Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour last visited Stafford Speedway in August, it was Ronnie Silk and the #85 Stuart’s Automotive team taking the checkered flag after a thrilling green white checkered shoot-out.
Silk and the #85 team would like nothing better than a repeat performance and to collect the accolades in the NAPA Fall Final victory lane.
“I think we’re looking pretty good,” said Silk. “We were planning on bringing our new car that we had at Loudon but it got destroyed so we’ll be coming back with the same car that we won with back in August. I’m definitely looking forward to coming back to Stafford. Obviously any race you can win is great but it would be cool to win two in a row at Stafford and getting a win in the NAPA Fall Final would be a good way to wind the year down for sure.”
In addition to going for two wins in a row at Stafford, Silk will be looking to turn his 2019 fortunes around. Since he won the Stafford 150 in August, Silk has finished 16th or worse in 3 of the 4 NWMT races held since then. In that four-race stretch, Silk has gone from 2nd in the points standings and 24 points behind Doug Coby to 3rd in the standings, 64 points out of the lead.
“It’s disappointing with the championship race,” said Silk. “It’s not anything that we can put our heads down about. We’ve had fast racecars at all the races but we got caught up in other people’s problems and had some bad luck. I think we’ll look back at this year and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’ve won 3 races so far and hopefully we can add to that in these last 2 races. We’ve had some unfortunate circumstances but we’ve had a fast car at every track and we’ve run in the top-3 or top-4 every week. There’s a lot of momentum that we can take into next season and try to be even better.”
Despite the last race at Stafford coming down to a green white checkered finish at the end of the race after going green for the first 146 laps of the race, Silk says he and the #85 team will be doing their usual preparations for the NAPA Fall Final.
“I think we’re going to prepare the car like we normally would for Stafford,” said Silk. “I could see us putting a setup in the car for a longer run and then we have a caution about every 10 laps or so in the race. The last race was an anomaly and we’re going to go with what we normally do and try to make the best adjustments that we can at the track to make the car as good as we can. I never start a race with a set strategy. It’s all going to depend on where the caution flags fall. I prefer to take tires somewhere after halfway and with the 3 trips down pit road it takes to change 3 tires, I like to get all 3 tires changed in one pit cycle. If you have a handling issue early enough in the race, you might come to pit road for one tire, but with changing one tire it gets hard to match the stagger. We actually get 4 tires for the race, we have 3 new tires and we can bring one tire from practice to the race, so you could come in early for the one tire and still come back in later for three tires. It’s all going to depend on your track position and what everyone else around you is doing.”
Matt Galko To Make Whelen Modified Tour Debut In Fall Final
When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes the green flag this weekend at Stafford Speedway for the NAPA Fall Final 150, Meriden, CT native and SK Modified® regular Matt Galko will look to realize a dream by making his NWMT debut. Galko will be piloting the #41 Chevrolet owned by Susanne Lewis with Steve Mendoza serving as the crew chief.
“This is kind of a combo deal between Susanne Lewis and my crew chief Steve Mendoza,” said Galko. “It’s a brand new car that they’ve been working on putting together. I’ve known them for a while and I drove a couple times for Steve on the R.O.C. Tour two years ago so that’s how we got to know each other. This has been a dream come true for me. This has been something that my family and myself have worked for since we got started in the SK Lights. The open modified shows are nice and all but the premier division that everyone wants to run is the Whelen Modified Tour. I’ve had talks with some owners here and there over the past couple of years but nothing has worked out. We’re going to have our challenges and growing pains as a brand new team, but it helps that we know the track and we’re hoping that everything will work out for us.”
There is no better track that Galko could have picked than Stafford to make his NWMT debut. Galko is a two-time SK Light track champion (2010, 2011) and he has won a total of 10 races with 8 SK Light wins and 2 SK Modified® wins at the Connecticut half-mile. Galko will be relying on his track knowledge to help overcome any learning curve he and the #41 team will face.
“We have to keep our expectations realistic because the Whelen Modified Tour is a whole different ballgame,” said Galko. “First I want to qualify for the race, after that my goal is to finish on the lead lap. If we could come out of the race with a top-15 finish or something like that, that would be really, really good for our first time out. Pit strategy is always a big thing at Stafford and if you have the right strategy you could use that to your benefit. Kyle Bonsignore won the Fall Final last year, which I think was a surprise to some people, and he was able to catch a lot of the guys off-cycle and had the freshest tires at the end of the race.”
Perhaps the biggest obstacle that Galko will have to overcome is his lack of experience in group qualifying. In his career, Galko has only qualified through time trials once before and he says he will definitely be feeling some nerves as he prepares to make his qualifying laps in NWMT group qualifying at 2:30pm on Saturday.
“I’m feeling a lot of nerves right now more than excitement,” said Galko. “I’m sure it’ll get a lot more exciting once we get to the track and start rolling. I lack experience with group qualifying in the tour modifieds. Everything I’ve run I’ve qualified through heat races. I’ve time trialed one time at the Turkey Derby and the nerves I felt that day were unlike any I’ve ever experienced before.”
As Galko and the #41 team prepare for this weekend’s NAPA Fall Final 150, Galko is grateful to everyone who is helping him to realize his dream of making his first NWMT start. They are also looking for any sponsors who would like to join the #41 team for the NAPA Fall Final.
“We have a lot of good equipment with this new team but we’re a little short on crew for pit road so I couldn’t do this without the help of all the crew members from our SK and Tour teams,” said Galko. “It’s going to be a big team effort for us this weekend and I’m really looking forward to the race. We’re funding this out of our pockets and the help of Steve Mendoza and Susanne Lewis. Any marketing partners that would want to come on board with us would be greatly appreciated and would go a long way towards helping us out.”
Tickets for NAPA Fall Final Weekend, September 28 & 29, are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission, $10.00 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 $45.00 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. Discount tickets are available through participating NAPA stores.