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Stafford Springs, CT  Mike Stefanik enters this Friday night's 16th Annual Connecticut Classic 150 at Stafford Motor Speedway in a most enviable position. Stefanik holds the Whelen Modified Tour points lead entering the event, and he is the Tour's all-time winningest driver at Stafford with 18 career victories. Along with his 18 career Whelen Modified Tour victories, Stefanik has 11 Limited Sportsman feature wins and two Busch East Series feature wins at the Connecticut half-mile. After a fourth place finish at the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler, Stefanik and the #16 Flamingo Motorsports team tested recently at Stafford, which makes them one of the favorites to take the checkered flag.
    "We tested last Wednesday, and I feel pretty good about the fact that I'm coming back to Stafford with a better piece than we had at the Sizzler," said Stefanik. "I must have a million laps around Stafford, and the groove has moved lower on the track. We worked on getting the car better for that."
    While no driver has ever won four Whelen Modified Tour events at Stafford in a single season, Stefanik has won three of four events three times, a feat matched only by Tony Hirschman last season, Ted Christopher in 2002, and Reggie Ruggiero in 1987 when there were five Tour events at Stafford. But as prolific as Stefanik has been at reaching victory lane at Stafford, he says that the track is still one of the toughest tracks to master.
    "With all the laps I have around Stafford and all the wins, we're still testing there, so it's definitely a tough track," said Stefanik. "I think that Stafford is a track that is the crown jewel of handling. If you can get your car rocking and rolling at Stafford, I think you can take your basic setup from Stafford and go win anywhere we race on the Tour. You look at a guy like Tony Hirschman. He's talked for years about how tough Stafford was to win at, and he seems to have really hit on something the last couple years at Stafford, and he's been winning Stafford races. At the beginning of each season, everyone wants to run well and be a contender for the championship. Then we get to Stafford for the Sizzler and the reality sets in of how tough it is to be a contender. We race four times a year at Stafford, and you definitely have to have your best game to win at Stafford, it's just a tough track to master." Perhaps the best example of Stefanik's words comes from taking a look at the current Whelen Modified Tour points standings. The top-4 drivers all have raced full time either currently or previously at Stafford on a weekly basis.
     As important as track knowledge may be, race strategy has also become a prevalent factor in determining who will win a Tour race at Stafford. The last several Spring Sizzlers have been won using pit strategy and Ted Christopher used a late race pit stop last year to blaze through the field on fresh tires to win the Connecticut Classic. Stefanik says that the correct strategy is important, while he also feels that he holds an advantage over the rest of the Whelen Modified Tour field.
    "Strategy is becoming more and more important," said Stefanik. "There are three ways to win a tour race. The first is to pit early and then ride around waiting for the rest of the field to pit; the second is to pit around half-way and try to be the first car off pit-road, which is the most logical strategy; and the third is if you have a wicked-fast car, you can pit later than everyone and blow the field away with fresh tires, which Teddy did last year. Normally, I think you need between 40 and 50-laps to driver through the field on fresh tires. Most of the time, you do what the leaders do because you can't afford to get off sync with them, unless you are the leader, then you can make the call to pit or not to pit. You can also win a race by not pitting at all, but I don't think you'll be seeing anyone trying that strategy. We'll probably use the half-way strategy, which is fine with me because I have all the confidence in the world in my pit crew. Eric Sanderson gives us everything we need, and my guys usually give me at least a couple spots on pit road every time we come in, which works for me because passing in the pits is a whole lot easier than passing on the track. My guys can put three tires on in the time it takes some guys to put two on, so I have a ton of confidence when I come down pit road for fresh tires. We've been using the Hoosier stock from last season, and I think when we come back to Stafford we'll be on the new 2006 Hoosier tires, which will be a little softer and will wear a little quicker than the tires we ran at the Sizzler, so it should be an interesting race."
    Stefanik and the Whelen Modified Tour will take to the track for time trials beginning at 5:30 to set the 31-car field for the Connecticut Classic 150, with the race scheduled to get underway around 9:15pm. Tickets for the 16th annual Connecticut Classic 150 are available and on sale now at the Stafford Motor Speedway box office. Tickets are priced at $30.00 for adult general admission, $5.00 for children 6-14, and children 5 & under are free. Reserved seating is available for $32.00. Stafford Motor Speedway offers plenty of free parking with overnight parking available. The race is also part of Youth Organization Month at SMS, which means that any child age 6-14 wearing a youth organization team shirt or uniform gets free general admission when accompanied by an adult.
    For more information, or to order tickets to the 16th Annual Connecticut Classic 150, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.


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Source: Scott Running/Stafford PR
Posted:  May 24, 2006




















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