Kyle Ellwood Teams With Paul French For 2020 SK Light Season At Stafford

(Press release from Stafford Speedway)

Kyle Ellwood (Photo: Courtesy Stafford Speedway)

With the 2020 NASCAR Weekly Racing season less than 100 days away, another new combination has been announced in Stafford Speedway’s SK Light ranks.  Riverhead, NY native Kyle Ellwood will team with longtime SK Light car owner/driver Paul French to drive the #2 Bakaj Construction Chevrolet.  Ellwood will return to full-time weekly racing after making 25 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts from 2014-2019.

“I’m excited to get started with Paul French,” said Ellwood.  “I met him last year when we bought a car from him, he helped me run the car in the last race at Thompson and we finished fifth after starting last.  After that race Paul mentioned that maybe we could do something next season and he ended up asking me if I wanted to drive his car at Stafford.  I really have to give a big thank you to Paul for giving me thischance.  This is a really great opportunity for me and we’re looking for any marketing partners who would like to jump on board a fast race car.”

Out of Ellwood’s 25 career NWMT starts, 8 of those races came at Stafford.  Although Ellwood’s best finish in those 8 starts was a 14th in the Stafford 125 in May of 2015, the experience that he gained in those races will be invaluable as he prepares to step down to a lower horsepower car at the Connecticut half-mile facility.

“Having seen the track before is definitely going to help,” said Ellwood.  “I know where to run and I have laps around Stafford, it’s just going to be a matter of adjusting to a lower speed car and trying to keep the momentum up. This is a great opportunity that will help me take a step back from working on my own Tour car and focus more on setting the car up.  Paul has really fast cars and he does his homework, so I’m looking forward to doing some racing on a weekly basis. This will get me off Long Island and racing at one of the most prestigious tracks in America.”

One reason for Ellwood to be excited about the 2020 season at Stafford is the past performance of SK Light cars that were prepared by French.  French has won races at Stafford with himself behind the wheel as well as Mark Bakaj, Joey Ferrigno, and Joe Graf, Jr.  Ellwood has plans on continuing the winning ways and if he can make a strong enough start to his 2020 campaign, even challenging for the track championship.

“I hope to win some races this season,” said Ellwood.  “I don’t see why we shouldn’t be competitive right out of the box.  The car was really good coming off the trailer at Thompson and Paul puts a lot of effort into everything. Hopefully we can improve as the year goes on and with the crew help we have, I think we can be a competitive car.  I’d like to run for the championship but by the same token you have to start the year off on the right foot so we’ll see how things go and take it one race at a time.  Usually if you have a good start to the season that leads to better things.  I think this can be a pretty good year and we can have some success.”

With Ellwood having already driven parts of 6 seasons on the NASCAR Modified Tour as well as driving full blown modifieds on a weekly level at Riverhead, some might view Ellwood’s move to the SK Lights as a step backwards but Ellwood says it’s anything but that.

“I would race shopping karts with motors on them if I could, it doesn’t matter to me what I drive,” said Ellwood.  “I’d like to be racing 4 or 5 times a week.  Any opportunity is an opportunity and it doesn’t matter to me what it is as long as I can get out on the track and compete.  There’s 30 cars at Stafford every week that you have to beat to win races and that’s what I want to do.  They say that Stafford is where the best drivers are and I want to see if I can be one of the best drivers.”

Racing every Friday night at Stafford in the SK Lights won’t be the only racing that Ellwood has planned for the 2020 season.  Although his plans are not yet set in stone, Ellwood will still make several Modified Tour starts and he has hopes to be able to race in the Open Modified 80’s that Stafford Speedway will host on May 15, June 12, July 10, and August 21.

“I’m not sure of all the details yet but we’re still going to run a couple of Tour races this year with my family owned car,” said Ellwood.  “I’d also like to see if we can put a deal together to run the Open 80 shows at Stafford, those races look like a lot of fun.”

The 2020 SK Light season kicks off with the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 24-26.  Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now by calling the Speedway Box Office 860-684-2783 or online at

For more information, visit, checkout Stafford Speedway on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.

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  1. Yet another rookie contender in the SK Lites. Indeed modified racing is alive and healthy at SMS. With 50 SK Lite teams listed as well as 55 SK teams ( although some are listed driver t.b.a. and some are listed as second cars for particular drivers) plus the open mods (10 so far) it seems that modified races should prove to be exciting, as they usually are at Stafford. The full fendered divisions are starting to look healthier too. This shows the great job the Arute family does promoting the track, as well as the overall respect they afford their racers. Great job by all the SMS staff. Good luck goes out to all who compete at SMS in 2020 and beyond. Just my opinion.

