Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – For only the second time in 10 years, the North-South Shootout trophy remained south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Burt Myers used a perfect mixture of a fast race car and solid pit strategy to top a strong field of 29 Tour-type Modifieds to win the 17th Annual North-South Shootout on Saturday afternoon at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).
For Myers, who is best known for his success at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC), the win is the third victory of his career in the prestigious race. However, it was his first win in the race since 2009 at Concord Speedway (NC). Myers started the 150-lap race from the pole and enjoyed an early battle with defending race winner Jon McKennedy. After each taking their time at the front, Myers and McKennedy made their way to pit road late in the race for fresh tires. That gave the lead to Anthony Nocella, who fended off all challenges until Myers used his three fresh tires to rocket back to the lead.
From there, the Bowman Gray Stadium champion ruled the roost as he put his car in victory lane at “America’s Most Famous Short Track.” Andy Seuss, who started 22nd after a subpar qualifying effort, turned in an impressive performance throughout the race on his way to a second-place finish. After winning last year’s North-South Shootout at Concord Speedway, Jon McKennedy was once again a contender for the win before ultimately settling for a third-place finish. Andy Jankowiak and Austin Kochenash, completed the top five. Sixth thru tenth consisted of Patrick Emerling, Jason Myers, Chase Dowling, Matt Hirschman and Tim Brown
The dust hadn’t settled on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series Championship award when championship car owner Mike Smeriglio announced that he is retiring as a race car owner in order for him to spend more time at home and enjoy all aspects of life with his family. “It doesn’t have to do with anything in racing,” Smeriglio told NASCAR.com. “I’ve been a NASCAR owner for the last 21 years, eight years in the SK Modified level at Stafford (Motor Speedway), then the Whelen Modified Tour. It’s very emotional. But I’m glad it’s emotional, because it’s not an easy decision. My heart wants to race, but my head is saying that my other priorities mean more to me now. I want to be available to spend time with my wife of 33 years, my adult children and son in laws. Our time together is precious.”
Smeriglio will certainly go down as one of the top car owners in NASCAR Modified history. When Doug Coby wrapped up the 2019 title, Smeriglio became the first owner in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to win four titles, breaking a tie he held with legendary Modified owners Bob Garbarino and Len Boehler. While the success of Garbarino and Boehler stretched also into the pre-tour era, Smeriglio’s continued success has all come in the last decade. His drive to win was hard to match, and his ability to put the right people, in the right place, stands out when you look back at the success he’s put together in a trying sport.
The combination of Smeriglio, Coby and Phil Moran have won 19 races together over the last six years, and five driver championships in the stretch — taking Smeriglio and boosting him to the pinnacle of NASCAR’s grassroots short-track regional level. Add Phil Moran, the man in charge as crew chief of Smeriglio’s team for much of his tour tenure, both with Szegedy and specifically Coby in the last six years, and you have the Bill Belichick of the team.
The relationship the No. 2 team has with Mayhew tools has proudly led to Mayhew Tools becoming the pole award sponsor and created another meaningful racing partnership. Mayhew will continue their partnership with Coby in 2020, wherever he lands.
NASCAR has released the 2020 Whelen Modified Tour Series schedule. The tour will make its furthest trip west with the debut of Iowa Speedway. The “Fastest Short Track on the Planet” will host NASCAR’s only open-wheel division on Friday, July 31. The Whelen Modified Tour slate will also add returns to Martinsville Speedway and Jennerstown Speedway.
Martinsville, Virginia’s famous half-mile, is steeped in NASCAR Modified history. The modified division first raced at Martinsville in 1960 and was part of the original tour schedule in 1985. The Maxpro Window Films 200 will run on Friday, May 8 as part of the spring Cup Series weekend. Jennerstown, a .522-mile oval in western Pennsylvania, will feature the tour on Saturday May 23. The track has held 14 tour races over the years, with the late Ted Christopher being the last to visit Victory Lane in 2006.
The Whelen Modified Tour will open the season with a return trip to Virginia’s South Boston Speedway on Saturday, March 21. Connecticut will serve as the traditional opening of racing in New England with the 46th Annual Icebreaker weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Sunday, April 5, followed by the NAPA Spring Sizzler weekend at Stafford Motor Speedway on Sunday, April 26.
The season will conclude with the 48th annual NAPA Fall Final weekend at Stafford on Sunday, Sept. 27, and the 58th annual Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson on Sunday, Oct. 11.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway will again feature a 100-lap showcase on Saturday, July 18. The Whelen Modified Tour will also return with the 200-lap main event for the track’s Full Throttle Fall Weekend on Saturday, Sept. 12.
