RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Another Great Weekend Racing Around The Connecticut Asphalt Tracks

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Good News for the state of Connecticut race tracks. Gov. Ned Lamont announced recently 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%.

This ruling affects attendance at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson Speedways.

On a cold and chilly night as temps dipped to the high 40s by feature time the Stafford Speedway hosted Weekly Racing action with all 5 of its divisions in feature action. Michael Christopher, Jr. scored his first win of the 2020 season in a thrilling SK Modified® feature event that saw Keith Rocco set a NASCAR record by clinching his 18th career Division 1 track championship. Adam Gray moved closer to locking down his third career Late Model track championship at Stafford by scoring his sixth win of 2020 in the Late Model feature, Derek Debbis continued his red hot rookie season with his 5th win of the season in the SK Light feature, Andrew Durand scored his seventh win of 2020 in the Limited Late Model division, and Meghan Fuller took over the Street Stock points lead with 1 race left by winning her third consecutive feature event of the 2020 season and her fourth overall.

With 2 laps to go in the SK Modified 40 lapper Keith Rocco and Todd Owen were side by side but Rocco got clear of Owen as they came to the white flag. Mike Christopher Jr was third in line with Ron Williams and Bryan Narducci side by side for fourth. Christopher shot from third to the lead as the leaders raced through turn 2 on the final lap. Rocco and Todd Owen made contact in turns one and two. Rocco slowed to save a sliding car, allowing Mike Christopher Jr. to move to the lead and grab the win and he held off the field to the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2020 season in spectacular fashion. Williams came through to take second behind Christopher with Rocco, Narducci and Owen rounding out the top-5. Rocco’s third place finish was good enough to make him the 2020 SK Modified® track champion. Rocco’s title was his fourth SK Modified® crown at Stafford and it is his 18th career NASCAR Weekly Series Division 1 track championship, setting a NASCAR record by breaking a tie he held with Joe Kosiski.

The New London Waterford Speedbowl ran under chilly skies. Eric Berndt was the victor in the SK Modified main event. Timmy Jordan finished second with Kyle James, third. In the SK Lites Robert Bloxsom took the win over Charlie McDougall, Corey Caddick and Jacob Perry. Ryan Morgan made it two in a row in the Late Models. Jason Palmer finished second. In the Sportsman division Shawn Monahan took the win over Al Stone III. Charles Canfield was the Mini Stock winner and David Petty took the Open Street win. Conner Holderbach was the Legend Car winner and Kenny Cassidy was the Truck division winner.

Clearly, the most exciting race of the night was the 5o lap Late Model event. “It was a close one,” Morgan said after claiming the biggest payday of his racing career, $1,200 plus a $151 bonus from the Racing Guys. More accurately, he won by the microscopic margin of .003seconds.

In the SK Mod 40 lapper, Berndt started the race on the outside pole. After Kyle James led the first handful of laps, Berndt took command and never looked back. It was his 16th career win at the Speedbowl.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve always loved this place,” Berndt said. “It was like old home week coming back here. We made the right adjustments after qualifying and the car was great.”

Tim Jordan moved into second and maintained his point lead. Keith Rocco was considered an early threat until taken out by Jordan in the early going.

The Riverhead Raceway honored Richie Evans along with “Tiger” Tom Baldwin and “Charging” Charlie Jarzombek with their tribute 77-lap NASCAR Modified race on Saturday evening. Kyle Ellwood took full advantage of a rare NASCAR Modified start Saturday in the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 by going out and winning the prestigious race that honors three NASCAR Modified legends. Ellwood has been spending his time in 2020 serving as crew chief for Michael Rutkoski and drove a team car to Rutkoski out of the Buzz Chew Chevrolet race shops to collect his 5th career triumph. It’s a shame that only 12 cars started the event.

At the 60 lap marker it looked like Tom Rogers was going to grab his 61st career win in the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 but soon thereafter things began to change. Ellwood was now all over Rogers for the race lead and on the 66th lap was able to close in on Rogers who got a tick loose in the third and fourth turn. Faced with making a decision that it might be now or never Ellwood shot the gap under Rogers to take the race lead with just 10-laps to go in the contest. Over the final 10-laps of the race Kyle Ellwood was able to stay out front to take home the biggest win of his NASCAR Modified career in the Buzz Chew Chevrolet machine.

Dylan Slepian was runner-up in the Eastport Feeds Chevy Kyle Soper was third also in a car backed by Eastport Feeds. Tom Rogers Jr faded to fourth at the finish with many observers noting his car developed a wheel hop in the final dozen laps or so on the left rear while CJ Lehmann posted another solid top five effort.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island sends word that The Islip 300 Tour Type Modified event paying the race winner $7,000 is coming to Raceway Saturday November 14th and Sunday November 15th. Teams can run either WMT, ROC, MRS or Tri-Track rules. Riverhead Raceway will be racing every Saturday through October if you can’t make it to the track check out their live stream for $25 at RiverheadRaceway.Tv. They go live at 5:15 pm.

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, it’s all there. Do you remember the night that Billy Harman got his first and only win with the help of the fire department? Read all about it. Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal181(877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site. Order yours now.

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