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Respect – or Lack Thereof – Plagues Granite State Pro Stock Series

Posted By Tj Ingerson On August 13, 2014

Categories: Granite State Pro Stock

Respect -- or lack thereof -- has been a big issue with the Granite State Pro Stock Series since its inception, but came to a head on Saturday night at Monadnock Speedway. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)PHOTO: Respect -- or lack thereof -- has been a big issue with the Granite State Pro Stock Series since its inception, but came to a head on Saturday night at Monadnock Speedway. (Eric LaFleche/ photo)

--by Michael Stridsberg (@OntheMike43)
VMM Correspondent

Rodney Dangerfield constantly joked about how he couldn’t get any respect – but for the Granite State Pro Stock Series, it’s no longer a laughing matter.

The JBH 100 at Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night was a tame affair at first. Just one caution flew in the first 60 laps, coming on lap 26 when Fran Colson spun in turn three and was hit by Josh King.

However, the floodgates opened on lap 61, when Zig Geno spun off of turn four and Mike Parks then spun out of turn two after the caution had come out. The yellow was the first of seven over the next 36 laps, six of which were for spins and crashes, with the other for Larry Gelina’s mechanical failure on lap 77.

By the time the checkered flag flew, only 12 of the19 starters remained on the track, and it was far easier to count the cars that hadn’t been involved in an incident, either as a victim or as a perpetrator.

Although the eight total cautions were far from the most this season – events held at Hudson Speedway and Star Speedway each had 15 – they appear to be the straws that broke the backs of some drivers.

Dillon Moltz may be at the head of that line. The Waterford, Conn. driver had fought back after pitting during the first caution for a flat right-front tire, and found himself in second after Matt Frahm got into Tommy O’Sullivan while racing for the position on lap 88. But coming into turn one on lap 96 after a restart, Moltz made contact with third-place Adam Norton, spun, and got nailed by Geno, who had worked his way back up to fourth.

After limping home to an eighth-place finish, Moltz sounded like he was at the end of his rope.

“Some of these guys just don’t get it, and it’s getting ridiculous,” the former Waterford Speedbowl Late Model champion said. “I don’t understand it – it’s confusing to me. These are $60,000 race cars, and they’re acting like they’re Street Stocks. It’s just, it’s baffling, baffling, baffling.

“It sucks, it really does. We had an awesome night going, rebounded great. These guys – I have the hardest-working team in the entire garage. And what are you going to do? I mean, you kind of take what you can get, and some people don’t understand that, you know?”

It was the third straight event in which a crash helped derail Moltz’s chances. At Star Speedway on June 28, Moltz was leading the race when he spun after contact with a lapped car, though he recovered to finish second. At Lee USA Speedway on July 25, Moltz took evasive action through the infield when leaders Bobby Nadeau and Billy Brady tangled on a lap-14 restart, and was forced to pit due to grass clogging his grill; he eventually finished fifth.

As for the Monadnock incident, Norton – who finished tenth – denied any wrongdoing.

“I got the inside of (Dillon) coming off four, and when we went into turn one I saw he was slid up a little bit,” the series newcomer said. “I had my nose underneath there, and I think he didn’t think I was going to stay there, so I hung in right behind (Barry). So he rotated in the center and came right down on me, and I was there. I didn’t do anything.”

Moltz wasn’t the only driver to speak out after the race. Russ Hersey, who finished fourth despite a slipping clutch and bouncing off the frontstretch wall, thinks that some drivers are racing like there’s more on the line than there actually is.

“The (drivers) are just – they’re running like it’s $50,000 to win, and you know, there’s very little respect,” the Swanzey, N.H. veteran said. “They’re running each other out of room, as you could tell by the race.

“They need to cut each other some slack, and just take a step back and realize it’s Saturday night racing. It’s $1,200 to win; it’s not $10,000.

“It’s indicative of the series,” Hersey added. “I mean, it’s sad, but they just need to learn to race together a little bit better. You know, have a little bit more respect for each other. ‘Cause there’s no need of a lot of cautions.”

Cautions have been the theme for series in 2014. Through six races and 550 laps of competition, there have been a total of 58 cautions – one for every 9.5 laps of racing. By comparison, the ACT Late Model Tour has had one caution every 31.1 laps in their first seven races. Unofficially, the PASS North Super Late Model Series had one caution every 41.4 laps in their first nine events.

