RPW Column: The Champ Trail: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Other Asphalt Races Put On Good Shows…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series heads to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island this coming Saturday night, May 15. Long Island native Eric Goodale leads Patrick Emerling by six points. Tommy Catalano sits in third spot, 11 points back.

Max McLaughlin sits in fourth spot with Justin and Kyle Bonsignore tied for the fifth spot.

WMT qualifying is set for 6 pm while the Miller Lite 200 is scheduled to take the green flag at 8:00 pm with a live stream of the race being available on NBC Sports Gold Track Pass. The Riverhead Raceway Eagle Auto Mall Crate Modifieds, INEX Legend Race Cars, Street Stocks and Mini Stocks will join the Miller Lite 200 program. A strong contingent of Riverhead Raceway is prepared to defend the home turf. Leading the locals into action will be defending Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series champion Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead.

Last Friday night saw the Stafford Motor Speedway kick off it’s 21 weeks of Friday night weekly racing with 40 degree weather. New for the 2021 season at Stafford Motor Speedway, The Crafty Toolbox of Meriden, CT has become the track’s newest contingency sponsor. The Crafty Toolbox will present a weekly bonus of $50 to the third place finisher in each Street Stock feature event, bumping the third place purse up to $225. In addition, For the second consecutive season, Baker’s Woodshop will offer a $75 bonus to the third place finisher in each Limited Late Model feature event this season. The Crafty Toolbox will also have a presence at Stafford’s Monday night Wild Thing Kart Series.

It was good to hear and see Matt Buckler back in the saddle behind the mic in the announcer’s tower. Buckler had been on a two week quarantine after coming in contact with someone who had the Covid virus.

It was back to basics for Mike Christopher Sr and Jr. The first two events at Stafford were not as productive as they had wished so the Christophers reverted back to a set-up that worked and the results showed success. Christopher, Jr., started third and took the lead on the first lap from Tyler Leary before the caution came out for a multi car incident in turn 2 with 1 lap complete. Christopher took the lead on the restart with Mikey Flynn in second and Todd Owen in third. Owen worked his way by Flynn on lap-5 to take over second with Bryan Narducci in fourth and Tyler Hines and Chase Dowling side by side for fifth. Keith Rocco, who started nineth, had moved into seventh. The caution flag flew with 9 laps complete for Doug Meservey, Jr. who did a half spin through the frontstretch infield. At just about the same time Narducci got loose in turn two and made contact with Ron Williams. Narducci was forced to park it for the night.

Owen took a look to the high and low side of Christopher on the restart but Christopher was able to maintain the lead. Rocco came up to third with Hines side by side with Flynn for fourth. Tyler Hines took the fifth place on lap-12 while Stephen Kopcik took fifth on lap-13. Up front, Rocco got around Owen to take over second and he began to set his sights on Christopher for the lead.

At the halfway point of the race, Christopher still held the lead with Rocco right on his bumper. Owen was third followed by Hines and Kopcik. Noah Korner was up to sixth followed by David Arute, Ronnie Williams, Andrew Molleur, Dowling, and Tyler Leary. Hines got around Owen for third place on lap-31 while Rocco was still giving chase to Christopher for the race lead and Kopcik was still running in fifth place.

Rocco tried every move he could think of but to no avail as he couldn’t get close enough to Christopher to make a move for the lead as Christopher took down the victory. Hines finished third with Owen and Kopcik rounding out the top-5. Sixth thru tenth were Ronnie Williams, Noah Korner, Andrew Molleur, David Arute and Tyler Leary.

In other Friday night action at Stafford, Michael Bennett and Derek Debbis both made it two-for-two in 2021 by winning the Late Model and SK Light feature events respectively. Rich Hammann scored his first career Stafford feature victory in the Limited Late Model feature, and Travis Hydar won the Street Stock feature.

In the SK Lites third generation racer Tyler Barry made his open wheel debut. Barry is the son of former driver Kenny Barry and the Grandson of legendary car owner Art Barry. In his first outing started 11th and finished a solid seventh in his qualifying heat. He finished 13th in the feature. Also moving up from the full fendered cars was Meghan Fuller who finished 14th.

