Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The regular Friday night racing series at the Stafford Motor Speedway produced nothing short of an epic battle in their 40 lap SK Modified feature.
Marcello Rufrano started sixth and wasted little time in his charge to the front as he took the lead on lap 3. Jimmy Blewett started tenth and as Rufrano took the lead, moved into fifth with Keith Rocco on his back bumper.
By lap six the heat was on as Blewett took it up a notch and moved into third with Rocco coming on strong in fourth. Blewett moved into second on lap 11 with Rocco still in tow.
The 40 lapper went under caution on lap 26 when Mike Christopher took a hard shot into the turn four wall. The new Safer Barrier did its job and saved the young driver from injury. Back under green the three way battle continued. Blewett actually took the lead twice but Rufrano rebounded. Following a restart on lap 38 Cory DiMatteo moved into second but with the feature winding down Blewett made a hard charge under DiMatteo and took the runner-up spot back. Rocco got caught in the shuffle, losing spots.
Rufrano took the win with Blewett, second. DiMatteo settled for third with Tyler Hines, fourth. Patrick Kopcik rounded out the top five. Rocco ended up sixth. DiMatteo expressed his displeasure with Blewett’s driving but as the late Ted Christopher once said, “If you want to make friends, go to camp”.
In other Friday night action at Stafford, the track’s Limited Late Model division took center with their lone extra distance feature event of the 2023 season, the Riley Generators 30. Jeremy Lavoie was the big winner of the night, taking his first win of the season in the extra distance event. and Andrew Durand took home his first win of the 2023 season in the Late Model feature event. Both Brian Sullivan and Ryan Waterman scored their third wins of the 2023 season in only 4 races in the SK Light and Street Stock divisions respectively. Where was Ron Williams on Friday night? Open Tour type Modifieds will be added to the Friday night program.
After joining Stafford Speedway’s weekly contingency program prior to the 2022 season, Casella Waste has continuously increased their involvement at the Connecticut half-mile. First through partnering to bring race fans the Casella Waste Systems Open Modified 80 on Friday, June 16th, and now to help Stafford Speedway competitors discard used race tires.
“At the beginning of the 2023 season we were made aware that due to the increase in disposal prices, race teams would now be required to pay a per tire fee to dispose of their used race tires,” explained Stafford CEO Mark Arute. “We know the challenge each team faces to get to the track each week and knew if we could find a way to alleviate the disposal fees it would go a long way with our competitors. That’s where Mark DiMauro, Sr. and the Casella Waste team stepped in with an opportunity to partner with us to further help the race teams.”
Beginning at the NAPA Spring Sizzler®, all discarded tires are processed by Casella Waste at no cost to the race teams. “We don’t want to just be a track sponsor, we want to help support competitors whenever we can,” explained Mark DiMauro, Sr., Casella Division Manager. “This was a good opportunity to show that they don’t have to worry about discarding tires themselves or any of the hassle with it, it’s one less burden for them when the bigger picture is racing on Fridays and putting on a show for the fans.”. Early entries include Ronnie Williams, Eric Goodale, Woody Pitkat and Chris Pasteryak
Where are all the cars? Tracks in the northeast that host open wheeled Modifieds are close to running on empty as far as car counts go.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series drew only 20 cars at Seekonk. Riverhead Raceway on Long Island had only 14 Modifieds. Spencer Speedway in up-state New York drew 21 cars for their Race of Champions event.
Wall Stadium in New Jersey drew only 10 Modifieds and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl had 15.
The Stafford Motor Speedway appears to be holding their own as they had 25 cars in their SK Modified field last week.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series visited the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts on Saturday night. In operation since 1946, the track has been under the guiding hand of the Venditti family since day one. Twenty cars were on hand with a fair crowd in the stands.
It was another “Sunday” drive on a Saturday night as Matt Hirschman dominated the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s return to Seekonk Speedway on Saturday night, rolling to victory in the Seekonk 150. Hirschman won the Mayhew Tools pole award to kick-off the night and then led the entire 150-lap distance to take the feature win. It wasn’t his first Modified win at Seekonk, but the Pennsylvania native became the first two-time Tour winner in 2023 in the sixth race of the season and blew away the field by doing it in a classic dominating performance.
While Hirschman led the race, Doug Coby and Ron Silk tried to chase him down. As they chased him through lapped traffic, Hirschman lapped the fourth-place car in the final laps of the race. However, a caution allowed three-time series champion Justin Bonsignore, who was fourth, to get his lap back. At the end of the race, just five cars were on the lead lap.
“Pretty dominant performance, doing it from the pole,” Hirschman said. “It’s not a pit-stop race, so as long as you have a car that’s going to handle and stay with you, you can keep it out front. I believe this [race] was a big unknown for a lot of teams because of the [new] pavement and the characteristics of the track changed. I think I’m going to like it. This has always been a good track for me, not a great track. But now winning a Whelen Tour race here — we’ve kind of won it all here.”
Hirschman picked up the victory over Coby, Silk, Bonsignore and Anthony Sesely. J.B. Fortin, Jon McKennedy, Austin Beers, Kyle Bonsignore and Anthony Nocella completed the top 10. Saturday’s Seekonk 150 featured three cautions, two of which were the products of Jake Johnson spins. The third and final caution of the race came when Nocella spun with just 16 laps remaining. A replay of the Seekonk 150 will broadcast on CNBC on Sunday, June 18 starting at 12:30 p.m.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolls next to Riverhead Raceway in New York on June 24.
It was extremely cool once the sun went down on the east end of Long Island at the Riverhead Raceway. Chris Rogers became a first time winner as he out ran Chris Young for the Modified win. Jack Handley Jr. finished third with Dylan Slepian and Tom Rogers Jr rounding out the top five..
Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Anthony Flannery was the SK Modified winner, a survivor of the fittest. Shortly after the start of the SK Modified feature 12 of the 15 SK Modifieds on hand were collected in a wreck in turn two. The event was put on hold in order for crews to make repairs and the event was completed later in the evening. Following Flannery at the finish was Andrew Molleur, Troy Talman and Adam Gada. Ryan Morgan made his return to racing with a fifth place finish.
The Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina ran a 100 lap Modified event with Lee Jeffreys taking the win over Burt Myers who admitted he missed a shift in a late race restart.
A big shout-out to Ryan Preece who got to show his stuff in Sonoma, California when he went pole to pole to win the ARCA event held there last Friday.
The Thompson Speedway returns to oval track racing next Wednesday, June 21. They have a full night planned, promoted by the ACT Tour & PASS, with the Thompson Outlaw Open Modified Series set for 50 laps & $5,000 to win! Also on the racing card are The New England Supermodifieds, Thompson Late Models, SK Lite Modifieds, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks. Post-time is 6PM.
On a sad note, Dave Tourigny, a vital part of the Sonny Koszela Woodchopper Racing Team passed away on Thursday, June, 8, 2023. Modifieds designed, built and maintained by this Rhode lslander have notched close to 200 victories and secured several championships for drivers Fred DeSarro, Bugs Stevens, Ken Bouchard and Mike Stefanik. As part of the Koszela racing operation, his equipment won at dozens of tracks including such legendary Modified haunts as Stafford, Thompson, Albany-Saratoga, Oswego, Pocono, Richmond, New Hampshire and Martinsville (nine wins). He played a role in three National Modified championship runs (1970 with DeSarro, 1989 and ’91 with Stefanik) and three Stafford crowns (1970 and ’74 with Stevens, 1986 with Stefanik).
He was inducted into the NEAR Hall of Fame in 2014.
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).