Bright Spot: Ryan Fearn Gets Back To Late Model Victory Lane At Stafford; Ryan Waterman Tops Street Stocks

Ryan Fearn celebrates victory in the Late Model feature Friday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – The sun can make for a blinding turn one interference on certain nights as it sets to the west of Stafford Speedway. 

On Friday it was the Late Model division running their feature at Stafford with the sun setting. 

But it was the bright yellow car at the front of the field that seemed to be disappearing from the competition faster than the sunlight at Stafford. 

Ryan Fearn checked out from the field on the way to a dominating victory in the 30-lap Late Model feature Friday at Stafford. 

Fearn started on the pole, led every lap and beat second place Kevin Gambacorta to the checkered by a galactic 3.7 seconds. It proved the perfect turnaround for Fearn, who had to park his car during the season opening feature last Saturday due to an overheating issue. The East Longmeadow, Mass. driver was cooly subdued in victory lane Friday. 

“It’s not like I expected to win, but I expect too much out of myself,” Fearn said. “I hold myself to an impossibly high standard. If I were to start on the pole and say like Tom [Fearn] or Adam [Gray] or somebody got by me, I would be really upset. That would upset me more than a [Did Not Finish] like I had last week. It’s just having an impossibly high standard. I beat myself up all the time. I try to be perfect but nobody could be perfect.” 

Gambacorta, of Ellington, recovered from an early race issue to finish second. 

“I drive better when I’m angry,” Gambacorta said. “I don’t think there’s anybody as fast this car right now. … If we didn’t have to go to the back I could have been one spot further up.” 

Wayne Coury Jr. of Fairfield was third. 

It was the fourth career Late Model division victory for Ryan Fearn and his first since Sept. 9., 2020.

Ryan Fearn held off Coury on lap three restart and then set the cruise control to quick. By lap 15 he had opened a second and a half lead over Coury. By lap 22 that advantage was opened to 2.4 seconds. 

“I just settled in and ran the laps I was comfortable, with” Ryan Fearn said. “You have to run a comfortable pace in order to win the race. If you start getting too squirrelly you’re not going to win it.” 

Ryan Waterman celebrates victory in the Street Stock feature Friday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

Last Friday Ryan Waterman scored his long awaited first trip to victory lane at Stafford. 

He waited only a week to score his second win. 

Waterman, of Danielson, held off reigning division champion Travis Hydar to win the 20-lap Street Stock feature.

Hydar, of Woodbury, was second and Bert Ouellette of Ellington third. 

Kevin Cormier of Agawam, Mass. won the 20-lap Limited Sportsman feature. Jeremy Lavoie of Windsor Locks was second and Rich Hammann of Tolland third. 

George Bessette Jr. of Danbury topped the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature. Chris Matthews of Stafford was second and Nick Anglace of Ansonia third. 


  1. Congratulations to Ryan, Stuart and the Fear motorsports team for the win. Great job.

  2. Meathead Mike says

    Congrats to Ryan Fearn, great run

  3. Stuart A Fearn says

    Thanks guys! Ryan gives great feedback on the car so after last week we debriefed and made one change is all. Ran one practice, one more small adjustment for the feature and the rest is history.
    Thanks to the whole team, everyone working hard together, and Matt Vasseur spotting for Ryan. Terrific job on the radio.
    Very happy to be so fortunate to have two wins in two weeks with two drivers already.

  4. Bessette has “IT”. It’s still early but he looks to have all the tools necessary to be a better then average tour mod driver somewhere down the line. The “IT” factor he has is not just the pure joy he shows for winning but first making sure that everyone that helps him gets recognized. The opposite of whatever Bessette is would be Anglace whining about the contact he encountered finishing in third. They started a ridiculous 34 cars. In that pool of piranha where you’re guaranteed to wreck badly at least a couple times a year, finishing and loading the car under it’s own power is a good night. You want to avoid contact quit and take up golf.
    Honorable mention to the women finishing in the top 10 as well as Paul Arute in only his second start in the Lights coming in 10th.

