Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Stafford Speedway on Friday night. It was Doug Coby’s night before a crash in turn three suddenly changed the complexion of the race. Coby was fastest in practice, earned his sixth Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award in qualifying, and drove away with the race early. It was looking like Coby was going to celebrate a complete sweep of the night and his 13th career Stafford win.
But the caution changed everything. With only six cars on the lead lap, pit strategy was key in the finishing order. Teams are only allowed to take one tire per pit stop under caution, but most of them made their way down pit road more times than one during the yellow. Coby’s Mayhew Tools team elected to take three tires, but he was also down pit road another time for fuel only. After four stops, he restarted sixth for the final dash.
Matt Swanson and Justin Bonsignore took the green flag on the front row, but it wasn’t long before Silk took the top spot with a daring three-wide move off turn two. From there, it wasn’t quite clear sailing, as Jon McKennedy was on the back bumper looking to pounce. But Silk was able to hang on for his third Whelen Modified Tour win of the season.
After restarting sixth, Coby managed to charge back to a third-place finish, while Swanson was fourth, and Craig Lutz fifth. In victory lane Coby expressed his view of the one tire per stop rule with a few choice expletives. Its just plain stupid to have this rule because it is not saving anyone money.
Coby was visibly upset as he walked in circles while trying to regain his composure. When asked if he was heartbroken during his front stretch post-race interview, Coby did not mince words. “I don’t get heartbroken, I get f****** pissed off,” Coby said. He added, “Stupid f****** rules is what it is. It’s this gimmick, bullshit of this one-tire stop,” Coby said during the post-race press conference. “Why does it take five laps to even go back to green for a single car spin with whatever to go? That’s altering the race. Line us up and go… It’s just dumb.”
The event went non-stop except for a caution on lap 147 for a minor accident in turn four. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track on Wednesday, August 14, at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the Bud ‘King of Beers’ 150.
After regaining his composure Coby issued the following statement: “apologize to the race fans and more importantly the kids in the stands for swearing on the PA after the race. I’ve pretty much kept my emotions in check for the bulk of my career but this one got the best of me for many reasons. Not thrilled with a 3rd but really impressed with our racecar tonight. If I didn’t have to conserve fuel I think there would have”.
In regular weekly action at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night scoring Whelen All-American Series feature wins were Keith Rocco in the SK Modified® feature, Tom Fearn in the Late Model feature, Teddy Hodgdon in the SK Light feature, Matt Clement in the Limited Late Model feature, and Zack Robinson in the Street Stock feature.
In the SK Modified 40 lapper, Rocco, who started 12th, took the lead from Eric Berndt on lap-16 but Berndt came back to Rocco’s inside on lap-18 to retake the lead. Not to be outdone, Rocco steamed his way back past Berndt in turn 3 on lap-19 to take the lead at the line. Rocco cleared Berndt on lap-20 while Andrew Molleur and Glen Reen were side by side for third. Reen finally got clear of Molleur on lap-24 and Christopher followed him by Molleur to take fourth and drop Molleur back to fifth place.
With 10 laps to go, Rocco was still in command with Berndt, Reen, Mike Christopher and Cory DiMatteo in the top-5. Molleur had slid back to eighth as Ronnie Williams was up to sixth and Todd Owen was seventh. Reen got by Berndt with a pass in turn 4 on lap-34 to move into second with Christopher right behind Berndt in fourth.
Rocco led Reen to the checkered flag to pick up his third win of the 2019 season. Berndt finished third with Christopher and DiMatteo rounding out the top-5. It was Rocco’s 65th career win at Stafford.
In the SK Lites, Jonathan Puleo couldn’t get close enough to Hodgdon to make a move as Hodgdon took down his third win of the 2019 season. Bryan Narducci finished third with Joey Ferrigno and Alexander Pearl rounding out the top-5.
In the Late Models, Tom Fearn took the lead in the final moments when Michael Bennett spun leader Tyler Leary. When Bennett was put to the rear Fearn assumed the lead and went on to record his72nd career win which ties him with Bugsy Stevens for third on the all-time win list at Stafford.
