RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Stafford Takes Steps For Improved Safety, Preece Wows In The Clash & More…

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Stafford Motor Speedway has long been the leader in race promotion and track operation.

Once again the Arute family has raised the bar in the interest of driver safety with the installation of soft walls in the turns of the half mile racing facility.

For this off-season track management has taken on one of its biggest projects in years, one that sets the bar for safety far higher than most any other short track in the country.

As recently reported on RacedayCT, track management is in the midst of replacing antiquated ARMCO (guardrail type) barriers through corners of the half-mile facility. Much of the ARMCO has been in place or has been replaced since the track was paved in 1967.

Installation has begun to install SAFER Barriers (Soft Walls). The only other short tracks that have soft walls are Martinsville, Richmond and Bristol. They are primarily NASCAR Cup tracks. The Oswego has their own system that employs Styrofoam blocks.

Work will begin with the barriers being installed in turns one and two. At this time the hope is to be able to also complete the installation of barriers in turns three and four before the 2023 season, but that project may get pushed to after the 2023 season.

A tip of the hat to the Arute family for putting the welfare of their competitors first!

A big shout-out to Ryan Preece who turned in a stellar performance in the Busch Lite Clash in the Los Angeles Coliseum. Preece took the lead with 68 laps to go and was headed for the win until his fuel pump malfunctioned. Martin Truex took the win over Austin Dillon. Preece limped home in seventh spot . A tip of the hat to Mike Joy for his mention of the Pinto Revolution and Bobby Judkins at the Stafford Speedway.

The central Florida flatlands come alive this weekend as the Men that live by the Grace of God, the NASCAR Modifieds, get it on for 200 laps at the New Smyrna Speedway on Saturday night. Among the favorites are Doug Coby and Tommy Baldwin Racing who have announced that Coby will pilot the historic No. 7NY for a full-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour campaign in 2023. Jon McKennedy will begin the defense of his title and will see some intense pressure from Justin Bonsignore. Also expected to compete are the balance of last years top 20 including Ron Silk, Eric Goodale and Matt Hirschman to name a few. A total of 36 confirmed entries have been received. Coupled with 49 tour type Modified entries brings the grand total to 85 of the open wheeled ground pounders.

For the second year in a row, the entire World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida will be broadcast live to a global audience on FloRacing, the home of NASCAR Roots racing. NASCAR and FloRacing reached a multi-year agreement at the start of the 2022 racing season. The annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing was one of the first events to be broadcast as part of the partnership. It has also been announced that all events celebrating the 75th year of racing at the Bowman Gray Stadium will be live streamed by FloRacing.

This year marks the 57th Annual World Series of Asphalt at the high-banked half-mile oval that sits just 10 miles away from the Daytona International Speedway. The event features 12 different divisions throughout nine nights of racing beginning on Friday, February 10, and ending on Saturday, February 18.

This year’s World Series will kick off with Super Late Models and Pro Late Models headlining the first night of action on Friday, February 10.

Saturday, February 11 will see the return of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to New Smyrna Speedway for the second-straight year. The series kicked off its 2022 season in front of a sold-out crowd at New Smyrna on one of the most highly-anticipated nights in series history. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 200 at New Smyrna will once again be the season-opener for NASCAR’s oldest running division.

Sunday, February 12 will see five divisions in action with Super and Pro Late Models once again headlining the action. They’ll be joined by Florida Modifieds, E-Mods and 602 Modifieds. Monday will see the Tour-type Modifieds back in action for their first night of World Series action, along with Super and Pro Late Models.

The ASA Southern Super Series will make its World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing debut on Tuesday, February 14. Some of the best Super Late Model drivers in the deep south will do battle in the Clyde Hart Memorial. Wednesday, February 15 will see Tour-type Modifieds, Super Late Models, and Pro Late Models in action with the Modifieds paying tribute to John Blewett III in the John Blewett III Memorial 76.

Thursday night will feature three different Modified divisions in action headlined by the Tour-type Modifieds, as well as Super Late Model and Pro Late Model action.

Friday, February 17 is the penultimate night of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. The Tour-type Modifieds will be in action for the final time with the running of the traditional Richie Evans Memorial 100. Pennsylvania’s Matt Hirschman went to victory lane in that event one year ago to become the all-time wins leader in event history.

The 57th Annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing will conclude on Saturday, February 18 with six divisions in action. The Super Late Models will headline the evening with the running of the Orange Blossom 100.

This year’s World Series will also be the last one before a complete repave of the facility scheduled for November as part of the ongoing efforts to maintain New Smyrna’s status as one of the top short track facilities in the nation.

FloRacing’s live broadcasts of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing will begin at 7:30 p.m. ET each night. The FloRacing subscription costs $150 for the year and gets you access to the entire NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, ARCA Menards Series East/West, select ARCA Menards Series events, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Tezos All Stars Circuit of Champions, High Limit Sprint Car Series, Eldora Million, every event at Stafford and much more. FloRacing is available on iOS, Apple TV, Roku, FireTV, and Android.

Modified entries totaled 43 as of last weekend. Race fans can watch the entire World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, including the season-opener for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, live on FloRacing February 10-18. Joe Coss will return to the broadcast booth for the entire 2023 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule.

Interest in the SRX event at Stafford Springs on July 13th is continuing to build to be one of the premier events in the northeast for the 2023 season. Confirmed drivers to date are Bobby Labonte, Brad Keselowski, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, Hailie Deegan, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman.

It has been announced that second generation driver Mike Christopher Jr. will return to the seat of the No. 7NY for the 2023 season. Christopher will pilot the car for the championship in the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series in their six-race schedule, and additional events to be announced. Christopher, a product of Stafford Speedway’s SK Modified division, is no stranger to racing for TBR – having won multiple races with the team – including his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event in 2022 at Jennerstown Speedway and events at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Christopher will race in the Tri-Track Series at tracks like New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Seekonk Speedway, Stafford Motor Speedway and Thunder Road Speedbowl against one of the most competitive fields in Modified racing.

It was also announced last week that Agawam, MA native Jeff Gallup will be carrying a special throwback scheme on his Ceravolo’s Auto sponsored modified. Normally Gallup carries the #4ma for competition, but for the Sizzler® Gallup will change his car number to #50 and utilize the same paint scheme to honor his late father Richie. “The #50 car was a car that my Dad owned and he won a championship with at Thompson and he won some SK races at Stafford with that car, so I’m throwing it back to that,” said Gallup. “The Sizzler is going to be my first asphalt race since my Dad passed away. John Catania, who did my Dad’s paint back then, is now doing the vinyl on my car. This will be the first time I’ve ever raced the number 50 and it’s going to be pretty cool for me to race a #50 modified car with the Gallup name on it. It gives me a lot of motivation because Dad won a lot of races and a championship with that scheme so he was pretty successful with it. I’ve been doing this long enough that you always go to the track wanting to win so there’s not any extra pressure. I’m very excited for the race and I’ve been doing prep work since the last open race at Stafford to get ready for the Sizzler® so we’ll see what happens and how we do.”

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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