RPW Column: Champ Trail; NASCAR Whelen Mod Tour Finally Hits Thompson, Weekly Racing & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was scheduled for Thompson on Wednesday night but was postponed to Thursday because of impending rain.

On Thursday there were 29 cars on the line for qualifying. Doug Coby was the top qualifier as he turned a lap in 19.055 sec. Justin Bonsignore was second fastest with Craig Lutz, third.

Patrick Emerling and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five.

The regular weekly divisions had an extremely poor turnout. There were only four Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds. Two of the four finished on the lead lap! Keith Rocco recorded the win over Troy Talman. Todd Owen was third and Steve Reich was fourth. The SK Lites weren’t much better as only five were on hand. Josh Carey took the win. There were six Mini Stocks. Jared Roy took the win. There were ten Limited Sportsman. Ryan Waterman was the winner and there were 15 Late Models. Woody Pitkat went pole to pole for the win.

The poor turnout of cars for the weekly racing series reflects the feelings of formerly loyal competitors to the track. Since last winter when third generation track promoter Jonathan Hoenig announced the purses for all weekly racing divisions would be cut. The folks from PASS who promoted the event were caught up in the stigma created by Hoenig.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour provided plenty of drama especially in the late going. Ron Silk got the benefit of Ryan Preece running out of gas with victory in sight on lap 148. Preece, who started seventh, took the lead from Silk on lap 145. Kyle Bonsignore hit the wall on lap 146. While the field circled under caution the fuel tank on the Eddie Partridge #6 ran dry forcing Preece to coast to his pit. Preece, totally dejected, exited his car and sat on pit wall. It was a bitter pill to swallow! Preece was credited with 19th at the finish. Justin Bonsignore finished second. Starting in second spot, Bonsignore chased pole sitter Doug Coby for 66 laps before taking the lead. As Coby faded, Bonsignore and Silk swapped the lead until lap 146 when Preece took command. Under a green-white-checker beginning on lap 150 Silk jumped out in front followed by Craig Lutz and Bonsignore with Jon McKennedy and Chris Pasteryak in tow. Lutz got shuffled to 12th position after a tangle on the backstretch on the final lap. At the finish it was Silk followed by Justin Bonsignore. McKennedy who came from starting scratch, finished third followed by Pasteryak and Coby
Dave Sapienza finished sixth and was followed by Ronnie Williams, Anthony Nocella, Matt Swanson and Tyler Rypkema.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the third annual Full Throttle Fall Final Weekend. The Musket 200 presented by Whelen, which pays $20,000 to win, will be Saturday, Sept. 12 at noon, and will air live on TrackPass on NBC Gold.

The Stafford Speedway gave their Late Model division top billing with their extra distance Late Model 50 feature event. Tyler Leary scored his first win of the 2020 season in the biggest Late Model race of the season, outlasting defending Late Model 50 winner Ryan Fearn to the checkered flag. In other feature racing action, it was a night of back to back winners as Keith Rocco in the SK Modified® feature, Derek Debbis in the SK Light feature, Andrew Durand in the Limited Late Model feature, and Chris Meyer in the Street Stock feature all repeated their wins from one week ago.

In Late Model action, Leary and Ryan Fearn were side by side for the lead back under green with Fearn taking the lead by a nose at the line to complete lap-45. They were dead even to complete lap 46 before Fearn got loose on lap-47 which allowed Leary to get clear in the lead. Fearn recovered in second, just in front of Saunders, but he was a full second behind Leary. Leary took the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2020 season. Ryan Fearn finished second with Saunders, Tom Fearn, and Paul Varricchio rounding out the top-5.

In the 40 lap SK Modified feature Keith Rocco made it two in a row. Rocco dodged numerous wrecks including a close to one hour delay to repair the fence in turn three. Todd Owen, one of Rocco’s top competitors saw his hopes go south as he sailed into the turn three fence after contact with Marcello Rufrano.

