Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Stafford Speedway’s Late Model division is taking center stage this Friday, August 16 for a 50-lap extra distance event that carries a purse of $10,000. Tyler Leary, Hatfield MA native, is looking to end a victory drought that dates back to the NAPA Fall Final in 2017, a stretch of nearly 2 years.
Leary and the #11 Amherst Trucking / Raynor Garage Doors team head into the Late Model 50 feeling like the extra distance event could be the perfect opportunity to end their winless streak.
“I’m feeling pretty good about the race actually,” said Leary. “If you had asked me three or four weeks ago I probably would have said absolutely not. It’s been almost 2 years since we’ve last seen victory lane. It’s been frustrating for sure but we just keep working at it. I almost can’t even describe how frustrating it’s been. I know there’s some other guys out there who have had the same thing where they go through a dry spell. We’ve lacked some consistency this year but it would be such a relief to get another win. I’m hoping if we can hit the setup good and have the tires right where we want them, we can be a contender.”
Leary looked like he was well on his way to ending his winless streak 2 weeks ago, pulling away from the field after starting from pole position but a caution with 4 laps to go erased his large lead and he ended up spinning on the restart after contact from another car. Leary recovered to finish 6th and he followed that up with a 4th place finish last week, which was only his 5th top-5 finish of the season. With the team struggling to find the perfect setup for the #11 car, Leary feels like he and his team are back on track to be able to find their way back to NAPA Victory Lane.
“We finally got the car going pretty good,” said Leary. “We’ve always had a fast car during the day this season, we just couldn’t quite figure out the feature-time setup. We were decent for the first 3 weeks and then we tried chasing the car and we dialed ourselves right out of it. We made a decision with Bob Fill, 2 or 3 weeks ago, to go back to square one and start over. Ever since we’ve done that, the car has been pretty good. We ran away from the field two weeks ago and had a mishap at the end of the race and then last week, I believe the three cars that finished in front of us were all on new tires and we were on old tires. With plenty of tires in our inventory, we feel like we have a good shot this Friday and hopefully we can get the job done. My car gets better as the race goes on and our fastest laps of the race are usually after lap-20.”
With Leary sitting 154 points behind Tom Fearn in the chase for the Late Model track championship, Leary says his focus for the remaining 6 races in 2019 are all about returning to NAPA Victory Lane and putting together a good base for the #11 team to build on for the 2020 season.
“The points chase has been over for us for a few weeks so we’re not even looking at points now, we’re just going for wins,” said Leary. “A win would be huge for us, especially in a big event like the Late Model 50. The High Roller Challenge that GRE6 is putting on is a wonderful thing and not only me, but everyone who races at Stafford appreciates all the contingency sponsors and the people who put up the big money for events like this. It would be huge to not only win, but to have some extra purse money and take these last 6 races and look at some things that we can take into next year.”
In addition to his #11 Late Model machine, Leary will also be looking to get his SK Modified® program on track after struggling through his rookie season behind the wheel of the #1 Amherst Trucking / Raynor Garage Doors SK Modified®.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I’m too hard on myself, but I also know that you don’t just hop into an SK Modified® and find instant success,” said Leary. “Obviously I’d like to be doing a little better and run a little more in the top-10 every week. You have to slowly adapt the driver to the car and the car to the driver, so it’s been a slow process but we’re going to take the next 6 weeks and grind it out and get better prepared for next season.
Late Model Rookie Richard Ciriello Optimistic For Late Model 50
After running two full seasons in Stafford’s Street Stock division, Reading, MA native Richard Ciriello made the move up the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series ladder into the Late Model division for the 2019 season. Ciriello and the #69 Ciriello Motorsports team are confident for their first taste of extra distance racing in this Friday night’s Late Model 50 at Stafford. The longest race that Ciriello has previously logged was 25 laps in the Street Stock division.
“The whole season has been a good adventure moving up from the Street Stock division,” said Ciriello. “There’s more components to the car and the setup of the car and I’ve gotten some really good help and advice from Matt Vassar and Derek Anderson. I think we’ll be ok for the 50-lapper. The plan is to ease into the race from the start so we can save the tires for later in the race.”
Ciriello recently recorded his first two Late Model top-10 finishes on July 26 and Aug. 2 and he has his sights set on capturing another top-10 finish this Friday night in the Late Model 50.
“It would be nice to be able to get another top-10 finish this Friday night,” said Ciriello. “It was nice to get my first top-10’s of the year but my goals are to be better than the top-10. I’m trying to race to what the car will give me on a weekly basis and learning what to do in certain situations on the track. It’s all about respecting the other drivers out there and racing clean but at the same time trying to be competitive and challenge those guys for positions. If we can run well this Friday, it would show everyone that we can run well and that we have the desire and passion to continue to make progress during our rookie year.”
Despite struggling through the first half of his rookie campaign and only having 2 top-10 finishes thus far, Ciriello feels comfortable in the fact that he has made progress since the start of the 2019 season and he’s gotten closer to the lead cars.
“Going into this season I felt confident and I still feel confident” said Ciriello. “I’m still trying to get more consistent with my line around the track, hitting my marks, and letting the car roll through the center of the corners. It’s been a learning curve this season for sure and there’s some stiff competition in the Late Model division. I feel like we’ve improved our pace relative to the other drivers since the beginning of the season. We’re making progress. I don’t think I can say that enough. We’ve gone from being a second or a second and a half off the pace of the front running cars at the beginning of the year to now only being a couple of tenths of a second behind those guys. We’ve made some advances with the car and there’s still more for the car to give me and I have to capitalize on that. My team puts a lot of effort into this car and I want to deliver some results for them.”
With the first top-10’s of his Late Model career under his belt, Ciriello is looking to add to that top-10 total over the final 6 races as well as getting himself better situated to be in attack mode for the 2020 season. Ciriello is also looking for some sponsorship that he can display on his #69 machine.
“Our goal is to be more competitive over the final 6 races and hopefully we can connect with some sponsors who would like to get their names on the hood or the sides of the car,” said Ciriello. “Finding a sponsor would help make things easier and it would definitely put us into a better position for next season. Don’s Home Improvement gave us some support during the winter to help get ready and Matt Vassar has been invaluable with his time and advice this season. Derek Anderson and Bob help me every week to get prepared and be in the best possible place I can be on the track, and Pete and his son Caleb from Matt’s crew also help me out and any extra help that I can get helps make things run smoother.”
The Late Model 50 is scheduled for this Friday, August 16th and Stafford’s 4 other weekly racing divisions including the SK Modified® division will join the Late Models in feature action. General Admission tickets are $20 for adults and $5 for kids 6-14 with kids 5 & under free. Reserved seating is priced at $23 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 Speedway SK Light Modified Rules Released For 2020
Following the release of the 2020 SK Modified® rules last week, Stafford Speedway officials have released the 2020 rules for its SK Light Modified division. For the 2020 season, the SK Light Modified rules remain unchanged from the 2019 season.
Stafford’s SK Light division currently has rookie driver Steven Chapman leading the points standings by a 6 point margin over Teddy Hodgdon. The top-5 drivers in the points standings are all within 100 points of each other with 6 races left on the 2019 schedule. There has been 6 different SK Light winners this season with Bryan Narducci leading all drivers with 5 wins. Other multiple feature winners this season include Hodgdon with 3 wins and Mark Bakaj, Noah Korner, and Alexander Pearl with 2 wins each. Wesley Prucker has a single feature win to his credit thus far in 2019.
Teams are encouraged to contact the track via phone, email, or social media with any questions relating to rules or track procedures.
2020 SK Light Modified Rules Available at www.staffordspeedway.com.