Tag Archives: Stafford Motor Speedway

Legend Cars Champion Peter Bennett Stepping Up to Stafford’s SK Lights

(Stafford Springs, CT)—With four Legend Cars championships to his name from 2017-2019, Cromwell, CT native Peter Bennett will step into SK Light competition at Stafford Speedway to challenge for Rookie of the Year honors in 2020.  Bennett raced with the Nutmeg Kart Club from 2010-2016 before moving into Legend Cars where he won the championship at Bethel Speedway in 2017, scored a double at Waterford in 2018 winning the Wednesday and Saturday championships, and won the Seekonk Speedway championship this past season.  With four championships over the past three years, Bennett was ready for a new racing challenge.

“SK Lights weren’t really in my plans until I wrapped up the 2019 season,” said Bennett.  “I had 3 consecutive Legend Cars championship seasons so the time was right to move up and find a new challenge.  I know Stafford is one of the most competitive tracks in the Northeast so I definitely have my work cut out for me.  Every time you’re a rookie the most obvious goal is to win Rookie of the Year and that’s probably going to be our primary goal this season.  I know there’s a few pretty good drivers moving up from Street Stocks so I’m sure it’s going to be a great race for Rookie of the Year and I’m excited to be part of that.  I had a lot of success winning championships in the Legend Cars and I’d love to say I’m going to run for the championship in the SK Lights, but I’ve never driven a modified before so this is going to be a huge learning curve for me and I’m planning on taking things one race at a time.”

Bennett purchased the Paul French owned #76 SK Light modified that Mark Bakaj drove to three wins over the course of the 2018 & 2019 seasons.

“It’s never easy buying a racecar, it’s a lot more complex than buying a street car,” said Bennett.  “Reputation and performance is important and Mark (Bakaj) won a race last season and 2 races the year before and it ran pretty competitively whenever he drove it, so that was a big factor in choosing that car to buy.  I’ve been busy taking the car apart and going through it to learn as much as I can about the chassis and Paul (French) has been helping me out with that.  I’m super excited to get on track at Stafford and see what it’s all about and how the car feels.  I have a lot of work left to do and I’m counting down the days to the open practices and the Sizzler.”

Bennett has just announced that Shoreline Coatings of North Branford, CT has signed on to be the primary sponsor of his #50 machine for the 2020 season.

“Shoreline Coatings is going to powder coat the car for me in the next couple of weeks,” said Bennett.  “It’s actually great for me because now I have time to strip the entire car down and learn it inside and out.  I’ll be pushing for more sponsors as we get closer to the Sizzler but Shoreline Coatings was the first to step up for me and I’m excited to have them on board with us.”

In addition to French, Bennett can also look to longtime friend and Stafford regular Chris Bagnall for advice.  Bagnall just completed his rookie season in the SK Light division after racing in the Street Stock division at Stafford from 2014-2018.

“I’ve known Chris Bagnall for a while and he was probably the main guy who convinced me to move into SK Lights this year,” said Bennett.  “He’s been showing me what I need to do and answer any questions I might have.  To be honest, I’m not much of a mechanic so there’s going to be a lot of learning about setting the car up and learning all the ins and the outs of a full size car rather than working on a smaller Legend Car.”

Bennett comes into the 2020 season with no driving experience behind the wheel of a modified but has seen the success that other Legend Cars competitors have had racing both SK Modifieds® and SK Lights at Stafford.  Bennett will also be looking to get as much seat time as possible before the season gets underway the weekend of April 24-26 for the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler®.

“The first couple open practice sessions before the season starts are going to be huge for me to get as much seat time as possible,” said Bennett.  “Hopefully my Legend Cars experience will help put me in a good spot and lay a good foundation for me.  I know a lot of drivers have moved up from Legend Cars and had success so that gives me a lot of confidence.  I might not be blazing fast my first time out, but if I’m patient I can be there when the time comes down the road.  Guys like Teddy Hodgdon, Stephen Kopcik, Cory DiMatteo, Mike Christopher, and Steven Chapman, I’ve raced against them in Legend Cars and seeing them out there with the success they’ve had gives me confidence for the future.  I believe in my driving abilities and it’s just going to be a matter of getting comfortable in the car and keeping things clean every week.  I never had a DNF in my 3 years of Legend Cars and if I can do that again in the SK Lights, I think I’d be doing all right.”

