RPW Exclusive: The Champ Trail: Whelen Mod Opener, Caraway, Team & Track News & More

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – This past Saturday on March 16 saw the green flag wave to officially start the 2019 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series at the Myrtle Beach South Carolina Speedway. Bad weather the previous week set the stage for a Double Down type of event as a Southern Modified Racing Series was rescheduled at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina.

Thirty two modifieds were on hand at Myrtle Beach, the track which was last paved in 1991 is known for eating tires. Coby picked up his 23rd career pole award, and his first at Myrtle Beach Speedway, topping the group qualifying session with a time of 19.668 seconds (98.475 mph).

Coby, the driver of the No. 2 Mayhew Tools Chevrolet, was the winner of the first Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award.

His crew chief, Phil Moran, was the first recipient of the “Big Stick,” a pry-bar awarded to the pole-winning crew chief at each Whelen Modified Tour event for 2019. Defending race winner Jon McKennedy was second, driving the No. 7NY Sahlen’s Chevrolet for Tommy Baldwin Racing. McKennedy posted a time of 19.669 seconds, coming up just short of Coby’s top speed. In his first and only start at Myrtle Beach, which came last year, McKennedy led 12 laps en route to victory after picking the right tire strategy.

Defending Sunoco Rookie of the Year Tommy Catalano was third, followed by Eric Goodale and Rob Summers. Matt Hirschman was sixth, followed by Chris Pasteryak, Andy Seuss, defending champion Justin Bonsignore and Dave Sapienza.

Initially there were to be thirty cars to start but a change was made to allow Melissa Fifield and Gary Putnam to start the event.

On the way to getting lined up Doug Coby ran over a screw which penetrated a tire causing it to go down. Because of the fact that a tire change was made prior to the start Coby was told to relinquish his pole starting spot and start in the rear. Jon McKennedy assumed the point and led the field to the green.

In what had to be one of the best ever Whelen Modified Tour events ever run Doug Coby showed the true style of a NASCAR Modified racer, coming from the rear of the field and taking the win going away. The Whelen Modifieds proved once again that they provide the best in competition and over-all entertainment of any NASCAR division. With the excellent live coverage by Fanschoice.tv the Modifieds were up to the task and didn’t disappoint!

After Coby dropped to the tail, Jon McKennedy was the control car for the initial start. Tommy Catalano took the lead at the start but gave way to McKennedy who took control for a majority of the first half of the event. McKennedy led a race high 64 laps, but pit strategy in the final stages didn’t quite fall his way.

After a caution on lap 110, Coby charged up inside the top three after pitting for fresh rubber, then rolled by Kyle Ebersole for the top spot on lap 122. From there, it was just about getting around some lapped traffic and building up a gap over Jon McKennedy and Jimmy Blewett.

When McKennedy and Blewett started racing for the runner-up spot, Coby opened his gap, and was never challenged. Even though the tire strategy didn’t quite work out in McKennedy’s favor, the second-place effort was a good way to follow-up a winning performance in the opener last year. Blewett was third, followed by Patrick Emerling and Chris Pasteryak. Anthony Nocella was sixth, followed by Burt Myers, Andy Seuss, Eric Goodale and Frank Fleming.

Nine of the original 32 starters were on the lead lap at the finish. Pre-race favorites Matt Hirschman and defending series champion Justin Bonsignore were off their game and had to settle for 11th and 12th respectively. Among those who failed to finish were Walter Sutcliff who completed only 41 laps before dropping out with clutch problems, Sam Rameau who had handling problems and retired after 62 laps, Gary Putnam who wrecked on lap 108 and Jamie Tomaino who lost his brakes on lap 109. Timmy Solomito had a good run going until a heim joint broke and he lost 20 laps while repairs were made.

The Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety Kleen will air on NBCSN this coming Thursday, March 21 at 6 p.m. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action in just two weeks, on Saturday, March 30, at the South Boston Speedway in Virginia.

After a somewhat disappointing run at Myrtle Beach Matt Hirschman made a side trip to the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina where he won the Southern Modified Racing Series 125 over John Smith and Burt Myers. Bobby Measmer, Jason Myers and Jon McKennedy rounded out the top five.

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 the South Boston event as well as the entire NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule.

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.

One of the most potent combinations on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in recent years will sit idle for the 2019 season. Bobby Santos and Tinio Racing, who have combined to score 11 victories together since the 2012 season, will not be competing on the tour this season. the No. 44 Tinio Racing team decided to take a break for the season.

