Stafford Springs, CT — The 41st Annual CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler will kick off the 2012 race season at Stafford Motor Speedway and Richie Pallai, Jr., driver of the #39 CARQUEST Filters / Bosch Spark Plugs Chevrolet, is hoping for a repeat of the 2009 Sizzler where he collected his first SK Modified® feature victory. Pallai finished 14th in the season opening event at Thompson, and although he was caught up in a multi-car wreck, he has confidence in his car and team with how well they ran as they prepare for the 200-lap test that is the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler.
“We’re looking forward to the Sizzler more than we have in the past,” said Pallai. “Stafford has kind of been one of our worst tracks. You would think it would be one of our better ones, but it just hasn’t been. We ran really good at Thompson, we were eighth when we pitted and we pitted with all the leaders. We restarted 14th and we were up to 10th right before we wrecked, so realistically we had about a 7th or 8th place car without a problem. We didn’t qualify as good as we wanted to, which hurt us because it’s tough to pass, but we’re looking forward to Stafford. We had a lot of problems with the car last year that we figured out during the winter and we switched to Bruneau engines. We have the best equipment that we’ve had in three years, so it’s nice to know that going into the race.”
With the Whelen Modified Tour field being so close together, Pallai knows that the first step to repeating his SK Modified® victory will be a good qualifying lap. “You think it would be easy, but qualifying is a lot harder than it looks,” said Pallai. “We’ll definitely need to have a good lap because it’s so hard to pass with the cars all being so close together. At Thompson, Ryan [Preece] was dominant in the first half of the race and he was having a hard time getting back to the front after he pitted. We were at Riverhead testing this week and the car is very fast. Everyone on the team is having fun and when everyone is having fun, good things usually happen for us.”
After qualifying, the next step is to have the correct race strategy for the Sizzler. With the race being 50-laps longer than most tour races, Pallai knows that the correct strategy can give him and his team’s chances a boost at victory.
“Stafford is so tough because the weather really dictates what you’re going to do,” said Pallai. “Every race at Stafford you have to start out tight because it always loosens up. You have to save your stuff early, but it’s such a long race that there’s going to be a long green flag run and you don’t want to go a lap down. You have keep a pace that you’ll be fine at and then once the pit stop happens, that’s when the race really picks up. You normally break the race into two, the first half is just surviving and the second half is where you go racing. Usually if you lead the first 150 laps, you probably aren’t going to lead the last 50 laps of the Sizzler. You definitely drive the Sizzler different from any other Tour race at Stafford. Track position is going to be huge, some guys will short pit, and other guys will pit late, but I think that pitting late isn’t the advantage it used to be with how hard it is to pass.”
Although Pallai came away from the first race of the season with a disappointing 14th place finish, with the Whelen Modified Tour switching to the Sprint Cup Series points system, Pallai knows one race can put him right into the thick of the championship fight.
“We destroyed the car at Thompson, but weirdly we came out of there with our best points position to start the season with,” said Pallai. “With the new points system, if you have a good run, you can capitalize on that. Right now, we’re only 12 points out of second, which is 12 spots on the track. It’s easy to figure out and if we can have a top-10 finish at Stafford and some guys in front of us have a bad day, we can pick up 10 or 20 points in one race, so it’s pretty cool the way it works now.”
With the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler being a different race than most with it’s 200-lap distance, Pallai remembers what it was like to win his first SK Modified® race during Sizzler weekend and he is hoping to repeat that success this Sunday at Stafford and have a breakout season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
“It would be cool to win the Sizzler,” said Pallai. “Anyone can win a race on any given day, but there’s so much work and strategy involved with the Sizzler. I think we’re in for a breakout year this season, we have no excuses if we don’t run well. It all comes down to me driving the car because everyone else on the team is doing their jobs.”
The 2012 CARQUEST TECH-NET Spring Sizzler gets underway this Friday, April 27 with a practice session for Stafford’s weekly divisions. The practice session will be open to the public at no charge. Action continues on Saturday, April 28 with Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour cars, along with heat and consolation races for Stafford’s weekly divisions. Saturday will wrap up with feature events for the SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. The Sizzler continues on Sunday, April 29 with the CARQUEST Belts & Hose Pit Party followed by Stafford’s SK Modifieds® and Late Models joining the Whelen Modified Tour in feature action.
Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $38.50 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating will be priced at $42.00 for all ages. All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available.
For more information on the 41st Annual CARQUEST TECH-NET Spring Sizzler®, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
Sources: Scott Running/Stafford Motor Speedway PR