Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series headed for the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The All-Star Shootout was scheduled for Friday, July 19 and the ninth race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was scheduled for Saturday, July 20.
Near record heat in the mid 90s greeted fans and competitors. There were 41, including three duplicates, modifieds on hand. Matt Swanson is itching to visit Victory Lane, and he’s hoping he can do it on the biggest stage the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour offers.
Matt Swanson, driving the Boehler family’s Ole Blu, was fastest in the only practice session of the weekend for Whelen Modified Tour teams on Friday morning. Swanson set his fast time of 28.479 seconds (133.741 mph). Following Swanson on the speed chart was Justin Bonsignore, Patrick Emerling, Chase Dowling and Blake Barney. Making his Whelen Modified debut was Jacob Perry.
Patrick Emerling edged two other NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veterans in a three-wide finish to win the sixth annual All-Star Shootout on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Emerling became the sixth different winner of the non-points event in its six-year history and scored his first win at the ‘Magic Mile’.
The 26-year-old had come close to winning in the Granite State before, but nothing compares to holding the checkered flag at NHMS. His margin of victory was a mere .022 seconds. Going into turn three on the final lap, Emerling shot to the bottom of Bobby Santos III and pulled ahead, but Santos wasn’t about to give up. He crossed under Emerling, and ran wheel to wheel down the front stretch, while defending series champion Justin Bonsignore cut to the bottom of both of them and made it three-wide coming down the frontstretch. Santos, making his first start in the Whelen Midifieds in 2019, was pinch hitting for injured Dave Sapienza.
Emerling led just four of the 35 laps. Bonsignore ended up third, just .067 seconds back, while Jon McKennedy and Ron Silk rounded out the top five. Craig Lutz, who started from the pole and led 15 laps, finished sixth. Ryan Newman, Timmy Solomito, Jimmy Blewett and Tommy Catalano completed the top 10.
Sixteen of the 20 starters finished on the lead lap. The All-Star Shootout will air on NBC Sports Net on Thursday, July 25, at 6 p.m.
Ron Silk picked up his third career victory at the ‘Magic Mile’ in the Eastern Propane & Oil 100 on Saturday, outlasting a field of 38 drivers on the biggest stage of modified racing. It was the third career victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway for Silk, and his first at the 1.058-mile since 2011. He beat Doug Coby on what turned out to be the final restart. On an overtime restart, a hard crash in turn one involving Tyler Rypkema caused severe damage to the SAFER Barrier. With the repair time estimated at around 25 minutes and the Xfinity Series race broadcast window approaching, NASCAR made the decision to call the race and give Ron Silk, the leader, the victory. It was the second win of the season for the former series champion and his 12th career.
Silk didn’t lead a lap until the final stages. Following a caution with just 20 laps remaining, Silk chased the back bumper of Eric Goodale, before taking the lead from him on lap 85. From there, he never relinquished the top spot, while drivers jostled for position in the draft behind him.
The field lined up for a green-white-checkered finish on lap 101, but a quick crash in turn one slowed the field again. While safety crews went to work on the wall, the race was deemed complete in overtime. Silk took the checkered flag uder caution, seven laps after the scheduled distance.
“We raced really hard the whole day,” Silk said. “There was certainly no guarantee that I would have won. But we were leading at the right time today. Bummer circumstances that we didn’t get to finish (under green).”
Coby crossed the line second, while Chase Dowling finished third. Jon McKennedy, who earned his first Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award in qualifying, led 19 laps and finished fourth. Matt Swanson was fifth. Eric Goodale was sixth, followed by Justin Bonsignore, Rob Summers, Tommy Catalano and Craig Lutz.
There were ten cautions for 45 of the 107 laps run. Because of the intense heat less than 1000 fans were in the grandstand. Those who were there were irate because the race didn’t finish under green. In a statement from NASCAR, “Due to extensive wall repair required after an incident in turn 1 during the closing laps, and the requirements associated with preparing the track for the NASCAR Xfinity Series race, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race ended under caution in NASCAR Overtime.”
