RPW Column: The Champ Trail; NASCAR Mods Puts On Great Show At Lee USA, Open Mods At Stafford & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled up-country to the Lee New Hampshire Speedway on Saturday.

The Lee event was the the culmination of over six months of dreaming, planning, and preparing to bring NASCAR’s oldest division back to Lee USA Speedway for the first time since 1998.

Through the efforts of Kevin Rice, the Lee event end up being close to $20,000 to win with the lap money and bonuses available from NASCAR, JDV Productions and the $10,925 total bonus money.

Despite the big money up for grabs only 19 cars showed for the event. Among those missing were Patrick Emerling, Tyler Rypkema, Dylan Slepyan, Ronnie Williams and Jimmy Blewett. Blewett stayed home to be with his daughter who is ill.

In time trials Jake Johnson driving the Ole Blu of the Boehler family put the legendary car on the pole. Matt Hirschman was second fastest with Doug Coby , third.

Doug Coby made it two in a row as he again dominated the competition. Coby, who was back in Tommy Baldwin Jr.’s No. 7NY for second straight race following a victory at New York’s Riverhead Raceway, spent the first half of the race conserving his equipment while Matt Hirschman led the way. Hirschman jumped into the lead at the start. Coby moved into the lead for the first time following a restart on Lap 104, but he appeared to be in trouble as J.B. Fortin began marching through the field with fresh tires. Fortin had almost caught Coby when the caution flag waved for a spin by Justin Bonsignore. That allowed the entire field to hit the pits for fresh tires, with Tommy Catalano beating Coby off pit road to take the lead.

Catalano’s time at the front was short, as Coby quickly returned to the lead during the restart with 19 laps left. Coby had the race under control at that point and looked well on his way to victory until contact between polesitter Jake Johnson and Eric Goodale brought the caution flag back out with two laps left.

Coby held serve during the Overtime restart, fending off Jon McKennedy and pulling away to his 33rd NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. McKennedy’s runner-up result was his best finish of the season. Hirschman dominated the opening 100 laps of the race but struggled to race his way back through the field following his first pit stop. After being mired down in traffic, he eventually recovered to finish third, but he admitted there were some decisions he would like to have back after he dominated the opening portion of the event. Ron Silk finished fourth for his second top-five of the season, while Johnson was fifth in his second career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start. Kyle Bonsignore, Austin Beers, Fortin, Goodale and Justin Bonsignore completed the top 10.

A big shout-out to young Jacob Perry who qualified the Jack Bateman entry in fifteenth spot. Melissa Fifield made the top 20 in 19th spot.

Perry got to run a few practice laps due to his tire disadvantage by having this be his first race. The third generation driver found his balance and was happy with the car. He struggled in single car qualifying, fully expected being set up for the end of the race. Started 15th, fell into a ride mode just setting up for the end. He came in for tires on the first yellow and just got beat by what they didn’t know. Took two right sides and came back around for the left and NASCAR called one to green. Left side lugs were already off so they were committed to the stop and unfortunately they went green and he lost a couple laps in the pits. Once he was in the hole, he couldn’t climb out, not getting the wave or lucky dog. Despite all, he fought hard and turned some really good laps, had great long run speed and really felt he had a top 5 car at the end, unfortunately just didn’t play out that way. Perry and his team built a notebook and will come back prepared for Monadnock but until then, time to go win 15k at Claremont this week!

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series heads for Jennerstown, Pa this Saturday night. For those of you unable to make the trip the event will be live streamed starting at 8:00 pm on FloRacing.

Ron Silk is the series point leader going into Jennerstown holding a three point edge over Eric Goodale. Jon McKennedy sits in third, 8 points back. Tommy Catalano is tied with McKennedy. Rounding out the top five is Austin Beers, 19 points back. Sixth thru tenth include Kyle Bonsignore, Craig Lutz, Justin Bonsignore, Dave Sapienza and Patrick Emerling.

After a week’s delay because of rain the Stafford Motor Speedway shifted into high gear for their Call Before You Dig Modified Open 81 lap event. As heavy rain was closing in on the western and southern New England area the Stafford management opted to move their schedule around so as to get the entire program in, just about. The SK Lights were last in the program and had just passed their half way mark when the rains moved in.

Ronnie Williams was in top form as he took the checkered flag with a dominant drive to outlast Woody Pitkat over the final laps. Starting from the pole there was never a question as to who was in charge. The action was slowed by the caution flag with 50 laps complete for a spin by Marcello Rufrano. Under the caution the field came to pit road with Williams winning the race off pit road followed by Matt Galko, Chase Dowling, Pitkat, Stephen Kopcik, Teddy Hodgdon, Jeff Gallup, Keith Rocco, Tommy Barrett, and Cory DiMatteo. Galko streaked into the lead on the restart with Pitkat moving into second. Williams fell back to third with Dowling and Hodgdon side by side for fourth place. Pitkat took the lead from Galko on lap-53 and Williams was now trying to follow Pitkat by Galko, which he did on lap-54 to move into second and drop Galko back to third. Dowling was fourth with Hodgdon right behind him in fifth place.