On the east end of Long Island, t had been over a month since defending Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper had visited victory lane but that all changed Saturday night at the conclusion of the 50-lap feature event as Kyle drove to his 7th win of the 2019 Whelen All American Series. The win was the 16th of Soper’s career which tying him with Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct. for 27th on the all time win list. Craig Lutz of Miller Place was runner-up in his family owned Riverhead Building Supply Chevy while John Fortin Sr. scored another top three finish with a third place showing in the John’s Fuel Oil Chevy. Dylan Slepian and Tom Rogers Jr. completed the top five.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium Burt Myers continued his winning ways in the 100-lap NASCAR Modified race after defeating James Civali and Tim Brown. It was Myers’ fifth win of the season and his 83rd win in the career of Myers, who has won nine championships, including the last three. He also slightly increased his points lead over Brown, the 10-time champion.
“I don’t care who you pull for, I don’t care where you sit. If you didn’t like that tonight you need to leave,” Myers said. “Listen, nobody knows our personal lives. All you know is these car numbers. Ninety % of the guys that drive these cars put the same effort, the same blood, the same sweat, the same tears, the same time away from their family.
Saturday’s race was the final Fans’ Challenge of the season where the top four qualifiers in the Modified Division have the option to start in the back of the field. Because nobody won the last Challenge $6,000 was on the line for the drivers. Lee Jeffreys, Brandon Ward, Civali and Myers qualified in the top four, but Myers was the only one who elected not to take the Challenge. Civali finished runner-up and won all of the $6,000.
Among the missing were Jonathan Brown and Jason Myers. NASCAR penalized Brown and Myers for their roles in an incident at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) on Saturday, July 27, levying fines and suspensions for both drivers. Per a tweet from @NASCARHomeTrack, both drivers would miss this this past Saturday’s 100-lap Modified feature and receive $1,000 fines after the incident.
The action was hot and heavy at the Thompson Motorsports Speedway last Sunday. For the second straight week, Woody Pitkat was celebrating a checkered flag. Pitkat earned his second Late Model victory in a row in the 25-lap feature, but four other drivers also joined him as winners. Keith Rocco scored his second Sunoco Modified victory of the season, while Chris ‘Moose’ Douton (Limited Sportsman), Tommy Silva (Mini Stocks) and Bryan Narducci (SK Light Modifieds®) also were in Victory Lane.
Rocco, who hadn’t been to Victory Lane since the season-opening Icebreaker in April, started sixth and worked his way to the lead by lap 11. Kyle James was able to lead the first four laps, before handing the lead over to Todd Owen. It wasn’t long before Owen, Pitkat, and Rocco were dueling it out for the top spot.
Rocco would lead the final 19 laps of the feature, earning his second victory of the season in the first six races. The win also allows the seven-time and defending champion to extend his points lead even more heading down the stretch run. The win also took Rocco to a career overall total of 276 wins which include 150 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 61 at Thompson and 65 at Stafford Speedway.
Woody Ptikat finished second and was followed by Todd Owen, Ronnie Williams, Troy Talman and . Kyle James.
Bryan Narducci returned to his dominance in the SK Light Modified division, scoring his fifth victory in the first six races of the season. Narducci quickly got to the point on lap two and cruised to another win. In 10 career races at Thompson, Narducci has been to Victory Lane in nine of them. In the most recent event, he saw his eight-race winning streak snapped after he was dumped in turn four on the final lap while leading.
Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park returns to racing on Wednesday, August 14, when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls into town for the 30th annual Bud ‘King of Beers’ 150. All five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions will also be in competition for the mid-week special.
The 2019 NEAR (New England Auto Racers) Hall of Fame has announced their inductions for 2019:
Mike Joy – legendary motorsports announcer, Ed Flemke Jr. – Modified driver and race car fabricator, Wayne Dion – Modified driver, Vinny Annarumo – Modified driver, Jack Doyle – Drag Racer, Brad LaFontaine – longtime Modified crew chief and car builder, Ric Mariscal – operator of the ProNyne Motorsports Museum in Pawtucket, R.I. and Bob Webber Sr. – longtime operator of Star Speedway in Epping, N.H.
Chuck Hossfeld, former Whelen Modified Tour front runner, made the following announcement last week: “I’ve chosen this beautiful Friday August 2nd to announce 2019 will be my final year as a race driver. Over the years I’ve been fortunate to have the support of many partners and sponsors to help me pursue my dream. The people I’ve been involved with on my team and others I’ve driven for have been 2nd to none. I’ve dedicated years to this love and don’t regret 1 minute of it. Having said that, we will continue to defend our 2018 ROC CHAMPIONSHIP and do everything in our power to repeat in 19. After that I will personally along with Sharilyn Sheesh continue our quest for “continued happiness” He added, “I always say that 😊. The fun we had should have been illegal, some was… Thanks Mom and Dad for the start some 30 years ago.”