The 2020 SK Light season kicks off with the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 24-26.  Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now by calling the Speedway Box Office 860-684-2783 or online at www.staffordspeedway.com.

For more information, visit www.staffordspeedway.com, checkout Stafford Speedway on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.

Rich Hammann Teaming With R.J. Surdell For Limited Late Model Championship Run in 2020

(Stafford Springs, CT)—After racing his own equipment at Stafford Speedway for 12 seasons from 2000-2018, Tolland, CT native Rich Hammann will return to competition in 2020 in the Limited Late Model division.  Hammann will be driving the #83 NAPA of Tolland Chevrolet for former Limited Late Model and current Late Model driver R.J. Surdell.  Hammann is in the process of building his own Limited Late Model car, but a phone call from Surdell set in motion plans for the two drivers to team up for the 2020 season.

“I’m building a new car but it won’t be ready in time for the start of the season at the Sizzler,” said Hammann.  “R.J. was also building a car and he ended up giving me a call and asked if I would be interested in driving for him.  I’ll run his car this season and then probably run my own car next season.”

Over his 12 year Stafford career, Hammann has driven everything that Stafford has to offer at the weekly level, racing in both the SK Modified® and SK Light divisions as well as the Late Model, Limited Late Model, and Street Stock divisions.  The highest point standing finish for Hammann was in 2016 in the Late Model division when he finished 6th.  With a return to the Limited Late Model division after last racing in the SK Lights in 2018, Hammann is looking to have fun in 2020 as well as making a run at the track championship.

“I’m very excited about going back to the Limited Late Model division,” said Hammann.  “I just want to have fun this year.  Obviously you have to come out of the gate with a strong car but I’m expecting to make a run for the championship.  We’re hoping we can get some wins and some top-5 finishes but we definitely want to contend for the championship.  I feel very confident but expectations versus reality sometimes are different things.  I think we should be pretty close to where we need to be to start off the season and those first couple of practice sessions are going to be very important for us to fine tune the car.”

While track championships have been won by drivers in the past at Stafford who haven’t won a race during their championship season, Hammann will most likely have to win at least a race or two to be a championship contender.  Feature wins have eluded Hammann thus far over his 12-year career at Stafford but he feels like he has all the parts and pieces in place to help him park his car in NAPA Victory Lane for the very first time.

“Absolutely I think we can win races this season,” said Hammann.  “I’ve got some podiums in the SK Lights and some top-10 finishes, but I’ve never really had strong backing, I’ve always raced on my own.   R.J. has some experience with the Limited Late Model and he knows what the car is going to need and we all work really well together and we’re a blue collar team.  A win would be pretty exciting for sure and I would be ecstatic to finally get that monkey off of my back.”

In addition to seeking his first career feature win at Stafford, Hammann is also looking for a little redemption. 

“Bob Fill had me pretty close to winning in the Late Model division and then when I was working together with RRC [Rob Russell Chassis], we were struggling for most of the year with the car and finally found the left front spring was bad,” said Hammann.  “We got that fixed and we had just about everything squared away on the car when we got put into the wall.  I wasn’t really able to show what I could do so I’m out for a little redemption this season.  You have to have the right people behind you and I have that now.  One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you can’t do this all by yourself.”

Hammann will face strong competition on the track as 4 of the 5 Limited Late Model feature winners will all be back looking for more wins in 2020.  2-time defending champion Jeremy Lavoie, Matt Clement, Gary Patnode, and Alexandra Fearn combined to win 18 of the 20 races last season while Duane Provost won twice, but is moving into the Late Model division for the 2020 season.  Despite the heavy hitters returning for another season of action, Hammann isn’t intimidated by the competition.

“I’m not intimidated,” said Hammann.  “I think the competition is going to be very good this season and there’s probably 5 or 6 of us who are going to be fighting for wins every Friday night.  With 20 laps you have to make it happen to get to the front but I know what the deal is between running the SK Light and Limited Late Model divisions in the past.”

Hammann will kick off his quest for a championship and first win at the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 24-26. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now by calling the Speedway Box Office 860-684-2783 or online at www.staffordspeedway.com.

For more information, visit www.staffordspeedway.com, checkout Stafford Speedway on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.

