RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit; Second Week Of April

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty five years ago in 1954 the New London Waterford Speedbowl on the shoreline of Connecticut opened for their fourth season on Easter Sunday afternoon with a 25 lap Sportsman feature which was won by Joe McNulty. Charlie Schreiber was the non-Ford winner.

Sixty years ago in 1959, Johnny Sandberg won the season opening 25 lap Sportsman feature at the New London Waterford Speedbowl. Benny Desrosier was the non-Ford winner and Ed Priest was first in the Bombers.

Fifty five years ago in 1964 Dick Watson was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Fifty years ago in 1969 the scheduled season Saturday night opener at the Norwood Arena was rained out. The skies cleared the following day as Fred DeSarro took the win at the Thompson Speedway. At the Waterford Speedbowl Charlie Webster took the Modified win and Bill Sweet won his first of four in a row at the shoreline oval. In Grandnational (Cup) racing at the North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina, Bobby Allison took the win.

Forty five years ago in 1974 there was plenty of action both in the north and the south. Three nights of Modified racing in North Carolina saw Richie Evans score a victory at Metrolina on Friday night over Harry Gant, Jerry Cook and Paul Radford. Radford turned the tables on Saturday night at Hickory as he won a 100 lapper over Gant, John Bryant, Cook and Evans. Action shifted to Ashboro on Sunday where Gant was the top gun over Radford, Cook and Evans. In New England, Thompson began their open competition small block modified series and it was Fred DeSarro taking the win over Daring Dick Caso, Deke Astle, Kenny Bouchard and Charlie Savage. Dick Watson was the Modified winner at Waterford. Ron Cote made it two in a row in Grand American action.

Forty years ago in 1979, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford was rained out.

Thirty five years ago in 1984 it rained again, washing the Sizzler out.

Thirty Years ago in 1989 the cycle of rainy weekends continued.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, the rain cycle was finally broken. Riverside Park just beat the rain as Dan Avery took the checkered flag on Saturday night. Brian Miller finished second and was followed by Stan Gregger and Chris Kopec. Loudon scheduled a double header for the Modifieds and Busch North Series. Qualifying for both divisions was rained out but it cleared on Sunday. Reggie Ruggiero blasted by a trapped Rick Fuller on the last lap and won the modified portion. Fuller finished second and was followed by Jan Leaty, Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko. Kelly Moore was the BGNN winner over Mike Stefanik, Stub Fadden and Tom Bolles. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Terry Labonte took the win over Rusty Wallace. Jim Spencer was penalized ten laps for spinning out Ken Schrader.

Twenty years ago, in 1999, Rick Miller made it four in a row at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Rob Summers finished second and was followed by Dave Berube and Ted Christopher. On Sunday, Riverside ran their rained out Modified Tour Series event against Waterford’s opener. Ed Flemke Jr. took advantage of Reggie Ruggerio’s worn tires and took the lead on lap 182 and went on to take the win. Bob Polverari finished second with Tom Cravenho, third. Despite fading, Ruggiero was able to finish fourth. Ted Christopher finished tenth and made a fast trip to Waterford. Christopher started ninth and took the lead from Todd Ceravolo just before the half way mark. Christopher, who lost a power steering belt in the second half, was able to maintain enough of a lead to take the win. Ceravolo finished second and was followed by Bert Marvin, Ed Dachenhausen and Jerry Pearl. It was a big weekend for the Petty family at Martinsville as Jimmy Hensley won the Craftsman Truck event on Saturday and John Andretti won the Winston Cup event on Sunday.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, the Thompson Speedway opened the 2004 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series on Sunday. The event drew 9000 fans. The outcome was a shocker. Defending series champion Todd Szegedy was the fastest time trialer and the apparent winner until a post race inspection revealed an illegal rear end gear ratio. Szegedy was disqualified and placed last in the final rundown. Ted Christopher, who crossed the finish line behind Szegedy was awarded the win. This was the third time in the history of the Tour series that began in 1985 that a winner has been disqualified. The 150 lap IceBreaker was one of the most competitive ever seen. With 47 Modifieds on hand for time trials it was difficult just to qualify as 21 cars were in the 18-second bracket. Todd Szegedy was the fastest with Tony Hirschman, second fastest. Szegedy, who had pitted on lap 71, charged his way to the front and took the lead from Jerry Marquis on lap 125. Running second, Marquis found himself in the wall on lap 126 after contact by a spinning Ed Flemke Jr. Flemke had been hit by Chuck Hossfeld. Flemke recovered, losing only one spot. Ted Christopher, who also pitted on lap 71, conserved his tires and was able to move into the second spot with two to go. Flemke got by Hossfeld on the final lap to cross the finish line behind Christopher. Zach Sylvester, who crossed the finish line in fifth spot, was moved up to fourth. Tony Hirschman was moved up to fifth. There were ten cautions for 52 laps. Eric Berndt and Ted Christopher shared victory lane in the Sunoco Modifieds as they each won separate twin 25 lap features. Twin features were also run for the Late Models with Corey Hutchings and Rick Gentes taking wins. Other weekend winners at Thompson were Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman and Andy Publicover in the Mini-Stocks.

