RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Reviewing The World Series & Daytona Speedweeks, Local News & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The World Series continued on Monday night with 50 tour type modifieds and 38  602 Modifieds on hand for qualifying.

Ron Silk, fresh off his 200 lap win on Friday night was the top time trailer. The top four drew for starting spots. Patrick Emerling drew the pole as Silk drew the fourth starting spot, just ahead of Ron Williams and Matt Hirschman. Luke Baldwin was the fastest qualifier for the 602’s

Emerling led the charge to the green in the 50 lap tour type feature followed by Tom Martino, Eric Goodale and Silk. The first caution came on lap 2 when Dylan Steuer hit the wall in turn two. Anthony Sessley and Amy Catalano were collected in the incident. Emerling led the restart followed by Silk, Goodale, Hirschman and Williams.

Silk took the lead in turn 4 on lap 5. The second caution flew onlap 10 when Paul Hartwig, Jr. spun. During the caution Anthony Nocella pitted for a chassis adjustment. Silk dogged the restart as he held back and almost caused a major wreck. On the second try Silk started clean, leading Emerling, Goodale and Hirschman.

The third caution flew after JR Bertuccio forced Andrew Krause into the backstretch wall. Silk again led the restart as Hirschman powered into the second spot as Emerling slipped to third. Joey Coulter moved into fourth. Bertuccio brought out the fourth caution as he oiled down the track. Silk led the restart but gave way to Hirschman in turn one. Silk momentarily slowed on lap 32 and ended up parking it on lap 37 with engine trouble.

With Silk out Hirschman continued to lead followed by Emerling, Goodale, Colter and Burt Myers. Chris Hatton spun on lap 41 bringing out the fifth caution. Hirschman continued to set the pace. Shortly after the sixth caution was displayed when Anthony Nocella ended up in the wall in turn two after having contact with Myers.

Hirschman continued to lead before the seventh and final caution flew when Amy Catalano spun on lap 46. Hirschman led the restart for the four lap sprint to the finish where he scored his 14th win at New Smyrna. Patrick Emerling finished second with Joey Coulter, third. Tyler Rypkema

Eric Goodale rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Jimmy Blewett, Craig Lutz, Anthony Bello, Brian Robie and Spencer Davis.

Trevor Catlano made it two in a row in the 602 modifieds and William Byron was the Super Late

Model winner.

Matt Hirschman took a Sunday drive on a Tuesday night as he totally dominated the 50 lap tour type modified feature that went non-stop, pole to pole. Third generation Luke Baldwin scored his first ever 602 modified 25 lap event.

In the tour type modified event Hirschman took the lead five laps into the 50-lap race and pulled away, finishing ahead of Patrick Emerling and Eric Goodale for the win. Anthony Bello and Ronnie Williams rounded out the top five.

Sixth thru tenth included Tyler Rypkema, Jimmy Blewett, Brian Robie, Anthony Nocella and Caleb Heady. Among the missing was Ron Silk who went home with a blown engine.

William Byron backed up his Monday night Super Late Model win at New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing by taking the Clyde Hart Memorial on Tuesday night.

Byron started the race in the 10th position after a disappointing qualifying effort, but slowly but surely worked his way through the field before taking the lead on lap 55 of the 100-lap, $10,000-to-win ASA Southern Super Series season opener. Jake Finch finished second.

The 602 modified feature brought back memories of the early days of the SK modifieds when competitors couldn’t make a lap without crashing. Luke Baldwin, son of Tom Baldwin Jr led the entire 25 lap distance to record the win. Trevor Catalano finished second.

Matt Hirschman continued his domination of the tour type modifieds at New Smyrna on Wednesday night despite some mid race drama. Following the redraw of the top five, Hirschman started fourth behind Jimmy Blewett, Patrick Emerling and Ron Williams. Williams took the lead on lap four only to lose it following a restart on lap seven when Blewett took it back. Emerling moved into second on lap 9 and by lap 12 Hirschman was fourth.

Hirschman displaced Emerling on lap 24 and set his sights on Blewett for the lead. Hirschman made the move for the lead as he entered turn three on lap 29. Following a restart on lap 47 Emerling displaced Blewett for the runner-up spot. As Blewett began to fade Williams took over third spot on lap 54. Tom Martino spun out on lap 57 and set the stage for the most dramatic moment of the event.

