Column By: Terrill Covey
Photo By: Terrill Covey
Jeff Abold and Jeffrey Battle have had plenty of success at Star Speedway, and on Saturday night of Star Classic weekend, both men added to their legacies. Abold picked up his second Bob Webber Sr. Memorial 125 win in the ISMA Supermodifieds, while Battle picked up his fourth Dennis McKennedy Memorial 350 Supermodified victory.
On a night when winged open-wheel cars took center stage, the International Supermodified Association (ISMA) big block supermodifieds and Star’s weekly 350 Supermodifieds were joined by the Northeast Midget Association (NEMA) Midgets and NEMA Lites, as well as the NELCAR Legends Series. Abold and Battle were joined as winners by Avery Stoehr (NEMA Midgets), Ben Mikitarian (NEMA Lites) and Trevor Krouse (NELCAR Legends).
The ISMA drivers were ready to leave a mark early, laying down blistering laps during time trials. Each of the top four qualifiers broke the track record, with Otto Sitterly’s 10.747 second lap setting the new standard.
The Bob Webber Sr. 125 started fast for Otto Sitterly, who jumped ahead from the outside pole early on. Russ Wood, who started on the pole after the redraw, and cruised around in second place early on, spun and had a small fire on his right rear wheel on lap 34, bringing out the races second caution. That bought Dan Bowes, who cut his racing teeth at Lee and Star Speedways alongside Sitterly for the restart, and Bowes took advantage, looking shot out of a cannon as he drove around Sitterly to the lead. Abold followed him through, and the two started to pull away from the rest of the field. Abold stalked Bowes for 25 laps, before making his move, and on lap 60 Abold took over the top spot.
“We worked on race set up all day long,” Abold said. “We were trying to be fast – ended up second fast time (in time trials). We broke the track record actually, only to have it broke again a minute later.”
After a second place finish in 2020, Abold was not satisfied. He and his team came back to Star Speedway and tested to try to figure out how they could improve. Although Abold didn’t compete in the race last year, he came back with a vengeance on Saturday.
“We actually came here and tested after the last time we raced here. We weren’t satisfied with second after that one. We came in, made those changes from everything we learned a couple years ago, and it all worked,” he said. “It’s so satisfying when you get to that point, and the changes you want to make in the offseason, you’ve been thinking about it for two years, and you come out and the car responds to it.”
Abold said the Bob Webber Sr. Memorial at Star Classic is one of the three cornerstones of the ISMA season, and to pick up multiple wins is very special for himself and his team.
“This means everything,” he said. “These triple crown races have been my goal. I’m lacking the Sandusky Hi-Miler to make it an official career long triple crown. I won the Oswego Classic and now this one twice. There’s something so special to get multiple wins in these races. It proves it wasn’t just a fluke. It’s a testament to the team, my family, and everything they do.”
For Bowes, who grew up just a few miles from Star Speedway, it was a special day because it was his best finish in the event. Although he was happy with his performance, he said he wished he could have picked up the win close to home.
“It was really good to come home,” he said. “I live three miles down the street basically, so this is definitely my home track. I love this place. We had a really good test here a week ago and came with a game plan today and came with a game plan here today. We didn’t stray from it at all.”
The second place run was a nice boon for Bowes and his team, as the past few years have been a struggle for him.
“I don’t know what it was, the past three or so years, we really struggled,” Bowes said. “Last year ended really bad. We had a bad crash here in practice, then spent all winter fixing the car. Then we started this year off with a poor run in Oswego, then blew an engine in the next race (at Thunder Road) in practice. We swapped that engine out for another one and blew that engine. We spent all summer trying to iron out those problems. So it was really good to come home. My favorite race is the Star Classic. We’ve got to do one spot better, but this is nice.”
Ben Seitz came home third in the race in his Ed Shea owned No. 11, and he appeared to be the fastest car on the track in the late going. He was catching up to Bowes late, but ran out of time to get around him.
“Car started off a little slow,” Seitz said. “I knew the car was going to come to me though, so I was just patient at the beginning and the second half tried to get after it.
“This is good,” he added. “This is the third race in the car. Every time I’m in it, I’m getting a little bit more comfortable.”
The battle within the battle on Friday night was for the 2022 ISMA championship, as Otto Sitterly narrowly edged out Mike Ordway Jr by just two points for the championship.
In the 350 Supermodified Dennis McKennedy Memorial 50-lap feature, Brad Babb set fast time in time trials and backed that up by drawing the 1-pill in the redraw. Babb charged to an early lead, trailed by Bobby Timmons III through the first 21 laps of the race. On lap 22, however, Babb’s car shut down coming off turn two and he had to retire to the pits, handing the lead over to Timmons.
