Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Labor Day weekend signifies the three-quarter mark in the racing season.
It appears that the Monaco Tri-Track Modified Series has been the most successful in 2023. Average car count per event has been 31 cars with great crowd attendance for all events. The Stafford Open Series has averaged 30.2 cars. Stafford has also been blessed with great crowd attendance.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has averaged 25 cars per event. The WMT still has a great crowd appeal. The New York based Race of Champions series averages 23.2 cars per event and has a very loyal fan base.
On the bottom end are the Thompson Opens and the Modified Racing Series. The Thompson Opens fared very poorly with an average of 20.5 cars per event no matter how much money was paid out. Thompson promoters did bring back the Whelen Modified Tour which did help them at the front gate. The Modified Racing Series, once very strong, averaged only 15.8 cars per event. Sad to say it appears that their days are numbered.
Stafford Speedway had picture perfect weather on Friday night. Temps were in the mid 60s and not a cloud in sight. It got a little chilly when the program ended at 11:30pm but the action was hot and heavy. Tom Fearn was the big winner of the night by winning the 50-lap Paradiso Insurance 50-lap race for his first career extra distance victory among his now 61 career Late Model feature wins at Stafford. Other feature winners on the night were Cory DiMatteo in the SK Modified® feature, Tyler Barry in the SK Light feature, Damian Palardy in the Limited Late Model feature, and Adrien Paradis, III in the Street Stock feature. There were two kids big wheel races and they were won by Joseph Davenport and Alexander Ayers.
In the headline Late Model 50 lapper, with 5 laps to go, Fearn and Adam Gray were starting to pull away from Kevin Gambacorta in third with Gray about a car length behind Fearn. Gray couldn’t get close enough to Fearn as Fearn took down his fourth win of the 2022 season and his first ever Late Model victory out of 61 career Stafford Late Model wins in an extra distance feature event. Gambacorta finished third with Andrew Molleur and Wayne Coury rounding out the top-5.
In the 40 lap SK Modified event, Noah Korner couldn’t get close enough to DiMatteo over the final 10 laps as DiMatteo took down his second win of the 2022 season. Todd Owen finished third with Keith Rocco and Anthony Bello rounding out the top-5. Numerous cautions slowed the event.
Tyler Barry recorded a hard fought win in the SK Light 20 lapper that saw 35 cars going to post. Chris Matthews couldn’t get close enough to Barry to make a bid for the lead as Barry scored his second win of the 2022 season. Alexander Pearl finished third behind Barry and Matthews with Tyler Chapman and Tyler Alkas rounding out the top-5. In victory lane Barry dedicated his win to his grandfather Art Barry who had recently passed away.
This coming Friday night will be the TC13 SK Modified event that will honor the late Ted Christopher.
The Stafford Speedway will run each and every Friday night thru Sept 30 with the exception of Sept 16. The weekend of Sept 23 and 24th will also include the 49th annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final on the 24th. The Fall Final will include the Tri-Track Open Modified Series (80 laps), SK Modified® (40 laps), SK Light Invitational (non-points, 20 laps) and Vintage All-Stars (15 laps). Stafford will wrap up their season on Friday night, Sept 30 with Champions Night.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series traveled to Oswego New York this past Saturday. Twenty five Modifieds were pre-entered. To no ones surprise, Matt Hirschman who was fresh off a win in a Race of Champions event at the Spencer Speedway on Friday night turned in the fastest speeds in afternoon and also set fast time for the Meyhew Pole. Second fastest was Doug Coby in the Tommy Baldwin 7ny. Evidently Coby and Jimmy Blewett kissed and made up as Blewett crew chiefed the car while Baldwin was in North Carolina for a SMART event.
The Long Island Gang prevailed in the end as Justin Bonsignore inherited the lead after a late race pit stop by Coby and Hirschman. The front runners pitted for tires with 28 laps to go. Bonsignore stayed out and ended up holding off Chuck Hossfeldt for the win. Craig Lutz finished third. Kyle Bonsignore finished fourth with Hirschman rounding out the top five.
