(Stafford Springs, CT)—When the Valenti Modified Racing Series last visited Stafford Speedway in September 2015, there was a shakeup in the podium finishers compared to previous events. In the first two 2015 Stafford races, the podium positions were occupied by either Woody Pitkat, Keith Rocco, Todd Szegedy, or Chris Pasteryak. In the September race, Pitakt and Pasteyrak were once again among the podium finishers but finishing third was Grantham, NH native Mike Willis. Willis is hoping for a repeat performance in the VMRS 80 on May 22 after a wreck cut his season opening race short at Monadnock and saw him finish 13th in the #38 Spirit of Alaska Wilderness Adventures machine.
“We’re hoping we can repeat our finish from last year,” said Willis. “We have a little more motor than we had last year so hopefully that will help us out. We’ve also been working on some new setup stuff that will hopefully give us a little bit extra. Our car was good last year but we weren’t good enough to win so we’ve been working on getting a little more competitive. The car fought us a little at Monadnock and we missed the setup a little and then we got caught up in a wreck that ended our race about 7 laps early.”
Stafford hasn’t been the best of tracks for Willis and the #38 team as they had finishes of 26th, 14th, and 21st during the 2014 season. The 2015 season saw Willis and crew turn things around as they not only scored top-10 finishes in each of the three Stafford races, their finishes improved with each race as they placed 10th in May, 7th in June, and then 3rd in September.
“We struggled at Stafford during my first season and then last year we got better and better each run we came back,” said Willis. “I think with the experience we have, a little more knowledge on the car setup, and the extra power from the motor we definitely have some extra confidence coming back to Stafford. Our first goal is to always finish the race and if we can get a top-8 finish, we’d be pretty happy. We don’t have as much motor as some of the top guys do and I don’t have as much experience at Stafford as guys like Woody [Pitkat], Rowan [Pennink], Teddy [Christopher], and Keith [Rocco]. If we can compete with those guys and keep up with them in the race, I’d consider that to be like a win for our little team.”
For Willis, the key to a good run in the VMRS 80 will be to draw a good number for starting position and a good finish in his qualifying heat race.
“It’s always good to get a good draw for starting position,” said Willis. “My first year we never drew a good number and then last year we started drawing better numbers and if we can finish higher up in our heat race and start towards the front of the field, that’s a huge help for the race. I think we started in the top-8 last year at Stafford and that was a big help to us going on to finish third, so I’m hoping we can do that again.”
After finishing 13th in the season opening race, Willis is also looking for a good run to give his 2016 effort a momentum boost that he can carry throughout the season.
“Monadnock was rough so another podium finish would be a great start for our season,” said Willis. “We had back to back third place finishes at Stafford and Lee at the end of last year so if we could do that again at Stafford, that might give us the confidence we need early in the year to have some more good runs throughout the season. The team was really starting to click at the end of last year, we’re getting some great support from Kenny and everyone at SPAFCO and Billy the Kid with the motor, and we’re finally starting to get a notebook built up at some of the tracks we haven’t raced at before.”
The May 20th VMRS 80 will be the first of three Valenti Modified Racing Series events to be held at Stafford during the 2016 season. The VMRS returns to Stafford June 24th and September 2nd. Tickets for all three VMRS events are available and on sale now. Tickets for the May 20 VMRS 80 are priced at $27.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Reserved seating is $30.00 for all ages. For the 26th consecutive season the month of May is Youth Organization Month at Stafford Speedway. All children 14 and under are admitted FREE when wearing a youth organization team shirt or uniform and accompanied by a paying adult.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.