(Stafford Springs, CT)—After running a partial schedule during his rookie season in Stafford Speedway’s Limited Late Model division in 2017, Barkhamsted native Gary Patnode is looking forward to the 2018 season. Patnode purchased Justin Bren’s car last year for his rookie season and he ran 11 races and posted 7 top-10’s to finish the season in 11th place in the points standings with his #22 GP Fence Chevrolet. With just over half a season under his belt, Patnode is looking to build on his experience and get bigger and better results in 2018.
“I think we met our expectations last season,” said Patnode. “I thought I would be able to pick things up and be running up front a little quicker and it definitely wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be. We ran 11 races last season and every time we went out on the track we learned something. I’m glad we had the half season to use as a learning curve and we have high expectations for this upcoming season. No matter what I’m doing, I want to do it the best I can and we’re expecting to be running up front this year. Before last year our hope was to be able to get a top-5 and we didn’t quite get there. I feel pretty confident we’ll be able to get some top-5 finishes this season.”
Patnode started his rookie season last year with a unique story of how he decided to get behind the wheel and go racing. Patnode met SK Modified® and Late Model driver Glen Reen through his participation in the Rusty Wallace Racing Experience that was taking place at Stafford in 2016. Through his connection with Reen, Patnode was introduced to Justin Bren, from which he bought his Limited Late Model. Then enters Rob Russell, who owns the Late Model car that Reen drove to the 2017 track championship. Patnode’s connection with Russell allowed him to get some chassis setup help which will continue into the 2018 season as Patnode is in search of his first career victory.
“Everyone who is involved with us is more than willing to help and give information and tips and we have a great group of people for sure,” said Patnode. “It’s huge to be able to be working with Rob and Glen. They won the Late Model championship last season and I feel very fortunate and blessed that Rob has accepted working with me. I met Rob through Glen and I have no doubts whatsoever about how he sets up the car. Both Rob and his brother Marc are fantastic to work with. With me not coming up through the ranks of racing, being able to work with Rob and Marc to help make sure that I have a good car, I can’t thank them both enough for all of their support. The car is at Rob’s shop right now getting a new body and it’s going to be a totally different looking car than it was last year. I think the car should be in good shape and I can’t wait to get back on track. It’s all I’ve been thinking about.”
As Patnode prepares to chase not only his first win but his first top-5 finish in 2018, he feels like he improved by leaps and bounds from when he got started last season to the NAPA Fall Final feature and he is looking to put his experience to good use.
“The first race I was there, RJ Surdell won the race and he was just about to lap me after 20 laps,” said Patnode. “After the first couple of races, we started to be able to hang with the pack a little better. We started off running laps around 24 seconds and we got the lap time down to the low 22 second bracket. We finished towards the back half of the field in our races but I felt like we improved each time we went out and Rob and Glen were both pretty happy with how I was running the car. I feel pretty comfortable we can be a contender in 2018.”
As enthusiastic as Patnode is about his prospects for the 2018 season, he knows in the back of his mind that he has to be respectful of the racetrack or a night can go from good to bad in an instant.
“At Stafford, if you give up a foot it’s real hard to get that foot back,” said Patnode. “I think the biggest lesson I learned was you need to be giving 110% every time you go out on the track at Stafford. When you give just a little bit, they take it away from you real quick. I remember it was like the 4th or 5th race last year and I turned a real quick lap in practice and I thought we were going to be able to get the car in the top-5 that night. Then I went out in the heat race and got into the turn 4 wall pretty good with the right side of the car, which just reminded me that you always need to respect it or you will certainly have some problems.”
The 2018 Limited Late Model season kicks off with the 47th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler® on April 27-29. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $40.00 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. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available. All tickets are good for both Saturday and Sunday admission. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax.
For more information on the 47th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler®, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.