RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Stafford Speedway Resumes Racing In July; Whelen Modified Nor’Easter 100 Cancelled At NHMS

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WAVERLY, RI – In some real good news, it looks like the Stafford Motor Speedway may drop the green flag on racing as soon as the first week of July. Under Connecticut guidelines the track will be limited to allowing a 50% capacity to their admission. Stafford holds 10,000 people which would allow 5,000 fans. A tentative schedule calls for 20 events which would push their season out to the end of October. The track has not released when and how its three Whelen Modified Tour events will be run. Tour events generally draw in excess of 5,000 fans.

NASCAR has announced that the ARCA Menards Series East and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will resume their 2020 seasons and fans can watch the races live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.

The ARCA Menards Series East will run its second race of the season with the Herr’s Potato Chips 200 presented by Federated Car Care at Toledo Speedway on Saturday, June 13 at 6 p.m. ET.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will open its season with the Wade Cole Memorial 133 presented by Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair at Jennerstown Speedway on Sunday, June 21 at 2:30 p.m.

Both races will be run without fans, but the live race broadcast on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will be free for both events.

The ARCA Menards Series East race from Toledo will also air on NBCSN on Thursday, June 18 at 3 p.m. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener from Jennerstown will air on NBCSN on Friday, June 26 at 12 a.m.

The service also hosts the 2019 Whelen Modified Tour season and nearly 50 long-form documentaries on NASCAR’s biggest stars, venues and stories.

In a related matter NASCAR and New Hampshire Motor Speedway officials announced that the July 18 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Nor’Easter 100 has been cancelled. NHMS officials made the announcement in conjunction with announcing that the previously scheduled July 19 Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 has been postponed to Aug. 2.The NASCAR Xfinity Series event scheduled for the track on July 18 has been moved to Kentucky Speedway.

Still on the schedule, the Whelen Modified Tour is scheduled to run the Musket 200 at NHMS on Sept. 12 as part of the track’s Full Throttle Weekend.

The Stafford Motor Speedway is doing its best to keep the interest up in racing at their track which appears to be the only game in town at this point. The grandstands are up at Waterford but work has come to a screeching halt and the powers that be at Thompson could care less at this time .Stafford has presented IRacing events which have become quite popular and the state of Connecticut has begun to allow private test sessions.

Stafford is toying with the idea of staging live racing without fans on a pay per view basis. A cost of $20 per event has been thrown around. All things considered with Stafford’s great announcing staff and their top flight production crew the pay per view idea could turn into a hit. Recently Stafford has been uploading some of its prior events, the latest being the 100th SK Modified feature.

The New York State based Race of Champions Modified Series and the Lake Erie Speedway located in management have been able to secure a return to racing date with events taking place on Friday, June 26 and the originally scheduled show on Saturday, June 27.

Masks or facial coverings will be recommended, and social distancing will be practiced due to state and county established restrictions due to COVID-19 as Erie County Pennsylvania moves into the “green” phase of the state’s reopening plan.

Phased reopening in all states varies based on the guidelines set forth by local, regional and state authorities. Until spectators are permitted In New York it is not financially feasible for many speedways and series, including the Race of Champions management plan at Spencer Speedway in Williamson NY, to conduct racing events. All Race of Champions events that are run will follow all guidelines as set forth by any authority including the CDC.

The Race of Champions is a sanctioning body presenting Modified and Stock Car racing on asphalt and dirt surfaces throughout the Northeast, with events in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey with primary marketing partners Hoosier Racing Tire, VP Racing Fuels, Printed Image of Buffalo, Waddell Communications, Pilat Graphic Design, TDH Refrigeration, RPM Newsletter and Workshops; Sherwood Racing Wheels, DirtTrackDigest.com, Wilbert’s U-Pull It and Speed51.com. The 70th annual Race of Champions weekend will take place in 2020 at Lake Erie Speedway in North East, Pennsylvania and is the second longest consecutive auto-racing event in North America, second only to the Indianapolis 500.

There was racing in New England this past weekend. The grandstands might have been quiet, but the pit area wasn’t Friday night at Claremont Motorsports Park in northern New Hampshire. The Granite State Pro Stock Series opened their season at the New Hampshire oval with no spectators in attendance due to state and local guidance and the COVID-19 pandemic.

With a full field of cars in four divisions, including the Pro Stocks, and a live broadcast on Speed51.com, track and series operator Mike Parks put together a show that was the first of its kind in the region.

In the top event of the night, Ray Christian III used a late pass of Angelo Belsito to net the victory in the Let’s Go Racing 100 for the Pro Stocks. Christian worked inside the top-five for much of the race, while pouncing late, passing DJ Shaw for second and Angelo Belsito for the lead. He would drive to victory at Claremont for the second straight time. Christian was victorious on Labor Day weekend of 2019 as well at the tricky oval. Belsito, a former Pro Stock champion at Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts, took the lead early, but struggled to get off the corners late, settling for third at the checkered. Shaw would pass Belsito late and finished .615 seconds behind Christian.

Just hours after a very successful test session at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Thursday June 4th Long Island based MSM Elite Motorsports team owner Mark S. Mina announced that his team with veteran driver John Beatty Jr. of Merrick at the wheel would enter the delayed 2020 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener Sunday June 21st at Jennerstown Speedway. The Long Island based MSM Elite Motorsports team will venture out to western Pennsylvania to compete in the Wade Cole Memorial 133 presented by Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair.

The Wade Cole Memorial 133 presented by Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair will be the 14th career start on the WMT for John Beatty Jr. who along the way has posted two top fives and four top tens in 13 previous starts. Beatty also has a NASCAR WMT pole to his credit on June 28th, 2014 prior to the 200-lap WMT event at Riverhead Raceway. John led 108-laps total in the race eventually won by Eric Goodale of Riverhead, Beatty would finish 12th in his family owned machine.

While the June 21st NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener will not permit fans in the grandstands folks can watch every lap of the event on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold free of charge. Race time is 2:30 pm.

In NASCAR Cup racing, Kevin Harvick cruised to victory Sunday over Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. in the event at Atlanta Motor Speedway, leading the final 55 laps on a day that began with the series acknowledging the social unrest in the country.

Before taking the green flag, the 40 cars stopped in front of the towering, empty grandstands on the front stretch to listen to a message from NASCAR president Steve Phelps and observe a 30-second moment of silence in the wake of George Floyd’s death while in police custody.

Ryan Preece finished 26th.

In some sad news, Robert Bagot who video recorded races at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson has passed away. Robert posted his work on U-Tube for everyone to enjoy. RIP.

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