RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Modified Racing Season’s Just Five Weeks Away

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of this coming Friday, March 5, only five weeks remain before the green flag drops at Martinsville on Thursday April 8. Round two of the WMT will be the annual Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 25.

Many of those in competition at Martinsville are planning on being at the Thompson Motorsports Park IceBreaker on Saturday and Sunday, April 10 and 11. Following the IceBreaker every Sunday in April will be busy as ACT and the open modifieds will be at New Hampshire International on the 18th and the Stafford Sizzler on the 25th.

The Stafford Motor Speedway has announced that tickets became available this past Monday, March 1st, 8:00am: General Admission Tickets on Sale went on sale for Saturday April 24th: NAPA Auto Parts Opening day which include feature events for Granite State Pro Stocks, SK Modified, Late Model, Limited Late Models and Street Stocks. General admission tickets are also available for Sunday, April 25th which include the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler Whelen Modified Tour plus feature events for SK Modifieds, SK Light Modifieds and Vintage All-Stars

Two Separate Tickets, Two Full Days of Racing. Limited General Admission Tickets Available Due to Covid-19 Restrictions. Pit Passes will be available on the week of event.

The Tri Track Open Modified Series will visit three historic New England tracks, twice each, to make up the six-race schedule for 2021. The series will stop at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire on May 1 and August 14, while visiting Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire on May 22 and July 24. The anticipated return to Seekonk Speedway, scheduled for June 30 and October 23, will mark two staple events — the $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday in June and the Haunted Hundred to wrap the season.

Among those expected to compete is young Sammy Rameau. Rameau wears two hats. Sitting behind the wheel, or behind the desk, Sammy Rameau seems to get the job done successfully. The 18-year-old, Westminster, Massachusetts, native is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Civil Engineering at Wentworth Institute of Technology, with a double-minor in Environmental and Business Management. When he’s not at school, he competes at speeds over 100 mph in his Tour-Type Modified, a 600-horsepower, ground-pounding machine, racing inches apart from his competitors.

The Tri-Track Series has seen much success in the last couple of years and has attracted some of the best in the business for it’s events.

Stan Mertz Racing is pleased to announce that the team has partnered with Twisted Tea and Truly Hard Seltzer brands for the 2021 race season. With Woody Pitkat behind the wheel, Stan Mertz Racing plans to compete in 10 races in New England — all six with the Tri Track Open Modified Series and the four Stafford Motor Speedway Open Modified events.

Meanwhile the Modified Racing Series is returning to its roots. Claremont Motorsports Park and the Modified Racing Series are pleased to announce the return of one of New England’s finest modified touring series to the New Hampshire oval in 2021. The series and track will join forces for a spectacular fall day of racing that fans won’t want to miss. Labor Day weekend, 2021, the sound of tour type modifieds will once again thunder from Thrasher Road.

As for M.R.S. in 2021, the series wants to get back to being a racer friendly, affordable series that any modified competitor can be competitive in. Thorough technical inspection, cost containment and a return to the series original tracks are all part of this initiative. “We want to be a more affordable New England short track series,” states series general manager Willie Doucette. “Claremont Motorsports Park is the reason the series started and we want to remember the places and people who got this started. We want to leave something positive for the next generation of modified racers.”

Bateman and Claremont promoter Mike Parks have been in discussion about making this happen for several weeks and one of the discussion points was how to make the racing as exciting as possible. The two agreed that a 75 lap feature was one way to do this so that the driver would race the entire distance. The M.R.S. will use its normal pill draw and heat race qualifying format and all series technical rules and race procedures will be in effect.

It seems that the Modified Racing Series has fallen out of favor somewhat as they don’t have the schedule they had a few years ago. The Tri-Track Series has grown considerably as has “Scheduled Opens” at Stafford and Thompson. Noted scribe Lou Modestino advises that some 40 Tour Type Modified races will be held between 4/8/21 and the weekend before Halloween. They are NASCAR, ROC, MRS along with Opens at Thompson and Stafford. It appears that the New London-Waterford Speedbowl will be reopening. No Tour Type Modified races there yet.

The 2021 season will be a season of change especially for weekly and tour type competitors at Stafford and at Thompson. With NASCAR sanctioning being dropped by both tracks, licenses will not be required to compete. Stafford will still host three Whelen Modified Tour Series events but that’s it! Stafford will reward their competitors with a very generous portion of the TV monies.

It looks good for the return of auto racing at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem North Carolina. Gov. Roy Cooper announced last week that 30% of capacity would be permitted at outdoor sporting events, which would mean about 5,000 fans at the 17,000-seat stadium that hosts NASCAR-sanctioned racing series on Saturday nights from April until August.

In what was supposed to be the historic track’s 72nd season in 2020, racing never got started and was eventually canceled. Drivers found competition at other tracks on the East Coast while Bowman Gray Stadium sat idle. This year’s opening race night is scheduled for April 17.

The track will start holding practice sessions for all four divisions on March 27. Fans are not allowed to attend practice sessions.

During the mid sixties Bill Slater was at the top of his game and won just about everywhere including the 1965 Langhorne Race of Champions and multi events at the Trenton Fairgrounds in New Jersey. Slater retired from driving in 1969, quit his job at Pratt and Whitney Aircraft in Hartford Ct and went to work at Stafford as the Race Director and General Manager. When the track fell on hard times and closure was eminent Slater drove to Arute Brothers Construction in New Britain Ct and convinced owner Jack Arute to lease the track and save it from the wrecking ball. The rest is history, read all about it!

The all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, 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! Books are now available on Amazon.c

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