RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Final Stages Of Speedbowl Resurrection, NASCAR Hall Ballot & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The New London-Waterford Speedbowl began its final rise from the dead last week as the erection of the new grandstand began. The old main grandstand at the track ran the length of the front stretch.

The new grandstands will be in two separate sections of about 159 feet long running the length of the front stretch. Each of the two new sections will have a capacity of about 1,760, including handicap accessible areas.

Speedbowl General Manager Mike Serluca said renovation plans call for a scoring tower to be constructed in between the two new grandstands. Serluca said the contract for construction of the grandstand structures calls for project completion within 30 days of the start of materials inspection on site, which began on Tuesday, April 7.

The Speedbowl has not announced any schedule for the 2020 season but numerous local touring divisions have announced tentative events at the track for the 2020 season.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont signed an executive order last Friday, Apr 10, that will extend social distancing measures, including the closures of restaurants, bars and large shopping malls, until at least May 20. Paul Mounds, Lamont’s chief of staff, said Friday the latest extension will also apply to other establishments that have been closed, including private clubs, off-track betting facilities, gyms, sports, race tracks, fitness and recreational facilities, large shopping malls, and places of public amusement. Also, he said, measures imposing safety and distancing measures for workplace and nonessential businesses will also be extended.

Thompson was scheduled to open with the IceBreaker on May 17 which will have to be rescheduled. Stafford has their planned opening scheduled for Friday night, May 22 with their rescheduled Spring Sizzler slated for May 30-31. Stafford should be ok. The Whelen Modified Tour Series is scheduled to run at the Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania on Saturday, May 23.

Stafford’s Friday night iRacing event was an exciting one as Matt Kimball was awarded the win. Dylan Izzo was leading the final lap when he was taken out by Troy Talman. Both were wrecked as Mike Christopher Jr took the checkered flag, Christopher was later disqualified for rough riding.

All Phases Renovations to Sponsor Stafford iRacing Series; Purse Posted for Drivers. After the third event, the excitement for Stafford Speedway’s new iRacing series continues to grow. All Phases Renovations has partnered with Stafford Speedway to serve as the presenting sponsor of the iRacing events scheduled for April 10th and April 17th. In addition, All Phases has posted a $250 purse for each event including $150 for 1st, $75 for 2nd, and $25 for 3rd.

Race fans can catch the live broadcast each Friday night starting at 7pm on the Stafford Speedway YouTube channel.

“Big thank you to Larry from All Phases Construction for jumping on board to sponsor the 2 iRacing events,” explained Stafford Speedway COO Paul Arute. “Like we’ve said for the last few weeks, we are itching to get back to racing but in the meantime we’ll have some fun on iRacing. The second event was much better than the first event and with some additional tweaks to the format we’ll continue to improve the racing and the broadcast. The stakes always get a little higher when you throw a little money to the top-3.”

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Nine-time NASCAR champion Mike Stefanik is back on the NASCAR Hall of Fame nominee ballot.

The Coventry, Rhode Island, native, who won seven championships on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, is on a list of 15 potential inductees into the Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2021. The veteran Modified winner and champion lost his life in a plane crash last September.

Stefanik is part of the Modern Era ballot, one of two major ballots that voters will pick from to honor the Class of 2021 as part of new voting requirements by NASCAR. Two drivers from the Modern Era ballot will be selected while one from the new pioneer ballot will join them, totaling three. A Landmark Award winner will also be honored.

Stefanik is joined on the Modern Era ballot by Neil Bonnett, Jeff Burton, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Harry Gant, Harry Hyde, Larry Phillips, Ricky Rudd and Kirk Shelmerdine. Two will be selected from the group.

Mike Stefanik’s record is hard to match. In 29 years of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing, he won 74 times and won 48 poles. Both of those marks are the most in the modern era of the Whelen Modified Tour. He won his first championship in 1989, another in 1991, followed by two straight in 1997 and 1998. He won two more in 2001 and 2002, then his final in 2006. As part of the ’97 and ’98 seasons, he also won two NASCAR Busch North Series crowns (previously K&N Pro Series East, now ARCA Menards Series East). He is also a top notch race car fabricator.

In addition to Stefanik the following have also been nominated: Following are the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2021 nominees and Landmark Award nominees:

Modern Era Ballot:

Neil Bonnett, won 18 times in the NASCAR Cup Series including consecutive Coca-Cola 600 victories, Jeff Burton, won 21 times in the NASCAR Cup Series including the Southern 500 and two Coca-Cola 600s, Dale Earnhardt Jr., 15-time NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver and two-time Xfinity Series champion, Carl Edwards, winner of 28 NASCAR Cup Series races and 2007 Xfinity Series champion, Harry Gant, winner of 18 NASCAR Cup Series races, including two Southern 500 victories, Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR Cup Series championship crew chief, Larry Phillips, first five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion, Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR Cup Series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400, Kirk Shelmerdine, four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief and Stefanik.

Pioneer Ballot:

Jake Elder, three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion crew chief, Red Farmer, three-time NASCAR Late Model Sportsman champion; 1956 Modified champion

Banjo Matthews, built cars that won more than 250 NASCAR Cup Series races and three championships

Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR West Series champion

Ralph Moody, two-time NASCAR Cup Series owner champion as mechanical genius of Holman-Moody

Landmark Award:

Janet Guthrie, the first female to compete in a NASCAR Cup Series superspeedway race

Alvin Hawkins, NASCAR’s first flagman; established NASCAR racing at Bowman Gray Stadium with Bill France Sr.

The panel of voters is tentatively scheduled to meet on Wednesday, May 20, in Charlotte, North Carolina, to select the Class of 2021. NASCAR did not mention if that date would change due to the COVID-19 pandemic.