Stephen Kopcik Wins SK Mod Feature At Stafford; Mike Christopher Wins Dunleavy Gambler’s Challenge Bonus

Stephen Kopcik celebrates victory in the SK Modified feature Friday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – Around Southern New England short track racing Stephen Kopcik has established himself as one of the top crew chiefs and setup men in the Modified ranks.

But when it comes to Friday nights at Stafford Motor Speedway the 23-year old from Newtown has made it well known that he’s not just the guy with a knack for setting up cars, he’s also pretty stout at driving them too.

Kopcik, the SK Modified division points leader at Stafford Speedway, got his second victory of the season Friday in the 40-lap SK Modified feature at Dunleavy’s Modifiedz Night.

“We’ve been really damn good all year,” said Kopcik, who also serves as Ryan Preece’s crew chief on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. “We’ve only had one win, this is the second one, but I think we’ve had a shot to win probably four more times. … I’m just proud to be standing here and I can’t thank all my guys enough who make this happen.”

Kopcik passed Marcello Rufrano for the lead on lap 22 and went unchallenged the rest of the way.

Rufrano, of North Haven, was second and Mike Christopher Jr. of Wolcott third.

Christopher’s finishing position was drawn as the winner of the Dunleavy’s Gambler’s Challenge Award for the event, which paid a $5,800 bonus on top of the regular race purse. It was third payday of $5,000 or more this season for Christopher. He won $5,000 purses in winning the All-Star Shootout on June 12 and the NAPA SK 5K on June 25.

“Even when we don’t win we make a lot of money,” Christopher said.


  1. The Atomic Punk says

    Boring race. Track needs a second groove. Awful.

  2. The book on Kopcik is very successful in the SK Lights, move’s up and struggles for years in the SK’s. All the while he’s learning the craft of car building and car set ups, becoming a real force in the shop while grinding away in the SK’s trying to break through to the top tier. He’s arrived. The dominant car this year in my view and he earned every bit of it with blood, sweat and tears.
    Congratulations SK drivers. You contributed to a bet that ended up going to the guy that’s won the most money this year but came in third in this race.
    In 2017 Pennink and Christopher had to start scratch for two events after their tussle in victory lane. I don’t see how Rocco and Narducci get to start 14th and 15th ahead of other non handicapped teams that weren’t in any paddock area confrontations and didn’t throw any punches. Rocco in particular. After all that happened how does Rocco start ahead of the gentleman racer Todd Owen make any sense?

  3. I didnt think it was a bad race. They could have used a caution the last half to bunch up the cars as they got a little too strung out. I was hoping they would adopt the SRX fun factor flag with about 10 to go but even without the gimmicks it was a good show. I am wondering if the tire shortage is having any affect on the raciness this year. I think they are down to 1 tire per week. How about Mike Christopher taking home the gamblers challenge. He has taken home all the big money from Stafford this year. Gamblers challenge, sk5k and the allstar shootout. I thought the late models was a good race.

    I actually went for the fist time this year. I decided to go when I noticed the SK’s werent running last on the schedule , so if it did get late I could leave a little early without missing the main event I left around 10pm just after 02 got into the wall. I am happy I went I got to see a lot of race friends I havent seen in awhile. Great to see everyone. I will probably go a couple more times before the season ends.

  4. Is Kopcik the Dark Horse?


  5. Where did the 88,83,81 finish in the heat races? Top five finishers in the heat races were handicapped, if they weren’t in the top five then best starting position would be 16th I believe. Had the 33 finished in the top five in heat three he would have likely started top five, but a seventh place in the heat race relegated him to p21 for the feature.

  6. The Atomic Punk says

    Throw it under a guy going into 3 and the pass is done because there is ZERO groove on the outside for said outside guy to race for the spot…Awful

  7. Your are a total tool Punk

  8. Chaggy31 says

    I don’t know what race punk was watching but Rocco was passing cars on the outside. He passed 2 cars in one lap on the outside in 3 & 4! Mike Jr was passing cars on the outside as well. The real question is where was Williams? Doesn’t he have his own car if he can’t drive Adam’s at Stafford anymore? Will he now be in the 25 for the open mod race?

