Stafford Motor Speedway

This was my second trip to Stafford having been here back in the early 2000s while visiting a few area race shops. This weekend was not the normal race weekend at Stafford, but one of the biggest weekends of the year when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Series comes to town.

This race was the CarQuest Fall Final race and featured cars were the SK Modifieds and the Tour Mods. Both races were typical of the Modified racing in the Northeast--beating and banging, but not taking each other out. TC, or Teddy Christopher, took the Tour race and in the preliminary SK race, he was passing for First with a few laps to go when a caution came out putting him back, or he would have swept the day.

Talk about history, Stafford as a racetrack, has been around for 142 years. No, that's not a misprint. Horse racing was one attraction of the Stafford Springs Agricultural Park, as Stafford was called back in 1870, and they did run in a circle.

Once cars started racing at Stafford Springs Speedway, as it was then called, after World War II, they hosted several classes of pre-war cars powered by post-war engines so the website tells us. In 1967, the track was paved by then owner, Mal Barlow and he purposely designed it with low banking to, as is stated in the History section of the track website, "put a premium on handling rather than horsepower."

Soon after, on July 11, 1969, a new owner took over the cash-strapped track and Jack Arute Sr. soon began to make important changes to the look and feel of the popular Modified cars. Newer and more modern body styles were allowed, and the SK division was started to allow teams with less resources to compete in a Modified chassis.

Arute was a thinker and a do'er. His plans and changes to the racing structure were met with protest and boycotts, but he held firm and what we see today is a set of rules and classes that fit racing in this region to a tee.

He also enacted the one-tire, one-compound rule that several other tracks had enacted, only to be sued by the big tire companies for restraint of trade violations. In several court cases and appeals, Arute eventually won out and we now enjoy a more sensible and affordable tire rule structure in circle track racing.

Stafford Motor Speedway is still going strong, as is racing across New England, due in part to the efforts of early race promoters like Arute and the owners of Northeastern Speedway that we spoke of in our last issue. I think the ideas for many of the rules and class structures we see across America today are a direct result of the forward thinking of race promoters in the Northeast during the formative years from the end of WWII till the early '70s.

This weekend's races at Stafford featured a huge pit party prior to the events where fans could mingle among the racers, get autographs, talk to the teams and see, up close, the powerful Modifieds, and meet the drivers who thrill them.


Events like we saw at Beech Ridge and Stafford were typical of Northeast racing. The racers and fans are very passionate. I can't tell you how many conversations I had with participants about the history, growth and allure of racing in this part of the country.

It's a part of their being, those who follow and compete. Calling it a lifestyle would be one way to describe it, but I think it goes even deeper into being a soulful experience. Following one baseball or football team carries with it a certain sense of pride and there are days that bring both winning and losing.

But with this type of racing, every event is a winner for every fan. It's the way it all plays out that is attractive and the phrase I like is appropriate--that it is truly the journey and not necessarily the destination that is the most exciting and memorable. And that defines our AMSOIL Great American Circle Track Tour as well.

Our next stops are at Waterford Speedway just down the road from Mystic and Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts. Those will wrap up our 2011 Tour with what I will term, last, but definitely not least in our learning process. There's still a lot more to tell on this trip.

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