Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – After finishing a career best third in the 2017 SK Modified® standings at Stafford in his family owned car, Ronnie Williams made the move to the #50 team owned by Les and Tina Skowyra and led by crew chief Adam Skowyra for the 2018 season. In switching teams, Williams faced a new chassis and a new crew, but things came together quickly for the new combination and last Friday they clinched the 2018 SK Modified® track championship with one race still to go.
“Now I can talk about being champion,” said Williams. “It’s kind of weird because it really hasn’t sunk in yet since we still have one more race left this season. It’s definitely an amazing feeling to clinch the championship with this group of guys. I thought at the beginning of the year that there was no reason why we couldn’t win the championship. I had a new chassis going from CD to Troyer, a different engine builder, different tire guy, different spotter, and I’m not a guy who likes change at all. I’ve been chewing the same type of gum for 10 years and when I go into a restaurant they already know what I want, I don’t have to order anything. There were a lot of new components and I knew that they ran well last year so there was a little bit of added pressure on me, but in the end it all paid off.”
“You always hope you can have a season like we did,” said crew chief Adam Skowyra. “We had all the equipment, Ronnie had experience, and the whole team had experience so you hope you can come out of the gate swinging for a championship but the odds are stacked against you. Everyone jelling together right from day one is the main reason why we were able to be champions this season. It was awesome to be able to clinch the championship one race early. Now we can go to the Fall Final and have some fun trying to win the race. Last year the Fall Final was pretty stressful for us all. The last month the points were always on our minds and when we took the checkered flag this past Friday night, it felt like a 10,000 pound weight had been lifted off our shoulders.”
Any question marks about the new combination of Williams and the #50 team were quickly put to rest with back to back second place finishes to open the season. Following what would be his worst finish of the 2018 season to date with an 18th place finish on May 11, Williams and the #50 Les’s Auto Center team took off on an 11 race stretch that saw them finish outside the top-5 only once. That stretch of races helped catapult Williams and the #50 team into the points lead, a position they never relinquished.
“We really didn’t have any bad races this year, there was only one race where we had any issues and we still got back on track and finished that race a lap down,” said Williams. “For us to put ourselves in a position to clinch the championship with one race still to go really shows that all of our hard work paid off. I really drew the easy job driving this car. All the guys on this team bust their butts in the shop every week and I have the honor and privilege to go out and do what I love to do every Friday night. This championship season is thanks to a great crew and all of our sponsors, Empower Financial, Les’s Auto Center, Alltown Sanitation and Recycling, Centurn Machine, Napa of Tolland, Palmer Paving, Pettit for the awesome power, Williams Race Gears, and Flamingo Motorsports.”
Becoming a track champion in the SK Modified® ranks and joining the long list of distinguished track champions that have called Stafford Speedway home over the years is a dream come true for Williams.
“I’ve been going to Stafford since I was born, sitting up in turn 4 and watching the races,” said Williams. “I remember being in the Kids Club winning a few bike raffles and I was a fan back in the day. Joey Cipriano posted a throwback picture the other day of me in one of his SK Light victory lanes. I never thought I’d be racing in the SK Modified® division. To be able to race against guys like Ted Christopher, Keith Rocco, and Ryan Preece, to be on a list of champions along with them is something I never thought would be possible and it’s pretty incredible.”
With all the success that Williams and the #50 team have enjoyed this season, he is already looking forward to the 2019 season and trying to go back to back, a feat that has only been accomplished 6 times by 5 drivers in the history of the SK Modified® division at Stafford.
“It felt like we jelled pretty quickly, especially Adam [Skowyra] and I,” said Williams. “Going to the shop every Tuesday and joking around with the guys and telling stories, it was a fun atmosphere and I’m looking forward to next year. I don’t think there has ever been a season in my career where I’ve had as much fun as I had this year. We’re going to celebrate now and come next season we have to get the best finishes we can, win a lot of races, and hopefully we can be back to back champions.”
“Two in a row would be an awesome accomplishment for us,” said Skowyra. “We’re looking forward to next season obviously and we always want to get back to the track but the off season will be nice and we’ll be able to enjoy this at the banquet and really celebrate this championship.”
Williams will be looking to put an exclamation point on his championship season by winning the SK Modified® feature at the NAPA Fall Final Weekend, set for Sept. 29-30.
Stafford SK Light Championship Down to NAPA Fall Final Head to Head Duel
After 20 grueling weeks of competition, the race for the 2018 SK Light championship at Stafford Speedway will come down to a head to head duel between Bryan Narducci of the #01 Florida Connection team and Marcello Rufrano of the #88 Wheelers Auto team at the season ending NAPA Fall Final, scheduled for Sept. 29-30. Narducci and Rufrano are the winningest drivers in the SK Light division this season with Rufrano winning 6 races and Narducci 5. Both drivers are acutely aware that all they need to win the championship is to finish in front of the other driver.
“I think our approach will be the same as Marcello if you ask him,” said Narducci. “The first half of the race we have to get through the traffic, like usual I’m sure we’ll be starting near each other, mid-pack. Then the second half of the race we can let it loose and try to beat him. It would be nice to be in front of him as we come up through traffic so I don’t have to try to pass him towards the end of the race. We’ll try to get to the front as quick and as clean as we can and get the job done. It would be nice to win the Fall Final race but as long as we can finish in front of Marcello that would make this season that much sweeter than it already has been.”
“I just have to be smooth and not make any stupid moves that might cost me a championship,” said Rufrano. “I only have to finish one spot in front of Bryan for this race. I don’t have to have the mentality to win this race or try to do everything I can to win the race. This is the first time I’ve been in a situation like this where I can capitalize on winning a championship so I just have to be smart. I was always about going for trophies and now that I have the opportunity to win a championship, if it means finishing third, that’s what I’m going to do. We’ve put a lot of hard work into this car this season between my Dad, Jimmy [Fuller], my Uncle, and everyone who has helped us out and I have to capitalize on this to give back to them what they’ve given to me this year.”
The two main protagonists for the SK Light title are long-time friends and rivals dating back to their days racing in the Wild Thing Karts series. While both Narducci and Rufrano want to become champion, they both would have no issues getting beat in the race for the title.
“It’s been a lot of fun racing with Marcello this year,” said Narducci. “We’re good buddies and we hang out all the time and to race like we used to in the Wild Thing Karts has been fun. We’re looking to cap things off with a good run at the Fall Final. It would definitely be disappointing if we don’t win but we have 5 wins and we ran strong all year long. I know that we have a car that can get the job done and if Marcello happens to beat us, I’ll be the first one over there to shake his hand and congratulate him but hopefully he’ll be the one shaking my hand and giving me congratulations.”
“We’re good friends at the track and off the track and we always bust each other talking about who’s going to win the championship,” said Rufrano. “Some times it’s not even a serious thing between us but it would mean a lot to me to win a championship at a track that we’ve been going to since we were kids watching Teddy [Christopher] and Keith [Rocco]. Bryan would always be rooting for Teddy and I would be rooting for Keith. It’s a pretty cool deal to be part of. It’s going to be like the race for the Monster Energy Cup championship, whoever finishes the best at the last race is going to win. I hope we have a good crowd because it’s going to be exciting for the fans to watch as we go head to head for the championship.”
Narducci and Rufrano will stage their winner take all duel as part of the Sunday feature action at the NAPA Fall Final Weekend, set for Sept. 29-30. Tickets for NAPA Fall Final Weekend are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seat tickets are $42.00 for all ages. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Stafford Motor Speedway offers plenty of free parking along with overnight parking available for self contained Recreational Vehicles. Discount tickets are available through participating NAPA stores.