RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Modifieds, Modifieds & More Modifieds…

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night, the 2nd Annual Twisted Tea Open Modified 80 with tour style modifieds took center stage for an 80-lap race around the Connecticut half-mile. NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Ryan Preece took the checkered flag by driving through the field after being the last of the lead cars to pit for fresh tires during the 80-lap race.

With 47 laps complete, Preece came to pit road under the caution to change his 2 tires and rejoined the race at the rear of the field in 15th place for the restart with 33 laps to go.

Tommy Barrett was the new leader back under green with Todd Owen and Matt Galko side by side for second. Galko cleared Owen on lap-49 to move into second and now Keith Rocco was on the outside of Owen in a fight for third. Ron Williams was lined up behind Owen in fifth. Following a restart on lap 70, Preece powered his way into to the lead on the outside of Galko on the restart with Williams taking second and dropping Galko back to third. Dowling was fourth with Goodale up to fifth. The caution came back out with 73 laps complete for Dylan Kopec, who had a quick spin in the middle of turns 3+4. The restart saw Preece pull out to the lead with Dowling looking to get by Williams on the outside but Williams spun to bring the yellow back out before a lap could be completed. Preece again powered into the lead on the restart with Galko coming back up to second. The field completed one lap before the caution came back out for a spin by Anthony Flannery at the end of the backstretch, setting up a 6-lap dash to the finish.

Preece took the lead with Eric Goodale coming up to second on the restart. Galko was third with Bryan Narducci all over the back bumper of Chase Dowling in a fight for fourth place. Narducci took fourth on lap-77 while Preece was slowly pulling away from Goodale and Galko.

Preece led Goodale to the checkered flag to win the Twisted Tea Open 80. Galko finished third with Narducci and Dowling rounding out the top 5. Sixth thru tenth included Max Zachem, Andrew Molleur, Ronnie Williams, Keith Rocco and Dave Etheridge.

In regular Friday night action at Stafford, scoring feature wins were Todd Owen in the SK Modified® feature, Tom Fearn in the Late Model feature, Mark Bakaj in the SK Light feature, Matt Clement in the Limited Late Model feature, and Zack Robinson in the Street Stock feature.

Following Owen in the SK feature were Michael Christopher, Jr., Keith Rocco, Michael Gervais, Jr and Matt Galko. In the SK Lite feature Bryan Narducci took the lead after a bump and run incident with Steven Chapman. As the field took the white flag, Chapman held the lead with Narducci, Mark Bakaj, and Teddy Hodgdon lined up behind him. Going into turn 3, Narducci got into the back of Chapman, sending him up the track and allowing Narducci and Bakaj to get by. Narducci took the checkered flag first but NASCAR Officials penalized Narducci for overaggressive driving, making Bakaj the winner. Hodgdon finished second, with Chapman, Alexander Pearl, and Mikey Flynn rounding out the top-5. Narducci was penalized to the last car on the lead lap, placing him 22nd in the final rundown.

In Valenri Modified Racing Series at the Claremont Motorsports Park, Claremont, NH.Mike Willis Jr notched his first Series victory. Willis previously won at Claremont in a Tri-Track Series event. Willis started on the pole in the Spirit of Alaska/Maurice Enterprise/Legacy Landscaping # 83 thanks to winning his heat race and led the opening seven laps when Kirk Alexander took the lead briefly. . Claremont’s Jeff Murray, making his first start this season, took command on lap-10 and led for 70-laps when Willis slipped by on the outside and pulled away from the field. Willis was followed by a persistent Woody Pitkat, who finished second followed by Matt Swanson, Brian Robie finished fourth, with Kirk Alexander, fifth.

Eleven starters took the green as the field was adversely affected by the Open Modified race at Stafford.

Thompson Speedway Motorsports Parks hosted its second of three afternoons of racing scheduled for the month of June as the American Canadian Tour, or ACT, highlighted an evening of on-track action at the nation’s oldest paved oval racetrack. Four of Thompson’s track divisions also took center stage throughout the afternoon, but it was the best Late Model drivers in the Northeast who were the stars of the night with the Thompson 75 serving as the first of two ACT events at the Big-T in 2019.

Jimmy Hebert was the 75 lap ACT Late Model winner with Woody Pitkat, second. followed by Bryan Kruczek and Scott Payea. Despite battling hard for the lead most of the race Ryan Kuhn had to settle for a fifth-place finish after his car went away from him in the final laps. Jonathan Bouverette, Ruch Dubeau, Derek Gluchacki, William Wall, and Ryan Morgan rounded out the top ten.

In the Sunoco Modified 30-lap feature. Mike Christopher, Jr. continued the family tradition by claiming his first ever Thompson Speedway win in a wild last lap pass of Troy Talman who had dominated much of the race to that point. The nephew of the late Ted Christopher who won 99 races at Thompson, Mike Christopher, Jr. celebrated his win in a victory lane baring his uncle’s initials dedicating his victory to the racing legend before posing for photos with his father, Ted Christopher’s twin brother Mike. Talman hung on for the runner-up spot and was followed by Todd Owen, Keith Rocco, Ronnie Williams, Woody Pitkat, Kyle James, Adam Gada and Corey Barry.

