Sunday, April 24, 2016

Shawn Solomito Sizzles While Coby Cruises At Stafford

Stafford Speedway's Spring Sizzler showcased again that sometimes in racing it is all about one guy.   Not that it started that way.   The track is celebrating the 35th season of its SK-class Modifieds, a class founded in 1982 amid considerable controversy but which has long been the track's most competitive class.   That showed again in 2016's Sizzler - the lead changed hands on all three of the opening laps as Cam McDermott, a newcomer to Stafford, led from the pole and battled Beian Sullivan and Jeremy Sorel, but following a Mike Christopher Jr. spin (Mike Jr. is the namesake son of Terrible Ted's twin) Todd Owen - driving car #81, TO #81 an irony lost on everyone - stormed to first.

Eric Berndt clawed into contention but it was Rowan Pennick's #99 that grabbed first amid a series of spins that eventually claimed Berndt and Owen, while Woody Pitkat challenged late but couldn't seize the win, setting for second with Sorel third and Teddy Christopher, still the winningest driver in SK history, in fifth.

The Late Model feature was calmer, but not by all that much, as early leader Tom Fearn got swerved in Turn Four by Michael Bennett around halfway; Fearn rallied from deep in the field to finish fourth, futilely chasing Bennett and Michael Wray as they finished 1-2 and Jim Mavlouganes quietly grabbed third.

Once the Mod Tour 200-lapper got going it became an exercise in trying to keep up with Doug Coby.   It proved an exercise in frustration and no one could.   Coby checked out on virtually every green flag run.   In contrast, Jimmy Blewitt in Bob Garbarino's #4 started alongside Coby on the front row, fell back in the back, then wrecked.   "It was just starting to come around," Blewitt said of his handling before the wreck.   It nonetheless marked his second dismal outing in the Garbarino #4, though a brand new racecar beckons for the Garbarino team down the road in the early part of the season.

Coby's only challenge came on the restart following Blewitt's mishap.   Ted Christopher led the pack but was dusted off a lap later by Coby and that ended the competitive phase of the race.   Teddy's day went from bad to worse as he gagged, fell to 14th, and eventually got lapped. 

In the end Doug Coby checked out.   Todd Szegedy and Rowan Pennick salvaged podium finishes, but the unsung story of the race was Shawn Solomito, driving Wayne Anderson's car, a former Modified champ at Riverhead, NY.   "For this (#75) team it was a great day," Shawn said afterward.   "It was a team effort.   We ran in the top five with the good guys, and we're on the Tour for our second year."  

Shawn's #75 came home with little to no damage - in contrast to Tim Solomito's #16 that sported a mammoth crease in the left-side quarter of the back

It wasn't much to write home about for George Brunnhoelzl III, driving the #28.   A standout on the Southern Mod Tour, George III has won 27 times there, won the tour title last season, and has won twice already in 2016.   Today at Stafford it started decently as he started third and ran in the top five but by Lap 163 he was a lap down, ultimately finishing 17th.  

So it went for the 2016 Sizzler.  

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