LEE, N.H. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Nicholas Teto photo —
As the 2015 edition of the Tri Track Open Modified Series continues to come together, Race Chaser Online decided to open the history books and go back a year, because the 2014 edition had some of the best modified racing New England has seen in history.
The opener was on a sunny Sunday afternoon, May 17, a perfect weather day for racing. For all the mothers out there, it was either a dream come true or the worst thing that could ever happen to them. The date fell right smack in the middle of Mother’s Day Sunday and the moms of most drivers were driving up to watch some racing on a Sunday morning instead of having breakfast in bed.
When the fans arrived to Lee USA Speedway on that Sunday afternoon, they were treated to 34 modifieds in the back pit gate, a extremely large count. With a high purse up for grabs, the big guns came out to battle for the crown in style.
Four qualifying heats were on tap and each of them saw some hard fought racing and daring moves in an attempt to get into the big dance and not have to go to the last chance races.
Heat one saw modified hotshoe Tommy Barrett Jr. roll from his third place starting spot and grab the checkers with ease. The youngster continued his domination at the Lee USA Speedway and locked himself in the show. He was joined by Anthony Nocella, Todd Ceravolo, Jim Storace and Josh Cantara as locked-in drivers.
Other drivers who scored heat race wins included Todd Annarummo (Heat Two), Matthew Swanson (Heat Three) and Matt Galko (Heat Four). Once the qualifying heats were over, a total of twenty drivers were locked into the Bullring Bash 100. One noteable driver that did not qualify through the heats was “Money” Matt Hirschman, a name many expected to challenge for the win.
Even though Matt could not qualify through the heats he was dominant in the first consi. He led from the halfway point to the finish and held off Dennis Perry at the checkers. Joining those two drivers locked in the race were Jimmy Dolan and Woody Pitkat.
Any drivers not locked in at that point ended up in the thrilling 30-lap B-Main feature that had $1,000 up on the line. After a long haul up to New Hampshire from Florida, Johnny Kay grabbed the Sunoco checkered flag in the last chance race. He elected to forgo the $1,000 prize and start last in the 100-lap open modified feature, handing the trophy over to second place consi finisher Karl Fredrickson.
Once all of the qualifying was complete, it was time for the Bullring Bash 100 Tri Track Series opener. Jeff Rocco won the pole position based on an invert and had soon-to-be 2014 Valenti Modified Racing Series champion Justin Bonsignore on the outside at the drop of the green.
The opening laps of the feature saw Rocco drive away into the sunset. He shot out from the pole position and quickly started catching the back of the field, which included Matt Hirschman and Ryan Preece. Just before Rocco was able to move into the heavy lapped traffic, Star Speedway modified regular Josh Cantara went for a spin in front of the flagstand, drawing the first caution flag on lap 29.
The second short green flag stint of the race saw Rocco continue to lead, but it also brought about some hard chargers. Chris Pasteryak and Todd Annarummo both were hounding the back bumper of the No. 57 trying to find a way by. Drivers did not forget that lap money was up on the line and every lap they led would help fill their pockets just a little more.
The second caution of the race came just before the halfway point on lap 46 for Jim Storace and a single car spin off the end of the backstretch. At this point, drivers started to make their way to pit road to make a tire swap. Pasteryak pitted from second spot and was joined by Todd Szegedy, Woody Pitkat, Bonsignore and many more.
When the green flag went back into the air, it was Annarummo who took advantage of a restart to get around Rocco, making the first lead change of the race. This next stint of the race was absolutely dominated by a two-car breakaway of Annarummo and Rowan Pennink. The two drivers were almost a full straightaway ahead of the rest of the field.
They swapped the lead back and fourth and a few times, then Tommy Barrett Jr. went spinning off turn four and drew the third caution at the three-quarter mark of the race. Annarummo and Pennink took advantage of the caution to make their tire swaps and handed the front row over to Steve Masse and Todd Szegedy.
After two quick cautions on the ensuing restart, the battle was on up front. It was a matter of who could come from the back of the pack with fresh tires and who could hold them off without having any fresh rubber at all.
Remember a while ago when Hirschman was going to be lapped? Yeah. That did not happen. Matt came tearing through the field and stormed by Steve Masse into the lead on lap 90 in fine fashion. Money Matt was once again in position to close the deal.
A five lap shootout to the finish saw Hirschman drive away and win the first ever edition of the Bullring Bash 100. Steve Masse and Todd Annarummo went into turn three battling for second spot, but both crashed hard and fell to the bottom of the running over. Ryan Preece came across the start-finish line second and Dennis Perry crossed in third.
Along with the purse totals, multiple awards were won by drivers throughout the field, including:
Matt Hirschman — $600 in lap money, $200 Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair Long Tow Award
Rowan Pennink — $800 in lap money
Todd Ceravolo — $60 Sherwood Racing Products Certificate
Spencer Davis — $500 Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair Longest Tow Award, $200 Ted Thomas Best Appearing Car Award
Jeff Rocco — $2,700 in lap money
Mike Douglas Jr. — $100 Cliff Nelson Award
Steve Masse — $800 in lap money
Todd Annarummo — $800 in lap money
Andy Jankowiak — $300 Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair Tow Award
The thrilling race went down as one of the best modified races New England fans were a part of in 2014.
A big thanks goes out to James Schaefer, The Racing Guys and all of the the staff and management of the Lee USA Speedway for putting on a great show for racing fans in New England.
The 2015 edition of the Bull Ring Bash is slated for Sunday, May 17, which will once again be race one of three in the Tri Track Open Modified Series.
For more information on the series including rules and registration forms, visit www.tritrackopenmodifiedseries.com.