Late Control: Stephen Kopcik Tops Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series At Thunder Road 

Stephen Kopcik uncorks the champagne in victory lane to celebrate victory with the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series Sunday at Thunder Road (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

BARRE, VT – It was a day to celebrate firsts aplenty for Stephen Kopcik Sunday. 

Kopcik made his first visit to Thunder Road International Speedbowl one to remember. 

Kopcik had the perfect traction on a lap 96 restart to take control of race leader Matt Kimball, go to the front and win the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series Granite City 100 at Thunder Road. 

It was the first career Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series victory for the Newtown driver, who was making his fifth series start Sunday. 

“I can’t believe it,” Kopcik said. “I can’t believe it. … This is the best series going right now. … It’s awesome. I’ve never driven here before so this is a special win.” 

Woody Pitkat of Stafford was second and Matt Kimball of Bennington, N.H. third. 

The race looked to be coming down a battle between Matt Hirschman and Ronnie Williams. Williams was all over the leader Hirschman on lap 87. Williams made a move to get under Hirschman for the lead in turn four on lap 89, but Hirschman shut the door. With Williams attacking Hirschman, Kimball moved back into the battle up front in third. 

On lap 95 Williams got under Hirschman off of turn two. Contact from Williams sent Hirschman spinning out of the lead off of turn two to bring out the caution. Williams was black flagged under caution for over aggressive driving. 

The melee set up a lap 95 restart with Kimball leading, Pitkat in second and Kopcik in third. 

On the lap 95 restart Kimball was able to fend off the challenges of Pitkat, but the caution was back out on lap 96 for the spinning car of Williams. 

With Kimball taking the inside lane for the restart Pitkat chose the inside lane behind him under the choose rule. It put Kopcik to the outside of the front row for the lap 96 restart.  

On the lap 96 restart Kopcik got by Kimball for the lead off of turn two. Kimball fought back through turn four, but Kopcik was able to clear Kimball for the lead off of turn two on lap 97. Pitkat got by Kimball for second on lap 98 but Kopcik had checked out in the front. 

“Just nerves there,” Kimball said. “We’re a small team with all local guys. I haven’t raced up from in a while. My nerves just got to me and made mistakes at the end. We missed the setup by a little bit. We were a little snug. But I think we should have won that. I have nobody to blame but by myself really.” 

Pitkat was kicking himself for not taking the outside lane on Kimball for the final restart. 

“I’m going to have a nice three hour ride home by myself to kick myself in the ass for not taking the top on the last restart,” Pitkat said. “Prior to that I was on the outside of [Kimball] and he got a pretty good start. I could work out there pretty good but I wasn’t going to be able to hang out there, so I just figured it would be better to protect the bottom and hope that he got a good enough start and I could see if I could pass him. I did that, unfortunately Kopcik cleared him before that. Just a battle all day.

“I shouldn’t be down but I’m pissed off that I let one go. … It’s been [since 2015] since I’ve won a [Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series] race. I had one right there to win and I just let it go.” 

Pole-sitter Jon McKennedy held the top spot at the start with Matt Swanson pestering his bumper for the first five laps. 

On lap six caution flew for the spinning car of Nick Halkowicz. On the lap six restart it was McKennedy holding the lead with Hirschman getting by Swanson for second. 

A lap later the caution was out again for a wreck in turn one involving Max Zachem, Les Hinckley III, Joey Jarvis, Brian Robie and Todd Patnode. The red flag was brought out for cleanup for the tire wall and fluid in turn one. 

On the lap seven restart McKennedy got the jump. Behind him Williams moved by Swanson for third. 

On lap 11 Williams got by Hirschman for second place and quickly found the bumper of leader McKennedy. 

On lap 18 Williams made a bid to get under McKennedy for the lead. Contact had Williams briefly turning sideways. Williams was able to save the car before spinning but not before Hirschman got by him for second place. 

On lap 31 Hirschman found a lane under McKennedy through turns three and four and took the lead coming to the start/finish line. Williams tried to follow past McKennedy but got the door shut on his move. 

The third caution flew on lap 33 for the stopped car of Jacob Perry in the turn three infield. 

On the lap 33 restart it was Williams getting by McKennedy for second and Woody Pitkat moving up to fourth. Caution was back out on lap 36 for the spinning car of Halkowicz.

Hirschman held the top spot on the lap 36 restart. Behind him McKennedy fell from third to fifth with Pitkat moving to third and Swanson to fourth. 

On lap 43 Swanson found the lane under Pitkat to move to third place. Hirschman extended his lead to about 10 car lengths by lap 48, but Williams cut the lead back down to a car lengthy by lap 56. 

