RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Racing’s In Full Swing At Thompson, Stafford & On The NASCAR Mod Trail…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Thompson Motorsports Speedway was back in action on Wednesday night, June 16, under the ACT/PASS sanction Keith Rocco scored a double shot as he picked up the 67th and 68th wins of his career at the northeastern Connecticut oval.

Rocco capped the night with a thrilling victory in the Nutmeg State 75 presented by Twisted Tea for the Outlaw Open Modified Series, outdueling Ronnie Williams and NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Preece over the final laps. He also triumphed in the Sunoco Modified feature, earning him a total of $6,500 in prize money on the night.

In the Outlaw Modified feature which drew 17 cars, Anthony Nocella earned the pole in the Outlaw Open Modified feature and led the first seven laps before Jonathan McKennedy took over the point. The multi-time Modified Racing Series and International Supermodified Association champion paced the field through two yellow flags, fending off a field that included Rocco, Preece, Nocella, Williams, and Mike Christopher Jr.

On a lap-29 restart following Rob Richardi Jr.’s spin, Williams shot from fourth to second on the outside and kept McKennedy in his sights as the field strung out. When Nocella looped it in turn four to bring out the final caution with 50 laps complete, the game was afoot. Most of the field came in at that point to put on two fresh tires and make adjustments for the final shootout.

Rocco was the first car out of the pits and restarted fourth behind Dave Sapienza, Andrew Krause, and Max Zachem, who had all pitted during earlier cautions. McKennedy, meanwhile, had a slow stop and was relegated to ninth for the green flag. Sapienza led lap 51, but Rocco and Preece quickly moved their way to the front, sweeping underneath Sapienza entering turn one. Williams and Matt Swanson weren’t far behind as they settled into third and fourth. The top-three eventually broke away, running inches apart at speeds well over 100mph. Preece took a peek to Rocco’s inside on several occasions, knowing that Williams was hot on his tail should he slip up.

With three laps to go, Preece finally made his bid, diving inside Rocco on the front straightaway. However, the many-time Thompson Speedway champion kept his Modified wound up on the high side and staved off the charge. Williams took advantage of Preece’s lost momentum and roared into the second spot. There was time for Williams to mount one charge for the lead off turn two on the final lap, but Rocco took advantage that move as well to score the victory and the $5,000 winner’s purse. Williams and Preece followed with Swanson and Chris Pasteryak rounding out the top five.

Prior to his Outlaw Open Modified victory, Rocco remained perfect in the Sunoco Modifieds under the ACT/PASS sanction. Rocco started seventh in the 30-lap feature and quickly carved his way to the front, taking the lead on lap four. Troy Talman and Danny Cates were able to grab the lead back from Rocco on restarts, but Rocco took it back a lap later both times. Mike Christopher Jr. eventually moved into the second spot and caught Rocco with 10 laps to go. Christopher stalked the multi-time Thompson Speedway champion until trying an inside move entering turn three with four laps remaining. But the challenger wiggled and lost two car lengths instead. Christopher was unable to recover enough for another attempt at the lead, coming across the finish line in Rocco’s shadow. Cates finished third while Derek Gluchacki took fourth in his first Sunoco Modified start. John Lowinski-Loh, Joe Allegro Jr., Chase Cook, Christian Turrisi, Talman, and Paul LaPlante were fifth through 10th.

Rocco’s career overall total is now 296 wins which include 153 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 68 at Thompson and 75 at Stafford Speedway.

Other winners at Thompson were Brian Tagg who went wire-to-wire in the 25-lap Late Model feature, Corey Fanning , the Limited Sportsman winner, Paul “Buddy” Charette who got first SK Light Modified win and Steven Michalski who won the Mini Stock feature.

The Thompson Speedway oval is back in action on Wednesday, July 7 at 6:00pm with the Sam Adams Wicked Hazy IPA Spirit of 76. The Outlaw Open Modifieds chase another $5,000 top price in a belated Independence Day celebration. They’re joined by the Sunoco Modifieds, Late Models, Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsmen, SK Light Modifieds, and Mini Stocks.

