RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – For the 18th straight year, Tour-type Modified drivers from up and down the East Coast came together in North Carolina at the Caraway Speedway for an annual November clash, the North-South Shootout.
Matt Hirschman set fast time in qualifying Friday at Caraway, clocking in at 15.747 seconds around the 0.455-mile oval. Long Island New York’s Craig Lutz will join Hirschman on the front row for tomorrow’s 150-lap Tour-type Modified feature, with a trio of North Carolinians completing the top five in Brian Loftin, Jason Myers and Burt Myers. Twenty two Modifieds were on hand.
In just his third appearance in an asphalt Modified second generation driver Max McLaughlin took the win in one of the big ones, the North-South Shootout John Blewett III Memorial. After surviving some contact with 10 laps remaining , along with multiple late-race challenges from some of the best Modified racers in game, ‘McLaughlin took Gary Putnam’s No. 77 to victory lane in his second start for Putnam. The second-generation racer had to deal with three-time Race of Champions Modified Series champion Patrick Emerling over the final eight laps, keeping his eyes out front and not on the mirror.
For Emerling, who seemed to have the edge on longer runs in the later laps, the final restart itself proved to be his undoing, leaving him a gap that he was unable to overcome. Before Emerling’s final challenge, former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ron Silk was McLaughlin’s opponent. Some controversy arose on a restart with 10 laps to go, when McLaughlin drifted high with Silk to his outside. Silk’s No. 16 caught the outside wall, causing a stack up and eventual crash that eliminated him and fellow contenders Matt Hirschamn, John Smith, and James Civali.
Following McLaughlin and Emerling at the finish was Austin Kochenash. Bobby Measmer Jr and Craig Lutz rounded out the top five. Silk managed to finish sixth and was followed by Jeff Fultz, Ronnie Williams, Jason Myers and Tommy Catalano. James Civali ended up 11th with Hirschman, 12th.
A big shout out to Keith Rocco on his maiden run in an ARCA-Menards last Saturday in Phoenix, Arizona. Rocco finished a solid tenth in the 100 mile event that was won by David Gilliand. Rocco has a career overall total of 292 wins which also include 153 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 65 at Thompson and 74 at Stafford Speedway. Hopefully this will lead to bigger and better things in his racing future
The 2010 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Racing Series National champion has confirmed with Riverhead Raceway GM John Ellwood he’ll be heading to the Islip 300 by East West Marine Supply November 14th. Rocco will be steering the Wheelers Auto Team #88 in which he won the 2020 Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified championship. Rocco will be joined by be joined by Ronnie Williams, Matt Galko and Max Zachem as well as Ryan Preece.
July 21,1967, Long Island visitor Fred Harbach scored his first and only win at Stafford. Dick Watson finished second with Leo Cleary, Fred DeSarro and Bill Slater rounding out the top five. Harbach, one of the top guns from Long Island, raced at Stafford, Norwood and Thompson throughout 1967.
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, it’s all there. Read all about it in the all new book. Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal181(877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now.