RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Stafford Speedway TV’s Been A Success, Whelen Mod’s At Jennerstown & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WAVERLY, RI – The Stafford Speedway continued their Weekly Racing action on Friday with Open Modified cars in the house for the Lincoln Tech Open Mod 80 as an added attraction.

Todd Owen took down his first win of 2020 in the SK Modified® feature, Darrell Keane was a first time 2020 winner in the Late Model feature, Alexander Pearl came from a 13th starting spot and scored his second 2020 win in the SK Light feature, Alexandra Fearn was a first time 2020 winner in the Limited Late Model feature, and Jason Lafayette won for the second time this season in the Street Stock feature.

Ronnie Williams took the lead from Jon McKennedy with 6 laps to go and went on to win the Lincoln Tech Open Mod 80, his second career open modified win at Stafford.

Owen, who started 14th in the 40lap SK Modified event took the lead on the restart following a lap 15 caution with Tony Membrino slotting into second. Mikey Flynn was third with Andrew Molleur right on his back bumper in fourth and Keith Rocco was fifth. Molleur went by Flynn to take third place on lap-17 and Rocco would get by Flynn to move into fourth on lap-21 as Owen continued to hold the race lead with Membrino in second. The caution came back out with 22 laps complete for a spin in turn 2 by Vassar. Michael Christopher, Jr. was sent to the rear of the field for making contact with Vassar.

Owen again took command of the race back under green with Molleur taking second. Membrino was third followed by Rocco and Chase Dowling. Marcello Rufrano did a half-spin and came to a stop on the backstretch to bring the caution back out with 25 laps complete.

With 3 laps to go, Owen and Molleur were the top-2 cars followed by Membrino, Rocco, Williams, and Dowling. Rocco finally was able to make a pass stick on Membrino to move into third on lap-38. Owen led Molleur to the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2020 season. Rocco finished third with Williams nipping Membrino at the line to finish fourth.

In the Lincoln Tech Open Mod 80 Jon McKennedy took the lead back under green following a restart on lap 66 with Rocco glued to his back bumper. Ron Williams got around Keith Rocco to take second on lap-68 and he took the lead from McKennedy on lap-69 but McKennedy came right back with a crossover move and he maintained the lead. Rocco was third in line with Ryan Preece fourth and Matt Galko in fifth.

McKennedy threw a block on Williams on lap-75 but Williams somehow found a way to squeeze to the inside of McKennedy in turn 3 to take the lead. There would be no crossover move from McKennedy this time as he settled into second. Rocco was still third with Preece and Galko making up the top-5.

Williams led McKennedy to the checkered flag to win the Lincoln Tech Open 80. Rocco finished third with Preece and Galko rounding out the top-5.

The entire Friday night program was live streamed from Stafford. “Stafford Speedway TV has been a great success so far,” explained Paul Arute of Stafford Speedway. “The payout pool for the race teams has already surpassed $10,000 through the first 8 events. Our team has been continuing to improve the broadcast each week through the addition of a scoring ticket, lap counter, and even some original content to keep the viewer entertained during caution periods. We hope everyone is enjoying the service and continues to tune in.”

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ventured to the Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania for round 4 of the 2020 season. Twenty-five cars showed for the event. Justin Bonsignore was the pole sitter. Bonsignore led from the start in what looked to be a yawner. At the half way mark he was out for a Sunday drive on Saturday night. Dave Sapienza who was second fastest was seven seconds back with Craig Lutz, who started fifth, was running third. A caution on lap 88 for debris closed up the lead but Bonsignore retained the top spot after a pit stop. Jon McKennedy restarted in third with Lutz and Doug Coby in hot pursuit.

A hard crash by Andrew Krause who hit the wall a ton on lap 104 set the stage for a shake-up in the running order. Following a restart on lap 111 Craig Lutz vaulted into the lead when Bonsignore appeared to spin his tires. As Bonsignore faded Sapienza moved into the runner-up spot. Lutz and Sapienza slugged it out for the top spot, making contact on a few occasions. Sapienza brushed the wall a couple of times but it didn’t slow him down. Anthony Nocella slipped by Doug Coby for the third spot on lap 135.

At the finish it was Lutz taking the top spot with Sapienza, second and Nocella, third. Coby and Bonsignore rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth wereMcKennedy, Matt Swanson, Tyler Rypkema, Kyle Ebersole and Chris Pasteryak.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to New England this coming weekend on Saturday night with the Advanced Gas Distributors Inc. 200 Wade Cole Memorial at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire. The Laurel Highlands 150 streamed live on TrackPass on NBC Gold, and will air on Monday, Aug. 31 at 3 p.m. on NBCSN.

Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl two drivers were able to end their seven-year itch during competition Saturday at the Speedbowl and were able to scratch the surface of victory lane. Third generation driver Joe Gada dominated the 35-lap SK Modified feature and posted his first win since 2013. The same script was true in the 25-lap SK Lite feature, Nicole Thibeault controlled the race to grab her second career victory and her first since 2013.

