RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Great Racing Weekend; Action At Thompson, Stafford & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – On a cold and chilly Friday night as temps dipped to the high 40s by feature time the Stafford Speedway hosted Weekly Racing action for the final Friday night with all 5 of its divisions in feature action.

Taking down feature wins on the night were Keith Rocco in the SK Modified® feature, Ryan Fearn in the Late Model feature, Jonathan Puleo in the SK Light feature, Alexandra Fearn in the Limited Late Model feature, and Frank L’Etoile, Jr. in the Street Stock feature.

With NAPA Championship Night serving as the final night to earn track championship points in 2020, Adam Gray clinched his third career Late Model crown at Stafford, Brian Sullivan clinched the SK Light championship, Andrew Durand scored his second career Limited Late Model title at Stafford, and Zack Robinson went back to back by securing the Street Stock championship. Keith Rocco had already clinched his fourth career Stafford SK Modified® title.

Rocco took the lead on the restart on lap 34 with Todd Owen taking second. Ron Williams was third in line with Michael Christopher, Jr. and Tyler Leary side by side for fourth place. Tony Membrino, Matt Vassar, and Tyler Hines got into the turn 2 wall to bring the caution back out with 36 laps complete.Rocco took the lead on the restart with Owen and Williams side by side for second. Owen quickly cleared Williams for second with Christopher and Leary side by side for fourth. Rocco led Owen to the checkered flag to pick up his sixth win of the 2020 season. Williams finished third with Christopher and Leary rounding out the top-5.

The battle for the Street Stock Championship was a heart breaker for Megan Fuller. Fuller is the daughter of former NASCAR Modified Champion Rick Fuller. Fuller was running second on the white flag lap with championship in hand when she was spun out of contention by Brandon Michael, allowing Zack Robinson to take the title. Michael was placed last in the final order for his action.

All eyes will be on the Stafford Motor Speedway on Saturday, October 24 when the Tri-Track Modified Series comes to the half-mile for the first time in the series history. The Inaugural 81-lap event will pay a whopping $10,000 to the winner with total posted awards of nearly $50,000.

The regulars versus the outsiders will be in full effect as the top modified drivers in the Northeast descend on Stafford Speedway for the season ending event. Stafford regulars Keith Rocco, Marcello Rufrano, and Ronnie Williams, who all have Open Modified victories at Stafford this season, will battle with Tri-Track Series drivers Matt Hirschman, Sam Rameau, Andy Jankowiak and more. With a large field of cars expected for the $10,000 to win show, one of the biggest challenges of the day will be qualifying for the 81-lapper.

Stafford Speedway’s SK Light Modified and Street Stock divisions will also be on hand both competing in non-points 20 lap events. Additional prize money will be added to both of those purses.

For those who can not make it to the track Pay per View is a viable option. Stafford’s option is the best deal in auto racing and provides clear, concise coverage plus instant replays. Go to Stafford’s web page and follow the directions.

The all new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it in the all new book. Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal181(877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site. Order yours now.

The 58th annual Sunoco World Series was held at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway this past weekend. Although it looked like the speedway might remain dark for the season, a new agreement with the American-Canadian Tour and Pro All Star Series leasing the track in the summer allowed the Sunoco Modifieds, Twisted Tea SK Light Modifieds, Sam Adams Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks to return and chase a lucrative payout to close the oval season. Joining them were the ISMA Supers and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.

Twenty seven NASCAR Modifieds were on hand for the ninth and final event of 2020. Doug Coby continues to move closer to the all-time pole record for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The 40-year-old from Milford, Connecticut, earned the Mayhew Tools Pole Award in Saturday’s qualifying for Sunday’s Sunoco World Series 150. Patrick Emerling qualified second at 19.257 (116.841), followed by NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship points leader Justin Bonsignore at 19.311 (116.514). Ronnie Williams and Craig Lutz rounded out the top five.

The Long Island Gang made their presence known as they won the 150 lap season ending event and the overall series championship. They also crashed and one of them finished last. Craig Lutz swiped the lead from Jon McKennedy with seven laps remaining and hung on to win the 150-lap event. Justin Bonsignore finished fourth and secured his second series championship. For the 32-year-old Bonsignore, the title was the capstone on a 2020 season where he finished no worse than fifth at any event.

Lutz’s teammate Eric Goodale finished last, 27th after hitting the wall in turn three when he misjudged where Doug Coby was and hopped over his wheel. Dave Sapienza and Timmy Solomito crashed out of the event. Ken Heagy finished 16th, on the lead lap.

Six-time champion Doug Coby, who was the only driver who could catch Bonsignore entering the Sunoco World Series, started on the pole and led the first 30 laps. Jon McKennedy, in the Tom Baldwin 7ny then surged ahead of him entering turn three and paced the field unto the fourth caution flag at lap 73 for Dave Sapienza’s spin.

Nearly all the lead lap cars chose to pit for right side tires at that point with Calvin Carroll assuming the lead by staying out. Following another yellow on the restart for a Ronnie Wiliams spin, Ron Silk sliced to the lead for a circuit before Bonsignore then blasted to the lead on lap 88.

The championship was then decided on a lap-97 restart. Silk jumped the restart while Lutz tried to move around Bonsignore for second entering turn three. The duo wiggled, Kyle Bonsignore checked up, and the accordion effect ended with Coby in the turn-four wall after hitting the tail end of McKennedy’s car, which put an end to his day. Since the lap wasn’t completed, Bonsignore went back to the lead by rule, and Silk was assessed a pass-through penalty for jumping the start.

