Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – For many drivers in racing, no matter the level of competition, a lack of experience can often be the difference between getting a good finish or not.
Such is the case for Open Modified driver Anthony Flannery when he comes to race at Stafford Speedway. The East Hampton, CT native and driver of the #25 Fowler’s Auto Wrecking Chevrolet routinely finds himself racing against drivers who either have weekly racing experience, touring modified experience, or a combination of both.
Despite his relative lack of experience at the Connecticut half-mile facility, Flannery is enthusiastic about his prospects for this Friday night’s Twisted Tea Open Modified 80.
“Stafford is definitely a race that we all look forward to,” said Flannery. “Every Open 80 is an experience. We’ve learned from every race at Stafford, and I really enjoy racing against the caliber of cars and drivers at Stafford. We might not have finished in the top-5 but if you look at some of the cars that we’ve finished in front of, running in the top-10 in an Open 80 at Stafford is pretty good. I want to get the best finish that I can for all my crew guys and sponsors and it can get a little frustrating to not have the experience and background that some of the other drivers have at Stafford. We’ve improved our finishes over the last 3 or 4 races and we’re looking to continue to do that at Stafford.”
In 13 career starts at Stafford between Open Modified and Modified Racing Series events, Flannery has recorded 1 top-5 and 3 top-10 finishes. One of those top-10 finishes was in the most recent Open Modified race at Stafford, the Lincoln Tech 80 on August 21 and it was during that race that Flannery and his #25 crew hit upon something they feel like will make them contenders for victory in the Twisted Tea Open 80.
“For me it comes down to a lack of experience with knowing what the car will do over 80 laps, knowing when to pit for tires, and making the right adjustments to get the car to where we need it to be,” said Flannery. “It seems like the track changes a lot as the night goes on and we’ve been behind on making the right changes. We go into every race expecting to be a contender and the last race at Stafford we made some adjustments to the car during the race that really opened our eyes. We made those adjustments late in the race and I think if we had started the race how we finished the race we would have had better track position and that would have opened up our options for the end of the race. It’s a live and learn thing and now we’re hoping we can take what we learned last time at Stafford into this Friday night and do something with that knowledge. I have to thank Dave Etheridge and all his guys for giving me this opportunity, my crew guys who are always working on the car, Leonard’s of Stafford Springs, East Hampton NAPA Auto Parts, Belltown Motors, Belltown Recycling and everyone who helps make this possible for us.”
As Flannery continues to gain experience and learn about his #25 car, he can always lean on his teammate and car owner Dave Etheridge for advice. Etheridge is a former weekly racer and feature winner at Stafford in the ProStock division and although he has yet to win an tour type modified race at Stafford, Etheridge has numerous top-5 finishes with his #34 Warner Turf Equipment car.
“I lean on Dave a lot as far as to where you need to be on the track,” said Flannery. “Dave will always watch my car whether he’s waiting to go out himself or if he’s on the track with me and he’ll come back and say try this or try that and it’s nice to have a different perspective.”
Another challenge for Flannery has been finding a balance between driving his #25 car hard enough to stay in contention for victory while at the same time saving his equipment enough to allow him to mount a serious challenge in the closing laps of the Open 80’s at Stafford.
“In order to win at Stafford, you have to have a fast car throughout the entire race,” said Flannery. “You have to be in the top-10 and pit with the front running cars while at the same time saving a little for the end of the race. The race that Keith [Rocco] won he was hanging back until after everyone pitted for tires and then all of a sudden he charged to the front and ended up winning the race at the end. I’m used to MRS races where you save your stuff the whole race but in these open 80’s, you really need good track position and you have to save something for the end in order to be a contender in the final 15 or 20 laps.”
This Friday night’s Twisted Tea Open 80 will pair the open modified cars with Stafford’s SK Modifieds®, Late Models, SK Lights, Limited Late Models, and Street Stocks. Tickets are priced at $30.00 for adult general admission, $10.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free. Paddock passes are $50 and all tickets for this event are available for purchase now at www.staffordspeedway.com. The first 3 open modified races at Stafford have sold out this season and this race is expected to sell out as well. If there are any remaining tickets available, they will be sold the day of the event with the price increasing $5 at the gates.
Any fans who can’t make the race in person can watch a live stream of the entire evening starting at 6pm with qualifying heats all the way through the final feature event of the night on www.staffordspeedway.tv for only $30.
Open 80 Stats
The Twisted Tea Open Modified 80, the fourth and final Open Modified event of the 2020 season. The previous 3 Open 80 winners this season were Marcello Rufrano in the July 18 Bud Light 80, Keith Rocco in the August 7 NAPA 100, and Ronnie Williams in the August 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Here we take a statistical look at some of the drivers who are entered in the Twisted Tea Open 80.
Chase Dowling – #00 James Paige Plumbing & Heating Chevrolet – Dowling has started all 3 open modified races at Stafford this season with a best finish of 2nd in the July 18 Bud Light 80. Dowling finished 21st in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 and 20th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 14.3. Dowling has yet to win an open modified race at Stafford but he does have 16 career wins at Stafford (8 SK Modified®, 7 SK Light, 1 Modified Racing Series).
