RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Stafford, Waterford & What’s To Come For Asphalt Modifieds…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Last Friday night at the Stafford Motor Speedway, the track hosted the biggest and richest SK Modified® race of the 2021 season with the 8th Annual NAPA Auto Parts SK 5k.

Michael Christopher, Jr., who won $5,000 only 2 weeks previous in the TickMike.com All-Star Shoot Out, took the checkered flag to take home a total of $5,725 in purse and contingency money.

Christopher won $5,000 from the race purse, $450 from contingency partners Maybury Material Handling, North East Race Cars, and TickMike.com, a $25 gas certificate from New England Racing Fuel, Sunoco Brand, and a $250 bonus from Wheelers Auto for winning his heat race.

In an event that looked for a while it would go non-stop, Christopher started fifth, and was able to make a move around Todd Owen with a pass in turn 1 on lap-66 to take over the race lead. From then on Christopher was in cruise control until the final laps of the 100 lap contest. Tyler Leary spun coming out of turn 2 to bring the caution out for the first time with 90 laps complete.

Christopher took the lead on the restart with Owen going side by side with Chase Dowling for second before taking the position on lap-91. Stephen Kopcik made a determined charge and took second from Owen on lap-93 with Dowling coming up to third to drop Owen back to fourth with Andrew Molleur in fifth. Kopcik made a bid for the lead and completed a pass for the lead on lap-97 but that was negated by the caution flag for spins in turn 1 by Marcello Rufrano, Teddy Hodgdon, Doug Meservey, Jr., and Jon Puleo, which set the lineup back to lap-96.

Christopher and Kopcik went side by side for the lead on the restart with Dowling and Owen behind them. Christopher held the lead by a nose at the line for 2 laps before getting clear to the lead on lap-99. Kopcik took one last look but couldn’t get close enough to Christopher to make a move as Christopher took the checkered flag. Dowling finished third with Owen and Molleur rounding out the top-5. Sixth thru tenth included Ronnie Williams, David Arute, Bryan Narducci, Tyler Hines and Keith Rocco.

Internet racing news site RaceDayCt reported that police ended up involved in a pit area incident after a physical altercation between four-time and reigning Stafford SK Modified champion Keith Rocco and two-time division champion Ronnie Williams following the conclusion of the NAPA SK 5K. After the race when the cars went to the Stafford pit area Williams approached Narducci in Narducci’s pit stall.

At some point Rocco, who owns the Narducci car, approached Narducci and Williams and the incident got physical, with Rocco and Williams ultimately ending up on the ground fighting. Tom Fox, director of racing operations at Stafford, said competitors are not supposed to enter the pit area of another competitor to confront them after an event. “The general application is that if an altercation happens, you’re at fault if you’re not in your area,” Fox said. “That is supposed to deter people from starting any issues. Obviously each situation is reviewed and the information we gather can modify that application.”

Other feature wins on the night were scored by Andrew Molleur, who was a first time winner in Late Model competition at Stafford in an event that took close to an hour to run, Tyler Chapman in the SK Light feature, Rich Hammann was a photo finish winner in a duel with Alexandra Fearn in the Limited Late Model feature, and Nickolas Hovey was a first time winner in the Street Stock feature.

In action along the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Matt Buckler reports that Landing on the podium at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl can be habit-forming, At least that was the case Saturday during twin SK Modified features.

The trio of Todd Owen, Cory DiMatteo and Andrew Molleur made the Top 3 in both 35-lap races — only the order was different. Todd Owen won the first 35-lap event, with Cory DiMatteo second and Andrew Moller third. In the second feature, it was Molleur’s turn to nail down a victory. DiMatteo was second again and Owen was third.

The SK twin bill was just two of nine features contested on a busy night of racing. Paul “Buddy” Charette and RJ Marcotte were winners in the SK Lite Modified 25-lap features, Ray Christian won the Late Models, Charles Canfield posted his first Mini Stock win of the year, Ryan Waterman took the Street Stock feature, Andrew Morin grabbed his first win in the Speedbowl Trucks and Cody Rose went from third to first on a restart to win the Pro 4 Modified feature.

