Whelen Modified Tour Set To Open Stafford Season
With one New England racing tradition in the rearview, its time for another as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will participate in Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway's Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST on April 24-25.
The 2010 season began for the Whelen Modified Tour in the Icebreaker on April 11 as part of the traditional opening weekend for Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. The same set-up is scheduled to take place this weekend as the Tour will be on the bill for Stafford's season-opener, also a mainstay on the northeast racing calendar.
The 2010 Spring Sizzler will be the 39th edition of the "Greatest Race in the History of Spring," and the 25th in which the Whelen Modified Tour has participated. Owner of many milestones, the late Richie Evans captured the first Spring Sizzler for the Tour in 1985, and he heads the list of many Modified stalwarts that count Sizzler victories among their many accomplishments.
Mike Stefanik, who has a record 20 Whelen Modified Tour wins at Stafford, has gulped the Spring Sizzler Victory Lane milk bottle four times, also a record. His triumphs came in 1989, 1990, 1997 and 1998. Reggie Ruggiero, who ranks second on the Whelen Modified Tour all-time wins list behind Stefanik, was victorious in the 1987 and 1993 editions.
Ted Christopher shares the mark for the most Whelen Modified Tour Spring Sizzler wins with Stefanik at four, and like Stefanik, he has twice done it in back-to-back fashion. Christopher's first pair came in 2002 and 2003, and he enters the 2010 edition as the two-time defending champion. Christopher, who owns more than 100 career wins across all divisions in which he has competed at the half-mile track, was also the featured winner in the 1988 Spring Sizzler, which was a SK Modified race. Christopher has nine total Tour victories at Stafford.
The Spring Sizzler has proved to be a race of champions through the years. Seven times in the first 24 instances the Whelen Modified Tour has participated in Spring Sizzler weekend, the winner of the race has gone on to capture the Tour title that season, and 16 of those 24 races have been won by drivers who were Tour champions at one point during their career.
Action will begin on Spring Sizzler weekend for the Whelen Modified Tour with practice and qualifying on Saturday, April 24. Sunday's schedule will commence with the CARQUEST Belts & Hoses Pit Party, an on-track autograph session, at 11 a.m. The 200-lap Whelen Modified Tour race is slated to take the green flag at approximately 2:30 p.m.
The Race: Tech-Net Spring Sizzler pres. by CARQUEST
The Place: Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway
The Date: Sunday, April 25
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Distance: 200 laps / 100 miles
Race Purse: $88,142
2009 Winner: Ted Christopher
2009 Polesitter: Ted Christopher
Event Schedule: Saturday: Practice 10-11:30 a.m., Qualifying 1:30 p.m.
The Race ... The Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST will be the second of 14 races on the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, and the first of four stops for the Tour at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. This is the 39th edition of the Spring Sizzler, which is Stafford's traditional season-opening weekend.
The Procedure ... Starting positions 1-28 will be set from time trials. The remaining five will be filled through the provisional process. The race is 200 laps (100 miles).
The Track ... A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford Motor Speedway originated as a horse-racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding auto races following WW II. Stafford became a NASCAR track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967.
Race Winners ... There have been 29 different race winners at Stafford, led by Mike Stefanik's 20 victories. Ted Christopher had the longest win streak in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Stafford with four-straight victories from Sept. 30, 2001 to Aug. 23, 2002. Christopher has nine career wins at Stafford and is the defending winner of the Spring Sizzler.
Pole Winners ... There have been 35 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik's 15. Christopher earned the pole for the Spring Sizzler a year ago and has four total at the track.
Santos Takes On Another Modified Tradition
World Series? Check. Icebreaker? Check. That's two of the biggest races in New England that Bobby Santos already has trophies for. Next on the list is the Spring Sizzler.
Santos, from Franklin, Mass., has been around Modified racing his whole life as a third-generation racer, so he's very familiar with the prestige surrounding the season-opening and season-closing weekends at Connecticut ovals Thompson International Speedway and Stafford Motor Speedway.
Santos earned his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory in the World Series of Speedway racing at Thompson in October, 2007. His second trip to Victory Lane, which occurred in his 30th career start, came last week in the Thompson Icebreaker.
"It means a lot to win those two races," Santos said. "Seems like when you think of Modified racing, you think of Stafford and Thompson."
With success on the high-banks at Thompson accomplished, Santos will now turn his attention to Stafford, a half mile that features significantly less banking and a place that he has yet to master, at least in a Whelen Modified Tour car. In five career starts at Stafford he has an average finish of 24th with his only top-10 effort in the September, 2007 event.
"I think my best run was in the [No.] 3 car, but other than that it just hasn't worked out too well," Santos said. "We just had problems and crashed a couple times. Typical bad luck things I guess."
Santos is the holder of multiple winners trophies from Stafford in other racing series, however, including a premier USAC Silver Crown win in 2006.
"I've run good at Stafford, and I've won some big races at Stafford in other divisions," Santos said. "I've had success there. It's a track that I like and I think I can do well at."
Santos has not raced Stafford in the Whelen Modified Tour since the 2007 Fall Final, and he did not test there this spring with the No. 4 "Mystic Missile" team either, but he believes they should be in good shape heading into the Spring Sizzler.