Joey Cipriano – #1 Superior Refinishing Chevrolet – Cipriano has started all 3 open modified races at Stafford this season with a best finish of 3rd in the July 18 Bud Light 80. Cipriano finished 18th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 and 7th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 9.3. Cipriano owns 8 career Stafford wins (1 SK Modified®, 7 SK Light).
Matt Galko – #3 AAA Consulting, LLC. Chevrolet – Of the 14 drivers who have competed in all 3 open races at Stafford this season, Galko has the best average finish of 4.7 with finishes of 6th in the July 18 Bud Light 80, 3rd in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100, and 5th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Galko is a former 2-time SK Light champion at Stafford with 10 career Stafford wins (2 SK Modified®, 8 SK Light).
Cam McDermott – #8 Maybury Material Handling Chevrolet – McDermott has competed in all 3 open races at Stafford this season with a best finish of 6, which he has done twice. McDermott’s other finish this season was a 21st in the July 18 Bud Light 80 to give him an average finish of 11.0. McDermott is still in search of his first career Stafford feature win.
Anthony Flannery – #25 Fowler’s Auto Wrecking Chevrolet – Flannery has competed in all 3 open modified races at Stafford this season with a best finish of 10th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Flannery finished 11th in the other 2 open modified races for an average finish of 10.7. Flannery is looking for his first career Stafford victory.
Matt Swanson – #25 Swanson GMC Chevrolet – The Whelen Modified Tour young gun has started all 3 open races at Stafford with a best finish of 7th in the July 18 Bud Light 80. Swanson followed that up with a 14th place finish in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 and a 21st in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 14.0. Swanson is still looking for his first Stafford victory and the #25 car he is driving has won at Stafford 3 times with Rowan Pennink behind the wheel.
Michael Gervais, Jr. – #33 Gervais Brothers Roofing Chevrolet – Gervais has started all 3 open races at Stafford with a best finish of 11th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Gervais’ other 2 finishes this season are 18th in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and 28th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 for an average finish of 19.0. Gervais is the 2009 SK Light champion and he has 4 career SK Modified® wins at Stafford.
Dave Etheridge – #34 Warner Turf Equipment Chevrolet – Etheridge has had a tough time at Stafford in 2020 with his best finish being 13th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Etheridge’s other 2 finishes this season have been 20th in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and 24th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 for an average finish of 19.0. Etheridge is a former ProStock weekly competitor at Stafford with 5 career wins.
Andrew Molleur – #35 Bud’s Truck and Diesel Service Toyota – Molleur has also had a tough time getting results in his open modified with a best finish of 20th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100. Molleur finished 23rd in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and 26th in the Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 23.0. Molleur has 5 career Stafford wins to his credit with 4 SK Light wins and one SK Modified® victory.
Craig Lutz – #46 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet – Lutz has 2 top-8 finishes this season at Stafford with a 5th in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and an 8th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 for an average finish of 6.5. Lutz has scored both his first Whelen Modified Tour pole position and race win at Stafford and will be looking to add another win.
Marcello Rufrano – #48 Wheelers Auto Chevrolet – The 2018 SK Light track champion was a surprise winner of the July 18 Bud Light 80. Rufrano followed his win up with 17th place finish in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100, knocking his average finish down to 9.0. Rufrano missed the Lincoln Tech 80 but he will be looking to add a second open modified win to his credit.
Ronnie Williams – #50 Empower Financial Advisory Ford – Williams is the 2-time defending SK Modified® track champion at Stafford and he has notched 18 career SK Modified® wins and 4 SK Light feature wins. Williams is the winner of the most recent Open 80 at Stafford, winning the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Williams finished 9th in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and 19th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 for an average finish of 9.7.
Keith Rocco – #57 M & M Stone Creations Chevrolet – Rocco missed the July 18 Bud Light 80 but he has been on fire in the other 2 open modified races at Stafford. Rocco won the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 and he finished 3rd in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 2.0. Rocco is a 3-time Stafford SK Modified® champion and he has 72 career Stafford wins to his credit (61 SK Modified®, 6 Late Model, 2 MRS, 2 Open Modified, 1 Champions for Charities).
Eric Goodale – #58 GAF Roofing Chevrolet – Goodale has started all 3 open races at Stafford with a best finish of 4th in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and the Aug. 7 NAPA 100. Goodale finished 14th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 7.3. Goodale has won the 2017 NAPA Fall Final and the 2018 Bud Light 80 at Stafford.
Todd Owen – #81 Cooker Construction Chevrolet – Owen has started all 3 open races at Stafford with a best finish of 9th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80. Owen finished 10th in the July 18 Bud Light 80 and 13th in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100 for an average finish of 10.7. Owen just recorded a double feature win in last week’s TC 13 Shootout, winning both the 40-lap SK Modified® feature as well as the 13-lap TC 13 Shootout. Owen currently has 21 career Stafford wins (14 SK Modified®, 7 ProStock).
Dana DiMatteo – #176 Island Cove Marina Chevrolet – DiMatteo is the 2014 Legend Cars track champion at Stafford with 8 career wins to his credit. DiMatteo has started all 3 open modified races in 2020 with a 17th in the July 18 Bud Light 80, a 22nd in the Aug. 7 NAPA 100, and a 24th in the Aug. 21 Lincoln Tech 80 for an average finish of 21.0. DiMatteo is looking for his first modified win at Stafford.