RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Open Mod 81 At Stafford, NASCAR Mods At Riverhead & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Last Friday night at the Stafford Motor Speedway was round one of the Call Before You Dig 811 Modified Challenge, which is worth $8,111 to the winner when points are compiled at the end of the series!

This 10-race series consists of the six Tri Track shows & the four Stafford Motor Speedway Open Modified races. Points are awarded to drivers who finish in the top-10. The driver with the most combined points at the end of the 10 events is the winner.

The Stafford Motor Speedway and the Connecticut Department of Health have joined hands to offer free Covid-19 vaccinations at the Call Before You Dig Open Modified 81 event this past Friday, May 14th. Vaccinations were available at the mobile unit located in the front parking lot from 5:00pm to 7:00pm on race day. All those who received a vaccination prior to the event were eligible for a free Hummel Brothers Hot Dog from the concession stand.

The CBYD 81 drew 33 tour type modifieds. Four qualifying heats were run to set the field. The first heat was won by Craig Lutz with Keith Rocco, second. The eight lap event finished under yellow as Jeff Gallup lost control on the final lap in turn one, taking Brett Meservy with him. The second qualifying heat was won by Joey Cipriano over Todd Owen. That heat saw Brett Gunyaw spin on the initial drop of the green and upon entering turn one went straight into the wall. Mike Christopher jr led Burt Myers and Ryan Preece to the checker. Matt Galko got into Anthony Noscella between turns three and four, taking him out. The fourth heat was run without incident. Ron Williams took the win over Marcello Rufrano and Cam McDermott.

Mike Christopher, Jr., driving for Tommy Baldwin, Jr., took the lead from NASCAR Cup Series competitor Ryan Preece on lap-50 and he led the final 31 laps to pick up winning contingency bonuses of $1,000 from GAF Roofing and $500 from New England Racing Fuel to push his winner’s check up to $5,000. Starting sixth, Christopher dealt with some heavy hitters along the way. Chase Dowling led the early going but had the misfortune of dropping out due to a broken shifter. Anthony Nocella was also a factor but Christophers’s main challenge came from Ryan Preece. Preece dogged the second- generation driver for close to 30 laps before settling for the runner-up spot. Patrick Emerling, Anthony Nocella and Joey Cipriano rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Eric Goodale, Ronnie Williams, Cam McDermott, Keith Rocco and Todd Owen.

Keith Rocco increased his career overall total to 294 wins including 75 at Stafford when he took the 40 lap SK Modified win. His career overall total include 153 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and 66 victories at the Thompson Speedway Rocco started 14th and took the lead the first time onlap 24 only to lose it on lap 27 to Stephen Kopcik. Rocco and Kopcik ran nose to tail until the last lap when Rocco made an inside move to take the lead and the eventual win. Kopcik settled for second with Todd Owen, third. Tyler Hines and Mikey Flynn rounded out the top five.

Other Friday night winners at Stafford included Tom Fearn who won his first Late Model feature since August 2019, Brian Sullivan scored his first win of 2021 in the SK Light feature, Matt Clement was a first time 2021 winner in the Limited Late Model feature, and Frank L’Etoile, Jr. was a 2021 first time winner in the Street Stock feature.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island on Saturday night, May 15. Twenty six cars were on hand for the first of three Mod Tour events to be held at the Long Island-1/4 mile track. Justin Bonsignore was the Meyhew Pole sitter.

It took 20 starts, and close to two decades, but Doug Coby finally parked his car in Victory Lane at the Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night. The six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion took the lead from Justin Bonsignore with 25 laps to go in the Miller Lite 200 and drove away from the field to win by over three seconds.

Justin Bonsignore came up two spots short of a fifth straight NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in a row at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday, May 15. The two-time series champion scored the Mayhew Tools pole in qualifying and led the first 175 laps from the top spot but was passed by Doug Coby, then Patrick Emerling, in the final laps. Bonsignore settled for a solid third-place finish, his second top-five in the first three races of the season driving the No. 51, Phoenix Communications Inc. machine for Kenneth Massa Motorsports. Kyle Bonsignore and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series takes a week off before heading to the Jennerstown Speedwat in Pennsylvania on May29.

It was a wise decision to put Matt Buckler in charge of getting the word out about the happenings at The New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Buckler reported that Joey Gada, working on the outside groove, was able to vapor trail past leader Mike Christopher Jr. late in the race and stay in control to post his first win of the season and the fifth SK race of his career.

In other action at the Connecticut shoreline oval, Jason Palmer and Ken Cassidy Jr. each achieved milestone wins. Palmer pulled it off in the 30-lap Late Model and Cassidy came through in the 25-lap Speedbowl Trucks race.

The most emotional win of the night was produced by Aaron Plemons, as he won for the first time in the Street Stocks.Paul “Buddy” Charette went from fourth to first after a late three-car skirmish and held on to win the first open-wheel race of his career in the 25-lap SK Lite Modified feature.

Tommy Silva ended a 19-year dry spell when he captured the 25-lap Mini Stock feature and John O’Sullivan won the 20-lap Legends feature for the second straight week.

In the SK Modified feature, Joe’s cousin, Adam Gada, dominated the early portion of the race, leading for the first 13 laps.When Adam Gada had a problem, Christopher stampeded in the lead.

Gada’s car, however, kept getting stronger. He got some energy from the outside groove and was able to swirl past Christopher, who held on for second. Rob Janovic Jr. was third. Todd Owen and Anthony Flannery rounded out the top five.

The New London/Waterford Speedbowl and The Racing Guys along with the Ron Bouchard Auto Stores family and friends have partnered to bring “The Ron Bouchard Auto Sales Fast Five Racing Series”. The races will consist of five modified races at the Speedbowl with various laps and purses. This series will crown its own champion and is open to all SK type modified competitors. The race dates and corresponding honorees are listed as follows:

  • Race #1 – 5/29/2021 Ron & Ken Bouchard “50” – $3,000.00 to win.
  • Race #2 – 7/3/2021 Ed Flemke Sr & Jr “75” – $4,000.00 to win.
  • Race #3 – 8/7/2021 Bill Slater & Ed Flemke Sr. “100”- $7,000.00 to win.
  • Race #4 – 9/18/2021 George & Ricky Summers “50” – $3,000.00 to win.
  • Race #5 – 10/17/2021 The Waterford Racers “75” – $4,000.00 to win

The total payout for the series is in excess of $120,000.00

Coming up this weekend on Saturday is the Tri Track Open Modified Series presented by All Phases Renovations at the Star Speedway.

May 7, 1972 Stafford ran a 30 lapper on Sunday afternoon with Gene Bergin in the Dick Armstrong No.1 taking the win over rookie Ronnie Bouchard. Leo Cleary finished third and was followed by Fred DeSarro, George Summers, Ray Miller and Nathan”Smokey”Boutwell. Like Bouchard, Summers was a former Seekonk Speedway Champion.

Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which 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.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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