RPW Column: The Champ Trail: TC13 At Stafford, Riverhead & Other News…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Last Friday at Stafford, the Speedway hosted First Responder Friday with the TC 13 Shootout joining Stafford’s five weekly divisions in feature action.

The SK Modified® division ran their regularly scheduled 40-lap feature as well as the 3rd Annual TC 13 Shootout, a 13 lap race contested between the top-13 finishers from the 40-lap feature that paid the winner an extra $1,313 from a purse of over $7,000.

David Arute won the TC 13 Shoot Out while Stephen Kopcik remained the hottest driver at Stafford with his third consecutive SK Modified® victory in the 40-lap feature event.

John Blake was a career first time winner in the Late Model feature, Derek Debbis scored his Stafford leading 6th win of the season in the SK Light feature, Alexandra Fearn notched her fifth win of 2021 in the Limited Late Model feature, and Chris Meyer took down his fifth win of 2021 in the Street Stock feature.

Quinn Christopher awarded one driver from each division with a new Bell helmet through the Ted Christopher Safety Initiative and the five lucky winners were Tyler Hines in the SK Modified® division, John Blake in the Late Model division, Paul French in the SK Light feature, Mike Hopkins in the Limited Late Model feature, and Frank L’Etoile, Jr. in the Street Stock feature.

Kopcik took the lead from Meservey on the lap 17 restart with Marcello Rufrano, Keith Rocco, and Todd Owen still making up the top-5. Michael Christopher, Jr. spun in turn 2 to bring the yellow back out with 19 laps complete. Back under green, Kopcik again took the lead with Doug Meservey staying right on his bump[er in second. The two leaders touched in turn 3 but both were able to continue without losing any positions. Rocco took third with Rufrano fourth and Owen still fifth. Owen took fourth place from Rufrano on lap-24 and Cory DiMatteo took fifth from Rufrano on lap-25. The caution came back out for a multicar crash in turn 3 involving Noah Korner, Christopher, Dylan Kopec, Vassar, and Bryan Narducci.

Kopcik took the lead back under green with Meservey holding second. Rocco was third with Owen fending off a challenge from DiMatteo to maintain fourth place. Just behind DiMatteo, Jon Puleo was up to sixth followed by Gervais, Rufrano, Troy Talman, and Arute. Kopcik led Meservey to the checkered flag to pick up his third consecutive win and fifth overall win of the 2021 season. Rocco came home third with Owen and DiMatteo rounding out the top-5.

In the 13-lap TC Shootout, Troy Talman and Marcello Rufrano both got out of shape in turn 1 with Rufrano collecting the cars of Keith Rocco, Michael Christopher, Jr., and Stephen Kopcik to bring the caution out before a lap could be completed. David Arute and Troy Talman went wheel to wheel for the lead on the restart, but Dan Wesson spun on the backstretch to bring the yellow back out before the first lap could be completed. The third start saw Arute power his way into the lead before the caution came back out with 1 lap complete for a spin in turn 2 by Michael Gervais, Jr. Arute took the lead on the restart while Owen was all over Talman for second place. Owen made the pass for second onlap-3 with DiMatteo in fourth and Keith Rocco in fifth. DiMatteo took third from Talman on lap-5 with a pass in turn 3 while Arute was still in command out front.

Rocco got around Talman to move into fourth place and he made a move to the inside of DiMatteo for third on lap-11. DiMatteo came right back to the inside of Rocco in turn 3 but the two cars touched with Rocco spinning to bring the caution out with 11 laps complete and set up a green white checkered finish. DiMatteo was sent to the rear of the field by Stafford officials for making contact with Rocco.

Arute cleared Owen for the lead as the two lead cars came to the white flag. Owen couldn’t make a move on the final lap as Arute took the checkered flag to win the TC 13 Shoot Out, his first SK Modified win, and the $1,313 bonus that comes with the win. Owen finished second with Talman, Gervais, and Tyler Hines rounding out the top-5.

At the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Matt Buckler stated “There’s an old cliché that says if you don’t learn from history, you’re destined to repeat it.”.

