UNOH BATTLE AT THE BEACH MODIFIEDS 2/19/2013
Park Takes $20,000 Modified Battle Win
First Tour Win Since ’96 For Veteran Steve Park
Steve Park picked up a hard-fought win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race in the UNOH Battle At The Beach on Tuesday at Daytona International Speedway after sending race leader Mike Stefanik spinning heading into Turn 2 of the white-flag lap of a green-white-checkered finish.
Park, out of East Northport, N.Y., picked up his first Whelen Modified Tour victory since a season-ending win in Oct. 1996 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. It was his first start on the tour since the 2005 season. Park has two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins in 183 career starts.
The win was worth $20,000 to the Mike Smeriglio team from Connecticut. For Park to come full-circle, in his first time back in a Modified in years, and take a second Smeriglio entry to victory lane was a feel-good story that even fans that didn’t like the last-lap move can appreciate.
Eric Goodale finished second just .281 of a second behind Park followed by Ted Christopher in third. Reigning Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby and Patrick Emerling crossed the line in the fourth and fifth positions, respectively.
Justin Bonsignore, Brian Loftin, Cole Powell, Ken Heagy and Dalton Baldwin completed the top 10. Stefanik had to settle for a 13th-place finish.
Todd Szegedy started from the pole and led the race’s first 126 laps, but he was forced to head down pit road on Lap 127 when sparks appeared under the front end of his No. 2 UNOH/We Are Newtown Ford, giving Stefanik the lead. Szegedy finished 21st.
Stefanik and Kyle Larson were holding a spirited battle for the lead after Szegedy exited the race, but on a Lap 145 restart Larson – while running second – missed a shift which sent him into the outside retaining wall heading into Turn 1. That seemingly would give Stefanik a little breathing room, but rather it provided Park an opportunity.
33 quality Northern & Southern Tour Modifieds entered for the race.
The largest entry for any of the 3 divisions that ran in the 2-Day event.
ON TRACK: The most-asked question of drivers during the two days of the Battle At The Beach had to do with the track itself, which provided long 660-foot straightaways leading into corners with extremely tight radiuses.
The reviews of the configuration – which produced predictable contact and bump-and-run passes for the lead in all three races held – were mixed. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular mainstay Ted Christopher, who races numerous types of cars on numerous tracks each season, initially said he didn't favor it.
But he also expanded on that, saying that the caution-filled Modified race could be a good starting point for going forward.
“It will probably get better, too. Every time you go to a race the first time, it's an unknown for everyone,” Christopher said. “Guys who were off, everybody will make their cars better and do different things that you hope would make for a better race."
Eric Goodale, who finished second behind Steve Park in the Modified race, thought it was tough to gauge how much was the track and how much was the newness of it.
“I could go either way. It's a challenging track to get around,” Goodale said. “It's different from what we normally do, but it's just a shame there were so many cautions tonight. You didn't get to really see what kind of racing these cars are capable of doing.
“I'd be happy to come back, to be quite honest with you.”
TO LEAD OR NOT TO LEAD: It wasn't a good night to be out in front, particularly in the Whelen Modified Tour race.
Several leaders and early race contenders saw their nights end early from either contact or attrition. Danny Bohn flipped over on the backstretch, Todd Szegedy led the first 126 laps from the pole before encountering suspension problems, and Ryan Preece, Kyle Larson and Ron Silk were just a few of the drivers who ran into trouble.
Perhaps the hardest luck of all went to Mike Stefanik, the seven-time Tour champion and winningest driver in series history. He was leading on the final lap when chain-reaction contact from Steve Park set him spinning out of the lead.
He was understandably frustrated at night's end.
“I don't want to say anything,” Stefanik said. “I'm just going to say the wrong thing here. I am that freaking (mad). This is (garbage).”
The 65 of Danny Bohn who was fast right off of the truck ended up on his roof after tangling with the 16 of Ryan Preece had this to say in his interview after the incident was heartbreaking.
“You may have witnessed my whole season,” said Bohn, indicating that with the limited budget he works with, the fiery incident may have claimed his only car and engine. He was also quick to point out that help may be on the way because of the publicity he received from this event. Let’s hope the season is not lost on this up and coming youngster.
The 58 of Eric Goodale was also fast right off of the truck and had good times in all of the practices.
One casualty of all the beaten and banging was the 60 of Matt Hirschman. Hirschman will be on the mend for 4 to 8 weeks. The defending Champion on the ROC Tour broke his wrist in two places that required surgery.
The two heat race winners each took home $500. The 7ny of Kyle Larson and the 2 of Todd Szegedy
This really was anyone’s race to win.
QUALIFYING RACE 1
QUALIFYING RACE 2
NWMT Daytona 2/19/13 Official ResultsRace: NWMT Daytona 2/19/13