(Stafford Springs, CT)—With the first race of the 2023 Stafford Speedway season less than two weeks away, a pair of Late Model drivers are looking forward to having breakout campaigns. Both Wayne Coury, Jr., driver of the #10 Springfield Thunderbirds Chevrolet and Darrell Keane, driver of the #79 Big Kahuna Racing / Jarmoc Farms Chevrolet, are primed to serve notice to the Late Model field that 2023 will be their year.
Coury made a move from his family owned car to a car owned by Pat Kretschman and Tom Fearn for the 2022 season and while the new combination suffered through some early season struggles, the duo finished strong with four consecutive top-5 finishes to close out the season, including his lone feature win on the final night of the year.
“I feel optimistic,” said Coury. “It took us a little while last year to get our feet underneath us and get the car going as well as we wanted it to. Once we did, things were really clicking for us and we had a real strong finish to the season and I’m hoping we can start this season off just as strong as we finished last season. We struggled quite a bit at the beginning of last season and it took us a while to figure things out but I’m glad none of us ever gave up. We knew that it would work out if we stuck with it so we stayed on the path and things ended up working out for us.”
Keane and his #79 team enjoyed a career best season in 2022 with 1 win, 12 top-5, and 17 top-10 finishes that saw them finish fourth in the final Late Model standings.
“I’m looking forward to getting back at it and hopefully we can keep the momentum we built up last year going,” said Keane. “We set a standard for ourselves last year finishing fourth in the points and we’ve proved that we can be there. I think we deserve to be at the table so we need to step up our program a little bit and I expect that if we were there last year then we should at least be there knocking on the door this season.”
Both Coury and Keane have their sights set on winning multiple races and being championship contenders in 2023. In order to be championship contenders, they know they will have to keep on stepping their games up to match the pace of Late Model front runners Tom Fearn and Adam Gray, who between them have won 4 of the last 5 Late Model championships and have won 43 of the 93 Late Model features run since the start of the 2018 season.
“I sure hope to be a contender for the championship this year, that’s our plan,” said Coury. “I feel like I’ve always been capable of running up front and winning races and it was just a matter of me being committed and showing up to the track. Connecting with Pat and Tom has given me the opportunity to run a couple of full seasons and I’m hoping that we can take advantage of that. We’re hoping to come and win the championship this year and I think we have a real chance at doing that. There’s a lot of tough competition. Tom [Fearn] and Adam [Gray] are always there year after year, Kevin [Gambacorta] is tough, and there’s a bunch of guys who can click off a lot of wins in a single season. I feel like we made a solid run at the championship back in 2020 but we had some troubles towards the end of the season. I’m super excited about this season and working with Pat and Tom has taken a lot of the car prep burden off of my father and myself and it’s been a great opportunity.”
“The championship is our goal this year,” said Keane. “Adam, Tommy, and Kevin have set a standard that’s pretty high but we’re going to try to match that. Any time you can win at least one race in a season is a feat in itself and you’re stepping up your whole program to get to that winning level. I think the biggest thing for us to improve is to be able to get through traffic like those guys do. The way that [Fearn, Gray, Gambacorta] all get through traffic, they make it look effortless without making a lot of enemies in the process. You have to get through traffic and you have to do it quickly because once we get strung out it could be a green to checkered race in a hurry.”
Not only are Coury and Keane primed to be championship contenders, but Coury is looking to continue a 4-year win streak while Keane has won a race in 3 of the last 5 Late Model seasons.
“It’s been a great streak so far,” said Coury. “I always wanted to prove to myself that I could win races at Stafford and it’s been nice to prove that. I’m still not satisfied, I want a season with three, four, or five wins and I want to be up front every week, so we need to work on making that happen this year. In the past it’s always been my level of commitment and not having a complete team and I think that we have that now so there isn’t anything that should hold us back on paper. I think we’re all ready to get after it.”
“I was kind of bummed that we didn’t get a win in 2019 or 2021 and I definitely want to continue to add wins,” said Keane. “I’d like to have at least 2 wins this season because you aren’t going to win a championship with only one win unless you finish second in every other race. The guys who are winning the championships usually have 5 or 6 wins so you have to be on the same level. Winning keeps everyone on the team happy and helps keep things flowing in the right direction.”
The first Late Model race of the 2023 season will come on Sunday, April 30 as part of NAPA Spring Sizzler® Weekend. The NAPA Spring Sizzler® kicks off on Saturday, April 29, and will consist of two 40-lap NAPA Duel qualifying races for the Open Modified division. The 40-lap races will each pay $3,500 to win and will set the field for Sunday’s NAPA Spring Sizzler®. The American Canadian Tour (ACT) Late Models will also make their return to Stafford Speedway on April 29th with a 75-lap feature with over 40 cars expected for the race. Limited Late Model, Street Stock, and Vintage All-Star divisions will complete Saturday’s racing program.
Sunday, April 30th will play host to the $20,000 to win 51st NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®. Filling out Sunday’s racing card will be qualifying and feature racing for the SK Modified®, SK Light Modified, and Late Model divisions along with last chance qualifiers for the Spring Sizzler®.
For more information, visit staffordspeedway.com, follow Stafford Speedway on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.