  2. 👍

  3. See this is what press releases are for. This is an exciting new partnership that came out of nowhere, that no one could have predicted. One that may generate symbiosis that will vault the 2 to the top of the standings. But come one man. Say what the starting point is for these guys.
    French has had his moments but over the last several seasons he’s not had much success. as a driver and that’s being diplomatic. 19 starts last year, not even a top 10 and years prior it’s not much better. Ellwood is the guy in the NWMT that is under budgeted that makes the field, tries to keep the wheels on and if he does brings it home a few laps down around 20th give or take.
    Yes it is a couple steps down for Ellwood and what’s wrong with that. I wish more guys that have had success in divisions that moved up only to get lost deep in the field would feel they could drop down to race at the front again.
    So the press release is a big fat optimistic sugar coated candy cane of positivity that is doing it’s job but doesn’t remotely lay out the challenge ahead for the 2. The reality is the field especially starting out that will be loaded with experienced veterans with good equipment as well as fresh faced kids with the best equipment money can buy. If you want to win a race you darned well better finish well the first three weeks to get yourself a favorable handicap position because track position with those cars is everything except for Narducci and he’s gone.
    There’s no fan that follows and admires the Light division that wouldn’t love to see an old hand like Ferrigno, Charland or the new French/Ellwood team race for the win every week in a division that lately has been dominated by young bucks. Or a woman that would be good too.
    Symbiosis may do the trick here. They’re on my radar and I’ve got a really good feeling that these guys are going to make some waves this year.
    Good luck.

  4. Once they start sending cars home with a DNQ hopefully they will start paying tow money again. otherwise they will only get 25-30 cars a week. If they bring back a non-qualifier race they will draw more cars on a weekly basis.

  5. changing gears says

    How can a guy go from running a Tour Type modified ,to a starter division light.Makes no sense,or fair to other teams

  6. Changing Gears,
    I don’t think there’s anything unfair. What’s unfair? And short track racing has always been a sport where competitors are independent contractors who can race in whatever division fits their desire and budget. Is it unfair for a Cup driver to compete in a Truck Series event? Unfair for a Whelen Modified Tour driver to compete in an SK Modified regularly? And all that said, I’d hardly characterize the SK Light Modified division as a “starter division”.

  7. Justin Foley says

    Then Shawn why when Stafford got rid of the prostocks and went to SK lites it was a starter/feeder for future SKS? That’s what they called it themselves. One day you will stop calling out and chastising your readers.

  8. Justin,
    Chastising my readers? Are you we being just a wee bit dramatic there? The comment was made questioning how someone could go from a Tour Type Modified division to a “starter division” and made reference that it would be unfair of him to being racing in that division. I asked the person leaving the comment to ask what was unfair about that. Calling the SK Light Modifieds a feeder to SK Modifieds is perfectly fine. But just generally referencing it as a “starter division” is really going out on a limb. When I think of the term “starter division” in reference to a short track I think of a division where competitors/teams who have no history in competitive racing would typically find a place to get their feet wet in the sport, hence the term “starter division”. When someone says “starter division” in relation to Stafford I would tend to think more in the line of their Street Stock division, not there SK Light division. Yes, certainly some drivers these days make the jump directly from youth divisions to SK Light Modifieds, but that’s the nature of motorsports today. Some drivers make the jump straight from youth divisions to the ARCA Menards Series too, that doesn’t make the ARCA Menards Series a “starter division”. And just to take it a step further, Kyle Ellwood has made 25 career starts with the Whelen Modified Tour with one career top-10 finish. We’re not talking about a guy who made a career at the top levels of NASCAR and won races and championships and then decided to go run in a Street Stock. He’s 25-years old and is looking to run in a division full-time at Stafford that works for him and his family.

  9. Old Observer says

    Track time is important at any track, especially Stafford. It looks like he is making a good investment in his future.

  10. There was no chastising. No belittling or talking down to anyone. There was an opposing view supported by examples. Additional information by an expert. We see it in social media and here as well on occasion. There’s the point being discussed which in this case is drivers moving down in divisions then the vague chastising accusation that is really an irrelevant personal attack that doesn’t serve the point being discussed at all. It’s not liking what the person is saying then calling them a witch. Then the accused has to mount a defense for not being a witch and everyone gets dumber in the process.
    It’s about the car, not the driver. My view the car is 95% of the success a team has. If the observation is that Ellwood could dominate the division based on experience alone it seems to me the old hands in the division like Ferrigno who has had real success in the past would stay consistently at the front. Bakaj has raced in opens and in NWMT events so why isn’t he in the front every week? It’s about the car and the bigger the track the more it is about the car..At Stafford with the funky grooves and two different corner configurations it’s even more about the car. And who says that moving up in divisions makes you a better driver. On average it’s probably true but it’s certainly not always true. Top 10 cars for sure then after that I’m not sure it’s true at all.
    I give Ellwood credit for going into the seething cauldron of equal cars fighting for position in the Lights. Where in order to do well you need to have everything perfect on the car then do everything perfect on the track as well as be lucky. Not the neatly layered degree of competitiveness of the NWMT where you can claim a 16th and moral victory just finishing the race. You have 20 laps, you either have it or you don’t, there are no moral victories and no excuses. If he doesn’t do well it won’t be Coby and Bonsignor running over him it could be some kid that has barely started shaving. Good luck going home with that image in your head.
    Ironically I see the Lights making Ellwood a better driver. You can chastise me for being the naive fool if he has Narducci/Hodgdon like success but in my view he’ll be struggling to get top 5’s.

