By BRIAN JENNINGS
Tony Membrino was back in action racing over the weekend in a double-header, as his team competed at Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs on Friday, July 15 and at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday, July 16. Membrino and his team capped off the weekend with a win on Friday night and a second-place finish on Saturday night.
Membrino started fifth in the 20-lap feature race on Friday and quickly moved into third on the opening lap with an inside move down the backstretch into turn three. An accident brought out the yellow flag on lap one, but once the race resumed, the top two cars battled for the lead side-by-side for five laps until the car in second took the lead.
The following lap featured a better run for Membrino off of turn two, which helped Membrino carry speed all the way down the backstretch. He dove underneath his competitor to the bottom of turn three and ran even with him until he cleared him the following lap.
On lap eight, Membrino closed in on the leader’s back bumper going into turn one. Both cars were dead even at the line, and again, Membrino made it through the center of turns one and two, able to carry the speed down the backstretch and move clear into the lead going into turn three.
“He stayed on my bumper for about a lap and a half, but once I got settled in, I began to pull away. The race went clean and green, as they say, for the rest of the race.”
Membrino continued to pull further away and take down the win by about seven car lengths, despite the under-steer condition returning, forcing him to adjust his line on the track again.
The win marked their 11th victory in 16 races overall on the season amongst the three NASCAR-sanctioned tracks in Connecticut. It was also their fifth win in the nine races ran thus far at Stafford, which was their 20th victory since competing in the SK Light Modified.
The win put Membrino and his team in a tie for third place on Stafford’s SK Light Modified All-Time Win List.
Membrino called Saturday’s race his worst in four races at Waterford, but it was enough to increase his lead in the point standings from 19 to 26.
“I was fighting an under-steer for most of the race and was fourth coming through turns three and four on the final lap,” said Membrino. “The top-two cars tangled, and the leader went spinning. The way he spun around and the way I slowed up and moved to avoid crashing into him ended up costing me two positions”
After the smoke cleared and the debris settled, Membrino finished sixth. However, not finishing the qualifier pushed Membrino at the back of the pack to start the 25-lap feature race dead last.
Through a few spinouts and a couple green flags during the race, Membrino was able to move quickly up into fifth after restarting in seventh. From there, he moved into fourth within a lap or two.
After a car in second smashed into the wall on turn two with two laps to go, Membrino snuck into third on the green-white-checkered restart. The car in front of him fell back a little and Membrino drove alongside to overtake second with one lap to go. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to run down and make a move on the leader, and Membrino finished second.
“Considering the problems we had, a second-place finish on the night was almost like a win to us,” said Membrino.
Membrino stated that he was unaware that Saturday night was titled ‘Mid-Season Championship Night’ at the Speedbowl.
“To be honest, I had no idea what that even meant until I got onto the podium after the race was over,” said Membrino.
The track presented awards to the drivers that are leading the championship standings at the halfway point of the season, crowning them as the Mid-Season Champions of their divisions.
“It just so happens that we’re the ones that were leading the championship standings in the SK Light Modified division,” said Membrino. We were presented with a really cool-looking plaque that’s hanging up at our shop now.”