RPW Exclusive: A Big “Full” Weekend At NHMS, Getting Ready For Stafford’s Final & More…

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed north this past weekend with heavy hearts for the second annual Musket 250 presented by Whelen at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The main event, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Musket 250 presented by Whelen, is the longest mileage and richest purse of the season. The Saturday tripleheader also featured the sport’s stars of tomorrow at the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Apple Barrel 125 and the only chance in America this year to see Canada’s NASCAR Pinty’s Series drivers race at the Visit New Hampshire 100.

A fourth race was been added to the lineup with a 20-lap J&J’s Yolk & Co. Oval Series race featuring Granite State Legends Cars competing for a $5,000 purse on Friday.

Thirty four Modifieds were on hand. Andy Jankowiak was a no-show. For the eighth time this season, Doug Coby earned the Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole award in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour qualifying. Coby, driving the No. 2 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet, posted a quick time of 29.333 seconds (129.847 mph) around the 1.058-mile New Hampshire Motor Speedway, taking the pole for the Musket 250 presented by Whelen. Coby tied Mike McLaughlin for the third most poles in one season all-time (eight), and only trails Steve Park’s record of 10 (1995) and his own of nine in 2016. Jon McKennedy, who earned his first career pole at New Hampshire in July, ran the second fastest time of the session with a lap of 29.348 seconds (129.781 mph). Justin Bonsignore, July winner Ron Silk, and Bobby Santos III completed the top five.

In a wild 250 laps around the ‘Magic Mile’, countless drivers had the opportunity to lead the way. But when it mattered most, it was a battle between three modified veterans for the crown. Santos, five-time series champion Doug Coby, and Jon McKennedy, who led a race-high 93 laps, were the three drivers at the front when the field crossed for the white flag. Off turn two, Coby would draw even with Santos for the lead, edging him out as they approached the entrance to turn three. Santos regrouped and would drive deep into turn three, slide up, and hold off Coby and McKennedy across the line, while the two battled side-by-side for second. McKennedy would beat Coby to the line, but was .129 seconds behind Santos.

“It was a good run,” McKennedy said. “Tommy (Baldwin) and the guys gave me a great car. We led a lot of laps. Just one position short. As far as I’m concerned, Bobby is one of the best short-track drivers in the country.” Chuck Hossfeld, subbing for Jimmy Blewett, was fourth, while Justin Bonsignore completed the top five. Matt Swanson was sixth, followed by Rob Summers, Chris Pasteryak, Gary Putnam and Craig Lutz.

Before a crash racing for the lead, Ron Silk and Justin Bonsignore were dominating the late stages. The two drivers combined to lead laps 133-222, but when Silk and Eric Goodale split a lapped car, they made contact, ending both of their races early with damage. Bonsignore drilled Sam Rameay into the third turn wall on lap 234 and did slight damage to his car.

There were 25 cars running at the finish, nine on the lead lap. As previously stated, Sam Rameau crashed after an over aggressive Justin Bonsignore drilled him, Burt Myers took himself out when he bounced off the wall as he exited turn four. Eric Goodale and Ron Silk crashed after making a lapped car the meat in a sandwich on lap 222, Patrick Emerling, Chase Dowling, Anthony Nocella and Walter Sutcliff suffered engine failure, Mike Willis crashed on lap 228 with Calvin Carrol on the front stretch, Timmy and Amy Catalano had driveline failure and Joey Mucciacciaro had power steering failure.

Coby leads Bonsignore by 21 points with two championship points races remaining. Coby is looking for his sixth title, while Bonsignore is seeking his second straight. The Musket 250 will air on NBCSN on Thursday, September 26, and 6 p.m.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track for the annual NAPA Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway, this coming Sunday, September 29. Eric Sanderson, long time car owner and past competitor has been named as the Grand Marshal of the 47th Annual NAPA Fall Final. Sanderson will close out the 2019 Stafford Speedway season with the command to fire engines for the 150-lap event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Sanderson’s racing roots date back to the days of the All-American Sportsman division at Stafford in the early 1970’s. Sanderson got started as a car owner for Warren Bren’s #66 car before taking the wheel himself in the #89 car for the 1972 and 1973 seasons. Sanderson then moved up to Stafford’s modified division behind the wheel of the #43 owned by Ken DePeau in 1974 before stepping down as a driver and becoming a crew member with Everett Manning.