Dennis Gada returned to his winning ways Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl. Eddie Reed Jr, Tom Fox, Ted Christopher and Dennis Cherette rounded out the top five. Allen Coates was the Late Model winner with Dave Zemke taking the top spot in the Sportsman division. Tim Jordan was the Mini Stock winner and Justin Dougherty won the Legends feature.

In Nextel Cup action at the Martinsville Speedway in Virginia, Jeff Gordon was the Busch Pole sitter with Jamie McMurray on the outside. Rusty Wallace ended a long dry spell as he held off Bobby Labonte for the win.

NASCAR announced that Jim Hunter, former Vice President of Corporate Communications had been given the new title as Vice President of Corporate Communications / Regional Touring/NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series. Hunter would work with Don Hawk who had been hired as Director of Regional Racing Development. Chris Boals the Director of Regional Touring/NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series would remain in his present position. NASCAR Chairman/CEO Brian France said, “This revamped approach illustrates our commitment to grassroots racing which is the bedrock in our sports foundation”. The American Speed Association, which has been primarily in the mid-west, had recently hired former NASCAR executives Dennis Huth and Tom Deery. The ASA had begun branching out and had taken the southern-based Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour (SMART) under their wing and was making an attempt to move into the northeast. NASCAR also announced that Brett Bodine had joined the sanctioning body’s Research and Development team as a Special Project Engineer at the R & D center in Concord, North Carolina. Bodine holds a degree as a Mechanical Engineer from the State University of New York. Bodine evidently had retired as a competitor on the Nextel Cup circuit. He is also a former Modified competitor in the Northeast. Before moving south Bodine raced at Stafford and Thompson. It was at Stafford in 1984 that he finished second to Brian Ross in the track’s final point standings. Bodine is also a former Race of Champions winner.

NASCAR also announced that the local track point funds for weekly racing series tracks had increased to $3,500 which would be paid out to the top ten at seasons end. In 2003, $2,000 was distributed to the top five.

Mike Joy, FOX anchorman for Nextel Cup and Busch Series telecasts spent some time in Washington, DC speaking to Senators and Representatives about a bill that was making its way through congress that could severely restrict speedway owners ability to improve their facilities. The IRS allowed motorsports facilities to fully depreciate capital improvements over a seven-year span. The IRS then wanted these improvements to be amortized as real estate improvements, stretching the recapture period to 30 years. Bill HR-2900, The Motorsports Facilities Fairness Act would preserve the seven-year benefit. All speedway owners and operators were urged to contact their congressmen to support this bill.

Ten years ago in 2009, , The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was on a two week break before heading to Stafford Springs Connecticut for the annual Spring Sizzler.

Congratulations to the Arute family as the Stafford Motor Speedway was recently inducted into the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame. Stafford joined Connecticut Economic Resource Center, Alcoa Howmet, Gloria McAdam, president & CEO, Foodshare, and Jim Barnes, president & CEO, OAKLEAF Waste & Recycling in the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame Class of 2008 at a ceremony held on April 3, 2009. Stafford Motor Speedway was presented with an Official Citation from the General Assembly as well as an Official Statement from Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell, an Official Citation from Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, a congratulatory letter from Connecticut Congressman Joe Courtney, and a Public Service Award from Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz. . The 2009 season would mark the 40th consecutive year that the track has operated under Arute family ownership.

