RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Stafford Finally Gets The Spring Sizzler In The Books & More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Stafford Motor Speedway and NASCAR have shifted gears as the 48th edition of the NAPA Spring Sizzler® at Stafford Speedway was postponed because of impending rain two weeks ago and was rescheduled for a one-day, May 10, event.

Due to the rain expected this past Friday, the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® Whelen Modified Tour 200 was moved to last Saturday, May 11th, in an afternoon format.

All 5 of Stafford’s weekly divisions would compete in a feature only format. Needless to say it was Rain-3, Racing-0.

Doug Coby was going for his fourth NAPA Spring Sizzler 200 victory Saturday. Craig Lutz was chasing his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win. In the end, it was the veteran Coby who made the winning move, diving under Lutz with just over 10 laps remaining and then fending off the fierce challenge in the closing laps to return to Victory Lane in the iconic event that’s earned the moniker, “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring.”

It was Coby’s 26th career win on the tour and his 12th at Stafford. His first career win came in the 2006 Spring Sizzler, Stafford’s iconic early-season event. He also won the race in 2012 and 2016.

“This is the race everybody wants to win,” said Coby. “That was the hardest I’ve ever drove a race car, to hold off Craig. I just kept drive harder and driving harder.” Following Lutz, Ron Silk, Max Zachem and Eric Goodale who rounded out the top five.

It was the third career runner-up finish in 56 career starts for Lutz including one in last year’s NAPA Fall Final at Stafford. Justin Bonsignore came home sixth. Bonsignore was fastest in practice back on April 26, the weekend the event was originally slated. Bonsignore was then fastest in final practice and won the Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award. Patrick Emerling finished seventh, followed by rookie Sam Rameau, Timmy Solomito and Blake Barney.

With Coby’s second win in four races in 2019, the five-time tour champion has opened a 17-point lead on second-place Emerling and 20 over Silk. Blewett and defending tour champion Bonsignore are fourth and fifth, respectively.

Fourteen of the original 34 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Among those who failed to finish wereWalter Sutcliff who crashed on lap 176, Tyler Rypkema crashed on lap 171, Chase Dowling had a rear end failure on lap 169, Joey Mucciacciaro had handling problems on lap 155,Chris Pasteryak crashed on lap 143, Anthony Nocella and Jeff Rocco crashed on lap125, Ken Heagy crashed on lap 119, Dave Sapienza and Rob Summers crashed on lap 117, Joey Cipriano crashed on lap 100, Melissa Fifield crashed on lap 75 and Matt Swanson dropped out with rear end problems on lap 70.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be back this coming Saturday night with the Jersey Shore 150 at Wall Stadium Speedway on Saturday, May 18. Wall Stadium, in close proximity to the Monmoth Airport was closely modeled after the no shuttered Lonsdale Arena in Rhode Island. Its long chutes and tight high banked turns are guaranteed to provide tight, high speed competition. This event is scheduled to be live streamed by FansChoice.TV

Eric Berndt was the 40 lap caution filled SK Modified race winner over Todd Owen, Michael Gervais, Ronnie Williams and Tyler Hines. Keith Rocco was headed to the front with hopes of making it two in a row but was collected in a wreck on lap 7 and ended up 25th.

In the SK lites it was third generation Alexander Pearl taking the win. Pearl is the grandson of two time Stafford champion Jerry Pearl and the son of former Waterford champion Jeff Pearl. Mark Bakaj finished second followed by Jonathan Puleo, in third spot.

Other winners at Stafford included Cliff Saunders in the Late Models, Johnny Walker in the Street Stocks and Matt Clement in the Limited Late Models.

The Stafford Motor Speedway now shifts to its regular Friday night format.

Heading into the second week of NASCAR Modified competition at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Saturday, Tom Rogers Jr. and team were not sure what their repaired car had in store for them after a heavy opening night crash. The team made repairs trying to avoid installing a new front clip on the car but after the second round of practice Rogers and crew knew they needed a plan B. Enter Denise & Ken Darch who had their NASCAR Modified at the track minus driver Justin Bonsignore and the rest as they say is history. In the borrowed car Rogers broke the seven year old track qualifying record with a lap of 11.482 and scored his 53rd career win in the 75-lap main event.

John Baker was runner-up in his Staria Automotive Chevy while John Fortin was third in the John’s Tree Removal entry. David Schneider and John Beatty Jr. completed the top five.

Down in the Southland in North Carolina, racing at the Bowman Gray Stadium on Saturday night was once again postponed because of rain. In the first four scheduled weeks, three weeks have been rained out.

Brad Keselowski has raced to his third NASCAR Cup Series victory of the season, holding off a charging pack in overtime to take the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway. Keselowski took the lead from Alex Bowman with seven laps to go, building a big lead before a caution came out for Matt DiBenedetto. Keselowski roared away on the restart and held off Bowman and Erik Jones to add to his victories this season at Atlanta and Martinsville.

On the speedway stock market scene last week, two of the three speedway stocks were down for the week. Dover Entertainment went down 0.01 to 2.05 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.04 to 43.95 while Speedway Motorsports went up 0.01 to 18.32. NASCAR Cup sponsor Monster Beverage dropped 0.11 to 63.00 while NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.25 to 15.12 and NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 1.17 to 17.23. The car manufacturers were all on the minus side. Toyota dropped 4.38 to 119.27, General Motors dropped 0.91 to 37 89 and Ford dropped 0.02 to 10 39. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot dropped 5.93 to 194.58 and Lowes dropped 5.99 to 106.37. In the area of big team sponsors stocks, McDonalds went up 2.77 to 199.99 and Coca-Cola put one out of the park as they went up 62.91 to 386.81 while Target dropped 1.30 to 74.67, Dow-Dupont dropped 3.41 to 31.48, Fedex dropped 10.11 to 178.00 and Stanley Black and Decker dropped 10.93 to 142.14.