RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Great Racing At Thompson, Stafford, Monadnock & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour had a week off as they prepare for an up-country trip to the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine this coming Saturday night.

In the meantime the ACT organization presented an open competition program at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway in Connecticut.

CT’s Ronnie Williams found some late magic to win the Truly Lemonade Hard Seltzer Midsummer 75 on Wednesday evening in blistering heat with temps close to 90deg. Williams took the lead from Jon McKennedy with 17 laps remaining and got stronger as the race wound down to grab the $5,000 winner’s paycheck for the Outlaw Open Modified Series.

The multi-time SK Modified champion started on the outside pole after both he and Keith Rocco earned three passing points in their qualifying heat. However, Williams spent the first portion of the event running in the second pack as Rocco, Ryan Preece, and Matt Swanson set a torrid pace. After Rocco led the first 13 laps, Preece was on the good end of a crossover three-pack to nab the point entering turn one.

Preece started to pull away around the halfway mark while McKennedy went on the march. McKennedy started at the back after failing to finish his qualifying heat but was up to the third spot with less than 35 laps to go. Just as McKennedy reached Rocco’s rear bumper with 46 laps complete, Andrew Charron and Brett Meservey got wadded up in turn two to bring out the race’s only caution flag.

All lead-lap cars went to the pits during the yellow for a fresh right rear tire and adjustments. McKennedy’s team was one of those that also switched the left front and left rear tires with each other. This dropped them back to fifth on the restart behind Preece, Rocco, Chris Pasteryak, and Eric Goodale. Williams was alongside McKennedy in sixth place. When the green flag came back out, both McKennedy and Williams went right to work. McKennedy rumbled to third within a lap and spent several circuits inside Rocco with Williams knocking on the door. After McKennedy finally cleared Rocco, he set his sights on Preece, dipping below him entering turn three on the 55th circuit to take over the lead. However, McKennedy’s time on top was short-lived. The Gary Casella team had made the right moves for Williams during the pit stop, and he couldn’t be stopped. Williams drove below McKennedy to get the lead on lap 58 with McKennedy unsuccessfully trying to cross him over in turn one. From there, Williams went into cruise mode. As Preece dropped back with an ill-handling car, Williams went into overdrive, running his fastest lap of the race on lap 64. With no spins or other speed bumps to slow him down, Williams marched to the $5,000 payday in front of an impressive crowd.

McKennedy kept Swanson at bay over the final laps to finish second. Rocco ended up fourth followed by Pasteryak, Goodale, Preece, Tyler Barry, Paul LaPlante, and Charron. Swanson and Preece were the heat race winners.

Other Wednesday night winners at Thompson were Mark Jenison in the Late Models, Paul Newcomb in the Street Stocks, Ryan Waterman in the Limited Sportsman, Paul Charette in the SK Lights and Jared Roy in the Mini Stocks.

With temperatures in the 90’s and humidity out of sight you could almost hear yourself sweat at Stafford on Friday night as Keith Rocco ended a long dry spell as he won the 50 lap SK Modified Senators Cup event. Rocco started ninth in the 23 car field. Rocco outdueled Todd Owen in the closing two laps to come away with his second feature win of the 2021 season with a near packed house looking on. Starting ninth, Rocco was in the lead before the half way mark.

The win also took Rocco to a career overall total of 296 wins which also include 153 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 68 at Thompson and 75 at Stafford Speedway.

Rocco and Owen ran side by side on lap-49 with Owen on the outside of Rocco and holding the lead by a nose. The two leaders ran the final lap side by side with Rocco able to edge in front of Owen coming off turn 4 and he took the checkered flag to pick up his second win of the 2021 season. Owen finished second with Steven Kopcik, Andrew Molleur, and Dan Wesson rounding out the top-5.

Other feature winners on the night included Michael Wray getting his first Late Model win of the season, Tyler Chapman scored his second SK Light win of the season, Devon Jencik also scored his second Limited Late Model win of the season, and Chris Meyer notched his third Street Stock feature win of the season.

The Tri-Track Series converged on the Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night.with a field of 27 Modifieds. Twenty six started the 100 lap grind. Chase Dowling started his day at the back of his qualifying heat and the 100-lap feature, the end of the 100-lap special sponsored by Wonder Casino saw him park the No. 9 Start Finish Motorsports machine in Victory Lane.

As part of the random draw process, Dowling didn’t get a favorable spot to start his qualifying heat and elected to ride patiently in the 12-lap qualifying race, saving his equipment. He started the feature at the tail end of the pack, and rode at slow speed to start, continuing to save his Hoosier rubber for when it mattered most.

During one of many cautions in the race, Dowling peeled off to pit road on lap 31 and entered the track again at the rear of the field with one goal in mind: wait until the leaders pit. When the rest of the field dropped to pit road at lap 42, Dowling stayed out and entered the top-six. From there, he worked up through the few cars left in front of him and took the lead from Kirk Alexander on lap 54. He never looked back from there.

