RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Mike Stefanik To The NASCAR Hall Of Fame?; Reports Say NASCAR To New Hampshire In July

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

Quiet since New Smyrna, the modifieds broke the ice in North Carolina on Saturday night. Twenty-four hours after North Carolina entered Phase Two of Gov. Roy Cooper’s coronavirus pandemic reopening plan, people turned out to Ace Speedway in rural Alamance County. The Winston-Salem Journal reported close to 4,000 spectators who paid $15 a head.

There were 14 cars on hand for the twin 30’s on tap. Tim Brown won the opener with Danny Bohn, second and Tommy Catalano third. Burt and Jason Myers rounded out the top five. James Civali who finished seventh in the opener won the nightcap. Chris Fleming finished second with Burt Myers, third. Tim Brown and Jason Myers rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series gets the green flag this coming Saturday night at the Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina. The event, sponsored by Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair will honor recently deceased WMT driver Wade Cole who recently lost his life doing what he loved, working on his racer. On the down side, the event, the Wade Cole 133 will be run without spectators and will carry a reduced purse paying only $4,000 to win. Fifth place pays $1,000 and from 10th on back will pay $500. With most Modified teams based in New England, Long Island and upstate New York it will involve a one way trip between 1,200 to 1500 miles just to get there. Following Myrtle Beach the next scheduled event that has not been cancelled is at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey on July 11.

This event will run without spectators. Hopefully there will be a broadcast of some kind through streaming services.

It appears that Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont has lamented on his stance concerning auto racing in the state as the Stafford Speedway has announced a gradual return to regular business operations based on Governor Lamont’s Executive Order No. 7PP. As of May 20,2020, Private Practices may resume with strict protocol being enforced. As the State of Connecticut reduces its COVID-19 restrictions, Stafford Speedway will work to return to hosting auto racing events.

The COVID-19 Waiver of Liability:

“Stafford Speedway will be abiding to the guidelines and regulations set forth by state, federal and local authorities and will follow all best practices concerning public health and social distancing. An inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present. COVID-19 is a contagious disease that can lead to severe illness. According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable.” 

As set forth in state guidance, while these guidelines have allowed Stafford Speedway to open as safely as possible, the risks to visitors cannot be fully mitigated. Therefore by visiting Stafford Speedway, you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and Stafford Speedway assumes no liability for this potential exposure. Safe health standards are first and foremost.

Private Practice Guidelines:

Private Practice dates and times are by reservation only. Please call the speedway office at (860)-684-2783 for more information or to schedule a test period.

The New England Sports Network (NESN) reports as of right now, the plan is for NASCAR to make its annual stop at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. Through a spokesperson, NHMS executive vice president David McGrath on Tuesday told NESN.com that the track intends to host a NASCAR Xfinity Series race on July 18 and a Cup Series race the next day, despite COVID-19 restrictions. New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu expressed similar optimism during an appearance on WEEI’s “The Greg Hill Show.” “We haven’t finalized it and we haven’t codified it, but our hope is to kind of finalize that soon and I fully anticipate the NASCAR race happening here at Loudon,” Sununu said Tuesday morning. “Very similar to what they did with Darlington. I don’t anticipate large crowds and maybe even any crowds. But to allow it to happen, to allow the racers to do their thing, to allow them to get their TV contract, and to allow the sports betting. Don’t forget we have the sports betting here in New Hampshire.” Of course, everything is subject to change amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Granite State began the phased reopening of its economy last Monday. The 2020 NASCAR season resumed Sunday with a fan-less Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway. Next up is a Wednesday night race at Darlington (weather permitting) before Sunday’s as-scheduled running of the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. NASCAR has no immediate plans to allow fans to attend races.

It appears that the Whelen Modified Tour Series which usually puts on the best show of the weekend will take a back seat and remain idle.

Two-time Race of Champion (RoC) Modified champion Patrick Emerling made his NASCAR Xfinity Series debut on Saturday, May 30 at a track he’s quite familiar with. The New York driver partnered with Northeast Modified stalwarts Our Motorsports and Andy Seuss to take on the Bristol Motor Speedway, the site of his only NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in 2017.

In NASCAR cup racing, Brad Keselowski extended Jimmie Johnson’s losing streak to 102 races, holding off the seven-time NASCAR champion in overtime early Monday in the Coca-Cola 600. Keselowski started in the back of the field, worked his way to the front at Charlotte Motor Speedway and gambled in not pitting when caution stopped Chase Elliott from winning with two laps remaining.

That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-248-1307.