Bigger And Better: Improvements Galore On Tap Once Again At Stafford Speedway 

The new Double Hooked Lounge trackside viewing patio at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – With a solidly developed reputation built as one of the premier short track racing facilities in the country, it’s fair to say track ownership at Stafford Speedway could quite easily have locked the gates up on the property at the end of the 2022 season, left things just the way they were and opened back up for 2023 without losing any ground on anyone else in the business. 

But setting the bar higher and higher for short track racing each offseason has essentially become the master plan for the Arute family at Stafford Speedway.

For the 2023 season the track will once again unveil a laundry list of eye-opening improvements for both fans and competitors. It’s a drive for continued improvement not lost on longtime competitors at the track like four-time SK Modified champion Keith Rocco. 

“It’s awesome as a racer because you can see they’re putting back into the place all the time,” Rocco said Saturday. “Some places you go to, they just take your money and they just run their place into the ground and that’s it. Not only is this place one of the nicest facilities in the country for racing, every year they’re making it better. That’s good to see for the racers and that’s why they have the best car count in New England. You can’t ask for any more as a racer.” 

The gates of Stafford Speedway swung open for competitors Saturday for an open practice in preparation for the 51st NAPA Spring Sizzler weekend April 29-30, the kickoff to the 2023 season at the historic half-mile facility. 

It gave racers the chance to view improvements made since October. 

“I think we just look at as, we have to always improve,” Stafford chief operating officer Paul Arute said. “Like any business, like anything in life, you always have to get better at what you’re doing. We saw some areas where we could improve the fan experience big time. That’s where everything is now. … We love the sport, obviously, but I think our biggest thing is that we approach things as a business where we want to sustain for the competitors and the fans. I think since COVID, 2020, we’re more aware of what this place means to everybody else. We take that as a big responsibility.” 

The most notable of the improvements was the installation of SAFER barriers – commonly known as “soft walls” – through the lengths of the corners at both ends of the track. 

SAFER (Steel And Foam Energy Reduction Barrier) Barriers were first introduced at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2002. The technology of the barriers allows the wall itself to absorb a larger portion of the kinetic energy released when a car hits the wall, reducing the energy dissipated through the car and the body of the driver. The technology also reduces the energy that would typically thrust a car back across a track and into traffic.

SAFER Barriers have become standard at all major speedways in the country. But because of the high price of materials and installation, use of the barriers at short tracks is rare. Stafford management was able to purchase the barrier materials from Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park, which closed in 2010.

Another major noticeable addition for 2023 at the facility is the construction of a trackside fan viewing patio connected to the Double Hooked Lounge on the midway. 

“We felt like we needed to do something else for the fans to improve their experience,” Stafford general manager David Arute said. “Everyone sees the racing [broadcast] on [FloRacing]. But if they see people are having a blast on the patio, drinking a beer while watching races from within a few feet of the track, maybe we’ll get those people watching on Flo to come to the track to enjoy the experience here.” 

The 2023 improvements come a year after Stafford introduced a massive infield video monitor. The fan experience improvements at Stafford seem to buck a growing trend in short track racing. Many short track facilities around the country seem more focused on their back gate than improving the fan experience at the track. 

“We stay in our own lane, but everybody can do something different, and maybe that’s something that works for them,” Paul Arute said. “How we approach things is that the [back gate and front gate] go together. Every driver, they want to be the star, it doesn’t matter what division, they want to be stars. And we try to look at every driver as the star here. … [We promote] everybody. It’s important to tie in the names, the cars and the teams for the fans and then that just spins the flywheel. People want to go to a place that’s fun. They want to go to a place where they think they’re cheering on friends. Even if they’ve never met the person, we try to make it feel like that with our social [media], our videos, our autograph sessions, bringing back the pit party. I look at it like we’ve got to connect fans to drivers. Why would anybody want to come here if you don’t even know what you’re looking at or who you’re looking at? So I think it all goes together. The drivers are an extremely important part of the equation in connection with the fan experience. And the drivers that come here buy in to what we’re doing. Some drivers come and go, but the ones that continue to come here, they get it.” 

Other physical improvements at the track for 2023 include new grandstands from turn four to the new viewing patio and a section of new grandstands in the pit area. Pit road has been widened and the size of pit boxes has been increased. 

The track has also introduced a new website during the offseason and has developed a phone app for competitors to manage tire inventories. 