Dowling had to hold off a mix of Modified standouts en route to the $6,000 victory. The win puts him alone in second place in the Tri Track all-time wins list, only trailing Matt Hirschman, who chased him across the line in second. Hirschman chased his car from the middle of the pack late to the front after winning his qualifying heat race. The five-time Tri Track champion took over the points lead heading for the final two races of the season, while Ron Silk, who entered the race as the points leader, was involved in a wreck and finished 18th.

Justin Bonsignore was third, running a similar strategy to Dowling and contending late, with Ronnie Williams fourth and local favorite Brian Robie fifth. Joey Cipriano finished sixth, followed by Matt Swanson, Kirk Alexander, Richard Savary and Chris Pasteryak.

Up next on the Tri Track circuit is a return to Seekonk Speedway on Wednesday, August 25, for the conclusion of the $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday Speed51.TV Modified Madness. The show will begin at 7 p.m., with just feature events left to run. It was originally slated for June 30, but a power outage in the area that night forced it to be postponed. The series will also be back at Seekonk on Saturday, October 23, to crown the 2021 champion in the annual Haunted Hundred.

At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl the SK Modifieds had the week off but there was still plenty of action at the shoreline oval. Jason Palmer has enjoyed many dominating performances in the Late Model division at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. but the 30-laps of brilliance he put together Saturday, however, was at the top of his all-time performance list. Palmer pulled away from Ray Christian and the rest of the field to grab his sixth win of the season. Palmer’s 82nd career Speedbowl victory was just one of the highlights on Saturday’s race program.

Other Saturday night winners at the speedbowl were Street Stocks Douglas Curry, SK Lite Modifieds: RJ Marcotte, Mini Stocks: Tommy Silva and Legends: Jordan Churchill.

The Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina fell victim to rain. The stadium wraps up their season this coming Saturday night.

John Baker was the 50 lap NASCAR Modified feature winner at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Islandon Saturday. John Rogers Jr finished second with Kyle Soper, third. Dylan Slepian and Chris Young rounded out the top five.

In Race of Champions Modified Series action, Andy Jankowiak scored an emotional victory in the Race of Champions Modified Series Tribute to Tommy Druar and Tony Jankowiak 110 at the Holland International Speedway in upstate New York. Timmy Catalano finished second with Zane Zeiner completing the top three. Patrick Wmerling and Mike Leaty rounded out the top five.

Belated congratulations to Rick Martin who scored his 100th feature win at the Seekonk Speedway on Saturday, August 7.

In some really good news it has been learned that after a long battle, Todd Ceravolo is now cancer free. He fought a long, hard battle but prayers and hopes from the entire racing community went a long way.

On a sad note, Joan Garbarino, wife of NASCAR Modified Championship car owner Bob Garbarino, passed away after a long illness on Monday, August 9, 2021. Born on September 4, 1939, Joan was the only child of Edwin and Marie Strong. She married Robert J. Garbarino, of Mystic in November 1957. She was immensely proud of the family they created together, raising three daughters and a son: Robert Jr, who pre-decrased her, Karen Spaulding, Lauren Yakaitis (Larry), and Robin Pettini (Norman), all live close to their family home in Mystic. On August 9, 2021, Joan joined, in eternal rest, her only son Bobby, the apple of her eye and her “hon boy”, whom she loved and adored for his sixteen wonderful years of life. Joan is also remembered fondly by her brother-in-law Eugene “Skip” Garbarino and his wife Patricia of Mystic as well as her nieces, Lisa O’Reilly (Brian) and Amy Tate (Phil) and their families, all of Florida.

For many years, Joan worked alongside her close friend and brother-in-law Skip at Puritan Laundry, a family business. She served as a Girl Scout Troop Leader for her daughters, quietly helping to mold young women into leaders. She worked together with her husband Bob to field their NASCAR modified championship race team. For fifty-five years Joan was intricately involved in managing the “Mystic Missile” team operations and scoring. The quintessential “Team Mother,” Joan made sure that “the guys” were always well fed and taken care of as they traveled each week to compete at racetracks as far west as Indianapolis, south as Daytona and north as Ontario, Canada.

Her family received relatives and friends on Monday, August 16th from 4-8 pm at the Mystic Funeral Home located on Route 1 in Mystic. A Mass of Christian burial was celebrated at St. Patrick Church 32 East Main St. in Mystic at 10:00 am on Tuesday, August 17th. Following her mass, she was buried at the Elm Grove Cemetery in Mystic, Connecticut.

In 1971, Gene Bergin, in the all-new Bobby Judkins Pinto bodied No. 2x that had just been declared legal by NASCAR, was the spoiler as he had the car to beat at Stafford on Saturday night. DeSarro had to settle for second with Hop Harrington, Bugsy Stevens and Bobby Santos 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!