While it was quiet in the Northeast the Whelen Southern Modified Tour had two events scheduled. The first, at the Ace Speedway in North Carolina was rained out after practice. Ron Silk topped the speed charts in practice at Ace Speedway, but rains right before qualifying have put everything on hold. Ronnie Silk in the No. 79 Hill Enterprises/Coors Light/Sunoco Pontiac put up a fast lap of 14.472 seconds (99.502 mph) around the .400-mile oval. Teenager Erick Rudolph who drove the No. 59 Ed Bennett Properties, Inc. Chevrolet, was second at 14.606 (98.590), just ahead of defending race winner L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities Pontiac) at 14.660 (98.226). Ted Christopher and Burt Myers rounded out the top five in practice.

On the Saturday night the Southern Modified Tour was at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. Ted Christopher and car owner Joe Brady made their trip south a worth while effort. Christopher didn’t think he had enough car left at the end but he was able to hold off a hard-charging Andy Seuss Saturday in the Caraway Speedway 150 to get his second win of the year in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Christopher’s No. 00 Sherm’s Towing – Brady Bunch Chevrolet was able to pass leader George Brunnhoelzl III on lap 106 after Brunnhoelzl spun his tires on the restart after a caution enabling Christopher to get out front in the lead. Christopher was able to keep Seuss’ No. 47 Advance AutoParts/Q Racing Oil/Stuart Automotive Dodge behind him to remain perfect at 3-for-3 in Modified Tour races in 2009. The Plainville, Conn., driver won the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour opener at Concord (N.C.) Speedway March 21, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway last week.

Defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Brian Loftin following in third at Caraway, with Ron Silk and Frank Fleming completing the top five. Brunnhoelzl was racing Christopher for the lead when he spun coming out of Turn 2 on lap 136 to bring out the sixth and final caution flag of the race. Brunnhoelzl finished 11th but retained his points lead by six over Burt Myers. Brunnhoelzl won his second consecutive Coors Light Pole Award during qualifying and started second after the post-qualifying redraw.

For his efforts, Christopher received $2,000. Sixteen of the original 25 starters completed the 150 lap distance.

For the past few years NASCAR held their awards banquets for the Whelen Modified Tour Series and the Camping World East (formerly Busch North Series) at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, CT. Word came that competitors and fans would be forced to travel to the Charlotte, NC area as NASCAR announced that they would host a special week of activities culminating in the 2009 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series (NWAAS) Awards Banquet on Friday, November 13, and the new NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Saturday, November 14. The Whelen All American Series Banquet was previously held in Las Vegas. The NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Gala would feature the champions and top drivers from all of NASCAR’s North American regional touring series including invitees from the NASCAR Camping World Series East, the NASCAR Camping World Series West, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series. Because of the fact that all the touring division’s banquets would be grouped together it would be more like the town dump of banquets. It’s just another lame move by NASCAR to save them some money and increase the costs of the fan and competitor.

For the third week in a row, racing was rained out at the Waterford Speedbowl.

Connecticut native Joey Logano who had been a big disappointment on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit, won his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, holding off Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch in the Pepsi 300 on Saturday at the Nashville Superspeedway. The 18-year-old Logano and Busch ran in the top two and traded the lead for most of the race, with Logano leading the final 10 laps and finishing 0.487 seconds in front. Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kelly Bires and series leader Carl Edwards who rounded out the top five.

Despite the fact that the track promoted pre-race access to the garage, front stretch and driver’s meeting, the crowd was thin. The promotion also aggravated many of the competitors as fans brought diecast models by the suitcase for them to sign.

The Associated Press reported that Jurors began deliberating on Friday, April 10, on tax evasion charges against race car driver Helio Castroneves and two advisers after prosecutors said in closing arguments that the driver enjoyed ample wealth but defrauded the government to get more. Prosecutors allege that Castroneves and the others tried to conceal his control of a Panamanian shell company, called Seven Promotions, and lied to tax lawyers and accountants about his true income. They say documents and witnesses back up claims that Castroneves knowingly dodged millions in U.S. taxes over a five-year period.