“It’s the best short track probably in all of America,” SK Modified competitor Noah Korner said. “And every winter it’s something new. They didn’t just put in a new bar, they didn’t just put in one grandstand or just two grandstands. They didn’t just wrap the track with SAFER barrier. No, all that wasn’t enough. They fixed pit road too. It’s just insane what they do here and the work they’re always putting into this place to improve it.” 

Paul Arute (left) and David Arute (right) at Stafford Speedway open practice Saturday (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)


  1. Awesome job ,best of luck this season

  2. Sharpie Fan says

    I hope that Tommy Baldwin will be happy!

    Thank you to the Arute family for all of your continued improvements. It’s much appreciated. 👍👍🏁

  3. This is awesome!

    How is the reconstruction of the Waterford Speedbowl doing?

  4. Rubber Ducky says

    Heard Kopcik was trying to scam tires at Stafford and was escorted out of the Hoosier truck. This kid can’t even get through a practice day without getting caught cheating.

  5. This just shows that the ENTIRE New England racing community should thank the staff at Stafford. Kudo’s to the Arute family for all they do to improve the Racing experience for competitors and fans alike.

    On another note, sometimes I just wish that the trolls would stay silent!

  6. Stuart A Fearn says

    I’ll tell you, the new pit grandstands are awesome! Huge standing room area at the top for spotting from there or just watching. After all that was the best spot to watch the Kopcik-Wesson rumble last year (highlight of the year) so that’s probably the sole reason they put in the huge area. Seriously, these and the other grandstands are super nice along with the SAFER walls, new beer patio area, pit road, etc. The maintenance and improvements are continuous and impressive.
    The Arutes treat the facility like the biggest family investment, and that’s what it is, and work tirelessly out there with their own hands getting dirty like 7 days a week at times. The passion for racing shows in that operating the track is not simply a job it’s a way of life and the passion for it is the only way people will work that hard. Paul and David both racing obviously shows that as well.
    Good to be back at it now and looking forward to the future.

  7. Been going for years and the recent upgrades/improvements have been top shelf. This is a great family racetrack and the Arutes deserve applauds. My only recommendation is the handle the trash on race day more diligently. Thank you Arute family!

  8. If you build it, they will come.

    Stafford has been proving that line over and over.

    It was about 10 years ago the lavs in the pits at Stafford were about as disgusting as the cesspools at the 🚽. Little by little, improvements started around then. It was big news when the pit lavs were refurbed. Stafford has done wonders over the last few years, and apparently they are not slowing down.

    Look at the praise Stafford is getting for all these improvements, and then what has happened at Thompson and Waterford. 😜

  9. I agree Paul and David are hard workers and have great ideas making such great improvements. I really enjoy watching the racing on Friday nights. Now if they can eliminate one late model division then that would be awesome

  10. When you’re seeing Rocco being downright effusive you know Stafford has done something really special. He’s had some run-ins with Stafford management and judging from his comments water under the bridge, good to read.
    Thanks Stafford for the one hour plus look in on Facebook, now on Youtube for our viewing pleasure. The new pavilion and bleacher configuration looks to be downright high end. Pit road a lot wider and that new wall structure is the cats meow. 120 cars for a practice session if you can believe it and judging from the scuff marks more then a few cars have tested the new wall.
    Dodge sounded strong, imparting a bunch of insights about teams for 2023. Point of correction though as I do not believe “Jean-Guy Poulin has teamed up with the legendary Dan Avery” on the 22 SK Rocco is driving. Correct me if I’m wrong but that would be Jean-Guy & Brigitte Poulin as owners of the 99 driven by Tyler Hines. It’s own interesting story for 2023 resurrecting the look Rowan Pennink had years ago when he was winning championships in the SK’s. A Mike Paquette, Chassis Dynamic’s car with a lot of star power that on paper looks to contend for wins in 2023.
    Teams testing but all the systems being tested as well and for the first off the stream seemed close to season ready.
    Jon McKennedy stood out. That team is not sitting on it’s laurels they’ve been all in this year in events even outside of the NWMT. Turning good laps times so they’ll be a team to watch come next weekend.
    I suppose waiving around more accolades is pointless, Stafford being in their own category of quality management at this point. Not just in relationship to other tracks in the region but it’s toughest competition that being prior Stafford Managements. One might assume it’s SRX that has funded and motivated the pace of improvements. But they got SRX in the first place, got them to return again and again this year. Who would ever have predicted any of that when SRX was first announced?
    Well that worked out perfect. A full day of practice and much need rain today so now it’s fingers crossed for good weather next weekend.

