Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls into Stafford Speedway this Friday, August 2 for the Stafford 150, Ronnie Silk will be looking for a good finish to maintain his championship aspirations as he chases his second career NWMT championship.
Silk, driver of the #85 Stuart’s Automotive Chevrolet, comes into the Stafford 150 trailing Doug Coby by 28 points in the chase for the championship. Silk drove a brand new Troyer TA3 chassis to victory in the most recent NWMT race at New Hampshire.
“This year has been great,” said Silk. “2 wins are nice but beyond that we’ve consistently been a top-5 car putting ourselves in position to win races and we’ve just got to keep on doing the same thing going forward. We feel good coming to Stafford. We had a new Troyer TA3 at New Hampshire and we’ll be bringing that new car with us to Stafford. It’s a good time of the year to roll out a new car and we’re looking forward to the race this Friday night. We finished 3rd at the Sizzler and we had a good car, hopefully we can improve on that. Our plan is to be in the mix and give ourselves a chance to win the race. The new car is one for one so far and we’d like to make it two for two at Stafford.”
Silk is a former SK Modified® regular at Stafford, having scored 4 wins from 2002-2005. Silk has made 47 NWMT starts at Stafford with 15 top-5 and 25 top-10 finishes, but he has only won once at Stafford during his NWMT championship season of 2011.
“I’ve had a lot of good runs at Stafford with top-3’s and top-5’s but over the years Doug [Coby] and Bobby Santos have won most of the Stafford races,” said Silk.
With the pit rules for the Stafford 150 giving teams 3 new tires and one practice tire for the race and only allowing one tire change per pit stop, Silk knows it will take a combination of a fast car and correct pit strategy in order to win the race.
“In order to win at Stafford, first of all you need to have a fast car,” said Silk. “Second, the pit strategy is tough at Stafford with the one tire per stop rule and there’s really no right way to do it because you never know exactly when the cautions are going to fall. Hopefully we can react quickly enough and make the right calls when things happen. You can have the best car but if you don’t get the strategy right then you’re probably not going to win the race. You might see some teams try one or two tires, but I don’t think that will be the way to go. I think whoever wins the race will be taking a minimum of three tires.”
Qualifying up front is always important to have a good starting position for any race, but Silk says with the new pit rules at Stafford, not having a good qualifying effort is not the hindrance it once was.
“Qualifying used to be more important at Stafford before the new pitting procedure,” said Silk. “You knew everyone was going to pit at the same time previously when a caution would come out around halfway and now everyone has to come in multiple times, so track position changes hands back and forth throughout the race. Qualifying well is still good everywhere we go because starting up front can help keep you out of trouble early in the race.”
Silk’s first win of the 2019 season at South Boston was the first NWMT victory for car owner Kevin Stuart. Slik has since added a second win for Stuart at New Hampshire and he would like to keep adding to that win total in the Stafford 150.
“Getting Kevin’s first Tour win was awesome,” said Silk. “Those guys are doing a great job, the cars have been well prepared at every race, and they’re showing their commitment to the series with the money they’re spending. They’re putting in the work and it was very nice to get them some results and hopefully we can get another win at Stafford.”
Eric Goodale Confident That Teamwork Will Bring Success in Stafford 150
Fresh off of a sixth place finish in New Hampshire, Eric Goodale and the #58 GAF Roofing team are looking forward to the Stafford 150 this Friday night, August 2nd. The New Hampshire finish was Goodale’s 7th top-10 finish of the season but he is still looking for his first win. Goodale finished 5th at the NAPA Spring Sizzler® this past April and he ran all three Open 80 events at Stafford, notching a 4th in May and a 2nd in June before a last lap tangle took him out of a top-5 finish in July. Goodale won the NAPA Fall Final in 2017 as well as an Open 80 at Stafford in 2018 and will be leaning on his track experience this season as he looks to score his first Whelen Modified Tour win of 2019.
“Everyone has a lot of laps at Stafford so running those open races is not a big factor but it never hurts to get as many laps under your belt as you can at a track,” said Goodale. “We’ve definitely had good finishes at Stafford this season, we just haven’t been able to win. We’ve had the strategy to win but we’ve been a little off on our adjustments on pit stops. We gave ourselves a shot at the Sizzler this year but we didn’t hit it right on the pit stop and the car was fading towards the end of the race. My crew has given me some great opportunities to win races this season, we’ve just been coming up a little short on the speed end of things. Stafford is one of the tracks where we seem to have more speed than at some other tracks so hopefully we can have some good stops and we can put everything together to put the car into victory lane.”
Pit strategy will once again play a big part in who will be the first car to see the checkered flag in this Friday’s Stafford 150. NWMT teams are only permitted to change one tire per pit stop with each team getting 3 change tires for the race. The pit rules leave the field open to a wide variety of pit strategy options and while Goodale might be worried about making the right call at the right time, he has no worries at all about his pit crew, which is consistently one of the fastest crews on the Tour.
“With the pit rules, there’s going to be a wide variety of pit strategies,” said Goodale. “I’m sure some guys will take 2 tires for track position, some will take 3 tires, and some might even go with just 1 tire. It all depends on how the cautions fall and what lap guys are thinking about pitting for tires. If a caution comes out around lap-60, you might come in for a new right front and then you only have to change 2 tires later on where some guys might take all 3 so you can pick up track position that way. There’s all different kinds of strategies that can pan out. It’s all about making the right calls and having good stops. Pit stops can go bad in a hurry and it’s pretty easy to mess up a stop and that can ruin your day, especially trying to do it three separate times rather than changing 3 tires during one stop. I have confidence in my crew that they’re going to do a great job and put me out in a better position than when I came in.”
