Stafford Speedway Celebrates 2016 Champions Friday At Annual Banquet

(Press Release from Stafford Motor Speedway)

Stafford Motor Speedway's 2017 champions (l-r) Noah Korner (Legends), Duane Provost (Limited Late Model), Tony Membrino Jr. (SK Light Modified), Tom Fearn (Late Model), Johnny Walker (DARE Stock) and Rowan Pennink (SK Modified) (Photo: Stafford Speedway/Driscoll Motorsports Photography)

Stafford Motor Speedway’s 2017 champions (l-r) Noah Korner (Legends), Duane Provost (Limited Late Model), Tony Membrino Jr. (SK Light Modified), Tom Fearn (Late Model), Johnny Walker (DARE Stock) and Rowan Pennink (SK Modified) (Photo: Stafford Speedway/Driscoll Motorsports Photography)

Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees this past Friday night, November 18 at Maneely’s in South Windsor to officially honor Rowan Pennink, Tom Fearn, Tony Membrino, Jr., Duane Provost, Johnny Walker, and Noah Korner as the 2016 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.

With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Matt Buckler and John Gates serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 47th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the six track champions, they also recognized the top-15 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, DARE Stock, and U.S. Legend Cars divisions. Special awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, NAPA Auto Parts Parts Rookie of the Year, R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year, and the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.

Rowan Pennink and the #99 Independent Wheel team entered the 2016 season as the defending SK Modified® champions and the question looming over them was could they repeat with Kevin Crowley taking over as the crew chief from Jimmy Fuller? The #99 team put to doubt any questions about their prowess with wins in 3 of the first 4 SK Modified® events of the season and they exhibited a high level of consistency with top-10 runs in all but one of the first 16 races of the season. They wrapped up the championship with one race to go and next season will see them attempt to become the first team to win 3 consecutive SK Modified® championships at Stafford. Pennink is the fifth driver, joining Jerry Pearl ’84-’85, Mike Christopher ’89-’90, Bob Potter ’91-’92 and ’94-95, and Ted Christopher ’00-’01 to have won back to back championships but a three-peat has yet to be accomplished. For the season, the #99 team posted a division leading 6 wins, 11 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 4.9.

After winning 10 races last season and coming up short of the championship, Tom Fearn and the #92 SAFCO Foam team entered the 2016 season as favorites to be among the championship contenders and they lived up to that pre-season billing with a performance that was a combination of dominance and consistency. Fearn won 7 times and had 16 top-6 finishes in 17 starts this season but Michael Wray and the #42 DMW Graphics team took the championship fight with Fearn all the way to the season ending NAPA Fall Final. A second place finish for Fearn wrapped up his fourth career Stafford track championship and his first since winning the 1998 ProStock championship. Among Fearn’s 7 wins, 16 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes this season were 13 podium finishes that helped lower his season average finish to 2.8.

The race for the SK Light championship was a seesaw affair between Tony Membrino, Jr. and Joey Ferrigno for much of the year. Membrino and the #44 Additive Manufacturing of New England team had a blazing hot start to the year with 4 wins in the first 5 races. But as dominant as Membrino was, Ferrigno was right on Membrino’s heels and they would swap the point lead several times during the summer. Membrino took control of the points race at the very end of the season as Ferrigno ran in to a string of bad finishes and he collected his second career SK Light championship at Stafford to go along with his DARE Stock championship. Membrino posted 7 wins, 11 top-5 and 13 top-10 finishes this season for an average finish of 5.3.

The race for the 2016 Limited Late Model championship saw long shot Duane Provost cash in to take home his very first career championship. The driver of the #88 Facchini Law Firm Chevrolet was in the championship mix for much of the season along with Paul Arute and Al Saunders. All three drivers had a share of the point lead at some point during the 2016 season. Provost entered the NAPA Fall Final 12 points behind Saunders and a third place finish, combined with a 10th place finish for Saunders, was enough to make Provost the champion by a scant 2 point margin. For the season, Provost posted 1 win, 12 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 4.6.

