RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Good News For CT Tracks; Whelen Mods At Stafford & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WAVERLY, RI – Good News for the state of Connecticut race tracks.

Gov. Ned Lamont announced last Thursday that the state will move into phase 3 of reopening on Oct. 8, Outdoor event venues like theaters, stadiums and racetracks will be able to increase their capacities from 25% to 50%.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of double thunder last weekend. On Friday the speedway hosted their regular card of weekly racing. On Saturday the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series made their first and only visit to the Arute family owned speedway.

In action on Friday, with all 5 of its divisions in feature competition. Stephen Kopcik used a mid-race charge to the front of the field to come away with his first SK Modified® victory of the 2020 season, Wayne Coury, Jr. picked up his second Late Model win of 2020, Alexander Pearl won his 2nd consecutive and fourth overall race of 2020 in the SK Light feature, Matt Clement scored his first win of the 2020 season in the Limited Late Model feature, and Meghan Fuller notched her 2nd consecutive and third overall feature win of 2020 in the Street Stock feature.

In the SK Modified 40 lapper, Kopcik took the lead following a restart on lap 23 with Mike Christopher in second. Todd Owen was third followed by Tony Membrino, Gervais, David Arute, Andrew Molleur, and Keith Rocco, who had recovered from an early race wreck at the start of the race. With 10 laps to go it was still Kopcik in command followed by Owen, Christopher, Gervais, Membrino, Arute, Rocco, Molleur, Vassar, and Hodgdon. Kopcik cruised to his first win of the 2020 season with Owen, Christopher, Gervais, and Membrino rounding out the top-5.

Stafford welcomed the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for its lone visit of the 2020 season on Saturday, September 26 for the NAPA Auto Parts 150. Ronnie Silk came into the race as one of the hottest NWMT drivers with 3 consecutive podium finishes and he continued his hot streak by winning the NAPA Auto Parts 150 for his second win of the 2020 season and his 4th career NWMT win at Stafford.

Silk enjoyed a dominating day at Stafford that began with his #85 car being the fastest car in practice to claim the number 1 pit stall for the NAPA Auto Parts 150. Silk qualified second, out of 26 cars, behind polesitter Eric Goodale and led the first 52 laps of the NAPA 150 before coming to pit road for his first of 2 pit stops during the race. Following Silk’s second pit stop of the race on lap-102, he restarted in 7th place and he moved up to second by the time the caution came back out on lap-117 for spins by Eric Goodale and Matt Galko who spun on the backstretch. Silk powered his way around race leader Chase Dowling on the ensuing lap-124 restart to retake the lead and he slowly pulled away from the field to lead the final 26 laps and take the checkered flag. Doug Coby finished second with NWMT points leader Justin Bonsignore rounding out the podium finishers. Max McLaughlin finished fourth in his first career Stafford start with Chase Dowling rounding out the top-6. Finishing 6th through 10th was Jon McKennedy, Ronnie Williams, Chuck Hossfeld, Matt Swanson, and Tyler Rypkema.

Nine caution periods slowed the event that concluded just before 7:30pm. The first caution flew on lap seven when Calvin Carroll spun on the backstretch entering turn four. Carroll restarted and finished 15th, on the lead lap. The second caution, on lap 34, was for Walter Sutcliff who spun in turn four. He restarted and finished 18th, one lap down. The third caution flew on lap 49 when Joey Mucciacciaro spun between turns three and four. He restared and finished 14th on the lead lap. The fourth yellow waved on lap 64 when Craig Lutz ran into Sam Rameau and collected Dave Sapienza and Matt Galko in turn four. Lutz continued to finish 13th and Rameau ended up 12th, both on the lead lap. Sapienza ended up 21st and Galko, 23rd. Caution 5 was displayed for J.B.Fortin who lost his brakes and ended up in the turn 4 fence on lap 78. Fortin was credited with 25th spot. The sixth caution was displayed for Chris Pasteryak who brushed the wall in turn three on lap 84. His crew made repairs and he finished on the lead lap in 16th spot. Caution 7 was displayed for Rob Summers who took a nasty shot into the turn four wall on lap 99. Summers was credited with 24th spot at the finish. Gary Byington spun in turn 2 for the eighth caution on lap 112. He parked it on lap 118 with handling problems, finishing in 20th spot. The ninth and final caution came on lap 122 when a wreck involving Eric Goodale, Matt Galko and Timmy Solomito occurred in turn 3 and 4. Goodale was credited with 22nd spot, Galko with 23rd spot and Solomito with 11th spot.