Williams was now applying heavy pressure to Pitkat for the lead and he made a move to the inside of Pitkat on lap-59 to move back into the lead. Gallup spun in turn 2 to bring the caution back out with 60 laps complete. A multicar wreck broke out on the restart with Barrett taking the hardest hit into the turn 2 wall to bring the caution right back out before a lap could be completed.

On the restart, Pitkat powered his way into the lead on the outside of Williams with Hodgdon third, Galko fourth, and Kopcik fifth. Williams made a move to the inside of Pitkat in turn 3 on lap-64 to move back into the lead but Pitkat didn’t cede the position and he retook the lead on lap-65 coming out of turn 2. The lead battle continued on lap-66 with Williams taking the lead in turns 3+4. Hodgdon was still third with Goodale and Galko making up the top-5. Kopcik was just behind Galko in sixth place while Williams was slowly starting to stretch out his advantage over Pitkat at the front.

Pitkat couldn’t get close enough to Williams over the final laps as Williams took the win. Goodale finished third with Hodgdon and Kopcik rounding out the top-5. Sixth thru tenth included Keith Rocco, Matt Galko, Chase Dowling, Stephen Kopcik and Anthony Bello, Newtown.

In other Friday night action at Stafford, Stephen Kopcik took down his first SK Modified® feature win of the 2022 season, while Kevin Gambacorta in the Late Model feature and Rich Hammann in the Limited Late Model feature events were both winners for the second consecutive week. Chris Matthews won a rain shortened SK Light feature for his first SK Light feature win at Stafford since September 5, 2008 and Jason Finkbein scored his very first career Street Stock feature win at Stafford in a photo finish with Travis Downey that was easily the best finish of the night.

Eric Berndt was the winner of the Blast Off SK Modified 71 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Rob Janovic finished second with Todd Owen, third. Jason Palmer was the Late Model winner with Ryan Morgan, second.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island defending NASCAR Modified champion Kyle Soper in the Wayne Anderson #15 seeking his fourth title in five years got his championship defense off on the right foot, literally Saturday night when he scored a milestone 25th career victory at the eastern Long Island oval. A strong field of 22 Tour Type Modifieds signed in for competition for the regular season opener.

Dave Brigati was runner-up in the Coors Light LFR with John Baker third in the Staria Automotive Chevy. Justin Brown of Manorville and JR Bertuccio of Centereach both recovered from an earlier race incident that saw Bertuccio sent to the rear for spinning Brown after contact. Brown and Bertuccio were fourth and fifth.

Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC Chris Fleming has a lot of things going his way so far this season at the place they call the Mad House. Not only does he have one of the best nicknames, The Showstopper, but his car was near perfection in the first Modified 25-lap race on Saturday night in front of about 10,000 fans who were hungry to see racing again. After two weeks off thanks to rain that canceled racing, Fleming and his crew found something.

“We worked on our car every night the last two weeks, and it paid off,” said the 58-year-old Fleming who won his 12th career Modified race in his 298th career start. Fleming led all 25 laps and got to start from the pole because he’s the points’ leader. While he’s never won a points title, he shakes his head when asked if this is his year.

Even with three caution flags Fleming never faultered on the single-file restarts on a somewhat damp track. There was a rain storm about 6 p.m. that came through but 90 minutes later after the track was dried the track was deemed good enough to race. Finishing second behind Fleming was Brandon Ward followed by Jason Myers, Burt Myers and Tim Brown, the defending champion.

In the second Modified Division 25-lapper it was Zack Brewer of Arcadia getting his first career win in that division. Thanks to the Madhouse Scramble he got to start on the pole and he never trailed in a clean race with no cautions. Finishing second was Jeremy Gerstner with Lee Jeffreys winding up third.

Matt Hirschman added to his war chest on Sunday as he won the Thomas J. Wanick, Jr. Memorial at the Mahoning Valley Speedway in Pennsylvania. Hirschman, who has 11 wins in 14 starts this year, collected $7,000 for his efforts. It was his 208th career win. Blake Barney finished second, Earl Paules, third and Chuck Hossfeld, fourth.

It’s been 53 races since dirt track star Stewart Friesen and Halmar Friesen Racing last visited victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, winning the season ending event of the 2019 season at Phoenix Raceway. Friday’s SpeedyCash.com 220 at Texas Motor Speedway was the end of a long dry spell, as the 38-year-old led a race-high 60 laps to secure the victory at the 1.5-mile facility. However, it took a pass on the final lap of the race on Christian Eckes for Friesen to pull into victory lane. A big shout out to Ryan Preece who finished third. When not racing the truck Friesen runs a dirt track modified at the Utica-Rome and at the Fonda speedways.

August 2,1968 Eddie Flemke began the weekend with a 50-lap win on Friday night. Driving the Bobby Judkins 2x, Flemke beat out Gene Bergin, Bugsy Stevens, Don MacTavish and Bob Santos

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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