Cory DiMatteo learned his history lesson on Aug. 28 in the SK Modified Fast Five at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. He selected the inside groove on a restart with seven laps to go and wound up finishing second to Andrew Molleur. Buckler added, “That was an experience he didn’t want to repeat — he came up with a different plan during Saturday’s 35-lap feature at the Speedbowl,. He re-started on the outside to protect his lead against Matt Swanson and Bill Anderson down the stretch to claim his second win of the year”.

While several drivers made late moves, DiMatteo struck early, romping past Anthony Flannery on lap 10. It was a good thing for him that he did. On lap 17, the drivers who were running second and third, Flannery and Todd Owen, appeared to make contact to trigger a multi-car altercation. Among the drivers who were caught up in the wreck was Andrew Molleur, who was running fourth, Tim Jordan and Mike Christopher.

DiMatteo, who was in the lead and was in front of the trouble, was not affected. Right place, right time. DiMatteo elected to start on the outside lane during two late restarts and his car had plenty of firepower to surge past Anderson and Swanson.

It was the second win of the season for one of the Bowl’s hottest drivers. DiMatteo has four straight podium finishes and has been in the Top 3 seven times in the last eight races.

Anderson and Todd Owen finished second and third respectively while Rob Janovic Jr., who was also involved in the lap 17 traffic jam, rallied to finish fourth. Twenty-two SK Modifieds took the green.

In other action at the shoreline oval, RJ Marcotte held off Paul Charette and Wayne Burroughs in SK Lite competition. Douglas Curry captured his fourth straight Street Stock victory, Tommy Silva wins fourth straight in the mini-stocks.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island a solemn crowd payed tribute to fallen track owner Eddie Partridge. John Baker was the winner of the 50 lap Modified feature. Tom Rogers Sr finished second. The Whelen Modified Tour Series will visit at the Riverhead Raceway this coming Saturday night.

The NASCAR Hall of Fame and NASCAR have announced that the Class of 2021 Induction Ceremony will take place in Charlotte on Friday, Jan. 21, 2022. The ceremony was originally scheduled for Feb. 5, 2021 but was postponed due to the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Red Farmer and Mike Stefanik make up the Hall of Fame’s 12th class with Ralph Seagraves being honored as the recipient of the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR.

John Spence reports that the Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Maine has been sold and will close following the 2021 season . Always enjoyed going to Beech Ridge with MRS . Top notch staff and owner Andy Cusack always made you feel welcomed .. I wish Andy the very best and thanks for the many years of great racing, an outstanding facility, and the support given MRS .

August 21, 1971 George “Moose” Hewitt, driving the Freddy’s TV No.23 took the win at Stafford on Saturday night over Hop Harrington, Freddie Schulz, Ed Yerrington, Leo Cleary and Bob Santos. Gene Bergin who was looking to make it two in a row, lost an engine in practice. The NEMA Midgets payed a visit and it was Lou Fray taking the win. Dick Wright scored another Mini-Midget win. Hewitt started sixth and took the lead from pole sitter Ernie Caruso on lap nine. Among the missing were Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens who were at the Islip Speedway on Long Island for a 300-lap event at the tight 1/5-mile oval. DeSarro took the win with Stevens third behind Long Island Kingpin Jim Hendrickson. Stafford was well represented at Trenton on Sunday as there were eleven Stafford cars and ten Stafford drivers in the field. Ronnie Bouchard, 22 years old at the time, finished second in the former Jack Tant coupe that was owned by Dick Armstrong. Ray Miller started 30th and finished seventh. Ernie Gahan, 13th, Tom Sutcliff, 15th and Billy Harman, 19th, were other top finishers.

Lady luck was not on the side of Bugsy Stevens and Fred DeSarro. Stevens was the second fastest qualifier in the Sonny Koszela Log Roller Corvair. Stevens was leading the event on lap 34 when his engine blew. Later in the event Stevens drove relief for DeSarro and ended up crashing in the dogleg. Lou Austin and Moose Hewitt also fell out due to mechanical woes. 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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