RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail: NASCAR News, Racing At Thompson, Stafford, & More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Thompson Motorsports Park last Wednesday but the big story of the week concerned NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France.

France was arrested by police following charges of driving while intoxicated and criminal possession of oxycodone in the Hamptons section of Long Island. Police said France went through a stop sign, had a blood-alcohol content more than twice the legal limit, smelled of booze and slurred his words during his arrest in Sag Harbor. France was also in illegal possession of oxycodone, they said. He spent the night in jail and announced his leave from NASCAR about eight hours later.

Now he’s on indefinite leave to “focus on my personal affairs,” as he stated in a two-sentence statement. NASCAR, also using only two sentences, acknowledged that Brian France had taken a leave and stated that Jim France, his uncle, and the vice chairman and executive vice president, was assuming the roles.

At Thompson a huge crowd was on hand for the Bud 150. Justin Bonsignore started from the top spot after winning his first Thompson pole and led the first 15 laps, but gave the lead up to Chase Dowling in the approach to lapped traffic. He took the lead back on lap 79, and even though he pitted during a caution on lap 89 for tires, it didn’t take him long to get back to the front. He passed Doug Coby for the lead on lap 96 and never lost the top spot en route to the victory.

Matt Swanson, who got the call to drive the Boehler Racing No. 3 after the birth of Rowan Pennink’s first child, finished second. The result was his best career run on the Whelen Modified Tour in his first start with the BRE Racing team. Doug Coby, who led four laps, charged back through the field after spinning on lap 123, and finished third. Chase Dowling and Bobby Santos III rounded out the top five. Woody Pitkat was sixth, followed by Andrew Krause, Craig Lutz, Chris Pasteryak and Timmy Solomito.

The event was run in just short of an hour, 58 minutes to be exact. Three cautions for only 15 laps slowed the action. The first caution came on lap 88 for Dave Sapienza who spun on the back stretch. Sapienza re-started and finished 14th, two laps down. The second caution was for Coby who spun in turn 2 and the third, on lap 133 was for debris on the track. Twenty five of the original 27 starters finished the event. Melissa Fifield had issues with her power steering and Ron Silk had rear-end problems with his mount.

The Bud “King of Beers” 150 will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, August 15, at 7 p.m.

The Sunoco Modifieds started off the evening and resulted in yet another battle between two of the best drivers in the division. After handing Keith Rocco his first loss of the year in July, Ryan Preece continued to be the biggest threat to the points leader and reining division champion as the two drivers were nose to tail for most of the 30-lap feature. Both drivers worked their way to the top three by the end of the third lap before a caution on lap four gave Keith Rocco the opportunity to take the lead on a restart. Preece remained on Rocco’s bumper eventually working the bottom line of the track in an attempt to gain an edge on his rival. Rocco however would not be denied and charged his way to yet another win in the Sunoco Modifieds, his fourth of the season in five events. Woody Pitkat finished third and was followed by Ronnie Williams and Troy Talman. Sixth through tenth were Timmy Jordan, Kyle James, Todd Owen, Adam Gada and Joey Gada.

One of the best races of the night was the 20-lap feature run by the Limited Sportsman division as Shawn Monahan looked to continue his division-leading dominance in search of his third win of the season. The event began with Meghan Fuller looking for her first win at Thompson. She showed some promise early leading a good portion of the first ten laps before a lap nine caution set up a restart that did not work in Fuller’s favor. Scott Sundeen took advantage of the restart to claim the top spot and after contact with Monahan. Fuller’s day was finished in a wreck on lap 16.
Sundeen maintained the lead but Monahan and Ryan Waterman would not let Sundeen get away.

With two laps remaining Waterman worked his way to the second position preparing for a potential race-winning move on the final lap while Monahan waited in the wings for his time to strike. The three-way battle for the lead culminated in one of the best finishes at Thompson so far in 2018 as it all came to a head in the final turn of the race. In a last-ditch effort to win the event Waterman dove deep, pushing Sundeen out of the gruve and, in turn, losing his own grip coming out of turn four. This opened the door for Monahan to make a charge for the win rubbing doors with Waterman resulting in Monahan going across the line sideways for his third victory of the season. Both Sundeen and Waterman finished outside the top ten, Sundeen due to the final lap incident and Waterman due to the contact he made trying to make the final pass.

