Stafford Motor Speedway gearing up for 2018 season

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Stafford Motor Speedway has been busy preparing for the 2018 season as the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler will be held next weekend at the Connecticut half-mile oval.  Stafford Motor Speedway General Manager Mark Arute told 22News how important this event is 

” Been working pretty hard at it not just Sizzler but our entire package the whole season. Kind of neat stuff this year.” Arute Said.

Arute told 22News that the Spring Sizzler certainly has its tradition. The conception was a short lap race with big money in the Spring. There is tremendous history in the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler. A memorable Spring Sizzler for fans is when Greg Sacks came in pitted and won the Spring Sizzler back in 1983. Arute’s most memorable moment of the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler and still remembers like it happened yesterday is when West Springfield’s Bob Polverari beat NASCAR Hall Of Fame Driver Richie Evans by a bumper at the start finish line.   

The Open Comp Modified events will be becoming back to Stafford on June 8 and July 13. Arute feels its not so much open competition as it was back in the day. There are parameters and a set of rules.  

” It came about with just a couple of things last year when we have folks come in doing these tour type (Modified) shows. Just felt though we lost a lot of control and a lot of different aspects of the events itself. Felt as though we wanted to try and put a little Stafford into it. We got some ideas make it a little more racer friendly so to speak where its not going to be as cumbersome for the competitors and just procedure.” Arute Said.

Arute told 22News that he feels Stafford has the personnel and the expertise to put on competitive for the type of class with the Open Modified 80.  

” 80 laps has always been a little bit magical to go at least at Stafford.” Arute Said.

The Spring Sizzler was always an 80 lap event. Its kind of morphed over the years where now it’s a long distance race.  The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers will race 200 laps next Sunday.

Ray Evernham will be the Grand Marshall for the event.  He is even bringing his Vintage Cars to the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler. Wade Gagner approached the speedway last fall and he built a sherri cup car one of the Brett Bodine cars. Gagner had gone to some of the Vintage shows and he was unhappy on how they were managed and run and he came to the Speedway and had different ideas and aspects he had. Stafford has not done a competitive Vintage show in 30 years only because of the concerns with the safety and that was one of the things Gagner was concerned about the most. He came up with the concept a good set of rules that the track has endorsed and liked the direction it was going in.

They got it going on Twitter and Mark’s two sons David and Paul were going back and forth with Ray Evernham and a competitor said something about bringing the cars up for Spring Sizzler weekend and one thing led to another. Evernham is excited about the event at the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler.

The NASCAR Whelen All American Series Weekly Divisions as seen a lot of registrations this season including race car drivers from Western Massachusetts. The SK Modifieds have been apart of the history at Stafford. 

” Always been modified oriented speedway forever. I just know got a good group and the racing is improved a lot over the years gone by. I think the biggest part of that in the SK division is been our SK Light program. It was always kind of difficult for someone to make that move even to an SK back before we had that light division because you’re coming out of a full body car.” Arute Said.

The SK Light division will be heading into its 11th season starting next weekend at the NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler is really hone the skills so to speak. Now when someone does make that move from SK Lights to the SK Modifieds, they are much more prepared. The SK Lights are a very competitive division. The SK Modifieds are very competitive with a lot of veteran drivers and up and comers in the division. A majority of the drivers have made the move from the SK Lights to the SK Modifieds that have succeeded and done well. It bodes well for modifieds in general. For Arute its a pretty neat program from the SK Lights to the SK Modifieds in where some of the drivers may have stepped up to the Valenti Modified Racing Series or the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Arute feels those drivers are well prepared because they have the skills. 

The NAPA Auto Parts 5K will return on Friday, June 29. NAPA put that on board when they got together with the track. NAPA wanted their name on a big race they can put on and Stafford was willing to accommodate them.

” We always wanted to do something spectacular for the SKs. One thing led to another. We done some fan votes.We’ve done a lot of different types of promotions with it.” Arute Said.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series will make two appearances on Friday, May 18 and Friday, August 31. 

” We have been very successful with them. I think it just goes to show how many people want to race in modifieds. If you draw a 60-mile circle around Stafford Springs. It encompasses a whole lot of modified people. I think the Stafford draw does quite well with that group. We usually have a good car count for those events. Jack (Bateman) has done a pretty good job with that maintaining it. They’ve been successful shows. It’s neat to see some of the different competitors that don’t generally come to let say a Whelen Modified Tour show or they don’t race in the SKs race. Its a pretty good group.” Arute Said.

Another change for the 2018 season is the DARE Stocks will now be called the Street Stocks. They have run under this format with the DARE for 20 plus years at least. 

” At the time, when we created that division. It actually came off of a division we ran an Enduro Type race. We actually called them Lefts And Rights. We put doglegs on the front and back straightaway. We were very concerned about the speeds In those days, the cars didn’t have fuel cells. Cages that weren’t NASCAR design so we wanted to slow them down and we did that two or three years pretty successfully and had a lot of cars.” Arute Said.

Stafford was then getting fewer cars for the division. They decided it wasn’t worth doing any longer and they had a few competitors that had cars. They looked to transition into the oval track with some added features where they had to add a fuel cell and a cage and that was the beginning of the DARE Stock division. 

” We always felt as though the first place someone would go and never raced and the enduros there was a lot of people that never raced. It worked very well in fact overwhelmed with cars. The first year was not a lot. The second-year grew and then it just continually grew and as time went on. It just seemed to maybe run its course. We had a rule, you could only win two races and if you won your third one you were disqualified. Any little rules to keep kind of non-competitive to the degree racing can be. We had no points in the beginning. We wouldn’t let anyone put an engine builders name on a car so there was a lot of stringent rules we enforced and as time went on, we kind of said ok were gonna give you points. Progressed more into legit racing division. It just seemed the appropriate time to drop that DARE moniker. They were Street Stocks more or less. Maybe not 30 years ago I think there were Street Stocks but it was a much different beast back then it is today.” Arute Said .

The Fall Final will be the season finale for Stafford Motor Speedway later this year. Arute told 22News with the Fall Final being the last race its a little more crowded in the Fall as far as the big races traditionally always were when most of the big races took place. 

” Its the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. It still is the best of modified asphalt racing in this area for sure. Then the history is probably the biggest thing. Its tradition.” Arute Said.

The NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler will kickoff with a practice session for the Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions along with the EXIT Realty Pro Series Trucks and Vintage All Stars.  Practice will begin at 1:00 p.m. and go until 6:00 p.m. The grandstands will be open free of charge. 

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will practice and qualify on Saturday.  There will be qualifying for the rest of the divisions along with some feature races on Saturday.  

On Sunday the NAPA Auto Parts Open track party will happen from 11:00 a.m-noon.  Pre race ceremonies will begin at 12:15 p.m. followed by feature racing at 1:00 p.m. The NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler feature for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will go off at approx 3:30 p.m. 

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