STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. — official track release — Stafford Motor Speedway photo —
Stafford Motor Speedway welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees this past Friday night, November 20 at Maneely’s in South Windsor to officially honor Rowan Pennink, Michael Bennett, Stephen Kopcik, Al Saunders, Frank L’Etoile, And Devin O’Connell as the 2015 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.
With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Darren Ayotte and Matt Buckler serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 46th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the six track champions, they also recognized the top-15 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, DARE Stock, and U.S. Legend Cars divisions. Special awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, SPAFCO Race Chassis & Parts Rookie of the Year, R.A.D. Automachine and T/A Engines Rookie of the Year, R.A.D. Automachine DARE Stock Rookie of the Year, and the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.
The 2015 SK Modified® season saw Rowan Pennink continue a hot streak that began with his victory in the 2014 NAPA SK 5k. Including that SK 5k victory, Pennink scored 5 wins in the final 10 races of the year and he and the #99 Van Wickle NAPA Auto Supply team served notice right out of the gate that they would be contenders in 2015 as they won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature. Pennink went on to score 5 more wins for a total of 6 to go along with 17 top-5 and 19 top-10 finishes this season. Pennink’s average finish for the season was 4.5 and he claimed the track title by a 10 point margin over Ryan Preece.
The 2015 Late Model season saw hometown driver Michael Bennett outlast the field to take home his second career track championship at Stafford Motor Speedway. Bennett won the 2005 Limited Late Model track championship, and much like Rowan Pennink, he and the #16 Mastiff Armory team served notice to everyone that they were going to be a force to be reckoned with in 2015 as they won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature event. Bennett never finished outside the top-10 this season and along with scoring 7 wins this year, Bennett finished on the podium in 17 of 22 races. His final numbers for the 2015 season were 7 wins, 18 top-5, and 22 top-10 finishes with a blistering average finish of 3.3. Bennett clinched the championship with one race still to go and the final margin for the 2015 season was 60 points back to second place Josh Wood.
The race for the SK Light championship was a see-saw affair for much of the 2015 season between D.J. Burnham and Stephen Kopcik. Burnham was strong out of the gate and he set the early pace in the championship fight with 6 podium finishes in the first 7 races. But Kopcik and the #31 N.J.K. Automotive team were never far behind and after they scored what turned out to be their only victory of the 2015 season on July 17, they never finished outside the top-5 for the remainder of the 2015 season and were able to leapfrog Burnham in the standings and take home the championship by a 20 point margin. Kopcik posted 1 win, 18 top-5, and 19 top-10 finishes this season with an average finish of 5.8.
The race for the 2015 Limited Late Model track championship saw hometown driver Al Saunders lead the field wire to wire as he won the season opening NAPA Spring Sizzler feature event and led the points standings for the entire season. Saunders, along with his twin brother Cliff, who won the 2012 DARE Stock track championship, join Ted and Mike Christopher as the only pair of brothers to have won track championships at Stafford. Not only did Saunders lead the division with 5 wins this year, he was a model of consistency. With the exception of a 12th place finish on August 14th, Saunders didn’t finish lower than 7th all season long and he took the track title by a 22 point margin over 2014 Limited Late Model champion Andrew Hayes. For the season, Saunders posted 5 wins, 18 top-5, and 21 top-10 finishes and his average finish for the season was 3.5.
In the DARE Stock division, Frank L’Etoile, Jr. took home his second consecutive track championship, but the road to repeating was anything but easy. L’Etoile didn’t find himself in the point lead until the completion of the June 19th event as both Dan Dembek and Tyler Trott had taken turns in the number one position. But once L’Etoile and the #33 Zeke’s Pump Service team found themselves at the front of the standings, they stayed there for the remainder of the season with perhaps the most consistent season ever seen at Stafford. L’Etoile’s worst finish all year long was a 7th place finish on August 28 and he finished in the top-5 in all but that one race. L’Etoile finished the year with 3 wins, 21 top-5, and 22 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 3.1.
In the U.S. Legend Cars division, it was a year to remember for Devin O’Connell and the #43 Chatham Highlander Motel team. They finished all but 2 races in the top-5 and they led the division with 8 wins to go along with 20 top-5 and 22 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 2.5. O’Connell was neck and neck with the DiMatteo brothers for much of the first half of the season, but O’Connell swept the month of June and that 4-race win streak saw him pull away from the pack in the race for the championship. Such was O’Connell’s dominance that he wrapped up the championship race with 2 races to go. O’Connell continued his winning ways as he would go on to win both the oval and road course national championships for the U.S. Legend Cars.
The SPAFCO Race Chassis and Parts Rookie of the Year awards were presented to Tyler Hines from the SK Modified® division and Michael Wray from the Late Model division. Taking home R.A.D. Automachine and T/A Engines Rookie of the Year honors were Daniel Wesson in the SK Light division and David Comeau in the Limited Late Model division, and taking home R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year honors was Zack Robinson in the DARE Stock division. The awards will be worth an $1,100.00 bonus to Hines and Wray from SPAFCO, $1,000 bonuses each to Wesson and Comeau from R.A.D. Automachine and T/A Engines, and a $500 bonus to Robinson from R.A.D. Automachine. Each Rookie of the Year bonus will be paid out in $100.00 weekly increments to each driver as they attend events during the 2016 season.
The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Ronnie Williams in the SK Modified® division, Tom Butler in the Late Model division, Nick Salva from the SK Light division, David Comeau from the Limited Late Model division, Doug Marcello Rufrano in the DARE Stock division, and Teddy Hodgdon in the U.S. Legend Cars 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 PitStopper Magazine.
The UNOH Youth Achievement award was won by SK Light Modified driver Stephen Kopcik. 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.
For more information about the 2015 Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway’s track office at (860) 684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
CREDIT: Stafford Motor Speedway