Five years ago in 2014, The Thompson Speedway IceBreaker also marked the beginning of an era of live TV broadcasting of events by FansChoice.tv which is a ground-breaking collaborative digital platform from AMA Pro Racing, IMSA and NASCAR that will have live stream various races not covered by broadcast television, giving fans new opportunities to follow their favorite series. It also enhances fans’ viewing experience at the track with the ability to watch multiple cameras on their tablet or mobile device, and access archived broadcasts on demand. Thompson had one manned camera on the race control roof following the action and included audio from Victory Lane Radio.

Twenty seven NASCAR Tour Modifieds were on hand at Thompson for the season opener. The Modified Tour crews and their cars christened the all new garage which has been built over the weekend. Woody Pitkat looked extremely stout in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet entry during early practice. Among the early casualties was Tommie Barrett who lost control of his Robert Our mount and hit the wall hard between turns one and two. Other excitement included the East Thompson Fire Truck getting stuck in the mud in the turn one area.

Woody Pitkat, from Stafford, Conn., posted a fast lap of 18.724 seconds (120.167 mph) to take the Icebreaker pole in his first race with the Buzz Chew Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet team. It was also the first pole position for the Long Island based car owner. Justin Bonsignore posted a fast lap of 18.796 (119.706) to earn a front row starting position alongside Pitkat. Both Pitkat’s and Bonsignore’s race cars are powered by the NASCAR-approved spec engine.

The IceBreaker ended up being a slugfest between two Long Island based cars. Justin Bonsignore took his fourth career victory and his second at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Bonsignore took the lead from Woody Pitkat for the second and final time at lap 142. Don Lia, a Long Islander who drives a Connecticut based car, the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino was also in the mix as he was leading until he found himself in the wall after being run up the track by Pitkat on lap 123. Pitkat led the early laps of the race, but lost the lead to Bonsignore on a lap 18 restart. On lap 21, Pitkat challenged Bonsignore for the lead and went high in turn one only to lose the lead to Rowan Pennink in turn four. Pennink, Pitkat and Bonsignore settled in line nose-to-tail for several laps, but Pennink and Pitkat broke away by a commanding ten-car length advantage.

After a long green flag run, the caution flew and tightened up the field. A few cars opted to pit, but Pennink, Pitkat and Bonsignore were among the majority that stayed out. Pennink wasted no time in jumping right back out to the lead on the restart, but he would have to do it all over again after a car spun on the front stretch at lap 63. Pennink jumped to the front again, but Pitkat was on his bumper and applying the pressure. On lap 79, Pitkat got a run on Pennink and was able to take over the lead. Pitkat put two-car lengths breathing room over him and the duo pulled ahead to a commanding two-second lead over Timmy Solomito, Bonsignore, and Ron Yuhas. On lap 96, Pennink’s day took a turn for the worse when he hard in turn three and his No. 93 suffered heavy damage.

A majority of the field pitted after the conclusion of the red flag. Donny Lia inherited the lead followed by Matt Hirschman and Keith Rocco. Green flag racing resumed at lap 105 with Lia leading the way. Coming up quick, however, was Pitkat and Bonsignore now fifth and sixth respectively. Bonsignore muscled his way by Pitkat en route to the third position and challenged for second by lap 114. Bonsignore was still on the move and about to make a run on Lia for the lead when the caution came out and relegated him back to third. Lia drove to the lead on the lap 118 restart as Pitkat got by Bonsignore for third. Pitkat and Bonsignore both got by Hirschman to take over second and third. Coming around on lap 123, Pitkat drove to the inside lane in a challenge on Lia for the lead, riding Lia high into the turn two wall.

In the end Bonsignore pulled out to a ten-car length advantage over Pitkat and soared to the checkered flag unchallenged. Doug Coby finished third with Timmy Solomito and Eric Goodale, both Long Islanders, rounding out the top five. Ron Yuhas had an extremely strong run as he came home in sixth. Ron Silk, Ted Christopher, Ryan Preece and Jim Zacharias rounded out the top ten.

