Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Stafford Speedway returned to NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action with the 3rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts SK 5k, which paid the winner $5,000 out of a purse of over $27,000.
With the Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Sales Gambler’s Challenge bonus of $5,000 and a total heat race bonus of $2,000 from Wheelers Auto of Hamden, the total posted awards were over $34,000. Ronnie Williams won the NAPA SK 5K and in victory lane he pulled the winner take all chip for the Dunleavy’s Gambler’s Challenge to give himself a pay day of $10,675 with purse and contingencies added together. Other feature winners on the night were Al Saunders taking down his first career Late Model win and earning himself a $500 bounty from Stafford Speedway for ending Tom Fearn’s 6-race winning streak, Marcello Rufrano was a back to back winner in the SK Light feature, Jeremy Lavoie scored his fifth win of 2018 in the Limited Late Model feature, and Nicole Chambrello won the Street Stock feature one week after barrel rolling her car.
In the 100-lap NAPA SK 5k feature event, Eric Berndt shot into the lead at the start with Keith Rocco quickly working his way up to second. Michel Gervais, Jr. was third with polesitter Tyler Hines back to fourth and Glen Reen in fifth.
Rocco got around Berndt for the lead on lap-10 but Berndt came right back and he moved back into the lead on lap-11. The lead swap between Berndt and Rocco continued with Rocco going back out front on lap-13. Gervais was still third with Hines and Reen continuing to make up the top-5.
Hines worked his way past Gervais to move into third on lap-18 with Ronnie Williams following him into fourth to drop Gervais back to fifth. Berndt got alongside Rocco for the lead but couldn’t make the pass stick on lap-19. Berndt then fell back to third as Williams moved into second and nearly took the lead from Rocco on lap-21 before settling back into line. Williams made a move for the lead on lap-23 with a pass coming out of turn 2. Stephen Kopcik spun into the turn 3 wall after losing his engine to bring the caution out with 25 laps complete.
Williams and Rocco were side by side for the lead with Berndt, Gervais, and Joey Cipriano making up the top-5. Three laps later and Williams and Rocco were still side by side with neither driver giving an inch. Williams was able to finally get clear from Rocco on lap-30. The two drivers then swapped the lead twice in one lap as Rocco went to the front entering turn 3 but Williams made a nice crossover move to come out of turn 4 with the lead once again. The lead duo then resumed their side by side battle for the lead with Berndt, Gervais, and Cipriano behind them. Dan Wesson spun in turn 4 to bring the caution out with 34 laps complete.
Rocco took the lead back under green with Berndt and Williams side by side for second. Berndt took second on lap-35 with Cipriano now side by side with Williams for third. Williams held Cipriano off for third with Hines still in fifth. Berndt made a move to the inside of Rocco to take the lead on lap-38 but Rocco came right back on lap-39 and retook the lead. Chase Dowling was closing in on the top-5 cars after starting deep in the field. Tom Bolles spin in turn 4 to bring the caution out with 44 laps complete.
Rocco took the lead on the restart with Williams moving into second. Berndt slotted into third with Dowling fourth and a side by side battle between Cipriano and Gervais for fifth. With 48 laps complete the caution and red flags came back out as Hines and Cipriano came together in turn 4 with Hines’ car briefly catching fire.
Rocco took the lead with Berndt and Williams side by side for second. Berndt took second on lap-49 and he took the lead from Rocco on lap-51 with a pass in turn 1. Williams was now side by side with Rocco for second with Dowling in fourth and Gervais fifth.
Rocco ran in line behind Berndt until lap-58 when he made a pass in turn 3 to go back into the lead. Williams was still third with Dowling and Gervais making up the top-5. Todd Owen was up to sixth after having to start deep in the field due to a heat race crash earlier in the evening, with Matt Galko, Dan Avery, Wesson, and Troy Talman making up the top-10.
Berndt was again applying heavy pressure to Rocco for the lead with the two cars side by side for the lead on lap-65. Berndt dropped back into line behind Rocco on lap-66 with Williams closing in on Berndt’s back bumper. Dan Wesson dropped off the pace on lap-68 with heavy smoke from underneath his car and then the caution came out for Dan Avery, whose car went up in flames coming out of turn 4 as he steered off the track and on to pit road.
