RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Modifieds, Modifieds, & More Modifieds…

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series had last weekend off as teams prepare to head for the Stafford Motor Speedway this week. After nine events in the record book, Doug Coby leads Ron Silk in the point standings by 28 points.

Justin Bonsignore sits in third spot, some 38 points back. Craig Lutz sits fourth, some 75 points out of the lead. Eric Goodale rounds out the top five, 78 points out. Sixth thru tenth are Chris Pasteryak, Woody Pitkat, Patrick Emerling, Timmy Solomito and Matt Swanson.

For the first time, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will race at Iowa Speedway in 2020. The 36th season of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will feature a mix of historic short tracks on the eastern seaboard before visiting central Iowa. This marks the first time in history that the unified Whelen Modified Tour will journey this far west. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be in action during NASCAR Xfinity Series U.S. Cellular 250 weekend at Iowa Speedway July 31-August 1.

It’s great for the division but it will be tough on competitors. Most teams and drivers hold down full time jobs and it will be tough on them. The speedway is located in Newton, Iowa which is half way across the country. MapQuest says it is 1176 miles from Hartford, Ct and estimates that it will be a 21-1/2 hour drive.

The big news last week was that the owners of the Wall Stadium Speedway in New Jersey announced plans to close the 69-year-old racetrack at the end of the 2020 season. The speedway was patterned after the now defunct Lonsdale Sports Arena in Rhode Island.

The Speedway on Route 34 announced on Wednesday, July 24, that the property would make way for 348 townhouses and apartments to be built by Pulte Homes. Seventy of the new homes would be made available to low/moderate-income residents.

Wall Township Administrator Jeff Bertrand, however, told a New Jersey radio station, that the property is not zoned for residential use and the township has no plans to change that. “There’s also some nuances with that property because the front half of it cannot be used for residential as it is in the safety zone of the nearby Monmouth Jet Center,” Bertrand said.

Speedway’s owners said its location is one of the “least obtrusive sites” for the mandated 1,250 affordable housing homes be built in Wall. The stretch of Route 34 between the Wall Circle and Route 195 is mostly industrial with office buildings, the Jet Center and a sand pit.

Current track manager Diane Krause sent this message to Jeff Gravatt of Motorsport Marketing with the note she expects to receive her contract for 2020 from the track owners any day now. “As the manager of Wall Stadium Speedway, it has been a pleasure to maintain the racing at this historic facility. I am not sure what the future will bring, but my family and I will host stock car racing as long as we can. Ten years ago my husband, Cliff Krause, had a vision of supporting the racing community and reopened the race track. We have met so many fans and became absorbed in the stories of years gone by. Seasoned drivers share their experiences as if it all happened yesterday. Their dedication goes far.”

Speaking of racetracks, word has it that a crew has been working on the plumbing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. According General Manager Mike Serluca, permits have been applied for to finish the grandstand project. “We have been given the green light from the town of Waterford to finish up the race track project”, he said. The track could very well remain closed for the current year but hopefully all work will be completed, and the track will be re-born in 2020. “We hope to schedule a practice very soon”, he added.

At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night taking down feature wins were Todd Owen in the SK Modified® feature, Michael Wray in the Late Model feature, Wesley Prucker in the SK Light feature, Gary Patnode in the Limited Late Model feature, and Travis Hydar in the Street Stock feature. The Wild Thing Karts Tiger B exhibition race was won by Parker Davis with Dylan Houghton winning the Tiger A exhibition race. The winners of the kids big wheel races were Levi Fox and Blake Greaves.

In the 40 lap SK Modified feature, Owen took the lead from Joey Cipriano as they completed lap-14. Owen survived numerous restarts to take the win. Ron Williams finished second with Glen Reen, Cory DiMatteo, and Dan Wesson rounding out the top-5.

In the SK Lite 20 lapper, Jonathan Puleo got a good run in the final moments of the event through turns 1+2 and going into turn 3 made a bonsai move to the inside of then leader Mikey Flynn. The two cars touched wheels and headed into the turn 3 wall, giving the lead and the race win to Prucker. Mark Bakaj finished second with Alexander Pearl, Bryan Narducci, and Chris Matthews rounding out the top-5.

