RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail; Whelen Modified Tour Set To Get Underway For 2019 & More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – This coming Saturday on March 16 will see the green flag wave to officially start the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series at the Myrtle Beach South Carolina Speedway.

Justin Bonsignore leads a stout group of drivers into the 35th season of Whelen Modified Tour action. Chase Dowling has moved on from his tenure with LFR Chassis and Rob Fuller Motorsports and will be competing part-time for Jamie Tomaino in 2019. The Roxbury, Connecticut, driver picked up his first Whelen Modified Tour win in the inaugural Musket 250 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September and finished inside the top-10 in all but three races.

He also finished in the runner-up position in the final championship standings. But, after parting ways with Fuller, Dowling landed with Tomaino in a combination that will showcase the youth talent and veteran core that the Whelen Modified Tour has to offer.

Matt Swanson and Boehler Racing could certainly be one that sparks a cinderella story. When Rowan Pennink retired late last year, Swanson was tabbed to drive the famed “Ole Blue” No. 3 and didn’t let the team regret making the move. Swanson finished second in his first start in the car while Pennink was celebrating the birth of his first child, but after Pennink officially hung up the helmet, Swanson competed in the final five races of the season, ending it with a seventh-place finish at Thompson’s World Series. Swanson, of Acton, Massachusetts, has 49 career Whelen Modified Tour starts across four years, but a majority of them came with his family-owned car out of the family shop. Swanson finished second in his first of seven starts with Boehler Racing last year.

With the team on path to jell even more when the season begins, the combination of Swanson, the youngest Sunoco Rookie of the Year in series history and the veteran core group of the Boehler racing family who have fielded Modfieds for more than six decades, it could spell glory.

Kyle Benjamin, who has two top five finishes in eight starts in NASCAR Xfinity Series action for Joe Gibbs Racing in the past, will run a partial schedule for Rob Fuller and LFR Chassis. With Dowling leaving the team, Fuller is giving Benjamin a chance to compete in his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour attempts. Benjamin also has five career NASCAR K&N Pro Series East victories.

The WMT event at Myrtle Beach will be followed by Round 2 at the South Boston Speedway in Virginia on March 30. The PASS Commonwealth Classic will take place March 30, 2019 at Richmond Raceway (VA). The Richmond event will have tour type modifieds on their bill of fare which has created a direct conflict for both competitors and fans.

FansChoice.TV will live stream this event at 6:00pm as well as the entire NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule. The Myrtle Beach WMT event will also be shown taped-delay on the NBC Sports Net at 6:00pm on Thursday, March 21.

In three short weeks the hills of northeastern Connecticut come alive with the sounds of racing engines at the Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway as IceBreaker 2019 gets the green on Sunday, April 7. With the sun getting higher every day and daylight saving kicking in next week on March 10 this entire event should be run in the daylight hours.

Even though Mother Nature dropped a significant amount of snow in the New England area this past week, track officials are working hard to prepare for the 45thannual Icebreaker weekend. The Icebreaker begins on Friday, April 5, and the three days of action-packed battling on the track concludes on Sunday, April 7, with the third race of the season for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

It looks like Max Zachem will be busy guy in the upcoming season. His 2019 schedule is looking like this: six races on the Modified Racing Series sponsored by Foxwoods Resort Casino including the

Icebreaker at Thompson on April 7-8, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on May 11th, New Hampshire Motor Speedway on June 23rd, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Aug 17th, the Stafford Motor Speedway on Aug 30th and the Thompson World Series on Oct 11-12. Plans for competiting on the Whelen Modified Tour Series are a work in progress.

Word comes from Long Island that Eddie & Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz will begin their fourth year of promoting and ownership at Riverhead Raceway as the historic quarter mile oval kicks off it’s 69th year of racing with opening weekend Saturday evening May 4th and Sunday afternoon May 5th. The 2019 schedule of events will find the trio presenting a comprehensive schedule of stock car racing and family entertainment events that include three Wednesday night programs for the new season as well midweek rain dates. Saturday May 4th will find a seven division NASCAR Whelen All American Series program ring in the new season while on Sunday May 5th the 34th consecutive year of Enduro racing will get underway.

The NASCAR Modifieds will again serve as the Division 1 class for the weekly Whelen All American Series and for 2019 will find their regular feature event distance stretched from 40-laps to 50 circuits. The 3rd annual Islip 300 on June 15th will serve as the regular season signature event for the “Mod Squad” offering the race winner a $7,000 payday from a purse of $32,600. To date Dillon Steuer of Bohemia and current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series rookie Ryan Preece of Berlin, Ct have won the 300 lap classic which salutes the wildly popular Islip Speedway.

