RPW Column: The Champ Trail: It Was Cold For The Spring Sizzler At Stafford, But The Action Was Hot

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – It was cold, windy and eventually rain soaked but the 49th annual Spring Sizzler got into the record books at Stafford last Friday night.

Patrick Emerling went from the outhouse to victory lane in the rain shortened event. Emerling, who experienced severe electrical problems early on missed qualifying and was forced to start 23rd in the 28 car field. After losing a lap early on and then getting it back with a “Lucky Dog” Emerling worked his way to the lead pack and passed Ryan Preece who had spun out of contention on lap 124 as rain moved into the Stafford area. Emerling somehow was able to drive around the wrecked cars of Preece, Justin Bonsignore, Anthony Nocella and Ron Silk to inherit the lead and eventual win. Preece accepted responsibility. “I put too much rear brake into the car and I cost Silk the win” he said. Emerling never led a green flag lap as he paced the field for seven laps under caution when the event was called.

With only 27 laps to go, Preece and Ron Silk restarted on the front row with rain approaching the racetrack. But when he drove into turn one with the lead, the car washed out, allowing Silk to move through to the point. Once he regained control Preece locked up the right rear trying to get back to Silk.in turn 3. Preece clipped Silk’s left rear and sent him sliding in a wreck that took out the top four cars.

Matt Swanson set the fast time in qualifying and he brought the field to the green flag and took the early lead with Jon McKennedy, Craig Lutz, Doug Coby, and Anthony Nocella making up the top-5. Chuck Hossfeld’s car came to a stop coming out of turn 4 to bring the caution out on lap-5.

The race went back to green on lap-7 with Swanson taking command. Lutz took second with Coby, Woody Pitkat, and Nocella making up the top-5 as McKennedy slid all the way back to eighth place behind Timmy Solomito and Eric Goodale.

With 25 laps complete, Swanson was still out front with Coby now in second. Lutz was third followed by Pitkat, Nocella, Ryan Preece, McKennedy, Tyler Rypkema, Solomito, and Goodale.

Swanson was still comfortably in command of the race with 50 laps complete followed by Coby, Lutz, Pitkat, Preece, McKennedy, Rypkema, Justin Bonsignore, Nocella, and Ron Silk. With the leaders navigating lapped traffic at this stage of the race, Coby took the lead from Swanson on lap-52. The race action was slowed on lap-62 for a spin on the backstretch by Gary Byington.

The pits opened on lap-66 and Coby led Swanson, Lutz, Pitkat, and Preece down pit road with the remainder of the lead lap cars also coming to pit road. Coby won the race off pit road followed by Swanson, Bonsignore, Preece, McKennedy, Lutz, Pitkat, Goodale, Ronnie Williams, Nocella, and the remainder of the lead lap cars. Coby’s quick pit work enabled him to keep the race lead with Swanson to his outside and Bonsignore and Preece lined up in the second row for the restart.

Swanson shot into the lead on the restart with Coby in second and Bonsignore and Preece side by side for third. Bonsignore took third from Preece and then he took second from Coby just before the caution came back out on lap-72 for an incident in turn 4 involving the cars of Dave Sapienza, Rypkema, and several others who were able to drive away from the accident scene.

Back to green on lap-79 Swanson again took the race lead with Bonsignore right on his bumper in second. McKennedy was third in line followed by Williams and the side by side duo of Nocella and Pitkat. Nocella got the better of that duel and took fifth with Silk, Lutz, Andrew Krause, and Kyle Bonsignore making up the remainder of the top-10 behind Pitkat.

Bonsignore and McKennedy swapped second place back and forth between themselves on lap-89 with Swanson continuing to hold the race lead. Williams was up to third with Justin Bonsignore fourth. Silk and Nocella were side by side for fifth place with Lutz in sixth. Positions continued to shuffle as the race was closing in on lap-100 but the action was slowed on lap-96 for a spin in the middle of turns 3+4 by Patrick Emerling.

