Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – All drivers have a home track that they prefer racing at over all other tracks on their schedule. Such is the case with Modified driver Eric Goodale, who lists Riverhead Raceway, the track where he scored his first career Whelen Modified Tour victory, as his home track.
Over the years, Goodale has come to find Stafford Speedway as a second home competing and finding success in Stafford’s Open 80 and Whelen Modified events. Goodale is looking forward to returning this Friday for the NAPA Auto Parts Open Modified 100.
“With the success we’ve had in the Open Modified shows and on the Tour at Stafford, I’d say that Stafford would be considered a second home track for me,” said Goodale. “It’s a good race format and I like that you get to change tires. You don’t get that at a lot of other races and other divisions. Everything about Stafford is fun, from dealing with the Arutes and everyone on the staff down to the actual racing on the track, it’s all good stuff.”
As much as Goodale likes racing at Stafford, that wasn’t always the case for the driver of the #58 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet. At the beginning of his Modified career, Goodale struggled at Stafford.
“When I first started racing, I didn’t like racing at Stafford, it was my least favorite track on the Modified Tour schedule,” said Goodale. “Stafford was a track that we really put an emphasis on practicing and testing and over time we were finally able to hit on something and it became a place where the car was happy. Since a few races before the 2017 Fall Final win, Stafford has been a track that we’ve been able to show up at and be competitive. I thoroughly enjoy racing there now.”
Coming into the NAPA Auto Parts Open Modified 100, Stafford Speedway has hosted 6 previous open modified events, each being 80 laps in distance with teams able to change 2 tires during the race. The NAPA Auto Parts 100 gives teams 20 extra laps and a third change tire for the race, which Goodale feels will open the race up to a multitude of strategy options that wouldn’t be available to teams for an 80-lap race.
“I’m excited for the race,” said Goodale. “I’ve really enjoyed the open 80’s at Stafford and with this race being 20 more laps, I think there’s going to be a little more pit strategy coming into play. With the 80 lap races, there’s normally one pit window from around lap-40 to lap-60 where everyone will pit for their 2 new tires but with 20 extra laps and a third tire I think that gives teams a lot more options on when to pit and how many tires you take when you stop. Drivers can pit early and gain track position later on or they can wait a little longer than usual in an 80 lap race to pit late for tires. With the number of tires you change, you might see guys change one tire on one stop and then 2 tires on a later stop or vice versa or you might see some guys pit only once for 2 tires only if they feel like their car is handling well enough. I know 20 extra laps might not sound like a lot but it provides an extra dynamic to this race with the options you can choose from for taking on fresh tires.”
Goodale knows his way to NAPA Victory Lane at Stafford, having won the NAPA Fall Final Whelen Modified Tour event in 2017 and the Bud Light Open 80 in 2018. In order to score a third Stafford victory, Goodale says that he will have to have good track position and choose the correct pit strategy.
“In order to win this race, I think that pit strategy is going to be the number 1 thing,” said Goodale. “Along with pit strategy, the keys to winning this race will be to drive smart and keep things together so you can put yourself in position to win the race in the late stages. My guys are some of the best on pit road and they’re all excited about the different strategies we can employ and I’m really looking forward to the race.”
Mike O’Sullivan Ready To Return To Stafford For Pro Late Model 81
With the Pro Late Model division coming to Stafford Speedway on Saturday, August 22nd for the Call Before You Dig Pro Late Model 81, one driver looking forward to the race is former Stafford weekly competitor Mike O’Sullivan.
O’Sullivan ran in the ProStock division at Stafford from 1997-2000 with 4 wins, made selected Late Model starts in 2006 and 2007, and also won the Late Model 100 feature in 2007. O’Sullivan’s last start at Stafford came back in 2012 in the PASS Series race and he is looking forward to returning to a track where he and his family have a lot of history.
“I’m really looking forward to the race, Stafford is only a 20 minute drive for me,” said O’Sullivan. “Stafford is the first race track that I went to as a kid and it’s one of the facilities that I really love coming back to. We watched Tommy Rosati have a lot of success at Stafford driving my father’s cars and Stafford is the first track that I actually raced on. We have a lot of history at Stafford and we still have a lot of friends who race at Stafford so I’m really looking forward to coming back. I was super excited to come to Stafford back in 2012 for the PASS race but we had a motor issue and didn’t have a good showing that day. Being able to race at Stafford again is great.”
With O’Sullivan’s last start at Stafford coming 8 years ago, he feels like he will be a little behind some of the drivers with more recent experience, but is eager to narrow that gap.
“Stafford is a very tricky race track,” said O’Sullivan. “I remember the last time I was there the racing groove seemed to be a little lower than it was the last time I raced in the Late Model in 2007. The guys who have experience at Stafford like Todd Owen and Cory Casagrande might have a slight advantage over some of us. I’m working on trying to get to a test session before the race because any laps you can get will be important. Stafford is a unique layout and it’s a rhythm kind of track. I come to the track a couple times a year and I watch all the videos online of Stafford so I’m aware of things but nothing beats track time.”
Despite having zero track time at Stafford since his last start in 2012, O’Sullivan feels like his #08 Tom O’Sullivan Welding Chevrolet can be a contender for the checkered flag.
“I think we have as good of a shot at winning the race as anyone,” said O’Sullivan. “Our equipment is very similar to everyone else that runs either the Granite State Series or PASS so I think you’ll see closer racing with the cars being so close together. Certainly the guys who have experience at Stafford will probably run well but the race is 81 laps long and there’s going to be some tire wear, so I’m looking forward to that.”
With 5 wins to his name at Stafford, including a 100 lap Late Model race, O’Sullivan knows what he needs in a car in order to drive it into NAPA Victory Lane and he will be focused on having a good handling car that he can keep clean for all 81 laps.
“To win this race, you’ll need the car to turn,” said O’Sullivan. “As long as you can rotate the car in the bottom groove, you can always move up to the top groove if you need to and tire wear is going to be a factor. The Hoosier tires we run in the Granite State Series seem to wear a little so you’ll have to take care of the tires. If you can get a good starting position and keep your car clean, you should have a good chance at being a contender as long as you run all 81 laps. Our car now is a lot different from the last time we ran at Stafford so we’re looking to get the car to turn during practice and use some of our notes and rely on some advice from guys with experience and work as hard as we can to have the best car that we can for the race.”