Caution flew for the fifth time on lap 60 for the smoking car of Swanson, who had been running third. Under caution Williams, McKennedy and Pitkat went to pit road. It set up a restart order with Hirschman leading, Kimball in second and Chris Pasteryak in third. 

On lap 71 Williams made the move under Kopcik to take over third place. 

On lap 80 Kimball got under Hirschman through turns one and two. Hirschman closed the door on him, allowing Williams to move by Kimball for second place. 


  1. i guess the excuse of Thompson running Monday taking cars away when they lose cars off the list after Thompson cancels.

    I’ve been saying this for years now. Get used to car counts like this for a while. Asphalt modified racing has a lot of problems, and it’s not only NASCAR.

  2. Camerissa says

    I wonder why the Jake Johnson #15 was a no show. Is that the first tri track race Hirshman ran a Pee Dee car and not his own red car?

  3. Tough call on the 50 car… looked to me the 60 car was at fault coming down out of turn 2. Great move by Kopcik to steel the 🏁

  4. zig I agree with your statement as it pertains to Tour/Open type mods. Stafford is consistently having solid car counts in both SK & SKL. What i think they need really is FEWER “brands” The NWMT, MTTS MRS Open Shows, & even the ROC, Most drivers are going to choose ONE series, stick to that schedule to maintain a budget! You will get a little “Crossover” from some mid-pack teams, who will choose to take a shot!

    Also, it would be great if we had some REALLY big payouts like the dirt shows have, and it has to have a gradual paydown. WIth costs of tires, fuel, travel and fees, most times you cannot make ends meet.

    I’d love to see a HUGE payoff, maybe like 200K with $2,000 to start and see what kind of count you would see then.


  5. chevelledude says

    Would’nt that mean the price of addmission goes up also. I get what your saying though. Bring back the old All Srar Rcing Leauge. Just a thought.

  6. Back in 80’s there were really only 3 divisions, mods, late models and street stocks. Cost’s were pretty cheap and everyone built their own engines and purses were about the same as today. Now today the cars , tires, and fuel cost is ridiculous. Weekly racers can only afford to race once a week – back in the 80’s weekly racers ran 3 times a weekend. Fri/Sat/Sun was the norm and they either made some $ or broke even. Now there are just too many divisions, engine rules to go around to get full fields every week.

  7. Crazy in NY says

    Camerissa, A few years ago Pee Dee was raced at Clairemont and won. Built engine cars are handicapped by 50# I believe it is….that may have kept some away. Matt certainly isn’t having a Matt year. Seems everywhere he goes he’s off a little or bad luck rears it’s ugly head. Not something we’ve seen in awhile. I’d never count him out though.

  8. Hillary 2024 says

    How sad it is. Thompson cancels early and not only does tri track not get any more cars, the entries go down. Not a good look for them when what they are known for are huge numbers. I wouldn’t schedule another race at thunder road if I were them.

  9. Enduro59 says

    I wouldn’t expect Tri-Track back up to Thunder Road for a while, but that’s just my guess. They have had great weather three years in a row though. They can’t say that about Waterford or Thompson.
    I too believe officials made a bad call on Williams in the #50. It looked to me like he had left tires on or straddling the white line. It didn’t even seem to me like race control waited to look at a replay. Seemed like they were too hasty.
    Congratulations to Kopcik. Did he get a tire when most everyone else did? Did Kimball get a tire? If we see Pee Dee #60 does that mean 100% a spac engine; and the red #60, 100% a built engine? The spacs already have a 100# weight break right on top of the front crossmember. Maybe more than that. They don’t need anymore help IMO. Allow the built engines to run an aluminum block and then maybe consider 25#s. I hadn’t thought about it till I read Crazy in NY’s above post. That could be a part of why only 19 cars.

  10. chevelle dude of course prices go up, but if i have to pay a little bit more and get a FULL filed of MODs with the potential of a REAL B main, wow i think it would be worth it. I mean Stafford holds what 10,000?? Get e big time sponsor to post some of the purse, and see what the hell happens!!!

  11. I’m sure Tri Track will do their homework and ask the car owners why they did not to run. Might be the date, travel or purse

  12. “Back in 80’s there were really only 3 divisions, mods, late models and street stocks.”

    Yes and no. From 1980 to 1986 it was Modified, SK’s and Streets. From 1987 to 1989 it was only SK’s and Late Models (the 1980’s version of Late Model as closer to the Streets of today and nothing like what we currently know as a Late Model)

    “Cost’s were pretty cheap and everyone built their own engines and purses were about the same as today.”