Bryan Narducci swallowed a bitter pill when he had a win taken away at Stafford on Friday but got redemption at Thompson as he went eight for eight in SK Lite competition at the big T. He arrived at the track with a chip on his shoulder using his loss as motivation to pass Steven Chapman again at Thompson, this time with five laps remaining.

Other wins were recorded in the Limited Sportsman Shawn Monahan and Mini Stocks, Charles Canfield.

Thompson Speedway Motosports Park will close out the month of June with another afternoon of racing on Sunday, June 30. The stars and cars of Thompson’s five track divisions will take to the track once again looking to pick up important championship points as the race for the 2019 track titles continues.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island this past weekend was the $32,650 Islip 300. Defending NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper would hold off a torrid late race challenge of Tom Rogers Jr. to take home the $7,000 victory for he and car owners Wayne & Joette Anderson. It was Soper’s 4th win of 2019 but by far the biggest of his budding career. would lead the early going dictating the pace of the race with John Beatty in his tire tracks. Then during a caution flag slowdown the unthinkable occurred when Preece’s car came to a stop at the turn three exit gate on lap 28 unable to move due to a broken drive shaft. On lap 60 Kyle Soper who started the race 4th made his way by Beatty for second and he’d follow leader Fortin for the next 56 laps before moving out front with an inside pass entering the first turn on lap 117. As the cautions fell after the 100-lap mark teams revealed their tire strategy with several team ducking in for their change tires either 1, 2 or all 3 tires that were allotted for the race. Craig Lutz made his presence known when he made his way to second on lap 126 during a double file restart. Soper and Lutz both graduates of the former go-kart program at the track would run one-two until lap 155 when Lutz changed the running order by taking the lead from Soper.

As the race bore down on the 200 lap marker all but a quartet of the top running cars Lutz, Soper, Rogers and Jon McKennedy had been in for tires and as the race ran a long green flag period the four drivers struggled to keep their cars under them. This allowed Eric Goodale who was one of the teams to pit between the 100-200 lap mark to march his way to second in quick order and by lap 205 Goodale became the new race leader with Soper second. For the four drivers who had yet to pit it looked as though their game plan was going up in smoke when suddenly Lutz would spin off turn two. Unfortunately for Craig his car stalled in the spin and would not re fire right away putting him two laps down. However he along with Soper, Rogers and McKennedy roared into the pits for their much need change tires.

When the race resumed on lap 258 Goodale led Beatty but all eyes were on the drivers who had fresher rubber with all four on the march. Soper moved by Beatty on lap 264 for second and after chasing and catching Goodale over the next 11 laps Kyle would move to the race lead on lap 276. Just one lap later Tom Rogers Jr. worked by Goodale for second and he drive right up to challenge Soper for the rich victory. Some well placed cautions late in the race found Lutz awarded the lucky dog twice putting him back on the lead lap. With the race format having caution laps count up until lap 290 a yellow flag waved just prior to lap 290 and it would set up a dash for the cash between Riverhead rivals Soper and Rogers.

During those final ten laps it was evident Rogers had a better car from the center of the corner off as Soper’s car tightened up but Kyle was wise wise enough to slow his car up in the center of the turns stalling any run to the inside Rogers was attempting to make. The final 10-laps of the race alone were worth the price of admission with Kyle Soper prevailing in his Eastport Feeds Chevy as the large crowd on hand roared with approval. Tom Rogers Jr. finished second with Craig Lutz, Eric Goodale and Jon McKennedy rounding out the top five..

In racing at the Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina Chris Fleming and James Civali each won 50-lap Modified races Saturday night. Fleming won his first race since 2016 after leading for the entire races. He fended off Tim Brown in the first 50-lap Modified race for the win. Burt Myers was third, Jonathan Brown was fourth and Lee Jeffreys was fifth. In the second Modified race, Civali defeated John Smith for the win. Jeffreys was third, Burt Myers was fourth and Jonathan Brown was fifth

The Bullring Bash Quarter Mile Challenge presented by RaceChoice has decided to postpone its Battle at the Banks event at White Mountain Motorsports Park due to inclement weather forecasts for Sunday. Bullring Bash is working with White Mountain Motorsports Park to decide on a suitable make-up date. The next scheduled event is Saturday, August 10 also to be held at White Mountain Motorsports Park, which will now serve as both the inaugural event and season opener for Bullring Bash.

Congratulations to the late Jim “Smiley” Waterman on his induction to the Seekonk Speedway Wall of Fame. Smiley was the lead tech man at Seekonk for many years from the seventies through the early nineties. He worked with D. Anthony Venditti very closely in creating a rules package that was strict, yet affordable, where it would create close competition. When it came down to inspections, his decisions were fair, thorough and honest. He also served as the lead tech man for the NASCAR Modified Tour when it began in 1985. Mickey Gill and Pops Silvia were also inducted.