On the restart with Hirschman on the outside and Emerling on the low side the pair entered tun one side by side. As the entered turn two Emerling rode Hirshman up high. A spin by another competitor made for a complete restart. Hirschman expressed his displeasure to Emerling for his deliberate move. Hirschman led the restart with Emerling on his tail. Blewett, who was running fourth, dropped out with transmission problems.

In the mean time Emerling took the lead in turn one only to lose it in turn two as Hirschman executed a cross-over move. On lap 63 Burt Myers moved into fourth. Two laps later Anthony Nocella moved into fifth.

At the finish it was Matt Hirschman taking the win over Patrick Emerling, Ronnie Williams, Anthony Nocella and Burt Myers. In a post race interview Hirschman declined to comment on the issue with Emerling.

When interviewed, Emerling stated “I tried to nerf him a little”. Finishing sixth thru tenth were Anthony Sesely, Cam McDermott, Eric Goodale, Anthony Bello and Teddy Hodgdon.

Other Wednesday night winners at New Smyrna were Casey Roderick in the Super Late Models, Ryan Luza in the Pro Late Models and Jason Lester in the Florida modifieds.

The Daytona Int Speedway hosted the Daytona 500 Dual Qualifiers on Thursday night. Joey Logano took the victory in Duel 1, and while he dominated the event by leading a race-high 29 laps, the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang had to hold off a fierce charge from Christopher Bell on the final lap of the race.

Aric Almirola made it a clean sweep on the night for Ford. While Logano’s win came in a tame race, Almirola didn’t have that luxury as Duel 2 was quite chaotic.However, after a bunch of pushing, shoving, and near-crashing on the final lap, Almirola was able to snake his No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang through to score the victory. Ryan Preece finished 10th, giving him a 20th starting spot in the Daytona 500.

Matt Hirschman made it seven in a row in World Series tour type modified racing at New Smyrna on Thursday night in front of a light crowd. Hirschman started on a pole and led every lap of the 50 lap contest. The drama between him and Patrick Emerling continued.

On a lap 40 restart Hirschman, in the lead spot, dogged the restart making it look like Emerling jumped. In the second try Hirschman went when he was supposed to go and rode Emerling up into the wall. Both continued without losing any spots. Hirschman then ran the remaining laps on cruise control to take the win. Emerling finished second.

Teddy Hogdon finished third with Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Anthony Nocella, Joey Coulter, Tyler Rypkema, Spencer Davis and Dillon Steuer.

In the 66 lap Grandpa Blewett Memorial 601 modified event it was Luke Baldwin making it two in a row and in doing so wrapped up the division championship. Lee Sharpstein finished second with Trevor Catalano, third. The World Series was Baldwins first foray in the open wheeled modifieds.

Other Thursday night winners at New Smyrna were Casey Roderick in the Super Late Models and Katie Hettinger made history on Thursday night at New Smyrna Speedway when she took the win in the 35-lap Pro Late Model feature.

Congratulations to the Stafford Motor Speedway and the Arute family who were awarded by Racing Promotion Monthly for staging the Event of the Year, the 50th Annual Spring Sizzler.

At the Daytona Speedway, Alex Bowman and Kyle Larson captured the pole and outside pole for the Daytona 500. Bowman’s speed was 186.686mph. Ryan Preece qualified 16th at 179.849mph. Forty two cars attempted to qualify.

Friday’s portion of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway was canceled due to inclement weather. Following the conclusion of the Hart to Heart Pro Late Model 100, rain brought an end to the evening’s racing. All of the remaining features on Friday’s card were canceled and will not be made up.

Race fans took it on the chin as they were not rain checked but were allowed to use their rain check plus $20 to gain admission to Saturday nights closing event.

For the Tour-type Modifieds, their World Series was scheduled to end on Friday with the Richie Evans Memorial. All drivers were paid in full and received full points for Friday’s race, based on their results in Friday’s qualifying session. As such, Matt Hirschman is the 2023 World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Tour-type Modified champion after an undefeated season in the class.