Lutz successfully overtook Bonsignore on the next green flag and paced the field until caution number nine. It was McKennedy who got the jump on the lap-138 restart for his second stint at the front. Sapienza pounded the turn-one wall a lap later for the 10th and final yellow. Lutz took advantage of his second chance, putting a crossover move on McKennedy out of turn two and wrestling the lead back with six laps to go.

McKennedy had time to take another shot, and with three laps to go, he backed off entering turn three to set up a potential slingshot off turn four. But Silk, who had steadily driven back to third after serving his penalty, got into the back of McKennedy. The contact threw McKennedy off just enough for Lutz to get away for the victory. McKennedy hung on for second with Silk and Justin Bonsignore following. Rounding out the top five was Kyle Bonsignore.. Sam Remeau took sixth while Woody Pitkat came back from a mid-race flat tire to finish seventh. Calvin Carroll, Patrick Emerling, and Tyler Rypkema completed the top-10.

In other Sunday action at Thompson, Keith Rocco made it two on the weekend. Rocco, who also won at Stafford on Friday night, passed early leader Troy Talman on lap five and ran without pressure the rest of the way in winning the 30-lap SK Modified feature. Ronnie Williams finished second and Bryan Narducci was third. Troy Talman and Eric Berndt rounded out the top five.Sixth thru tenth were Max Zachem, Jeff Malave, Andrew Moeller, Woody Pitkat and Joey Allegro Jr.

The wins at Stafford and Thompson took Rocco to a career overall total of 291 wins which include 152 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 65 at Thompson and 74 at Stafford Speedway.

Also scoring Sunday wins at Thompson was Jon McKennedy in the ISMA Super Modifieds. Ronnie Williams, in his maiden run in the division, finished second. Ryan Waterman went without pressure in the 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature. Randy Cabral held off the last lap challenge of PJ Stergois to win the 25-lap NEMA Lites feature. DJ Shaw topped the field in the 75-lap Pro All Stars Series feature. Eddie MacDonald was second and Ray Christian III was third.

Jon McKennedy started the afternoon with a win by getting the best of Rowley, MA’s Chris Perley in the closing laps of the ISMA Supermodified event. McKennedy started third in the 50-lap feature and got to the rear bumper of polesitter Perley following the race’s only yellow at lap 4.Perley, McKennedy, and Ronnie Williams then ran away from the field. McKennedy got alongside Perly Multiple times on the frontstretch, and the duo even banged wheels entering turn one just past halfway with both hanging on for dear life.

Pro All Stars Series Super Late Model point leader D.J. Shaw strengthened his bid for a fourth championship by winning the World Series 75. Shaw, who had finished second five times this year without a victory, started outside pole and got the jump when Brandon Barker had trouble at the initial green flag.

Just about every racing division that competes in New England raced during the weekend. The Modified Racing Series that was formerly included was dropped and a 75 lap Tour type Open was put in it’s place. On Saturday, Mike Christopher Jr who started fourth, went past Chase Dowling for the lead on lap 66 and never looked back as he took his first win in a Tour type Modified. Chase Dowling finished second with Keith Rocco, third. Joey Cipriano and Andy Shaw rounded out the top five. Matt Swanson inherited the fifth spot after Andy Shaw was disqualified for an illegal carburetor. Dave Ethridge, Trevor Bleau, Eric Goodale, Brett Meservey, and Max Zachem rounded out the top-10. When the sixth and final yellow came out on lap 53 for a multi-car tangle in turn four, Christopher was up to third. He disposed of Keith Rocco on the restart when Rocco had trouble getting back to speed, then set his sights on Dowling. With the pair approaching slower traffic and lap 65 going on the scoreboard, Christopher made his move, diving inside Dowling for the lead entering turn one. The earlier strategy then truly paid dividends as Christopher pulled away from an increasingly loose Dowling to pocket the $5,000 payday.

Woody Pitkat went pole to pole to score a 50 lap win in the Late Models. Tom Carey finished second with Jake Johnson, third.

Other Saturday winners were: NEMA MIDGETS, John Zych Jr, NORTH EAST MINI STOCK TOUR, Desmond Skillings, PRO 4 MODIFIEDS, Doug Meservey Jr. EXIT REALTY PRO TRUCK CHALLENGE

Ryan Vanasse and 350 SUPERMODIFIED OPEN, Bobby Timmons III.

Despite the Covid restrictions the World Series hit a home run in attendance. Coming thru the back gate as competitors were 323 race cars not including STARS. Based on a conservative estimate of five individuals per car paying $75 each, Over $121,000. came thru the back gate.

The New London Waterford Speedbowl was in darkness on Saturday as the track shut down so as to allow competitors to participate or take in the action at Thompson last weekend

The Riverhead Raceway ran twin fifties for the Modifieds on Saturday night. Ever since their INEX Legend Race Car days Dylan Slepian and Kyle Soper have been close friends at or away from Riverhead Raceway and for a short time owned a driveway seal coating business together, Saturday night they did something together once again as they both won Twin 50 NASCAR Modified features with Slepian capturing the opener over Soper, while Kyle took home the win in the nightcap.