Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series, with five races remaining heads into the home stretch. Coming up this weekend “The Men that live by the Grace of God and 600 horsepower head for the track that is considered the Super Modified capitol of the World, the Oswego Speedway located overlooking the beautiful Lake Ontario in New York State.
Doug Coby leads by 47 in the point standings over Justin Bonsignore and Ron Silk, who are tied for second. Craig Lutz, who has had a remarkable year sits in fourth spot, 85 points out. Eric Goodale rounds out the top five, 107 points back. Matt Swanson and Patrick Emerling are tied for sixth while Chris Pasteryak, Jimmy Blewett and Woody Pitkat round out the top ten.
Oswego Speedway is a lightning fast 5/8 mile semi-banked oval.
In regular weekly racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night it was a banner night for the Rocco and Fearn families as Keith Rocco won the 40-lap SK Modified® feature and his son KJ won one of the 2 Kids Big Wheel races that were held as part of Kids Night and Tom Fearn and Alexandra Fearn were the winners of the Late Model and Limited Late Model features. Bryan Narducci won the SK Light feature, his seventh, and George Bessette, Jr. won the Street Stock feature. Joey Introvigne was the winner of the second Kids Big Wheel race and Ryan Midford was the winner of the 5-lap Wild Thing Karts Tiger Cubs exhibition race.
Rocco was applying heavy pressure to Todd Owen for the lead and he was able to take the lead on lap-13. Rocco’s move opened the door for Mike Christopher to follow him through and drop Owen back to third in line. Troy Talman and Tony Membrino were now side by side for fourth place with Gervais in sixth.
Christopher was looking high and low for a way to get around Rocco but at the halfway point of the race it was Rocco that was still in command. Owen was still third with Michael Gervais fourth and Stephen Kopcik fifth. Rob Goulet brought the caution out with 22 laps complete with a spin in turn 4.
Christopher and Rocco were side by side for the lead on the restart with Owen, Kopcik, and Gervais lined up behind them. The two leaders ran side by side until lap-25 when Rocco cleared Christopher. With 10 laps to go, Rocco was still in the lead with Christopher giving chase. Owen was third with Kopcik and Gervais behind him. Ronnie Williams took sixth from Glen Reen on lap-32.
Rocco led Christopher to the checkered flag to pick up his fourth win of the 2019 season. Owen finished third with Gervais and Kopcik rounding out the top-5. The win also took Rocco to a career overall total of 278 wins which include 150 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 62 at Thompson and 66 at Stafford Speedway
Bryan Narducci made it two in a row in the SK Lights. Bryan started 9th & by lap 14 he took the lead.
On the east end of Long Island, Dylan Slepian who one week ago came within five laps of his first career NASCAR Modified win at Riverhead Raceway before yielding to Tom Rogers Jr. and finishing runner-up. This week Dylan in the Rob Pelis owned entry went out and sealed the deal scoring his first career NASCAR Modified victory in a 75-lap feature event as a standing room only crowd looked on. Tom Rogers Jr. in his Stakey’s Pumpkin Farm Chevy settled for runner-up money sending his wished the winners way, “good for Dylan and his crew congratulations to them”. Dave Brigati crossed the line third in his JDL Environmental Chevy while championship leader Kyle Soper and John Beatty Jr. completed the top five.
The Tri-Track Open Modified Series made its first ever showing in the State of Maine on the Night Before the Oxford 250 at Oxford Plains Speedway Saturday. With $6,000 on the line for the winner of the 100-lap feature race, it was “Big Money” Matt Hirschman who survived a big scare and held off Ronnie Williams for his first career victory in the Pine Tree State. Starting the 100-lapper from the front row, Hirschman held off early contenders Woody Pitkat and Brad Babb, before Ronnie Williams joined the fray before a 70-lap green flag run ended with the race’s first yellow flag. After Hirschman and most of the lead lap cars came to pit lane for their one fresh tire, Andy Jankowiak and Russ Hersey stayed out taking up the front row.
With Hirschman lining up third, the front row got out of shape on the restart, with Jankowiak and Hersey colliding in turn one, sending cars scattering and ending with Hirschman getting on top of Jankowiak’s left-rear corner. As luck would have it, Hirschman not only came out of the incident intact, but with the lead back in hand, as Jankowiak and Hersey pitted to assess their cars.
Ronnie Williams chased Hirschman to the finish, coming home in second, while Jankowiak made a miraculous recovery using the outside line to go through the field to finish in the third position.
On a sad note, Russ Conway who co-promoted numerous New England Super Modified (NESMRA) events, passed away. He might be best remembered for the promotion of his Budweiser Showdown of Champions series, which for three summers in the ‘80s imported Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Tim Richmond, Ron Bouchard, Darrell Waltrip, Cale Yarborough, and other NASCAR heroes to race against New England’s local stars. He also partnered with Ken Smith and Charlie Elliott to boost the profile of Supermodified racing; their NESMRA organization sanctioned events from Canada to Florida, and at various times they ran the show at New Hampshire’s Star, Lee, and Hudson speedways.
Conway, 70, was inducted into the (NEAR) New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 2006. Conway was a fixture for decades at tracks throughout New England until his passing.