RPW Column: The Champ Trail: NASCAR Mods Set For Martinsville, Preece Takes SMART Tour At SoBo & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of today April 6, only two days remain before the green flag drops at Martinsville on Thursday April 8.

It will be the “Thrill of Victory” and the”Agony of Defeat” as the NASCAR Modifieds get it on for the 2021 season. The event will be shown live by NBC TrackPass beginning at 8:00pm.

The speedway has received 40 entries for the event. Among those entered are Justin Bonsignore and Doug Coby who are expected to slug it out for the 2021 series title.

Hot on the heels of the Martinsville event Thompson Speedway opens its 82nd season with the annual Icebreaker on Saturday, April 10 and Sunday, April 11. A total of 10 divisions will compete across two days of racing. Sunday’s card features the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 for the Outlaw Open Modified Series with qualifying going green at 1:15pm. There’s also a 40-lap ACT-type Late Model shootout plus the Limited Sportsman and SK Light Modifieds. A test and tune session scheduled for last Sunday was cancelled due to a bad weather forecast.

Saturday’s six-division card is highlighted by the season-opening Thompson 75 for the PASS North Super Late Models. They’re joined by the Sunoco Modifieds, NEMA LITES Midgets, EXIT Realty Pro Truck Challenge, Mini Stocks, and an 8-Cylinder Street Stock Open with a 1:00pm post time. An optional Test N’ Tune practice day is slated for Friday, April 9 with all Icebreaker divisions welcome.

The American-Canadian Tour (ACT), Pro All Star Series (PASS), and Speed51.TV have announced a live pay-per-view broadcast for the annual Icebreaker at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on April 10 and 11.

Both days of the auto racing festival will be available in full via the live broadcast. Fans around the world can enjoy 10 divisions of heart-pounding action. This includes the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 on Sunday for the new Outlaw Open Modified Series, a 75-lap Saturday showdown for the PASS Super Late Models, and all of Thompson Speedway’s local divisions.

Tickets for the pay-per-view live stream are $29.99 for Saturday-only, $34.99 for Sunday-only, or $54.99 for a two-day pass. The sign-up link will be available later this week at www.speed51.tv. Post time is 1:00pm on Saturday, April 10 and 1:15pm on Sunday, April 11.

The SMART Modifieds paid a visit to the South Boston Speedway on Saturday. Ryan Preece held off Chuck Hossfeld and Burt Myers on a seven-lap shootout. On a late restart, Hossfeld took the inside line at the choose cone, hoping for a good restart. Unfortunately, he was unable to pull even with Preece and slotted back into second on the decisive restart.

Burt Myers rounded out the podium, unofficially taking the SMART Modified Tour points lead in the process. Myers entered the race seeking an elusive first career win at South Boston Speedway, but didn’t have the track position late in the race to capitalize on a fast car.

Just before the half way mark on lap 49, Tim Brown was involved in a multi-car incident on a restart. According to a release from South Boston Speedway, Brown was transported to a local hospital following the incident for non-life-threatening injuries.

Among the missing was Matt Hirschman who chose to remain in Pennsylvania where he won in a photo finish, the Bill Teel Memorial 64 at Mahoning Valley Speedway, with a last lap pass on Austin Beers. For Hirschman, he may have chocked another victory at the paved quarter mile oval, his fifth in a row and 23rd overall, but it was by far one of the most hard-earned yet.

Seekonk Speedway is looking ahead to a fresh, exciting 2021 season. On December 3rd, the Massachusetts third-mile announced the full schedule of events for 2021 — one that will mark the 75th anniversary of full-time racing. Seekonk Speedway looks forward to welcoming fans back to the grandstands safely, as the recent vaccine announcements for COVID-19 are welcomed news and talks continue with the state of Massachusetts.

