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Northeast Modified Rankings Volume IV; The Doctor Takes the Top Spot; King Jr Enjoying Terrific Season

And we’re back with our fourth installment of TDN’s North East Modified Rankings! This month, we look back at July and we’re going to change the weight of the events. For the first three editions, we pretty much used a balance of home track results and special event results to rank drivers for the time period.

But, now that the Super DIRTcar Series and Race of Champions tour are in full swing, there will be a shift towards results achieved in a special event. We still look at home track points. but we’re looking at the big shows just a little more than before.

Alright then, so here’s what our criteria is based on:

1. How many races did the driver partake in
2. How big are the purses for any special events
3. What’s the level of competition at home tracks or in special events
4. Bad luck factor wrecks, mechanical problems..etc are taken into account these things happen. However should the driver rebound with solid finishes afterwards, it shall diminish the effect of a bad night.

Basically, WRG events including home tracks, ROC events and American Racer home tracks and 358 modified in both Niagara region, Eastern Ontario and Quebec,  and Eastern PA/NJ are all taken into account as well as the new Short Track Super Series events. Sail panels or not, Hoosier or American Racer, it doesn’t matter

For this month, we’ll be using the time frame from the start of July to mid August, as our writer has let a little more time lapse than normal!

1. Danny Johnson:
1. The doctor is in! And he looks like he’s having fun and loving it and it’s showing in the results. But before you think this is just a friendly “Let’s get the doctor on top of the list so we can say we did” kind of tribute thing, you’re wrong. And if you’ve not been paying attention, it’s time to start checking in! He’s more than earned the top spot in our countdown based on a July 9 Race of Champions win at Five Mile point, 2 SDS tour wins (Big Show at Malta 7/30 and Merrittville 8/4). And if that wasn’t enough, he took home $10,000 at Grandview on August 9th in the 358 “Forrest Rogers Memorial”.  Are there any questions? Just think, at the start of the year, people weren’t even sure he’d have a ride for the whole season, that must seem like years ago for his fans. This one was as simple as it gets, congrats Dr. Danny Johnson!

2. Billy Decker:
Had the doctor not had such a great month, Decker easily would have assumed the top spot. He’s been in victory lane four times since July 1, and against tough competition at Rolling Wheels on July 3, Brewerton on July 4 and two SDS wins at Ransomville and Weedsport which was a $10,000 to win show. Outside of that, he’s been good at his home tracks, (Brewerton/Fulton) and has podium finishes on SDS races he didn’t win. Plus, he’s erased our third place driver’s SDS tour point lead to a mere five points as of today with his recent performances.

3. Matt Sheppard:
He’s done nothing but win seven races since July 1. They’ve been at the home tracks (Brewerton/Canandaigua/Utica-Rome) So that’s nothing to sneeze at, especially the back to back wins at Canandaigua July 28 and August 9 and Utica Rome as well. He’s still leading the SDS standings. And as we’re typing this we have to wonder how in the hell he isn’t at the top of the list? It’s actually because two drivers had better months in big races where competition beyond the home tracks come into play, that’s all. Hard to believe it, but he could actually use an SDS win soon to get some breathing room again since Decker is getting better as the year is getting longer.

4. Brett Hearn:
Hard to believe he’s fourth, but here he is. He’s been holding serve at Malta and Lebanon Valley (8 Malta wins so far), but when the best of the best get together, he’s been un Hearn-like.  He’s suffered some mechanical problems in the big ones, but has only 4 top 5’s in 10 SDS appearances so far, and since July 1 hasn’t achieved at a high level in the specials. As rough as it’s been he celebrated his 850th career win this past month. And he’s only 106 back in the SDS points with some bad luck due for Sheppard and Decker. A win this week at the Valley might just cure the ills.

5. Erick Rudolph:
This 22 year old driver has taken to big blocks like a duck takes to water. The 2013 358 tour champion from Ransomville, NY got a break in a full SDS ride earlier this season and has made the most of it! He won his first career SDS tour race at Drummondville, QUE (from 17th starting spot!) on July 22 and has been a consistent finisher elsewhere. His home track stats are kind of skewed because he just started running Canandaigua recently, but he’s a name to watch out for as he might not be done with tour wins just yet. We’re not sure how long he stays here, and Thursday August 14 will tell us more at Lebanon Valley, but he’s here now!

6. Stewart Friesen:
He’s been on top of Fonda and Utica Rome in the win department, but has been average in SDS and RoC competition lately. That might be a mixture of a few factors. His home track performance keeps him in the middle of the countdown for now, but we were thinking a Merrittville or Ransomville win would be in order last week. It wasn’t. And it probably would have pushed him ahead of Rudolph.

7. Jimmy Phelps:
Best driver out there that doesn’t have a home track or tour win of any kind. But did finally take a checkered flag at Rolling Wheels on July 24 in a Thursday Night Thunder Special, so maybe the pressure’s come off a little. In the meantime, a few more top 5’s and less top 10’s would help on the SDS side of the equation and perhaps a couple of Brewerton or Fulton wins.

