Eric Berndt Optimistic For 2018 Season At Stafford Motor Speedway

(Press Release from Stafford Motor Speedway)

Eric Berndt

For Stafford Speedway SK Modified® driver Eric Berndt, the 2017 season would have to be marked down as a disappointment. After winning 2 races and contending for the championship in 2016, Berndt and the #66 Cos’ Central Auto team struggled through 2017, managing only 1 top-5 and 3 top-10 finishes and a 20th place finish in the points standings. Berndt is looking to get those numbers turned around and once again be a championship contender in 2018.

“We’re really optimistic about this season,” said Berndt. “We’re definitely looking forward to getting the season started and our goals are to win races, contend for the championship, and finish races. We can’t have any DNF’s, those really hurt. We want to be a top-5 car and be a weekly contender like we were a few seasons ago. Last year was one of those years you like to get rid of real quick. It was disappointing because we’ve had several seasons where we’ve been in the top-5 in points and contending on a weekly basis. Unfortunately with racing, some years you’re not going to have that and last year was just one of those years. It seemed like no matter what we did, wherever we were on the racetrack it was the wrong time and the wrong spot to be in. Trouble seemed to find us we didn’t have to go find it.”

Berndt has been busy during the winter going through his #66 machine as well as getting his engine from T/A Engines freshened up. In addition to the work on his car, Berndt has added the services of race and championship winning crew chief Stash Butova for the upcoming 2018 season. The addition of Butova has Berndt looking forward to what they can accomplish on the track while working together.

“I’m really looking forward to working with Stash this year,” said Berndt. “Having him on board with us is definitely going to help us out. He’s going to come down to the shop to work on the cars during the week as well as at the track. We were a little short on help at the track last year and I would have to do a lot of stuff as soon as we got to the track and that wears on you quickly and then once you have some bad luck, it doesn’t seem to get better. We’re really excited about him coming on board and he’s got a couple of guys coming with him so we’re really looking forward to it. We’ve gone through the car to make sure everything is straight and we have a fresh motor coming back from T/A Engines so we’re coming to the Spring Sizzler looking to attack. I’d like to thank North End Auto Parts, Cos’ Central Auto, and T/A Engines for supporting us.”

The key for Berndt to get back to his race winning and championship contending ways starts with the NAPA Spring Sizzler® feature event. A good finish in the season opening race can set the tone for the entire year. Berndt is hoping for a good finish to get his season started on a good note.

“The key is to get through the Spring Sizzler®,” said Berndt. “If you don’t get through that race with a good finish, you’re not in the handicap and then you’re fighting every week from the back. Obviously we want to be contending for a win but the biggest thing is to come out of that race with a good finish and keeping the car straight. When you come out of the Sizzler® bent up, it can make for a long season and that’s what ended up happening to us last year. A win would be huge for us. That’s motivation and it’s a confidence booster for everyone when you can win a race, especially early in the season.”

Despite the misfortunes he encountered during the 2017 season, Berndt says there are some positives that he can take and apply to his 2018 efforts.

“The last couple of races last year we had a tired motor which didn’t help us, but we had the car where we wanted it to be,” said Berndt. “I don’t think we ever had the car 100% for any race last year but we finished the season in one piece. We definitely saw some things that we’re going to use this season and hopefully it will work out to our advantage. We need a little better luck and I think with the extra crew help we’ll have this year we should be able to turn our fortunes around. We’re all looking forward to getting back out on the track.”

Having a goal in mind at Stafford is one thing, but actually going out and achieving it on the track is another. While Berndt knows how competitive the SK Modified® division will be in 2018, he also knows that the high level of competition will help raise his team’s game.

“The SK Modified® division at Stafford has been tough ever since I started in 1995,” said Berndt. “It seems like there’s always one car every year that’s better than everyone else and that’s the car you end up chasing. That makes you better because you’re trying harder to make your car faster to match that one car. I think that when it comes to the competition at Stafford, there isn’t a track anywhere that has the level of competition that Stafford has on a weekly basis.”

In addition to his SK Modified® duties on Friday nights, Berndt will also be busy with his kids racing in the Wild Thing Karts on Monday nights at Stafford.

“The kids are counting it down, they can’t wait,” said Berndt. “My oldest, Brooke, retired her driving suit but my youngest, Summer, and my son Parker will be racing this year. Monday nights with the kids are a blast for me.”

The 2018 SK Modified® season kicks off with the 47th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® on April 27-29. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. All tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Discount Spring Sizzler® tickets will be available beginning in March at participating NAPA Auto Parts stores.

For more information contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at

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  1. There you go. Stash and the Bulldog reported first by Racedayct. Berndt gave up and phoned it in at the end of last year and who could blame him after being a top dog the year before. It was a disaster and in the end only made 12 races. But he’s a front runner and everyone I would think wants to see him back giving Pennink, Dowling, Owen and others head aches. Good news.