The Late Models saw Ryan Morgan score his second consecutive win and third overall on the year in the division at Thompson. The win didn’t come as Morgan had to fight off a last lap charge by Tom Carry, III resulting in a near-photo finish for the victory.

Other winners were Todd Bertrand in the NEMA Midgets and Wayne Burroughs who claimed his fourth win of the season in the Mini Stocks.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Keith Rocco carried over his winning ways from Thompson as he ended a long dry spell at the Arute family owned Speedway. Rocco, who hadn’t won at Stafford since May 18, started fourth, took the lead from Troy Talman on lap 3 and with stood three restarts to record the win. Joseph Cipriano finished second and was followed by Chase Dowling, Eric Berndt and Todd Owen.

The win gave Rocco a career total of 258 wins which include 49 at Stafford, 60 at Thompson and 149 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl,

Other Friday night winners included Kevin Gambacorta who outlasted Tom Fearn to pick up his first Late Model win of the season, Marcello Rufrano who added to his SK Light division leading total with his 6th win of the year, Duane Provost who scored his fourth Limited Late Model win of the year, and Michael Hopkins who took down his second win of the year in the Street Stock feature.

On the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Due to rain on Saturday, and an unfavorable forecast for Sunday, the Speedbowl management cancelled the scheduled Wings and wheels event. Racing continues this week with Wild n Wacky Wednesday, Saturday for Military Night, and Sunday for Monster Truck Mayhem!!

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Tim Brown did something that no other Modified driver has ever done in the 70-year history of Bowman Gray, he won both 50-lap races on the same night. Brown defeated Jason Myers in the first race, followed by Bobby Measmer Jr., Jonathan Brown and Chris Fleming.

In the second 50-lap race, Tim Brown defeated Burt Myers, Jason’s brother, John Smith was third and Jonathan Brown was fourth.

Racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island was cancelled due to rain.

On the speedway stock market scene this week, all three speedway stocks had positive results at weeks end. Speedway Motorsports went up 0.07 to 17.59 while the International Speedway Corporation went up 0.05 to 44.05 and Dover Entertainment went up 0.05 to 2.15. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 0.44 to 60.70 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 1.11 to 22.99 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 0.35 to 24.28. The car manufacturers had a down week. Taking the biggest dip was Toyota which dropped 7.07 to 124.23. General Motors dropped 1.14 to 36.59 and Ford dropped 0.30 to 9.74. In the home improvement sector, Lowes went up 0.68 to 98.31 and Home Depot went up 0.66 to 196.30. Big team sponsors stocks were all positive except Fedex which dropped 1.56 to 241.76. McDonalds went up 2.47 to 158.68 while Coca-Cola went up 11.23 to 160.71, Target Department Stores went up 1.26 to 82.71 and Dow Dupont went up 0.92 to 67.74.

On the tube this week:

Wednesday, August 15
3:30 AM, Classic NASCAR – 1994 Coke 600, FOX Sports 1
4:00 AM, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Michigan race re-air, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
7:00 PM NASCAR Whelen Modifieds Thompson CT, NBC Sports Net

Thursday, August 16
9:00 AM, NCWTS Bristol practice, FS1
10:00 AM, Beyond the Wheel 2018, FS1
11:00 AM, NCWTS Bristol final practice, FS1
4:00 PM, NCWTS Bristol qualifying, FS1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
8:30 PM, NCWTS Bristol race, FOX

Friday, August 17
1:30 AM, NCWTS Bristol race re-air, FS1
10:30 AM, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Bristol practice, NBCSN
12:30 PM, MENCS Bristol final practice, NBCSN
2:00 PM, MENCS Bristol final practice re-air, NBCSN
3:30 PM, NASCAR Xfiinity Series Bristol practice, NBCSN
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
5:30 PM, MENCS Bristol qualifying, NBCSN
7:00 PM, NXS Countdown to Green, NBCSN
7:30 PM, NXS Bristol race, NBCSN
9:30 PM, NXS Post Race, NBCSN
10:00 PM, NASCAR The Decades – the 1980s, NBCSN

Saturday, August 18
6:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
7:00 PM, MENCS Countdown to Green, NBCSN
7:30 PM, MENCS Bristol race, NBCSN
11:00 PM, MENCS Post Race, NBCSN

Sunday, August 19
12:00AM, NASCAR The Decades – the 1970s, NBCSN
9:00 AM, NCWTS Bristol race re-air, FS!
6:00 PM, NASCAR 120: Bristol race re-air, NBCSN