In some startling news, due to the nationwide tire shortage, the speedbowl has had to modify their schedule to ensure competition and fairness. This affects the SK Modified® and SK Lite Modified racing schedule. These 2 divisions will be racing every other Saturday Night starting this coming Saturday night with the SK Lights having the night off.

The SK Modified® Fast 5 Race for this coming Saturday night 7/3/21 honoring Ed Flemke Sr and Ed Flemke Jr is still being held as scheduled. If there needs to be any changes for that event it will be relayed to teams no later than Wednesday.

In an effort to help make tires available longer, only SK Modified® and SK Light teams competing on race day will be allowed to purchase tires. The driver will be given a slip when they sign in which states the number of tires allowed to be purchased. This will be handed to Hoosier Tire Truck each week when buying tires. If you do not buy your tire allotment, you can still bank the unused tires to be used later in the season.

In an effort to help make tires available longer, only teams competing on race day will be allowed to purchase tires.

Any divisions with a managed tire inventory, drivers competing for the first time will still begin their inventory with 6 tires, however only 5 may be new tires and the 6th one must be a used tire.

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.

The weekly mayhem at the Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina continued. Ten-time track champion Burt Myers scored his 84th career victory in the first 25-lap Modified feature while John Holleman IV’s triumph in the second feature was only win No. 2 in the division. Following Myers in the first 25 lapper was Tim Brown. Jason Myers finished third with Lee Jeffreys and Chris Fleming rounding out the top five. In the night cap, Daniel Beeson finished second with Bobo Brown, third. James Civali and John Smith comprised the top five. Burt Myers finished ninth.

Bowman Grey takes this coming weekend off to celebrate the Fourth of July holiday.

The Tri Track Open Modified Series returns to the Seekonk Speedway for race three of the season this Wednesday, June 30. Multiple returning drivers will look to knock-off polished series regulars. All competitors will be chasing a special $10,000 check in the 16th annual Open Wheel Wednesday at the Massachusetts third-mile in what has become one of the most anticipated races in Tri Track history.

Kyle Soper, at just 25 years old, scored his 20th Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modified victory Saturday night at the Riverhead Raceway when he raced his way from a 10th starting position to victory in the 50-lap Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series event. Soper becomes the sixth different winner in as many races this year in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modifieds.

Soper took the lead after a lap 14 restart. Once out front, Soper was able to get away from CJ Lehmann and the pack. Lehmann ran second until lap 31 when Dylan Slepian made his way by for second.

Dylan Slepian was runner-up up in his while rising talent Michael Rutkoski was third in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet Cadillac entry. John Beatty Jr of Merrick recovered from his lap 1 spin for fourth with defending champion Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead fifth.

In a somewhat surprise announcement similar to that made at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, the management of the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island made the following announcement. “Due to a shortage of Hooiser Racing Tires for the Buzz Chew Chevrolet NASCAR Modifieds at Riverhead Raceway we regretfully announce the following changes to the 2021 NASCAR Modified schedule. The July 3rd 71-lap and the July 17th 50-lap NASCAR Modified events have been cancelled due to the tire shortage. The Four Race Crown Jewel Series for the Ted Christopher Cup will now be a Triple Crown Series starting with the August 7th Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77.

The NASCAR Modifieds in essence will now race very other week starting with last Saturday’s June 26th race through the month of July. The August schedule remains intact. We thank you in advance for your understanding and patience during these very unique times in the short track racing industry.”

American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) officials have announced a change to the division line-up for the Sam Adams Wicked Hazy IPA Spirit of 76 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, July 7. A $1,000-to-win 8-cylinder Street Stock Open will replace the Mini Stocks on the schedule of events.

The decision was made due to concerns about car counts in the Mini Stock class at the first two Thompson Speedway oval track events. The rest of the card will remain the same, with the $5,000-to-win Outlaw Open Modified Series main event, Sunoco Modifieds, Late Models, Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsmen, and SK Light Modifieds making up a six-division program.

June 10, 1972 Fred DeSarro, who was an early retiree at Malta on Friday night, took the top spot at Stafford on Saturday night making it three in a row. Eddie Flemke finished second with Bugsy Stevens, Bob Santos and Denis Giroux rounding out the top five.

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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