    Very few people built their engines in the 1980’s in the Streets. My last engine cost $2300 which is $7648 in todays dollars. The engine most every winning team won with was a TA engine at Stafford. It cost $3200 at the time which is $10,640 in todays dollars.
    I’d typically come in 13th to 17th and won from $10 to $20. If it paid the CAM2 fuel bill and the car was in one piece it was a good night. Streets now win $50 to $60 for places 13th to 17th. It’s true the purses have lost ground to inflation but they have gone up.

    “Now today the cars , tires, and fuel cost is ridiculous. Weekly racers can only afford to race once a week – back in the 80’s weekly racers ran 3 times a weekend.”

    CAM2 in the early 1980’s at Stafford was $3 a gallon which equates to nearly $10 in todays dollars. Isn’t that close to what Sunoco racing fuel is now? I don’t recall what McCreary tires cost but there were no tires rules to limit the big spenders like today. Adjusted for inflation I’d bet the tires these days are cheaper.
    The cars themselves plus safety and communication are much higher today for the Streets because they’re purpose built race cars build by professionals for most teams. In the 80’s you started with a production car typically a Chevelle or Monte Carlo and most teams built their own. Now they’re more sophisticated and safe with better communications built by professionals but it’s jacked up the cost. But you can’t blame that entirely on rising costs everything today in racing is higher end.
    In one full time season and two half seasons I spend about $25,000 which in todays dollars would be around $83,000. Suffice it to say racing, even in the Streets in the early 1980’s was not cheap or even affordable.

    “Fri/Sat/Sun was the norm and they either made some $ or broke even.”

    That’s overstated some teams raced at Stafford on Friday, Riverside on Saturday and Thompson on Sunday but it wasn’t the norm. You could do it at the time racing Riverside in third, Stafford and Thompson in fourth without a change in rear ends. Now Thompson is very part time, the Speedbowl has different rules and even if they didn’t it would require rear end gear changes that weren’t necessary in the 1980’s to race at Riverside.
    As far as suggesting teams broke even or made money I can safely say that never happened. Local short track racing with rare exceptions has been and will always be a loser for all but a precious few very good teams.

    “Now there are just too many divisions, engine rules to go around to get full fields every week”

    Is it too may divisions? I know Stafford in their 5 divisions consistently gets more cars then typically raced in a regular Friday night show at Stafford in the 80’s. If tracks think they have to include more division choices to give out more trophies fine but it’s not like there are less total cars at least at Stafford. People can call it rising costs all they like but I’m not seeing a shortage of teams with money to buy cars from Chassis Pro, KRR, Rent-a-Racecar or one of the other shops supplying race cars to buy or rent. Everyone has to have an enclosed trailer and high end muscle to pull it around. It’s not all or even mostly due to inflation it’s the trend in racing that everything has to be higher end and safer right down to the fire suits.

    If you’re talking tour modifieds it’s the tracks, sanctioning groups and promoters that are responsible for lower car counts. I have a list of 114 teams that have raced so far in 2024 in the NWMT, Sizzler, Riverhead, MRS and MMTTS not even counting SMART or ROC. In 2000 the Tour was pretty much it for what we now call tour type modifieds and in that year 90 different drivers raced in at least one race. That 90 bloated because nearly half raced in only 3 races or less and some drivers drove the same car in different events. The Tour would routinely get over 30 cars but there were only 17 events. Each event had more value then the dozens of events they have now.

    Think back to the pandemic year 2020. Each event held was a big deal, the pent up demand had us all going crazy. Fewer events, more cars at each event. Stands couldn’t be full but they usually maxed out for the limits that were set.
    Promoters, tracks and sanctioning groups have watered down the schedule with so many events it’s like getting a Manhattan at your local VFW compared to a high end bar. You want more events fine but expect fewer cars at each event.

  13. Suitcase Jake says

    Doug … It’s Great to see your Comments…

  14. Doug, we ran all three tracks when the sk rules were all the same – stafford/waterford/Thompson also late model rules were the same. I’m pretty sure the tri track championship was 50k – TC won it in 1987 if I’m not mistaken. We were buying one race old take offs for $25. I could buy 3 new tires for $330 and use them for 3 races – average winnings per race (top 5’s ) was $300. The early 90’s We typically bought 3-4 tires for stafford then use them at Thompson on Sunday so we had enough to buy new tires again on Friday. I guess we made money or broke even because we chose the money over the 🏁 at all cost. Just seemed easier to buy 10 gallons for $50 back then vs $150 today. Today’s tires you can’t get more than one week. You are right about the equipment these racers purchase to get the car to the track and the car rentals – no one wants to work on their cars anymore just pay to get what you want now

  15. Meathead Mike says

    Doug….good to hear from you again

  16. Let’s hope that this is the first of many good stories in a row for Stephen Kopcik. The kid is talented. I hope that he stays focused in 2024.