In 1995 Sanderson debuted the #16 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour car with Chris Kopec behind the wheel. The #16 has since been a staple of the NWMT for over 24 years. Sanderson is a two-time championship winning car owner, taking the NWMT championship with Mike Stefanik in 2006 and Ryan Preece in 2013.

In a good deal for race fans, discount tickets for the NAPA Fall Final Weekend are available at your local participating NAPA Auto Parts Store. The NAPA tickets include general admission for both days along with a lunch buffet on Sunday, all for only $38 per person. For a list of participating NAPA Stores, please click the PARTICIPATING NAPA STORES link found at the top of the www.staffordspeedway.com homepage.

With the days getting shorter and the season winding down at the Riverhead Raceway action continues at a fever pitch. CJ Lehmann drove off to his second win in the past three Whelen All American Series NASCAR Modified events scoring a victory in the non-stop 50-lap race. On the strength of his third place finish Kyle Soper sewed up the 2019 NASCAR Modified track championship for car owners Wayne & Joette Anderson. It’s their second consecutive track title and earlier in the week the team was officially declared New York State champions of the Whelen All American Series for the second year running. Michael Rutkoski finished second in the 50 lapper with Soper, third. John Baker and Tom Rogers Jr. rounded out the top five.

In more sad news, Champion Driver Bob Potter, 78, passed away on Wednesday, September 18. The operator of a pickup truck traveling westbound on W. Town Street in Norwich, Ct., Potter. appeared to be having a medical emergency and lost control of the vehicle, according to a police report. The vehicle turned sharply, striking a school bus and several other vehicles, then came to rest in the parking lot of the Global Gas Station at 154 W Town Street, police said. Potter, who suffered a heart attack, was the only person injured in the crash, police said. After fire crews extricated the operator from the vehicle, American Ambulance transported the victim to William W. Backus Hospital under life threatening conditions.

Potter’s racing career started at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl in 1962, He began winning in 1966 and before it was over captured 11 championships an estimated 140 features at Stafford, Thompson and at Waterford. A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37 straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95.

Bob Potter is the only active driver to run on all three surfaces at Stafford. He only ran one event on the dirt and only a few in the early days on asphalt including the first Spring Sizzler in 1972, when he drove Roger Bonnville’s outlaw NO. 110 to a 9th place finish. A good part of his career was spent at the Waterford Speedbowl where he has six championships and 96 career wins.

With the advent of the SK Modifieds division, Potter became a regular weekly competitor at Stafford. His first Stafford win came on Sizzler weekend in 1982 and then tallied up 24 wins through 1999. Potter is the track’s five- time modified champion, winning titles in 1988, 1991, 1992, 1994, and 1995 and ranks second to Ted Christopher who has nine track titles..

A retired x-ray technician at General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut, Potter did most of his own race car fabrication. His partner and car owner Jiggs Beetham supplied the power. Potter, who was in his mid 50’s at the time, became the first modified driver to turn a lap on the newest Stafford surface.

In addition to his successes at Stafford and Waterford, Potter had numerous wins at Thompson and had successful drives at Trenton, New Jersey and Martinsville, Virginia. In 2007 he was inducted into the New England Auto Racing (NEAR) Hall of Fame.

Potter is survived by his wife Dale, son Bob, Jr., daughters Debbie and Ginny, and all his family and friends. Visiting hours will be on Wednesday, 9/25, at Guilott Funeral Home, South B St, Taftville, CT from 1-4 pm and 6-9 pm. Funeral to be held on Thursday, 9/26 @10 am. Graveside services immediately following. Then, a Celebration of Life at the Knights of Columbus, located at 47 South Second Ave, Taftville.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. and Sonic Financial Corp. are nearing the completion of an $800 million merger that will make the track operator a private company. On Tuesday, Sept 17, publicly held Speedway Motorsports disclosed in filings that owners of 65% of the shares not controlled by Sonic and the Smith family have agreed to terms of $19.75 per share.

Company founder Bruton Smith also owns Sonic Financial and, with other family members, controls 29.4 million of Speedway Motorsports’ 40.8 million shares, or 70%. The value of the tender offer is $226 million for 11.4 million outstanding shares. According to the filing, 7.4 million of those shares, or 65%, have been tendered. The rest will be acquired at the same price of $19.75 per share.

Speedway Motorsports generated revenue of $457 million in 2018. Wells Fargo Securities forecasts $462 million this year with earnings per share of 91 cents. National TV and media-rights contracts with NBC and Fox have become the one consistent area of revenue growth for the track companies.