Lightning Thunders: Jon Puleo Scores First Career SK Modified Win At Stafford Speedway 

Jon Puleo celebrates victory in the SK Modified feature Friday at Stafford (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – As Jon Puleo climbed the ranks of racing on Connecticut short tracks he was dubbed Jonny P. Lightning as a youth racer.

On Friday at Stafford Speedway the Branford driver was thundering in victory lane for the first time in his career in the premier division at Stafford Speedway. 

Puleo passed Andrew Molleur for the lead on a lap 39 restart to win the 40-lap SK Modified feature Friday at Stafford. 

It was the first SK Modified victory at Stafford for Puleo, who was making his 36th start in the division since 2021. 

“Unreal man,” Puleo said. “I just talked to my guys all year. Just such a hard year. I was talking to my dad and all my guys ‘Maybe this just isn’t cut out for me.’ So much happened. The last green-white-checkered I just said ‘Oh god I need you man. I need you bad.’ Thank you to Andrew for running me so clean. He’s about the only guy that will run you like that. We’ve been best friends forever and now we’re 1-2 at Stafford, it’s the biggest stage.” 

Puleo become the 11th different winner in 18 SK Modified events this year at Stafford. There were 10 different winners in 20 SK Modified races last year at Stafford. Three races remain for the division on the 2022 schedule.

Puleo became the third first-time SK Modified winner this year at Stafford, joining Anthony Bello and Marcello Rufrano on that list. Other SK Modified division winners this year include Todd Owen, David Arute, Stephen Kopcik, Keith Rocco, Bryan Narducci, Ronnie Williams, Cory DiMatteo and Tyler Hines. 

Molleur, of Shelton, was second and division points leader Todd Owen third. 

“Congrats to my longtime best friend Jon Puleo on his win there,” Molleur said. “He’s been working hard for it a long time. He deserves it.” 

Said Owen: “We didn’t have the greatest car. We were just a little too loose. Obviously I had to finish and try to be the best we could, get another podium, another top-five.” 

Marcello Rufrano went past Mike Christopher Jr. for the lead on lap four. On lap 16 caution flew when Christopher and Michael Gervais Jr. spun in a battle for second place. 

Caution was out again on lap 17 when the car of John Montesanto caught fire in turn four. 

On the ensuing restart things got ugly up front. Down the backstretch DiMatteo made contact with Rufrano heading into turn three. The contact sent Rufrano spinning into turn three. DiMatteo was black flagged for aggressive driving. It put Tyler Leary out front with Molleur in second and Owen third. 

On the next attempt at a lap 17 restart Leary held the top spot with Owen getting by Molleur for second place. Molleur fought back on the outside and worked back to second place on lap 18. 

Cautions flew again on laps 20 and 21 with no change of the order happening up front. 

On the lap 21 restart it was Molleur using the outside lane to fight past Leary in a side-by-side battle to the start/finish line. Molleur was able to clear Leary off of turn four on lap 22. 

Leary, looking for his first career win in the division, didn’t back off though. On lap 36 Leary looked under Molleur off of turn two, but Molleur fought off the charge. The pair went side-by-side for the lead on lap 37 with Molleur leading at the line. On lap 38 Leary went to the lead off of turn four. But in turn one on lap 39 Molleur got under Leary. The pair made contact with Leary spinning in the corner. 

“Just an unfortunate situation,” Molleur said. “I don’t drive like that. Just sucks. I’m not happy about it, I feel terrible. … If I could do it over it would definitely be different.” 

The race restarted with Molleur out front and Puleo in second setting up the move for the victory. 


  1. Congratulations Jon and all the crew you guys deserve it you’ve been digging all year

  2. Overall great show tonight.

    The Good SKL running green to checker. First time winners Puleo in the SK and Durand in the late model. Love seeing first time winners. You had the Clement brothers finish 1 2 in the limited LM and they may have gone caution free but I wasn’t paying much attention to that one. Then you have MC Jr win the TC 13 race

    The bad or Odd. Some no calls which I noticed. In the SKs. Rufrano in the 88 spins out the Dimateo 11 in what looked like a retaliation for the 11 spinning the 88 out of the lead earlier. The 11 was put to the back I believe for the first one why wasn’t the retaliation punished. You also have the 35 of Molleur spinning the 1x of Leary out of the lead of what may have been his first win and he got to keep his position. He was actually passed as he slowed down after the contact and they put him back into the lead. They didn’t show a replay of that one. Either is looked really bad or somehow, they missed the leaders battling for the win with a few laps to go. You compare some of these non-calls this week and see the 12 :LLM of Alexandra Fearn get penalized for doing an amazing job of not touching a spinning car in front of her last week. You have to wonder. Maybe ther are some favorites out there maybe the SKs ran so long the guy doling out the punishment had to go home early. Racing contact calls are tough, they are really tough when you don’t call them consistently. Just odd I may watch the video sometime this week maybe some of the incidents looked completely different on tape. I think Molleur basically apologized after being met with a chorus of boos during his post-race second-place interview. So, either no one likes him, or many saw it the way I did in the stands.

