(Stafford Springs, CT)—Stafford Motor Speedway kicked off its final race event of the 2015 season with feature events for its SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions, as well as a National Qualifier feature event for the Legend Cars as part of the Saturday NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend festivities. Taking feature wins were Tony Membrino, Jr. in the SK Light feature, David Arute in the Ltd. Late Model feature, Brandon Michael in the DARE Stock feature, and Noah Korner in the Legend Cars National Qualifier event. Stephen Kopcik won the SK Light championship, Al Saunders clinched the Ltd. Late Model championship, and Frank L’Etoile, Jr. scored his second consecutive DARE Stock championship.
In the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Jay Goff led the first lap but he was quickly overtaken by Geoff Boisjolie for the lead. Payton Henry was now alongside Goff for second with Stephen Kopcik and D.J. Burnham lined up behind them.
Kopcik moved by both Goff and Henry to move into second on lap-8 while Goff settled into third with Burnham and Tony Membrino, Jr. lined up behind him as Boisjolie continued to lead the race. Kopcik made a move to the inside of Boisjolie to take the lead on lap-11 while behind them, Burnham was challenging Boisjolie for second when the caution came out for a spin on the backstretch by Wesley Prucker.
Boisjolie got a good run on the outside of Kopcik to briefly take the lead on the restart but Kopcik powered back to move to the front at the line. Daniel Wesson came to a stop coming off turn 4 to bring the caution out with 12 laps complete.
Kopcik took the lead on the restart with Membrino side by side with Boisjolie for second and Henry was side by side with Burnham for fourth place. Membrino got clear of Boisjolie and he took the lead from Kopcik on lap-15. Kopcik came back to Membrino’s inside on lap-16 and he tried the inside move again on lap-17 but was unable to make the pass. Henry was now third with Boisjolie and Burnham making up the top-5.
The caution came out with 19 laps complete for spins by Nathan Pytko in turn 4 and Paul French in turn 2 to set up a green white checkered finish.
Membrino and Kopcik ran side by side to the white flag with Membrino taking the lead at the line. Membrino held Kopcik off to the checkered flag to pick up his fourth win of the 2015 season. Henry finished third, with Boisjolie fourth and Burnham rounding out the top-5. Kopcik’s second place finish clinched the 2015 SK Light track championship.
“Congrats to [Kopcik], T/A Engines winning another SK Light championship,” said Membrino. “We were really worried about the car, we had a bad vibration in the heat race and the car went from ok to tight as you know what. I’m at a loss for words. This thing came to life and it was exactly what I needed. Per usual my Dad goes a phenomenal job with Ed Flemke, Kevin, Jeff, my whole TMR team. Without them I’d be nothing, I owe them the world. Thanks to Additive Manufacturing, back in victory lane a 4th time this year, a personal best for us, I hope this is just a little taste of success for us to come, CWPM Equipment Service, Cliff Nelson Motorsports, Maneeley’s Catering, Minuteman Press, FK Rod Ends, Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer, Goodrich, TD Homers, Membrino Electric, Heartstone Pub, Raceworks Chassis, T/A Engines, we had our ups and downs and we’ll be back.”
“This is unbelievable, all the effort put into this car is the reason why we’re standing here right now,” said Kopcik. “It hasn’t even sunk in yet. In the moment, I wasn’t sure what I wanted more, the win or the championship but it was fun racing with Tony Membrino and 90% of the guys are fun to race with, it made it a great season. I can’t thank Hocon Industrial Gas enough, N.J.K. Automotive, Newtown Pools, David Smith Racing, Tony Alteri for the awesome power, T/A Engines, CD Chassis, Mike Paquette, and everyone who helped out, Archie, Sean, Luke, Duke, Nick, my Grandpa Joe, David Smith, and the whole Gervais crew. If it wasn’t for them we probably wouldn’t be standing here.”
