STAFFORD – He goes by the nickname Hollywood, and Saturday at Stafford Motor Speedway Tony Membrino Jr. surely didn’t let down fans who came to see him shine on the big stage.
Membrino dared fate for three laps in a dramatic battle for the lead with his closest contender for the track championship and went on to win the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature at Stafford Motor Speedway and the division championship.
“My father said [two nights ago]: ‘How cool would it be for the fans to see the two guys running for the championship slug it out for the win?’ I said That’s butts in the seats, money in the bank. That’s what people come here to see.’”
It was the second SK Light Modified championship at Stafford for Membrino, of Berlin. He also won the SK Light Modified title in 2013. It was his third title overall at the track, having won a DARE Stock division title in 2010.
“Amazing doesn’t really touch the surface of how I’m feeling right now,” Membrino said. “Phenomenal, elated, ecstatic. Put a bunch of synonyms together and put it all in one. That’s kind of how I’m feeling.”
Daniel Wesson of Monson, Mass. was second and Brett Gonyaw of Vernon third.
The story was made even more special by the fact that Membrino began the season planning to run part-time at Stafford and focus on running full-time in the SK Light Modified division at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
But Membrino won the first event of the year and followed that up with three more consecutively and part-time went out the window.
He finished the season with seven victories in 17 starts at Stafford. He also leads the SK Light Modified point standings at the Speedbowl with one event remaining. He has six wins in 13 starts at Waterford. He also has two wins wins in two starts this year in the SK Light Modified division at Thompson Speedway.
“I was only planning on doing like eight races [at Stafford],” Membrino said. “We won the Spring Sizzler, then you’ve got to come back. Win the next one, then we win the next one, then we win the next one. Then you’ve got to stick around for a little while. I sound like I’m complaining and I partially am because it took a lot of freaking work to make it happen.
“People say they’ve got the hardest working crew in the paddock area but I don’t think anybody touches what my guys have done. We’ve run over 30 races with one car and one motor and had to swap stuff over to go from Stafford to Waterford I don’t know how many nights.”
Membrino came into the event holding an 18-point lead over second place Joey Ferrigno and a 24-point lead over third place Joe Graf Jr.
Ferrigno inherited the lead after a lap five wreck. On the ensuing restart Membrino went from third to second past Jay Goff. On lap eight Membrino went to the outside of Ferrigno.
Membrino led lap nine with the two going to the start/finish line side-by-side. The same held true for lap 10. On lap 11 Membrino cleared Ferrigno off of turn two and never trailed again.
“I think anybody would agree that that’s the way you want to do it,” Membrino said. “Nobody wants to see someone putz around, they want to see someone drive around like they have all year long and that’s exactly what I did. What better story can you write than the two championship contenders going at it for the win and for the jackpot? I’ve got to give my props to Joey Ferrigno. He’s been driving very respectably all year long and it was an absolutely blast going week after week after week with him. I look forward to doing more of that in the future.”
Ferrigno, of East Hartford, ended up fifth.