(Stafford Springs, CT)—As the 2015 season begins to wind itself to a conclusion, there are tight championship races across the board in Stafford Speedway’s 6 divisions. Here is a closer look at the contenders from each division to keep an eye on as the 2015 season steams full speed ahead towards the NAPA Fall Final Weekend on Oct. 3-4, where the track champions will be decided.
SK Modified® Division: Rowan Pennink and the #99 Van Wickle NAPA Auto Supply team picked right up where they left off in 2014. They won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature event and have been in the top-3 of the points standings all year long. Pennink currently leads the standings by 10 points over Ryan Preece on the strength of 6 wins and 14 top-5 finishes, both of which leads the SK Modified® field. 13 of Pennink’s 14 top-5 finishes have been podium spots, which also leads the division.
Ryan Preece and the #6 Sullivan and Sons / East West Marine team have been neck and neck with Pennink for much of the 2015 season in the standings. While Preece only has 2 wins to Pennink’s 6, he leads the division with 15 top-10 finishes and he has recorded 11 podium finishes. Preece has yet to take a turn at the top of the standings but with only 10 points separating him and Pennink that could change very quickly.
Keith Rocco and the #88 Wheelers Auto team are the third contender in the championship mix. Rocco started out the 2015 season strong with 3 wins in the first 10 races and he led the standings from May 15 through June 12 before Pennink retook control of the point lead. Rocco currently trails Pennink by 66 points but all it would take is for Pennink and Preece to have a bad race and Rocco could be right back in the thick of the championship chase.
Late Model Division: Michael Bennett and the #16 Mastiff Armory / TSI Harley Davidson team have been the at the top of the standings for all but a few weeks on the strength of 6 wins thusfar. Bennett leads all drivers with 13 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes and he holds a 44 point lead over the #32 Rafferty Fine Grading team of Kevin Gambacorta. Josh Wood is third in the standings with the #17 Flamingo Motorsports team, 48 points behind, and Tom Butler is 56 points out of the lead with the #4 Butler Motorsports team. Of the top-4 drivers in the standings, Bennett, Wood, and Gambacorta have all won track championships in the Limited Late Model division with Gambacorta also scoring a DARE Stock track championship. Bennett will need to continue his speed and consistency to keep himself at the top of the standings through the season’s end.
SK Light Division: The race for the SK Light championship looks to be a 3-way fight between Stephen Kopcik, D.J. Burnham, and Joey Ferrigno. Burnham and Ferrigno have taken turns swapping the point lead between themselves for the majority of the 2015 season while Kopcik just took over the point lead for the first time all season long following the Aug. 7 feature event. Kopcik currently holds an 18-point margin over Burnham and a 28 point lead over Ferrigno.
Kopcik and the #31 N.J.K. Automotive / Hocon Industrial Gas team only have 1 win this season, but they have been the most consistent team as they lead the division with 13 top-5 and 14 top-5 finishes. Ferrigno and the #87 RH2 Radios team have been the big winners of 2015 with a division leading 4 victories, while Burnham and the #54 Maneeley’s / Advice One team have 3 wins, including the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature. With all three drivers so closely matched, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will have the best 5-race run to the last checkered flag of the year.
Limited Late Model Division: The 2015 season has seen Al Saunders pretty much have things his own way as he has led the standings every week since winning the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature event. The driver of the #04 American Sleeve Bearing Chevrolet has recorded 3 wins to go along with a division leading 13 top-5 and 16 top-10 finishes.
Nipping at Saunders’ heels is the defending track champion, Andrew Hayes. The driver of the #9 Asnuntuck Community College Chevrolet got off to a somewhat slow start, but he has been white hot for the last four races. Three wins and a second place finish have seen him close the gap to Saunders down to 18 points. With last year’s championship already under his belt, Hayes will be hungry to continue his good fortune and continue to chip away at the lead that Saunders has enjoyed all season long.
David Arute and the #28 Nichols College team currently sit third in the points, 56 behind Saunders. Arute has 2 wins and 11 top-5 finishes and he is tied with Saunders for the division lead in top-10 finishes. Should either Saunders or Hayes falter in the last 5 races, Arute will be waiting in the wings to capitalize and get himself back into the thick of the championship hunt.
DARE Stock division: Once the 2015 season got rolling, it looked like the cars of Frank L’Etoile, Jr., Tyler Trott, Dan Dembek, and Trace Beyer would be racing all season long to see who would be crowned track champion and that hasn’t changed with 5 races to go.
L’Etoile is the defending DARE Stock champion and his 2015 season has been a model of consistency and speed. L’Etoile and the #33 Zeke’s Pump Service / Tommy’s Tattoos team have finished every race in the top-5 this season. Despite his dominance of the top-5 and 2 feature wins, L’Etoile finds himself only 14 points ahead of Trott and the #11 Jet Motorsports team. Trott has 3 wins, 15 top-5, and 16 top-10 finishes to his credit this year.
Dembek and the #93 Dembek Motorsports team won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature and they have 2 wins, 12 top-5 and and 17 top-10 finishes and they are currently 34 points behind. Beyer and the #29 Lazy Moose Lodge / Mahoney GPS team have 2 wins, 12 top-5, and 16 top-10 finishes and they are 54 points behind L’Etoile.
Legend Cars: The race for the championship will come down to Devin O’Connell and Dana DiMatteo. DiMatteo wont the very first Legend Cars track championship last season and he was again the early season point leader, but some mid-season troubles have him trailing O’Connell by 32 points with the #76 Manafort Bros. / Sign Pro team.
O’Connell has been the big winner of not only the Legend Cars division, but all of Stafford Speedway as he is tied with Late Model driver Tom Fearn for the most feature wins of any driver this season with 7. O’Connell also leads all Legend Cars drivers with 15 top-5 and 17 top-10 finishes, which has kept the #43 Chatham Highlander Motel team at the front of the standings for much of the season.
The 2015 championship races will be decided during the 43rd NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend, set for Oct. 3-4. The SK Lights, Ltd. Late Models, DARE Stocks, and Legend Cars will each run their final feature events of the season on Saturday the 3rd while the SK Modified® and Late Model divisions will crown their champions on Sunday the 4th. Also on Sunday will be the famous NAPA Auto Parts Pit Party from 11:00am to noon and the final race to round out the 2015 season will be Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Auto Parts 150.
Tickets for the 43rd Annual NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend are priced at $38.50 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. Reserved seating is priced at $42.00 for all ages. All NAPA Fall Final tickets are good for admission on both Saturday and Sunday and ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. Visit your local participating NAPA Auto Parts store for discount ticket offers.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.