Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – At Stafford on Friday night, fans, competitors and officials were greeted with 84 deg temps and humidity so thick you could cut it with a knife.
The Open Modifieds were the main event, going 80 laps, while the SK Modifieds went 40 laps and the SK Lights went 20 laps.
In the GAF Roofing Open 80 there were 17 cars on hand. Needless to say it was Woody Pitkat’s night as he out distanced George Bessette to score his 82nd win at the track which placed him second only to the late Ted Christopher in all-time wins. Starting on the outside pole, Pitkat took the lead from pole sitter George Bessette as they entered turn three on the opening lap. Bessette, who had been parked by officials for over aggressive driving in the SK Light feature, took the lead following a restart on lap 16. Matt Galko chose not to pit during a caution period on lap 29. With fresh rubber Pitkat and Bessette retook the top spots on lap 62 and ran one-two to the finish. Teddy Hogdon finished third with Chris Pasteryak and Glen Rean rounding out the top five.
Keith Rocco ended a long dry spell as he put the Dan Avery owned SK Modified in victory lane by an almost photo finish over Jimmy Blewett. Rocco started fourth and took the lead in turn three on lap two. Rocco took a lot of pressure from Anthony Bello and at one point after a lap 31 restart took the lead. Rocco fought back to regain the lead one lap later. In the meantime, Jimmy Blewett who started ninth, worked his way into third spot with Todd Owen in tow. Following a restart on Lap 33 Blewett moved into the runner-up spot and tried every trick in the book to overtake Rocco who would not be denied the win. Bello tangled with Owen on the last lap which allowed Owen to move into third. RJ Marcotte took over the fourth spot and Mike Flynn the fifth spot while Bello recovered from his confrontation to finish sixth.
The win by Rocco took him to a career overall total of 304 wins which also include 154 victories at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, 71 at Thompson and 79 at Stafford Speedway.
Tyler Barry and his dad spent the week re-building his car and their efforts paid off as Tyler won the SK Light 20 lapper. Barry took the lead on lap 6. Nick Anglace finished second with Jason Chapman, third. Brian Sullivan, who started 14th finished fourth.
In other Stafford action, Tom Fearn scored in the Late Model feature. It was Fearn’s 64th win in the division and 81st overall which placed him third on the all-time win list. Jeremy Lavoie won the Limited Late Model feature, and Travis Downey took the Street Stock feature.
The long awaited 2023 SRX Series season opens on Thursday, July 13 at the Stafford Speedway. It marks the third consecutive year the series will run at Stafford and has sold out. The series will run for six consecutive Thursday nights at 9:00pm, with all events broadcast on ESPN. The division is making its first appearance at Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT on July 20. Other venues include Motor Mile Speedway in Fairlawn, Va (July 27), Berlin Raceway in Grand Rapids, Mich. (Aug. 3), Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Oh. (Aug. 10) and Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. (Aug. 17).
Ken Schrader joins a full-time lineup that already includes Marco Andretti, Hallie Deegan, Brad Keselowski, Bobby Labonte, Ryan Newman, Tony Stewart and Paul Tracy.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rolled into the Wall Stadium in New Jersey for the Jersey Shore 150 on Saturday night. In some good news it was learned that Anthony Noscella would be back on the Whelen Modified Tour driving the Russel Goodale No.46. Twenty two cars were on hand this hot and sultry night. Wall Stadium was modeled after the now gone Lonsdale Sports Arena that was located just outside Providence, RI. The competition at Wall was very fast and intense with non-stop excitement
Ron Silk, hot off his win at Riverhead, continued his streak as he slugged it out with Justin Bonsignore in front of a packed house. Silk, who started 11th, was in the top five before Lap 50 and took the lead for the first time on Lap 90 from pole-sitter Austin Beers. Bonsignore was able to get around Silk on a restart with 21 laps left, but the race was slowed multiple times by cautions, one of which took out Beers and Eric Goodale on the backstretch.
The final caution of the evening waved with 10 laps left with Bonsignore still leading Silk, setting up a five-lap dash to the checkered flag. Bonsignore was able to pull clear of Silk through Turns 1-2, but Silk used his bumper to move Silk out of the way entering Turn 3 to regain the race lead. Silk led the remainder of the race, though Bonsignore did everything in his power to return the favor. He gave Silk a big shot to the bumper with three laps left in Turn 3, but it wasn’t enough to regain the lead.
Six-time Modified Tour champion Doug Coby appeared to have a faster car than that of Silk and nearly got by him with 42 laps to go but contact with the slower car of Anthony Nocella took Coby out of contention just as he was making the pass for the lead. It didn’t appear intentional, but Coby was quite upset as he expressed his displeasure. Coby had also spun on lap 99 when he attempted to go under Silk
Wall regular Eddie McCarthy earned a career-best finish in third, with Anthony Sesely and Andrew Krause completing the top five. Coby finished sixth, followed by Matt Hirschman, Blake Barney, Beers and Dave Sapienza. One of the pre-race favorites Matt Hirschman had an “Off Night”. Hirschman, who had qualified third was running second on lap 43 when passed by Justin Bonsignore.
A replay of the Jersey Shore 150 will broadcast on Saturday, July 15 at 11 a.m. ET on CNBC.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action next Saturday, July 15 with the running of the Mohegan Sun 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The green flag is scheduled to wave shortly after 6 p.m. ET, with every lap available live on FloRacing.
Nearly 16 years to the day, JR Bertuccio returned to NASCAR Modified victory lane Saturday at the Riverhead Raceway when he led wire to wire in a non-stop 50-lap feature. Michael Rutkoski was second. Chris Young was third, Justin Brown and Mark Stewart completed the top five.
Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Todd Owen made it two in a row in the SK Modifieds. Owen took the lead from Kyle James on a restart with two laps remaining and went on to win the 35-lap feature Saturday. At the finish Rob Janovic moved into second as James faded to third. Anthony Flannery finished fourth with Eric Berndt, fifth. Tom Abele was the SK Lite winner.
The Bowman Gray Stadium in North Carolina provided another hot night of racing. The driver with one of the best nicknames at Bowman Gray Stadium, “The Showstopper,” was all of that and more on Saturday night in front of nearly 12,000. Chris Fleming, who will turn 60 years old on Wednesday, July 12, has a lot left in his tank and he proved it by winning the 100 lap Modified race holding off the rest of the field that included Burt Myers and Tim Brown. Fleming had the fastest car in qualifying, drew the pole, and was the leader throughout.
In 1967 the Stafford Motor Speedway was paved. The NASCAR Modifieds were the headline division. For 20 years thru 1986 Stafford would host and provide competition from the best in the busines from throughout New England, New York State, Long Island and from the south. Names like Eddie Flemke, Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Reggie Ruggerio, Ray Miller, Richie Evans, Maynard Troyer, Geoff Bodine, Charlie Jarzobeck, Greg Sacks, Wayne Anderson, Jamie Tomaino, Satch Worley and Ray Hendrick would be in the line-up and would record victories.
The all new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!
With the cooperation of the Arute family another 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).