RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Stafford, Bowman Gray, The NASCAR Mods At Riverhead & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The regular Friday night racing series at Stafford took the green under somewhat chilly conditions but the action was hot to say the least.

Glen Reen scored a somewhat surprise victory in the Call Before You Dig Open Modified 81 and Michael Gervais held off Jimmy Blewett to win the SK 40 lapper. Ryan Fearn notched the Late Model victory with a dominating driver that saw him lead all 30 laps, George Bessette, Jr. won the SK Light feature, Kevin Cormier won the Limited Late Model feature, and Ryan Waterman won the Street Stock feature to make it two-for-two in 2023 at Stafford.

In the Open Modified 81 Reen swapped the lead with Joey Cipriano before taking the lead for good on lap-53. Woody Pitkat moved into second to drop Cipriano back to third, just in front of Ronnie Williams and Teddy Hodgdon. Hodgdon took fourth from Williams on lap-55 while Reen was starting to stretch out his lead over Pitkat. Cipriano made a move to the inside of Pitkat on lap-57 but backed out of the move and fell back to fourth. Hodgdon went by Pitkat on lap-58 to move into second while Reen continued to lead. David Arute was on a charge as he moved into fifth and was applying heavy pressure to Cipriano for fourth place with 15 laps to go. With 5 laps to go, it was still Reen leading Hodgdon with Pitkat in third. Arute was finally able to get around Cipriano and take fourth place with Williams, Eric Goodale, Craig Lutz, Buddy Charette and Jeff Gallup making up the top-10. Reen led Hodgdon to the checkered flag to win the CBYD 81. Pitkat finished third with Arute and Cipriano rounding out the top-5.

In the SK Modified 40 lapper Mike Christopher took the lead on the start. The first of only two cautions flew on lap four when Tom Bolles and Noah Korner spun between turns three and four. Christopher continued to lead when on lap 9 the second caution was displayed for a five car spin that was triggered by Stephen Kopcik who was black flagged for his over aggressive actions. Among those eliminated was Keith Rocco who suffered severely bent right front suspension. Following a re-start Todd Owen took the lead in turn three on lap 11. By lap 14 Jimmy Blewett had come from a 14th starting spot to move into third. Gervais took the lead on lap 15. Two laps later Blewett was on his tail. While Owen slipped to third Blewett had the scent and was attempting to close in. For the final 20 laps Blewett dogged Gervais but to no avail. Gervais took the win and was followed by Blewett, Owen, Christopher and Marcello Rufrano.

Despite getting wrecked out of the SK 40 it was still a good night for Keith Rocco racing as both winning SK and Tour type cars were owned by Keith Rocco Racing.

The SK Lights were 34 cars strong. George Bessette, Jr. held off Chris Matthews for the win. Nick Anglace finished third with Alexander Pearl and Tyler Barry rounding out the top five. Meghan Fuller finished sixth. Other Friday night winners were Ryan Fearn in the Late Models, Kevin Cormier in the Limited Late Models and Ryan Waterman in the Street Stocks. The SK Lights take center stage this week with a double down, 40 lap feature.

The Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina got held up close to an hour but it didn’t put a damper on Tim Brown’s effort as he recorded the fastest time trial which put him on the pole for the first of two 25 lap modified events that were held. The 25 lapper went pole to pole without incident. Chris Fleming finished a close second. Lee Jeffreys was third, John Holleman was fourth and points leader Burt Myers was fifth. Dan Speeney won the nitecap over Mike Speeney and Jason Myers. Junior Snow and John Holleman rounded out the top five. Burt Myers finished seventh while Brown could do no better than tenth.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island for its first of three visits to the eastern Long Island oval. Originally scheduled for Saturday night the event was rescheduled to Sunday because of rain.

For the most part the Buzz Chew 200 was the Justin Bonsignore – Ron Silk show for 200 laps as they swapped the lead. It all came down to an overtime green-white-checker with Bonsignore coming out on top. Jon McKennedy finished third with Tyler Rypkema and Eric Goodale rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included J.B. Fortin, Patrick Emerling, Jake Johnson, Craig Lutz and Kyle Bonsignore.

Tough luck fell upon Doug Coby. After a poor time trial it was discovered that the incorrect rear end gears had been installed. His crew corrected the problem and he was placed at the rear of the field with a two lap penalty. He ended up finishing 19th in the 28-car field. Local favorite suffered a melt-down after a tangle with Tyler Rypkema. Sapienza drilled him after the confrontation that saw him ended up in the wall with suspension damage. Among the missing was Matt Hirschman who was forced to withdraw because of a prior commitment. Hirschman won at Mahoning Valley in Pennsylvania. Defending Riverhead Modified champion Kyle Soper drove Hirschman’s entry to a 13th place finish.

A somewhat light crowd was on hand for the event. The next race on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule is the Granite State Derby at Lee USA Speedway on Saturday, May 27.

Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl rain was the order of the day.

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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