  5. Best race of the night goes to the SKL.

  6. Love what drivers say on the podium. Waterman “speechless” but clearly happy and a bit shocked he’s been so good so early and especially beating Hydar. Hydar also shaking his head at how strong Waterman is unable to stay in front of him coming to the front. We may just have a Meyer/L’etoile season long battle brewing. That would be a treat indeed.

  7. Suitcase Jake says

    Congratulations… Ryan… Stu….Crew …. Well Stu maybe having more Horses in the Race is a GOOD IDEA after all….2 for 2 …. WOW …..I guess it’s the # 12 Alexandra Fern’s turn next week …. LOL

  8. Hillary 2024 says

    Stafford allows a driver to run an sk lite and a tour mod on the same night?

  9. Hillary 2024,
    From the Stafford Speedway SK Light Modified Rulebook:
    DRIVER ELIGIBILITY: All drivers must have a Stafford SK Light Modified driver’s license. Drivers must be minimum 15 years of age. Cross division competition will be permitted upon approval and a maximum of 3 times throughout the 2023 season. All cross competition must be approved by Stafford Motor Speedway.

  10. robert valerio says


  11. Is Paul Arute considered a rookie in the skl? If so why is he starting up front? Just asking that is all

  12. Bill that is an interesting point- Stafford has some strange, not so fair starting spot procedure’s. For example- it used to be a turtle rule – too slow you start in the back. Then it was top 20, then it was top 18, now I think it’s top 15. Just an example on how it’s not fair, say you have 2 or 3 DNF to Start off the season. Now you have to start 15th or worse most likely the rest of the season because of this handicapping. You basically eliminated any chance of winning a race or championship in the first 3 races

  13. Bill,
    No he is not considered a rookie. He dropped from a higher level division (Late Models) where he already fulfilled his rookie status. According to the Stafford rulebook: “In order to be granted Rookie consideration, a driver may not have competed in more than five (5) races in your selected (or higher) division at SMS in any previous season.”

  14. Steve,
    If you aren’t in the top-18 in points you start behind the qualified cars that are in the top-18 in points. The system is in place to reward drivers who loyally compete weekly at the track. When there are no heats it goes to the top-15 in points getting handicapped positions. I’d argue that handicapping of the field is in place as a system to avoid having the fast cars starting near the front. I don’t think it’s looked at as a way to reward those who aren’t competitive. By your logic, why not just turn it into “Everybody gets a trophy”? It’s still supposed to be a competitive endeavor. And if you have three DNF’s in the first three races, the chances that you’re going to be competing for a championship by the end of the year are pretty slim. And, last year 11 cars in the final top-18 in the SK Light Modified points started all 19 events. So if you’re someone who plans on being there weekly and you can’t crack the top-18 in points even after a few bad weeks to start the season, maybe you need to worry about the competitiveness of your program and not worry about why you’re not getting to start on the front row.

  15. “say you have 2 or 3 DNF to Start off the season. Now you have to start 15th or worse most likely the rest of the season because of this handicapping”

    From the Stafford web site:
    “Drivers will be handicapped based upon the three previous race events held. ”

    Just finish races and finish in the first 18 cars for three races in a row you’ll find yourself starting up front at some point.

  16. Thank you for clearing that up for me Shawn appreciate it!

  17. I will give you an example- the 87 has had 2 dnf’s this year. Back when they had a turtle rule, week 2 would of had the 87 starting up front with a pretty good chance at a top 5.., let’s say he wins week 2. Now he has a win and a very good chance to finish top 5 in final points. Under today’s handicap, the 87 gets wrecked starting in the back in week 2. Now week 3 he has to start 19th or worse.. chances of he finishing the race goes down 50% and chance of a top 5 is pretty slim. He gets another DNF it’s all over, probably not get a real handicap the whole season.

