Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – During a person’s lifetime, family connections are often one of the strongest bonds that one can form. Strong bonds can also be formed by working together on a race team not only while at the race track, but during the week in a garage or race shop.
When family is combined with racing it can form an unbreakable bond. Currently Stafford Speedway has 10 sibling combinations signed up to hit the track during the 2021 season.
The 10 sibling combinations who are currently registered to go racing in 2021 at Stafford include Trace and Tess Beyer, Noah and Glenn Korner, Ryan and Alexandra Fearn, Michael and Dave Wray, Jake and Tyler Hines, David and Paul Arute, Jay, Matt, and Scott Clement, Bobby and Cindy Stirk, and there are two twin combinations at Stafford. Al and Cliff Saunders are twins racing in the Late Model division while Steven Chapman is the older brother to his twin brothers Jason and Tyler Chapman. Cory and Dana DiMatteo are expected entrants into the SK Modified® and Open Modified divisions for the 2021 season while other sibling combinations to hit the track at Stafford include Charlie and Matt McDougall in the SK light division.
When 2 siblings are racing in the same division, it can not only bring them together but it can also help provide a competitive advantage. Here we get the viewpoint from some of the siblings that compete at Stafford.
Dave and Mike Wray, Brothers Find Family and Racing a Competitive Advantage
“If it wasn’t for my brother, I probably wouldn’t be at Stafford racing today,” said Dave Wray, driver of the #44 DMW Graphics Late Model. “When Mikey first started racing, he took my old Late Model car out of the weeds and he drove that before he bought a car from Jay Stuart and then my old car went back into the weeds before I started racing with it again in 2019. I think it’s fantastic working together with Mikey. Being a family operation between my brothers Mikey and Dennis along with my parents, it’s been a great situation and it’s been way more fun being able to race together with Mikey in the same division rather than 2 cars in different divisions.”
“Before we were racing as teammates, Dave would come to the track and help me out and give me pointers,” said Michael Wray, driver of the #42 DMW Graphics Late Model. “We still talk to each other and help each other out but it’s a little bit different dynamic than it used to be. When I first started racing, Dave hadn’t raced for a while so some of his information was a little bit older where now we can talk with each other as to what the track is doing that day and how our cars are running. We both have JMD Chassis and having 2 cars allows you to try different things and it almost doubles the speed that you can cross things off of your list of things to try and there’s not as big of a penalty if you try something and it ends up not working out. We’ve had a couple of times where we’ve gotten into each other over the past few years and it can be funny but it can also be an annoyance.”
Al and Cliff Saunders, Twin Brothers Working Together and Having Fun
“I’ve been racing together with my brother Cliff since the 2007 season,” said Al Saunders, driver of the #40 ASB Late Model. “It’s been really good for us because we both have similar driving styles and we can share a lot of information between us. If the track changes from one night to the next, having 2 cars and 2 drivers working together helps us figure things out quicker. Not only do we have fun at the track but we’re always working on each others cars during the week to get ready for the next race and doing that alone would definitely take something away from the overall experience and it wouldn’t be as enjoyable.”
“I think racing with Al has made things a lot more fun,” said Cliff Saunders, driver of the #14 ASB Late Model. “We’ve got 2 cars to work with so we can try something on my car and something different on his car and take what works better. I missed several races last year after getting into a wreck and it’s definitely more fun having both cars racing together at the track. As much as we’ve learned together over the last 13 years, I think we could have done some things a little better, but I wouldn’t change anything. Working together with Al has been great. I don’t think we really have any kind of rivalry between us. If I can’t win I definitely want Al to win and if I have 2 or 3 wins in a season then I want Al to have 2 or 3 wins. We pretty much have the same goals so there’s not a lot of rivalry going on.”
Alexandra and Ryan Fearn, Racing Together Since Go-Karts
“Considering the only way I’ve known racing is by racing with my sister, I don’t know if I have much to compare it to,” said Ryan Fearn, driver of the #12 SAFCO Foam Late Model. “I want to say the only times I’ve raced without her was an open show I went to at Lee Octoberfest in 2018 and then when Al was going to college she could only show up for about one third of the races and I remember it felt very weird not having her around. There’s always been some sibling rivalry between us with literally anything, it doesn’t have to be racing. We bust on each other all the time, that’s just the way it is.”
“We started racing when we were 9 and 7 so we’ve raced together for a while now,” said Alexandra Fearn, driver of the #12 SAFCO Foam Limited Late Model. “Racing with Ryan is interesting and I think we actually work better when we’re not in the same division. For the most part it’s been fine but there have been a few times where we’ve gotten together on the track, which is just embarrassing. Now that we don’t live together it’s a little easier for us because I don’t have to listen to him give me crap all week long. At the same time, I’ve done a few races without him and I remember it feeling lonely without having him at the track. Being brother and sister I think it’s only natural that we give each other crap. I think that some siblings might be nasty about it but we’re not like that.”
