9/15 Budweiser Modified Nationals SK-150 Race Report
1997 SK Modified champion Todd Ceravolo claims first SK-150 win in 16th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals
The Budweiser Modified Nationals began back on September 1 with Joe Perry showing the way. Caution on lap-5 saw Shawn Monahan tangle with Jeffrey Gallup and while under caution, rain began falling. The race was halted and resumed on Saturday, September 15 with nine laps scored complete and Perry in the lead.
When the remaining 141 laps took the green, it was Perry jumping back to his lead ahead of Ed Puleo. Things quickly settled into single file among the top seven and the race went through lap-17 when Tyler Chadwick and Jeff Rocco came together down the front chute, sending Rocco hard into the turn one wall to bring out the caution flag in a single car incident.
Perry continued to show the way after the restart, with Justin Gaydosh moving through the top ten to contend for a spot among the top three. He was just looking outside Tom Abele Jr. for third when Shawn Thibeault spun in turn three on lap-24, returning the race to yellow flag.
The inside lane was the place to be on the restart as Perry brought Abele with him to second, Nichole Morgillo to third, and Jeff Pearl to fourth as Puleo faded in the outside lane. On lap-32, the yellow flag was shown to the field when Woody Pitkat and Will Schneider came together in turn one, sending Schneider spinning across turn one and Pitkat through the infield grass. Both pitted along with Puleo during the delay.
Perry again got the jump, this time bringing Morgillo to second place over Abele. Once again the inside proved key as Rob Janovic got to third place. Perry and Morgillo moved out to breathing room over the rest of the top five over a stretch of green flag racing. Morgillo tested the racing grooves around Perry awaiting any opportunity to contend for the top spot. Janovic rode comfortably in third while Justin Gaydosh was the biggest mover during the run. He worked his way to fourth and ran down Janovic. The two came together entering turn one on lap-55, sending Janovic sideways. He made a great save to continue forward motion, dropping spots in the process however. Further back, the excitement triggered a two car incident as the field came through turn four as Thibeault and Monahan tangled. In a separate incident, Ceravolo actually spun into turn one as the yellow flag was waving. Ceravolo was among those who ducked to pit row for adjustments and to be checked over under the caution.
Perry got another solid restart to continue showing the way. Gaydosh was up to second and Chadwick third as Morgillo fell victim to the outside groove. Gaydosh blanketed Perry’s rear bumper, finally finding room to the leader’s inside on lap-65 to be scored as the new leader of the race. On lap-67, Tommy Barrett’s run came to a close as he blew an engine while coming up through the top-ten. An extensive cleanup ensued as fluid was put down on the speedway.
After the green flag, the running order at halfway had Gaydosh leading Chadwick, Janovic, Perry and Craig Lutz as the top-five. On lap-76, just outside the top-five a multi-car wreck in turn two saw Abele, Kyle James, Joe Gada and Adam Gada stopped on the track for another caution, the seventh of the race, with all but Adam Gada pulling away on their own.
Only one lap was complete following the restart before Schneider was back in disarray with a flat right front tire, stranded on the top of the track in turn four. For the lap-85 restart, the running order still showed Gaydosh and Chadwick on the front row with Ceravolo up to eighth position, starting to assert himself with laps counting down. Back under green, Ceravolo entered the top-five racing around the outside of Morgillo on lap-91. Gaydosh’s lead was three cars over Chadwick when Morgillo suddenly slowed exiting turn four with a trail of sparks under her machine on lap-97, coming to a halt just off the track in turn one. Her run among the leaders ended during the ninth caution period due to mechanical failure.
The next succession of green flag laps had Gaydosh resuming his spot at the front. A battle among Jeff Pearl, Chadwick, Janovic and Ceravolo for the remainder of the top-five positions was underway as drivers positioned themselves for the final third of the event. On lap-111, James, Thibeault and Randy Churchill were in trouble between turns three and four, bringing the field back together once again for a restart.
Gaydosh led Chadwick, Janovic, a surging Pitkat and Ceravolo over the next green flag run. Ceravolo got back around Pitkat on the outside on lap-122 just before the eleventh caution flag came out when Al Stone lost control out of turn two, collecting Lutz, as tire wear was beginning to play a major factor throughout the field.
Gaydosh got away on the restart as Janovic was able to wrestle away second from Chadwick. Ceravolo was all over Chadwick for third as the intensity level was on the increase as laps clicked off the scoreboard. Janovic was running down Gaydosh as Ceravolo looked outside Chadwick on lap-131. That move didn’t work, but Ceravolo got his chance on lap-133 when Chadwick got loose off turn four. Ceravolo filled the inside lane and took the spot as Janovic began to apply heavy pressure to Gaydosh for the lead.
Janovic looked both in the high and low grooves to make a run on Gaydosh for multiple laps as Ceravolo slowly crept into contention in third. Janovic made a strong move to Gaydosh’s outside on lap-141 through turns one and two. Gaydosh drifted up and the two leaders made contact, sending Janovic airborn and hard into the turn two wall. Gaydosh received a penalty for overaggressive driving and subsequent disqualification during the caution flag, handing the lead to Ceravolo.
Ceravolo beat back Chadwick on the final restart, pulling ahead of a battle for second over Chadwick and Pitkat over the final nine lap sprint to the checkered flag. It was the first win in the Modified Nationals event for Ceravolo, the 1997 SK Modified® track champion.
Following the race, Ceravolo was unsure if he had the time to pass both leaders ahead of him. “I had a really good car, but passing (Janovic and Gaydosh) under green could have been a dog fight. I was being patient with Rob (for second), but knew I was running out of time”. This year, Ceravolo was in the right place at the right time to capitalize. One year ago, Ceravolo appeared to have a dominant car in the race of the year only to run out of fuel on lap-133, enabling Pitkat to the win. Ceravolo added, “Justin was blocking….he wrecked a good racecar there. I’ve lost some that way and won some that way, so we’ll take it”.
Rocco was officially credited as the winning driver of record after starting the race on September 1, while Rowan Pennink was the driver of record for second position. Pitkat subbed Pennink, who was competing in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event in Long Island on Saturday. Division point leaders Tyler Chadwick and Jeff Pearl finished in third and fourth place respectively, keeping their points battle tight. Perry, the early race leader, finished fifth.
A total of twelve caution flags slowed the race, which had three leaders. Eleven of the original starters were running at the finish as attrition took its toll on the competition over the 150-lap grind, the longest race of the season.