Some of the potential front runners had their problems which kept them out of a top spot. Bobby Santos finished a distant 18th after losing laps while repairs were made to a leaking oil line. Keith Rocco dropped out after 135 laps when his steering malfunctioned. He finished 20th. Lia was credited with 21st and Pennink, 22nd, aster their wrecks.Tommy Barrett finished 23rd after being forced out after 100 laps with a defective ignition. Also a dnf was Mike Stefanik who finished 24th after losing oil pressure.

In other Sunday action at Thompson, Keith Rocco scored two NASCAR Whelen All American Series wins in one day in both the Sunoco Modified and Late Model divisions. Shawn Monahan of earned his second in as many days in the Xtra Mart Limited Sportsman division while Steve Dickey, Jr. checkered the Monster Mini Stocks. Mike O’Sullivan won the Granite State Pro Stock Series 50-lap affair and Vintage Outlaw checkers flew for Joe Baxter.

When Keith Rocco scored his two wins at Thompson plus one at Waterford it made for three victories for the weekend. Coupled with Ed Puleo’s win at Waterford and Shawn Monihan”s two wins at Thompson. sponsor Mr Rooter had six wins to his credit.

The No. 1 car was found to be in violation of the ACT Late Model Crate Engine package (flywheel and external balancing). Keith Rocco, driver, of the No. 1 car, was disqualified from his finishing position and received no purse money.

Among the missing at Thompson was 2013 Whelen Modified Tour Series Rookie of the Year Cole Powell. Powell announced on his team’s website that the decision to skip the event was made so that he could be with his family while his Aunt Kathy battles Glioblastoma, the most aggressive and hardest to fight brain cancer that one can get. Ed Flemke Jr has indicated that his driving career could be over and at 58 years of age he is making a smart decision. He will continue to be seen at the tracks in a support and advisory position to customers of his Race Works Chassis fabrication business.

Numerous changes and moves had taken place for the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. Leading the changes are three past champions that are now with different teams than when we last saw them in last year’s Thompson World Series. The headlining transaction saw 2012 champ Doug Coby move to the No. 2 of Mike Smeriglio III Racing while 2008 series champion Ted Christopher has combined his own resources with those of Berkley Racing to return the No. 13 to the tour. Seven-time champ Mike Stefanik has reunited with car owner Ed Marceau and will pilot a Chevrolet numbered 1 on a part-time basis.

In other moves, Matt Hirschman returned to the tour for the first time since 2011 to replace Coby in the Darling Racing No. 52, and rookie Tommy Barrett Jr. replaced Stefanik in the Our Racing No. 22. Bryon Chew also stepped out of his family’s No. 88 and tabbed Woody Pitkat to fill the seat for the coming season. Consequently, the Hillbilly Racing No. 79 that Pitkat left will have rookie Spencer Davis behind the wheel for a part-time northern slate while competing full-time with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

At least two new teams were set to join the tour, one for the first time in 2014. Keith Rocco, the 2012 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, plans to run all eight Connecticut races for car owner John Rufano in the No. 48 while Melissa Fifield will contend for top rookie honors this year in her family’s No. 01.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour visited the South Boston, VA Speedway last Saturday with 17 cars. Andy Seuss, who started second on the grid, took the lead from pole sitter Danny Bohn, who won his second career Coors Light Pole Award earlier in the day, in the opening laps and made it look easy from there. Seuss had to survive five restarts, but was able to handle challenges from Bohn, JR Bertuccio and Kyle Ebersole in short order.

Four-time and defending Southern Modified Tour champion George Brunnhoelzl III charged to the front and finished second after starting from the rear of the field. He qualified seventh, but had to drop to the rear prior to the initial green flag due to an unapproved adjustment to the car following qualifying. Bohn crossed the line in third for his first top-five finish of the season followed by Luke Fleming in fourth and JR Bertuccio in fifth. Brothers Burt and Jason Myers, Gary Putnam, rookie Joe Ryan Osborne and Ebersole completed the top 10.