At the drop of the green Hirschman jumped out into the lead with Coby following. Both set a fast pace when the first caution flew for liquid dropped on the track when Tyler Rypkema lost his engine. Once the mess was cleaned up the field went back to green but it didn’t last as the caution was again displayed when JB Fortin got turned on the front stretch and in the process collected Bobby Santos and Ken Heagy. On the lap 42 restart Hirschman continued at the point with Coby breathing down his neck. With the leaders on cruise control the laps ticked off until the caution flew on lap 70 when Gary McDonald spun triggering a mass exodus to the pit area by the entire field. The Baldwin crew led by Jimmy Blewett changed both rear tires and the right front. For Coby. Hirschman’s crew did the same but was blocked on pit lane which slowed his re-entry to the track.
The green was displayed on lap 76 with Coby in the lead with Justin Bonsignore in hot pursuit. Hirschman was buried in ninth spot. At the 100 lap mark Coby continued to lead the pack. Bonsignore was running second with Ron Silk, third and Jon McKennedy, fourth. Hirschman continued to be mired in traffic.
As the laps wound down and Coby could almost see victory the caution flew with 29 laps to go when Andrew Krause was turned by Kyle Bonsignore on the front stretch. For some strange reason Jimmy Blewett made the decision to bring Coby in for fresh tires and in doing so, handed the victory to Justin Bonsignore on a silver platter. Blewett blew it on that decision which changed the entire complexion of the race..
The green was displayed on lap 125 with Justin Bonsignore out in front with Craig Lutz in second followed by Kyle Bonsignore, Chuck Hossfeldt and Kyle Ebersol. The final caution came on lap 134 when Ebersol and Anthony Sesley crashed in turn one.
With 11 laps left the field went back to green. With four laps left Hossfeldt made a move on Lutz for second spot. At the finish it was Justin Bonsignore in the top spot with Lutz, Kyle Bonsignore. and Hirschman making up the top five. Sixth thru tenth included McKennedy, Coby, Santos, Eric Goodale and Krause.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes a week off before heading to the Riverhead Raceway on eastern Long Island, NY on Saturday, Sept 17.
Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Anthony Flannery took down his first career SK Modified victory in the 35-lap feature. Todd Owen finished second and Eric Berndt was third. In the 30-lap Late Model feature it was Ray Christian III in victory lane . Evan Bourgeois took the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature with Brian Norman taking the 25-lap Street Stock feature.
Across the big pond at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, Dylan Slepian brought the Eastport Feeds Chevy home for the win. The win is the 7th of Slepian’s career. Jack Handley Jr. was the runner-up in the Hydro Action Chevy, while an impressive run was turned in by Jeffrey Goodale with a third place finish in the Riverhead Building Supply entry. Matt Brode came all the way from fifteenth to finish fourth withe Kyle Soper, fifth.
Down in the southland the SMART season resumed on Sept 3 with RACE #7 at the CARTERET COUNTY SPEEDWAY (NC). Brian Loftin took the win over Burt Myers,Gary Putnam, Caleb Heady and Jonathan Brown.
With the cooperation of the Arute family a book has been published with pictures and biographies of the 50 Greatest Drivers at Stafford.
The Stafford Motor Speedway had become the epicenter of NASCAR Modified racing in the northeast by the late 1980’s. From its dirt beginnings to its lightning-fast asphalt, Stafford had become the toughest and most gratifying track to score a victory. The Arute family which has owned and guided the destiny of the facility commissioned their thousands of loyal fans to name their favorite drivers. In alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone.
Tom Baldwin, Gene Bergin, Brett Bodine, Geoff Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Ron Bouchard, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Ted Christopher, Leo Cleary, Tim Connolly, Jerry Cook, Corky Cookman, Pete Corey, Fred DeSarro, Richie Evans, Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Flemke, Sr., Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Ernie Gahan, Bill Greco, Bo Gunning, Ray Hendrick, George “Moose” Hewitt, Tony Hirschman, George Janoski, Charlie Jarzombek, George Kent, Buddy Krebs, Randy LaJoie, Jan Leaty, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin, Ray Miller, Steve Park, Bob Polverari, Bob Potter, Brian Ross, John “Reggie” Ruggiero, Greg Sacks, Ollie Silva, “Wild” Bill Slater, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Stefanik, Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, George Summers, Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino, Maynard Troyer and Satch Worley.
Books are priced at $17.95 each and be purchased at the track at the Novelty Booth or at the Stafford Motor Speedway on line store. Books are also available at Amazon.com and at Coastal181 (877-907-8181.