STAFFORD – Last week at Stafford Motor Speedway SK Light Modified driver Joey Ferrigno was upset about what he felt was an arguably wrong call by track officials to give a win to Daniel Wesson in a timing & scoring dead-heat photo finish between the two in the division.
Friday Ferrigno’s anger level was pegged far further by track officials.
When the dust settled on the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature it was Tony Membrino Jr. celebrating his third victory in four events in 2016, but it was a muted celebration for the Berlin driver.
A late race call by officials dramatically changed the outcome of the event.
David Arute of Tolland was second and Vin Anglece of Ansonia third.
Ferrigno, of East Hartford, went to the lead on lap three with Membrino following him to second place.
The pair went side-by-side before Membrino edged Ferrigno at the line to conclude lap 11. On lap 12 Membrino cleared Ferrgino off of turn four.
Ferrigno kept chase, but Membrino looked riding to victory before caution flew on the final lap. The first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish was stalled by a wreck at the back of the field.
On the second attempt at the restart, Ferrigno got the jump on Membrino and led him easily into turn one. But the yellow flag was flown to declare a false start, and then Ferrigno was black flagged by officials for jumping the restart and put to the rear of the field.
Membrino then went on to hold off a charging Arute over the final two laps.
But when Membrino was asked for his thoughts in victory lane he made a shocking statement directed at Tom Fox, Stafford’s director of racing operations and competition.
“Tommy Fox buddy, you messed up there,” Membrino said over the track’s public address system. “[Ferrigno] didn’t jump the start, he just got a better start. I know it was probably an honest mistake, just some constructive criticism. Hat’s off to [Ferrigno] for racing really hard for the lead, it’s always a classic battle between me and him.”
Ferrigno’s anger was quite evident in the pits following the event. He ended up finishing sixth.
“I have nothing to say except just like last week,” Ferrigno said. “Watch the video and decide for yourself.”
Said Membrino: “It wasn’t my best restart. He got a better restart than I did, plain and simple. I don’t know how. I fired first I believe. I got to the good RPM to shift, but he was just really able to pull me. Whatever the deal is, he earned it. … I talked to myself in the helmet and I said out loud ‘That’s [BS].’ That was wrong. If I had a [two-way radio] I would have keyed in [to track officials] and said ‘You guys need to go in there and fix that because that’s just wrong.’ I wouldn’t want it happening to me. I benefited from it, but I would have rather have him back on the outside of me to try it again.”
Fox said he was surprised by Membrino’s comments over the PA system.
“It didn’t look any different to any of us other than [Ferrigno] jumped,” Fox said. “I just went over at the driver’s meeting telling everybody they were going to get penalized. Unfortunately it was [Ferrigno]. But that’s the way it works. I made it clear that nobody was supposed to jump and I made it clear that I had a list of all the people that jumped last week as well. I made that very clear. It’s unfortunate for him.”
Membrino said issues with restarts need to be examined further by track officials.
“Based on how the car was after that long caution, I think he would have held me off,” Membrino said. “The wrong guy might be in victory lane, but it is what it is. I can’t change it now, he can’t change it now, Tom Fox can’t change it now. We’ve got to go back and look for room for improvement and move forward.”