(Stafford Springs, CT)—Stafford Speedway returned to NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action with the 3rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts SK 5k, which paid the winner $5,000 out of a purse of over $27,000. With the Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Sales Gambler’s Challenge bonus of $5,600 and a total heat race bonus of $2,000 from Wheelers Auto of Hamden, the total posted awards were over $33,000. The Gambler’s Challenge was voted on by the fans on how it would be paid out and the top-3 choices were put into a hat in victory lane with Doug Dunleavy pulling a chip with the winning formula on it. Dunleavy pulled the winner takes all chip, giving Christopher a final payday of $11,175. In other feature action, Michael Wray won the Late Model feature, Joey Ferrigno won the SK Light feature, Duane Provost won the Limited Late Model feature, and Trace Beyer was the winner of the DARE Stock feature for the second week in a row.
In the 100-lap NAPA SK 5k feature event, Brian Sullivan took the lead with Shawn Thibeault slotting into second. Stephen Kopcik’s car was off the pace on lap-2 and he brought the caution out as he limped back to pit road.
Sullivan took the lead on the restart with Jeff Baral moving into second. Thibeault fell back to third with Eric Berndt up to fourth and Mike Christopher, Jr. was fifth.
Baral was applying heavy pressure to Sullivan for the lead and he made a move to take over the lead in turn 3 on lap-6. Berndt followed him by as Sullivan fell back to third in line with Thibeault fourth and Christopher, Jr. was still fifth. Rowan Pennink and Ted Christopher were charging their way to the front as they moved into sixth and seventh on lap-8.
Berndt was now the race leader with Baral right behind him in second. Sulllivan continued to run in third with Thibeault, Christopher, Jr., Pennink, and Christopher all single file behind him. Baral was working hard to find a way around Berndt to retake the lead but Berndt was able to fend off his challenges.
Christopher, Jr. took over third from Sullivan on lap-16 as Baral was continuing to apply the pressure to the back bumper of Berndt for the race lead. Pennink and Christopher also got by Sullivan to drop him back to sixth in line. Ronnie Williams was working his way towards the front as he moved into sixth place on lap-21. Christopher had gotten around Pennink to move into fourth and he was now pressuring his nephew Christopher, Jr. for the third position as Berndt continued to lead Baral.
The caution came out with 30 laps complete as a melee broke out off of turn 4 with Todd Owen, Tyuler Hines, Tom Bolles, Cam McDermott, Nick Salva, Shawn Thibeault, D.J. Burnham, and Joey Muccicciaro all coming together and blocking the racetrack coming out of turn 4.
Berndt took the lead on the restart with Christopher getting around Baral to move into second. Christopher, Jr. was side by side with Thibeault for fourth place with Ronnie Williams in sixth. Christopher rode behind Berndt until lap-36 when he made a move for the lead in turns 3+4. Baral was third behind the lead duo with Williams now fourth and Pennink fifth. Christopher, Jr. was back to sixth, just in front of Keith Rocco.
As the race hit the halfway point, Christopher was still out in front with Berndt staying glued to his back bumper. Williams had worked his way up to third with Pennink fourth and Woody Pitkat was another car on the charge, cracking into the top-5 for the first time on lap-48.
With 30 laps to go, Christopher was still out front and he had started to build up some distance between himself and Pennink, who was now in second. Berndt was third with Williams and Pitkat making up the top-5.
As Christopher began to navigate lapped traffic, Pennink was able to close down the gap and with 15 laps to go, Pennink was right on Christopher’s back bumper. Berndt was still running in third with Williams in fourth and Pitkat in fifth.
Pennink again closed right on Christopher’s bumper as they worked their way around the lapped car of Frank Ruocco with 10-laps to go. Pennink took a look to the outside of Christopher, but Christopher shut the door on that move and he maintained the lead. Danny Cates spun on the frontstretch to bring the caution out with 94 laps complete and set up a 6-lap sprint to the finish.
Christopher took the lead on the restart with Pennink and Berndt quickly lining up behind him. Williams was fourth and Christopher, Jr. moved up to fifth with a strong run in the outside groove. Pennink looked to be stronger than Christopher in turns 3+4 but Christopher looked to have the advantage in turns 1+2. Pennink made one final effort at the win but Christopher was able to keep the lead and he took down his second consecutive SK Modified® feature win. Berndt finished third with Williams and Christopher, Jr. rounding out the top-5.
In the 30-lap Late Model feature event, Michael Wray took the lead at the green with Rich Hammann, Tom Fearn, Josh Wood, and Austin Bessette making up the top-5.
