RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Stafford’s Spring Sizzler To Be An Open Mod Event, More News…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The big news last weekend was the fact that the Stafford Motor Speedway has made the decision to drop the NASCAR sanction for the annual Spring Sizzler which is scheduled for April 23 and 24, 2022.

The NAPA Spring Sizzler in 2022 will be an Open Modified format.

This will be the 50th annual Spring Sizzler which is the brain child of Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd. The original Sizzler was an 80 lap open competition event won by Fred DeSarro in the mighty no.3, Ole Blu, of Len Boehler. E

ddie Flemke was leading the closing moments when his water pump broke and took him out of contention.

Jack Arute Sr saw the value of the event and purchased the rights and the Spring Sizzler name and in doing so, kept the event at Stafford and it has been the season opening event ever since.

Stafford dropped it’s weekly NASCAR sanction this past season and will be interesting to see if the sanction for the remaining two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series events remain in place or fall by the wayside. During the previous season the car counts and paid attendance was very good. Plus the fact that FloRacing live streamed all events except the tour events gave the track exposure like never before. As a bonus, the competitors were able to cash in on the televised events both monetarily and exposure for their sponsors.

On tap last weekend, from the looks of the grandstand and the pit area at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl it appeared that the track had finally turned the corner. A big wreck going into turn three on lap 42 changed all that. The crash after 42 laps had been completed in the 100-lap SK Modified feature, part of the final day of the three-day Finale weekend at the track.

Timmy Jordan had been slugging it out for fifth place with Glen Reen coming off of turn two when contact between them sent Jordan riding up the wall on two wheels coming down the backstretch. Once he cleared the pit gate he took out at least six sections of fence and their posts. Jordan exited his car unhurt while at least two were transported to a local hospital with undisclosed injuries. Among those injured was Bob Gada Sr.

Keith Rocco was leading the race at the time of the crash with Andrew Molleur in second and Dennis Gada in third and Jon Puleo in fourth spot. No word as to when or if the event will be completed.

This coming weekend on Saturday, October 23, Seekonk Speedway roars back to life for the final time in 2021 with the return of the Haunted Hundred. The Saturday afternoon special, which begins at 1 p.m., will showcase the top stars from the Modifieds, Pro Stocks and Late Models from across New England with the Tri Track Open Modified Series, Pro All Star Series and American-Canadian Tour.

All three divisions will crown their champions during the special event in three 100-lap races.

In the Tri Track Open Modified Series title battle, Matt Hirschman leads by 27 points and will essentially just need to take the green flag in the 100-lap race to clinch a record sixth series title. Hirschman’s title would be his second consecutive and sixth in the eight-year history of Tri Track. The only two drivers to defeat him in the points standings were Jon McKennedy (2014) and Ronnie Williams (2019). This year, Hirschman has two wins — living up to his “Big Money” nickname by winning over $17,000 at Star Speedway in the SBM Classic, and the $10,000 check at Seekonk in August as part of the annual Open Wheel Wednesday. He hopes to bookend his season with a third win and a title coronation at the Action Track of the East.

Although chances are slim, runner-up Chase Dowling is also mathematically eligible to win the championship. Dowling will be honored just prior to the drop of the green flag for heat races as the winner of the Call 811 Before You Dig Modified (CBYD) Challenge, which has earned him a $8,111 check courtesy of the team at CBYD. The challenge combined the six Tri Track events with the four Stafford Motor Speedway Open Modified races, and Dowling earned enough points to clinch the crown one race early.

Some of the best Modified talent in the region will join Hirschman and Dowling looking for the $6,000 check in the Haunted Hundred Tri Track feature. Three-time and reigning NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore, six-time NASCAR champion Doug Coby, Matt Swanson, Ron Silk, Les Hinckley, Chris Pasteryak, Woody Pitkat, Anthony Sesely, Anthony Nocella and more are expected.

Tri Track will also debut a new system for the lineups in qualifying heat races at Seekonk.

Tri Track will eliminate the blind draw that drivers have been doing to set the lineup — and instead will base qualifying starting spots off a final scuff session that will occur on race day. In between practice and heat races, all cars will be required to go over the scales in the reserve order of practice speeds, with the slowest cars first. Teams will be grouped by practice speed and sent out on the track during the scuff session in groups of five. They will then be part of a four-lap green flag session, with the fastest individual lap time from the four-lap session for each car determining the heat race lineup. Once the lineups are set, the top-four from each heat will be inverted to make the starting grid. For the feature, Tri Track will re-draw a number of cars from zero through 12 through a spin of a wheel in front of race fans between consi and feature racing.

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. The book documents Modified Racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway from 1967 to 1986. 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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