Carey & Palardy Score First Career Stafford Wins; Hammann Leads Limited Late Models Into Extra Distance Race

Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – While racing in different divisions, SK Light driver Josh Carey and Limited Late Model driver Damian Palardy share similar stories of struggle on their way to their first career Stafford feature victories on Friday, June 3.

Carey came to the SK Light division with the #69 J & J Trucking Chevrolet in 2020 after racing Street Stocks at Monadnock Speedway while Palardy ran 2 races in 2019 before making a full-time move from Wild Thing Karts up to the Limited Late Model division also in 2020 with the #87 Casagrande Builders Chevrolet.

Both drivers struggled through the highs and lows of racing in 2020 and 2021 before scoring their first wins.

“It felt surreal to win and it’s still taking some time to sink in,” said Carey. “It was a very tough task over the last 3 years going from Street Stocks up to a modified. A lot of people told me Stafford was one of the toughest tracks to find success at and we’re a low budget team that worked our tails off for 3 years with a lot of ups and downs. It all worked out that night with a little luck on our side and with a good car I was able to stay up front and hold off a hard challenge from Tyler Chapman. It feels really good to finally get it done and now I know that I can do it again and I have to give a big thanks to J & J Trucking, Westover Auto Salvage, Ethan Durocher for his crew help, Joe, R.A.D. Auto Machine, Chassis Pro, Todd Owen, Fenceline Films, Black Flag Podcast, my family, FloRacing, and Stafford for having the most professional track for us to race at.”

“It all feels very surreal and it’s still hard to believe in all honesty,” said Palardy. “I never thought I’d get this car to victory lane this quickly. My last win was back in the kart days which would have been 5 years ago and I figured it would have taken two or three more years to get into victory lane. Going from karts to the Limited was a huge jump but I think the biggest thing for me was getting a handle on the car and to not be afraid of the track. My first year, every time I went out, I was afraid of wrecking the car and not being able to race the next week but I realized that the only way to learn is to push the car. I probably wrecked the car at least once a week in my second season so I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do and this season thanks to Casagrande Builders and Rob Russell Chassis we got a new front and rear clip, a new motor and a new transmission. The engine I had was 7 years old without a refresh so the new equipment has made a huge difference for us. Thanks to Casagrande Builders, my father and grandfather for their support, and RRC for giving me the best chassis I could ever have.”

Both Carey and Palardy began to have doubts about winning a race, but through perseverance and hard work, they were able to overcome their shortcomings and enjoy the feeling that comes with winning a race.

“I’ve been in that situation 3 or 4 times before being up front leading a race and I’ve given it away each of those times,” said Carey. “I knew Tyler [Chapman] had a fast car and when he gave me the bumper with 3 laps to go, I was telling myself that I couldn’t give this one away and this was my race to win. I took his lane away, we raced really hard, and I was able to get it done.”

“I started feeling down in the middle of last year because although we were finishing in the top-10 every week, we weren’t progressing,” said Palardy. “I worked on some things I was doing wrong and towards the end of the season we went from the top-10 to the top-6 and almost the top-5. My confidence has been boosted a lot and now I know what to do and what I’m capable of doing, I just have to focus and master it.”

Carey’s victory was the third feature win in four SK Light races for drivers in Chassis Pro cars that are prepared by Todd Owen and Butch Shea. Carey joins Derek Debbis and Chris Matthews as Chassis Pro winners this season and he is looking to add to his win total throughout the remainder of the 2022 season.

“Todd’s program that he’s put together the last couple years has really progressed and I think he has the best SK Light program going right now,” said Carey. “Things are starting to click and there’s a lot of success behind the Chassis Pro team and it feels really good that we’re able to bring some success to the team. My car is a 2017 car that Todd won races with at Waterford so I was happy to get his old car back into victory lane and hopefully we can keep it rolling now. It’s really hard to win at Stafford but I’m a big believer in momentum and whenever we’ve had some momentum things have seemed to go really well for us. I’m certainly looking forward and I believe we can get another win this year.”

Palardy’s confidence is also through the roof after his first win, but he has tempered his expectations as he has to now learn how to drive a car capable of being a weekly contender for victories

“I think we can win again but I still have a big learning curve because now I have a fast car and not a car that likes to fall on its face so I have to get used to driving a fast car,” said Palardy. “Now that we’ve won a race I’m also going to have to learn how to get through traffic again starting towards the back but I definitely feel like we can win again.”

Carey’s and Palardy’s first opportunity to capture career win number two will be during the Stafford Weekly Series program scheduled for this Friday, June 17th. Stafford’s SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and Street Stock divisions will all be in feature action.

 

Rich Hammann Leads Limited Late Models Into Extra Distance Race

For Stafford Speedway Limited Late Model driver Rich Hammann, the 2022 season has picked up right where he left off in 2021.

Hammann enjoyed a breakout year in 2021, scoring his first 2 career Stafford feature victories along with a career best 3rd place finish in the point standings.

Through the first 6 races of the 2022 season, Hammann and the #28 NAPA of Tolland team have already matched their 2 wins from last season and they currently occupy the top spot in the race for the Limited Late Model track championship heading into the division’s only extra distance feature event this Friday, June 17.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the season so far,” said Hamman. “I wasn’t sure what to expect at the beginning of the season but we’ve been able to be very consistent. Rob Russell and the guys at RRC have really helped take care of me. They’ve given me all the tools I need every week to be consistent and I’ve done pretty well at managing my tires and I’d like to thank NAPA of Tolland, Mobile Welding Industries, DMW Graphics, and Rob Russell Chassis for all their support.”

Hammann has already matched his 2 wins from a year ago but he is not content with just matching last year’s win total. Hammann is looking for more wins and he feels like he should already have surpassed his win total from 2021.