8. Justin Haers:
Consistent top 5 finishes at tracks like Canandaigua and a 70% top 10 rate in SDS tour events will get you on our list. To get into the top five, that’s up to you, and the external factors (luck) that be. Haers has cooled off a little bit but is still having one of his best years yet. Look for T-Bone to possibly take another tour win in 2014.

9. Rick Laubach:
The quaker shaker has been getting it done at Big Diamond and took home a nice RoC win on July 29 at Grandview. He’s had SDS tour wins in his career, and if he were to run the full tour he’d have no problem finishing in the top 10 in points, maybe even top 7.

10. Duane Howard:
See Rick Laubach above, and then insert Grandview for home track, and July 1 RoC tour win at Grandview. Leave the rest of the paragraph the same. Duane’s still one of the beasts of the eastern realm of the modified world and he’s getting hotter as the season goes on!

Honorable Mention:

Mike’s been a terror at Thunder Mountain Speedway on Saturday night’s in 2014, but of greater significance are the Utica Rome wins. Keep an eye on this young driver!

Ryan Watt:
Still the mayor of Bridgeport, and a thrill to watch. Wish he’d get out more.

Gary Tomkins:
The venerable Mr. Tomkins has three wins this year, all at Canandaigua. That’s a great place to collect three wins. We’d love to see him break is 6 year SDS winless streak. SOON!

Ryan Godown:
Still the mayor of New Egypt and another beast of the east. Having a good season but will need RoC wins to get back in the top 10.

Peter Britten:
If any of his home track wins would have come at Canandaigua instead of Malta, he probably would be in the top 10. As it is, he’ll need an SDS win to get there.

Anthony Perrego:
Hey, we told you after the gobbler last year that this kid would be someone to watch. We were right! Perrego might be tops of the southern tier, with wins at accord and a special win here and there as well.

Western Frontier (PA/OH):

1. Rex King Jr
We’re just going to list wins since July 1 at this point. At Lernerville, July 25 and August 1. A $2,000 BRP Modified tour win in the Lou Blaney Memorial at Sharon on July 30, and every time he took the track since July 1, he’s finished in the top 5. He’s the best in the area right now and there is no doubt. He’s having a season to remember.

2. Rex King Sr:
The elder King has been doing quite well for himself too both at Lernerville, Sharon and in the BRP tour thus far. He won two modified tour events July 10 at Expo (Trumbull County Fairgrounds) and August 10 at Mercer and everywhere else has been a stout finish as well. To be fair it’s really a toss up, between the King’s for the top spot more or less, with jr taking one more win and one less race outside the top 5.

3. Dave Murdick: 
He’s cooled off from a red hot June, but still a threat every time he hits the track. Took home the cash at the BRP tour race on July 18 at Raceway 7 and has had some top 5’s at Lernerville. He’s had some DNF’s recently but still sits second in modified tour points and has been great in those races as well.

4. Brian Swartzlander:
It’s been an up and down season for the legend. But he took a hard fought victory at Lernerville on August 8 along with a couple of top 5 finishes at Sharon in the Blaney Memorial and this past Saturday’s $3,000 to win show. It’s coming around for him.

5. Jim Weller Jr:
He doesn’t make his way to Lernerville often, and he’s not always present at the modified tour dates. But, a podium finish in the Blaney Memorial, and a win this past Saturday in the Zdelar Memorial puts him here for the time being.

6. Jeremiah Shingledecker:
It’s been a rough one for him, but if we put the cars on the track right now he’s right where he should be. He’s still been a top 10 runner with some bad luck, and had a nice top 3 at the Mercer BRP event August 10. He could use to stack some podium finishes in a row in the coming weeks if the luck can turn.

Rick Rarer Photo

7. Eric Gabany: 
Now that BRP tour has been kicked off, Gabany can show some results outside of Mercer where he’s a threat week in and week out, and he’s been doing fairly well. Might be a sleeper pic for the upcoming BRP Applefest at Sharon in September.

8. Tom Winkle: 
We’d love to see him get out to Sharon and some BRP dates more often. But at Lernerville, he’s quietly been going about his business and has been consistently good!

9. Brad Rapp:
He’s scaled back his racing in 2014, forsaking Lernerville when modified tour dates are happening in the same week. But when he’s at the track no matter where he is, it’s a good bet he’s somewhere in the top 10. We’d love to see him with some updated stuff too to turn some top 5’s into wins, if we win the lottery Brad…

10: Lonny Riggs:
A tip of the cap to the first small block driver to ever win a modified tour race at Mercer. Congrats Mr. Riggs, it’s the upset of the season so far, but if you know the area modifieds, you know it’s not as big an upset as some might think. Lonny won an applefest at Sharon in a small back years back!

And that’ll do it for this edition! We’ll be back in September with volume 5!



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