Twenty two of the original thirty eight starters were running at the finish. Among those who failed to finish were Jacob Perry who crashed on lap 2, Walter Sutcliff who crashed on lap 3, Calvin Carroll who crashed after completing 19 laps, Todd Cooper who dropped out after completing 20 laps with mechanical issues, Woody Pitkat dropped out after completing 26 laps because of a crash, Andrew Molleur made it 27 laps before crashing, Timmy Catalano went 41 laps before crashing out, Joey Mucciacciaro lost an engine after completing 50 laps, Anthony Nocella and JB Fortin crashed in turn 3 on lap 60, Patrick Emerling crashed on the front stretch on lap 70, Bryan Dauzat crashed in turn three on lap 80, Melissa Fifield completed 85 laps before giving up, Max Zachem and Bobby Santos III were eliminated after Santos was punted by Justin Bonsignore on lap 96 and Tyler Rypkema brought out the final caution on lap 101 after hitting the wall in turn 1.
The Eastern Propane & Oil 100 will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, July 31, at 6 p.m. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track after a week off on Friday, August 2 at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut.
On the east end of Long Island, Tom Rogers Jr. of Riverhead ended a two month absence from NASCAR Modified victory lane at Riverhead Raceway Saturday night when he won the 50-lap feature event for his 54th career win on a hot sultry night that saw temperatures hover in the low to mid 90’s all afternoon and evening. It was Tom’s second win of the 2019 season. John Baker once again found himself the runner-up at the finish, “this is our 4th second place this year, we are getting there and soon we’ll be over there” Baker said glancing over at victory lane after exiting his Staria Automotive Chevy. Kyle Soper was third in the Eastport Feeds Chevy while John Beatty ck and Dylan Slepian rounded out the top five.
At the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Ronnie Williams continued his winning ways taking the SK Modified® feature after a thrilling last lap pass on the previous week’s winner Stephen Kopcik, Tom Fearn continued his dominance in the Late Model division with his 3rd consecutive win, Bryan Narducci won for the third consecutive week in the SK Light feature, Alexandra Fearn was a winner for the 2nd consecutive week in the Limited Late Model feature, and Jason Lafayette scored his second win of the season in the Street Stock feature.
In the 40 lapper for the SK Modifieds. Cory DiMatteo and Mike Christopher Jr were out front in the closing laps with Troy Talman and David Arute behind them. Mike Christopher was slowly starting to reel DiMatteo in and with 9 laps to go the margin between the two leaders was one second. Joey Cipriano’s car appeared to lose an engine to bring the caution out with 36 laps complete and set up a four lap sprint to the finish.
DiMatteo took the lead on the restart with Christopher behind him in second. As the cars hit turn 3, the two leaders touched and spun, collecting multiple cars behind them to bring the caution back out with 36 laps complete. This put Williams into the lead for the restart with Michael Gervais in second. The second row would be Stephen Kopcik and Keith Rocco with Marcello Rufrano and Dan Wesson in the third row.
Williams took the lead on the restart with Kopcik behind him in second. Gervais was third with Rocco fourth and Wesson fifth. Williams and Kopcik touched wheels on lap-38 but kept going while Wesson made a strong move to the inside of Rocco to move up to fourth. Kopcik took the lead coming to the white flag lap but Williams made a power move going into turn 3 to retake the lead and he led Kopcik to the finish line in a thrilling finish. Gervais finished third with Wesson and Rocco rounding out the top-5.
In the SK Lite 20 lapper, Narducci started 16th.
Down in the southland at the Bowman Gray Stadium Burt Myers continued his winning ways. Myers, who started slowly this season, picked up his third victory of the season Saturday in the first 25-lap Modified race. He started on the pole and was able to hold off Jonathan Brown for the win. Myers had a comfortable lead, but there was a caution on lap 18, which forced a seven-lap shootout.