Multiple major events headline the 2021 schedule — including the ISMA Supermodified and Boston Louie NEMA Midget and NEMA Lite Races (June 9), the annual $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday headlined by the Tri Track Open Modified Series (June 30), the inaugural $10,000 to win Bay State Summer Classic with the PASS Pro Stocks (July 28), the annual DAV Fall Classic (September 24-25) and the Haunted Hundred, headlined by Tri Track (October 23).

Entering the 2021 NASCAR Modified season @ Riverhead Raceway defending champion Tom Rogers Jr. is just three wins away from tying the iconic “Charging” Charlie Jarzombek for all time wins at 63. Rogers like Jarzombek, Wayne Anderson and Don Howe are the only four drivers to capture five Modified track titles. Will the new race season see Rogers in his Denise & Ken Darch owned License To Chill/Bagel Lovers #03 rewrite the Riverhead Raceway record books? The quest to do so starts Saturday May 1st on our 2021 opening night program with a seven division lid lifter on tap. Qualifying starts at 5:00 pm, spectator gates will open at 4:00 pm.

On a sad note, the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame joined the racing world in mourning the death and celebrating the incredible career of “Jumpin’” Jack Johnson, one of DIRTcar’s all-time great heroes, who passed away after a long and courageous battle with ALS on April 1, at the age of 76.

Johnson, from Duanesburg, NY, was inducted into the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame in 2012. Jack began racing Modifieds in 1966 at the track he would call home for his entire career—Fonda Speedway, where he was an 11-time champion, a perennial fan favorite, and the all-time winningest driver.

In a career spanning 43 years, Johnson won 428 times at 35 different tracks in 10 states and two Canadian provinces. As good as he was in the short sprints, Jack was outstanding in the extra-distance races, winning prestige 200-lap events at Flemington (NJ), Lebanon Valley (NY), Orange County Fair (NY), Rolling Wheels (NY), Weedsport (NY), Susquehanna (PA), Devil’s Bowl (VT) and Fonda (NY).

But his greatest achievements came on the mile dirt tracks. In 1979, Jack was the first New Yorker to win a Super DIRT Week main event at the NYS Fairgrounds in Syracuse. He repeated that career-making feat in 1984. In Pennsylvania, Johnson had three wins on the Nazareth National mile and was the track’s 1983 champion.

In the 1980s, Jack drove his iconic orange #12A to six Mr. DIRT Modified series titles, in addition to Winter Tour point championships in both Florida and Texas.

Highly respected by his fellow competitors and beloved by a legion of fans throughout his life, Johnson took his final checkered flag in 2009 at Sharon Speedway in Ohio, before a hard crash at Fonda ended his career. In addition to his induction in the Northeast Dirt Modified Hall of Fame, Jack was also honored by the Eastern Motorsports Press Association and New York State Stock Car Association in 2012.

Following in the footsteps of the father he idolized, Ronnie Johnson became part of Fonda Speedway history in 2011, winning his first Modified title at the “Track of Champions.”

On September 29, 1967 Stafford wrapped up its first season of asphalt Modified racing. Gene Bergin made it three in a row and locked up the first asphalt-modified championship by taking a hard-fought win over Dick Watson and Bob Melnick. Rounding out the top five in the final Modified event of the season were Fred Harbach and Jerry Wheeler. Trailing Bergin in the Modified point standings were Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell, Bob Santos, Ted Stack, Carl “Bugs” Stevens, Leo Cleary, Fred Harbach, Joe Trudeau, Eddie Flemke and Dick Watson. Bill Slater was crowned the Sportsman Champion. Following Slater in the Sportsman standings were Fred DeSarro, Ray Miller, Maynard Forette, Hank Stevens, Pete Hamilton and Gene White The midgets also ran at Stafford that weekend with Lou Fray taking the win over George Monson. NASCAR discontinued the open wheeled Sportsman division at season’s end. Late Model bodied cars were becoming popular in the south and NASCAR made the decision to name these cars Late Model Sportsman. All open wheeled cars would be considered Modifieds

Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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