The tale of a great short track

It’s not easy to run a local speedway today. Trying to run a business that can only realistically operate for half a year, while paying 12 months’ worth of taxes, can be economically challenging. The number of weekly racing venues seems to dwindle a little bit every year, sand slipping through the hour glass. But if we ever find ourselves in the sad situation where only a dozen weekly race tracks still exist in America, it’s a guarantee that Stafford Motor Speedway will be one of them. The Arute family’s showplace of stock car racing in the middle of Stafford Springs, Connecticut, is one of asphalt Modified racing’s holiest places. It’s been buffeted by change but thanks to a genuinely devoted staff, Stafford has survived. The story of how that happened is important. And here now is a book that explains it.

The Asphalt Modified Years at Stafford Motor Speedway is the tale of the years when the full Modifieds, which had few regulatory limits, flourished at the track. The book’s 234 softcover pages bracket the years from 1967, Stafford’s first as a paved speedway, and 1986, when rising costs forced the Arute family to take a major gamble on making a more restricted class, the two-barrel SK Modifieds, their lead division. Time has vindicated the Arutes’ foresight in going with a cheaper weekly lead class, while keeping the wide-open Modifieds as a class for special events, including the famed Spring Sizzler. The author, who witnessed the full Modifieds when they ran Stafford every week, is Phil Smith, a longtime New England racing journalist and former Stafford pit steward. The text is organized into year-by-year chapters, with every weekly program individually broken out therein. The narrative is decidedly fact-oriented, and its chronological nature makes it easy to track the legends who marched through this place for decades. If you’re into the blacktop rockets, and venerate their history, this book will slot nicely into your library. It’s a reasonable $17.95 from my friends at Coastal 181, where this joins a full load of quality books they offer on short-track racing of all sorts.

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