  9. The Atomic Punk says

    Ken L…..Thats it?… Captain of the Debate team are ya?

  10. Punk why do bother watching you should have just gone to Thompson this week ,oh wait a minute Thompson didn’t run

  11. I have the same question as Doug re: the Rocco starting position. I thought he was out of the handicap for 2 weeks as part of his penalty.

  12. Punk I will debate anyone, as long as they have more to say than just the SAME OLD SH.. every time

  13. It’s complicated, but more than likely Rocco started exactly where he was supposed to, based on heat race finish. If 2 guys handicapped ahead of him finished 6th or worse in their heat he’d start 14th. No funny business, no favoritism, just dumb luck.

  14. “For a pre-qualified feature event, the highest 18 drivers in the current point standings that are signed in for that event will be considered pre-qualified while the highest 15 drivers in the current point standings will be handicapped and start ahead of the other drivers.”

    “\#88 SK Modified®, driver Keith Rocco
    Infraction- Actions detrimental to the sport of auto racing.
    Penalties- Suspended from next completed Stafford Speedway SK Modified® feature event.
    Removed from handicapping for next two (2) attended SK Modified® events.
    Placed on probation until December 31, 2021.”

    What happened? Rocco started 14th and Narducci 15th within the handicap. Stafford can change anything, anytime they like but shouldn’t there be some sort of clarification for the change?

  15. Stuart A Fearn says

    As far as the penalty I’m going with removed from the handicap at the beginning of the night so that would be starting last in the heat race, which he did in the first heat. Narducci started next to last in the second heat
    Keith started 14th in the feature, 1 spot better than he thought he would if he qualified in the heat. Not a big difference at all.
    As far as the outside groove the SKL leader thought it was good enough to choose that lane on a restart then next time he choose the bottom and got passed by the car on the outside. Also, in the LLM Alexandra restarted with 4 to go on the outside and won so I’m not buying the AP bs above. Don’t know how he knows the quality of racing from the sofa anyway

  16. Good point Stuart as far as the outside groove , the outside is tough in the late models more so than other divisions , also hope to see Ryan back soon , the kid can wheel a late model , hopefully he learned from his mistakes , don’t think anyone of us can say we haven’t screwed up at some point ,some of us more than others

  17. Hi Atomic Punk. I assume you are a Limited Sportsman hack that couldn’t get the job done at the one time you went to Stafford. There were about 10 laps that the top ten guys in the Sk Race were side to side, through the corners this past week. If you did that at Thompson Motorsports Park, people would be driven into a concrete wall. The one bad wreck at Stafford was into a softwall. There is one lane at Thompson and that is the outside lane unless you are running one of those lesser divisions. If you do not understand this, you are a fan that loves the bottom shot, running into a car that makes your 4 tires 8. Atomic, you sound like a Limited Sportsman driver. And a mediocre one.

  18. “Removed from handicapping for next two (2) attended SK Modified® events.
    Placed on probation until December 31, 2021.”

    I see nothing about a heat, I see event. I’ve never even heard of a heat penalty. And ya know what. If you’re going to drop in here why not offer something a lot of we fans are wondering about. Like Elect one of my favorite drivers to follow in Late Model racing is your son Mr Fearn. What the hell is going on with him and by extension your team for that matter for not getting him in control. He’s disqualified for the second time pounding on the car in the infield for America to see with an indefinite suspension to follow and you’re here rationalizing Rocco’s penalty.
    I did notice Ryan’s smart ass comment in the driver profile.
    Non Racing Hobies: ” Video Games, racing “forum” participation”
    I’ll take that as Ryan and you perhaps think fans are a necessary evil and mostly ignorant. But you’re here so why not say something insightful instead of treating the fan base like we’re stupid with that heat penalty nonsense.

