RICHMOND, VA - The NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds finished their 1997 season at Richmond International Raceway in the Ukrop's General Mills Fall 300 on Saturday afternoon. Mike Stefanik won his third modified race at Richmond International Raceway beating Tony Hirschman to the checkered flag by two tenths of a second.
This was Stefanik's tenth win of the season in the modified division. Stefanik is a double champion in NASCAR in 1997, winning the Busch Grand National North championship in addition to the taking the modified crown.
Tony Hirschman, who sat on the pole, took the point as soon as the green flag waved. He led the first lap. Mike Stefanik, who started on the inside of the second row, followed Hirschman closely and made his move for the lead early. On the second lap, Stefanik passed Hirschman going into turn one.
The first yellow flag flew on lap eleven for outside polesitter, Ken Woolley, when he spun in turn two. Woolley hit the turn two wall hard and was taken to Richmond Memorial hospital for a catscan. Woolley was diagnosed with a concussion and was expected to be held in hospital overnight. As the cars circulated during the yellow, a brief shower brought out the red flag.
After a fifteen minute break the cars returned to the speedway.
Stefanik continued at the point with Hirschman in second and Tom Baldwin in third. Rounding out the top six were Satch Worley, Reggie Ruggiero and Dan Avery. Reggie Ruggiero moved his Gulf Racing Pontiac into third place on lap 44 and challenged for second. Ruggiero's car looked strong in the early going, running in the top five until midway in the race. At half distance, Ruggiero had a wheel come loose, causing the 44 to slide back through the field. Ruggiero finished 14th, one lap down.
Stefanik led Hirschman until lap 54 when the showers returned causing the second red flag of the day for rain.
When green replaced red, Hirschman went to work on Stefanik for the lead. The two drivers raced side by side for several laps before Hirschman took the lead on lap 62.
A brief yellow came out two laps later when Jim Long lost a wheel on the backstretch.
Hirschman pulled away from the field and hid when the contest resumed. Stefanik slid back to fourth, in need of a pit stop.
Ted Christopher, in the 00 car, started dead last with a provisional position. In a tremendous drive through the field, Christopher moved up to fourth place by lap 85.
On lap 86, the leaders stopped for much need service, handing the lead to Christopher.
Christopher had his hands full with Tim Connolly in best battle on the track. The pair traded the lead until the action stopped for a yellow brought out by Ed Kennedy spinning in turn four.
The cars circulated under the yellow while drivers radioed their crews complaining of the bright sunshine facing the cars on the backstretch. A race that had been red flagged twice for rain, was now red flagged for sun.
After a ten minute wait for the earth to position itself so the drivers could see exiting turn two, the green flag flew.
The Christopher and Connolly battle continued at the front. The pair were soon joined by John Blewett III and and Jan Leaty in a four way battle for the lead. Stefanik, who had recently pitted, started to pick his way back to the front, passing Leaty on lap 108. Two laps later, Stefanik was second, having passed Connolly and Hirschman.
Danny Watts the hit causing another yellow and Christopher, Connolly, Baldwin and Blewett dove for the pits.
Stefanik was left at the front followed by Hirschman and Leaty.
The trio engaged in fierce competition for the lead while Eddie Flemke, Rick Fuller and Tom Cravenho were a few car lengths back fighting for third.
Two more yellows in the last ten laps saw the field bunched for the mad dash to the finish.
Stefanik, Hirschman, Leaty and Flemke maintained the first four positions until the end. Fuller and Cravenho swapped fifth place back and forth with Fuller picking up the position and an extra hundred dollars at the pay out window.
Wayne Grubb, of Mechanicsville, VA won the 150 lap NASCAR Late Model Stock Car feature against a stellar field of late model drivers from across the country. 118 entries took qualifying laps for the 40 car field. 78 cars were put back on the trailer before the green flag flew. Rounding out the top five in the late model race were Jeff Agnew of Floyd, VA; David Blankenship from Moseley, VA; Frank Dieny Jr. of Burbank, CA; and B. A. Wilson of Bonham, TX.
Modified Feature Results (150 laps)
1. 6 Mike Stefanik 150 laps ($8,900) 2. 3 Tony Hirschman 150 3. 25 Jan Leaty 150 4. 11 Eddie Flemke 150 5. 21 Rick Fuller 150 6. 17 Tom Cravenho 150 7. 7 Tom Baldwin 150 8. 00 Ted Christopher 150 9. 30 Satch Worley 150 10. 32 Dave Berghman 150 11. 4 Tim Connolly 150 12. 31 Tony Ferrante 150 13. 10 Dan Avery 150 14. 44 Reggie Ruggiero 149 15. 98 Doug French 149 16. 99 Jamie Tomaino 149 17. 18 Doug Didero 149 18. 76 Zane Zeiner 149 19. 75 Carl Pasteryak 149 20. 47 Jack Bateman 148 21. 74 Dave Kruk 148 22. 40 Pat Deponte 148 23. 35 S.J. Evonsion 147 24. 04 Dave Berube 147 25. 16 Chris Kopec 145 26. 03 Bruce Taylor 139 27. 77 John Blewett III 134, accident 28. 5 Charlie Pasteryak 133, accident 29. 88 Sam Russo 133, accident 30. 0 Ed Kennedy 133, accident 31. 28 Steve Channing 123 32. 66 Tim Arre 111, oil leak 33. 82 Danny Watts Jr. 110, accident 34. 8 Mike Ewanitsko 107, rear end 35. 20 Jim Long Jr. 85, suspension 36. 14 Ken Woolley Jr. 10, accident Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes, 53 seconds
Average Speed: 66.910 mph
Lead changes: 6 among 4 drivers
Caution periods: 8 for 58 laps
Lap leaders: Hirschman 1 Stefanik 2-61 Hirschman 62-85 Christopher 86-102 Connolly 103-108 Christopher 109-112 Stefanik 113-150
David Reininger - Motorsport News International