  11. It was considered a starter division when it all started i believe they had rules against past champions not being eligible to race and you can not run sk ski or late model skl on the same night. Now it is not considered a starter division it is considered a crate division that races for way too little money. Dirt modifieds have the same type of divisions except they have 3 good paying ones

  12. SK Lights were are starter division when you only needed one motor and didn’t need to refresh halfway through the season. The division was dedicated to a true spec division with true crate engines and not these worked over engines that they have now not to mention that the crate engine has changed over the years from the factory. Plus they run a spec shock which ends up costing just as mush as a regular SK pro shock at the end of the day.

  13. commonSense says

    How the hell did this article turn into a bash fest of he SK Light division at Stafford. Its the strongest weekly asphalt division in the Northeast.

  14. Not to put too fine a point on it but if anyone is being bashed it’s the Stafford management for letting the Light costs run amok.
    If they are increasing significantly it’s not translating to better lap times. I averaged the podium finishers lap times on two nights, one in July, one in August for the Light races. In 2012 the average was 20.07, 2014 it was 19.97 and in 2019 it was 20.02.
    We’ve covered the engine. Upgraded valve springs, line boring, decking, cylinder boring all allowed and it increases the cost from 4 to 5 to 7 to 8 grand. So what. Rick Fuller said in he recent Stafford podcast his 1983 Street Stock engine was 10 grand in 2020 dollars and I know the winning motor at the time which was a TA cost about $8500 adjusted for inflation. The majority of the field is not buying all the bells and whistles. You can race the base engine and do well if not win. It’s a bargain in historical terms.
    Mid season refresh? If anyone is doing it they’re wasting their money. Except for Riverheads iron fisted rules I suppose you could refresh a motor after every race but why do it? It takes several races to reach maximum horsepower then drops off negligibly.
    Shocks; only one I can see in the Light rules and it cost about $140. SK’s have 9 manufacturers listed. I don’t know what the most popular shock is but the Integra shocks go for hundreds of dollars. Shock dyno’s are cost effective, Stafford checks shocks so good luck cheating on them as one prominent Late Model driver found out after a win.
    Then there is what commonSense said. How do you belly ache about a division that by any standard given the current climate is thriving. Thriving and they are not paying a purse anywhere near their value in fan interest. Would you if you didn’t have to?

  15. And what is wrong with Riverheads iron fisted rules? They are doing a great job controlling the cost of racing for that division. Maybe the rest of the tracks should try it. Oh wait, that is what the SKL engine rules started as way back when and the tracks have allowed the engine builders to get away with upgrades that cost additional $$$$ driving the cost of racing up and of course the purse stays stable. The rich get rich and the poor get poorer.

  16. Is iron fisted insulting. Didn’t mean it to be. They issue the engines in some divisions, allow their use with no rebuilds. Fine with me if it works for them. OK I shall say extremely rigid. There all better.
    On to new business. Bo Gunning made a couple interesting comments about the engines in the SK’s and Lights at Stafford that I think Paul Arute handled very nicely. Bo said that now some of the SK teams are rebuilding engines after a few races and it was out of control. He referred to new pistons. He also said the Light engines were up to 10K to which Paul was adamant that the figure was 6k which he should certainly know about. Bo said the SK’s should get a good crate engine, bolt on a four barrel and really keep the cost down. It was a brief exchange but interesting how it evolved. Some here have mentioned how the SK engines are out of control and they may be right. Then again you look at car counts and Light teams having no fear moving up and you wonder if the base engine that most cars use is all that expensive. The Lights, LLM’s and Streets are reasonable compared to past engine costs and it’s been confirmed on a few occasions.
    Bo gives a great interview. Both he and Jerry Pearl drove for the S&S 33 in days gone by and the way each described that ride was a contrast in personalities not to mention driving styles. Bo detailed with anecdotes, exuberant and complimentary and Pearl didn’t even mention who the two owners were. Thing with Bo is you barely need questions. Get him started and you learn a lot as long as you’re willing to listen and it’s always worth listening to.
    Anecdote of the interview was Bo pulling TC from the Thomson wreck as the fuel was igniting and Ted putting Bo in the fence the next time they raced.
    Check it out.

  17. Basically what the sk’s have today for engines is a very expensive crate. No one builds there own engines anymore. They just write checks. cheaper if they let GM build them.

  18. Steve- At least two winning top competitors in the SK build and maintain their own engines. Facts.
    Mike Christopher and Keith Rocco. Sure Rocco works at Pettit but none the less, he does his own motors.

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