After suffering a rain-out on their scheduled opener on the last weekend in March the Waterford Speedbowl season began this past Saturday, April 5th when the track hosted its opening Saturday night NASCAR Whelen All-American Series event. Chilly weather greeted fans in attendance for the opener on Saturday night but the action on the track was hot as a first-time winner in the SK Modified® ranks delighted the fans. Ed Puleo held off all challengers including a late rally by defending division champion Keith Rocco. Puleo made it two wins on the night by also picking up the Street Stock victory. Rocco would not be outdone in the Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, scoring the win. Another first-timer found the winner’s circle in the Mini Stocks as Doug Curry took the victory. Jon Porter and Zach Thomas won the night’s Super X-Car and X-Car divisions respectively, and defending Legend Cars champion Dylan Izzo checkered that division’s opening race of the year.

Puleo put together a strong performance in taking the 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified® feature. Earlier in the night he won his heat race and began the event in the pole starting position. He lost the lead to Craig Lutz early on, however reclaimed the spot following a lap-7 caution flag. Puleo had to withstand multiple challenges from Lutz over the next 25 laps as well as a late race charge by Rocco over the final two circuits. Rocco’s inside bid coming to the white flag was not enough and Puleo powered ahead over the last lap to claim the win, his first in the division. Rocco came back from a spin on lap-2 to claim second with Lutz finishing third. Ryan Preece ran a strong race to end up fourth after starting deep in the field while hometown driver Rob Janovic Jr. finished fifth.

Rocco picked up where he left off in the Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division one year ago. The defending division champion checkered the 30-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature after starting the race in the 11th position, using the race’s only caution flag on lap-21 to catch leader Vin Esposito.

Work continued on the restoration of the grandstands. Speedway owner Terry Eames stated ” We opened with about 40% of the total seating area available. We will continue opening sections throughout April. We plan on having everything open by May 3rd”.

The upcoming opener of the Tri-Track Modified Series at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire continued to gather momentum for the May 11 event. To date 40 race teams have verbally committed their participation in the event which would pay $5,000 to win plus lap money and B-Main money.

On a sad note, Mrs Lynda Petty, wife of Richard Petty, passed away on March 14 after a long battle with cancer.

In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing at the Texas Motor Speedway, Chase Elliott, the 18-year-old son of 1988 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bill Elliott, captured his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory Friday night during the O’Reilly Auto Parts 300 in only his sixth series start.

In Sprint Cup racing in Texas, Joey Logano passed Jeff Gordon on the last lap after a green-white-checkered restart to score his first victory of the 2014 season during the rain delayed NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Duck Commander 500 which was run on Monday afternoon.

Last year, 2018, The 2018 season of racing at Thompson, the 78th, kicked off Friday, April 6, with a blanket of snow. On SaturdayApril 7, the temperatures rose into the 40’s and the snow disappeared. With the exception of the Whelen Modified Tour Series who would qualify on Sunday qualifying for all divisions was completed.

Third generation racer Bryan Narducci carried over his winning ways from 2017 to record a run-away win in the SK Lite Modifieds. Rowan Pennink, in his first competition since back surgery in January, scored the victory in the 50 lap Valenti Modified Racing Series 50 lapper. It was Pennink’s 12th VMRS win. Starting fourth in the 26 car starting field, Pennink quickly moved into second spot by lap three and took over the lead from Richard Savory following a restart on lap 20. Pennink led the remaining laps as Savory faded to 11th at the finish. Chase Dowling applied some late race pressure but couldn’t muster the necessary steam to take the top spot as he settled for the runner-up spot at the finish. Anthony Nocella finished third with Woody Pitkat and Sam Rameau rounding out the top five. Keith Rocco was strong at the start as he was running third in the early going before dropping out with mechanical problems, ending his day in 25th spot. Eric Goodale, making his maiden run in the Ceravolo family car was solidly in the top ten when he dropped out with mechanical problems with seven laps to go, giving him a 22nd finish. Third generation racer Jacob Perry tested the waters with somewhat fair results as he finished 20th.

Despite temperatures in the low 40’s an almost full house crowd was on hand for Sunday’s racing.

In Sunoco SK type Modified racing the fastest car doesn’t always win. Case in point, Ryan Preece had the fastest Sunoco SK in the 30 lapper part of the IceBreaker. Preece had spent most of Saturday in Texas at an Xfinity Series event where he finished fifth. After an over-night flight to Thompson he started 18th and appeared to have the car to beat until losing two laps because of a flat left rear tire. Preece ended up 19th. Keith Rocco took the lead from Todd Owen on lap 18 and led the remaining laps to score the victory. The win took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 252 wins.

