Season Rewind: Looking Back On 2018 At Stafford Speedway

(Press Release from Stafford Speedway)

Ronnie Williams celebrates victory in the NAPA SK 5K on June 29 at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor)

It’s official, the 2018 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season at Stafford Motor Speedway has entered into the record books. Ronnie Williams, Tom Fearn, Marcello Rufrano, Jeremy Lavoie, and George Bessette, Jr. secured the track championships but the 2018 season offered fans more than just championship battles.

NAPA Auto Parts, in their 5th year of elite partnership with Stafford Speedway, presented the biggest events of the year at the Connecticut half-mile facility, the prestigious 47th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler in April and season ending NAPA Fall Final in September.

For the second straight year, Ryan Preece drove the No. 6 TS Haulers Chevrolet to Victory Lane at the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler. Preece was the first driver to win the Sizzler in back-to-back years since Bobby Santos III in 2013-14. NASCAR Hall of Famer and vintage racing enthusiast, Ray Evernham, served as the Grand Marshal for the 47th running of the NAPA Spring Sizzler. Evernham also brought three fully restored vintage Modifieds for the Vintage All-Star event and competed in the #99 Bodine modified.

In the 46th Annual NAPA Fall Final, Kyle Bonsignore took the lead from Doug Coby with just five laps remaining and went on to capture his first checkered flag in Whelen Modified Tour competition. While Kyle Bonsignore celebrated his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win, another member of the Bonsignore family, his cousin Justin, celebrated as he clinched his first championship. The Gagner Family from Wild Thing Kart Series served as Grand Marshals of the NAPA Fall Final. A popular addition to the Fall Final was the Inaugural Ladies Challenge, an 8 lap Street Stock shoot-out. Women associated with Stafford race teams were paired with Street Stock teams and raised an amazing $35,000 for various foundations and charities.

The NAPA SK 5K in its 5th year of existence offered a purse of over $27,000 with the winner guaranteed $5K. In NAPA Victory Lane the race winner, Ronnie Williams, pulled the winner take all chip in the Dunleavy’s Gambler Challenge, boosting his NAPA SK 5K payday total to $10,625.

The SK Lights took center stage on May 25 for the Dunleavy’s Modifiedz Night in a 40-lap feature that paid over $10,000 in total posted awards. Thanks to Doug Dunleavy, the winners of the SK Modified® Late Model, Limited Late Model, and Street Stock feature events doubled their winnings. Also providing bonus money was John and Maina Rufrano from Wheelers Auto Service with the second and third place finishers in the SK Modified® and Late Model feature events taking home an extra $200 while the second, third, fourth, and fifth place finishers in the SK Light, Limited Late Model, and Street Stock features each received a $100 bonus. The big winners of the night included Marcello Rufrano in the 40-lap SK Light feature, Rowan Pennink in the SK Modified® , Tom Fearn in the Late Model, Jeremy Lavoie in the Limited Late Model, and Johnny Walker in the Street Stock feature.

For the first time since the late 1970’s, non-sanctioned open modified races were included in the 2018 schedule. The two events both followed the traditional “Sizzler” distance of 80 laps, paid $3,500 to win and $660 to start. Both events were held in conjunction with Stafford’s 5 weekly racing divisions. The Twisted Tea Open Modified 80 on June 8 took center stage for an 80-lap race and Tommy Barrett, Jr. used an early pit stop to gain track position when the majority of the cars came to pit road at the halfway point of the race. He led 38 of the final 40 laps to win the Twisted Tea Open Modified 80. Then on July 13 an enthusiastic Eric Goodale used a great pit stop to climb from seventh to second after a round of pit stops and he led the final 41 laps to win the Bud Light Open Modified 80.

2018 brought the rebranding of the DARE Stock division to the Street Stock division. The car counts increased and featured exciting competition. The laps increased from 15 to 20 along with 2 extra distance events. The Casagrande Builders Street Stock 25 in May was won by Mike Hopkins and the R.A.D. Auto Machine Street Stock 30 by George Bessette, Jr. Ten different winners reached NAPA Victory Lane. First career winners included Rookie of the year Meghan Fuller, Tess Beyer and Jason Lafayette winning the Gaston Racing event in July.

Friday, July 13th was a special night with the Inaugural running of the TC 13 SK Modified® Shootout in honor of the late Ted Christopher. The special shootout event was held directly following the scheduled 40 lap SK Modified® feature with the top-13 finishers earning entry into the shootout. The top-13 were inverted and the 13-lap shootout was run with Glen Reen taking home the first place winnings of $1,313. The total posted awards for the TC 13 Shootout was $7,319 thanks to the generosity of sponsorship partners.

In the Starrett 150 Whelen Modified Tour event on August 3, Doug Coby secured his first win of the season and his 11th of his career at the historic Stafford half-mile.

The Call Before You Dig Late Model 50 event took place on Back 2 SKool Blitz Night. Paul Arute took down his first feature win of the 2018 season and the $1,811 purse. Kids were the big winners of the night as the midway was transformed to a Kids Zone with bounce houses, games of all kinds and a Wild Thing Kart prize wheel. In addition, kids entered the bike raffle presented by Big Haus USA Racing Products, DP Motorsports, Stafford Speedway, and Douillard Motorsports, with 4 bikes raffled.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series made its final visit to Stafford Speedway on Friday, August 31 for the 9th Annual Lincoln Tech VMRS 80. Richard Savary took the lead on lap-26 and led the rest of the way to score his first career win at Stafford Speedway.