On lap 30 Battle got inside Timmons through lapped traffic and took over the lead. He never looked back, cruising to the win. Timmons and Eddie Witkum Jr rounded out the podium, while PJ Stergios, Ben Tinker, Dave Helliwell, Ryan Battle, Chase Locke, Justin Harris and Bill Helliwell made up the rest of the top 10.
“It was definitely tough starting back in fifth,” Battle said. “The top ten all time trialed close together, within a tenth of a second. I was glad to be able to work up through the traffic. This is two in a row and I think it’s our fourth Star Classic.”
Battle said winning on the biggest weekend of the year for 350 Supermodifieds allowed him to reflect on the exceptional success he has had in recent years.
“I’m very thankful to be involved in racing, nevermind actually driving,” he said. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity I am in right now. I grew up with my grandfather, and for him to witness me winning these races with him involved… without him I would never be in this. To me, my family is everything and I can’t put a price tag on these memories with my family.”
Timmons said he knew early on that it would be tough to win, when his car got loose early in the race, but the second place finish is better than he is used to on Star Classic weekend.
“We had a good car,” Timmons said. “Just too free in traffic, and I knew it. Before Brad Babb broke we were too free. We inherited the lead but I knew it wasn’t going to be enough. I got real free and Jeffrey stuck it in there and got by. But I’m happy to finish second. This race has snake bit us a lot. I think we’ve started five Star Classics with the 350 and I think I’ve only finished two or three of them without crashing, so I’m happy with second.”
In the NEMA Midget race, Avery Stoehr started a few rows deep in the field, but he made short work of the field, charging through to the lead mid-race, then holding off his teammate Randy Cabral for the win. Jim Chambers, Paul Scally and Mike Horn rounded out the top five.
For the NEMA Midgets, Mikitarian started on the front row and ran away with it. PJ Stergios, who pulled double duty with in the NEMA Lite and 350 Supermodified, came home third, while Dylan Coutu and Kyle Valeri rounded out the top five.
The NELCAR Legends also crowned a champion. Devin Deshaies came into the night with six points in hand over Trevor Krouse, but Deshaies would face challenge after challenge throughout the day while Krouse methodically worked his way to the front of the field. Despite going to the back of the field three times for different reasons, Deshaies came home sixth, but it wasn’t enough to overtake Krouse, who took the championship with a walk-off win. Ethan Avellar and Brendan LaBelle rounded out the podium.
ISMA Bob Webber Sr. Memorial results
1. Jeff Abold
2. Dan Bowes
3. Ben Seitz
4. Otto Sitterly
5. Bobby Chartier
6. Dave Danzer
7. Mike Ordway Jr
8. Dave Duggan
9. Rich Ried
10. Dan Connors
11. Mark Sammut
12. Anthony Nocella
13. Russ Wood
14. Bobby Timmons
15. Eric Lewis
16. Tyler Thompson
17. Moe Lilje
18. Jake Smith
Dennis McKennedy Memorial 350 Supermodified results
1. Jeffrey Battle
2. Bobby Timmons
3. Eddie Witkum Jr.
4. PJ Stergios
5. Ben Tinker
6. Dave Helliwell
7. Ryan Battle
8. Chase Locke
9. Justin Harris
10. Bill Helliwell
11. David Cliff
12. Mike Spurling
13. Tommy Tombarello
14. Nick Pappadeas
15. James Capps III
16. Jim Storace
17. Mike Netishen
18. Mike Murphy
19. Brad Babb
20. Justin Belfiore
Star Classic weekend at Star Speedway in Epping, NH rolled on for day three on Sunday with the Modified Racing Series in town for their 100 lap event to headline the weekend’s third and final day.
Woody Pitkat took down the win in the rain-shortened MRS 100 after charging to the lead early as inclement weather approached. Pitkat had a mirror full of Kirk Alexander, but the rains came before Alexander could make a move, and Anthony Nocella placed third.
Despite the fact that the rain postponed the Street Stock feature to next weekend, there was still plenty of racing to go around on Sunday, as Chase Curtis survived a rough and tumble late model feature to secure a win over Charlie Rose and George Maroun, Justin Harris ran away with the Dwarf Car invitational, and Devin Deshaies picked up his second Exit Realty Pro Truck Series win in a week in southeastern New Hampshire.
With grey clouds descending upon Star Speedway, the Modified Racing Series got off to a slow start with cautions on each of the first two laps. The lap one caution took out championsip hopeful Anthony Bello, ending his day. Donnie Lashua who entered the day tied with Alexander for the points lead, crashed hard on lap one of his heat race and had to retire for the day.
Pitkat had moved from fourth to second on the initial start, following Kevin Ianarelli around the outside to the front of the field, and when caution flew again on lap two, he started outside Ianarelli, and shot out to the lead on the restart.
Alexander got around Ianarelli for second on lap 12 and set his sights on Pitkat. Meanwhile, Anthony Nocella started his charge toward the front from the next to last row after a difficult heat race. Nocella patiently and steadily moved through the pack, but when the rains came on lap 60 he ran out of time to catch the frontrunners.
