RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Stafford Battles Mother Nature; Bonsignore Wins At White Mountain; Tempers Flare At Monadnock

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – In what was set to begin a three day weekend of racing got spoiled by a late afternoon-early evening storm that threatened the Stafford Motor Speedway causing the speedway management to postpone the Friday night event at the Connecticut oval. The Mid State Firecracker Street Stock 30 will be run this coming Friday, July 10.

The skies cleared by Saturday morning for a beautiful July 4th holiday. Thirty one Modifieds were on hand for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series event at the White Mountain Motorsports Park track.

Was it a bump and run by Justin Bonsignore or was it a brake job by Matt Hirschman? In the end, Justin Bonsignore was 2-for-2 on the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season. The Long Island driver driver hit Hirschman and got him out of shape enough to take the lead with seven laps to go and then withstood a challenge from Hirschman and Doug Coby on a green-white-checkered finish to win the Independence Day 200 in the tour’s inaugural visit to White Mountain Motorsports Park.

A late caution pushed the race to 205 laps and Bonsignore edged Hirschman by .127 seconds at the line. Hirschman, who won the Mayhew Tools Pole Award earlier in the day, crossed the finish side-by-side with Coby. Tommy Catalano finished fourth and Woody Pitkat made a late run to finish fifth. Dave Sapienza was sixth, followed by Chris Pasteryak, Craig Lutz, Jon McKennedy and Chase Dowling.

In a post race interview Hirschman said “He punted me, he moved me”

The Independence Day 200 aired live on TrackPass on NBC Gold, and will re-air on Sunday, July 12 at 11 p.m. ET.

Two months delayed due to COVID-19, the Tri Track Open Modified Series season hit full speed on Sunday at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire. Thirty six modifieds were on hand. Four qualifying heats and two consolations were run to fill the field. Heat winners were Brian Robie, Chase Dowling, Ben Byrne and Dave Sapienza.Consi winners were Matt Swanson and Craig Lutz.

The 100 lap main had a carbon copy finish from the White Mountain event. The leader on the last lap, Les Hinkley, got punted out of the lead on the last lap by second place runner Craig Lutz. Like Bonsignore, Lutz is from Long Island. Hinkley, not a happy camper to say the least, voiced his displeasure with Lutz. But while Lutz was calm and collected in Victory Lane, Hinckley was furious. “[Lutz] just drove through me on the last lap,” Hinckley said. “Had no other choice, just flat out drove through me. What can you do? He can have the second-place trophy too.” Hinckley appeared to be covering his spot and admitted that he knew a bump might have been coming, but he was not prepared for what he ended up receiving.

That’s their (Long Island) type of racing. That’s what’s commonplace now. When I grew up, you didn’t do stuff like that, and when you did do it, it came back to you. It won’t happen again to me.” Stated Hinkley. During his Victory Lane interview, Hinckley overheard Lutz telling the raucous fans, “It is what it is”. “I come here to win races. I came through the consi, started 22nd. It’s not the right way to win, but I’m still standing here in Victory Lane. We’re here to win races, not make friends, so that’s what we did today.” Hinkley responded with, “It ain’t what it ain’t, pal, you’re gonna pay.”

Hinckley lead the race until turn three on the final lap and appeared to be on the way to his first Tri-Track victory. Lutz, who worked his way up from a 22nd starting position, made a last-ditch effort in the final turn, making hard contact with the rear of Hinckley No. 06. Both cars got loose, but Lutz got back to the gas first and beat Hinckley to the line by 0.085 seconds. It was Lutz’s first career Tri-Track Modified win.

Monadnock weekly racer Ben Byrne, who almost won this race last year, brought his bright green No. 6 home to a third-place finish after leading 31 of the 100 laps. Ron Silk, driving the Bob Horn Racing No. 50S, gained four spots in the last 10 laps to finish fourth. Chase Dowling, after fighting with Hinckley for the lead for more than 20 laps, completed the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Matt Kimball, Matt Hirschman, Woody Pitkat, Ronnie Williams and Matt Swanson. Rookie Jacob Perry finished 17th, on the lead lap.

