Champ Trail -
November 21, 2017
The Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 450 people
consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees this past Friday
night, November 17 at Maneely’s in South Windsor to officially honor Keith
Rocco, Glen Reen, Cory DiMatteo, Duane Provost, and Johnny Walker as the
2017 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track
With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcaster Matt Buckler serving as the
Masters of Ceremony, the 48th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR
Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the five track champions, they
also recognized the top-10 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late
Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. Special
awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most
Popular Driver Awards, NAPA Auto Parts Parts Rookie of the Year, R.A.D.
Automachine Rookie of the Year, and the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.
Keith Rocco and the #88 Wheelers Auto team used a combination of
consistency and clutch performances to take the title. Rocco began strong
with 10 top-9 finishes but began to struggle in August and the beginning of
September. Entering the final 2 races of the season, Rocco trailed Chase
Dowling by 34 points. Rocco and the #88 team then rose to the occasion by
winning the final 2 races to claim the championship by a 6 point margin over
Dowling. For the season, the #88 team posted 2 wins, 9 top-5 and 15 top-10
finishes for an average finish of 5.8.
Glen Reen and the #31 LifeCare Family Chiropractic team were a model of
consistency throughout the 2017 season en route to winning the championship.
In 17 starts this season, Reen posted 16 top-7 finishes with his worst
finish for the season an 11th place effort on Sept. 15. Despite not leading
the Late Model division in wins, top-5s, or top-10s this year, Reen’s
consistency carried him to the championship with Tom Fearn and Kevin
Gambacorta tied for second, 8 points behind Reen. For the season, Reen and
the #31 team posted 3 wins, 13 top-5, and 16 top-10 finishes and they
finished on the podium in 10 of the 17 races.
Cory DiMatteo made the move from Legend Cars into SK Lights at Stafford
for the 2017 season and he proved he was a quick study by winning the first
2 races of the season. DiMatteo used that early momentum to establish
himself as a championship contender but several finishes outside the top-15
dropped him out of the points lead. DiMatteo spent much of the summer
recovering lost points from his finishes outside the top-15 and he posted
top-6 finishes in 11 of the final 12 races to erase his deficit to the point
leaders and win the championship at the NAPA Fall Final with a 4th place
finish. For the season DiMatteo posted 4 wins, 12 top-5s and 14 top-10s and
he becomes the fourth rookie driver, joining Michael Gervais, Jr. in 2009,
Matt Galko in 2010, and Jeremy Sorel in 2014 as rookie drivers who also won
the SK Light championship.
While Duane Provost had a bit of luck and circumstance on his side last
season in winning the Limited Late Model championship, he needed no such
favors this season as he locked down a second consecutive track
championship. Provost and the #88 Michael Facchini Law Firm team scored
top-5 finishes in 16 of the 17 races this season with 3 wins. Provost scored
back to back wins in early June and then won again on Sept. 15 to help
cement his place at the top of the standings heading into the final 2 races
of the season. For the season Provost scored 3 wins, 16 top-5s, and 16
After winning the DARE Stock championship in 2016, Johnny Walker and the
#01 Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair team came back and put together one of
the most dominant seasons in Stafford history in any division. After a loose
steering wheel relegated him to a 12th place finish in the season opening
NAPA Spring Sizzler feature event, Walker finished each of the remaining 16
races on the podium with 8 wins, 5 second place finishes, and 3 third place
finishes. The 8 wins set a DARE Stock record for most wins in a season and
Walker easily accumulated the highest point total of any driver at Stafford
this season with 806 points over 17 races.
The NAPA Auto Parts Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Josh Wood
from the SK Modified® division and Paul Arute from the Late Model division.
Taking home R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year honors were Cory DiMatteo
in the SK Light division, Alexandra Fearn in the Limited Late Model
division, and George Bessette, Jr. in the DARE Stock division. The NAPA Auto
Parts rookie awards will be worth a $1,000.00 gift card redeemable at
participating NAPA Stores to Wood and Arute, with DiMatteo, Fearn, and
Bessette each winning a $500 bonus from R.A.D. Automachine that will be paid
out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during
the 2018 season.