Rocco took the lead with Williams able to get in front of Berndt for second on the restart. Gervais and Dowling were side by side for fourth with Doug Meservey, Jr. and Michael Christopher, Jr. side by side for sixth. Williams pulled alongside Rocco for the lead on lap-70 and he was able to get clear to the lead on lap-72 but Rocco came right back on lap-73 to the inside of Williams and they were even at the line. The caution came back out with 73 laps complete for a spin in turns 3+4 by John Studley.
Williams took the lead back under green with Rocco in second. Berndt was side by side with Dowling for third with Christopher in fifth. Rocco was applying heavy pressure to Williams while Berndt was able to finally get clear into third on lap-77. Rocco got to the inside of Williams and he had the lead by a nose at the line on lap-78. Rocco got clear into the lead on lap-79 but Williams came right back on lap-80 and he took the lead with a pass in turn 3. Dowling was now third behind Williams and Rocco with Berndt and Christopher making up the top-5 with 20 laps to go.
With 10 laps to go, it was still Williams followed by Rocco and Dowling. Berndt was fourth with Christopher still fifth. Williams led Rocco to the checkered flag to pick up his second win of the 2018 season. Dowling finished third with Berndt and Christopher rounding out the top-5.
In the 30-lap Late Model feature event, Al Saunders took ht lead at the green with Tyler Leary in second. Kevin Gambacorta quickly took third with Tom Fearn slicing his way into fourth and Paul Arute was in fifth. Fearn continued his charge towards the lead as he took third from Gambacorta on lap-4 and began to close in on Leary for second.
With 12 laps complete, Al Saunders was still out front with Fearn all over Leary for second. Fearn was able to make the move on lap-14 to take second. Arute was now fourth with Glen Reen in fifth as Gambacorta had slid back to sixth.
With 10 laps to go, it was still Saunders in the lead with Fearn giving chase from second. Leary was third, with Arute, and Reen making up the top-5 with Gambacorta still in sixth.
Reen did a 360 spin on the backstretch on lap-26 but he was able to rejoin the action and the race stayed green. Fearn closed in on Saunders but he couldn’t get close enough as Saunders scored his first career Late Model feature win and in the process claimed a $500 bounty put up by Stafford CEO/GM Mark Arute for the first driver who could end Fearn’s 6-race winning streak. Leary finished third with Arute and Gambacorta rounding out the top-5.
In the 20-lap SK Light feature event, Chris Viens took the lead at the green flag with Chris Matthews in second. Teddy Hodgdon was third with Mark Bakaj in fourth and Bob Charland in fifth. Just behind Charland was Mikey Flynn in sixth and a side by side duel between Marcello Rufrano and George Nocera, Jr. for seventh. Wesley Prucker spun coming out of turn 2 to bring the caution out with 10 laps complete.
Matthews and Viens went side by side of the lead for a lap before Matthews got clear into the lead on lap-12. Rufrano moved into second behind Matthews with Bakaj and Hodgdon all over his back bumper. A spin in turn 4 that involved several cars brought the caution back out with 14 laps complete.
On the restart, Norm Sears got into the backstretch wall to bring the caution right back out. The next restart saw Matthews hold off a charge from Rufrano for a lap before the caution came out for Pete Lopuch, who came to a stop against the wall at the exit of turn 2.
Matthews and Rufrano went back side by side for the lead on the next restart with Rufrano coming out with the lead. Matthews and Hodgdon were side by side for second with Bakaj right behind them in fourth and Nocera in fifth. Hodgdon took second from Matthews in the outside lane on lap-18 and Bakaj followed suit on lap-19 to move into third and drop Matthews back to fourth as Rufrano stretched out his lead to several car lengths. Rufrano led Hodgdon back to the checkered flag to pick up his fifth win of the 2018 season. Matthews finished third with Bakaj and Nocera rounding gout the top-5. Viens spun on the last lap and collected the car of Rit Dulac.
In the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, Jeremy Lavoie made a three-wide move on the first lap to shoot into the lead with Ryan Fearn taking second and Steven Midford third. Andy Marchese fell back to fourth with Gary Patnode in fifth.
Lavoie and Fearn began to slowly pull away from the rest of the field while Steve Midford pulled off the track on lap-11. In a green to checkered race, Lavoie led Fearn to the checkered flag to pick up his fifth win of the 2018 season. Justin Bren finished third but he refused post-race technical inspection and he was disqualified from the race. This moved Duane Provost into third with R.J. Surdell and Patnode rounding out the top-5.
