Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Glen Reen and the #17 Avery Construction team head into the 2019 SK Modified® season at Stafford Speedway with their eyes set squarely on making a run for the championship. Reen will once again be teammates with Dan Avery but unlike the past several seasons, Reen’s sole focus will be with the SK Modified® machine.
“I’m going to be teammates with Dan Avery again this season,” said Reen. “Dan is going to run a partial schedule, like last season and I’m going to try to bring a championship home for Danny and myself. Winning the Late Model championship in 2017 showed me what we need to do to win a championship. We just have to go out and execute our game plan. I’m not going to run the Late Model this year. I had some issues with black flags last year so I’m going to stay out of that division so I don’t get in any trouble. It’s a shame I won’t be racing with Rob Russell and his guys again but I can’t put another SK season in jeopardy. I love all those RRC guys and I told them I’d race with them anywhere else, but for 2019 at Stafford I have to put all my eggs in one basket. I’d like to thank all our sponsors, Avery Construction, Paganelli Construction, Pioneer Valley Wheel Repair, RAD Auto Machine, Tech Ed Products, Smith Bodywork, GP Fence, B.A. Muzio, Squid Decals, New England Racing Fuel, Sunoco. I also want to thank Paul and David Arute for all their hard work during the off season with the social media exposure and everyone who works at the track. Stafford is hands down the best track in the Northeast, and Mark and Lisa Arute do a great job putting the show on every Friday night.”
Reen’s #17 car and Avery’s #10 car will once again carry a paint scheme tribute to Ted Christopher.
“We’re going to run the cars as a tribute to Teddy again this year,” said Reen. “Dan helped Teddy get started in the SK’s back in the day and then Teddy helped Dan get back into the SK’s, so this is a way for Dan to help keep Teddy’s legacy alive at Stafford.”
After finishing the 2018 season 9th in the SK Modified® points standings for the second consecutive season, Reen has several reasons to be optimistic that the 2019 season will be his best season to date at Stafford.
“I think we’re going to be even better than we were last year,” said Reen. “2018 was our first year working with Troyer cars after running CD cars for many years, and it was a learning experience with the Troyer. We found out after the season was over when we sent the car out to get a new clip that the car was bent from a wreck we got into early in the season and that’s why we could never get the car to handle like we wanted. Now that we have a year’s worth of notes to look back at, I can say say on this night, I complained about X,Y, and Z and this is what we need to do to fix that this year. I look at it like this, I fought from 2011-2017 for one SK Modified® win and last year the only thing that changed was the chassis and we ended up getting two wins. Racing against guys like Keith Rocco, who had 6 wins, and Ronnie Williams and Mike Christopher, Jr. who each had 4 wins, for us to get two wins against competition like that was pretty impressive. Last year we missed two races and with two other near last place finishes, it was like missing four races and we still ended the season 9th in points. We’re 10 times ahead of where we were at this stage last year. I’m chomping at the bit to get started again and I’m very blessed to be with this team. We have a few more things in the works that we’ll be making announcements about.”
The high point of the 2018 season for Reen was winning the Ted Christopher SK 13 Shoot-Out on July 13. The TC 13 Shoot-Out win came at just the right time during the season for Reen and the #17 team. Reen was trying to dig out of an early season hole after several finishes outside the top-20 and Reen credits his car owner Avery for the turn around.
“The Shoot-Out win was huge for us,” said Reen. “I had been trying extra hard early in the season to get a win for Dan after he bought a new chassis for me, which ended up getting me in trouble. Finally Dan sat me down one night and he told me to just finish all the laps and don’t worry about winning. Once he told me that and I settled down a bit, things worked out for us that night. I saw Dan get wrecked in the 40-lap race leading into the Shoot-Out and a feeling came over me that I had to win that race for Dan. The funny part was that I used the car up in the 40-lap race to get up to 7th place to get qualified for the Shoot Out. I told the guys on the radio that there was nothing left in the car and that we weren’t going to win but we didn’t give up and I don’t know if it was the tires cooling down or what, but the car was a rocketship in that race. We went from 7th to 2nd in the first 2 laps and then we followed Chase [Dowling] around for a few laps before we took the lead. Being able to give Dan that TC 13 trophy and to see the look on his face was priceless because I know how bad he wanted to win that race.”