Craig Lutz Files Entry for Stafford Open Modified 80 Events

(Stafford Springs, CT)—Over the past three seasons when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visits Stafford Speedway, Craig Lutz has been one of the drivers to watch.  Lutz is currently riding a 9-race top-10 streak at the ½ mile, including his first career Tour win at the 2019 running of the NAPA Fall Final.  Lutz will be looking to add to his stellar Stafford totals as he has registered to compete in all four Open Modified 80 events this season. Lutz will pilot the #56 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet owned by Russell Goodale in each of the 80’s including the Open Mod 80 on May 15, the Twisted Tea Open 80 on June 12, the Bud Light Open 80 on July 10, and the Lincoln Tech Open 80 on August 21.

“I can’t wait to come back to Stafford,” said Lutz.  “Last year we purchased an open motor so we could be part of the open modified shows at Stafford this season.  My Dad and I were able to put this deal together with my car owner Russell Goodale and we’re coming to Stafford looking to win races.  We’re looking forward to running the four extra shows at Stafford in addition to the three Tour races.”

Lutz and the #56 team were able to make one start at the end of the 2019 season at Thompson Speedway to shake the new car and engine combination down and help prepare for the 2020 season. 

“We got everything put together and we ran the last MRS show at Thompson,” said Lutz.  “We started 25th and finished 3rd, so that was pretty good for our first time running the open motor.”

With 13 career starts under his belt at Stafford, Lutz is hoping to avoid any learning curve when he comes to Stafford for the first time in an open modified format.  Lutz is also excited about the 80 lap race format that allows teams to change 2 tires during the race, noting that he will be able to go all out for the entire 80 lap distance.

“The tire compounds are a little different to what we run on the Tour so there might be a small learning curve for us,” said Lutz.  “The races are 80 laps and we get to change 2 tires, so there doesn’t seem to be much saving of anything with the car.  I think we can afford to set the car up a little bit looser than we normally would set up our car for a Tour race at Stafford and we’ll take our 2 tires during the race and we’ll see where we end up.  We typically don’t race all out during Tour races that much and I like the longer distance races, but this is going to be pretty cool to change things up.  I’ve never ran a shorter race at Stafford so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Lutz will also be hoping to pick up anything that he can apply towards his #46 Riverhead Building Supply car for the three visits the NWMT will make to Stafford in 2020.

“Any time you’re in a car getting laps at a track where the Tour runs is always a good thing,” said Lutz.  “These races will help keep everyone on the team fluid and working together and by being repetitive each weekend you’re only going to get better and better and that’s what we’re trying to accomplish this year with running more races than we did last year.”

Lutz will have some stiff competition in the fight to be the first driver to see the checkered flag in the Open 80 races at Stafford.  Each of the first five Open 80’s at Stafford have been won by different drivers with Tommy Barrett, Jr. and Eric Goodale winning in 2018 and Keith Rocco, Ryan Preece, and Ronnie Williams winning in 2019.  Barrett, Rocco, Preece, and Williams are either current or former weekly racers at Stafford and Lutz knows the Stafford regulars will be strong again in 2020.  Lutz can always turn to his Riverhead Building Supply teammate Goodale for advice regarding how to properly attack the 80-lap Open Modified events.

“Guys like Ronnie Williams and Keith Rocco have been racing at Stafford every Friday for the last however many years and they know every crack there is in the track. Those guys are going to be tough to beat for sure,” said Lutz.  “Eric [Goodale] always runs good at Stafford but I haven’t really had a chance to sit down with him yet to discuss any strategy.  I’m sure he’s going to be one of the guys to beat so we’ll see what happens.  Hopefully we can pull off a win.”

In addition to the four Open Mod 80 shows, Lutz will be looking to continue his good Stafford fortunes in the NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 26, the Stafford 150 on Aug. 7, and defending his NAPA Fall Final victory of one year ago on Sept. 27.

“Winning the Fall Final last year was a big morale booster for the entire team,” said Lutz.  “It seemed whenever we were in position to possibly get a win something stupid would happen and we would end up finishing second.  To finally be able to say we were winners on the Tour is something special. We’ve purchased two new LFR cars for this season and our plan is to come in full tilt and try to make a run at the championship.”

Lutz will look to add more Stafford wins to his resume when he takes to the track for the Open Mod 80 on May 15, the Twisted Tea Open 80 on June 12, the Bud Light Open 80 on July 10, and the Lincoln Tech Open 80 on August 21.  For more information, visit www.staffordspeedway.com, checkout Stafford Speedway on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.