Troy Talman, Kyle James and Joey Gada rounded out the top five.

Thirty six Whelen Modifieds were on hand for the IceBreaker 150. It was a tale of mis-fortune for Jon McKennedy and a tale of some good luck for Justin Bonsignore. McKennedy was well on his way to making it two in a row in Whelen Modified Tour competition when he ran out of fuel while leading with only three laps to go. McKennedy lost laps getting restarted while Bonsignore led the restart. After banging wheels with Ronnie Williams Bonsignore went on to take the win as Williams sat planted in the wall. The race finished under caution with Bonsignore taking the win. Craig Lutz finished second with Rowan Pennink, third. Rounding out the top five was Ryan Preece and Matt Swanson. Sixth thru tenth were Doug Coby, Rob Summers, Chase Dowling, Bobby Santos and Timmy Solomito.

There were 11 cautions for 56 laps. The race started off with a bang when Justin Bonsignore entered turn three a little too hot and triggered a wreck that parked Max Zachem with severe front end damage. The most spectacular wreck occurred on lap 134 when Jimmy Blewett, Andy Seuss and Eric Goodale wrecked. When the dust cleared, Blewett was on his roof and done for the day. Leader mistakes made for a competitive and unpredictable 150-lap feature. Early leader Doug Coby’s undoing was the result of an early race pit that put him near the back of the field and in the path of the accident that spoiled his day. Chase Dowling also led in the mid portion in the event, but was penalized for jumping a restart while Jon McKennedy, who was leading with two laps to go, ran out of fuel and sacrificed the lead after a strong race. The one driver who had good luck in the race was Justin Bonsignore who came back from an incident on the first lap of the race to battle for the lead and benefited from the mistakes of his competition to claim his sixth win at Thompson and his 13th win overall in the series after going winless in 2017.

Other winners at the IceBreaker were Derek Griffith in the PASS event, Shawn Monahan in the Limited Sportsman, William Wall in the Late Models and Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks.

The Stafford Motor Speedway management has been beating the bushes gaining huge support for their weekly divisions. Cassagrande Builders are the latest to sign on for contingency payouts which bring the weekly purse to a record $9,460 which includes $1,900 to win in the SK Modifieds. Following suit is the management of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl who have secured sponsorship for every feature event of the up-coming Blast Off.

In the SK Modifieds, Brody”s Seafood will award $50 to the winner. In addition there will be a $25 PitStewardMatch and $25 for the 13th place finisher. Former Speedbowl Modified Champion Bob Potter will present $50 to the Sk Light winner. There will also be a Pit Steward Match of $25 and a $25 hard charger award. In the Late Models, Olsen Sanitation will present $50 to the winner, a $25 Pit Steward Match and $25 for 3rd place finisher.

Similar monitory awards will be presented to Sportsman competitors, Mini Stock competitors, Legends, Bandoleros, Trucks, Super X and X-Car competitors.

Tony Stewart and the parents of the late Kevin Ward Jr. came to an agreement to settle the wrongful-death lawsuit against Stewart. ESPN reported that U.S. District Court Judge David Hurd scheduled a settlement hearing for April 12 in Utica, N.Y., to put the terms of the settlement on public record.

The settlement would bring to an end the civil lawsuit filed roughly a year after Ward’s death on Aug. 9, 2014 when he was struck by a sprint car Stewart was driving during an Empire Super Sprints event at Canandaigua (N.Y.) Motorsports Park.

A trial regarding the wrongful-death lawsuit was scheduled to begin on May 7. This settlement will keep both sides from having to testify and watch video of the incident, which saw contact between the two on the track that resulted in Ward’s car crashing out of the race.

Ward returned to the track to show his displeasure with Stewart and moments later Stewart’s car struck Ward. A grand jury later cleared Stewart of any criminal charges in Ward’s death. An autopsy revealed that Ward was under the influence of drugs when the incident occurred.

Kyle Busch was the Monster Energy Cup winner in Texas. Ryan Blaney was the Xfinity Series winner. Ryan Preece started 13th and finished fifth.