“We’ve got 2 wins so far but I feel like I should have had a couple more already,” said Hammann. “There was one race where the guy in front of me missed a shift on a restart and then another night I ran through the grass and that broke the coil and rotor on the car. I’m certainly hoping for more wins this season, that’s what we go for every time we go out on the track. I’d at least like to get one more win than I had last season.”

Hammann has recorded a total of four podium efforts to go along with a 5th and 6th place finish in his 6 starts thus far this season and he credits the assistance of Rob Russell Chassis in addition to a good notebook as the secrets to his consistency.

“We have really good notes from last year and the key is to be able to stay up on the tires with things like stagger,” said Hammann. “When Stafford has the open modified races, there’s different rubber down on the track so it’s a good thing to have some good notes to work off of to adjust your car. Also RRC has been a huge help to me this season.”

Hammann is looking forward to adding the 25-lap extra distance feature to his resume this Friday night as he has a car that is good on long green flag runs, but he knows it’s a tough road to get into NAPA Victory Lane.

“My car is a good long run car so I’m feeling pretty good about this Friday night,” said Hammann. “But you don’t know until you actually get out there on the track. I think we’ll be keeping the car setup pretty similar to what we’ve been running so far this season. It’s pretty tough to win races. If you have to start in the back, you need to be patient so you don’t’ smash the car up. You race with the same group of guys and girls every week so you need to have a mutual respect with everyone. If someone sees that I have a faster car, they let me go and if I see someone coming up behind me who is faster, I let them go. Patience has been a big key for me with having to start in the back due to the handicapping.”

 

Matt Clement Seeking First Win of ’22 in Limited Late Model Extra Distance Feature

With Stafford Speedway’s Limited Late Model division set for their extra distance feature of the 2022 season this Friday night, June 17, Matt Clement, driver of the #59 Utility Services of New England Chevrolet, is in search of his first win of the year.

Clement has been close to reaching NAPA Victory Lane this season with a second place finish on May 13 and two third place finishes. A victory would mark Clement’s fourth consecutive season with a victory after he spent the first 4 seasons of his career winless.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction,” said Clement. “We came pretty close to a win and we lost it in the last lap or two but I’m much happier with the car this year and much happier with how we’re functioning as a team. I’m very excited about the progress my brother Jay has made in the 95 car and we’re ready for more success. This race is almost like our Daytona 500. It would be great if we could win this race because it would show the quality of the setup that we have in our car. I have to give a big thank you to Utility Services of New England and Dave Miller, he’s been instrumental in allowing us to race 3 cars this season, Derek Marder from Aquatic Wildlife and Robert from Elmo’s Dockside Restaurant both came through in the clutch for us in trying to get our #18 car back together after a big wreck a couple weeks ago, and DMW Vinyl Graphics and Ron’s Automotive of Manchester. Without all their support, we wouldn’t be able to be out on the track.”

In addition to extending his winning streak, Clement has some extra motivation to be the first car to see the checkered flag this Friday night.

“I’d take a win any day of the week but this Friday would be a little more special because my Dad is retiring from RPI in Hartford after 24 years and it would be pretty great to be able to bring him home a trophy,” said Clement. “We’ve been struggling the last couple weeks with the chassis seeming to go away towards the end of races. We need to zero in on how to get the car to run as well in the feature as it does in practice because we’ve been consistently quick in every practice session this season. The wins will come for us if we keep on taking things one week at a time”

Clement enters the Limited Late Model 25 this Friday night sitting in fourth place in the point standings, 34 points behind Rich Hammann. If not for an early exit from the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler® feature event that left him with a 16th place finish, Clement would be even higher in the standings.

“It was a very tiny thing that did us in that first race,” said Clement. “We had a new hood on the car and it managed to unscrew the radiator cap. With all the things that could happen to us on the racetrack, that was probably a best case scenario for a DNF. It was disappointing but stuff like that happens and we’re just going to move on to the next race. We just have to be consistent and finish up front for the rest of the season. It’s almost like the pressure is off for us now. The year we won 7 races we were leading the points for the majority of the year and I tried telling myself that I wasn’t worried about points but I was lying to myself. We’re out here to have some fun this year between myself, my father, and my brothers.”

Clement will have his work cut out for himself and his #59 team as they try to get to NAPA Victory Lane for the first time in 2022. Through the first 6 races, there have been 5 different Limited Late Model winners thus far in 2022 with Hammann the only repeat winner.

“It’s becoming exceedingly more difficult to win races in this division,” said Clement. “Everybody seems to be picking up the pace and you see Damian Palardy won a couple weeks ago and Devon Jencik won last week and Ari Jencik seems to be picking up speed every week. Drivers like Rich Hammann and Alexandra Fearn, they’re aggressive right from the start where a driver like Jeremy Lavoie takes a couple of laps to let things settle in. We have to go out and be aggressive right from the start of the race to drive through the field in time to be there to have a shot at the win at the end of the race.”

With 5 extra laps on the Limited Late Model card this Friday night, Clement says that he won’t change much on the setup of his car but he’ll have to work on saving his car for those final 5 laps as the tendency is for cars to be slower at the end of the race.

“I think our setup is going to be relatively similar to our 20-lap race setups,” said Clement. “With the 5 extra laps, most everyone’s cars tend to slow down at the end of races because we hit the right rear tires especially hard so we have to go into this race and take things easy for the first couple laps and see what the car is capable of giving us. We’re having a good time this season taking things one race at a time. We’re in the garage more during the week this year than we were last year looking for any extra speed we can find. My brother Jay is about to graduate from Central CT State University with an engineering degree so I’m always bouncing setup ideas off him because he has a great mind for thinking about how the car will react to certain situations.”

Stafford’s SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, and Street Stock divisions will join the Limited Late Models in feature action.

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