Derek Debbis was the SK Lite winner but the event was slowed when Todd Douillard, who was running sixth at the time hit a ton in turn four, breaking the Armco barrier and brought out the red. Sami Anderson also hit hard in the same area. Both drivers were unhurt.

Coming up this Friday at Stafford is the 3rd Annual CBYD Open Modified 81 plus a regular program. Ryan Preece has indicated that he will be in competition.

The southern based SMART Modifieds paid a visit to what is known as “The Moonshine Capitol of the World”, the Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, VA last Saturday. The event drew 17 cars including Ryan Preece.

John Smith led just one lap in the SMART Modified Tour portion of the Kenny Minter Classic at Franklin County Speedway on Saturday, but it was the one lap that counted.

Smith was running inside the top-five in the final laps with a front-row view of the confrontations that broke out in front of him, first between James Civali and Burt Myers, then between James Civali and Bobby Labonte. Both Myers and Labonte had worked their way to the outside of the man who has earned the nickname “One Man Taliban,” but neither driver was able to complete the pass. Civali drove up the track to run Myers up, resulting in Myers making contact with the outside wall. A few laps later, on the first white flag lap, Labonte had passed Civali entering turn one, but spun when Civali put the bumper to him as he exited turn two, which allowed Smith to move into the second. Smith, on the final lap of the race, raced his way to Civali’s inside in turn three, gave him some of his own medicine as he took the lead and the eventual win. Civali recovered and finished second.

Jason Myers wound up finishing third while brothers Frank Fleming and Chris Fleming rounded out the top-five. Burt Myers ended up 8th, Chuck Hossfeld, 11th and Ryan Preece, 12th.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl didn’t have a Grand Opening last weekend, they sort of had a soft opening. Racing began at the shoreline oval last Saturday night with somewhere near 400 spectators in attendance. It was kind of a secret race as no one knew what was going on except those who drove by on Route 85 in Waterford and read the sign that stated that there would be racing there on Saturday.

It’s really too bad as thousands of dollars have been spent to bring the facility back to a near first class venue. Too bad the guy running the track claims to be a savior of race tracks but in reality has no clue as to what it takes to promote racing and make it profitable.

Needless to say, eight divisions were in competition. In the SK Modifieds 17 cars were on hand. Corey DiMatteo took the win over Todd Owen and Joey Gada. The SK Lites also had 17 cars with Wayne Burroughs taking the win. In the Late Models it was Jason Palmer over Ryan Morgan. John O’Sullivan was the Legends winner, Ryan Waterman was the Strictly Stock winner, Jared Roy was the Mini Stock winner, Rob Riccardi was the Pro Four winner and Jim Boyle was the Truck division winner.

There is no word as to whether the Speedbowl will be running this week. Best bet is to drive by and check the sign that is out front near the road!

Out on Long Island at the Riverhead Raceway Shawn Solomito won the 50 lap NASCAR Modified Tune-up for this weeks Modified Tour Series event. Kyle Soper finished second with Tom Rogers, third. Despite a rain delay during qualifying the entire seven division program was completed. With the three heat races scrubbed and the 21-car field set for the 50-lap feature by inverting the top 12 from the opening night event a week prior with the remaining nine cars set by points after the opener.

Patrick Emerling got the best of Matt Hirschman as he won a 75 lap Race of Champions event at the Ghemung NY Speedway. Austin Beers finished third with Zane Zeiner and Tommy Catalano rounding out the top five.

April 30, 1972 Ronnie Bouchard, in the Bob Johnson No.17, took the win at Stafford over Leo Cleary, Bob Santos, Jerry Cook, Ray Miller and Smokey Boutwell. It was the first win at Stafford for the former Seekonk Speedway Champion. Ronnie would become one of Stafford’s Most Popular Drivers and would also become Eddie Flemke’s son in law as he married his daughter Paula.

Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which 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! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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