  2. Liz Cherokee says:

    So that incredibly handsome young man Stash is helping Mr Berndt too… Good luck this year!

  3. The ” bulldog” is surely capable of winning and running up front. With the addition of Stosh turning wrenches could turn out to be a good year for Eric and his team. Good luck going forward

  4. I hear you Eric. The track has do do away with ONLY handicapping the top 15 in points. This contradicts the intent of a handicap system. That’s the excitement of a Friday night shoot out. I don’t think anyone complained about the excitement watching TC storm from the rear when he was penalized.

  5. Stafford handicap system makes no sense at all. Some weeks the winner from the previous week would start ahead of the third place guy even though he had had better fineshes the 3 previous weeks. Tell me that was not intentional. If you go back through the years it seems the champion was always given these intentional breaks at some point during the season. It happened to us on a couple of occasions one year and when our car owner brought it up with the officials we ended up starting 18th for the next 3 weeks even though our best finish was 6th and that years champion started inside the top 12 all 3 weeks even though he had a win and 2 seconds. By the way we finished runner up in points that year. Messed up system

  6. tick mike says:

    Eric, good luck this year your a class act and allways have been a top contender

  7. Someone here explained the handicap system once. Wish I could find it. Apparently it’s totally different then it was long ago. Couldn’t find the actual system on the Stafford site other then general things like a winning feature winner can’t start better then 5th and using the last three races. Do they limit it to 15 cars because so few drivers make all the races these days? Is it kind of a secret system they fiddle with on an app as the season goes on?

  8. Joe Lajoie says:

    It used to be last 3 weeks money won. Not sure if it’s still that way now or points. They’ve been doing top 15 in points for a while now. Used to be back in the day someone could show up halfway through the season, have 3 crappy weeks in a row, then have a pole shot the following week. The top 15 rule eliminates that. But the top 15 rule also makes it tough for someone to dig out of a hole if they have a tough start to the season.
    Handicap system per SMS rulebook:
    “Drivers will be handicapped based upon the three previous race events held. Any driver that misses an event will be credited with one and one half wins for handicapping purposes for that event. Disqualified cars will be given two wins for handicapping purposes for that event. Cars that have been placed to the rear of the finishing order for a race rules infraction will be given a win for handicapping purposes for that event. When a draw system is used for starting position, the driver or his/her assigned representative may draw. When inspections, qualifying races, and/or time trials are held on days prior to the date of the race, SMS Officials reserve the right to seal motors, impound tires and/or impound cars. For some events, a predetermined amount of cars (based upon the current order of point standings) may be considered as pre-qualified. The driver must be signed in 45 minutes before racing starts to take advantage of being pre-qualified. Any exception to this must be pre-approved by Race Control. For a pre-qualified feature event, the top-18 drivers in points that are signed in for that event will be considered pre-qualified while the top-15 drivers in points will be handicapped ahead of the other drivers.
    No current season feature-winning driver may be posted in the feature line up to start higher than fifth position in a feature event. This rule may be amended when necessary. Any driver that has missed more than one of the three previous events may not be moved up in the starting order due to this rule.”

  9. Fast Eddie says:

    Eric and crew: hope you have a good 2018 season! Hoping to see you back on the Tour soon!

  10. I would like to revise my previous comment about Staffords handicapping. I was agreeing with Eric’s comment about it but as I went back and read the current rules, it no longer states that only the top 15 in points get handicapped, with the exception of pre-qualified events. It used to also state that rookies did not get to be handicapped till after completing a certain number of events. Now unless the previous rules are in invisible ink, I think it is just more straight up for all competitors and the fan might benefit from a little more excitement.

  11. What am I missing here. That is not the handicapping system. It’s clarifying several important points that go into the system. Seems like any tracks handicapping system is more like a proprietary special sauce that will never be disclosed. These days if they gave the actual specifics you could literally sit in the stands with an excel program and check it for accuracy. And you know somebody would. Maybe it is more of a handicappingish system then an inflexible algorithm of fairness. Are positions switched around to create drama by “race control”? You tell me.

  12. Doug, didn’t realize Joe had already posted the handicap system rules, my bad. Not really sure what you’re after. Like any rules, people see what they want to, or “adjust” the lineup as needed. Like Bob said some stuff may be in invisible ink. Always has been.

  13. Stafford is providing an overview. If you do a search something like “auto racing handicap system” some tracks like Thunder Road and Speedway 51 go into greater detail. One person here whom I believe is an active racer thinks the handicapping system is not limited to 15 cars. Another who provided the quote thinks it is. All I’m saying is there is a specific formula for determining feature starting positions that encompasses performance in heats and total driver points or money won. Weekly race 1,2,3 then four on are treated differently. What Stafford provides is not the system, it is highlights of greatest interest. I was just fishing for more detail but it’s probably too complicated anyway so I’ll drop it.

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