RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Stafford’s Spring Sizzler Takes Center Stage, Other Tracks & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Spring Sizzler at Stafford took center stage this past weekend.

The best description of last weekends activity has to be “Modifieds on Long Play” Open wheeled Modifieds, 107 of them, were everywhere.

There were Tour type Modifieds (40), SK Modifieds (28) and SK Light Modifieds (39).

In addition there were 32 ACT Late Models, 25 Street Stocks, 22, Late Models and 16 Ltd Late Models.

The NAPA Spring Sizzler® weekend kicked off on Friday, May 12 and consisted of two 40-lap NAPA Duel qualifying races for the Open Modified division. The 40-lap races will each paid $3,500 to win and set the field for Saturday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler®. The American Canadian Tour (ACT) made its return to Stafford Speedway on Friday with a 75-lap feature.Limited Late Model and Street Stock feature events completed Friday’s racing program.

Scoring wins in the two NAPA Duel races were defending NAPA Spring Sizzler® winner Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk. Taking down feature wins were D.J. Shaw in the ACT feature, Matt Clement in the Limited Late Model feature, and Ryan Waterman in the Street Stock feature. In the first dual, Hirschman, who started sixth, led Woody Pitkat to the checkered flag to win the NAPA Duel Race. Marcello Rufrano finished third with Noah Korner and Anthony Bello rounding out the top-5. Eight cautions slowed the event. Buddy Cherette spun out causing three cautions and was also involved in a multi car wreck coming out of turn four. Thru attrition he finished eighth but in reality, should have been parked after the third spin! David Arute who was running eighth at the 25 lap mark had motor issues, ending his night. Jon Mckennedy was running second with 11 laps to go when he ran out of gas. He restarted and finished 12th. Ron Silk went pole to pole to win the second dual. Andrew Krause looked impressive as he came from an eighth starting spot to finish second. Stephen Kopcik finished third with Matt Galko and Eric Goodale rounding out the top five. Heavy hitters Doug Coby, Craig Lutz and Bobby Santos. Coby was running second on lap 18 when he hit the wall between turns three and four after contact with Lutz. Lutz was put to the rear. Santos was spun after contact with Matt Galko on lap 17. Galko was black flagged and put to the rear.

Saturday, played host to the $20,000 to win 51st NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®. Filling out Saturday’s racing card was qualifying and feature racing for the SK Modified®, SK Light Modified, and Late Model divisions along with last chance qualifiers for the NAPA Spring Sizzler®. Ron Silk left little doubt that he has mastered the Stafford Speedway lay-out as he picked up where he left off in modified competition at the nutmeg oval by following up his NAPA Fall Final victory last September with a victory in his NAPA Duel Qualifying Race along with taking the checkered flag in the 51st Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler. With $11,550 in lap money from the laps he led during the 100-lap race, plus $3,500 from winning his NAPA Duel and $20,000 for the NAPA Spring Sizzler, Silk went home with a payday of $35,050.

Starting on the outside pole Silk fell in behind Matt Hirschman at the start. Wasting little time, Silk passed Hirschman for the lead as they exited turn two on lap 4. Woody Pitkat followed him thru for second while Hirschman slipped to third. After setting a torrid pace tire wear began to take its toll. During a caution period on lap 66 most of the leaders including Silk, Pitkat and Hirschman pitted for fresh rubber. Not pitting and assuming the lead was Doug Coby who had pitted on lap 43 while running fourth. Led by crew chief Phil Moran, Silk rejoined the field in a preferred spot and by lap 70 had closed in on the leader. Silk re-took the lead on lap 73 as he and Coby entered turn three. From then on it was clear sailing to the checkered flag where he became the 28th different winner of the classic event. Pitkat finished second with Coby, third. Hirschman and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Jon McKennedy, Anthony Bello, Noah Korner, Stephen Kopcik and Michael Christopher, Jr.

Eight cautions slowed the event. The new Soft Walls did their job as no one was hurt and car damage was minimal. The first caution came on lap six when Ryan Ducette spun in turn two. The second caution came on lap15 when Jake Johnson’s engine exploded. The third caution came on lap 25 when Bryan Narducci and Andrew Krause spun in turn three. Both drove away. The fourth caution came on lap 30 when Krause spun with a flat tire. The fifth caution was for Marcelo Rufano who spun in turn two. The sixth caution eliminated Bobby Santos III who suffered race ending front end damage as a result of a trip into the front stretch wall as a result of a tangle initiated by Jimmy Blewett. The seventh caution was for Bryan Narducci who stopped in turn two and the eighth and final caution was for Matt Galko.

In other Saturday action at Stafford, feature events for the SK Modified®, Late Model, and SK Light divisions along with two 15-lap last chance qualifiers for drivers to earn starting positions in the NAPA Spring Sizzler® 100-lap main event were run. Jimmy Blewett scored the checkered flag in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature his second career win at Stafford and first since the 2005 NAPA Fal Final. Tom Fearn was the winner of the 30-lap Late Model feature and the SK Light feature saw a photo finish with Brian Sullivan making a last lap pass on Tyler Chapman and winning the race by inches or .005 seconds. Matt Swanson won the15-lap Last Chance Qualifier for the NAPA Spring Sizzler®.

The regular Friday night racing series begins this week, May 19. The Call Before You Dig Open Modified 81will augment the regularly scheduled program.

The Bowman Gray Stadium again played to a packed house as Jason Myers held off Tim Brown as he scored his 38th career win at the North Carolina track. Myers qualified on the pole and never looked back. Myers moved up to a tie for ninth all-time in Stadium history in the Modified division, giving the Myers immediate family (Gary, Burt and Jason) 165 combined wins. Burt has 88 wins

Lee Jeffreys was third, Chris Fleming was fourth and Junior Snow was fifth. At about 9:30 p.m., a rain storm moved in during the second lap of the second Modified race.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island saw Jack Handley Jr. take down the Modified feature over Dylan Slepian, Chris Rogers, John Beatty Jr and Michael Rutkoski. Handley also won the truck feature.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series makes its first of three visits at the eastern Long Island oval this Saturday night.

Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speeedbowl Timmy Jordan followed up his second place finish in the season opener by recording his first victory of the season in the 35-lap SK Modified feature. The win was the 12th career SK Modified victory at the Speedbowl for Jordan and his 39th victory at the track overall.

Anthony Flannery was second and Eric Berndt, third. Defending division champion Todd Owen made a quick to Waterford after competing at Stafford, finished third. Jon Puleo was fifth Earlier in the day Flannery, Owen and Puleo all competed in the SK Modified feature at the NAPA Spring Sizzler at Stafford Speedway.

In other action at Waterford, Andrew Molleur won the 30-lap Late Model feature. Al Stone III won the 25-lap Street Stock feature. Christopher Garside won the 25-lap Mini Stock feature and Brody Monahan won the 25-lap Truck feature.

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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