The decision made by Tinio Racing comes two years after cutting back from a full-time schedule to just a part-time schedule for the 2017 (nine races) and 2018 (eight races) seasons. During those two seasons, Santos and the Tinio team combined to win three of the four points-counting events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Tinio did indicate that the team and family would very much like to be back on the tour in 2020 or beyond.

Chris Williams has joined the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park as NASCAR Race Director in 2019. He is the former Race Operations Manager at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Williams fills the role that was most recently held by Scott Tapley, and even though Williams is bringing his own procedures to the table, the success of his prior work with Tapley and established Race Director Tom Fox is going to help from the procedural standpoint.

Mike Serluca, General Manager of the New London Waterford Speedbowl says erection of the new grandstand will begin on April 1.

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star Kevin Harvick and his company KHI Management are back in Connecticut short track racing. Teaming up with the Stafford Speedway in Stafford Springs, CT for the 2nd consecutive season, Harvick and KHI Management are set to present the same two weekly bonuses to Stafford’s SK Modified® division as last season but increased from a total of $125 per week to $250 per week.

This year it was decided to double the bonus, $250 for the leader on lap 13 and $250 for the 13th place finisher. Harvick and KHI Management joined the Stafford Speedway contingency program at the beginning of the 2018 season posting a weekly bonus in honor of the late driver Ted Christopher who passed away suddenly in the fall of 2017.

In the 2018 season, 21 different drivers won the bonus led by Keith Rocco, Michael Christopher Jr, and Joey Cipriano, who each won the lap-13 leader bonus 4 times. 18 different drivers won the 13th place finisher bonus led by SK Modified® Rookie of the Year David Arute. The 2019 race season at Stafford kicks off April 27th and 28th for the 48th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler.

On the speedway stock market scene last week, two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the negative side. Dover Entertainment went up 0.01 to 2.03 while Speedway Motorsports dropped 0.58 to 15.49 and the International Speedway Corporation dropped 0.86 to 43.72. NASCAR cup sponsor Monster Beverage dropped 0.34 to 60.27 and NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco (Energy Transfer) went up 0.24 to 15.06. NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear went up 0.27 to 17.90. The auto makers had a positive week. Ford went up 0.01 to 8.43 while General Motors went up 1.09 to 38.08 and Toyota went up 1.27 to 118.98. In the home improvement sector, Home Depot went up 1.10 to 182.33 and Lowes went up 0.82 to 100.15. In the area of NASCAR big team sponsors stocks, McDonalds went up 5.77 to 185.27, Coca-Cola went up 9.15 to 257.75, Target went up 0.86 to 76.67, Dow/Dupont went up went up 0.59 to 55.27, Fedex went up 6.20 to 177.98 and Stanley Black and Decker went up 2.24 to 131.50.

On the tube this week:

Thursday, March 21

1 a.m., IMSA Auto Racing: 12 Hours of Sebring (re-air), NBCSN/NBC Sports App
4 a.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports App
5 p.m., NASCAR America: Motorsports Hour, NBCSN/NBC Sports App
6 p.m., NASCAR Race Hub, FS1/FOX Sports App
6 p.m., NASCAR Whelen Euro Series, NBCSN/NBC Sports App

Friday, March 22

4 a.m., NASCAR Race Hub (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports App

Saturday, March 23

9:30 a.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series practice, FS1/FOX Sports App
10:30 a.m., NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series qualifying, FS1/FOX Sports App
11:30 a.m., NASCAR Race Hub: Weekend Edition, FS1/FOX Sports App
12:30 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series final practice, FS1/FOX Sports App
1:30 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay, FOX/FOX Sports App
2 p.m., NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville, FOX/FOX Sports App
5 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Busch Pole qualifying, FS1/FOX Sports App
8:30 p.m., NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports
11 p.m., NASCAR Master of the Clock: The Legend of Martinsville, FS1/FOX Sports

Sunday, March 24

2:30 a.m., NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville (re-air), FS2/FOX Sports
5 a.m., NASCAR Master of the Clock: The Legend of Martinsville (re-air), FS2/FOX Sports
7:30 a.m., NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Martinsville (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports
10 a.m., NASCAR Master of the Clock: The Legend of Martinsville (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports
11 a.m., NASCAR Presents: The Adventures of Janet Guthrie (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports App
11:30 a.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Busch Pole qualifying (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports
12:30 p.m., NASCAR RaceDay: Martinsville, FS1/FOX Sports App
2 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville, FS1/FOX Sports App
11 p.m., Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series STP 500 at Martinsville (re-air), FS1/FOX Sports