On the east end of Long Island, Dave Brigati of Calverton who won his first race of 2019 Saturday when he captured the annual Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 at Riverhead Raceway. The win was the 11th of Brigati’s career and in another twist of irony ties him with the late “Tiger” Tom Baldwin on the all time win list. Just an hour or so before his NASCAR Modified triumph Dave also won the 25-lap Crate Modified race. Kyle Soper was second in the Eastport Feeds Chevy. John Beatty Jr. was third in his MSM Elite Motorsports Chevy while Timmy Solomito and John Fortin Sr. completed the top five.

The SBM 125 VIII Tri-Track event at the Star Speedway in New Hampshire came down to a nail biter as the outcome was decided in an exciting 11-lap shootout where Ron Silk emerged victorious in a wheel to wheel contest. Silk held off a hard-charging Ronnie Williams to score his first Tri-Track Open Modified Series win of the 2019 season. It is also Silk’s first-ever SBM victory. Silk started the feature in 21st after having to qualify thru the consolation and climbed up well inside the top ten before coming to the pits for a fresh tire under yellow at Lap 47. He restarted at the back of the field but inherited the lead when the rest of the field came to the pits on Lap 71 for tires.

Silk then had to hold off Williams and Matt Hirschman, who both had fresher tires. Silk managed to lead for almost 30 laps but had his work cut out for him when the caution flew with just eleven laps to go. He got the jump on Williams on the restart, but Williams was on his bumper.

On the final lap, Williams dove down into Turn 3 and did a bump and run which drove Silk high and allowing Williams to cut underneath him. However, Silk was able to save the car and Williams’ own car broke loose on the bottom, allowing Silk to get the edge coming off the corner and beat Williams to the line.

Matt Swanson ran inside the top ten the entire evening and was in place to capitalize on any drama between the top two, but a clean fight for the lead meant that Swanson brought the Boehler Racing Ole Blu home in third. Polesitter Matt Hirschman had a somewhat off day, leading the first 71 laps of the race before fading back to fourth place. Andy Jankowiak rounded out the top five. Richard Savary, Cam McDermott, Brad Babb, Woody Pitkat, and Brian Robie completed the top ten.

The Tri-Track Open Modified Series’ next race is Saturday, August 24th at Oxford Plains Speedway as part of the Oxford 250 weekend.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium Lee Jeffreys won his first race of the year and Burt Myers continued his winning ways as they split the twin 25-lap Modified races Saturday night at Bowman Gray. Jeffreys defeated Brandon Ward for his first win since June 16 of last year. Randy Butner finished third with Jonathan Brown and Chris Fleming rounding out the top five. Myers finished eighth in the first race and Jeffreys drew 8 on the Madhouse Scramble, which gave Myers the pole for the second race after the field was inverted. He led from start to finish and defeated John Smith for his fourth win of the year. Chris Fleming finished third, James Civali was fourth and Butner was fifth. John Boy Brown and Jason Myers had major melt downs as they attempted to destroy each other’s cars.

The action was hot and heavy at the Thompson Motorsports Speedway last Sunday. Prior to the start of the event it was announced that all events in 2020 will be run on Sunday including the two NASCAR Whelen Modified Touring Series events that now run on Wednesdays.

All eyes were on Bryan Narducci who was gunning to make nine wins in a row but it was not to be. Narducci started sixth and took the lead in turn 2 on lap 4. Narducci survived numerous restarts and has heading to make it nine in a row when he was punted by Steve Chapman as he came off turn four heading for the checker. Chapman took the checker but was disqualified and stripped of the win after making contact with Narducci on pit road. Keith Caruso, a grandson of Mario Fats Caruso was awarded the win. Finishing second was John O’Sullivan. Narducci recovered from his bump and finished fourth.

Woody Pitkat made a two-fer as he won the Late Model feature and the Sunoco (SK type) feature. In the Sunoco Modifieds, Pitkat held off Keith Rocco, Todd Owen,, Ron Williams and Michael Rutkoski. Mark Panaromi was the Mini Stock winner and Cory Fanning was the Limited Sportsman winner.

Sunday afternoon racing at Thompson will continue this week.

On a sad note, Don Spezzano, a top contender at the now gone Plainville Stadium in Connecticut passed away after a long battle with cancer.. He was 80.