George Bessette, Jr. Ready to Defend Stafford Street Stock Title
In just two short seasons, George Bessette, Jr. has gone from Wild Thing Kart graduate and Stafford rookie to Street Stock champion. The Danbury, CT native claimed the Street Stock championship at Stafford with a dominant season that saw the then 15-year old finish outside the top-8 only twice as he scored a division leading 5 wins. Bessette will return to the Street Stock division to defend his title while also keeping one eye looking towards the SK Light division with plans to move to open wheel competition full-time in 2020.
“We’re going to do another year in the Street Stock and defend our championship,” said Besstte. “During the year we’ll take our SK Light car out for practice at Waterford and we’re planning on running both the Street Stock and SK Light at the Fall Final. Maybe if I feel comfortable enough in the SK Light, we’ll race the Street Stock on Friday night and then take the SK Light down to Waterford on Saturday and see what happens.”
In addition to the Street Stock championship, Bessette will also have his eyes on the Royal Screw Machine Products Street Stock Triple Crown, which will pay a total of $4,500 to the top-10 drivers and $1,000 to the winner. Each of the RSMPCO.com Triple Crown events will be 30-laps in distance and Bessette won the only 30-lap race on the schedule last season for the Street Stock division.
“I see there’s some pretty big money on the line for the Street Stock Triple Crown,” said Bessette. “It’s a pretty cool deal to be a part of and our goal is to finish in the top-3 every week and we’ll try extra hard to be in the top-3 for those triple crown events. We have some pretty good experience from last year with a 30-lap race and we just have to be patient and hopefully things will fall into place for us like they did last year. We know the car is pretty good for 30-lap events. I think these races are going to make everyone drive a little harder than usual and it’ll be pretty interesting for the fans to watch. It’s great to have sponsors like Royal Screw Machine Products putting up a bonus like this for one of the lower divisions in the weekly program at Stafford. I have to give them a big thank you for doing this program for the Street Stock division.”
Bessette is seeking to become the 4th different DARE/Street Stock driver to win back to back track titles and the 22nd different driver to win back to back track championships at Stafford since becoming a NASCAR short track in 1959. Bessette will also be looking to continue a trend in the Street Stock division. Aside from Norm Sears winning three DARE Stock titles in a row from 2006-2008, Bessette would be the third consecutive driver to win back to back titles in the DARE/Street Stock division, following Frank L’Etoile, Jr. in 2014-2015 and Johnny Walker in 2016-2017.
“We’ll going to give it our best effort to defend the championship,” said Bessette. “It would be pretty cool to be in the record books as a back to back champion. Technically were the first Street Stock champion and to go back at it and be able to do it again, it would be pretty awesome. There’s going to be a lot of drivers looking to beat us and we just have to do the same things that we did this past season. It won’t be easy for sure. There’s some new guys coming in who will be quick and we’ll have to give it 110% every week. It would be a storybook ending for us if we could go back to back. I won’t be disappointed if we don’t win the championship again, I would just say that we got beat. We have some great support from Lasco Roofing and Sheet Metal, Lee Seward Plumbing & Heating, Bagelman, Goodhill Mechanical, the Joie of Seating, Fine Line Building, F & M Electric, Northeast Carpet, and everyone who helps out on the car, and it would be great to win another championship for all of them. I’m so fortunate to have all these people helping me out. I’m only 16 and it’s like having extra fathers and uncles.”
As the defending champion of the Street Stock division, Bessette knows his #39 Chevrolet carries a bull’s-eye on the back bumper as he will be the car that everyone in the division is looking to dethrone. If Bessette can continue his high level of consistency with his finishes, he shouldn’t have too much to worry about. In the 38 Street Stock races held from 2017-2018, Bessette has finished in the top-5 17 times for a 68% ratio and he has 34 top-10 finishes for an 89% ratio to go along with 6 wins.
“I think the biggest challenge for us will be the fact that everyone wants to beat the kid and take us down since we won the championship last year,” said Bessette. “We’re not going to back down, we’re going to be racing just as hard for the championship as we were last year. I think the key is to stay smooth and consistent coming up through the field. With the handicapping we usually start around 10th every week so it’s a matter of keeping a cool head. Some times I’ll catch myself doing something wrong and I’ll say to myself just relax and calm down, there’s still a long way to go. Like my father always says to me, just take your time and you’ll wear them out. I’m going to take whatever the car will give me. If we have a second place car, then I’m going to finish second. If we have a winning car, then I’ll try to win the race.”