Goodale enters the Stafford 150 sitting fifth in the points standings, 78 points behind Doug Coby but only 3 points behind Craig Lutz, who is fourth in the standings. With only 7 races left on the 2019 NWMT schedule, Goodale knows that now is the time to start making gains in the points standings and the best way to do that is to start winning races.
“We’ve put some good races together and we’ve hopefully already had all the bad luck we’re going to run into this season where Doug [Coby], Ronnie [Silk], and Justin [Bonsignore] haven’t had any bad luck yet,” said Goodale. “Craig Lutz and I have both had similar seasons where if we’re running at the end of the race, we’re usually floating around somewhere in the top-7. We’re going to do everything in our power to try to win the race and be the car that everyone is talking about at the end of the week. We’re not really worried about points. The best way to make up points is to win races and we’re hoping we can get our first win this Friday and turn that into a couple more wins in the final races of the season.”
Alexandra Fearn Becomes Winningest Female Driver in Stafford History
When Alexandra Fearn scored her second consecutive Limited Late Model win of the 2019 season two weeks ago at Stafford Speedway, she entered herself into the Stafford record books as the winningest female driver in the track’s long and storied history. Fearn entered the June 19 feature event tied with Stacey Botticello at 10 wins and her 11th win of her career was a milestone trip to victory lane. Botticello’s 10 wins were all recorded in the Street Stock division, or DARE Stock division as it used to be known, while Fearn has 7 Street/DARE Stock wins and 4 Limited Late Model wins to her name.
“I haven’t really thought about breaking a record,” said Fearn of reaching the milestone. “I never thought that was a possibility until I looked at the [Stafford] website and looked at the winner’s list for myself. That’s when it became a reality for me. It’s something that’s really special to me because I’ve been racing at Stafford whether it’s karts or full sized cars for more than half of my life at this point. This isn’t just about me, it’s about all of the people behind the scenes who have done a lot of work to help me get to this point. Thanks to my Dad, who got me into the sport and for doing all that he does to support me, my car owner Amedeo has been with me since day 1 through the struggles and successes, and everyone who works on my car. I couldn’t have done any of this without their help and support.”
Fearn began her racing career in Stafford’s Monday Night Wild Thing Kart Series and raced there for 7 seasons, winning races in every division that she competed in. Fearn and her brother Ryan both moved into Street/DARE Stock competition prior to the 2013 season. Fearn didn’t win as a rookie but she won twice in 2014 and 2016 while winning 3 races in 2015. Fearn moved up to the Limited Late Model division in 2017 and she won a single race that year along with 2018 before notching 2 wins thus far in 2019. With 8 races left to go on the 2019 calendar, Fearn shows no signs of slowing down.
“I just graduated from college and my full time job starts soon but I’m not moving away so I’ll be able to keep on racing every week,” said Fearn. “That wasn’t originally my plan but it’s the plan now and hopefully we can tack on a few more wins in the coming weeks leading into the Fall Final.”
With her two wins this season Fearn is now riding a 6-year streak of winning at least one race at Stafford every year since her first win back in 2014. Fearn’s 2019 season didn’t get off to the best of starts and for a time it looked like her winning streak might come to an end, but the #12 SAFCO Foam team has come on strong of late.
“This season has been a roller coaster,” said Fearn. “We got to the Sizzler and the car would barely move and then we went out for practice and the car didn’t move at all so that wasn’t the best start to the year. Once we fixed those problems, the car was ill handling so basically we’ve replaced everything in the car except for the driver. After 2 months of struggling we got a second place finish and that really kind of set the mood for the last couple weeks and we got 2 wins. We had a bad race last week but’s that’s just the tone of the season. We’re here to have fun and win races, that’s what it’s all about for me. I’m not here to make money or be famous, I just like spending time with family and friends.”
Fearn was as many as 38 points behind the championship leader but her two consecutive wins on July 12 & 19 moved her to within 28 points. Misfortune struck Fearn last Friday night, leaving her 34 points behind Matt Clement in the chase for the 2019 championship. While Fearn acknowledges that she might be a longshot for the championship, she can now concentrate solely on racing for wins rather than having to worry about points.
“We’re 34 points behind, so that’s 17 positions on the track, which is pretty significant,” said Fearn. “Racing for points is a lot of pressure and strain on the driver and it’s a lot of work. With where we are at, it takes a lot of that pressure off and we can focus on going for wins rather than trying to make up points. The best thing we can do is win the last 8 races but that’s obviously unrealistic. The cool thing about the Limited Late Model division is all of us have a chance at winning a race and whenever I pull out onto the track, I have no idea who is going to win that night. Our races are no walk in the park, they’re hard races to win. I think that if we can finish all the remaining laps and get some more podium finishes then we’ll end up in a good place and we can be happy with how the season ends compared to how it started for us.”
Now that Fearn is a 6-year veteran of NASCAR weekly racing at Stafford, she has two important points that she would pass on to any young female drivers who one day might want to be just like her and break her win record at Stafford.
“I would say that you have to have a balance between life and racing and not let racing consume your life,” said Fearn. “Don’t miss weddings, graduations, or important parts of your life when you’re younger because there’s a lot more to life than just racing. The other point I would give is to not ever give up. I’ve admittedly had several times where I wanted to give up and move away from racing and be removed from the sport because it’s a lot. When racing stinks it really stinks but when it’s good, it’s really great. Working through the truly difficult things makes the rewards feel that much better.”
Stafford Speedway returns to feature racing action this Friday, August 2nd with the 29th Annual Stafford 150 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event. Stafford’s five weekly divisions will join the Tour in feature action and tickets for the Stafford 150 are available and on sale now at the Stafford Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $35.00 for adult general admission tickets, $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 $38.00 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. Stafford’s five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will join the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars in feature action.