In the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, Robert Bloxsom, III took the lead at the green flag but Duane Provost was challenging Bloxsom for the lead and he made a move in turn 3 on lap-2 to take over the lead. R.J. Surdell was third, with David Arute and Cliff Saunders lined up behind him. Surdell, Arute, and Saunders all followed Provost past Bloxsom as Bloxsom fell back to fifth in line.
Arute went by Surdell in turn 4 to move up to second on lap-4 and the caution came out one lap later for a spin in turn 2 by David Tefft.
Provost led the field back to the green flag with Saunders and Arute locked in a tight battle for second. Arute took the spot from Saunders on lap-9 while Al Saunders was up to fourth and Andrew Hayes was now in fifth. Provost held the lead until Arute made a move in turn 4 to move to the front of the pack. Al Saunders got around his brother Cliff to move into third while Hayes continued to run in fifth.
Provost’s car dropped off the pace on lap-17 and he limped back to pit road while Arute was now several car lengths clear of Saunders with Provost’s misfortune. The caution came out with 19 laps complete for a spin in turn 2 by Jeremy Lavoie to set up a green white checkered finish.
Arute took the lead on the restart with Al Saunders slotting into second. Cliff Saunders and Hayes were side by side for third with Cliff taking the spot. David Arute led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his fourth win of the 2015 season and his third consecutive win in the NAPA Fall Final feature event. Al Saunders was second with Cliff Saunders in third. Paul Arute made a last lap move to take fourth from Hayes at the line. Al Saunders’ second place finish made him the 2015 Limited Late Model champion.
“That was awesome, the car was a blast and the setup was perfect,” said Arute. “We changed a little bit right before the feature, threw something at it, and wow this thing was fast. I didn’t think I was going to catch [Provost] and when I got up to him I knew I had to pass him as soon as possible. I was able to set him up and got right by him and it was so much fun. I have to thank Nichols College for helping me out over these 3 years, F.B.I. Trucking, B.A. Muzio, Mr. Rooter Plumbing, DMS Photography, On-Time Accounting, Sunoco Race Fuels, Waddell Communications, NAPA Auto Parts, and all the fans for coming out tonight. I also have to thank my crew for all their hard work this season. 4 wins is awesome and I wish we could have gotten a championship but congratulations to the Saunders boys on a great run this season especially on the championship, thanks to my Mom and Dad for all they do for me, my girlfriend for coming, and my brother for racing me clean all year.”
“This feels great,” said Saunders. “It really shows that all the hard work paid off this season. The car has been awesome all year long and I have to thank the team and especially my crew chief Barry Fluckiger. If it wasn’t for him, there’s no way I would have won the championship. The car was dialed in every week and that’s all thanks to his setup. I have to thank my Mom, the whole team, and my sponsors American Sleeve Bearing, Rob Davis, B.A. Muzio, Johnson Memorial Medical Center, Fluckiger Race Chassis, R.A.D. Automachine, Stafford Speedway for giving us a great place to race, I don’t even know what to say, this is awesome. It was really difficult [to beat Andrew Hayes]. Not just because of the championship they had last year, but the results they had this year. They showed that they were really fast and a really good team. I think they had something like 8 straight podiums coming into tonight and to beat them and the whole field, it’s such a competitive field, 10 cars can win on any given night, it’s an honor to be the champion this year.”
In the 15-lap DARE Stock feature, Zack Robinson spun in turn 2 from the lead and collected several other cars, including Nicole Chambrello and Bill Staves to bring the caution out. Chambrello came to a stop off turn 4 to bring the caution out on the restart.
The next restart saw Brandon Michael go outside Bagnall to take the race lead. Dan Dembek and Marcello Rufrano were side by side for third with Tyler Trott and Trace Beyer making up the top-5. Bagnall began to fade back as Dembek, Trott, Beyer, and Alexandra Fearn all went by on lap-2 to occupy the top-5 along with Michael, who was beginning to pull away from his closest pursuers. Jake Higginson and Paul Bourdon, Jr. spun in turn 4 to bring the caution out with 4 laps complete.