Noah and Glenn Korner, Racing Together For over 15 Years
“It’s a different kind of competition compared to your normal Friday night rivalries,” said Glenn Korner, driver of the #27 Midstate Site Development SK Light. “With normal Friday night rivalries you only see the other drivers on a Friday where when you‘re racing against your brother, you see each other every day so it gives you a little extra fuel to want to beat them because you always want to be the better brother. We have a relationship where we prefer to help each other with tips like doing something differently to help make each other better drivers. When we were younger there was a little more jest with each other but that’s trailed off as we’ve gotten older.”
“Normally Glenn and I go pretty good together and we’ve raced each other respectfully,” said Noah Korner, driver of the #31 Midstate Site Development SK Modified and Open Modified. “There’s not really a lot of rivalry between us. I like to egg Glenn on because I think he drives better when he’s mad, so I always try to rile him up a little. We’ve always been respectful of each other on the track and I would get mad at him because he would pull over and let me by whenever I was getting ready to pass him. After the race I would get out of the car and yell at him that we’re here to race, not for him to pull over for me like we were on the highway.”
Cory and Dana DiMatteo, Making Their Name in Modified Racing
“We raced together for a while but our game plan was to be in different divisions so that he could help me and I could help him,” said Dana DiMatteo, driver of the #176 Island Cove Marina Open Modified. “Cory is the full-time crew chief for both his car and my car so he’s got a lot going on. In the last year or so, Cory has made a lot of gains learning the cars and the geometry of the cars. Things have turned out pretty great for the both of us. I think we’ve set ourselves up for a bright future. We have backing from sponsors and right now we’re trying to turn the corner to go from good to great.”
“Racing against my brother makes for some excitement,” said Cory DiMatteo, driver of the #6 Island Cove Yacht Sales SK Modified®. “It’s fun and we help each other out until we get out on the track and then it’s every man for himself. I kind of like that we’re in separate divisions because it helps split our resources. We definitely have fun working together or otherwise we wouldn’t be doing it. A lot of times you see siblings that don’t have anything in common so I feel like we’re both very lucky we have racing in common.”
Steven, Tyler, and Jason Chapman, Three Brothers Racing in the Same Division
“It’s different racing against your brothers,” said Steven Chapman, driver of the #14 Chapman Apartment Homes SK Light. “On the track you don’t think as much about them being your brother. I know he’s my brother and it’s cool when we can start next to each other or race with each other for a win but my father always reminds me that those are my brothers in the cars.”
“I notice it but I don’t want to get into them and put them into the wall because we all come out of the same shop,” said Jason Chapman, driver of the #41 Chapman Apartment Homes SK Light. “It’s pretty cool to be racing with my brothers but we’re always making sure that we try to not get into each other and there’s a little more stress racing with the SK Lights because those cars are more expensive if we have to fix something.”
“The most I’ve raced with my brothers was in the Legend Cars,” said Jason Chapman, driver of the #44 Chapman Apartment Homes SK Light. “We would be in the same race but I wasn’t around them that much during the races. It was definitely a different experience racing with them than racing with any other competitors. I think that overall, we try to treat each other just the same as we treat the other competitors.”
As any person who grew up together with either a brother or sister can attest to, racing siblings are not immune to teasing in jest on who is the better driver.
Dave and Mike Wray
“Dave is always the guy I’m looking to beat more than any other driver for bragging rights,” said Michael Wray. “We’re both very competitive going back to when I was little and we would play board games and we both want to beat each other on the track. Dave keeps a list of races where he has finished in front of me and the 50-lapper from a couple years ago ranks very high on his list and he still lets me know that.”
“It’s a little bit of a strange dynamic we have, we’re constantly busting on each other,” said Dave Wray. “Mikey ended up taking my car out for a few practices late in the year last season because I couldn’t get out of work early enough to make the first practice session. The first week I ran a tenth of a second faster than he did and I made sure to let him know about that and the second week he was faster than me and he was sure to let me know. But it’s all in good fun and we’re always still trying to help each other.”
Alexandra and Ryan Fearn
“Sometimes when we’re in the shop we’ll talk about who has more wins or who won their last race or things like that,” said Ryan Fearn. “The sibling rivalry continues regardless if we’re in the same division or not. I think a lot of the time it’s kind of like 2 dogs on opposite sides of a fence but if you take the fence down then the dogs calm down a bit. I like it that way because it keeps things interesting rather than just saying after a race, hey we both finished second or whatever position it may be. It’s like we’re two great pals that bust on each other all the time.”
“My father has always had the attitude from day 1 that if we wrecked each other he was going to fix the car that wrecked the other car last and if it wasn’t ready to go then that person wouldn’t race the next week,” said Alexandra Fearn. “I have to have respect for Ryan on the track but at the same time I want to beat him. If I have to move him then I’ll move him and he has no problem moving me if you go back and look at some of the tapes. It’s been good racing with Ryan. Whenever we would finish on the podium in back to back weeks was fun and I really liked finishing first and second with Ryan. I miss racing with him but at the same time I enjoy doing my own thing.”
