LEE, N.H. — Blog by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Darren McCollester/Getty Images for NASCAR photo — The controversy continues to swirl in the Northeast based off a disqualification as part of Sunday’s Lee USA Speedway Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) Feature.
During the driver’s meeting on Sunday morning, new Race Director and long time series starter John Spence Jr. addressed the drivers by telling them that aggressive driving would not be tolerated. Spence has been known to black flag drivers for excessive use of the bumper and wanted to make sure the drivers and teams were well aware before the first green flag flew on Sunday.
The main story going into the 100-lap feature for the Valenti Modified Racing Series was that point leader Justin Bonsignore had to take a provisional to make the field. Bonsignore had to start scratch on the 27 car field but quickly moved his way towards the front from the drop of the green flag. He ended up finishing second in the final tally.
Once the race took the green, the field strung out and got single file around the track. It seemed as if people were settling in, saving some equipment and seeing how their cars were going to handle for the stretch run.
Lap 49 saw the first caution fly, when Stafford, Connecticut’s Woody Pitkat cut a tire and spun in front of the leaders, just barely missing contact with them. Pitkat later said that he waited to go until about lap 20, when he noticed something was wrong with his ride.
Once the race went back under the green flag Dennis Perry and Richard Savary thundered down into turn one side-by-side, with Perry taking the advantage and beginning to drive away. Since the race saw a lack of cautions, the leaders encountered multiple lap machines in the late stages. When Dwight Jarvis got turned coming off turn four in the middle of the pack on lap 80, the second caution flew and bunched the field back up for a 20 lap shootout to the finish.
That’s when the show was put on by youngster Tommy Barrett out of Mills, Massachusetts. Barrett was not a factor for the first four-fifths of the feature, saving his equipment and logging laps until the right time. When Barrett saw the yellow, he had to be thinking something along the lines of…”Perfect. Now I can charge my way towards the front with better tires then most of these guys and have a shot.”
That’s exactly what Barrett did. He used a three-wide move and multiple double-wide passes to find himself chasing down the leaders in the late stages. The lap 80 restart saw Richard Savary jump out to the advantage, but he was quickly gobbled up by Barrett and passed on lap 85 to put Tommy out front for the final laps.
Shortly after the pass was completed, VMRS officials decided that Barrett had been too aggressive with his moves coming through the field and was subsequently black flagged. Barrett completed the final laps of the race, ignoring the black flag and seemingly won the 100-lap feature with ease over Savary.
Once the final checkers flew however, officials deemed the win would go to Savary, who crossed the line second. A rain of boos came down from the crowd that packed the stands on Sunday and Barrett was left shaking his head after a dream drive to the front, the type of drive he has done many times before in the VMRS.
Savary later said in Victory Lane that his spotter did make him aware of the black flag to Barrett, and he decided to settle for second knowing he was going to take the win either way.
All that is only part of the story. Now you have to be wondering, what happened with Barrett? Following the checkers Barrett parked his machine at his trailer in the paddock area and walked over to the Valenti Modified Racing Series hauler to talk with Spence and series president Jack Bateman about the call that was made.
One of Tommy Barrett’s crew members, highly respected long-time modified car owner and supporter Mario Fiore, posted the following on Facebook on Tuesday:
“So Tommy Barrett goes into the MRS trailer to ask Jack Bateman what all the B.S. is about & Jack Bateman says (and I quote), “You rode around in the back of the pack for 80 laps & then passed cars three abreast and its all unsportsmanlike”. WTF !!! Total lunacy !!!” That post was followed by a picture of Barrett appearing at the hauler to discuss the situation.
The question is, was it unsportsmanlike by Barrett or was it simply just a strategy? Barrett is well-known for saving his equipment when he competes with the VMRS tour, and often times it ends up winning him races. This is something we see in every series and even at the local racing level.
There are no rules in the VMRS rulebook that say that holding back is wrong. To be completely honest, I’ve never seen anyone disqualified for rough riding when no one actually went spinning or crashed. Barrett may have used the “chrome horn” on the front of his No.9 modified but that’s part of racing. This situation would be different if Barrett had spun another competitor, but he went on to move past multiple drivers and take the checkers.
Barrett should be given the win in many people’s eyes and social media has been buzzing ever since the call was put out. I’ve seen few people say that the black flag call was warranted.
The Valenti Series has seen former full-time runner Max Zachem move on this season after what he calls a “disagreement with officials.” Kevin Stuart also pulled his No. 85 driver by Todd Szegedy off the tour this year after an argument with Bateman at Waterford. Now Barrett seems as if he won’t be returning to the tour anytime soon.
Both Bateman and Spence declined comment.
With the issues swirling following Sunday’s race, it will be interesting to see the car count for this weekend’s World Series of Racing at Thompson. Let’s all pray for sunshine and cool heads this weekend as we get together for one of the most exciting race weekends of the year.
See you at the track!