Mike Stefanik came out on top of a fast and crazy Titan Roof 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday evening to win his 74th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race. Stefanik, who started in 18th, passed Todd Szegedy when Szegedy got loose late in the race and then held him off in a green-white-checkered finish.
"This is just a fantastic day for our team," the 55-year-old Stefanik said in victory lane. "Todd Szegedy ran me really clean and hard. I'm just elated."
The race was a combination race between the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour which runs in the northeast and the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour which runs in the southeast. A Southern driver has never won the combination race at Bristol and that continued as the highest finisher for the Southern Tour was Burt Myers in ninth. Myers was credited with a Southern Tour win which was the second of the 2013 season for him.
The first caution flew on lap 2 as there were two spins of drivers working lap 1. Rowan Pennink spun with a flat tire in Turn 1 and Geroge Brunnhoelzl III spun off Turn 4.
Lia led the field back to green on lap 7 and still led a few laps later when the second caution came out when Eric Goodale got into Bryon Chew in Turn 2 in a battle for fourth. Chew slammed the outside wall and Doug Coby hit the back of Goodale and Chew to sustain damage. Andy Seuss also spun in the aftermath. Chew finished in last place which was 36th. Coby finished in 23rd and Seuss and Goodale remained in contention. Todd Szegedy had a flat tire and pitted to make a change which put him to the back after he started in fifth.
The race restarted on lap 18 this time with Lia and Ryan Preece pulling away from the rest of the field. The third caution came out on lap 31 when JR Bertuccio got into Ed Flemke off Turn 2 and then lost control and spun up into the path of Jason Myers and Rowan Pennink where they slammed into him and the outside wall of the backstretch. Pennink finished 33rd, Jason Myers 34th, and Bertuccio 35th.
Lia still led for the lap 41 restart. Ryan Newman worked his way up to fourth on lap 55 and was behind Lia, Preece, and Justin Bonsignore who has separated themselves from Newman's battle.
The fourth caution flew on lap 75 for the midway break in the scheduled 150 lap race. The race went back green with the running order staying the same. Donny Lia once again pulled away and looked dominant. The fifth caution then came out on lap 86 when Tim Brown spun off of Turn 2, he finished in 16th.
The race then took a dramatic turn when on the lap 92 restart Justin Bonsignore got into the back off Lia who was bringing the field to the green slow. The two cars locked together and spun before even getting to the start-finish line. The contact and spin broke something in the back of Lia's car and he was done for the rest of the race. After leading the first 91 laps he finished in 30th. Bonsignore would continue and fight back to finish in eighth.
That gave the lead to Ryan Preece for the lap 96 restart. He outran Newman off Turn 2 on the high side to maintain the lead. The seventh caution then flew on lap 98 when Jeremy Gerstner hit the inside wall on the backstretch. He finished 27th.
On the lap 102 restart Todd Szegedy took his first lead by passing Preece into Turn 1 on the low side. The eighth caution then flew on lap 106 when Luke Fleming spun and Rob Fuller ran into him. Fuller finished 28th and Fleming 29th.
For the lap 110 restart it was Szegedy alongside Mike Stefanik who had worked his way to second. The ninth caution then flew on lap 114 for a spin by George Brunnhoelzl III. He would finish 14th. NASCAR officials then enacted a time limit to the race because of the scheduled NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start time at Bristol Motor Speedway. They said on the restart at lap 119 there would be only 10 laps to go instead of 31.
Szegedy got a good restart and Stefanik settled in second. On lap 124 of the now scheduled 129 Szegedy got loose and Stefanik took advantage by diving to the low side and passing him for the lead. The two battled side-by-side when the tenth caution flew on lap 126 when Ted Christopher made contact with Woody Pitkat as they were battling for fifth. Christopher spun out right into the path of Andy Seuss and Eric Berndt. Christopher finished in 17th, Berndt 24th, and Seuss 25th.
That set up a green-white-checkered finish where Stefanik got a great restart on now lap 134 on the outside and was able to clear Szegedy in Turn 1. Szegedy fought back and was on Stefanik's bumper in Turn 2 on the final lap but did not use the bumper to move Stefanik for the win.
It was the second win of the season for Stefanik, who is a seven time Modified Tour champion. It was the second straight year that Szegedy settled for second at Bristol.
Ron Yuhas Jr finished third which was tied for his best career Modified Tour finish. Finishing fourth was Ryan Preece and Ryan Newman finished fifth. Sixth went to Woody Pitkat, Eric Goodale was seventh, Justin Bonsignore eighth, Burt Myers was the best finishing Southern Tour driver in ninth, and Jimmy Zacharias rounded out the top 10.
George Brunnhoelzl III leads the Whelen Southern Modified Tour points by 20 over Kyle Ebersole. Burt Myers is 21 back in third and Tim Brown is fourth 35 points back even though he has competed in one less race. Andy Seuss if fifth.
There are four races left in the Whelen Modified Tour's season. Next up is Riverhead Raceway on September 14th for the Green Earth Technologies 200. The Whelen Southern Modified Tour has five races left, the next being on August 31st at Langley Speedway.
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