Other winners were Doug Curry in the Ministocks, Shawn Monahan in the Sportsman, Jason Palmer in the Late Models, Giovanni Ruggiero in the Legends and Colby Lambert in the Open Street Stocks.

Gada started third in the SK feature, but quickly moved into the lead when the two drivers in the front row, Paul Buzel and Rob Janovic Jr. drifted up high, opening up the entire inside of the track for Gada to stomp to the front. Janovic quickly moved into second place and was perched on the back bumper of Gada, but as the race went on, Gada expanded his lead. Kyle James moved into third, but couldn’t generate a serious challenge to Janovic in second place. Corey DiMatteo picked up the most positions, starting eighth and finishing fourth.

Out on the east end of Long Island at the Riverhead Raceway the emotions flowed as second generation driver Chris Young held off a hard pressing 58-time career winner Tom Rogers Jr. of to earn his first career victory. As he took his victory lap Chris admitted the tears welled up thinking about his late father Chris a 33-time winner at the demanding quarter mile oval but also realized it was the work ethic instilled into him by his parents that brought him to this point including building his own engine in the winning machine. The night would belong to first time winners with four of the seven victors enjoying their first career victory.

It appears that the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS), officials have made things right at the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Speedway as they have released the purse structure for all local divisions which will be part of the Thompson 150 on Wednesday, September 2. The locals will race for nearly $24,000 in combined posted awards on a card that also includes the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The Sunoco (SKtype) Modifieds will have a 30-lap, $1,500-to-win feature Second place receives $900 with a $600 prize for the third-place finisher. Every racer who takes the green flag will collect a minimum of $200 with more than $8,500 in total awards for a 24-car starting field.

Previously under the management of the Hoenig family local division races had less of a sub-par racing purse which was an insult to competitors.

This Friday, August 28, Claremont Motorsports Park in Claremont, NH, will be the site of one of the most-anticipated Modified events of 2020. With $10,000 on the line, the Maurice Enterprises Racers Honoring Racers 100 will draw a talent-laden field. A joint effort between the Speedway, long-time promoter Dick Williams and The Racing Guys, the race will honor local legends like Dwight Jarvis, Bruce Batchelder, Peter Daniels and others.

Qualifying for the 100-lap event will include heat and consolation races. NHSTRA Sportsman Modifieds, Late Model Sportsmen, Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Six Shooters will complete the night’s racing card. Feature racing will get under way at 7pm. General admission is $30 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12 will be available at the track on race day. Other race details will be forthcoming and will be available by visiting Claremont Motorsports Park online.

Championship drivers from race series like the Modified Tour, Race of Champions, Modified Racing Series and countless local and regional tracks have already filed entries including Ron Silk, Matt Hirschman, Les Hinckley, Chuck Hossfeld and Woody Pitkat. Other notables like Matt Swanson, Eric Goodale, Andy Jankowiak, Anthony Sesely, Kirk Alexander and Mike Willis are among the current 25 entrants.

It looks like weekly racing and some special events at the Seekonk Speedway will not happen plus professional football and Major League Baseball in Massachusetts Boston sports will continue on without fans at least the end of September. State officials informed teams and the management of the Seekonk Speedway last week, ensuring a quiet start to the New England Patriots season at Gillette Stadium and dashing hopes that Red Sox fans could cheer from inside Fenway Park this year. The Seekonk Speedway does not have pay-per-view in place and simply can not afford to hold races without fans in the grandstands.

Pro Football and Major League Baseball are heavily funded by Television sponsors. That means the Patriots will be greeted by empty seats at their scheduled home opener against the Miami Dolphins on Sept. 13 and a Sept. 27 game against the Las Vegas Raiders. The Red Sox season ends on Sept. 27.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker had already nixed fans sitting in stadiums until the state reaches the fourth and final phase of its reopening from coronavirus shutdowns, a phase he has said won’t start until a vaccine or widespread treatment is available.

Last weekend saw the Launch of the book, The Modified Years at the Stafford Motor Speedway, 1967 -1986 By the Grace of God and 600 Horsepower by yours truly, Phil Smith

In what was a labor of love for close to ten years I have documented what many consider the Golden Years of Modified Racing at Stafford. Year by Year, race by race. Each chapter is devoted to each year. Topping out at 240 pages, the book documents what ABC Sports often said, “The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat. A multitude of personalities including drivers, owners, officials and management are a vital part of the book. Most important is the fact that Jack and Chuck Arute stepped up when the track was in dire straights and faced extinction. Jack Arute was the co-owner of the Garutti-Arute No.14 Modifieds that was one of the top modifieds at the time. Arute was also responsible for the upgrade of the general appearance of the Modifieds. The book can be purchased for $17.95 thru Amazon.com

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