Jennifer Ready, the Director of Operations and Race Day Coordinator for GSPSS, acknowledged that the lack of respect among drivers is a problem, but said there’s only so much that officials can do about it.

“I definitely don’t disagree with them,” Ready said when informed about driver’s comments. “We’re doing our best to correct it – (the drivers) have to help us with that too though. I can’t make them respect each other. I can put them to the rear when they do something they’re not supposed to, but I can’t make them respect each other. They have to do that on their own.

“I know we’re working on it repeatedly,” she added. “Every week we discuss it with (the drivers). Every week we’re issuing more and more penalties as the weeks go along. And I’m hoping that it’s going to have an effect.”

Penalties were indeed handed out on Saturday night, as three drivers – Frahm, O’Sullivan, and Norton – were sent to the rear in an eight-lap span. O’Sullivan also received a rough driving penalty in a heat race at Lee USA.

Regardless, Moltz believes that it’s up to the drivers to be smart and realize when they could be jeopardizing a good run, either for themselves or for someone else.

“After that restart when me and (Barry) checked out, I could’ve crossed him over and moved him and drove through him,” Moltz said. “But that’s just not smart racing. That’s just stupid. Obviously it showed, because two-three laps later, he pulled away from me. My only chance was on cold tires, and it was 10 laps to go. So I was happy with second. We had second sewed up.

“But some people just don’t get that, I guess.”

“There’s no easy answer,” Hersey added. “It happens a lot in this series. You know, the Whelen (Modified Tour) came here (to Monadnock) and ran 200 laps – not a caution. That wasn’t a great race for the fans, but from a racer’s standpoint, when you look at it from pure racing, it was outstanding. Two hundred laps with a full field and not a single caution. So I know it can be done.”

Ready believes that track size plays a significant role in how much room the drivers are willing to give each other.

“Part of it is the short track,” Ready noted. “I think that Lee being a little bigger, they have a little more respect for the race track. Thompson is the same way. We had a spectacular race at Thompson in the spring. I mean, spectacular. And it’s because the race track is a bit more intimidating, and they have to respect that as well as each other. And the smaller tracks (are) where we’re struggling.”

The caution numbers by event bear out Ready’s hypothesis. Races at Thompson and Lee USA, the two tracks the series races at this year that are longer than one-fourth of a mile, had two and six cautions, respectively. Conversely, the four races at quarter-mile tracks – Monadnock, Hudson, Star, and Monadnock again – saw 12, 15, 15, and eight cautions.

“If you get turned into the wall at Lee, you’re junk,” Ready said. “Just like if you get turned into the wall at Thompson, you’re junk. Whereas at the shorter tracks, they’re not going as fast; they don’t have as much respect for the race track.”

Ready also hopes that bringing stability to the series’ staff will help the situation.

We’ve got a pretty solid team,” she said. “We’ve had some staffing issues. This year we had, you know, some transition occur, and we’re pretty solid on where we’re at for the rest of the season. And I think that will help. We have a consistent set of people that (drivers) know they can go to (now). We had three separate race directors over the first five events.”

Hersey was sympathetic to the plight of series officials and their attempts to help fix the problem, but noted that their words are easily forgotten once drivers get behind the wheel.

“The officials can give us speeches, and they all do,” he said. “I mean, Jen does a great job – you know, they all tell us. But when you’re out there, what are you going to do when somebody chops down on another guy, and they turn you – how many times can you say that?

“Only the guys in the series can stop that. The officials can’t stop that. And they put people to the rear tonight for what they deemed was overaggressive driving. I mean, that’s all you can do.”

Hersey also acknowledged that, although the series wants to keep drivers showing up at races, they have to think about how the on-track product will affect future race dates.

“They’re trying to keep everybody happy,” he noted. “They’re trying to keep guys coming to the series, trying to keep full fields to sell to the race tracks. You know, (series president Mike Parks) has got a tough job trying to put a product out here that he can sell to the race track. And when you have things like races where people are (having) a lot of cautions and are wrecking, that’s a tough job for him to go to the (track promoter) the next year and say, ‘Hey, here’s my product, what do you think? You want to have us back?’ There’s no easy answer. It’s up to the guys, honestly. It’s up to the drivers.”

Moltz, however, sounded less hopeful that changes can occur.

“You’ll always have people who drive race cars, and race car drivers.”