RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Tri Track Open Mods At Seekonk, Racing At Stafford & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI –The Tri Track circuit returned to Seekonk Speedway on Wednesday, August 25, for the conclusion of the $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday Modified Madness.. It was originally slated for June 30, but a power outage in the area that night forced it to be postponed.

With temps in the low 90’s Matt Hirschman endured as he went non-stop, pole to pole to take the $10,000 win. His only challenge came from Chase Dowling over the final four laps. Anthony Nocella finished third. It was the fourth time that Hirschman has been victorious in the $10,000 to win event. Hirschman went from second to first on the opening lap and led all 100 circuits of the event. Dowling was able to get to the bumper of the leader with five laps to go, as Hirschman went to the outside of lapped car Blake Barney. Hirschman would work the top groove on Barney all the way until the field took the white flag, while Dowling tried to find a way to the bottom three-wide. Richard Savary charged from the back of the field to fourth, while rising star Joey Cipriano drove the Bob Horn prepared entry into the top-five. Ron Silk was sixth, followed by Robie, Doug Coby, Les Hinckley and Pro Stock standout Angelo Belsito.

The series will also be back at Seekonk on Saturday, October 23, to crown the 2021 champion in the annual Haunted Hundred.

Last Friday saw the fourth day in a row of 90 degree plus temperatures and high humidity in the New England area and despite threats of thunder showers it was another fantastic night of racing at Stafford.Scoring feature wins on the night were Stephen Kopcik in the SK Modified® feature, Michael Bennett in the Late Model feature, Anthony Bello was a first time career winner in the SK Light feature, Gary Patnode in the Limited Late Model feature, and Chris Meyer in the Street Stock feature. The Kids Night Big Wheel Race was won by Brantley Sullivan, son of Stafford SK Light driver Brian Sullivan.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Marcello Rufrano took the the lead from polesitter Matt Vassar on the first lap and began to set the early pace. Teddy Hodgdon quickly moved into third with Tyler Hines taking fourth and Bryan Narducci taking fifth on lap-5 to drop David Arute back to sixth, just in front of Stephen Kopcik.

Rufrano took the lead on a lap 13 restart with Hines right behind him in second and Kopcik in third. Rufrano led Kopcik, Hines, Vassar, and Narducci to the halfway point of the race. Kopcik got around Hines to move into second and he was applying heavy pressure to Rufrano for the lead on lap-25. The top-3 cars had slightly pulled away from Vassar, Hodgdon, and Narducci and on lap-27 Kopcik went to the front of the field. Debris in turn 1 brought the caution back out with 28 laps complete.

Kopcik again took the lead on the restart with Rufrano and Hines right behind him. Hodgdon and Vassar were side by side for fourth place with Arute in sixth. Arute took fifth from Vassar on lap-32 while Hines, Hodgdon, and Rufrano briefly went 3-wide on lap-33 in the fight for second. Hines emerged in second with Hodgdon and Rufrano still fighting side by side for third. Todd Owen was on a late race charge as he moved into fifth and dropped Arute back to sixth with Narducci in seventh place. Owen continued his march to the front by taking third from Hodgdon on lap-37 just before the caution came out for spins in turn 3 by Noah Korner and Mark Alkas.

Kopcik resumed his place out front back under green while Hodgdon charged up to second. Owen took third from Hines as the field took the white flag with Arute in fifth. Kopcik led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his third win of the 2021 season. Hodgdon finished second with Owen, Hines, and Arute rounding out the top-5. Rufano faded to eighth at the finish.

Up next for the Whelen Modified Tour is a trip to Owesgo Speedway on Sept. 4

At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Andrew Molleur won round two of the Fast Five Series that honored Eddie Flemke and Eddie Flemke Jr. The event which paid $4,000 to win was sponsored by the Ron Bouchard Auto Stores and the Racing Guys. Cory DiMatteo finished second with Todd Owen, third. Mike Christopher Jr and Matt Galko rounded out the top five.

All season long, the outside groove at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl has brought out the best in Andrew Molleur so when he started on the outside against Cory DiMatteo with seven laps remaining in Saturday’s 50-lap SK Modified Fast Five feature, the 18-year-old thought he had an advantage.