In the 20-lap Street Stock feature, Jason Lafayette took the lead at the green with Richard Ciriello in second. Nicole Chambrello was quickly moving to the front as she streaked into third and then took second from Ciriello on lap-3. Ciriello began to slide backwards as Chris Bagnall moved into third, George Bessette, Jr., fourth, and Mike Hopkins fifth. Hopkins got around Bessette to take fourth on lap-5 with Lafayette still leading Chambrello out front.
Brandon Michael was also on the move, moving into sixth on lap-6 after starting mid pack and right behind him was Meghan Fuller, the Street Stock points leader. Bessette took fourth from Bagnall on lap-8 and opened the door for Michael to follow him through to move into fifth and drop Bagnall back to sixth. Paul Bourdon brought the caution out with 11 laps complete with a spin in turn 2.
Chambrello took the lead on the restart with Bessette moving into second. Lafayette slotted into third with Hopkins fourth and Michael fifth.
NAPA SK 5K (100)
1) Ronnie Williams, Tolland
2) Keith Rocco, Berlin
3) Chase Dowling, Woodbury
4) Eric Berndt, Cromwell
5) Michael Christopher, Jr., Wolcott
6) Glen Reen, Wilbraham, Ma
7) Matt Galko, Meriden
8) Troy Talman, Oxford, Ma
9) Nick Salva, Cheshire
10) Todd Owen, Somers
11) Matt Vassar, Plantsville
12) John Studley, Framingham, Ma
13) Tony Membrino, Jr., Berlin
14) Michael Gervais, Jr., Southbury
15) Tommy Membrino, Jr., Prospect
16) David Arute, Stafford Springs
17) Doug Meservey, Jr., Chatham, Ma
18) Tom Bolles, Ellington
19) Dan Avery, Somers
20) Dan Wesson, Monson, Ma
21) Rowan Pennink, Huntingdon Valley, Pa
22) Joey Cipriano, III, Waterbury
23) Tyler Hines, North Haven
24) Stephen Kopcik, Newtown
LATE MODEL (30)
1) Al Saunders, Stafford
2) Tom Fearn, East Longmeadow, Ma
3) Tyler Leary, Hatfield, Ma
4) Paul Arute, Tolland
5) Kevin Gambacorta, Ellington
6) Glen Reen, Wilbraham, Ma
7) Michael Wray, Northford
8) Tom Butler, Stafford Springs
9) Paul Varricchio, Jr., Berlin
10) Richard Duranti, Quaker Hill
11) Chase Cook, Oakdale
SK LIGHT MODIFIED (20)
1) Marcello Rufrano, North Haven
2) Teddy Hodgdon, Iv, Danbury
3) Chris Matthews, Stafford
4) Mark Bakaj, Lebanon
5) George Nocera, Jr., Plainville
6) Brett Gonyaw, Vernon
7) Joey Ferrigno, East Hartford
8) Alexander Pearl, Salem
9) Wesley Prucker, Stafford
10) Glenn Griswold, Vernon
11) Raymond Grassetti, Monson, Ma
12) Amanda West, Colchester
13) Cassandra Cole, Westbrook
14) Glenn Bartkowski, Manchester
15) Mark Alkas, Berlin
16) Chris Viens, Putnam
17) Rit Dulac, Plantsville
18) Pete Lopuch, West Redding
19) Norm Sears, Andover
20) Bob Charland, Stafford
21) Mikey Flynn, Hampden, Ma
22) Bryan Narducci, Colchester
23) Andrew Molleur, Shelton
24) Geoff Nooney, Southwick, Ma
LIMITED LATE MODEL (20)
1) Jeremy Lavoie, Windsor Locks
2) Ryan Fearn, East Longmeadow, Ma
3) Duane Provost, Palmer, Ma
4) R.J. Surdell, Willington
5) Gary Patnode, Barkhamsted
6) Andy Marchese, Tolland
7) Steven Midford, Ellington
STREET STOCK (20)
1) Nicole Chambrello, Kensington
2) George Bessette, Jr., Danbury
3) Jason Lafayette, Somers
4) Michael Hopkins, Springfield, Ma
5) Brandon Michael, Granville, Ma
6) Meghan Fuller, Auburn, Ma
7) Chris Bagnall, Winsted
8) Tess Beyer, Stratton, Vt
9) Dan Soucie, Ashford
10) Richard Ciriello, Reading, Ma
11) Rob Sears, Stafford Springs
12) Chris Danielczuk, Goshen
13) Samantha Anderson, Wolcott
14) Paul Bourdon, Jr., Jewett City
15) Joe Maglio, New Fairfiel