WATERFORD – Tony Membrino Jr. might be making some phone calls this week looking for any short tracks still scheduled to have season openers.
Membrino, of Berlin, has proved to be the king of opening events in 2016.
Membrino held off Brett Gonyaw over the closing laps to win the 25-lap SK Light Modified feature Sunday at the Bud Blastoff 2016 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
It was the third season opening victory of the season for Membrino. He won the SK Light Modified opener at Thompson Speedway on April 9 and the also won the divison’s opener at Stafford Motor Speedway on April 23.
“It’s like the best way you can start a season at any track is to start off with a win,” Membrino said. “To start off with a win at all three – especially the one you plan on racing for a championship at all year – it’s surreal.”
Gonyaw, of Vernon, was second and Corey DiMatteo of Farmington third.
It was the first career SK Light Modified victory at the Speedbowl for Membrino, who plans to run his family owned car at the track full-time this year. Membrino said he is working on a deal with another team to secure a full-time ride at Stafford, where he has competed regularly in recent years.
“I was getting a little choked up [in victory lane],” Membrino said. “This is not at all what I expected to happen. We work hard for it, but to have it sitting right in front of you in your hands, it’s so awesome.”
Membrino went from fourth to third on lap two and then on a lap four restart he moved to second behind DiMatteo. Membrino then used a lap nine restart to move past DiMatteo for the top spot.
Gonyaw stalked Membrino over the closing laps, but couldn’t find the lane to the lead.
“We were good but [Gonyaw] was definitely better,” Membrino said. “He was driving me really clean. He was aggressive with the taps to the bumper, but that’s good hard racing. We love that crap.”
Said Gonyaw: “We had a pretty good car. … He got to the front first and he was racing for the win. Instead of giving him the bumper I raced him clean so he can race me clean all year. We’ve got to race together.”