Stafford Springs, CT — When the green flag is unfurled on the 2016 SK Modified® season at Stafford Motor Speedway, Cromwell native Eric Berndt will be looking to pick up right where he left off in 2015. Through the first 20 races of last season Berndt was having a solid season and sat fifth in the points standings. But wins in the final 2 races elevated Berndt up to fourth in the final standings and gave him and his #66 Cos’ Central Auto / North End Auto Parts team a ton of positive momentum heading into the winter.
“Through the first three quarters of the year, it was a mediocre year,” said Berndt. “We were consistent but we weren’t where we thought we wanted to be. I wouldn’t say we were struggling but we couldn’t find a sweet spot with what the car needed handling wise. We were good enough to be a fifth or sixth place car, but we weren’t good enough to contend with guys like Ryan [Preece}, Ronnie [Williams], Rowan [Pennink], or Keith [Rocco] at the time. The last 3 or 4 races of the season we finally found something that worked with our car and it really woke our program up. The difference was night and day. Those last 2 races were probably some of the best cars I’ve ever driven at Stafford. Hopefully we can start this year just like we ended last season.”
Berndt knows the importance of getting off to a good start during a season to stay in contention for the championship. In the first 6 races of the 2015 season, Berndt had a second and a fourth place finish but those were sandwiched around three finishes outside the top-5 and he was sitting in seventh place, 60 points behind the lead after the first month of the season was complete.
“Any time you can end a season with wins is great,” said Berndt. “It gives you all winter to kind of gloat on that and hopefully we can start off with that same pace. You definitely have to have a good start to the year. You can’t afford to get behind the 8 ball early because things start to snowball quick and then you’re spending all your time trying to catch up. If all you have one night is a seventh place car, you have to take that finish and go home and work on the car rather than having to replace a right front, or a front clip, or something like that by trying to get something better than that seventh place.”
While Berndt and his #66 crew had the hot hand down the stretch of last season, he knows there are no guarantees that his performance will automatically carry over to the 2016 season.
“The track changes over the winter and we have a new tire, so we’ll probably have to fine tune the car a little from last season,” said Berndt. “We’ll use the practice sessions to see what we can do and hopefully we’ll have the car just like it was at the end of the year. We’re definitely ready for the season to get started. Even though we didn’t have a terrible season and we finished fourth in the points, you always want to win when you go to the track. We knew we were capable of winning races and we had some good finishes like third or fourth, but they were distant third or fourths and we weren’t close to the leaders. Those last 2 races were an instant injection for the whole crew.”
The first SK Modified® race of the 2016 season will be a special 45-lap feature as part of NAPA Spring Sizzler Weekend on April 22-24 to commemorate the 45th annual running of the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring”. Tickets for the NAPS Spring Sizzler are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office and 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.
For more information on the 45th Annual NAPA Auto Parts 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.
-Stafford Motor Speedway Press Release, Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen Photo