  11. Honestly, I cant think of anything left to improve at Stafford. You cant say that about many short tracks. I cant wait to check out everything.

  12. Fast Eddie says

    If anyone wants to learn the best way to run a racetrack, all they have to do is go to Stafford Speddway! They contually set the standard, and then surpass it! The one defining moment for me with the Arute boys was when a car wrecked the guardrail in turn 2 one night and both of them were helping to install a new post and fix the guardrail. I think it’s awesome that they are as passionate about the track as their parents! Something that other kids should be interested in perpetuating!

  13. Kudos to Stafford management on everything they do to make visiting a great experience. And I thought that soft serve ice cream stand /vendor was an improvement.. goodness! Kudos

  14. racing times they are a changing for the worse says

    Brilliant ! let the beer drinkers and alcoholics get a premier view of the racetrack.. did they ever consider a handicapped platform like this ? wheelchair accessible of possibly specialized seating ? Rocco is all for it? That’s great ! Is he the new face of Stafford ? perhaps they could have asked Chris Jones , Bo gunning or Glen Reen what they thought ?…LOL kudos for the safer barriers based on the SKL division those children are starting to play rough…

  15. racing for diversity and inclusion says

    are we going to dedicate the deck to jeremy mayfield or todd parrott.. will they be serving transgender beer? who will be the first transgender driver to win a NASCAR event ? bout it dareal ??

  16. Well the racing is a one groove track so lets go get a beer, we wont miss anything.

  17. “who will be the first transgender driver to win a NASCAR event ?”
    A tough one for sure but I’ll take a stab at it. My guess is it will be the first person to take the checkers.

    “Well the racing is a one groove track so lets go get a beer, we wont miss anything.”
    “Trump won the election in 2020”
    Potato, potaato don’t you think? Niether accurate.

  18. One is called Trump.
    The other is called the Biden crime family.
    We really won’t miss anything.

  19. The Biden crime family you say. Hmm, I can’t speak to that. I have heard there are numerous committees in the House of Representatives investigating that very accusation. No doubt they are competent and unbiased arbiters of the investigations they are over seeing. Knowing that the American public tends to elect only the best and brightest to Congress we can all rest assured they will conduct fair and impartial investigations don’t you think?
    “Racing (at Stafford) is a one groove track” is a trope we hear from time to time very much like “Trump won the election”. Neither literally or figuratively true but when you say it enough times and hope it’s true it can become true for many that want it to be that way. They trade on the fact that Stafford can be a single file affair on occasion like at all tracks and election fraud does crop up from time to time in the best of circumstances.
    Negotiating Stafford’s two sets of corners that have different banking and arcs is a complex undertaking for any division. Get one and two spot on in many cases it automatically ends up making you marginal in three and four with the opposite being true. The sweet spot is usually a compromise that’s maddeningly hard to achieve and elusive since it changes with the weather and time of day. Success measured in fractions of a second in lap times. Elections are a lot like setting a car up for Stafford. Complex with so many moving parts. A race against the clock to properly account for the tally after the vote and after the vote passing tech to make sure there was no hanky panky in getting to the final result.
    In both racing and elections the public at large know well there are rules and they have to be followed although most of us don’t know the actual mechanics of the rules nor are they qualified to interpret or enforce them. That’s where the scallywags come in taking advantage of the general ignorance of the nuts and bolts and casting doubt on the results.
    There is no easy way to magically justify the results of an election it’s too complex and requires a measure of faith that the tech staffs are competent and diligent in carrying out their duties. All easy pickings for those that would cast doubt on the result they were not happy with.
    Racing a bit like elections in that we can’t know the rules are being followed chapter and verse we need to have faith in the tech staff is doing their jobs well. However unlike elections we can see what’s happening on the track. For the ingenuous it’s perfectly clear that while Stafford is a challenging track to race the trope that it’s a one groove track in an attempt to diminish the credibility of the product is neither literally of figuratively true. Like those that would deny election results it’s a trope perpetuated by scamps who have mischief in the heart and are up to no good.
    Circle tracks, elections, both races with much in common don’t you think?

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