The Champ Trail: Stafford, VRMS, Riverhead & Much More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – The Stafford Motor Speedway opened the weekend on Friday night with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action and the Valenti Modified Racing Series for the 5th Annual VMRS 80.

Keith Rocco set a Stafford SK Modified® division record with his 6th consecutive win dating back to the final 2 races of the 2017 season. Also taking wins were Tom Fearn in the Late Model division, Andrew Molleur in the SK Light feature, Jeremy Lavoie in the Limited Late Model feature, and Johnny Walker in the Street Stock feature.

In the 40 lap SK modified event Rocco started 14th and fought his way to take the lead on lap 24. with 5 laps to go, Rocco, Joey Cipriano, and Eric Berndt were running nose to tail in a 3-car train for the lead with Ron Williams, Mike Gervais, and Rowan Pennink in another 3-car train for fourth behind the lead trio. Rocco took the checkered flag to pick up his fourth win in four starts this season and his sixth consecutive SK Modified® win dating back to the end of the 2017 season, setting a Stafford Speedway SK Modified® record for consecutive wins. Cipriano finished second with Berndt, Williams, and Gervais making up the top-5. The win also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 255 wins which also include 149 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 58 at Thompson and 48 at Stafford Speedway.

Not to take anything away from Rocco’s SK Modified record but Geoff Bodine is the all time record holder for consecutive wins as he recorded seven in a row from 5/12/78 to 6/23/78 when the track ran real modifieds. Bodine drove a car owned by Richard Armstrong that was designed and built by Bodine, Billy Taylor and Ralph Hop Harrington.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series made its first of two visits during the 2018 season to Stafford Motor Speedway for the 5th Annual VMRS 80. Taking the checkered flag was Rowan Pennink, who started deep in the field and bided his time before making a charge to the front over the final 30-laps of the race. Pennink was starting to come to life as he moved up to third on lap-66 and then took second from Rocco one lap later. With 10 laps to go, Pitkat had a nearly 3 second lead over Pennink with Anthony Nocella, Donnie Lashua, and Keith Rocco making up the top-5. The caution came out with 71 laps complete for a spin in turn 1 by Robbie to set up a 9-lap dash to the finish.

Pitkat took the lead on the restart with Lashua nearly taking second from Pennink but he slotted back into line in third. Nocella was fourth with Willis in fifth and Etheridge in sixth. With 5 laps to go, Pennink was right on the bumper of Pitkat looking for the lead. Pennink was able to get to the inside of Pitkat with 3 laps to go and he was able to complete the pass with 2 laps to go. Pennink led Pitkat to the checkered flag to pick up his third Valenti Modified Racing Series win of the 2018 season in four races. Lashua finished third with Nocella and Mike Willis rounding out the top-5. Sixth thru tenth were Dave Etheridge, Les Hinckley, Jr., Richard Savary, Keith Rocco and Jeff Gallup.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl cancelled for the second week in a row. Track management advises that there is a big show coming this Saturday to the Bowl! The Full Fendered Throwdown presented by Belltown Motors Tire Service Center and Belltown Recycling!

Across the big pond on Long Island, the Islip 300 at the Riverhead Raceway was cancelled due to impending rain. A star studded field of Tour Type Modified drivers were all set to go toe to toe on the demanding quarter mile oval Saturday in a $32,650 spectacular but will now have to wait another month to do so. Prior to making the decision to rain out the Islip 300 Riverhead Raceway GM John Ellwood and race director Scott Tapley searched for a suitable make-up date. With the NASCAR WMT, Race of Champions, Valenti Modified Racing Series and Tri-Track Series all having an open date on June 16th as of press time that date was selected.

Due to the forecast for rain and thunderstorms throughout the day, Sunday’s Limited Sportsman Long Distance, presented by Pepsi was cancelled. The 30-lap feature race for the Limited Sportsman race will be added to the Thompson 125. Anyone who has reserved a garage for the race can contact the office for a full refund. The speedway will try again on Wednesday, June 13 for their next event, which features four NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Divisions, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, and the NEMA Lites.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the rain stayed on the coast. Jason Myers took the first 25-lap Modified Division race on Saturday, earning his second win of the season while brother Burt Myers finished second.