Johnny Walker entered the 2016 season having taken a year off from racing after back to back 2nd place finishes in the DARE Stock division. Having nearly won the championship twice already, Walker knew what it was going to take to win the championship from the very first race and he was a model of consistency during the 2016 season, driving to 13 podium finishes in 17 starts this season with a final tally of 2 wins, 16 top-5 and 16 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 3.2. As dominant as Walker was finishing in the top-3 almost every week, Brandon Michael was keeping pace with him for much of the year and took the title fight down to the last race but Walker wasn’t to be denied as he collected his first career championship.

In the U.S. Legend Cars division, it was a year of domination for Noah Korner and the #31 Midstate Site Development team. In the 11 race Legend Cars schedule, Korner won 7 times, finished second three times, and finished third once. Such a level of dominance was too much for Teddy Hodgdon to overcome as Korner locked down the track championship in a season that also saw him win the National Championship in the Semi-Pro division of the U.S. Legend Cars.

The NAPA Auto Parts Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Stephen Kopcik from the SK Modified® division and Joel Monahan from the Late Model division. Taking home R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year honors were Joe Graf, Jr. in the SK Light division, Frank L’Etoile, Jr. in the Limited Late Model division, and Michael Hopkins in the DARE Stock division. The NAPA Auto Parts rookie awards will be worth a $1,000.00 gift card redeemable at participating NAPA Stores to Kopcik and Monahan, with Graf, L’Etoile, and Hopkins each winning a $500 bonus from R.A.D. Automachine that will be paid out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during the 2017 season.

The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® division, Tom Fearn in the Late Model division, Daniel Wesson from the SK Light division, Bryan Narducci from the Limited Late Model division, Alexandra Fearn in the DARE Stock division, and Teddy Hodgdon in the U.S. Legend Cars division. The Most Popular Driver Awards are voted on by the fans who attend Stafford Motor Speedway race events and fill out the ballots found in the track’s weekly PitStopper Magazine.

The UNOH Youth Achievement award was won by SK Light Modified driver Daniel Wesson. The UNOH Youth Achievement Award is a program that is open to all drivers at Stafford between the ages of 14-17. The eligible driver who scored the most track points from their best 14 finishes this season won a $500 cash award from UNOH as well as a $500 scholarship award from UNOH.

For more information about the 2016 Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway’s track office at (860) 684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.

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Comments

  1. Heard a rumor Hollywood is going SK racing next year, any truth to that? He would make things interesting at Stafford.

  2. Heard a rumor Woody is going to be racing a Ford Late Model next year at Thompson.

  3. Stafford posted that Chase Dowling will be back full time in an Stafford SK Mod for 2017.

  4. ModFan Homtracks says:

    The only drivers in the last 5 years to come out of SK Lights and make it interesting have been Dowling and Williams. Hollywood already tried and failed miserably, that is why he went back to Lights. Champions like Matty Ice Galko, no wins, the 77 car Jeremy Sorel is selling everything after a year racing SK, Kopcik was aweful and a hot head, a real joke from last year and I could go on, but go look at the point standings and you will see, that transition is WAY HARDER than it looks. These guys think that Dowling got his first win in an SK in only his 5th race, Williams won his first in his 7th race, then won 6 more in his sophomore season while Dowling went Tour racing. These guys are Outliers, not the norm. Believe me, I’m all for these guys moving up to SK’s, but ask Salva, Hines, Henry, Burnham and on and on, what they think. You have to earn your stripes in the SK Division at Stafford. No Light driver is going to move up and make it more interesting unless your name was Chase or Ronnie. Move up, learn, finish races and you will be fine. Try to make a splash and you’ll be as bad as that Kopcik kid was last year. Just an outright embarrassment at every level especially his attitude. From the way past, Gervais has become a solid driver, and Mike Jr. has made the transition very well of all the recent drivers moving up. Any driver thinking of doing so should contact MCJr and follow what he is doing and follow his path to SK racing. And please, unless you have Dowling or Williams blood and balls, don’t talk about winning a race in your rookie year. It ain’t gonna happen!

