RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Tracks Working Through Schedule Issues Due To Coronavirus

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The threat of coronavirus continues to cripple our country.

Its amazing things have got so bad. People are hoarding everything from toilet paper to dog food and there appears that current conditions will continue for a while.

Try to keep your distance from others, don’t get carried away at the grocery stores and hopefully in a few short weeks things will return to normal. Thanks to the wonders of the internet life will not be boring.

Web site You Tube provides thousands of hours of entertainment from the world of auto racing. Numerous racing events have been recorded and can be accessed without charge. Just about every track and series is there. One of the best programs available are the Pod Casts from the Stafford Speedway which usually last over an hour. Kyle Rickey and Paul Arute do a great job of looking inside our sport as they have interviewed many of the personality’s involved in the sport of auto racing. Sid’s View has documented the History of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. It will take a couple of weeks to go thru these two programs.

Once we get thru April hopefully we can look back at the coronavirus as a bad memory!

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener scheduled for Saturday, March 21 at South Boston Speedway (VA) was postponed. The announcement came as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic that is forcing the postponement, suspension or cancelation of many sporting events throughout the United States. A make up date for the event has not been announced at this time.

NASCAR President Steve Phelps held a teleconference with the sport’s media on Tuesday addressing questions and reassuring that the hope is, yes, the full season’s 36 points races will be run, with the safety of the sport’s fans and its participants of utmost importance during the current worldwide COVID-19 virus outbreak.

NASCAR announced on Monday, March 17 that races through at least May 3 will have to be rescheduled.

“The health and safety of our fans, industry and the communities in which we race is our most important priority, so in accordance with recent CDC guidance, NASCAR is currently postponing all race events through May 3rd, with plans to return racing in Martinsville,’’ the NASCAR statement read in part. “We appreciate the patience of our fans and we look forward to returning to the racetrack.’’

The official word from the Stafford Motor Speedway indicates that the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler Weekend has been rescheduled to May 30th & 31st following directive from NASCAR, the CDC, and the State of Connecticut relating to Covid-19 (coronavirus). The 2020 season will kick-off Friday, May 22nd with a full card of NASCAR weekly racing.

The previously scheduled Call Before You Dig Pro Late Model 81 slated for Friday, May 29th will remain on the schedule, setting up a double-header weekend for all 5 of Stafford’s NASCAR weekly racing series divisions.

“We’re making adjustments to the 2020 schedule due to the coronavirus and the executive order implemented by the governor,” explained Stafford Speedway CEO Mark Arute. “We’ve worked with NASCAR to reschedule the Sizzler to the end of May. We will have an exciting weekend for race fans with the inaugural Call Before You Dig Pro Late Model 81 on Friday and the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® Saturday and Sunday.”

Open practice has been moved to Saturday, May 9th. All teams competing at Stafford Speedway in 2020 are welcomed to attend. Events scheduled for Friday, May 1st and Friday, May 8th have been canceled. The May 15th Modified Open 80 event has been rescheduled to Friday, September 4th to eliminate conflicts with Thompson Speedway’s opening event. The Late Model 50 scheduled for September 4th has been moved to Friday, September 11th.

“We are in some unprecedented circumstances but we look forward to getting back on track whenever it is safe for drivers, teams, and fans,” continued Arute. “Safety is the number one concern right now but looking at the double header this sets up at the end of May we have a unique opportunity to have a really exciting weekend for fans and teams. 13 races over the course of 3 days is something we’ve never done. We’ve taken a hard look at the schedule and reshuffled dates to make it work. We want to thank all the fans for their patience.”

Stafford Speedway is set to host 13 feature races over three days from May 29th through May 31st. The Inaugural Call Before You Dig Pro Late Model 81 will kick off the weekend Friday, May 29th along with all 5 of Stafford’s weekly divisions. Stafford Speedway will return to action the following day with practice and qualifying for all 5 of Stafford’s weekly divisions, Vintage All-Stars® and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The Street Stock, Limited Late Model, and Vintage All-Stars® will run feature events Saturday, May 30th. The weekend will cap off Sunday with the NAPA Pit Party and feature racing from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light Modified, and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

“All future dates remain tentative, pending any additional guidance from the CDC, state of Connecticut, or NASCAR,” explained Arute. “We will continue to monitor the situation and take additional action if necessary. We look forward to seeing everyone back at the track soon.”

The previously scheduled Call Before You Dig Pro Late Model 81 slated for Friday, May 29th will remain on the schedule, setting up a double-header weekend for all 5 of Stafford’s NASCAR weekly racing series divisions.

Word comes from North Carolina that the MadHouse, Bowman Gray Stadium will also have a delayed schedule. Their season Opener Hayes Jewelers 200 has been Postponed Until May 9.

On a sad note, NASCAR Whelen Modified tour competitor Wade Cole was killed while working on his race car late Sunday, March 15. Hartland Connecticut’s longtime first selectman, Wade Cole, died following an accident at his home, the town’s second selectman and Cole’s longtime friend said Monday.

Cole was found Monday morning, Magi Winslow said. He was apparently injured while working on his race car.

Noted writer Mark “Bones” Bourcier reports the passing of Ray Stonkus, who laid his wrenches on more winning race cars than an average mechanic ever even touches. Ray worked on everything from Saturday-night coupes to All Pro Late Models to NASCAR Trucks, and made fast racers like Pete Hamilton and Gary Balough even faster. Pete always called Ray’s “Flyin’ 9” coupe “my first really good race car,” and in my home region, New England, the Stonkus and Hamilton names will be forever linked.