Story By: SCOTT RUNNING / STAFFORD MOTOR SPEEDWAY – STAFFORD SPRINGS, CT – When Stafford Speedway kicks off its 2023 season with the 51st Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler®, Ron Silk is sure to be counted among the pre-race favorites.
Silk and the #16 Blue Mountain Machine / Future Homes team finished third in last year’s Sizzler® and won the season ending NAPA Fall Final in September. With an average finish of 4.3 in three Stafford starts last season, Silk and his team are eager to return to the Connecticut half-mile facility.
“The team and I are certainly looking forward to coming back to Stafford,” said Silk. “We thought the Sizzler® was an awesome event last year with a lot of cars, a lot of people in the stands, and a really good payday. We ran well in the Sizzler® and finished third but we needed just a little more to be able to keep up with Matt [Hirschman] and Ryan [Preece]. We made some improvements over the two remaining races we ran at Stafford and it was really good to get a win at the Fall Final last year. It’s a new year and a new race, but it’s always nice to come back to a track after your last visit there was a victory. We’ll try to take all the positives we can from the Fall Final to the Sizzler® but you’re still going to have to have a fast car and make the right decisions, so we still have a little bit of work ahead of us.”
“We’re all pumped for the Sizzler®,” said Silk’s co-car owner Joe Yannone. “Ronnie is comfortable at Stafford and the team always has a great time when we race there. We feel like our car has everything it takes to make it happen at Stafford so we’re all looking forward to the Sizzler®. The Sizzler® will be one of our highlight races for the 2023 season for sure and we’re definitely confident and looking forward to April.”
Last year’s 50th running of “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring” brought about several changes to the format. Rather than time trials, teams had to qualify for the race by finishing in a qualified position in one of two 40-lap NAPA Duel races. Drivers who didn’t qualify through a NAPA Duel went into a 15-lap last chance qualifier to earn the final starting positions in the 100 lap NAPA Spring Sizzler®. The new format saw 41 cars attempt to qualify for the 33 car starting field and brought about an atmosphere around the race that was appreciated by all competitors.
“I was really impressed with the atmosphere,” said Silk. “It felt like being at the track 15 or 20 years ago when I was younger with a buzz around the track and the race. Honesty as a racer, I’m kind of a fan of time trials, but for the fans it’s more exciting to have heat races, especially when the race is spread out over two days like the Sizzler®. I really like the idea of a 40-lap heat race rather than a 10-lap heat because if you get a poor starting draw, you at least have some time to do something about it. Last year we were fortunate enough to win our duel race, which was a great payday in itself for a 40-lap race, and I think that’s one of the main reasons why there was so much excitement around the race last season. With everything that happened last season, the race should only be bigger and better this season.”
Last year’s NAPA Spring Sizzler® paid a guaranteed $15,000 to win plus any contingency money earned and it paid $1,250 to start the race from total posted awards of over $130,000. For the 2023 NAPA Spring Sizzler®, the purse has increased to pay the winner a guaranteed $20,000 with $1,500 to start the race from total posted awards of over $140,000.
“Stafford has done a fantastic job with the purse,” said Silk. “I was looking at the purse the other day, and although it would be a very tough feat to pull off, if a driver could win their duel race and lead all 100 laps to win the race, the payout would be around $38,500, which would really be something remarkable.”
“The Sizzler is always exciting with the amount of competitors who come to Stafford and the track is always packed with fans,” said Yannone. “Stafford does a great job with the purse and that really helps draw attention to the modifieds.”
Silk made his NAPA Spring Sizzler® debut in 2004 and he has since made 15 starts with a best finish of third, which he has done three times, including last season. Silk would like to add the Sizzler® to his career win list while his owner says that a Sizzler victory would be a bucket list item for himself and the team.
“The Sizzler is certainly a prestigious race and it’s one of the bigger races that I haven’t won yet, so it would certainly mean a lot to me to win a race like that against that field of competition with a great atmosphere surrounding the race,” said Silk. “It would be really good for the team to get some momentum early in the season and it would be a nice payday on top of that. Thanks to my car owners Tyler Haydt and Joe Yannone, Future Homes, Blue Mountain Machine, and all the crew guys who give up their free time to go racing with us. We all enjoy doing it but it’s still a big commitment and we couldn’t do this without their help.”
“If we were able to win the Sizzler®, it would definitely be something for our bucket list and we would all be ecstatic,” said Yannone. “Ronnie is the guy to do it and our crew chief Phil Moran along with Tyler Haydt, myself, and everyone on the crew, we all have the utmost confidence that we can make it happen and it would be totally awesome to win the Sizzler®.”
The 51st Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® kicks off on Saturday, April 29, and will consist of two 40-lap NAPA Duel qualifying races for the Open Modified division. The 40-lap races will each pay $3,500 to win and will set the field for Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler®. The American Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models will also make their return to Stafford Speedway on April 29th with a 75-lap feature with over 40 cars expected for the race. Limited Late Model, Street Stock, and Vintage All-Star divisions will complete Saturday’s racing program.
Sunday, April 30th will play host to the $20,000 to win 51st NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®. Filling out Sunday’s racing card will be qualifying and feature racing for the SK Modified®, SK Light Modified, and Late Model divisions along with last chance qualifiers for the Spring Sizzler®.