Cory and Dana DiMatteo
“Since we started racing in different divisions, the family feuds have definitely gone down,” said Dana DiMatteo. “In the Legend Cars we got out of hand a few times running into each other. Back when we were racing Legend Cars at Stafford, usually it came down to me and Cory for the win, and that’s when it got ugly. We both won a handful of races and it was a matter of who won and who passed who each race.”
Steven, Tyler, and Jason Chapman
“I think Tyler and I have more rivalries between us than most other brothers do,” said Steven Chapman. I remember racing Legend cars down at Charlotte against the best of the best Legend Cars drivers, guys were there from all over the country and Canada, and I was running second and he put me in the grass. He ended up beating me and I had that trophy rubbed in my face the whole way home and it didn’t feel too good.”
“When I won my first race this season I made sure to leave the trophy on the top of my car in the shop so he could see it for a couple of months,” said Tyler Chapman. “And when Steven won his first race this season, he left his trophy on top of his car for a week so I would see it every day.”
Family Racing Success
Both Al and Cliff Saunders as well as Cory and Dana DiMatteo have been fortunate enough to both win track championships at Stafford. Ted and Mike Christopher were the first brother combination to win track championships at Stafford with Ted winning his first of 9 SK Modified® championships in 1987 and Mike winning the first of his 3 SK Modified® championships in 1989. Cliff Saunders won the 2012 DARE Stock title while Al Saunders took home the 2015 Limited Late Model title and Dana DiMatteo was the 2014 Legend Cars track title with Cory DiMatteo taking the 2017 SK Light championship. Noah Korner is the 2016 Legend Cars champion at Stafford while Glenn Korner has yet to win at track title at Stafford.
Al and Cliff Saunders
“That’s really cool that we’ve both been champions and not only with the championships but we have very similar race stats with race wins,” said Cliff Saunders. “I’m not sure how many other brothers have won championships at Stafford. I know Mike and Ted Christopher have done it and Mike and Ted were two of our favorite drivers growing up so it’s nice to have done something that they did.”
“The fact that we’ve both won championships is pretty cool and it’s also nice that we’ve won almost the same amount of races,” said Al Saunders. “We’re usually pretty competitive with each other so having similar success has been a lot of fun because there’s a lot of other teams and drivers out there including family members that might not have the same level of success as each other.”
Cory and Dana DiMatteo
“It is pretty cool that we’ve both been able to win championships at Stafford,” said Dana DiMatteo. “For now I’m trying to stay as humble as possible and I’m really looking forward to the future. I think we have a lot of potential and I don’t think we’ve really shown what we’re capable of yet in the Open 80 races.”
Alexandra and Ryan Fearn
While Alexandra and Ryan Fearn have not yet won a track championship at Stafford, they both recall an experience from their days together in the Wild Thing Karts.
“I remember there was a guy who thought Al was cheating back in the Sr. Outlaws and one week one the guy came into the tech area to protest her motor with $200 in hand,” said Ryan Fearn. “He slammed the $200 down in front of Paul Boivin, who was not only the tech guy, but he was also the guy who built Al’s motor, and Boivin even asked the guy ‘do you really want to do this?’. They found the engine was legal so the very next week we came back with 2 large $100 bills on the wing of Al’s kart and for as long as I can remember every time we see the guy who protested her we would be sure to say thanks for buying us lunch.”
“Our running joke for 10 years now has been thanks for lunch,” said Alexandra Fearn. “My father had put a new wrap on the exhaust and as it broke in it would smoke a little and people thought we were cheating. That was the easiest $200 we ever made. The $100 bills we put on the wing were pretty legit, I made sure I matched up colors and I measured them and everything.”
Glenn and Noah Korner
“I wouldn’t change anything we’ve done because I think we’ve created too many good memories to go back and change anything we did,” said Glenn Korner. “My dad is the heart and soul of our team and whenever we’re out on the track together, you can see the extra spark in his eyes. Now that we’re in different divisions, I do miss racing with Noah a little. It always feels like something is different. We have a picture on the wall in our shop from the quarter midget days. It was a father’s day weekend and I want to say Noah and I were probably 7 and 8 at the time. We were racing for the win and we got together and took each other out and my Dad got to watch someone else win the race. He never lets us live that one down.”
“Honestly I enjoy when we’re in different divisions because it allows us to be more relaxed at the track,” said Noah Korner. “For instance if I need a hand with something, Glenn will come check tires, make adjustments, or help me with the car and I do the same thing for him so it’s very much appreciated when you can have that other person helping you out. Whenever we’d go racing somewhere it would be me, Glenn, my father, and we’d have Joey Ferrigno with us helping out and that’s where some of our best memories were made just hanging out and talking during a 10 hour ride to the track. I wouldn’t go back and change anything we’ve done over the years.”
While siblings might be a little extra competitive with each other on the track, at the end of the day they’re all racing for the same thing. When the first green flag of the 2021 season falls for Stafford competitors on April 24 and 25 for NAPA Opening Day the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler, the 10 sibling combinations at Stafford will head into the 2021 season all looking to make some new memories that will last with them for a lifetime.