"Obviously the [No.] 4 team, they know what they're doing," Santos said. "They have good notes to go off of, so I think we should be alright."
Santos, 1-for-1 with the No. 4 team, now looks forward to moving on from the Thompson win.
"I'm just excited to go to Stafford, and get a Tour win somewhere else hopefully this year," Santos said. "We just got to forget about last week and move on to this week."
Tour Tidbits: Thompson Recap
Record-Setting Debut for Santos ... The debut race for Bobby Santos in Bob Garbarino's No. 4 Modified was nothing short of record-setting. Santos piloted the "Mystic Missile" to a track record lap of 18.418 seconds (122.163 mph) around the .625-mile Thompson International Speedway during qualifying on Saturday. That lap bested the previous record set at the 2008 World Series by Eric Beers at 18.429 seconds (122.080 mph), and also earned Santos his first Coors Light Pole Award in his 30th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start. Santos then went out on Sunday and led 91 of the 150 laps to capture the second victory of his career. For his race-day efforts, Santos also took home the Whelen Winner of the Race and the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Awards.
Another Runner-Up for Preece ... The 2009 Whelen Modified Tour championship runner-up, and runner-up in last season's final race, Ryan Preece once again finished second in this year's opener. Voted the favorite to win the title in the 2010 Whelen Modified Tour Preseason Poll, Preece has finished on the podium in eight of nine races dating back to 2009.
Stefanik Nabs Podium Finish ... Although he is the record-holder for the most Whelen Modified Tour wins at Thompson with 14, Mike Stefanik had not registered a top-three finish at the track since June of 2008, a span of five races. That streak ended in the 2010 Icebreaker when he led 32 laps and crossed the line third. Stefanik's long and distinguished career now includes 33 top-three finishes at Thompson. His last win at the track was the 2006 Icebreaker.
Pitkat, Pallai Earn Special Awards ... Although they may have not had top finishes, Woody Pitkat and Richie Pallai Jr. left Thompson with consolation prizes. Pitkat, who qualified 30th, finished 12th in the race to earn the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award. Pallai finished 21st to earn the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award.
Debuts With New Teams ... In addition to Santos, there were a number of drivers who debuted at Thompson with new teams. Beers was the only one other than Santos, however, to earn a top-10 as he finished 10th in the No. 76, a new team this year co-owned by John Blewett and Dave DeLange. Jimmy Blewett crossed the line 15th in the No. 14 of Richard Barney and George Brunnhoelzl III was right behind him in the No. 46 of Robert Katon. Erick Rudolph finished 19th in the No. 98 co-owned by Allan Heinke and Tommy Baldwin Jr. and Chuck Hossfeld was relegated to 33rd in the No. 59 of Ed Bennett.
Spring Sizzler Opens Stafford's NWAAS Season
Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, with one of the oldest NASCAR sanctions in the nation, will open its 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season in the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST this weekend.
Stafford, which is celebrating "40 Years of Modified Tradition" in 2010, will once again showcase the SK Modifieds as its premier division. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standout Ted Christopher is the defending track champion out of the SK Modified division. Christopher, owner of more than 100 wins at Stafford, has won the division in two of the last three seasons, and six times overall. A back-to-back SK Modified champion in 2000-01, Christopher will have to contend with a host of top competitors this year if he wishes to repeat, including 2008 division champion and reigning Connecticut State Champion Keith Rocco.
Jim Peterson is the defending champion in the Late Model division where he knocked off Ryan Posocco, who had won the season title in four of the previous six campaigns. Peterson was the Late Model champion in 2001-02 prior to Posocco's run.
The youngest of Stafford's weekly divisions is the SK Lights, where Michael Gervais Jr. took home the 2009 trophy. Andrew Durand was the 2009 champion in the Limited Late Model division and Don Wood earned the DARE Stock title.
The 39th Annual Spring Sizzler will include a 40-lap SK Modified feature, 30 laps for Late Models, 20 for the SK Light and Limited Late Model divisions and 15 for the DARE Stocks.
Up Next: TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at SMS
Following this week's race at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, the next race on the 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule will also be a the historic half mile.
The TSI Harley-Davidson 125, scheduled for Friday, May 28, will be the second of four races for the Whelen Modified Tour this year at Stafford. At 125 laps, it will also be the shortest. This week's Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST is 200 laps and the August and October dates will each be 150.
Stafford, a slightly-banked asphalt facility, has played host to the Whelen Modified Tour in all but one season since its inception in 1985. This week's Spring Sizzler will be the 95th all-time race for the Whelen Modified Tour at Stafford.
The TSI Harley-Davidson 125 will be the first of two Whelen Modified Tour races during Stafford's regular Friday night program as the Tour will be joined by five divisions of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.
Stafford races have had various lap lengths through the years. Last year's edition of this race, won by Jimmy Blewett, was 100 laps. There was a 125-lap race at Stafford in 1989 and two in 1990.
Raceday will commence with practice at 2 p.m., and qualifying at 6 p.m. The race is scheduled to go green at approximately 9 p.m.