Molleur captured his biggest paycheck of the season, but the win didn’t come easily. He was in second place for most of the race, trailing DiMatteo, who has rocketed to the lead on lap 19, overwhelming Todd Owen. There was a series of restarts late in the race and DiMatteo decided to restart on the inside.

“This is a tough race to lose,” DiMatteo said. “I definitely had the fastest car. I beat Molleur on the outside a few laps earlier, but for some reason I chose to restart on the inside late in the race.”

The outside turned Molleur’s car into a lightning bolt. “This definitely was a fun race,” Molleur said. “I have to thanks all the people responsible. I had a great time.”

There were 27 Modifieds that attempted to take the green flag, including two veteran drivers who were coming off long layoffs. Seven time SK Modified champion Dennis Gada ran inside the Top 10 for most of the race before finishing 13th. NEAR Hall of Famer Ed Flemke Jr. moved into fifth place late in the race before being involved in an altercation and finishing 11th.

Owen, the winner of the first Fast Five event, started on the pole and led for the first 19 laps before relinquishing the lead to DiMatteo. He fell back to fifth before rallying to finish third.

In other Speedbowl action Saturday, Justin Palmer went nose-to-nose with Ray Christian for 27 laps before pulling out a win in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Wayne Burroughs used his outside lane expertise to hold off Buddy Charette in the 25-lap SK Lite Modified race. Tom Silva remained scalding hot in the Mini Stocks, rolling to his third consecutive win.

A big shout-out to Jacob Perry and David Arute who finished second and fourth in the 75 lap Modified Racing Series action at the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine this past Saturday night. Former Modified Racing Series champion Anthony Nocella took the win. Brian Robie finished third.

The Coke Zero Sugar 400 NASCAR Cup Series’ regular-season finale at Daytona International Speedway unfolded as billed with dramatic action all Saturday night that included 45 lead changes, a 14-minute red-flag period and a wild final lap of overtime to decide the championship playoff picture.

Ultimately, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney managed it all and took his second NASCAR Cup Series victory in as many weeks as a huge multicar accident happened behind him in the last corners of the track on the final lap. Ryan Preece had his best finish to date as he came home in fourth spot.

The New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame announced a class of 10 inductees for 2021 last week, which includes two veterans inductees.

The class includes legendary Modified innovator Bob Cuneo, co-founder of Chassis Dynamics, racing announcers John Spence Sr. and Pete Falconi, driver and tire distributer Dave Lind, driver Dave Grantz, former Lime Rock Park owner Jim Haynes, Jeff Horn and veteran inductees Andy Cote and Ted Stack.along with former NASCAR Busch North champion Kelly Moore

The NEAR New England Racing Hall of Fame induction dinner will be held Nov. 14 at the Westford Regeny Inn in Westford, Mass.

Saturday night September 4th Riverhead Raceway owners Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz will proudly induct three successful and popular former driving stars onto the Cromarty Wall of Champions right after completion of opening ceremonies. Dan Jivanelli of Hampton Bays, Jack Orlando of Calverton and the late Fredrick “Spider” Ligon of Riverhead will all take their rightful place on the wall that greets fans in the third turn midway.

August 14, 1971 Gene Bergin was the spoiler as he had the car to beat at Stafford on Saturday night. Scoring his first NASCAR modified win with Bobby Judkins’ new Pinto and his first Stafford win since 1968, Bergin had a few tense moments before taking the 50 lap Senators Cup win. During his qualifing heat Bergin found himself between the wall and Roland LaPierre Sr. when LaPierre lost his steering. Bergin kept himself out of the fence along with LaPierre.In the 50-lap feature Bergin took the lead from Moose Hewitt on the 16th lap on his way to take the win Fred DeSarro had to settle for second with Hop Harrington, Bugsy Stevens and Freddie Schulz rounding out the top five. Rene Charland finished sixth and was followed by Leo Cleary, Ray Miller and Ernie Gahan. In addition to his winning purse Bergin was presented with a Moto Jet Snowmobile.

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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