RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; NASCAR Awards, Turkey Derby & More…

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Awards banquet was held last Saturday night at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in North Carolina.

Doug Coby has, in the last eight years, won 26 times with 72 top fives in 120 starts. That’s a win every 4.6 races. And his 2019 championship meant he became just the 13th driver in NASCAR history to win six or more national or touring series championships. That’s a list that includes the likes of Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Richie Evans and Mike Stefanik.

For the record, defending series champion Justin Bonsignore finished second, eight point back. Bonsignore recorded six wins. Ron Silk finished third, 62 lap back. Silk recorded three wins. Craig Lutz had a break out season as he recorded his first Mod Tour victory and finished fourth in the final standings. Rounding out the top five was Matt Swanson. Although winless, Swanson recorded nine top ten finishes. Sixth thru tenth were Eric Goodale, Timmy Solomito, Patrick Emmerling, Chris Pasteryak and Blake Barney.

NASCAR also held their “Home Tracks” Awards Banquet. Among those feted was Brian Narducci. Narducci, an 18-year-old from Colchester, Connecticut, won his second straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division III national championship after splitting his 2019 season between Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in Connecticut. As a driver in the SK Light Modified division, Narducci was able to get more races under his belt this season at Thompson, a .625-mile asphalt high-banked oval in Thompson, Connecticut, when the track added SK Lights to its Division III program.

Narducci ended up winning the track championship at Thompson, taking the checkered flag in six out of nine races. He added an additional eight wins in 19 races at Stafford, a half-mile semi-banked asphalt oval in Stafford, Connecticut, that he considers his home track. He finished fifth in the Stafford track standings in the division. His 14 wins gave Narducci a decisive win in the national championship race. His 478 points was 52 better than second place finisher Josh Frye of Berlin Raceway in Michigan.

He may be just 18, but Narducci has been driving for exactly half his life, having started driving go-karts when he was 9. Both of his grandfathers raced, as did his dad, uncles, and his mom. Narducci’s grandfather, Jerry Pearl, was the first back-to-back SK Modified track champion at Stafford. Narducci credited his dad, mom, and grandfather with helping him get to this point in his young career.

This season was just the second full year for Narducci driving SK Lights, but he’s always felt comfortable in the car from the first race. The way the car handles seems to fit his driving style, he said.

He won five out of nine races at Stafford last season as a rookie. Teddy Hodgden, who ran against Narducci every week, finished fourth and Alexander Pearl, Narducci’s cousin, finished sixth.

This season may be the last Division III national championship for Narducci. His hope is to move up to Division I in 2020 if the team can get enough sponsorship. At both tracks, Late Models are the Division II, making the natural progression to go to Division I Modifieds.

In NASCAR Division 1 standings Jacob Goeda was the Champion. Keith Rocco was the highest finishing New Englander in fifth spot. Rocco is also the Thompson Speedway Track champion and the Connecticut state champion. Ron Williams finished 7th and Todd Owen, ninth. Tom Fearn, who is the Stafford Late Model champ finished 3rd in division II.

In division 5 standings Dustin Grout was the champion. Zach Robinson finished third and George Bessett Jr finished fourth.

The list of Tour Type and Wall/SK Modified stock car teams planning to compete in this weeks Thanksgiving weekend Turkey Derby at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey continues to grow! Well over 80 race teams from all divisions were in the Wall pit area for both the November 16 and the November 23 final practice session. If these practice turnouts are any indication, the 46th running of the Turkey Derby stock car classic could feature a record setting field in both quality and quantity.

The Turkey Derby is presented on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend during the daylight hours. Among the Tour Type Modified stock car standouts expressing interest in the annual classic are multi-time Turkey Derby winner Jimmy Blewett of Howell who tested his Wall and Tour Type Modifieds during practice. Also seen turning fast laps were Holmdel’s Andrew Krause, Andy Jankowiac of Tonawanda, N.Y., Anthony Sesely of Matawan and Pennsylvania’s Bobby Jones.

Former winner Eric Mauriello of Brick, Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa., defending winner Dave Sapienza of Riverhead, N.Y., Derek Hopkinson of Toms River, Zane Zeiner of Bath, Pa., Ricky Collins of Willow Grove, Pa. and Long Island racer Kenny Darch also reportedly plan to see action. Also reportedly planning to compete in Tour Type Modified action are Justin Bonsignore of Holtsville, N.Y., Brick’s Ron Frees, Chas Okerson of Freehold, Kyle Ellwood of Riverhead, N.Y., Jonathan Mandato of Toms River and Jackson’s Blake Barney. More entries are expected during the final days leading up to the race.

The speedway’s own Wall/SK Modifieds will also be well represented by both local favorites and invaders. Former winner Jimmy Blewett, newly crowned champ Steven Reed of Jackson, Jason Hearne of New Egypt, Brick’s Marc Rogers and Howell’s Eric Mauriello are all reportedly planning to compete in the Wall Modified 100-lap feature. Mayetta’s Tyler Truex, Kenny Van Wickle of Manasquan, Joey Merlino of Pine Hill, Shaun Carrig of Little Falls, Zack Alspach of Willingboro, Jackson’s Jason Treat and Chris Andretta of Neptune are also expected to be in the field.