  17. Glad to see you back Doug.
    I enjoyed that thoughtful piece.

  18. Marshall says

    The “too many events” claim pops up a lot. On the one hand I understand- teams will probably pick their best chance to make the most money which spreads the field a bit thin. On the other hand, there was a call for more events at Thompson, because only 6 events was not enough to make it worth it for teams to have a Thompson setup. I can’t really argue for the schedule to shrink either, because the only way for new money to ever come into the sport to increase purse sizes is for more tracks to promote more races. If sponsors see the number of events shrink they’ll view asphalt modified racing as a shrinking market and won’t bother joining up.

  19. Fast Eddie says

    Hey Doug, there uded to be a guy named Doug who typed just like you! 🙂 Nice to read your input!

  20. Suitcase Jake says

    Marshall .. Great Point … I didn’t consider the amount of events from the perspective of the ” SPONSORS” point of view …. That definitely affects the sponsors thinking… I can get 20 races at Seekonk or Stafford & only 8 shows at Thompson …. Excellent angle on your post ..

  21. Rafter fan says

    The call on Williams appeared marginal to me, but I can’t say I was surprised by it. Of course, the call didn’t help Hirschman. Has a track or series ever followed a policy of restoring the “victim” (Hirschman, in this case) to his spot in the pre-incident running order (the leader, in this case)?

  22. Rafter Fan,
    I don’t ever remember covering any racing series where a victim of a penalized call would get their spot back.

  23. Marshall says

    @Rafter Fan, I don’t think anyone would be in favor of that. The consultation flag penalty is used to remind drivers they have to go out of their way to race fair and clean. As for the “victim” part of racing is that bad things happen sometimes. For one giving someone their position back because an incident was not their fault would be a judgement call, which as this incident shows the “victim” might not be completely innocent. For two if we’re going to grant drivers free positions for things like this you open the argument to giving them free positions in other cases.

    “Someone swerved into and popped your tire? Go get it fixed and we’ll put you back in your position. Oh, your toe link was broken too? We’ll extend the caution so you can fix it.”

    It sucks, but drivers have to deal with the adversity and overcome it on their own rather than let the officials baby them through a race. Also just think of how nuts the claims of favoritism would get if officials did this.

  24. Yeah!
    Doug is back adding his insight!

  25. There was one series (read about it in speedway illustrated) – I don’t remember what series that had a Roof tap rule. If a driver felt he turned someone by accident – he would signal to the flagger by tapping the roof – this meant that it was my fault and the spun car gets his spot back. – it is a pretty good idea.

  26. Crazy in NY says

    Marshall wrote : As for the “victim” part of racing is that bad things happen sometimes. For one giving someone their position back because an incident was not their fault would be a judgement call, which as this incident shows the “victim” might not be completely innocent. For two if we’re going to grant drivers free positions for things like this you open the argument to giving them free positions in other cases.

    I’ve long been an advocate of this very thing. The word judgement seems hang people up nowdays but life is full of these. Should I drive in hard and do a bottom shot? Drivers judgement. Bottom shot results in running somebody up? Officials judgement. ( recent Anglace/Fuller call at SMS comes to mind) . The very call against Ronnie at T Road was a judgement call by Frank wasn’t it? Of course. As to “free posistions” ah…..what exactly is the lucky dog that nobody seems to mind? You get passed by the leader (under green) then you get to unpass him (under yellow). Now THAT IS truly free.
    Me? I’d limit the put back to the last 10-20 laps of the race. If a move by a driver warranted a penalty it means there was a victim. Of course not all contact is deliberate but (here’s that ugly word again… judgement) a penalty is a penalty. Current system actually has two victims in a sense since both offender and offendee restart at the rear and have no real shot at the win with 6 to go. I’d even settle for the call being limited to the leader and second place car. The call against Ronnie wasn’t warranted in my view ( judgement) . Race on….

  27. Hillary 2024 says

    Interesting observation by the sids view guys. When tri track was coming out next for their feature, many fans had already left or began leaving. Vermont is late model not modified country.

  28. Enduro59 says

    Well, the 50/50 had already been claimed. Of those that stayed, I wonder how many was mostly for the Road Warriors?

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