Another much anticipated race NASCAR Modified teams and fans look forward to every year is the Baldwin, Evans & Jarzombek 77 and the 2019 edition of the race honoring three legends of the sport is Saturday July 27th. Five additional extra distance races are planned in 2019 for the open wheel warriors with 75-lap races set for May 1th, June 1st and August 24th. A 69-lap race will be contested on the 69th Year Celebration of the track on June 29th while a 100-lap race will unfold on First Responders night September 14th. A total of 19 point paying races are schedule for the NASCAR Modifieds, including their Wednesday night July 10th appearance.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour celebrating it’s 35th anniversary season in 2019 will make the traditional two stops on Long Island for 200-lap events Saturday July 6th and Saturday September 7th.

Ron Bouchard’s Auto Stores has joined forces with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series (TTOMS) to bring some added excitement to the 2019 season with a two-race challenge. The team with the highest point total following the Claremont and Monadnock Speedway series’ events will be awarded what will undoubtedly become one of the most coveted honors in Modified racing, Ron Bouchard’s Auto Stores Challenge Cup. “The family of the late, great racer Ron Bouchard has once again stepped up to help the Tri Track Series provide the best in modified racing,” beamed Series co-founder, Dick Williams. Claremont legend Don Miller has also pledged his support of the Challenge Cup in memory of his son, the late Modified champion Ricky Miller.

Round one of the Ron Bouchard’s Auto Stores Challenge Cup will take place at Claremont Speedway on Saturday, May 25. The race will have a purse of over $50,000 with $7,000 to win, $1,200 to start and at least $500 to non-qualifiers. Round two is set for Saturday, September 14 at Norm Wrenn’s Monadnock Speedway. Complete race details will be released soon.

This season will also have many feeling nostalgic as Williams has officially announced his retirement from racing promotion. Williams has a long and storied history of race promotion; having dedicated himself tirelessly for decades to race tracks in New England with the sole purpose of advancing racing through support of the racers themselves.

He will undoubtedly go out on top as the 2019 TTOMS season is the most robust schedule to date with six races. In addition to the Claremont and Monadnock events of the Challenge Cup, the schedule also includes Open Wheel Wednesday at Seekonk Speedway on June 26, the SBM 125 at Star Speedway on July 27, the Oxford 100 at Oxford Plains Speedway on August 24 and the Haunted Hundred at Seekonk on October 26. During the 2019 season all competitors will vie for over quarter of a million dollars in purse money.

Time marches on! Brad Lafontaine states that after 27 years of selling Troyer Race Cars at Northeast Race Cars And Parts they finally picked up their last one on March 6 and it’s on the Jig getting it ready for the customer. Lafontaine was informed in January that Troyer was terminating its contract with Northeast.

On the speedway stock market scene last week, all three speedway stocks had negative results for the week. Speedway Motorsports dropped 1.38 to 16.67, the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.93 to 43.58 and Dover Entertainment dropped 0.04 to 2.02. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage dropped 4.13 to 60.61 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) dropped 0.16 to 14.82 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear dropped 2.12 to 17.63. The auto makers were also negative for the week. Ford dropped 8.37 to 8.42, General Motors dropped 0.54 to 37.99 and Toyota dropped 2.64 to 117.71. In the home improvement sector, Lowes dropped 4.63 to 99.33 and Home Depot dropped 3,96 to 181.23. The big team sponsors stocks were all over the lot. McDonalds dropped 5.55 to $179.50, Fedex dropped 1.02 to 171.78 and Porter Cable-Stanley Works dropped 3.37 to 129.26 while Coca-Cola went up 0.40 to 248.60, Target Department Stores went up 2.87 to 75.81 and Dow-Dupont went up 1.34 to 54.68.

On the tube this week:

Wednesday, March 13
5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1/FOX Sports App

Thursday, March 14
5 p.m., NASCAR America, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1/FOX Sports App

Friday, March 15
3:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition, FS1/FOX Sports App
4:30 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series final practice, FS1/FOX Sports App
5:30 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Busch Pole Qualifying, FS1/FOX Sports App

Saturday, March 16
11 a.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Busch Pole Qualifying (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports App
Noon, Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS1/FOX Sports App
1 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series qualifying, FS1/FOX Sports App
2:30 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition, FS1/FOX Sports App
3:30 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1/FOX Sports App
4:30 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FS1/FOX Sports App
5 p.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway, FS1/FOX Sports App
11 p.m., Unrivaled: Earnhardt vs. Gordon (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports App

Sunday, March 17
Midnight:, NASCAR Presents: The Adventures of Janet Guthrie, FS1/FOX Sports App
12:30 a.m., NASCAR Race Classics: 1994 Coca-Cola 600, FS1/FOX Sports App
3 a.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway (re-air), FS2/FOX Sports App
6 a.m., NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports App
2 p.m., NASCAR Race Day, FS1/FOX Sports App
3:30 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway, FOX/FOX Sports App