Made In America Whelen 300 * Tomaino Still Punching The Clock * Hirschman In The Middle Of Championship Hunt * Combination Event Provides Measuring Stick * Manfield Recap: Pitkat Happy With Rain Dance The Race: Made In America Whelen 300 The...
Made In America Whelen 300
* Tomaino Still Punching The Clock
* Hirschman In The Middle Of Championship Hunt
* Combination Event Provides Measuring Stick
* Manfield Recap: Pitkat Happy With Rain Dance
The Race: Made In America Whelen 300
The Place: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway
The Date: Sept. 1
The Time: 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: .526-mile paved
Race Purse: $131,920
2006 Winner: Jimmy Blewett
2006 Pole: Mike Stefanik
Schedule: Saturday-Practice, 1-2:30 p.m. Time Trials, 5 p.m.
Twenty-Three Years Later, Tomaino Still Running Strong
Jamie Tomaino can look around the race track and see drivers who were in diapers when he was starting his first race in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
He watches as racing at all levels continues to trend to a younger demographic.
And yet, in his 23rd year on the Tour and having made more starts than anybody in the its history, Tomaino continues to keep pace.
Tomaino (No. 99 Chevrolet) is coming off a 14th at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park. He has four top 10s and his consistency has allowed him to move up to eighth in the championship standings.
It's only fitting then, that the 51-year-old Tomaino will lead the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour contingent into this weekend's events at one of the more historic tracks for a Modified race -- Virginia's Martinsville Speedway. It will be the third annual Made In America Whelen 300 event run in combination with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
As important as bragging rights will be for each tour, all the drivers are eyeing the grandfather clock that is the prize for winning at Martinsville.
"My buddy from North Carolina says if you don't have a clock from Martinsville, you're nobody," Tomaino said.
In that case, Tomaino is certainly somebody.
Tomaino has a clock courtesy of his 1983 win in the Cardinal 500 -- two years before the formation of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
"Any race you win at Martinsville is something," said Tomaino, who laughed about the split with his car owner after that race over who got to take home the clock. "Nobody cared about the $10,000. It's all about the clock. I won the biggest race of my life and nobody was happy because we were fighting over that clock.
"I'm sure I'm not the only one that's happened to."
Tomaino has 10 top five finishes at Martinsville in a Tour car. He finished second twice, once in 1986 to Brett Bodine and again in 1987 to George Kent. He was third in 2002 and sixth in 2005.
Hirschman Enjoying The View From The Driver's Seat
He was sitting atop the pit box as crew chief at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway when his father, Tony Hirschman, clinched his fifth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2005.
Now the 24-year-old Matt Hirschman (No. 59 Furnace and Duct Supply Chevrolet)) is behind the wheel in his second full season and finds himself in a familiar position: heading into the Fall in the thick of the championship hunt.
"I know what it's about," Matt Hirschman said. "It's fun that we're part of it. ... Being behind the wheel is 100 percent opposite (from being crew chief), but being in position to win a championship feels pretty much the same."
After watching his father win the title in 2004 as the favorite, and then rally to beat Ted Christopher in the final race in 2005, Matt Hirschman understands the position he's in. Currently third in points, trailing Todd Szegedy by eight and Donny Lia by 139, Hirschman knows that with five races left, anything can happen.
"It's not a reach," Matt Hirschman said, "but we're not the favorites. We've given ourselves the
opportunity, and that's the most important thing."
Matt Hirschman had five top 10s, including a fourth at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway in August last year.
He finished 11th in the final points standings but lost out on the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title to James Civali.
Following the season, though, Matt Hirschman won a pair of non-NASCAR modified races that provided a huge boost of confidence.
"I got really comfortable," Matt Hirschman said. "I got really on a rail from last year."
Matt Hirschman also earned valuable experience running two of the first three races on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule. He finished fourth in the opener at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., March 24 and then led a race-high 124 laps before finishing 11th at Greenville-Pickens in South Carolina April 7.
A fifth place in the Icebreaker at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway was the first of eight top 10s Matt Hirschman's had this season.
He also set the track record at Stafford with his qualifying time at the prestigious Spring Sizzler in April.
"It's probably better than some people thought," Matt Hirschman said. "But it's not that I didn't think this was possible.
"I believed we could have been in this position. Finishing up last year, the goal was just to improve."
News & Notes
The race: This event is the 12th of 16 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule.
The procedure: The starting field is 43 cars, including provisionals. The first 35 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining eight spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 300 laps (157.8 miles).
The entries: Through Aug. 28, 55 teams have entered.