Next up for the Whelen Modifieds is the season ending World Series at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway on October 11. Justin Bonsignore hold a slim 27 point lead over Doug Coby. Sixteen points behind Coby is Jon McKennedy. Craig Lutz and Ron Silk round out the top five.

In addition to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Stafford presented feature events for the SK Lights, Limited Late Models, and Vintage All-Stars. Scoring feature wins were Jonathan Puleo in the SK Light non-points feature and Andrew Durand in the Limited Late Model non-points feature while Scott Anderson led all 15 laps to win the Vintage All-Stars feature event.

The New London Waterford Speedbowl presented a full night of racing. Timmy Jordan made it two for two as he won the 35-lap SK Modified feature. Andrew Molleur was second with Joey Gada third. Congratulations to Ryan Morgan who won the 30-lap Late Model feature. Win #2 at the speed bowl this season. At 11 am the car had no motor in it because there was a had a motor issue from last week, Jason Palmer was second with Tyler Tomassi, third. John O’Sullivan won the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature followed by third generation racer,

Jacob Perry who finished second and Robert Bloxsom III was third. Shawn Monahan went pole to pole to victory in the 25-lap Sportsman feature. Al Stone III was second and Jason Chicolas third.

In other action, Mark Panaroni captured the 25-lap Mini Stock feature. Tommy Silva was second and Charles Canfield third. David Darling of Seekonk, Mass. won the 150-lap Granite State Pro Stock feature. Giovanni Reggerio scored victory in the 25-lap Legends feature.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island continued their weekly racing program. In the 50-lap NASCAR Modified feature event Dylan Slepian sat victorious in the winners circle for the second time in three weeks. Before claiming his third career win Slepian would have to fend off a hard pressing championship leader in Tom Rogers Jr. in the closing laps. As the laps wore down Rogers was on the attack looking high and low for a lane by Slepian so he could collect his second win in a row. However Slepian was equal to all challenges thrown his way by Rogers and when the checker flag flew earned a hard fought victory. Kyle Soper, the defending NASCAR Modified track champion finished third in the Eastport Feeds Chevy of Wayne Anderson. CJ Lehmann was fourth for his best effort of 2020 with Chris Young completing the top five.

All eyes will be on the Stafford Motor Speedway on Saturday, October 24 when the Tri-Track Modified Series comes to the half-mile for the first time in the series history. The Inaugural 81-lap event will pay a whopping $10,000 to the winner with total posted awards of nearly $50,000.

The regulars versus the outsiders will be in full effect as the top modified drivers in the Northeast descend on Stafford Speedway for the season ending event. Stafford regulars Keith Rocco, Marcello Rufrano, and Ronnie Williams, who all have Open Modified victories at Stafford this season, will battle with Tri-Track Series drivers Matt Hirschman, Sam Rameau, Andy Jankowiak and more. With a large field of cars expected for the $10,000 to win show, one of the biggest challenges of the day will be qualifying for the 81-lapper.

Long-time Stafford Speedway partner Call Before You Dig, who has previously supported the CBYD 811 Challenge, NASCAR Modified Tour events, and Late Model extra-distance races, is set to sponsor the Inaugural $10,000 to win Modified Classic. “2020 has been challenge for everyone but the chaos of scheduling this season has provided the opportunity to partner with Wayne [Darling], Ed [Bennett], and the Tri-Track Series for a big season ending event,” explained Stafford Speedway CEO Mark Arute. “$10,000 to win and a very strong purse should attract a great field of modifieds. We appreciate Derek Brown and Call Before You Dig’s continued support of Stafford and partnership for this event. We’re all looking forward to this one.”

Stafford Speedway’s SK Light Modified and Street Stock divisions will also be on hand both competing in non-points 20 lap events. Additional prize money will be added to both of those purses.

Tickets for the Saturday, October 24th event will go on sale Monday, September 28th at 8:00am on StaffordSpeedway.com. Stafford Speedway is still required to maintain a 25% capacity limit as mandated by the state of Connecticut. Race teams and fans are encouraged to order their tickets as soon as possible as a sellout is expected. The Modified Classic will also be available live on StaffordSpeedway.tv for $30 for those who are unable to attend the event in person.

The operation of the 58th annual World Series will run under new management in 2020! Cris Michaud (American Canadian Tour) and Tom Mayberry (Pro All Star Series) have leased the track and will be running operations for the prestigious event! They have a stout list of divisions, a lucrative purse structure for all, and a vision to take oval racing at Thompson back to the top!

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.