STAFFORD – In April, before he had ever even turned a lap in competition at Stafford Motor Speedway, 17-year old SK Light Modified division rookie said he was confident he would win a race at the track in 2016.
Seven races into his career at Stafford, the Mahwah, N.J. driver backed up that bold prediction.
Graf drove away from the field over the closing laps to get his first career victory in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway.
“This means the world,” Graf said. “It’s just an awesome feeling. I love all the people that made this happen for me. … It’s great to finally get one.”
Graf’s teammate in the RH2Way sponsored Horsepower Hill stable, Joey Ferrigno, of East Hartford was second. Wes Prucker of Stafford was third.
Despite a plethora of struggles over the early part of the season, Graf said he never lost the confidence that he would win this year.
“I still felt like it would happen this year because we were always fast but we always had problems,” Graf said. “We got involved in a wreck last week that definitely put us back a little bit.”
It proved an emotional victory for the Horsepower Hill team and their crew chief Paul French, getting Graf’s destroyed car back to the track.
“[Graf’s car] was destroyed last week and everybody at the shop put a lot of work into it getting Joe out here,” Ferrigno said. “We’ve got to congratulate him on his first win. This kid is going to go somewhere.”
Graf went to the lead early in the event and was never challenged at the front.
“I didn’t know until after the race that I checked out like I did,” Graf said “I don’t really look in my mirror unless I can feel somebody there because it slows me down when I race. So I was just running my race, logging laps and we ended up with the win. It’s a great feeling.
“Paul French has that car so good you can put it anywhere won the track. You can put it outside, you can go inside. It works everywhere.”
With his motor popping violently for much of the event, Ferrigno went by Brett Gonyaw for second place on lap 16 and then nursed his ride to the runner-up spot.
“A couple laps the thing just started making some evil noises around 5,000 RPM’s,” Ferrigno said. “I think I hurt it.”