Several racing milestones were reached during the 2018 season. Keith Rocco set a new SK Modified® record for consecutive feature wins with 6 in a row dating to the last 2 races of the 2017 season and the first 4 races of 2018. Tom Fearn set two new records in the Late Model division by winning 6 consecutive races from May 18 to June 15 and he surpassed Ryan Posocco for the most career Late Model wins with 48 wins and counting.

Stay tuned for the release of the highly anticipated 2019 schedule.

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

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Comments

  1. A popular feature in sporting events is the winners and losers summary. Now that we’re firmly in the off season why not take a look back at the Stafford SK division for fun and make some observations. Not on winners and losers because there are no losers for those that are willing to put it all on the line on the track. But those that under performed and the teams that may have surprised.
    Surprised:
    Ronnie Williams- we all knew Ronnie was a capable driver and the 50 a top ride but the question was how would they mesh on the track. Answer……outstanding. Williams night after night sliced and diced his way through traffic from deep in the field routinely avoiding mayhem. While the last part of the season might have been a little disappointing he built such an insurmountable lead in points the 50 won the championship going away.
    Under performed
    Keith Rocco- how do you say a guy that scored the most wins at 6 and came in second in points under performed. It’s Rocco that’s why. After appearing to be destined for another championship early on with record consecutive wins and consistently having top tier lap speeds the success switch turned off. What followed was a series of hurky jurky races where the 88 would be alternatively lightning fast then get caught up in some kind of jingle. He’ll be back.
    Surprised
    Chase Dowling- Chase had a lot on his plate working for Fuller and concentrating on the NWMT campaign. And yet at the last minute he put together a credible ride with an LFR chassis that had some success. No he never achieved top tier lap speeds nor did we see him consistently at the front of the field like we are used to. Nonetheless the 36 was consistently in the second tier and on one night good enough to garner a win. The 36 may be no more but count on Dowling to be a factor for someone next year.
    Surprised:
    Eric Berndt- maybe not so much of a surprise since he had the experience and Stosh Butova as crew chief. But it’s one thing to plan being fast and having success and another executing it. Three cars consistently produced elite lap speeds throughout the season and the 66 was one. Disappointing that he was never in the championship fight because of inconsistencies and some bad luck. But when right was lightning fast and finished with an outstanding 3 wins and 12 top 5’s and most folks come back team of the year.
    Surprised
    Mike Christopher- many thought with a legends car, expertise and resources success would be immediate for MC. It wasn’t. Showing glimmers of what was to come early on in the season the 82 went on to finish incredibly strong eventually taking down 4 wins, 13 top 5’s and blasting into a strong third place finish in points. We’ll all look to the 82 to be in the hunt for the championship in 2019.
    Under performed
    Todd Owen- if you don’t appreciate what Todd Owen does for the sport or how good a driver he is you have a heart of stone. But there is no doubt at Stafford anyway the 81 was counting on a better result then no wins, 9 top 5’s and sixth in points. Smart money is on a reversal of fortune for 2019.
    Surprised
    Glen Reen- when doesn’t the guy with his own section of the infield named Reen Acres and one feature win plus the TC13 checkers surprise. One of my favorites the 17 was a grenade of success or spectacular failure. Many don’t appreciate what Reen means to the Stafford SK’s in my view. One day they will appreciate his unbridled enthusiasm, 100% effort level and the total absence of an off switch.
    Under performed
    Matt Galko, Michael Gervais and Stephen Kopcik
    Matt finished a strong 4th in points, Michael ran a good part of the season in third place and Stephen had a few good finishes. None the less all three are used to spending more time on the podium and garnering at least one win so this season must have been a little disappointing for them.
    Disappointing
    Pennink and Burnham- After taking down a win the 99 was no more after the immensely respected Pennink retired for health reasons. That’s a big loss especially after losing TC the year before. Also DJ Burnham who for me was a valued mid pack guy apparently had determined it’s too hard being a farmer with crazy summer work hours and to race at the same time.

    All in all it was a great season for the SK’s. We’ve lost icons in the recent past but there is a incredibly strong pipeline of great young drivers and well funded teams to fill the void.
    What flies under the radar so often is how tight the intervals are through the field and how little separates all these great teams. We’re lucky to have them to watch.
    That’s my view from the cheap seats. No disrespect intended for any team or driver because each from the winner to the first DNF is important in my view.
    What do you think?

    .

  2. Nice post Doug. We’re lucky to be able to watch these guys every week. Nothing like it on earth

  3. Thanks and yes we are lucky. Lucky for the racing, lucky for racedayct, lucky for the on board camera’s, live timing and youtube after the fact videos.
    I’ll confess. I was trolling to get other Stafford fans to jump in and reflect on the last year that I thought was pretty great to extend our enjoyment of the year. Alas, it appears that effort was a fail.
    Any who we do have the schedule to look forward that should be coming out later this month.
    Hope they continue the Opens.
    Also wondering if that new modified series Waterford mentioned scheduling or the Supers will be in the mix. My vote if I had one would be a pass.

  4. Fast Eddie says:

    Ditto! Wish I was closer to Stafford, I would be able to get there more often! I did get there 5 times this year, and despite those few trips, much of what Doug posted was readily evident.

  5. Well said if you see some off my posts best racing in the northeast great analysis I wish I lived closer would be a regular

  6. Another good season for the SKs at Stafford. Touring series don’t approach the tight competition seen at Stafford on a weekly basis. The loss of TC, and later Pennink, did bring things down a notch (or 2) for me this year, however.

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