Fearn powered his way past both Wood and Hammann on lap-6 to move into second as Wray had pulled out to a comfortable lead. Kevin Gambacorta was on the charge from the rear of the field and he moved into fifth.
Wray continued to lead the race with Fearn fighting with Wood and Gambacorta for second. Fearn was black flagged for overaggressive use of his front bumper which sent him to the rear of the field and moved Gambacorta into second and Wood into third as Wray continued to lead the race. Joel Monahan was now up to fourth and Bessette was fifth in the order.
Wray led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2016 season. Gambacorta finished second, with Wood, Bessette, and Hammann rounding out the top-5.
In the 20-lap SK Light feature event, Sean Mandel and David Arute ran the first lap side by side for the lead before Mandel powered his way to the front on lap-2. Al Wisialko was third with Jay Goff and Joey Ferrigno side by side for fourth. Arute made a move to the inside of Mandel on lap-4 to take the lead by a nose at the line. Mandel drifted high in turn 2 and came down right into the path of Tony Membrino, Jr. but both cars were able to limp back to pit road and the race stayed green with Arute in front of Wisialko.
Ferrigno powered his way to the front on lap-6 with Wisialko following him by Arute to drop Arute back to third. Goff was fourth and Joe Graf, Jr. was up to fifth. Goff began to slide backwards Graf and Vinny Anglace, Jr. both got by him to drop him back into a battle with Keith Caruso for sixth. Caruso took the spot on lap-16 as the top-4 cars of Ferrigno, Wisialko, Arute, and Graf were all lined up nose to tail with 2 laps to go. The caution came out with 18 laps complete for a spin in turn 3 by Wesley Prucker.
Ferrigno streaked into the lead on the restart with Wisialko taking second. Arute and Graf were side by side for third with Caruso in fifth. Ferrigno took the checkered flag for his first win of the 2016 season. Wisialko finished second with Graf, Arute, and Caruso rounding out the top-5.
In the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, R.J. Surdell streaked into the lead at the green but Duane Provost was hot on his trail and he took the lead from Surdell on lap-2. Frank L’Etoile, Jr. was third with Cliff Saunders fourth and Al Saunders in fifth.
Surdell slid back to sixth as L’Etoile, Cliff and Al Saunders, and Paul Arute all overtook him as Provost continued to lead the race. Justin Bren got around Surdell to move into sixth on lap-9.
Arute made a move to the inside of Al Saunders for fourth place on lap-13 as Cliff Saunders was applying heavy pressure to L’Etoile for second. With 3 laps to go, Provost was still out front and L’Etoile was still holding off Cliff Saunders, Al Saunders, and Arute.
Provost took the checkered flag for his first win of the 2016 season. L’Etoile held everyone off for second with Cliff Saunders, Al Saunders, and Paul Arute rounding out the top-5.
In the 15-lap DARE Stock feature, Nicole Chambrello took the lead at the green with Dan Dembek slotting into second. Ryan Fearn was third but he made a quick move to the inside of Dembek on lap-2 but had to fall back in line in third. Johnny Walker was fourth with Trace Beyer in fifth but the caution came out with 2 laps complete as Chris Sanford spun backwards into the frontstretch wall with Paul Bourdon going through the infield to bring the caution out.
Chambrello and Dembek resumed their duel on the restart but before the field could complete a lap Chambrello spun coming out of turn 4 and set off a chain reaction that collected several cars, worst among them was Zack Robinson, who had a flat right rear tire and damage to his car which ended his night early. The melee put Dembek and Walker on the front row with Beyer and Tyler Trott in the second row for the restart.
Dembek took the lead back under green with Beyer and Walker side by side for second behind him. Beyer took the spot on lap-4 and Marcello Rufrano was now fighting side by side with Walker for third with Alexandra Fearn in fifth. Beyer shot into the lead on lap-5 and Fearn took fourth from Walker.
Dembek’s car got out of shape coming out of turn 2 on lap-7 and his slide dropped him back to fourth in the running order as Rufrano moved up to second and Alexandra Fearn took third. Walker was now applying heavy pressure for fourth but Dembek was able to hold him off for the time being.
Walker’s good run came to an early end with a flat right front tire ending his night on lap-13. Beyer was comfortably in front of Rufrano with Alexandra Fearn right on his bumper for second. Brandon Michael took fourth on the last lap and Dembek went around in turn 2 while dueling with Trott for fifth place. The leaders took the checkered flag with Beyer taking down his second consecutive feature win. Rufrano was second, with Fearn, Michael, and Trott making up the top-5.
For more information contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at (860) 684-2783, or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.