Several racers are contemplating competition in both pavement type Modified races. In fact, Andrew Krause plans extra duty he is planning to compete in the Dirt Modified feature race. A healthy field of Dirt Modifieds practiced during the two tune-up sessions.

On Friday, November 29, day one of Turkey Derby, pit area gates will open at 6:30 a.m., practice will begin at 8:30 a.m. and grandstand seating will open at 9:30 a.m. Qualifying is set for noon with feature racing scheduled to start at 2:00 p.m. The Sportsman cars will compete in a 50-lap main event, the Limited Late Models will battle in a 50-lapper and the Factory Stocks and the 4 Cylinder Stocks will each battle in 40-lap races.

On Saturday, November 30, the pit area will again open at 6:30 a.m. with practice at 8:30 a.m. and grandstands opening at 9:30 a.m. Qualifying will start at 11:00 a.m. with main events set for 1:00 p.m. The Tour Type Modifieds are set for a 150-lap, $6,000 to win feature race while the speedway’s Wall/SK Modifieds will compete in a 100-lap feature race that offers $5,000 to the winner. Dirt Modifieds will also be on the Saturday card in a 50-lap feature and the Green Flag Driving Experience Legend Cars will compete in a 30-lapper. The TQ Midgets will race on the inner oval in a 30-lap race.

The Turkey Derby weekend will then wrap up on Sunday, December 1, with pit gates opening at 10:00 a.m., practice starting at 11:00 a.m., grandstand opening at 11:30 a.m., qualifying at noon and main events set for 1:00 p.m. The Legend Cars will be competing in a 40-lapper and the Factory Stocks will race in a 50-lapper. The 4 Cylinder Stocks are set for a 50-lapper on Sunday while the Dirt Outlaw Stocks and the Dirt Sportsman cars will each compete in 25-lap main events. Demolition Derby action will cap off Sunday’s card.

Among special awards offered for the weekend will be the Larsen Brothers Memorial Fast Time Award for both the Tour and Wall Modified divisions.

Wall Stadium Speedway is located on Route 34 in Wall Township, N.J., just one mile north of Garden State Parkway exit 98 and Interstate 195 exit 35B.

The Modified Racing Series closed out its season Sunday afternoon at the Thompson Speedway clubhouse as the 2019 Series Champion, Mike Willis Jr, of Grantham, NH, was lauded for his accomplishment on winning his first ever series title. Team Willis as they are known, headed by Mike Willis Sr, crew chief Dennis Harty, and spotter Brandon Wilkinson, were consistent all season and were at or near the top of the point standings throughout the campaign.

Willis Jr, the 2013 Rookie of the Year, was a contender for the title a year ago. He notched his first MRS win at hometown track Claremont Speedway back in June. Maurice Enterprises and Spirit of Alaska provided sponsorship for the Willis team. Sunoco Racing Fuel and Hoosier Racing Tires Jackets were presented to Willis.

Long-time car owner Gary Casella was lauded for winning the 2019 Car- Owner title. With driver Ronnie Williams and crew chief Steve “Mully” Mullens, the Roscoe Racing team found victory lane on three occasions including New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The top-14 drivers and car owners were recognized and thanked for their support. Each year specialty awards are presented. This year recipients included: Above & Beyond: Daryl Poprosky, Dedication: Chris Bolton, Mechanic of the Year: Steve Mullens, Most Improved: Dylan Rock, Rookie of the Year: Brian Robie and Sportsmanship: George Sherman.

The honeymoon is over as NASCAR® and NBC Sports have teamed up to launch TrackPassTM on NBC Sports Gold, a new streaming product representing NASCAR’s most significant undertaking in the direct-to-consumer space. Set to launch in early December, TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold builds off the foundation set by FansChoice.tv and immediately becomes the most robust live and on-demand motorsports content offering in the domestic digital marketplace.

TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will bring fans more exclusive live motorsports events and an extensive library of archived documentaries and films. The platform will offer exclusive live viewing of a multitude of motorsports, including American Flat Track, select ARCA Menards Series™ events (including ARCA Menards Series East and West races), NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour™, and tentpole grassroots racing events, as well as NASCAR Cup Series™ and NASCAR Xfinity Series™ practice and qualifying sessions (NBC Sports’ half of the schedule only).

“TrackPass will deliver unprecedented, exclusive live coverage of a wide variety of diehard racing fans’ favorite series – from IMSA, ARCA and American Flat Track, to grassroots racing at iconic local tracks like Bowman-Gray Stadium and Myrtle Beach Speedway. TrackPass is a must-have for passionate race fans.”

Fans can access all the content on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold for $4.99/month or $44.99/year. Lower-priced, series-specific subpackages for IMSA, AFT and NASCAR Roots content will also be available. Both the IMSA and NASCAR Roots (which includes ARCA, Whelen Modified Tour, tentpole grassroots events and select NASCAR practice and qualifying sessions) packages are $2.99/month or $19.99/year. The American Flat Track package will have a $1.99/month or $10.99/year introductory rate for 2020. Existing FansChoice.tv registered users will receive an introductory free trial to TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.