Jonathan Brown won the follow-up on what became a beautiful night for racing with hardly any rain.

Spring Break for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series is almost over. A week from this coming Saturday the tour visits the Seekonk Speedway.

For the first time since 2002, Tour-Type Modifieds will race at the Richmond Raceway. The NASCAR style Modifieds have been added to October’s PASS Commonwealth Classic, the event featuring the Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models and NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model Stock Cars. Limited Late Models and Street Stocks will also be on the docket for the two-day event held on October 19-20 at the 0.75-mile D-shaped short track.

The Classic is a PASS track-rented event but the Speedway itself has taken an active marketing role. “The inaugural PASS Commonwealth Classic continues to grow with Tour-Type Modifieds joining the PASS Super Late Models and other series at Richmond Raceway,” said Richmond president Dennis Bickmeier. “We look forward to hosting another race weekend of action in Racing Virginia with the Pro All Stars Series. Fans can now purchase tickets online for the PASS Commonwealth Classic to prepare for this new addition to the racing action at America’s Premier Short Track.”

Todd Szegedy is the most recent Modified winner at Richmond, having won the last NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at the track in 2002. The race will be 75 laps, in addition to a 75-lapper for the Late Model Stocks and 100 laps for the PASS series.

“A lot of work has already gone in to making the Inaugural PASS Commonwealth Classic a successful event,” said PASS President Tom Mayberry. “Fans and racers have been asking for years to see the Tour-Type Modifieds back at Richmond and we are glad we can make this happen. Having the schedule out at such an early date and allowing fans to begin purchasing tickets can really allow us to get the Classic into high gear. This combination of premier, and unique, divisions will make the Commonwealth Classic a true once in a lifetime racing opportunity.”

The PASS Commonwealth Classic weekend begins on Friday, October 19 with rotating practice for all divisions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. On Saturday, October 20, gates will open at 7:30 a.m. with rotating practice from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. followed by qualifying at 1 p.m. Last chance races begin at 3 p.m. with features for the PASS Super Late Models, Tour-Type Modifieds, Late Model Stocks, Limited Late Models, and Street Stocks starting at 4 p.m.

The event will also be just the second to feature the completely renovated track infield and garage area. That will debut during the NASCAR Cup Playoff weekend on September 21-22.

On the speedway stock market scene this week, the International Speedway Corporation ended the week on the positive side as they went up 1.95 to 42.75. Speedway Motorsports was down 0.20 to 17.20 and Dover Entertainment remained stagnant at 2.05. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 0.20 to 49.47 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.52 to 18.98. Two of the three car manufacturers were up for the week. Ford went up 0.14 to 11.33 and General Motors went up 0.90 to 37.79 while Toyota dropped 2.03 to 136.04. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 2.89 to 187.42 and Lowes dropped 1.11 to 86.34. In the land of big teams sponsors stocks, Targer Department Stores went up 4.69 to 75.94 and Dupont/Dow went up 0.64 to 67.57 while McDonalds dropped 4.41 to 160.98, Coca-Cola dropped 1.59 to 129.26 and Fedex dropped 1.45 to 249.45.

On the tube this week:

Wednesday, May 23
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Net

Thursday, May 24
2:30 PM, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Charlotte practice, Fox Sports 1
3:30 PM, NASCAR Race Hub – Weekend Edition, FS1
4:00 PM, NASCAR Xfinity Series Charlotte practice, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub – Weekend Edition, FS1
6:00 PM, NXS Charlotte practice, FS1
7:00 PM, MENCS Charlotte qualifying, FS1
8:30 PM, Race Hub Weekend Edition, FS1

Friday, May 25
3:30 PM, NASCAR America Motorsports Special, NBCSN
5:00 PM, NASCAR America Motorsports Special, NBCSN

Saturday, May 26
9:00 AM, MENCS Charlotte practice, FS1
10:00 AM, NXS Charlotte qualifying, FS1
11:00 AM, MENCS Charlotte final practice, FS1
12:30 PM, NASCAR RaceDay:NXS, FS1
1:00 PM, NXS Charlotte race, FS1

Sunday, May 27
4:30 PM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
5:30 PM, MENCS Charlotte race, FS1
6:00 PM, MENCS Charlotte race, FS1
Monday, May 28
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCS

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI