RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Coby Takes NASCAR Mods At Riverhead, Big Events Coming This Weekend & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ended a six week vacation as the series ventured across the big pond (Long Island Sound) to the Riverhead Raceway on the east end of Long Island.

A hefty purse of $83,450 was up for grabs for the 32 competitors who pre-entered. Jimmy Blewett was slated to drive the Tom Baldwin 7NY but was forced to withdraw because of illness in his family. Doug Coby, a former winner at Riverhead was given the nod to occupy the seat in his absence.

Coby rocketed to his third NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in the last four races at the New York bullring after starting third on the grid. Because of rain delays the 30 cars that showed for the event were lined up based on their practice speed. After passing polesitter Timmy Solomito, Coby was nearly uncontested for the rest of the evening at Riverhead as he perfectly executed multiple restarts and methodically carved his way through the ever-prevalent lapped traffic around the quarter-mile bullring.

The closest challenge Coby received came during a green-white-checkered attempt, where he was tasked with holding off the hard-charging Patrick Emerling, who had climbed his way up from the 15th starting position. Ron Silk with Dylan Slepian, fourth. Timmy Solomito rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included John Baker, Kyle Soper, John Beatty, Jr., Eric Goodale and Kyle Bonsignore.

For many it was not a good day. Jon McKennedy and Dave Sapienza who finished 17th and 18th missed their set-ups. Jake Johnson was like a fish out of water in the Boehler No. 3, finishing 24th, 60 laps down. Justin Bonsignore went into the event with high hopes but it all came to an end on lap 58 with a broken traction bar in his rear suspension. He finished 25th and Craig Lutz ended his day on lap 124 after a trip into the wall with Mathew Brode. Lutz was credited with 26th.

In a statement from track PR Director Bob Finan, “teamwork in full display on Saturday night at Riverhead Raceway. The team put together by Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz led by John Ellwood coupled with Jimmy Wilson and the NASCAR WMT group had a never say quit attitude payoff. When the drizzle and rain hit after final practice it would have been so easy to call it a day. But not this group, nope folks paid good money to travel to and see the Miller Lite 200. Rain be damned the entire show was presented and to those who braved the elements and laid down their hard-earned money, thank you. You are the reason we do what we do. Job well done.”

Fans and competitors will have two high paying modified events to take in this weekend. Friday night at Stafford will see the Call Before You Dig 81 lap open competition event. The action shifts to the Lee Raceway in New Hampshire on Saturday night for a 175 lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series event. A lot of good competition is heading our way!

As the Whelen Modified Tour heads up-country to Lee, NH Eric Goodale continues to lead the point standings with a slim two-point edge over Ron Silk. Tommy Catalano, who is having a break-out season sits in third spot with Jon McKennedy, fourth, some 12 points out of the lead. Rounding out the top five is Austin Beers, 18 points back. Sixth thru tenth include Kyle Bonsignore, Craig Lutz, Dave Sapienza and Justin Bonsignore.

Among the 24 pre-race entries for the Lee event are Matt Hirschman and young Jacob Perry who will be making his maiden run with the big boys on the Whelen Modified Tour.

After a weeks delay because of rain the Stafford Motor Speedway began their weekly Friday night season under clear skies and warm temperatures. A near full pit area was a great way to start the season. Included were 30 SK Modifieds, 29 SK Lights, 22 Street Stocks and 30 Late Models and Limited Late Models.

David Arute recorded the SK Modified® feature victory, his second win in the last 3 races dating to the NAPA Fall Final last season; Kevin Gambacorta locked down the Late Model feature win, Tyler Chapman won the SK Light feature after a spirited battle with Tyler Barry, Rich Hammann notched the Limited Late Model win, and Bobby Stirk, III was a first-time winner in the Street Stock feature. The kids big wheel race was won by 6-year-old Cameron Chandonnet from Ludlow, MA.

In the SK Modified 40 lapper, Brian Sullivan and Cory DiMatteo went side by side for a full lap on the lap one restart with Sullivan taking the lead at the line by a nose. Sullivan got clear into the lead on lap-2 and behind him DiMatteo and David Arute were side by side for second with Michael Christopher, Jr. in fourth and Ronnie Williams in fifth. Arute took second from DiMatteo on lap-4 and he charged his way past Sullivan on lap-5 to move into the lead.

From that point on there was no denying Arute. At the halfway mark, it was still Arute in front followed by DiMatteo, Bryan Narducci, Ron Williams, Marcello Rufrano, Todd Owen, Stephen Kopcik, Mike Christopher, Matt Swanson, and Jon Puleo. With 10 laps to go, Arute was still in control of the race with Narducci now in second followed by DiMatteo, Rufrano, Williams, Kopcik, Owen, Christopher, Swanson, and Tyler Hines. Rufrano was able to make a move to the inside of DiMatteo on lap-36 to move into third while Narducci was still trying to get close enough to Arute to make a bid for the lead. Narducci couldn’t get close enough to Arute to make a move as Arute took down his first win of the 2022 season. Rufrano finished third with DiMatteo and Kopcik rounding out the top-5.

This Friday at Stafford will see the 4th Annual Call Before You Dig Open Modified 81 plus the regular weekly racing divisions.

Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem NC fell victim to rain for the second week in a row.

Congratulations and a big shout-out to Matt Hirschman and the #60 race team on their win at the Evergreen Speedway in Pennsylvania in their 75 lap season opening race. Hirschman started 14th. It was his tenth win in 13 starts for the year so far. His life time win total is 207.

July 12, 1968 Bugs Stevens, who made it two in a row at Catamount on Thursday night carried his winning ways over to Stafford on Friday night where he beat out Fred Harbach for the win. Smokey Boutwell, Fred DeSarro and Frank Faria rounded out the top five. 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 at the track in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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