The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Ted Christopher in the
SK Modified® division, Tom Fearn in the Late Model division, Marcello
Rufrano from the SK Light division, Alexandra Fearn from the Limited Late
Model division, and Nicole Chambrello in the DARE Stock division. The Most
Popular Driver Awards are voted on by the fans who attend Stafford Motor
Speedway race events and fill out the ballots found in the track’s weekly
The UNOH Youth Achievement award was won by SK Light Modified driver
Daniel Wesson for the second consecutive season. The UNOH Youth Achievement
Award is a program that is open to all drivers at Stafford between the ages
of 14-17. The eligible driver who scored the most track points from their
best 14 finishes this season won a $500 cash award from UNOH as well as a
$500 scholarship award from UNOH.
Matt Hirschman scored his 17th win of the season as he won a 125 lap
Modified event at the Myrtle Beach speedway in South Carolina. Hirschman
inherited the lead following a break at the 100 lap mark when previous
leader Bob Measmer Jr was sent to the rear after he entered a closed pit.
Jason Myers finished second and was followed by Measmer, Darea Scherer,
Danny Bohn, Bert Myers and Timmy Solomito.
The northeast Modified season winds up this weekend at the Wall Stadium
in New Jersey with the Annual Turkey Derby on Friday and Saturday.
Cole Custer ended his rookie season on a high note by winning his first
NASCAR XFINITY Series race Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The win for
Custer during the Ford EcoBoost 300 is also the first win for the
Stewart-Haas Racing XFINITY program.
Custer took the lead from Tyler Reddick early on in the first stage of
the race and never looked back, leading 179 of the 200 laps. Championship
contender Elliott Sadler finished eighth. After being passed by Byron with
nine laps to go, Sadler made contact with Ryan Preece in turn three and four
as Sadler tried to pass him. Sadler showed his frustration and things got
heated, with Sadler getting in Preece’s face on pit road after the race.
Preece was able to save his car after the contact with Sadler and finish
A few days prior to the Homestead event Joe Gibbs Racing announced that
Preece would be a regular part of the rotating lineup in the team’s third
NASCAR XFINITY Series entry in 2018 which means that Preece will share the
ride with Monster Energy Cup Series drivers Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Erik
Jones and Daniel Suarez. Preece will make at least 10 starts with the team
On the speedway stock market scene last week, the International Speedway
Corporation remained stale with a no change at 40.15 while Dover
Entertainment went up 0.05 to 1.95 and Speedway Motorsports went up 0.82 to
20.44. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage went up 1.01 to 62.17 and NASCAR
tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.87 to 29.94 while NASCAR fuel supplier
Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.21 to 16.75. On the other side of the
street the car manufacturers had a somewhat poor showing. Ford remained
stale with a no change at 12.01 while Toyota dropped 1.20 to 123.29 and
General Motors went up 1.22 to 43.88. In the home improvement sector, Home
Depot went up 3.63 to 167.74 and Lowes went up 2.73 to 80.22. With the
exception of McDonalds which went up 1.13 to 166.72 and Coca-Cola which went
up 6.87 to 202.74, the big team sponsors stocks were down. Target Department
stores dropped 3.26 to 58.14, Aarons Rentals dropped 0.13 to 36.46 and Fedex
dropped 2.15 to 216.00.
On the tube this
Wednesday, November 22
3:30 AM, NASCAR Race Hub, FOX Sports 1
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBC Sports Net
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub: Best of NASCAR Race Hub, Part 1
Monday, November 27
5:00 PM, NASCAR America, NBCSN
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub: Best of NASCAR Race Hub, Part 2
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and
R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.
Phil Smith has been a columnist for
Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
Smith / Champ Trail