Pitkat said he was trying to get out front quickly not only because of the potential for weather, but also because he wanted to set his own pace.
“It was kind of both,” he said. “Usually when you have new tires you want to pass as many as you can and get out ahead so that late in the race if you start to loosen up you can try to hold your position instead of trying to pass people. I probably went harder than I needed to in the heat race, but it worked out because I got a good starting spot, then I wanted to get out front and set my own pace.”
He added that it was nice to get back to Star Speedway, a track that he loves, and have success on one of the biggest weekends of the year at the track. Pitkat finished second at the SBM 125 back in July, and he was happy to pick up one more spot on Sunday.
“Definitely feels good,” he said. “I’ve been close here with the modified. The Webber family, I feel like I have a really good relationship with them. I like to support Bobby (Webber Jr.) and his family. The MRS – one of my first open wheel modified championships was with the Modified Racing Series in 2015, so I like to support them when I can. And we had an open weekend, so I figured I’d come up here and play, and I’m glad I did.”
Alexander had a good day in the points chase, but he said he wished he could have been just a little bit better.
“We knew the rain was coming,” Alexander said. “I’m glad I had a chance at Woody, but he was really, really strong. The car is pretty good. It was fun. It’s fun racing with Woody. I knew (Anthony) Nocella was going to be there. It was really good racing. I like racing with those guys.”
Nocella may have been the most disappointed driver when the skies opened up, as he had moved from his 14th starting position all the way up to third, and was trying to reel in the top two when the rain came. He said afterwards, however, that he wasn’t sure if it would have made a difference if they had gone the scheduled 100 laps.
“We had a pretty good car all day,” Nocellaa said. “Up to a point we were trying to get there before the rain. We got behind in the heat and had to start back a ways. We had a pretty good car and maybe a shot if it went the full distance, but who knows? We were happy with it though. It went pretty good.”
The Dwarf Car Mountainside 25 race on Sunday came together quickly when track announcer turned promotor Tyler Morse reached out to see if there would be interest in the race. Morse and Justin Harris were able to rally 13 competitors to the track, and find some sponsorship money for the race, and Harris ended up cashing in with the win over Duane Skofield and Cody Hodgdon.
“This was good,” Harris said. “WE’ve got to thank Tyler Morse, really. He came up to me Thursday when we were testing the Supermodified here and he says,’ ‘Hey, you want to have a dwarf race on Saturday?’ and we were able to pull it together and have a good race.”
Harris said he had been fighting gremlins in his dwarf car all season, so to come out on classic weekend and earn a win was a big boost.
“This felt good for us,” he said. “The last four weeks we hadn’t finished a race, so it felt good to not only finish a race, but win it.”
Tom Harwood and Chris Sullivan rounded out the top five in the Dwarf car race.
Devin Deshaies started outside pole in the Exit Realty Pro Truck Series race, and he quickly jumped into the lead. He and Connor Souza wrestled for the top spot early, but Deshaies pulled away for the win. Souza held on for second just as he had done the week prior at Lee USA Speedway, and Jim Boyle placed third. Andrew Morin and Lucas Leone rounded out the top five.
The Late Model race saw its share of cautions throughout the field, but a late race calamity took out two of the top three cars. Chase Curtis kept his nose clean all day, however, and moved his way to the lead, then held his own against the top two men in the points standings to earn the win. Point leader Charlie Rose was second and second place points man George Maroun placed third. Jarret Curtis and Jimmy Connor rounded out the top 5.
“A lot of it is just about getting lucky on restarts,” Chase Curtis said. “I got lucky a couple times and that helped a lot. I’ve got crew around me that gave me a decent car and I kept the nose clean enough. I got out front when I needed to get out front and held on.”
Alby Ovitt took over the lead on lap 12 of the race, but after a restart on lap 38, he and Chase Curtis battled door to door for a lap before another caution came out just one lap later. On that in between lap, however, Curtis had a nose ahead of Ovitt, and although the two battled door to door briefly, when Ovitt tried to get back to the bottom of the track he and third place runner Luke LeBrun got together, then Robby Gordon Douglass piled into both of them, destroying all 3 cars and ending what had been a promising day for both drivers in heart break.
Modified Racing Series finishing order.
1. Woody Pitkat
2. Kirk Alexander
3. Anthony Nocella
4. Matt Swanson
5. Jacob Perry
6. Mike Collins
7. Joey Jarvis
8. David Arute
9. Rusty Poland
10. Tony Ricci
11. Brett Meservey
12. Ryan Doucette
13. Frank L’Etoile Jr,
14. Chase Cook
15. Kevin Iannarelli
16. Ryan Roof
17. Andy Shaw
18. Derek Robbie
19. Kurt Vigent
20. Matt Kimball
21. Andrew Martell
22. Anthony Bello