  19. 🌈🦄2020 says

    It’s almost August and how many times has Thompson run this year punk?

  20. “There is one lane at Thompson and that is the outside lane unless you are running one of those lesser divisions.”

    There are two lanes of racing at Thompson. Unfortunately they are in different series. The outside groove the fast lane at Thompson with the inside lane quick sand for modifieds. The inside lane the preferred lane in road racing with the outside lane coned off.

  21. Sharpie Fan says

    This was not a “a pre-qualified feature event”. A “a pre-qualified feature event” is when there are no heat races as in this coming Friday when they are having the Open Modified race and only the Open Mods run heats.
    Handicapping and qualifiying are two different things. Handicapping is where you are placed in the lineup based on a prescribed formula over the past 3 races with the worst finishing cars getting to start up front. If they started last in the heats then that would be out of the handicapping. Then the top 5 cars in each heat qualified which means they get to start in the top 15 in the feature. If they started 14th or 15th then they were put to the rear of all of the other qualified cars, with the remaining non-qualified cars starting behind them.
    A worse penalty would actually be to have to start at the rear of the feature. That penalty was not assessed.

  22. Here are the penalty notices comparing Christophers penalty in 2017 with Rocco’s.

    “#13 SK Modified, driver Ted Christopher
    Infraction- Actions detrimental to the Sport, off-track.
    Penalties- Removed from the SMS handicap system, must start last in heat and feature for the next 2 events attended. ”

    “#88 SK Modified®, driver Keith Rocco
    Infraction- Actions detrimental to the sport of auto racing.
    Penalties- Suspended from next completed Stafford Speedway SK Modified® feature event.
    Removed from handicapping for next two (2) attended SK Modified® events.”

    They both involved fighting. Rocco got the more severe penalty losing a points race.
    If 14th and 15th are within the handicap system and they are supposed to be out of it why wouldn’t their best position be 16th and 17th even if the scratch deal wasn’t in play?

  23. Sharpie Fan says

    I am not an official so this is an unofficial explanation, but if they qualified in the top 5 then that’s all that they were taking and the rest would start after that. They were put at the rear of the qualified cars, after all of the other cars that were qualified were handicapped. For any more detailed response than that you would have to ask Tom Fox. It’s his system

  24. Based on the info posted by Doug, the TC penalty explicitly stated that he’d start last in the feature for 2 weeks. The Rocco penalty doesn’t include the same language. So, Sharpie Fan’s explanation appears to be correct – Rocco qualified in the top 5 his heat race (one of the 15 qualified cars), but started behind the 13 cars (excluding Narducci) who qualfied in the top 15 and were eligible for handicapping.

    I think it would have made sense for the more sense for the Rocco penalty to specify hat he’d start no better than 16th (or last), but that’s not what was posted.

  25. I get what you all are saying but if you’re out of the handicap I just don’t see how you can start any closer then 16th. Oh well I suppose it’s moot anyway. He wasn’t that sharp last Friday, he’s not winning the championship this year so time to move on at least for me.

  26. Sharpie Fan says

    Re TC’s penalty, if memory serves me correctly (and I could be thinking of a different instance), Teddy just rode around at the back of the pack and then pulled it in after a few laps for his heat race.

  27. Race Monitor shows Christopher finished 5th of 7 completing all 8 laps in heat 2. Pennink finished 5th of 7 in heat 3 completing all 8 laps.

  28. Doug, they are not different series. Different disciplines, as you know. Went to Lime Rock and had a blast! But I have to be honest, at Thompson the short route prevails in Limited Sportsman and MAYBE Mini Stocks. POSSIBLY, if they can keep there RPM’s up the top lane is better. Otherwise, I suggest the Atomic Punk to go to Waterford or possibly Seekonk to see a couple viable lanes. But my statement remains firm. Better side by side racing at Stafford, by a wide margin.

  29. Sharpie Fan says

    It could have been a different instance or even a different driver. I’ve been racing for over 30 years.

  30. How about Rocco in the first TC13 in 2018.

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