  5. Modfan, I couldn’t disagree more with your comments on Stephen Kopcik. True he made some mistakes in his rookie year, but who hasn’t? I saw him running upfront with Pennick, Rocco, and Woody several weeks, and he held his own. No he didn’t get a win, but there were a couple weeks where if the race went green to checker, he would have won.
    In looking at the Stafford points for 2016, how do you call Kopcik an embarrassment, and Michael Gervais Jr. a a solid driver?

    Kopcik 11th in points, 17 races ran, 3 top 5’s, 9 top 10’s
    Gervais 12th in points, 17 races ran, 2 top 5’s, 5 top 10’s

    As far as Hollywood Membrino, maybe he did struggle in his season running an SK, but I had more fun watching him run in 2016 than anyone else at the 3 CT tracks. He put on a show, and I’ll be cheering for him regardless of what division he is in.

  6. ModFan Homtracks says:

    Zeke. You missed the point. SK Light drivers won’t make the SK’s more interesting. I like Membrino but he’s out of his league if he goes back to SK’s. Gervais HAS won races in the SK division, something Kopcik won’t do because he’s psycho. I was looking at the body of work over the last 5 years not just 2016. Gervais is also a respected driver. Kopcik thinks he’s great, tried to drive the 82 into the turn 1 wall, gets kicked out and then gives the finger to everyone standing on his car!! The kid needs help. PLUS, Every top 5 he had racing up front, he started up front. he has hit cars after cautions and after races and then he screws with Chris Jones in the fall final?? How did that turn out for him? Oh yeah, a junked race car. What goes around..,, Lets see who transfers this year and see what happens.

  7. Grey Matter says:

    Tony proved a point this year. They work hard. I’d also say that luck was on his side for nearly all season. He missed shifts only to have a caution come out because someone spun. Happened several times. He also blew a rear only to have the event rained out. He had luck. Now.. can they make that car go anywhere for 40 laps as an SK? I question that because what they had seemed to go away at lap 15-18 at the bowl. And… why hasn’t Barry moved on. He’s been hacking away in a light for years. A dose of reality would be good for him.

  8. One thing for sure; Stafford SKs are top notch, veterans mixing it up with young kids moving up

  9. Its all a learning curve,you guys sure sound like a bunch of idiots.I really know all the answers to MOST of the statements above.Where on earth do you people get your info.Talking out of your butts.Its very funny though.

  10. Grey, luck is the most important variable in racing. Not matter how good the equipment and driver luck will factor into the outcome of the season.

    Membrino had a great year. Track championships at Waterford & Stafford along with 2 wins at Thompson, not a shabby at all. You are correct on the car, it seem to go away after 15 laps or so, maybe needs new clips, maybe a new car, I don’t know.

    Barry had a great year. Second in points at Waterford with 4 wins, 2 wins and 2 seconds at Thompson and if there were championship points he would have won the championship.

    I think you believe money grows on trees, well it doesn’t. Go out and pick some, get what you need and go SK racing. Get a dose of reality, really? These two kids are up and coming drivers and whether you believe it or not they are both good and deserve the opportunity to move up. Hell, if I had a money tree in my back yard, I would put them both in top shelf SK equipment and see what they can do that’s how much I believe in them. Give them a couple of years and they would be rubbing bars with the best of them.

    Bottom line it takes a big check book to go SK racing competitively and I guess neither of them have the money to do that. Lets not blame them for not moving up if they don’t have the financial resources to do so because I am certain they would both leap at the opportunity. I am also pretty certain they are both very appreciative of what their families have done and sacrificed for them in their careers.

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