After a delay to repair the turn 3 wall, the race resumed with Rocco and Chase Dowling dueling side by side for the race lead. Cory DiMatteo came up to third and was right behind the two leaders but had no room to make a pass. Rocco got clear of Dowling on lap-19 with Ronnie Williams back up to fourth after his earlier mishap and Matt Vassar was fifth. Tony Membrino, Jr. spun in turn 2 to bring the caution back out with 21 laps complete and David Arute was sent to the rear of the field by NASCAR officials for making contact with Membrino.

Rocco took the lead on the restart with DiMatteo briefly taking second before Dowling took the place back. Williams was on the outside of Dowling challenging for third on lap-24 and he made the pass on lap-25 to take second. DiMatteo was fourth in line behind Rocco, Williams, and Dowling with Stephen Kopcik up to fifth. The caution came back out with 27 laps complete for a spin in turn 3 by Troy Talman and DJ Burnham.

Rocco took the lead back under green with Williams slotting into second. Dowling was third with Kopcik and DiMatteo side by side for fourth and Vassar in sixth. Vassar took fifth and with 10 laps to go, he took fifth from DiMatteo with Rocco still leading Williams, Dowling, and Kopcik. The caution came back out with 33 laps complete as Owen had made repairs and rejoined the field only to hit the wall coming out of turn 2 and collected the cars of Max Zachem and Talman.

Rocco took the lead again on the restart with Kopcik pulling alongside Williams for second. Just behind Williams and Kopcik was DiMatteo with Dowling in fifth. Kopcik’s car dropped off the pace on lap-38 as he pulled to the high land and let the field pass by before heading to pit road. Williams couldn’t get close enough to Rocco as Rocco scored his second consecutive and fourth win of the 2020 season. DiMatteo came home in third with Dowling and Vassar rounding out the top-5.

Keith Rocco’s victory at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night gave him a Grand Slam, three for three, for the weekend. Rocco keeps rolling along at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he continues to build on his record setting feature win total. Rocco recorded one in the SK Modifieds at the shoreline oval bringing his track win total to 152 wins, 91 of those in an SK Modified. Rocco also has 49 career Late Model victories, four Limited Sportsman division wins, four Valenti Modified Racing Series victories, two Truck Series wins, one Pro Four Modified win and one NEMA Lite win during his career at Waterford. The victory also took Rocco over the top to a career overall total of 288 wins which also include 152victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 64 at Thompson and 72 at Stafford Speedway.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island celebrated their 70th Anniversary on Saturday with a 70 lap feature. Tom Rogers took the win over Dylan Slepian, John Fortin Jr and Dave Brigati. It was Roger’s 59th career win at the historic quarter mile facility.

Before arriving in the winner’s circle Tom stopped his car in turn two in front of a grandstand side memorial set-up for George Worthington Sr. and Jr. who passed away within 48 hours of each other last week. Rogers exited his car and climbed on top of the wall waving one final checker flag for the deceased father & son who watched the races from that vantage point. Ardent fans of Riverhead Raceway Worthington Jr. along with his wife Mary were killed in a NH motorcycle accident Friday 8/28. George Sr. perhaps from in part from a broken heart died some 48 hours later.

On a sad note, Officials from Long Island Eastern Raceway announced Sunday that because of continued restriction due to the COVID-19 global pandemic the Sept. 19 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event that has been scheduled at the track has been cancelled. In its place, Riverhead will host a 150-lap Modified race on Sept. 19 to replace the Whelen Modified Tour event. Riverhead is still unable to allow fans in for events but does have a pay per view that allows fans to see the events.

Riverhead was originally scheduled to host two Whelen Modified Tour events in 2020, with the first scheduled for June 20. The June 20 event was postponed earlier this season to Oct. 17. Track operator Tom Gatz said Riverhead management is still optimistic they’ll be able to host the Oct. 17 Whelen Modified Tour event.

The all new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, its all there. Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal181. Order yours now.