Developing Speed: Veteran Paul French Ready To Oversee SK Light Mod Rookie At Stafford Speedway

Paul French (right) will oversee the rookie rookie Joe Graf Jr. (left) in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2016

Paul French (right) will oversee the rookie rookie Joe Graf Jr. (left) in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2016

STAFFORD – A poll earlier this week asked local race fans to share their favorite to win the SK Light Modified championship this year at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Joe Graf Jr., a first-year full-timer in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford, wasn’t included in the list of choices.

But while the 17-year old may be an unknown quantity at Stafford Speedway, there’s no shortage of confidence from the Mawah, N.J. driver, despite having never turned a lap in competition at the legendary half-mile oval.

“I’m hoping I can win a race this year,” Graf said between practice rounds Friday at Stafford Motor Speedway in preparation for this weekend’s NAPA Spring Sizzler. “I’m hoping to win a championship this year. I expect wins this year. I have the equipment and I just have to win.”

Graf’s cocksure attitude is hardly surprising considering the group he has around him overseeing his entry into the division. Graf will drive a Horsepower Hill Racing entry as a teammate to Joey Ferrigno, who has 12 SK Light Modified victories at Stafford over the last four seasons. Veteran SK Light Modified driver Paul French will oversee all aspects of Graf’s program at Stafford.

French, a former winner in the SK Light Modified division at Stafford and a former winner and champion in the divison at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, will put the helmet and firesuit away at Stafford this year to focus on developing Graf.

“I get more enjoyment out of making these guys on the team win anyways,” French said. “If you can craft somebody from never driving one of these to going to victory lane, like we’ve done with Joey a bunch of times, it’s pure satisfaction.”

French said molding Graf is a challenge he’s looking forward to. Graf will make his division debut in Saturday’s 20-lap SK Light Modified feature.

“First thing is you never want to tell anybody how to drive because they’ll never go fast and they’ll never be successful,” French said. “The biggest thing for me to overcome is understanding everybody’s driving style. Everybody drives a little bit differently. This kid reminds me a lot of Mark Bakaj, the way he drives, his vocabulary, what he likes. Where Joey is Joey. Joey runs a horrible line, he’s a road course racer and you’re never going to erase that mentality because he spent too much time doing that. So this kid here, he’s fresh. This car here is set up basically like it would be for Mark Bakaj so the transition wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Joey is in his own world, he’s a road courser and this kid is more of an oval type driver.

“The big thing is you’ve got to teach him about the parameters of the car. He came from a Legend which is a quasi-Open Wheel car. A Modified is obviously a bigger car and a lot faster. He has to learn the parameters of the car and its limits. You take Joey, he knows how to push it to the limits. With Joe, we’ve got to kind of teach him the limits before he can push them.”

Graf began racing at 10-years old in Bandaleros. He has spent the last four years racing Legends, primarily at Bethel Motor Speedway in Swan Lake, N.Y. He has also spent time chasing the biggest Legends events around the country.

“This I feel is the best next step up from Legends,” Graf said. “I really feel that this will give me the big car experience I need to help me on my journey elsewhere.

“Joey is a great driver. I thought it would be great to have a great driver on the team to help me out. Paul really knows what he’s doing with these cars. I don’t think there’s anybody better in the business with these SK Light Modifieds than Paul. He just really knows what he’s doing with these cars. It just all works.”


  1. Make sure it’s all legal got caught last year with illegal transmission at Waterford and if checked at Stafford I’m sure would have failed…..

  2. Paul french says

    Actually, that Trans is 100% legal, the fact that Waterford decided to place there credibility in uneducated tech staff is a total shame, but that very same transmission had been through numerous technical inspections, not that your comment is worthy of any sort of response, I just wanted to clarify factual information.

  3. So mr know it all deny fact Joey got caught after winning sk lite at stafford last year with too much left side weight on the night you crew guys protested the 31 and 44 for not having rev limiter hooked up? Oh wait another uneducated staff or should I say track favorite.. We all watched 31 and 44 didn’t have rev limiter hooked up as we listened to their motors sail up to like 8,000 rpm but then everything went away with no dq’s wonder why??? Track officials are not to have any so called connections to drivers yet Joey rides around on golf cart with them goes in tech booth with them oh ya he drove pace car…. So whatever you think I don’t care either way just stating what happens that’s what sites like this are for. So you want to start acting like you know everything please I’ve been around these cars since Danbury and Plainville so if you want to get technical we could. Cheaters in every division it’s just who you know!!!

  4. Mod fan,
    How many track officials do you know that don’t have connections with drivers? Not very many. You walk around the pits and officials are bsing with a lot of the weekly guys. Its a local track for god sakes. You seem to just like to try to attack these guys for no reason. Seems to MW like you just sit around and wait for Sean to write an article on them just so you can bash them.

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