Swanson took the lead on the lap-102 restart with Silk taking second. Silk then took the lead from Swanson on lap-103 and his move brought Lutz up to second, Preece to third, Nocella to fourth, and Justin Bonsignore fifth as Swanson slid all the way back to the rear of the field. The caution came back out on lap-105 for a multicar accident on the backstretch.

The lap-112 restart saw Preece power his way into the lead with Silk slotting into second. The caution came right back out for an incident in turn 2 involving Kyle Bonsignore, Rob Summers, Williams, Matt Galko, and Swanson.

Silk shot into the lead on the restart, but behind him Coby spun in turn 2 and collected the car of J.B. Fortin to bring the caution right back out and put Preece back in the lead for the next restart on lap 123.

Eric Goodale ended up finishing second with Tommy Catalano, third. Timmy Solomito and Craig Lutz rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Jon McKennedy, Andrew Krause, Chuck Hossfeld, Ronnie Williams and Kyle Bonsignore.

Next stop for the Whelen Modified Tour Series is at the Riverhead Raceway on Saturday, May 15.

Earlier in the evening Stephen Kopcik scored his fifth career win in the SK Modifieds at Stafford. Pre-race favorite Keith Rocco started near the back of the 22 car field and looked to be headed for another Top three finish when something broke in the front of his car, sending him hard into the wall. Todd Owen finished second with Tyler Hines, third. Marcello Rufrano and Noah Korner rounded out the top five.

In other Stafford action, Derek Debbis beat out George Bessette Jr in the SK Lites and in the Vintage Modifieds Gary Byington took the win.

The Tri-Track Modified Series headed “Up Country” to the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH last Saturday night. Thirty four Modifieds were on hand.

Sam Rameau dominated early, restarted deep in the field after a pit stop, drove to the front, made a pass for the lead with two to go, and rolled to Victory Lane. Ron Silk and Matt Hirschmam finished second and third.

Two-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore and Les Hinckley rounded out the top-five. Ben Byrne was sixth, followed by Woody Pitkat, Anthony Nocella, NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece and Joey Cipriano III.

Devin O’Connell advanced the most positions during the race, scoring the Green Construction, LLC Hard Charger award, worth $500. Earlier in the day, Justin Bonsignore, Woody Pitkat, Earl Paules and Ben Byrne won heat races, scoring $300 each courtesy of Pepsi and the Pepsi Challenge. Anthony Sesely and Brian Robie also scored $300 each from Pepsi with consi race wins.

The Tri Track Open Modified Series returns to the track at Star Speedway in New Hampshire on Saturday, May 22. For more information on the Tri Track Open Modified Series, visit tritrackmodifieds.com and follow the series on social media.

Spring is in the air and so is the smell of racing fuel at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. For those race fans that are addicted to the smell of race fuel and burning rubber hold on to your hat. New London- Waterford Speedbowl’s Blastoff Opener is this coming Saturday, May 8th. All 7 weekly divisions will be revving their motors, shifting gears, passing cars, taking numbers and charging hard to the checkered flag!

Fans are in for a treat at the opener. We will be crowning our 2020 Stars of the Speedbowl Champions, awarding the top 5 in points and the Rookie of the Year on the front stretch before the opening ceremonies.

Very little PR and absolutely no advertising has come from the bowl. Probably some of the best short track racing to be seen. Its too bad nobody knows about it!

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island opened for the season on Saturday night. John Beatty was the opening night 50 lap NASCAR Modified winner. Kyle Soper finished second with CJ Lehman, third. Dylan Slepian and Chris Young rounded out the top five.

Hot off his Spring Sizzler victory in 1972, Fred DeSarro made it two in a row at Stafford as he won the Sunday afternoon 30-lap event. Bob Santos finished second and was followed by Hop Harrington, Ray Miller, Moose Hewitt, Rene Charland and Bernie Miller.

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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