Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – Heading into the final race of the 2020 season at Stafford Speedway, Andrew Durand, Alexandra Fearn, and Jeremy Lavoie are locked in the tightest championship race out of Stafford’s five weekly divisions.
After 13 races, Durand, who has won more than half of the races this season with 7 victories, leads Fearn by 2 points, or 1 position on the track, and Lavoie by 10 points, or 5 positions on the track.
After not racing at Stafford since the 2011 season, Durand and the #43 Universal Plastics team returned to Stafford for 2 races at the end of the 2019 season and finished last in each race after encountering mechanical issues. Their plan was originally to take the 2020 season one race at a time, but a red hot start that saw them win the first 2 races of the season changed those plans to a full schedule and Durand has been leading the standings all season long.
“The car has been going good and it’s always been fast,” said Durand. “We’ve been keeping up on our maintenance while chugging along and this year has been crazy so we’re lucky that we got to race at all. Our performance has surprised us a little, especially with me not having raced for the last 10 years or so. We weren’t really sure what was going to happen this year, plus we had some bad luck in the couple races we ran at the end of last season. We were going to go week to week but we started doing well and that has turned into a full season.”
Fearn and the #12 SAFCO Foam team got off to a somewhat slow start in 2020, recording only 1 podium finish through the first four races. In the last 9 races, Fearn has recorded 2 wins, 5 seconds, and a third place finish to vault herself into championship contention.
“The season has been pretty decent for us,” said Fearn. “We started off very slow but we all put our heads together and came up with something that is really working. I think we’ve been the fastest or one of the fastest cars in practice every race since July. Our consistency has been very good and we’ve had some good luck staying out of trouble and being able to put down some fast laps.”
Lavoie and the #6 L + S Equipment team came into the 2020 season fresh off of winning back to back Limited Late Model championships and were going for the 3-peat this season. Lavoie has displayed his customary level of consistency this season, scoring 2 wins and 7 podium finishes, but he heads into the final race as the longshot to take the championship being 10 points out of the lead.
“We came into the season with high expectations but I’d say we’ve kind of underperformed to our expectations,” said Lavoie. “The track has definitely changed this year and it’s thrown a wrench into our whole system. We’ve struggled but we continue to fight the setup on the car every week and I think we might have something for the last race. We knew we had a bull’s-eye on our backs and everyone would be gunning for us with 2 consecutive championships.”
The final race of the 2020 season sees Durand with a 2 point advantage over Fearn and a 10 point advantage over Lavoie. With 7 wins already to his credit in 2020, Durand holds the tiebreaker so if Durand finishes second or better, he is guaranteed to win the championship. If Durand doesn’t win or finish 2nd, he must be no more than 1 position behind Fearn and no more than 5 positions behind Lavoie to claim the title. Fearn has to finish at least 2 positions in front of Durand and no more than 3 positions behind Lavoie if he wins and no more than 4 spots behind if Lavoie doesn’t win. Lavoie is the longshot in this equation needing to beat Durand by at least 6 spots and Fearn by 5 spots to win a third consecutive title.
“I just have to keep on doing what we’ve been doing all year long,” said Durand. “The one thing we can’t afford is to have another DNF. I’m pretty comfortable with where we’re at. I’ve been in this situation in the past and you can definitely stress yourself out thinking about the championship so you just have to think positive and go for it.”
“I think for this last race we’re going to be looking for the 1% that we’ve been missing because it’s going to be a shootout between me and Andrew with Jeremy right there waiting to capitalize on any mistakes,” said Fearn. “Both Andrew and Jeremy are both very fast and consistent so I think it’s going to take that last 1% to get the job done. Second place won’t cut it for us. We’re going to be looking for every opportunity that we can have to make the car faster and we have to be perfect for the final race. I need to have my focus be 100% and bring the best version of myself to the track and make sure that I stay focused on the mission of winning.”
“We’ve had a nothing to lose mentality all year long and we’re excited to see what this last race holds for us,” said Lavoie. “The weather is probably going to be on the colder side so we’re trying to figure out how that will affect the car. We’re going to come out swinging and if we can get the 3-peat, that would be awesome, but if not, we’ll be happy with where we are this season and we’ll try to get one more win. Rob Russell from RRC has been helping us out a little and between him and my crew, we’re hoping we can put the car in victory lane one more time.”
Keith Rocco has already clinched the SK Modified® track title but in addition to the Limited Late Model track title, Stafford’s Late Models, SK Lights, and Street Stocks will all crown their 2020 champions this Friday night as part of NAPA Auto Parts Championship Night. Tickets for NAPA Auto Parts Championship Night are on sale now through the Stafford Speedway website with adult general admission priced at $20.00, $5.00 for kids ages 6-14, kids 5 and under are admitted free. Paddock passes are priced at $40.00. The 2020 season concludes with the CBYD 81 Modified Classic on Saturday, October 24, which will pay the winner of the 81-lap Tri-Track Modified Series race $10,000 to win.
Fans who cannot attend this Friday night’s races in person but would still like to watch can order a live stream of the event from www.staffordspeedway.tv for $20.