Matt Hirschman set fast time in qualifying for the Richie Evans Memorial. In tour type time trials, following Hirschman were Tyler Rypkema and Ronnie Williams. Rounding out the top were Tommy Catalano, Patrick Emerling, Anthony Nocella, Caleb Heady, Eric Goodale, Dillon Steuer and Teddy Hodgdon.

Matt Hirschman won every race during the World Series, a feat that had never been accomplished before in the Tour-type Modifieds. Hirschman surpassed Tom Baldwin on the all-time win list for Modified drivers in the event and tied Baldwin with his fourth World Series title.

Only Ted Christopher (nine) and Richie Evans (six) have more championships.

The final points indicated that Matt Hirschman is the 2023 World Series champion. Matt Hirschman – 300 pts, Patrick Emerling – 284pts, Eric Goodale – 252pts, Tyler Rypkema – 240pts, Ronnie Williams – 216pts, Anthony Nocella – 210pts, Anthony Bello – 198pts, Jimmy Blewett – 178pts, Joey Coulter – 174pts and Brian Robie – 174pts.

In other Friday night action at New Smyrna, Ryan Luza dominated the Hart to Heart 100 for Pro Late Models while Conner Jones capped off a dominant week with a second-place finish to claim the series title.

Luza took the lead on lap four and held on for the rest of the 100-lap event for his second win of the World Series.

The World Series wrapped up on Saturday night. William Sawalich closed out the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing by winning the Orange Blossom 100, while Casey Roderick claimed the World Series’ Super Late Model championship in an eventful finale. Sawalich took the lead from Bubba Pollard with 11 laps to go in the 100-lap race, scoring his second win of the World Series.

Austin Hill won the season opening Xfinity race at the Daytona Speedway. Hill led a race-high 38 laps in Saturday’s Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner. 300 and was narrowly ahead of surging John Hunter Nemechek when the sanctioning body called the caution for Sam Mayer’s spectacular accident on Lap 125-five circuits beyond the scheduled distance.

In Daytona 500 action on Sunday Ricky Stenhouse Jr., who has had a rollercoaster career in which he had to fight to keep a job, lost his seat at a NASCAR powerhouse team and opened his 14th season mired in a five-year losing streak. Stenhouse won the Daytona 500 in double overtime and under caution on Sunday in the longest running of “The Great American Race.”

The two overtimes pushed the 65th running of the race to a record 212 laps — a dozen laps beyond the scheduled distance and a whopping 530 miles.

New England race fans had their eyes on Ryan Preece who put on a stellar performance and was definitely headed for a top five before being taken out by s late race wreck in which he was collected. He was credited with 36th finishing position. The Daytona 500 was completely sold out. All stadium tickets, infield camping and Fan Zone standing room tickets were sold out.

Stafford Speedway has released a 54-piece trading card set featuring drivers from Stafford’s 5 weekly racing divisions. Cards come in packs of 13 with 12 base and 1 foil card. The trading cards feature the top-10 finishers in the 2022 points standings in the SK Modified®, Late Model, Limited Late Model, SK Light Modified, and Street Stock divisions that have registered to compete in the 2023 season.

Each trading card features an image of the car or driver on the front and statistics and the driver profile on the back. Checkered flags on the front side of the card signify 2022 victories for the driver while RC notes the driver was rookie of the year. “We designed each card a little differently to make the set unique,” continued Arute.

“There are 4 bonus foil cards in the set that came out really cool. We’re looking forward to see everyone’s reaction to them.”

Images were provided by all of Stafford Speedway’s photographers Noah Watts, Tom Morris, Dick Ayers, Erik Tavares, Jim DuPont, and Dino Lusa. Check out their photography pages for more information. Trading cards are now available for order in the Stafford Speedway online store and will also be available in the Stafford Speedway Collectibles booth on the midway throughout the 2023 race season.

“We’ve always talked about how cool it would be to have trading cards for our weekly drivers,” explained Stafford Speedway General Manager David Arute. “After the success of last year’s 50th Spring Sizzler® trading cards we thought it was a perfect time to work on the project. We’re hoping that the fans and drivers enjoy getting packs, completing sets, and getting cards signed by their favorite Stafford Speedway drivers.”

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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