    Overall fun night good to see some friends. Really happy I got to one in person.

  3. Way to go JP

    If voted for him in Shawn’s poll who will get there first win

    His dad must be really proud they always works so hard on all there cars
    Congratulations Ed

  4. Lap 11-Bello tire down from contact
    Lap 12-Korner spin
    Lap 15 Christopher turns the 33 for second as the field piles in. Puleo at that point 11th.
    Lap 17-Montesanto fire
    Lap 17 Restart-DiMateo hooks the 88 trying to execute the winning move last week but fails spinning Rufrano.
    Lap 19-Payback as Rufrano spin the 11 on purpose

    At that point it’s taken 42 minutes to go half way in the race.

    Lap 20- Kopec contact with Hines resulting in a spin
    Lap38-Turn 1 bottom shot fails and Moeller spin Leary out of a potential win.
    After the checkered flat more cars wrecking in 2 and 3 including Rocco that prevents him from appearing in the TC13.

    Lap 3- Narducci banging on the 82 gets him out of the way, hits Arute, David saves it then Narducci out of control at that point spins in 1 wrecking pretty much taking out half the field.

    Young guns has a positive connotation as far as drivers go in racing circles. As far as the Stafford SK drivers go it should be more like young grenades.
    Congratulations to Puleo he survived. Make no mistake that’s all it was. Christopher spins Gervais out of a good run on lap 15 piling up the field. DiMateo clips Rufrano out of what very likely would have been a winning run for the 88 or himself.
    The biggest injustice that was beyond reason was Moeller’s turn one bottom shot. The 1 and 35 were racing so good. Leary low, Moeller high it was classic. Leary gets by Moeller after a long struggle doing it perfect. Then Moeller has brain fade, throws out the high side play book that had been working so well and goes low in 1 of all places taking out Leary. He knew Leary was strong low, he knows turn on is NOT the bottom shot corner but did it anyway. No penalty which makes absolutely no sense at all and says in victory lane he doesn’t race like that after he just did. All that success Moeller has had with wins in the SK’s and he takes out a guy that desperately needed a win then says oops. I don’t support conspiracies of Race Control favoritism but that non call was mind boggling.
    After the SK feature Narducci is bending Owen’s ear animated about something. Apparently takes the attitude into the TC13 race, bangs away like he’s back in the LLM’s just starting out and set in motion a wreck that took out half the field. Looked like the Petty Cash elders were a bit disgusted at Bryan and it also looked like Bryan was mouthing off in response.
    My list of young grenades includes DiMatteo trying to repeat his winning move from the prior week but at the wrong time in traffic and misjudging the distance from Rufrano. Rufrano for his retribution spin of the 11 that was too soon and too obvious. The most explosive grenade was Moeller taking out Leary and finally Narducci in the TC13 looking to make waves going in and ending up causing them. Christopher spinning Gervais gets a pass in my book. Mike has no history of brain fade rough housing and it was a simple tire touch at the wrong time.
    That’s two week’s in a row the SK’s have turned in stinkers. Some of those grenades should be embarrassed. Survival is not what fans want to see in my view.
    Amazing that the SK Lights returned most of the cars from wrecks last week like it never happened, learned from it and turned in a beauty. Too bad the SK’s don’t learn as quickly.

  5. Just a late and poorly executed Bonsai move on the 35’s part. He saw the hole closing up and tried to back out of it but carried too much momentum. Regardless, he was at fault, but for the track to not put him back was just a terrible call.

  6. This race just proved radios don’t help anyone. The no over aggressive call on the 35 was ridiculous… feel bad for the 1x. Not sure why the 35 left two lanes open on the bottom while leading, he had that race won if he just dropped to the bottom once he took the lead. Great run for the 82

  7. If your going to give Chistopher a free pass for not having a history of brain fade then I guess Moeller gets one too since he doesn’t have a history either , in fact he could be a little more aggressive in the late model but then again Rob Russell isn’t fixing it every week like with some previous drivers , I agree it looked like 35 should have been put to the back , not sure why he wasnt

  8. As fas as I saw a cross over on an unsuspecting driver is a good move. The officials review it from several camera angles and saw the “chop” trying to protect the lead. A racing deal for good drivers. Props the Moeller for attempting to be clean, unlike a lot of other drivers in the SK field Crazy night

  9. Camera angle you say. The “chop” you say. It’s interesting how often I hear the chop excuse for a car who is in front and been taking the same line lap after lap.
    I believe I’ll take Moeller’s interpretation who knows he done wrong.

    “Yah, no, I got into one there, just an unfortunate situation, I don’t drive like that. Just sucks, I’m not happy about that and feel terrible……”

    It would be a gold star for admitting driver error but in view of the fact it may have been motivated by boo birds Andrew gets a silver star.

  10. Jerry I have to agree he definitely came down on the 35 trying to protect lead

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