RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Open Mods At Thompson, SMART Mods In Action & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – A mid week open competition event was held at the Thompson Speedway on Sept 14.

Ryan Preece was the 75 lap Outlaw Modified winner as six cars finished on the lead lap.

Ronnie Williams finished second with Mike Christopher, third with Chris Pasteryak and Tommy Barrett, fifth.

In other races at Thompson on Wednesday, Ryan Morgan was the 25 lap Late Model winner, Kevin Moore was the Mini Stock winner and Steven Chapman was the SK Light winner.

Sanctioned by the American-Canadian Tour, more than fair purses were paid as a disappointing field of cars were on hand including 10 Late Models, 21 Limited Sportsman, 10 Mini Stocks, 17 SK Lights and only 9 Modifieds.

Last Friday, Sept 16, marked the fifth anniversary of the passing of Ted Christopher. Christopher was on his way to compete at the Riverhead Raceway when the plane in which he was riding went down and crashed.

Ted Christopher is the Stafford Motor Speedway all-time winningest driver with 131 feature wins including 109 SK Modified and is also the winningest driver in NAPA Spring Sizzler® history with 6 wins. He also has 99 at Thompson and 47 at the New London Waterford Speedbowl..

He also accumulated nine SK Modified championships at the Arute family owned track. In addition to his SK accomplishments at Stafford, the man known simply as “TC” also picked up four track championships at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) and one SK Modified championship at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

In addition to his many SK Modified wins Christopher recorded one NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship and 48 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victories between the northern and southern tours. He also scored 10 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victories in 92 starts. Christopher was named one of the top 25 drivers in NASCAR’s weekly series in 2006, when the series celebrated its 25th anniversary. In 2008, Stafford named a section of its grandstand in his honor.

The Stafford Speedway was silent this past Friday night (Sept 16). Next weekend Fri, Sept 23 and Sat, 24th will 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 Tri-Track Open has 53 entries as of last weekend. For many years the Spring Sizzler has been considered the greatest race in the history of Spring. With the advent of the Stafford Motor Speedway and the Tri-Track Open Modified Series joining hands the Fall Final has become the Greatest race in the History of Fall. Years ago the Fall time of the year was always the time when tracks ran their biggest races. Martinsville and Langhorne then Trenton ran season ending events that saw the best in the business converge at season’s end. Those races are gone. The Race of Champions still exists but it’s nothing like it used to be as it is a New York based series. Thompson always had big fields of cars in the season ending Modified events, now they are lucky if they get 20. Martinsville is just another stop for the Whelen Modified Tour. Years ago one would see between 80 to almost 100 cars in competition. Those days are over!

Fifty three of the top Modified teams in the Northeast will be at Stafford to compete for $15,000 to win and a guaranteed $1,000 to start in the Tri-Track event. Total prize money for the 80 lap race will be in excess of $66,000. The 20 lap RaceChoice.com non-qualifiers race will pay $500 to start, while the winner will have the option to take home a $1,000 payday or transfer to compete in the NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final. Additional prize money will be on the line with a $300 bonus going to the winner of each heat race.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series headed across the big pond we call Long Island Sound this past Saturday night Saturday September 17th for their 70th start at the historic quarter mile facility. The event remembered and celebrated the career of the late Eddie Partridge as a driver, owner and race promoter.

At the start of the race Justin Bonsignore and Patrick Emerling broke out front with several players waiting in the wings including Doug Coby, Eric Goodale, Kyle Bonsignore and Ron Silk. With live pit stops on the infield of Riverhead Raceway in play for the first time in 70 WMT starts at the track fans would get to see pit strategy up close and personal. Just after the 100-lap mark Emerling was able to inch around Bonsignore for the lead but shortly thereafter on lap 139 during a caution flag Emerling ducked onto pit road for two rear tires.

As the race moved along Emerling with his new tires was on the march from the rear of the field during green flag runs and many wondered when Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby and Ron Silk would make their stops. The answer came during a lap 187 caution flag that saw that trio and others come for their two change tires. Emerling, who ran the Xfinity race the night before in Bristol, Tn. and was working on just two hour of sleep was the new race leader but knew that eventually Bonsignore, Silk, Coby and others on newer tires would become players for the win. After a couple of side by side laps between Emerling and Bonsignore, Justin would move the M3 Technology Chevy into the race lead for good on lap 231. Silk came home in the third position while Doug Coby and Eric Goodale completed the Top 5. Sixth thru tenth were rookie Austin Beers, Craig Lutz, Timmy Solomito, Kyle Soper and Jon McKennedy.

Infield pitting at the quarter mile oval was safe and orderly. Any car that had to be towed to the regular pit area had to remain there.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour takes two weeks off before heading to the Thompson Speedway on Oct 9.

Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Eric Berndt was the SK Modified feature winner. Todd Owen was second with Anthony Flannery, third. Ray Christian III of Uncasville got his sixth win of 2022 in the 30-lap Late Model feature. Charles Bailey III finished second with Cory DiMatteo, third. Evan Bourgeois of East Haddam scored his third victory of the season in the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature and Charles Beal was the Mini Stock winner.

Down in the southland Matt Hirschman was the winner of the SMART Modified event at the Dominion Speedway. Caleb Heady finished second in the Tom Baldwin 7NY and was followed by Brandon Ward, Bobby Labonte and Burt Myers.

Coming up this weekend, the Race of Champions Modified Series is set to close out at the Lake Erie Speedway in North East with a closing act that is second-to-none, the Greatest Tradition in Modified Racing – the 72nd Annual Lucas Oil Race of Champions 250. $15,072.72 and a year with the Al Gerber Memorial Trophy awaits the winner.

Last season, Andy Jankowiak of Tonawanda, N.Y., drove his way to the lead late in the race and in to Modified racing history, adding his name to the side of the Al Gerber Memorial Trophy, taking his place in the history of the sport. Jankowiak had a great time with the trophy, even doing a photo shoot during an ARCA Series race at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway, the former home of the Race of Champions.

Tim Connolly of Endicott, N.Y., returned to the seat of a Modified earlier this in the last remaining “Mystic Missile” from legendary Modified car owner, Bob Garbarino at North Wilkesboro in anticipation of returning to the Race of Champions. He will return at the 72nd annual event with the “Mystic Missile”. The last time the “Mystic Missile” ran the Race of Champions was in 1991 at Pocono and it was in victory lane with Donald “Satch” Worley of Rocky Mount, Virginia behind the wheel giving Bob and the late Joan Garbarino their only victory in the prestigious event.

Former race winner, Chuck Hossfeld of Ransomville, N.Y., intends to make his return to Race of Champions competition at Lake Erie driving for Todd Lorenzo in newly formed team.

Competitors will be racing for their biggest purse of the season as part of Presque Isle Downs & Casino Race of Champions Weekend in the 72nd Annual Lucas Oil Race of Champions 250 with well over $60,000 in posted awards and lap money up for grabs on Sunday, September 25, 2022.

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.

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