RPW Column: Busy Weekend For Asphalt Modified Racing In Connecticut & On Long Island

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The weekend was a busy one, at least in Connecticut and on Long Island.

The Stafford Motor Speedway ran their Modified Open on Friday and their 5K SK Modified event on Saturday.

In addition the New London-Waterford Speedbowl had its Grand re-opening on Saturday night and across Long Island Sound the Riverhead Raceway ran their regular weekly racing program.

At Stafford on Friday night, it was the Inaugural NAPA Auto Parts Open Modified 100 with tour style modifieds taking center stage for a 100-lap race around the Connecticut half-mile. Stafford’s Limited Late Models and Street Stocks were also in feature action. Keith Rocco took the checkered flag in the NAPA Auto Parts Open Modified 100 to become the first repeat winner of an open modified race at Stafford. Weekly wins were scored by Jeremy Lavoie in the Limited Late Model feature and Zack Robinson in the Street Stock feature.

Rocco recovered from a mid-race spin, as a result of a tire losing air, to take over the lead. Rocco pulled to the outside of Matt Galko and took the lead by a nose at the line to complete lap-86. Rocco cleared Galko on lap-87 with Mike Christopher Jr taking second. Galko fell back to third with Ron Silk fourth and Eric Goodale now in fifth.

With 5 laps to go it was still Rocco out front followed by Christopher, Galko, Goodale, Silk, Cam McDermott, Stephen Kopcik, Craig Lutz, Tommy Barrett, and Jeff Gallup. Rocco led the field to the checkered flag to win the NAPA Auto Parts Open 100. Christopher finished second with Galko, Goodale, and Silk rounding out the top-5.

The win was Rocco’s 70th at Stafford. His overall career total is 282 wins which also include 150 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and 63 at Thompson.

On Saturday night it was the 6th Annual NAPA Auto Parts SK 5k, which paid the winner $5,000 out of a purse of over $27,000. Joining the SK Modifieds® in feature action were Stafford’s Late Models and SK Lights. Chase Dowling took the lead from Marcello Rufrano on lap-84 of the 100-lap NAPA SK 5k and pulled away from the competition to take the checkered flag and the $5,000 payday that goes with it. In other weekly feature action, Adam Gray came up a winner for the second consecutive week in the Late Model feature and Steven Chapman scored his first career victory in the SK Light feature.

In the 100-lap NAPA Auto Parts SK 5K feature event, Marcello Rufrano charged into the lead at the drop of the green by going around Matt Vassar. Rufrano withstood numerous restarts before giving way to Dowling. Once he took the lead, Dowling slowly stretched out his advantage over Owen and he took the checkered flag to join Ronnie Williams as the only 2-time winners of the NAPA SK 5k. Christopher finished third with Williams and Rufrano rounding out the top-5. Friday night’s SK Modified winner Keith Rocco was looking to make it two in a row but was involved in an early race spin which hampered the handling of his car. Rocco rallied to finish sixth. Rounding out the top ten were Noah Korner, Tony Membrino, Jr., Michael Gervais, Jr and Matt Vassar.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl was reborn on Saturday night after being silent for close to two years. Bob Gelinas, a former Assistant Starter at the Speedbowl and at the Thompson Speedway was the honorary starter. Timmy Jordan took the top spot in the 35 lap SK Modified feature. Rob Janovic Jr. was second and Joey Gada third. Rounding out the top five were Joey Ternullo and Kyle James. Eleven SKs comprised the field. The field of cars is expected to grow this coming week as there will be no confliction with Stafford on Saturday night.

Jason Palmer was victorious in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Tyler Chapman was second and Ryan Lineham third. Glen Boss and Ryan Morgan rounded out the top five. Wayne Burroughs Jr. scored the win in the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature. Todd Taylor was second and Paul LaPlante third.

Shawn Monahan won the 25-lap Street Stock feature. Ryan Waterman was second and Joe Arena third. It was Doug Curry taking the checkered in the 25-lap Mini Stock feature. Charles Canfield was second and Sean Caron third. Jordan Churchill took the top spot in the 25-lap Legends feature and Ken Cassidy won the Truck feature.

On the East end of Long Island, another first in the 70-year history at Riverhead Raceway Saturday night as Kyle Soper driving for Wayne Anderson scored his 17th career NASCAR Modified victory by being in the right place at the right time when the first and second place car came together with just three laps to go in the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series 50-lap feature event. What made the night historic was the seven division program was run off without and fans in the general admission seating due to Covid-19 restrictions. The race however was streamed on RiverheadRaceway.TV as a pay per view and the early returns were very positive in the joint venture with Speed Sport.

There was also Modified racing in the southland at the Franklin County Speedway in Calaway, Va. The Modifieds from Bowman Gray were invited to compete in twin events. Tim Brown won the opener and was followed by Burt Myers, Eddie Bohn, Jason Myers and James Civali. The second event fell victim of rain. As a statement of good will, the speedway management paid the second race purse to the finishers of the first event.

The Tri Track Open Modified Series returns to the track on Saturday, August 15, at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire. With the state of New Hampshire putting a max capacity of 50 percent on the grandstands, fans coming to the track are encouraged to purchase their tickets ahead through the Monadnock website.