In years past, July has been a bit of mixed bag for Modified driver Chris Pasteryak.
On one hand, Pasteryak scored the biggest victory of his career during the middle of a New England summer. That was when Pasteryak captured the $10,000-to-win Modified Madness open show against the likes of Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik and Matt Hirschman at Seekonk Speedway (MA) in 2009.
On the other hand, July has been cruel to Pasteryak as well. One year later, he emerged from the July Modified Racing Series event at Lee USA Speedway (NH) with a hand injury that interrupted his 2010 season after a hard wreck into the fronstretch wall.
2011 brought some good fortune Pasteryak's way though, as he emerged from the same mid-summer MRS race, the Laticrete Port City 100 at Lee USA Speedway ,on Friday night as the winner after a dominating run with his #5CT Modified.
So what exactly is it about summer that brings extremes to Pasteryak and his racing efforts?
“You know I really don't know,” said Pasteryak. “One year ago, we were sitting in a waiting room at the hospital ready to have my wrist X-Rayed, so to come back here and win this is big. You know, I suck here. I normally don't run worth a crud. So to come back here tonight, get the show in and win is great.”
While Pasteryak admits to being a little bit more motivated for this race, he is also quick to point out the motivation alone doesn't mean much when it comes to being successful on the racetrack.
“You can be motivated all that you want but normally if you don't run good, you aren't going to finish well.”
Having a little bit of good luck on his side might have helped clear the path to victory lane for Pasteryak.
“Maybe it was a bit of a miracle thing,” said Pasteryak. “I think that a spark plug wire fell off because the motor felt like it was only running on seven cylinders. It happened a little bit before the (final) restart. It had been okay. It was kind of okay on the restart and then one lap later, it was dead flat…so maybe that was some magic. Either that, or we have to pull the motor out now because we've got a problem. So it could be bittersweet.”
The news that his engine was misbehaving was a surprise to observers after the race because Pastreyak's car looked so darn good. He started seventh in the race and moved up steadily during the first half of the show, passing Joe Doucette for the lead on lap 52. From that point on, Pasteryak put a number of quality cars, like those belonging to Andy Seuss, Louie Mechalides, Rowan Pennink, Todd Annarummo and Tim Jordan, a lap down. At one point, his lead was a full straightaway.
And all of this was possible with a wounded engine?
“It wasn't 100%, but here you can get away with a little bit less motor and it will probably hurt the car rather than hurt it. Maybe a piece of speedy dry got caught in one of the squirters on the carburetor, or we have an electrical problem or we've got something bigger going on with the motor. We'll have to take a good look at it because we'll definitely need it for Canaan.”
That race for Canaan has some extra significance for Pastreyak and the entire MRS community. The July 16th event is known as “Ricky's Race” in honor of the late Ricky Miller, a standout Modified driver who passed away in 2004. Ricky's Race will raise money for David's House, a children's charity, and will also feature a $12,000 winner's purse, in honor of Miller's #12 from late in his career. A number of MRS events were designated as Chase to Ricky's Race events, which meant that the race winner would be guaranteed a starting spot at Canaan. Lee was the final qualifier for Ricky's Race and Pasteryak earned a guaranteed spot for that event thanks to the Lee victory.
Ricky's race has special meaning to Pasteryak since as a child and teenager, he watched Miller on the track more than a few times.
“This is a race for Ricky's Race and now I'm a guaranteed starter,” said Pasteryak with a smile. “That is great. We want to go to Canaan and be strong. Ricky Miller was a hell of a guy. When he went to Riverside and he won that Tour race with a weekly car…that was, to me, about as cool as it could get. I was there with my Dad and my Uncle. I wasn't running at the time, but that is the memory of him that sticks out the most to me. He towed in there on an open trailer from across the street for a Tour race and he whipped us all. So hopefully, we can do something cool in his memory for David's House….we can go there and run well. We have to start 18th now, but we'll take that.”
- The fact that the race at Lee took place at all, amazed many observers. Forecasts called for a near-certain rainstorm to hover over Lee USA Speedway in the middle of the evening. The race pressed on regardless, with adjustments to the schedule being made to move up the MRS feature. Despite a few rain sprinkles, the MRS feature ran with only one caution and only took 29 minutes to complete. After the race, there were no victory lane celebrations however, as a pair of weekly racing series events were taking to the track for their races. Thanks to the rush, all of the scheduled events for Friday night at Lee took place in their entirety.
- The victory at Lee now puts Chris Pasteryak into a tie with Rowan Pennink for the MRS point lead. Pasteryak won the title in 2008, but did not get to defend that championship at any point since then. In 2009, he cut back to a partial MRS schedule after landing a ride on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and in 2010 he sat out for several races with injuries from a Lee MRS wreck.
- Andy Seuss made his first MRS start of the 2011 season at Lee. He was strong early on with his #70 car, but had a leaky radiator drop him back to a 14th-place finish. Seuss, who lives about 20 minutes from the Lee track, is a regular on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and also competes part-time in the Sprint Cars of New England series and on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
- Former MRS Technical Director Pete Frappier was back with the series on Friday night at Lee, but in a very different role. Frappier was driving the #84 entry owned by Bob Wilcox. Frappier usually drives the car numbered as the #8 weekly at nearby Star Speedway. A little bit of white duct tape transformed the car into an #84 for Lee. Frappier finished in the 19th position.
- MRS regular Jacob Dore has been keeping busy during his downtime from the tour by running a Joey Lovejoy-owned Legends car during the Thursday Thunder Series at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway.
- One of the spectators at the Lee MRS race is a very familiar personality to the short track racing world - two-time defending Oxford 250 winner and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Regular Eddie MacDonald. MacDonald has two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts to his credit at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. However, one was a start and park effort and the other ended after an early wreck. MacDonald admitted that he would love to race a Modified again and that they looked very fun at Lee, but that he would like to get a little experience in one at a track like Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), where there are no walls in the turns, first so he wouldn't tear up any equipment if the learning experience went bad.
- Another spectator at Lee was MRS regular Max Zachem, who recently took home a top ten finish in the MRS event at Monadnock Speedway (NH). Zachem reported though the his engine was hurt in that race and was shooting water out of the headers the next day at the shop. Repairs are being made to Zachem's equipment and he hopes to be back for Ricky's Race at Canaan on July 16th.