The Tri-Track Open Modifieds will hit the track again later this month, taking on the annual SBM 125 at Star Speedway (NH) on Saturday, July 25.

Based on the fact that opening night at Stafford was a rousing success along with the Pay Per View participation, the Arute family has opted to add two Saturday nights to their schedule. The added events will be on July 18 and August 1st.and will feature Open Modified 80 events along with non-points SK Light Modified and Street Stock events. All events will continue to be capped at 25% capacity with tickets going on sale the Saturday prior to the event at 8am. Race fans will also be able to tune in live on StaffordSpeedway.tv, a new pay-per-view streaming service with 25% of each sale going directly to the drivers. Visit StaffordSpeedway.tv for more information. Stafford Speedway season passes are good for all events. The schedule for the remainder of the 2020 season will be posted in early to mid-July.

Stafford is the only oval track speedway in Connecticut that is currently running on a weekly basis and running on Saturdays will fill a void that has been left. Currently it is a foregone conclusion that the New London-Waterford Speedbowl will not open in 2020. The Thompson Speedway ownership has shown a general lack of interest in oval track racing and has apparently canceled their initial schedule of weekly cut-race purse events.

The Hoenig family that owns the Thompson Motorsports Park has leased their oval to Terry Eames, the guy who still owes competitors who raced for him at the Speedbowl before he lost it to foreclosure and auction. Eames plans on running the Bud 150 on Wednesday, Aug 19 and the World Series on Oct 9-11. Both events will feature the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.

In some sad news, Frank P. Sgambato, 83, passed away Monday, June 29, 2020 at home surrounded by his loving family. He was the husband of the late Barbara B. (Fusco) Sgambato for 57 years before her passing in 2016. Born in Providence, he was a son of the late Stephen and Mildred (Alburn) Sgambato. Mr. Sgambato was the owner of the former F. Sgambato & Sons Construction Co. for over 40 years before retiring in 2000.

He was a starter/flag man for NASCAR auto racing tracks throughout the Northeast. His career as a tremendously talented starter started at the Seekonk Speedway in the 50’s when there were no starter stands. When Jack Arute bought the Stafford Speedway in1970 he wanted the best in the business on the flagstand and Frank was it. For close to 20 years Sgambato and his assistant Eddie LaRue waved the flags as the best in NASCAR Modified racing raced under him. He was also the Chief Starter at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl for a short time. He loved Hawaii and traveling with his wife Barbara. He enjoyed Sunday’s with his family who relied upon him for words of wisdom. He was a member of Roger Williams Masonic Lodge and his dog; Cilla will miss him immensely.

Frank. Sgambato was the father of Deborah M. D’Alessio of Lincoln, John L. Sgambato of N. Providence, Frank S. Sgambato of North Providence, Stacy S. DeMedeiros of North Providence, and the late Frank P. Sgambato, Jr. He was the brother of Elizabeth DiDonato, David Sgambato and the late Stephen, John and Walter Sgambato. Mr. Sgambato is also survived by his grandchildren Dyana LeBlanc, Jessica D’Alessio, John and Christopher Sgambato, Anthony and Sydney DeMedeiros; and also 4 great-grandchildren. His funeral and burial will be private.

Dr. Rose Mattioli, who co-founded Pocono Raceway with her husband and served as the Pennsylvania track’s matriarch for more than five decades, died Monday. She was 92. Dr. Rose and Dr. Joseph “Doc” Mattioli established the 2.5-mile speedway in 1968 on land they developed in Long Pond in the Pocono Mountains. Their track’s first major event for IndyCars came in 1971. Pocono became an annual stop for the NASCAR Cup Series in 1974 and moved to two races per year in 1982.

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