Trott, Beyer, and Dembek came together and got into the wall in turns 1+2 on the restart to bring the caution right back out. Fearn was now up to second behind Michael for the restart.
Back under green Michael and Fearn were side by side for the lead with Rufrano, Frank L’Etoile, Jr. and Robinson, who was recovered from his lap-1 mishap, making up the top-5. Fearn and Michael were still side by side three laps after the restart with the drivers taking turns edging the other out at stripe for the lead. Michael was able to get clear of Fearn on lap-9 with L’Etoile, Rufrano, and Robinson lined up behind him.
The caution came back out with 10 laps complete as Trott, Dembek, and Bryan Granger got together and into the backstretch wall.
Michael charged into the lead on the restart with Fearn slotting into second place. L’Etoile was third with Rufrano and Trott making up the top-5. L’Etoile made a move to the inside of Fearn and he took second at the line on lap-13. Rufrano was able to follow L’Etoile by Fearn to move into third as Michael now had a comfortable lead with the position swapping going on behind him.
Michael took the checkered flag with L’Etoile, Rufrano, Trott, and Robinson making up the top-5. L’Etoile’s second place was good enough to clinch his second consecutive DARE Stock track championship.
“I needed this, I’ve been after this win for a long time,” said Michael. “I truly couldn’t have done this without my crew, Ray, Jim, John, this is our 7th race back and our worst finish was a top-5, that’s crazy. I have to thank everyone who helps out on this car, John Berardi Transmissions, Rollins Automotive, Route 10 Tire, Bet-Rock Farm, Tradesmen of New England, Gary from Connecticut Lawn Care, R.A.D. Automachine for the awesome horsepower, Stafford Speedway for letting us run at this track, tonight it was great. We were a little worried about the setup, we ran the heat race and came in and I was happy with the car so we left it alone and I’m glad we did because this thing was on rails, no one had anything for us.”
“You don’t think about repeating, you just go out do what you do every single race and the end result speaks for itself,” said L’Etoile. “It’s kind of unreal for me because I grew up in the stands and to be considered on the list [with drivers who have won back to back championships at Stafford] is just phenomenal. It’s all because of these guys right over here. They’re laughing and having a good time and that’s how it should be and they make my life very easy as a driver here and I can’t thank them all enough. Being consistent is really it and they give me a consistent car every week and that’s the only thing more consistent than my driving. If you can finish every race with equipment like these guys give me, you’re going to finish in the top-5 so thank you guys.”
In the 20-lap Legend Cars feature, Noah Korner took the lead at the green flag and Devin O’Connell was quickly right on his bumper in second. Mikey Flynn was third with Michael Hopkins and Jordan LaMothe making up the top-5. Andrew Quealy spun in turn 2 to bring the caution out with 8 laps complete.
Korner took the lead again on the restart with O’Connell, Flynn, LaMothe, and Hopkins lined up behind him. O’Connell stuck his nose to the inside of Korner on lap-13, but Korner was able to hold him off. The top-4 of Korner, O’Connell, Flynn, and LaMothe were lined up nose to tail for the lead when the caution came out with 14 laps for a spin by Hopkins that collected Glenn Korner.
Korner took the lead back under green with O’Connell challenging LaMothe for second. O’Connell got back by LaMothe on lap-16 with Flynn and Teddy Hodgdon making up the top-5. Flynn moved into third with Hodgdon and LaMothe behind him as O’Connell was giving chase to Korner at the front of the pack.
Korner led O’Connell to the checkered flag to not only pick up his first career Stafford victory, but he punched his ticket to the Legend Cars Nationals at Anderson Speedway in South Carolina as the race was a national qualifier event. O’Connell finished second with Flynn, Hodgdon, and LaMothe rounding out the top-5.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world,” said Korner. “We’ve been cheated out a lot of victories here and it feels great to finally get one. I have to thank my Dad, Midstate Site Development, JJ, and everyone who gives us a hand, Jags Palmer, my brother, I really appreciate it.”
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.