Last Friday night at the Stafford Motor Speedway there were two first time winners with Bryan Narducci winning his first career SK Modified® feature event in a Keith Rocco Racing prepared car after getting fired from the Bear Calicchio owned ride he began the 2021 season in and Adrien Paradis, III scored his first career win in the Street Stock feature. Wayne Coury, Jr. won the Late Model feature, Brian Sullivan won the SK Light feature, and Gary Patnode won the Limited Late Model feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Narducci made a move to the inside of Doug Meservey Jr for the lead on lap-9 and he took the lead coming out of turn 4. Matt Vassar moved into second with David Arute now side by side with Meservey for third place and Michael Gervais in fifth. Meservey began to slide backwards as he was stuck in the outside lane and he fell back to tenth place with 15 laps complete. As the race hit the halfway mark of 20 laps, the order was Narducci followed by Vassar, Arute, Gervais, Stephen Kopcik, Mikey Flynn, Tyler Hines, Marcello Rufrano, Todd Owen, and Michael Christopher, Jr.

Arute, who was having his best run ever, was applying heavy pressure to Vassar for second place, but he was unable to complete a pass. Narducci was starting to slowly stretch out his lead over Vassar and Arute while Kopcik was closing in on the back bumper of Arute with 11 laps to go.

With 5 laps to to, Narducci was still slowly pulling away from Vassar in second, who still had Arute looking for a way to make a pass and take over second. Hines had caught up to Kopcik to make it a four-car fight for second. No one could catch Narducci as he took the checkered flag to pick up his first career SK Modified® victory. Arute finished third, his best finish ever, with Kopcik and Hines rounding out the top-5.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the east end of Long Island at the Riverhead Raceway. Twenty-five cars were on hand with Justin Bonsignore taking the pole. A fierce thunderstorm with heavy rain put a damper on the racing which was postponed until Sunday.

Doug Coby won the 200 lapper and the only way to describe it is that he “Cleaned House”. One week removed from missing the Whelen Modified Tour’s stop at Oswego Speedway, Coby got back to his winning ways with relative ease, leading 149 of 200 laps Sunday en route to the Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac 200 victory, his second win of the season and second in a row at the quarter-mile track. Bonsignore, an eight-time winner at Riverhead, led the opening 51 laps from the pole before relinquishing the lead to Coby. While battling for position, he suddenly fell outside the top 10 as his No. 51 lost power before regaining it moments later.

Coby’s week off saw him fall to eighth in the championship standings, making a bid for his seventh title much tougher. Another win helps his chances, but unfortunately for him, the top two drivers of Patrick Emerling and Justin Bonsignore finished right behind Coby’s No. 10 once again in second and third, respectively, for the second straight race at Riverhead. Ron Silk and Anthony Nocella finished fourth and fifth, respectively, earning their first top five finishes of the season. Tommy Catalano, Kyle Soper, Jon McKennedy, Dylan Slepian and Tyler Rypkema rounded out the top 10 finishers.

Coby lapped all but three of the 24 other cars in the field on the way to his 31st career Whelen Modified Tour victory, which tied him for fifth on the series’ all-time win list with Jeff Fuller. Coby and crew chief Phil Moran stumbled upon the hot set-up and are not about to give up their secret.

The race was slowed six times for on-track incidents, including a red-flag period after Fortin, Eric Goodale and Dave Sapienza were involved in a multi-car accident.

With rain forcing the postponement of the race from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, Coby, along with most other teams, were forced to make last-minute travel arrangements, causing a bit of a logistical headache. Emerling was quick to thank local driver J.B. Fortin, whose family allowed Emerling’s team to stay the night avoiding travel to and from the track on Father’s Day weekend.

Next stop for the Whelen Modified Tour is on July 17 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Whelen 100. Bobby Santos III has won the last two events at NHMS (six total) and is expected to be in the field making his 2021 season debut.

