RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Great Racing Action At Stafford, Waterford & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of the Twisted Tea Open Modified 80, the fourth and final Open Modified event of the 2020 season.

The previous 3 Open 80 winners this season were Marcello Rufrano in the July 18 Bud Light 80, Keith Rocco in the August 7 NAPA 100, and Ronnie Williams in the August 21 Lincoln Tech 80. The nights program also included Stafford’s regular divisions.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action on somewhat cool night the action was fast and furious as Keith Rocco scored his 5th win of 2020 in the SK Modified® feature, Adam Gray scored his 5th win of 2020 in the Late Model feature, Alexander Pearl notched his 3rd win of 2020 in the SK Light feature, Andrew Durand scored his 6th win of 2020 in the Limited Late Model feature, and Meghan Fuller took down her second win of 2020 in the Street Stock feature.

Woody Pitkat survived numerous late restarts to hold off all challengers and win the Twisted Tea Open Modified 80.

In the SK Modified 40 lapper Todd Owen was looking to make it three in a row until a lap 35 restart when third place runner Mike Christopher Jr drilled him to the point to where he lost control and had to lift before hitting the wall. While all this was happening Rocco scooted into the lead and ran without incident the rest of the way. Stephen Kopcik finished second with Chase Dowling, Teddy Hodgdon, and Ron Williams rounding out the top-5.

In the Twisted Tea Open 80. Woody Pitkat took the lead from Todd Owen following a lap 63 restart. but Swanson got into the turn 4 wall to bring the caution back out before a lap could be completed, which put Owen back in the lead for the next restart. Pitkat again took the lead from Owen on the restart with Ronnie Williams also getting by Owen to take second. Owen faded into third with Joey Cipriano in fourth and Matt Galko in fifth. A spin by Keith Rocco in turn 2 brought the caution back out with 65 laps complete.

Williams powered his way by Pitkat on the restart to take over the race lead. Owen and Cipriano were side by side for third with Cam McDermott in fifth. Owen cleared Cipriano on lap-68 for third while Williams was starting to stretch out his advantage over Pitkat at the front of the pack. Pitkat came back and charged his way back into the lead on lap-72 with Owen third, Cipriano fourth, and Craig Lutz fifth. The caution came back out with 73 laps complete for a spin by Richard Savary in turn 2.

Pitkat charged into the lead on the restart but behind him the cars of Anthony Flannery, Kopec, and Mike Gervais all spun in turn 1 to bring the caution back out and eliminate Pitkat’s pass for the lead. Pitkat again took the lead back under green with Cipriano working his way into second. Matt Galko was third but he lost third to Swanson on lap-75 and Owen was fifth. Williams had fallen back to sixth but he spun in turn 2 to bring the caution back out with 75 laps complete.

Pitkat took the lead and Galko shot into second on the restart, with Lutz taking third. Swanson took fourth and Owen got around Cipriano on lap-77 to move into fifth. Swanson spun in turn 2 to bring the caution back out with 77 laps complete. Galko got loose on the restart and fell back to fourth as Pitkat took the lead and Eric Goodale and Cipriano were side by side for second. Goodale got clear as the cars came to the white flag. Goodale made one last charge on the final lap but Pitkat was just strong enough to hold him off to win. Goodale finished second. Cipriano finished third with Galko and Rocco rounding out the top-5.

Friday night racing continues this week at Stafford, 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 New London Waterford Speedbowl presented the Bob Potter Memorial 102 on Saturday night. Potter is fourth overall on the all time winners list with 94 victories at the speedbowl. During his racing career at the Speedbowl he was the Modified Champion three times and the SK Modified Champion three times. He was also a five time SK Modified Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway. He recorded 24 wins at Stafford and also won at Thompson. Potter had much of his success with car owners Roger Bonnville, Howard Jiggs Beetham and Art Barry. He was also inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame. Potter had the unique ability to read and feel a Modified race chassis and could communicate his feelings to his car owners.

The Potter Memorial was the centerpiece of a memorable night of competition at the Speedbowl. The Potter Memorial, honoring Bob Potter, winner of six Modified titles and Waterford and 94 victories, was dominated early by Kyle James. Jordan grabbed the lead at the midway point of the race and was cruising until Rocco. starting 16th in the 28-car field, roared through the pack to challenge.

The two traded the lead until Jordan blasted his way to front for keeps. It was his second win of the season, worth $5,100, the biggest payday of Jordan’s career. “You really don’t beat Keith Rocco,” Jordan said. “You just come to the track with a good car and hope its good enough.” It was during the final laps as Rocco’s comeback bid fell short. “I started pretty far back in the field and by the time I got to the front, my car was used up,” said Rocco, after settling for second. Rob Janovic Jr. came alive in the second half of the race to finish third. Cory DiMatteo finished fourth with Andrew Molleur, fifth. Sixth thru tenth was Todd Owen, Matt Hirschman, Chase Dowling, Joe Gada and Andy Jankowiak.

In other action, Wayne Burroughs captured his second SK Lite Modified win of the season, Ryan Lineham won his first Late Model race at the shoreline oval, Shawn Monahan captured his fourth Sportsman race, Charles Canfield held off Bill Sylvia for a win in the Mini Stocks, Randy Burr was a winner in the Speedbowl truck series and Barry Shaw pulled off a landslide win the Sports Truck feature.

Racing resumes Saturday with the Granite State Pro Stock series as the guest division.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island presented the Bubba 150 NASCAR Modified event which took the place of the Whelen Modified Tour event the speedway was forced to cancel. Tom Rogers Jr. set fast time (A new track record) then accepted the challenge from Tom Baldwin to start in the rear. He showed Matt Hirschman like patience even at one point the leaders were in his rear view mirror. When it was time to go he started picking them off one by one until he took the lead at lap 125 and never looked back.

Tom Rogers Jr. played both the role of a riverboat gambler and conservative race car driver perfectly and parlayed it into his 60th career NASCAR Modified victory in The Bubba 150 NASCAR Modified event presented by Oval Speed Unlimited. After smashing his own track record in qualifying with a lap of 11.272 Rogers and his Denise & Ken Darch team made the decision to accept the Tom Baldwin Challenge dropping to the rear of the field and going after the $750 posted by Baldwin Automotive. The challenge was open to any qualifier in the top five who fell to the rear and could win the 150. Rogers and team cleaned up with $5,910 in winnings including $1,950 in Hard Charger award monies including the Tom Baldwin Challenge.

Dylan Slepian was runner-up in his Eastport Feeds Chevy while John Beatty made a late race charge from his lap 100 pit stop to finish third in the TigerLyfe Energy Chevy. Beatty and his MSM Elite Motorsports team were the big winners in the bonus money category earning an estimated $4,500 aside from the posted purse. Michael Rutkoski and Roger Turbush completed the top five.

The Modified Racing Series visited the Star Speedway on Sunday. Anthony Nocella took the win over Matt Swanson, Ronnie Williams, Matt Kimball and Kevin Iannarelli.

Nocella started the race in 10th, and steadily worked his way up through traffic. He took over second place just before a caution on Lap 71. He got around leader Kevin Iannarelli on the restart and never looked back. A caution came on lap 95, but Nocella was able to fend off Matt Swanson in the five-lap shootout to score his 15th victory in the series. Donnie Lashua, Ryan Doucette, Jacob Perry, Max Zachem, and Kurt Vigeant rounded out the top 10.

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 the races at Stafford were called after a Modified got airborne and hit the starters stand while Frank Sgambato waved the flags? Read all about it. Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal181and soon to be available thru Stafford’s web site. Order yours now.