  18. Stuart A Fearn says

    The top 18 in points rule is, in my understanding, only when there are no heat races. This happens maybe 4x a year when there are extra features or open shows that take more time.
    So, as others have said, last three weeks points ( finishes) is how the handicap is determined. Best finishers start last of cars handicapped that week. So for instance, in a division with two heat races in seven qualify each heat race that would be 14 cars in the handicap. So, the top guy would start 14th. Worst finishes start pole. Winners that year cannot start top 5 (some variation per division) so if you have already won then had three bad weeks your going to start 6th
    Hope some of that makes sense
    Sometimes even I have to go and talk to the handicapper to understand what’s going on. They do a very good job and have a very good understanding of the system and always have an explanation.

  19. I’ll concede my experience in the 80’s is dated but I’ve never heard of the turtle rule. I was a turtle for sure the first year. Then as soon as I got up to speed found myself on the front row. Feeling at the time in my under powered Chevelle like the dog that caught the car as I proceeded to get run over.
    I don’t agree with that scenario at all and especially with the 87. The car counts will be going down. Ferrigno is more then capable of making significant gains in his position in races well within the handicap. The sport is auto racing not track and field sprints. Wrecks happen, part of the challenge is to find ways to not be in them to the extent you can.
    There’s proof to this pudding. Let’s put a pin in this one. The first race the 87 starts on the first row we can revisit this again. If not then it’s game, set, match.

  20. You are pretty much correct Stuart Fearn. Because two of 18 in points didn’t show, the 19th and 20th were added to the prequalified cars. Now those cars started by handicap. When they run a consi, those cars start straight up on how they finish the consi. By not even running a consi, it is my opinion they should have been handicapped from 19th back also but it appears they started straight up based on how they finished last weeks feature. Someone lost their mind making that decision.

  21. Back in ’01&’02, our car owner Frank had the handicap system figured out. He not only told us where we would start that week, but also our competitors starting spots. Needless to say, when you win or podium each week, your starting around 15th, or so and only 40 laps (back then) to scratch a way to the front. Back then there was a full field and a handful of cars ended up going home. Back then there were allot of fast cars, with talented drivers, but it was fun watching the top dogs come through the field. If the fast guys start up front, it would be boring.

  22. Maybe I am wrong here – but I believe Stafford only handicaps the top 18 point cars for the feature. If you are not in the top 18 in points you do not start in the top 18 in the feature – never was like this until back when the Track was NASCAR and they had regional point championships and Stafford wanted there drivers to have a better chance to be champion. Not fare to the other 20 competitors in the SKL division – the other divisions it doesn’t matter as much because there aren’t enough cars

  23. Stafford Handicapping Rules Excercpts says

    “For some events, a predetermined number of cars (based upon the current order of point standings) may be considered as pre-qualified. The driver must be signed in 45 minutes before racing starts to take advantage of being pre-qualified. Any exception to this must be pre-approved by Race Control. 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.

    In events that don’t include a draw or are pre-qualified, starting lineups for heats will be lined up according to the driver’s handicap value from lowest to highest. For feature starting lineups, qualified drivers from the heats will be lined up according to the driver’s handicap value from lowest to highest except drivers in the top-18 in the current points standings will start ahead of those drivers not in the top-18.

    No current season feature-winning driver may be posted in the feature line up to start higher than fifth position in a feature event. This rule may be amended when necessary. Any driver that has missed more than one of the three previous events may not be moved up in the starting order due to this rule.”

  24. Personally, as an x racer, I hated the handicap system, it was like you were being punished for doing good. Not that it matters, because I knew at the end of the race we’d be at the front ,or near it
    As a race fan, I like the system, because it’s entertaining to watch the fast cars work their way to the front
    Think about how boring the race would be with straight up qualifying.
    Remember, for the track, it’s not a race, it’s a show.

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