk this weekend. They raced at Waterford last Saturday where Ted Christopher broke a two-year winless streak at the Connecticut oval. Justin Bonsignore finished second for the fifth time this season to maintain the Series’ point lead. Fellow title contender Chris Pasteryak got home third.
Things got ragged at the end of the VMS Modified race when Woody Pitkat squeezed Tommy Barrett Jr. up to wall triggering a multi-car pile-up on lap 96. Kevin Stuart, owner of Todd Szegedy’s No. 85 ride, went postal in the aftermath, incensed about teams working on their cars during a red flag etc. He was eventually suspended from the Series by Valenti founder and President Jack Bateman for offenses including verbal and physical assault of an official.
Waterford’s SK Modifieds had their own drama that included driver Shawn Monahan getting out of his car onto the track to pitch his steering wheel at Keith Rocco’s car after contact that earned Rocco a rough riding penalty. It might have seemed entertaining to some, but it was happening at approximately the same time Kevin Ward Jr. was doing much the same at Canandaigua.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series heads to Star Speedway Saturday. Veteran Barry Gray carried the GSPSS checkers at Monadnock last Saturday. Soon-to-be Alvirne High School senior Derek Griffith of Hudson had another strong showing as the runner-up in the Mom’s Motorcycles of Manchester/F. E. Provencher Insurance No.12.
Griffith first raced in the 4-cylinder Thunder Lights division as a 12-year-old at Hudson. “He won the first heat and the first feature he was ever in,” reports his father, John. “He took to it naturally and didn’t develop any bad habits.”
Griffith is being helped along by veteran racer Louie Mechalides, who serves as his crew chief while his wife Dolly pitches in as the spotter. You need a good spotter in a Granite State Pro Stock race. The racing has been quite good at times and the car counts have hung in there, but there can be a lot of yellows on occasion, especially as cars at the tail end of the field thrash about.
“I think you’re going to see less beating and banging over time,” Griffith predicted. “Mike Parks (Series Director) is trying hard to make the racing keep improving. When the car counts are enough to require qualifying for the feature — we had 30 cars at Lee – the racing seems better. Derek has shown good patience. You don’t need to go for it right away. You can wait until lap 70 or so to go all out.”
A GSPSS press release is predicting the likelihood that two-time ACT champion Wayne Helliwell Jr. will join the field at Star. Another ACT hotshoe, Joey Polewarczyk Jr. won the recent Lee race by passing point leader Larry Gelinas on a late restart. Gelinas dropped out of the Monadnock event with mechanical problems. He currently holds a 295-276 advantage over Matt Frahm of North Salem. Griffith is another four points back.
Roadrunner Justin Storace of Rochester won the Don Hayes Memorial at Hudson with a third and a first in the two-segment event honoring the speedway’s long-time photographer and videographer. Max Dolliver was the runner-up.
Adam Pierson/Outlaw Midgets, Josh Harrington/Sportsman Coupes and point leader Gary Siemons of Orford/ Mike’s Automotive Sportsman Modifieds were feature winners at Legion Speedway.
Tom Herzig’s column appears weekly in the New Hampshirse Union Leader. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.