Other schedule highlights include: a trip to central New York to be part of Oswego Speedway’s 64th Annual Budweiser International Classic on Saturday, Sept. 5. Riverhead Raceway, on the east end of Long Island, will host two events. The first will be on Saturday, June 20, with a return trip on Saturday, Sept. 19 Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway, located at the gateway of Cape Cod, will bring the tour to town on Saturday, June 6, while New Jersey’s Wall Stadium Speedway will run on Saturday, July 11. A mid-week event will be held at Thompson on Wednesday, August 19 and a Friday night event on Aug. 7 at Stafford.
The complete NBCSN schedule, including broadcast times, will be released at a later date. Hopefully FansChoice.tv will continue their fine coverage.
One of the best deals in short track racing is once again available at Stafford Speedway with 2020 season passes now on sale. Now until December 14th is the best time to buy with deep discounts for race teams and fans who purchase their season passes early. Teams and fans who take advantage of Stafford’s season pass program enjoy big discounts compared to purchasing tickets weekly. In 2019 season pass holders who purchased during the early bird discount period had their passes paid for by early July. The 2020 offer is no different with big savings across the board.
Early bird season pass discount compared to purchasing a full price weekly ticket in 2020: Paddock Season Pass: 54% savings, General Admission Season Pass: 43% savings, Reserved Ticket Season Pass: 42%.
The 2020 paddock season passes are just $440 until December 14th when they will increase to $500 before again increasing March 16th to $525. General Admission season passes are priced starting at $320 through December 14th when they will increase to $350 and again increasing in price to $375 on March 16th. Stadium chair-back and top row reserved seats are priced at $360 through December 14th before increasing to $390 and again increasing to $420 on March 16th.
The 2020 season at Stafford Speedway is set to be another thriller with 22 events scheduled highlighted by 9 special events, 7 tour type events, and 6 weekly series extra distance races. The full 2020 Stafford Speedway schedule is slated to be released Wednesday, November 13th at 12pm.
Race teams and fans can order their 2020 season passes online in the all new Stafford Speedway Online Store or by calling the Stafford Speedway box office at 860-684-2783.
Hot on the heels of that announcement comes word that the Modified Racing Series will not be included in the 2020 schedule at Stafford. After a decade in competition at Stafford Speedway, the Modified Racing Series will not return to the schedule at the historic venue in 2020.
Modified Racing Series founder and operator Jack Bateman confirmed to internet racing site RaceDayCT that the series will not return to Stafford next season. The Modified Racing Series has run annually at Stafford since 2010.
It is anticipated that Bateman will encourage his competitors not to participate in “Open” events that are run at Stafford in 2020.
A wise man once said, “When one door closes another one opens” Jack Bateman can attest to that. Bateman revealed exclusively to RaceDayCT that the Modified Racing Series will host a Triple Crown Series in 2020 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway in Scarborough, Me. The series will host events at the one-third mile track on May 30, June 27 and Aug. 1. A Triple Crown points fund for the three events will pay a bonus of $2,000 to the winner, $1,500 for second and $1,000 to third place. “We’re very very grateful to [Beech Ridge Motor Speedway owner Andy Cusack] for inviting us to do this,” Bateman. “He’s a really good guy.” The track was a home for the Modifieds for over 15 years weekly. Within 25 minutes of the track there are 5 cars that have raced MRS that used to call Beech Ridge home.
Bateman said he hopes to announce a tentative 2020 schedule for the Modified Racing Series at the series banquet on Nov. 24 at Thompson Speedway.
Also on Friday, Bateman confirmed that the series is searching for a new title sponsor and will no longer be referred to as the Valenti Modified Racing Series.
The New England Antique Auto Racers (NEAR) held it’s annual induction to their Hall of Fame this past Sunday. The inductees are: Wayne Dion inducted by Kevin Boucher, Ed Flemke Jr inducted by Bones Bourcier, Ric Marical inducted by R.A.Silvia, Vinny Annarummo inducted by Eddie StAngelo, Jack Doyle inducted by Dick Berggren, Mike Joy inducted by Jackie Arute, Brad Lafountaine inducted by Val LeSieur and Bob Webber Sr by John Spence. Also inducted by the Special Veterans Committee was Dick Beauragard, Eddie Eng and Dick Shuebrek.
Special Awards included the Ron Bouchard Lifetime Achievement Award which went to the late George Summers, the Frank Maratta award went to Russ Conway, Ken Smith and Charlie Elliot, the Jack Ratta/Charlie Mitchell award went to Matt Buckler and the Dan Pardi award to Paul Massy.