While the Whelen Modified Tour Series was on Long Island at the Riverhead Raceway the Modified Racing Series (MRS) ran it’s second race of the season at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine. The event marked the debut of 15-year-old Tyler Barry, competing in a Tour-Type Modified for the very first time. It’s a dream come true for the 2019 INEX Legends Cars World Champion in more ways than one.

To make his Modified debut is actually secondary to having the opportunity to drive for his grandfather, New England Hall of Fame car owner Art Barry, in the familiar red SPAFCO Chassis car. Barry will be just one of several young drivers in Saturday’s field with aspirations of making their mark in pavement Modified racing for years to come. Among those joining Barry was Matt Swanson with the Boehler 3 and Jacob Perry.

Tony Ricci won the 75 lapper over Brian Robie. Swanson finished fourth, Perrywas sixth and Barry finished 11th. All were on the lead lap.

In the words of Matt Buckler, “The glass was half full — and half empty — at the New London Waterford Speedbowl Saturday.”

Four of the eight scheduled feature races took place before rain hit the Southeastern Connecticut area. That meant victories for John O’Sullivan in the Legends feature, Ken Cassidy Jr. in the Speedbowl Trucks, Tommy Silva in the Mini Stocks, shortened to 14 laps because of rain, and Buddy Skoad, a runaway winner in the ATQMRA 25-lap feature.

When a second batch of rain invaded the Speedbowl, however, the remainder of the race program was postponed. The 30-lap Late Model feature, the 25-lap Street Stock race, the 25-lapper for the Lite Modifieds and the 35-lapper for the SK Modifieds will be made up on dates to be announced.

The weekly mayhem at the Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina continued. Saving his best move for last, Jason Myers overtook Lee Jeffreys on lap 96 in the featured Modified race on Saturday night in front of around 11,000 fans at Bowman Gray Stadium.

The Kevin Powell Motorsports 100-lapper didn’t turn really “crazy” until Myers took an outside line and finally nudged in front of Jeffreys, who was on the pole. It was Myers’ 50th career win and 34th in the Modified Division and it was a long time coming. Jason Myers started in the second row and stayed behind or beside Jeffreys the whole way. nother driver who steadily moved up was Burt Myers, who is Jason’s older brother and the four-time defending champion. Burt started 18th on the blind draw for starting positions but finished sixth.

The season-opening race of the inaugural Camping World SRX Series at the Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway was an unabashed success with local all-star Doug Coby taking the victory over NASCAR legends Greg Biffle and Tony Stewart. Response to the first event of the six-race short-track series airing live at 8 p.m. ET on the CBS Television Network with streaming live on Paramount+ Premium was overwhelmingly positive, and fan feedback has been implemented to make the next Camping World SRX Series event even better.

The two timed heat races have been shortened from 15 minutes to 12 minutes. Drivers will still line up for the first heat race via a random draw, and the lineup for the second heat race will still be an invert of the results from the first heat. The shorter timeframe of the heats is designed to create a greater sense of urgency and, starting last week at Knoxville, drivers were incouraged to race for the win in both heats because their average finish in the heats would determine their starting spot in the feature race.

As a bonus to the SRX event at Stafford, Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Doug Coby has been asked to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway in September.

Tony Stewart won the Camping World SRX Series race Saturday night at Knoxville Raceway, leading twice for a race-high 43 laps to take his first victory as a driver at the half-mile, semi-banked dirt oval.

Congratulations to Ryan Preece who took the lead from Grant Enfinger with seven laps remaining in the Rockley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway to earn his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory Friday night in his first race in the series. Preece, the 30-year old Connecticut native who competes full-time in the NASCAR Cup Series, is only the fifth driver in history to win in his truck series debut.

Get well wishes to Todd Ceravolo who continues his fight against cancer. Todd went into the hospital on Sunday for a CAR-t transplant as part of a clinical trial for his cancer, and as a result, he will be separated from his family for a considerable amount of time.

June 3, 1972 Saturday night at Stafford saw Fred DeSarro make it two in a row as he took the win over Denis Giroux, Bob Santos, Gene Bergin and Ronnie Bouchard. Warren Brenn was the All American Sportsman winner and Ted Wright was the Mini Midget feature winner.

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!