RPW Column: The Champ Trail: NASCAR Continuing To Move Forward Among COVID-19; Could Mods Race At Hickory?

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The balloting for the NASCAR Hall of Fame is in full swing. Mike Stefanik is in the running for induction. Voting closed on Monday, May 18.

Seven of his titles came in his primary racing series, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. In 2003, he was named one of the Tour’s 10 Greatest Drivers, an obvious choice if there ever was one, Stefanik holds the all-time series record in championships, wins, poles, top fives and top 10s.

Stefanik won two championships consecutively in NASCAR K&N Pro Series East competition, in 1997-98. That, along with a win total that ties for ninth on the all-time series wins list, earned him a spot on the Top 10 Drivers of the First 25 Years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East list in 2011. In addition, Stefanik spent one full-time season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and it was a successful one. He captured the Rookie of the Year Award in 1999.

Stafford Speedway has announced an additional 4 iRacing events over the next month. All Phases Renovations will continue to partner with Stafford Speedway to present the weekly iRacing broadcast frome Stafford Speedway each Friday night. All Phases Renovations will also host this Friday’s Modified Invitational event which will feature Modified competitors battling it out in an 80 lap Tour-Type Modified iRace.

“We all know that iRacing is not as good as the real thing but it has been fun to host the iRacing broadcasts the last few weeks” explained Paul Arute of Stafford Speedway. “Larry at All Phases Renovations has been a big supporter of our broadcasts and we can’t thank him enough for the support. We’ve put together another 4 events starting next Friday with a 60-lap Late Model feature. They were back in action last Friday with a special Modified invitational featuring Modified drivers from all disciplines.”

The weekly Friday night iRacing event presented by All Phases Renovations will continue to bebroadcast on the Stafford Speedway YouTube channel. Kyle Rickey, Bonssa Tufa, and Jeff Maconi will host the broadcast which kicks off at 7pm each week.

On Thursday, May 14, NASCAR announced the next slate of races in its return to racing, featuring events at Bristol Motor Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, Martinsville Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. The NASCAR Cup Series, NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series and the ARCA Menards Series will all see action in the newly released schedule.

NASCAR had previously announced that Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway would host the first two weeks of racing following a two-month stoppage of action due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Like those two weekends of races, the newly announced dates will also be run without fans in attendance.

Bristol Motor Speedway will be the next track on the schedule following Charlotte, hosting an Xfinity Series race on May 30 followed by the NASCAR Cup Series on May 30. Atlanta Motor Speedway (June 6 and 7) will feature a race by each of the three national series, including a double-header on Saturday with the Xfinity Series and Gander Trucks.

Martinsville Speedway will then host a mid-week NASCAR Cup Series race under the lights on Wednesday, June 10, three days after racing at Atlanta. The NASCAR Whelen Modified tour originally scheduled with the Martinsville event has been cancelled.

Homestead-Miami Speedway will be next on the list, hosting a NASCAR Cup Series night race on Sunday, June 14, that will be preceeded by an Xfinity Series race earlier in the day. That will be the second of two Xfinity Series races at Miami, which will also be part of a double-header with the Gander Trucks on Saturday, June 13.

The announced slate will wrap up at Talladega Superspeedway, starting with an ARCA Menards Series and Xfinity Series double-header on Saturday, June 20, and the NASCAR Cup Series on Sunday, June 21.

In addition, NASCAR today announced the postponement of events at Kansas Speedway (May 30-31); Michigan International Speedway (June 5-7), the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Mid-Ohio (May 30) and the Gander Trucks Series race at Texas Motor Speedway previously scheduled for June 5, as well as the cancelation of all NASCAR national series races and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Iowa Speedway for the 2020 season. The NASCAR Xfinity race at Iowa Speedway scheduled for June 13 has been realigned to Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, June 14. Further Iowa Speedway realignment dates will be announced in the future.

The NASCAR Cup Series returned to racing at Darlington Raceway this past Sunday, May 17.

It looks like another speedway will bite the dust following the 2020 season. On Tuesday afternoon, May 12, Myrtle Beach Speedway unveiled an updated event schedule for the 2020 racing season. That schedule is condensed to six remaining events for the South Carolina facility, with an August 18 event being advertised as “the last race at Myrtle Beach Speedway.” The property has been sold for re-development. NASCAR has announced that the Whelen Modified Tour will open its 2020 season with a new event added to the schedule on May 30 at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Myrtle Beach, S.C. NASCAR also announced to team owners that their June 6 event at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway and their June 20 event at Riverhead Raceway have been officially postponed with a plan to reschedule them at a later date.

LFR and Troyer chassis owner Rob Fuller is leading a group to put on a Tour Type Modified event May 30 at the Hickory Speedway in Newton, N.C.

The event is expected to be run without fans but be available for pay-per-view viewing. It’s unclear at this time what the pay-per-view pricing structure plan is for the event.

Hickory Motor Speedway will kick off its 2020 season on Saturday with a five-division six-feature card that will be run with no fans on site. Hickory will offer a pay-per-view of their Saturday show with an advertised promotional price of $19.99 if purchased before Saturday and $24.99 on the day of the event through the website Speed51.

The one-third mile Hickory Motor Speedway is one of NASCAR’s most storied short track venues. The former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour competed twice at Hickory with Junior Miller winning an event there in 2006 and George Brunnhoelzl III winning at the facility in 2011.

On a sad note, Raymond Garuti Sr., 95, of Southington, passed away on Sunday, May 10, 2020, at Autumn Lake Health Care in Cromwell. He was the husband of the late Irene (Cap) Garuti. Ray, with his brother Rich, owned and operated Ray’s Garage in Kensington for 39 years.

Out of that small garage, the brothers built some of the fastest modified race cars on the East Coast, winning around 150 feature events with such drivers as Eddie Flemke, Smokey Boutwell, Jocko Maggiacomo and Moe Gherzi. The Garuti Brothers were inducted into the New England Race Car Hall of Fame on January 30, 2011. Ray was a U.S. Army Veteran.