The history: There have been 31 Whelen Modified Tour races held at Martinsville Speedway. Mike Ewanitsko, Jeff Fuller, Reggie Ruggiero (No. 14 Atlantic Sprinklers Chevrolet) and Mike Stefanik (No. 16 Diversified Metals Pontiac) each have four victories. Charlie Jarzombek had three victories, including the first two Whelen Modified Tour races at Martinsville in 1985. The top five from that inaugural event: Jarzombek, Mike McLaughlin, Jimmy Spencer, Brett Bodine and Jamie Tomaino (No. 99 Chevrolet). The Whelen Modified Tour ran at Martinsville each season from 1985 to 1992. It returned in 1997 and ran each year until 2002. The Whelen Modified Tour began its combination event with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2005, with Ted Christopher (No. 36 Al-Lee Installations Chevrolet) winning the first race.
The return: Defending race winner Jimmy Blewett (No. 12 United Crane Rentals/Archer Steel Chevrolet) is expected to race Saturday, as well as his close friend Anthony Sesely (A-1 Collision Center Chevrolet). It will be their first race since the tragic death of Blewett's brother, John Blewett III, Aug. 16 following a racing accident at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
What Martinsville Means
Mark Suddreth, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour director: "The first year, we had a couple guys run good. I think my guys are looking forward to seeing if they've closed the gap. Certainly the compeition down here has gotten a lot better. ... Every week, the top five, you can throw a blanket over them. ... My guys are certainly looking forward to it. It's a big deal. "
Ed Cox, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour director: "There's bragging rights for the Tours. And everybody wants to win that clock."
How To Run Martinsville
Jamie Tomaino: "You've got to drive it in as far as you can, hit the brakes, turn left, and floor it again. After 20 laps or so, coming off the concret to the pavement, the car gets really free."
Matt Hirschman: "It's two tight corners with two drag strips. You need to roll through the corners and have a killer motor coming off."
While the powerful Modifieds won't be on the track until next Saturday, they will be rolling through the streets of Uptown Martinsville Friday. Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville Uptown and its TGIF sponsors have combined to bring a parade of Modified race cars Uptown during Friday's big TGIF concert featuring the Band of Oz. The sleek, powerful open-wheel Modifieds will weave their way through uptown, winding up adjacent to the adjacent to the TGIF concert on Church Street, where the legendary Band of Oz will be serving up their own special brand of beach music all evening.
The race cars will leave the Broad St. parking lot at roughly 7:45 p.m., head up Church St. then take a left on Lester St. and a left on Main St . They will continue on Main until it dead ends at Moss St. , take a left on Moss, then a left on Church St . The cars will follow Church St , to the site of the TGIF concert and park on the left side of the street.
Organizers expect at least 25 race cars to be involved in the parade.
Admission price to TGIF is $7 with children under 12 admitted free. Beverages and food will be sold onsite.
NOTE: The above per Martinsville Speedway PR
Post-Race Notes: Mansfield
* Rain Dance ... Not everybody was unhappy that the weather caused the Mansfield 150 to be called after 108 laps. It gave Woody Pitkat (No. 79 Hill Enterprises/Coors Light Pontiac) a third-place finish. It was Pitkat's best finish in just his fifth race. "I'm tickled to death with third," Pitkat said. "Some of those guys wanted to go back racing. I was sort of hoping for more rain." Pitkat earned the Powerade Power Move of the Race Award after qualifying 18th. He hasn't qualified better than 15th, but has three top 10s and was running third at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway when he got caught up in the wreck that eventually caused the race to be stopped.
* Brand Loyalty ... Rookie Ryan Preece (No. 40 Mizzy Construction Chevrolet) was seen sporting a gray Columbus Clippers t-shirt under his driver's suit. Preece was part of a NASCAR promotional effort Thursday, Aug. 23 at Cooper Stadium. Preece was joined by NASCAR Busch East drivers Sean Caisse and Marc Davis to sign autographs.
* Suess Sighting ... Andy Suess (No. 70 Land & Sea Dyno/Stewart's Automotive) made his third Whelen Modified Tour start of the season. Unfortunately, an oil pump problem ended his day after just 22 laps. Suess, who won the Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Music City Motorplex in Nashville, Tenn., earlier this season, plans to run three more Whelen Modified Tour races this season: Martinsville, New Hampshire and Thompson, Conn. "This year we're just doing a whole bunch of different races," the 20-year-old Suess said.
* Limited run ... Doug Coby (No. 77 Racing Against Cancer Foxwoods/Subway) expects Martinsville to be his final race with Curt Chase. But Coby, who was fifth in the last two races at Martinsville, is looking to cap a strong run. After a fourth at Stafford, he was second at Mansfield.
* Helping Hand ... When Joe Brady's team couldn't make the trip to Ohio because of an illness in the family, it looked like driver Jerry Marquis was going to miss the race. But car owner Art Barry unloaded his backup car so Marquis could make the event.
* The Last Word ... Coby enjoyed the first trip to Mansfield: "The track is so fun to drive. ... The track has multiple grooves. This is a track I think Modifieds can be on display."