RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Stafford’s Schedule, Preece Wins At Riverhead & More…

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Stafford Speedway management has released their official race schedule for 2021.

The 24-race schedule offers a blend of Stafford’s classic weekly racing events and special events. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is set to return to Stafford Speedway for 3 events in 2021.

The season gets the green flag with the 49th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® Weekend Saturday, April 24th and Sunday, April 25th. New for the 2021 Spring Sizzler® Saturday and Sunday will be two separate tickets with the Granite State Pro Stock Series joining the SK Modifieds®, Late Models, Limited Late Models and Street Stocks on Saturday. Spring Sizzler® Sunday will see the SK Modifieds® return for their 2nd race of the weekend along with the SK Light Modified division, the Vintage All-Stars, and finally the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competing in the 150-lap NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®.

“We had multiple Friday and Saturday events this season due to Covid,” stated Mark Arute. “With capacity restriction as the big unknown entering 2021 we took a look at what we could do to ensure that even if we are at a reduced capacity we’d be able to run our entire schedule. This included making the 2021 NAPA Spring Sizzler Weekend a two day, two ticket event. The NASCAR Modified Tour will headline the weekend and we’ve added the Granite State Pro Stocks and the SK Modified® teams will run both Saturday and Sunday.”

Weekly Friday night racing at Stafford will commence Friday, May 7th after an off week following the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® and will continue weekly through the fall. Headlined by Stafford’s SK Modified® division, Stafford’s 5 weekly divisions will compete at each Friday night event through the season. New for 2021, race teams will have their worst finish of the season dropped from their final championship point total allowing for an off week, if necessary. More information on this rule will be included in the 2021 general rules to be released in the near future.

The fan favorite Open Modifieds take to the Stafford half-mile 4 times in 2021, Friday, May 14th for the Modified Open 80, Friday, June 11th for the Twisted Tea 80, Friday, July 9th for the Bud Light 80, and Friday, August 20th for the Lincoln Tech 80. The 2020 season featured 4 different winners including Marcello Rufrano, Keith Rocco, Ronnie Williams, and Woody Pitkat.

New for 2021, the season will be extended one week beyond NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend with the addition of NAPA Auto Parts Championship night on Friday, October 1st. “We were forced to extend beyond the NAPA Fall Final this season due to Covid,” continued Arute. “The fans and drivers liked the NAPA Champions night format so we will continue that in 2021. Running our weekly divisions as the final night of the season gives our champions their own night in the spotlight.”

Season tickets for the 2021 season are now on sale at staffordspeedway.com/store. Early bird discount pricing is in effect until December 16th when prices increase. Season pass holders saved over 60% in 2020 when compared to purchasing a ticket every week. For more information, visit www.staffordspeedway.com.

The much anticipated return of the Tri-Track Series is not on the schedule.

Ryan Preece returned to his roots as he won the 4th annual Islip 300 at Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night. The win gave the driver of the No. 6 TS Haulers Modified a check of $7,000, his second win in the prestigious event in just four years. He outran one of the most talented Modified fields Riverhead has seen in years, with a mix of track regulars, Whelen Modified Tour drivers, Connecticut SK Modified champions and more.

Preece rode inside the top-five for the first 195 laps, before pitting for fresh tires under a caution while leader Justin Bonsignore elected to stay out. Preece charged back through the field, took the lead back, and drove away from the field in the final laps. Craig Lutz finished second, while NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Bonsignore, Kyle Soper and track champion Tom Rogers Jr. rounded out the top-five.

Bonsignore and Lutz pitted for tires on lap 219, and a late flurry of cautions briefly slowed their chances to get back to the front. Lutz got through to second and was just five car lengths behind Preece, but lost ground in the final stages, and finished 1.95 seconds back. Rogers Jr. celebrated his fifth NASCAR Modified championship at Riverhead prior to the drop of the green flag. Kyle Soper, the 2019 winner of the Islip 300, led the field to the green and led much of the first third of the race. Once he slid back, it was Jon McKennedy, Preece and Bonsignore who were slugging it out inside the top-five. Early exits from the race included Eric Goodale, Ronnie Williams and 2017 race winner Dillon Steuer. Track regulars John Fortin Sr., Roger Turbush and John Beatty finished sixth through eighth, while Keith Rocco and Matt Galko rounded out the top 10.

The Islip 300, a race that stems from the old Islip Speedway history, has become the top Modified race of the season at the New York bullring. Riverhead Raceway’s 2020 season has now concluded — two months later than a normal year due to COVID-19. The finale of the season aired live on RiverheadRaceway.TV.

NASCAR is making up for lost ground in New England with an up-state New York addition to the Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule. The tour will visit New York International Raceway Park at Lancaster Speedway on Saturday, July 31. The night race will be 150 laps. Lancaster, located just outside of Buffalo, is steeped in Modified history. NASCAR Hall of Famer Richie Evans was a frequent winner at Lancaster, as was Modified pioneer Maynard Troyer. Tyler Rypkema, the 2020 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year, has also won at the .625-mile oval which first opened in 1959.

Late last week New Hampshire Motor Speedway executive vice president and general manager David McGrath dropped a bomb when he announced that the track would not bring its Full Throttle Weekend, featuring the Whelen Modified Tour Musket 200, back in 2021. He also revealed that as of this week NHMS does not have a Whelen Modified Tour event scheduled for its Cup Series Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 weekend in July 2021. Lack of fan support was the reason given for the decision.

On a sad note, It comes with great sadness to report that Norm Wrenn III has lost his battle with an infection and passed away.

August 4, 1967 Gene Bergin had the M-6 in top form as he took a hotly contested win in the nights Modified feature. Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell in the Garuti-Arute No.14 finished second. Rounding out the top five were Leo Cleary, Sal Dee and Wild Bill Slater. Read all about it in the new book.

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.

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