RPW Column: The Champ Trail; NASCAR Modifieds Take On The Magic Mile, Stafford & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Magic Mile in Loudon, NH for the Musket 200 by Whelen.

Twenty eight cars ran against the clock for starting positions. Taking the top spot was Andy Seuss who toured the one mile oval in 29.521 seconds, 129.020mph.

Chase Dowling was second fastest at 128.550mph. Defending race winner Bobby Santos III was third fastest. Justin Bonsignore and Jon McKennedy rounded out the top five.

Bobby Santos III put on an absolute superb performance at the “Magic Mile” Saturday to win the Musket 200 presented by Whelen for the second straight year. After trading the lead back-and-forth in the closing laps with Justin Bonsignore, Santos took advantage of Bonsignore and Ron Silk’s battle for second to pull away, leading the final 10 laps and winning .301 seconds.

Starting third, Santos dropped back but kept the leader in sight for most of the event before making his move up to the front over the final quarter of the event. Santos went by Craig Lutz for the lead on lap 169. By lap 176 it was Bonsignore moving to second behind Santos, and then things got serious. From lap 180 to lap 196 Santos and Bonsignore swapped the lead unofficially 20 times on the track. Laps 187 to 190 saw the pair swap the lead eight times over four consecutive laps.

In the end, Bonsignore settled for second, followed by Silk. Anthony Nocell was fourth and Craig Lutz fifth. Pole sitter Andy Seuss, finished sixth. Matt Swanson, Jon McKennedy, Doug Coby and Tyler Rypkema rounded out the top 10.

For his efforts, Santos and car owner Dave Sapienza collected $20,000, the largest winner’s purse for the Whelen Modified Tour in its longest race. It’s the second big win in a row for Santos. He captured the historic Little 500, a prestigious sprint car race at Indiana’s Anderson Speedway, on Labor Day weekend.

Bonsignore led a race-high 53 laps was able to stretch his championship points lead to 27 over Coby and 39 over McKennedy.

Five caution periods slowed the event. The first caution was displayed shortly after the start when Melissa Fifield hit the wall in turn three as a result of losing control in oil she dumped from turn one to turn three.

The track crew took roughly 11 laps to clean up the mess and remove the damaged car. The second caution flew on lap 16 when Woody Pitkat hit the wall in the first turn after contact with Jon McKennedy. That caution lasted only two laps. The third caution was flown on lap 67 when Amy Catalano stopped in turn four with engine problems. That caution lasted six laps. The fourth caution came on lap 97 when Tommy Catalano hit the wall in turn four after tangling with Ron Silk. Silk continued but Catalano was done for the day. The fifth and final caution was flown for Doug Coby who suffered a flat left front tire after a tangle with someone? Coby pitted and took on four new tires, never losing a lap.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will run next at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway in the NAPA Auto Parts 150 on Saturday, Sept. 26.

The Stafford Moter Speedway scheduled a full program of racing including a 40-lap feature for the SK Modifieds plus the TC 13 Shootout. For the 3rd consecutive season, Stafford Motor Speedway paid tribute to one of its greatest champions with the TC 13 Shootout in memory of Ted Christopher on Friday night, September 11. Christopher made the number 13 famous at Stafford, taking that car number to 109 SK Modified® wins and 9 track championships. On Friday night the number 13was back in the spotlight with the top-13 finishers from the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event transferring into the TC 13 Shootout, a 13-lap race that paid the winner $1,313 thanks to contributions from event partners Justin & Tabitha Manafort, Greg and Venetta Narducci of the Florida Connection, Big Haus USA Racing Products, Gaston Racing Enterprises, LifeCare Family Chiropractic with Dr. Sean Noel, the Tri-Track Modified Series, John and Maina Rufrano with Wheelers Auto, and anonymous donors. Glen Reen won the Inaugural TC 13 Shootout in 2018 and Keith Rocco won last year’s TC 13 Shootout.

Among those on hand, there was a special invader among the driver ranks. 10-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion and 2-time Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion Burt Myers who was behind the wheel of the #57 car prepared by Keith Rocco Racing.

Todd Owen not only won the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, he also won the TC 13 Shootout, giving him a total payday of over $3,000 for the night. Other weekly feature winners were Adam Gray in the Late Model feature, Jonathan Puleo in the SK Light feature, Alexandra Fearn in the Limited Late Model feature, and Zack Robinson in the Street Stock feature.

Owen was right behind Mike Christopher Jr and took second on lap-13 and made a move to the inside of Christopher for the lead. Christopher came right back on lap-14 and nearly retook the lead but Owen was able to hold him off. Marcello Rufrano was third in line behind Owen and Christopher with Cory DiMatteo fourth, Ronnie Williams fifth,David Arute sixth, and Keith Rocco, seventh. At the halfway point of the race Owen was in the lead followed by Christopher, Rufrano, DiMatteo, Williams, Arute, and Rocco. Owen was starting to stretch out his advantage over Christopher and the rest of the field and with 10 laps to go he was in front by 1.5 seconds. Rocco got around Arute on lap-35 to move into seventh as Arute drifted up the track in turn 3 but the order out front was still Owen, Christopher, Rufrano, DiMatteo, and Williams.

Owen led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his second win of the 2020 season after two weeks of bad luck on the track. Christopher finished second with Rufrano, DiMatteo, and Williams rounding out the top-5. Rocco ended up sixth. Burt Myers was never a factor as he finished 15th.

In the 13-lap TC Shootout, Owen led Troy Talman to the checkered flag to take the $1,313 winner’s check and score two wins in the same night. Talman finished second with Christopher, Stephen Kopcik, and Arute rounding out the top-5.

Two third generation drivers finished one-two in the SK Lights at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Jacob Perry, son of Dennis Perry and Grandson of Roger Perry scored his first ever win in the SK Lights Tyler Barry is the son of former driver Kenny BarryGrandson of Modified car owner Art Barry. Perry is from Pawcatuck, Ct and Barry hails from Preston.

The SK Modified winner was also a first timer. Andrew Molleur took the win over Timmy Jordan, Kyle James Bryan Narducci. Jason Palmer was victorious in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Ryan Morgan was second with Charlie Rose third. Mark Panaroni mastered the field in the 46-lap John Curry Memorial Mini Stock feature. Doug Curry was second with Jared Roy third. Al Stone III of Durham won the 25-lap Sportsman feature. It was the 55th career Sportsman victory for Stone, who is the division’s all-time winningest driver.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island saw Dylan Slepian score his second career victory in a 50-lap affair. Slepian drove a brand new car that he along with car owner Rob Pelis and team members designed and built during the off season. Michael Rutkoski knocking on the door of his first career win in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet entry was runner-up while Tom Rogers Jr. drove from the rear of the field to complete the podium in the License To Chill Chevy. John Baker of Brookhaven made a charge from the back for fourth while Roger Turbush of Riverhead completed the top five.

NASCAR Aims to Reconfigure California’s Auto Club Speedway into Half-Mile Short Track! NASCAR submitted a redevelopment plan to San Bernardino County. The short track would feature long straights similar to Martinsville Speedway but high banked corners like Bristol Motor Speedway.

The initial rendering shows the short track using part of the existing frontstretch, which is banked at 11 degrees, diving into the corner. What is now pit road would be reconfigured into the new backstretch. Victory Lane and the garage area would be outside the racetrack itself.

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. Do you remember the night that Ronnie Bouchard went after Geoff Bodine after he planted Kenny Bouchard in the fence? Read all about it. Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal181. Order yours now.