RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Speedweeks Are Underway, & Have Shown Plenty Of Action

RPW Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The World Series at New Smyrna got the green on Friday, Feb 6. Tour type Modified Racing at New Smyrna would begin on Monday night, Feb 10.

Modified racing in the Sunshine State began on Saturday night at the 1/3 mile Bronson Speedway. Billed as The Kickofff to Speedweek, the event drew a light field of only six cars. Matt Hirschman kicked off a busy week in Florida by securing a $2,000 check. The Tour-type Modified driver from Northampton, Pennsylvania started from the pole and led all 50 laps to win the Kickoff to Speedweeks race.

Due to the unfortunate circumstances involving a lower than expected car count, officials elected to forego qualifying and have the six drivers in attendance draw for their starting position. Hirschman had luck on his side as he drew the No. 1 starting spot, and he never looked back from there. Jimmy Blewett improved on his third-place finish from one year ago by starting and finishing second. Blewett gave up the second spot early in the race to a charging Jeremy Gerstner, but he was able to take back the position later in the race. Gerstner fended off a late challenge from J.R. Bertuccio to claim the final podium spot, while Adam LaCicero completed the top five. New Hampshire driver Brian Robie suffered an engine failure that brought his Speedweeks to an unfortunate close.

In addition to his victory check, Hirschman was given four free tries, 10 gallons of racing fuel and a guaranteed fifth-place starting spot in the upcoming Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway. Additionally, Hirschman has the chance to claim a $1,000 bonus as the highest finisher in the Richie Evans Memorial that also competed in the race at Bronson.

The full moon was evident and cast its spell on both Daytona and New Smyrna Speedways on Saturday and Sunday. In Saturday action at the Daytona International Speedway Michael Self won the ARCA 200 with Halie Deegan, second. Andy Seuss started on the outside pole and finished 29th. Eleven of the 33 starters were running on the lead lap at the finish. Numerous spins and wrecks slowed the event.

The cool nights at New Smyrna plus the full moon contributed to numerous wrecks during the first three nights of racing. It all came to a head on Sunday when the entire Super Late Model field, save four, was destroyed in a high speed demolition derby. Brad May was the surprise winner after the leader was punted on the final lap.

At Daytona for the running of the Busch Clash it was another high speed destruction derby. Erik Jones won Sunday’s race that left a multi-million dollar trail of destruction and masked the fact the Clash is a made-for-TV exhibition race. Only 18 cars were entered and only six were on track when the checkered flag flew at the end of a third overtime with four on the lead lap.

Jones crossed the finish line in a Toyota with a crumpled hood after a huge push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was a lap down after a blown tire on the previous overtime attempt caused him to crash half the cars remaining on track, but he had enough speed to give Jones a push along the outside and give Gibbs yet another win.

In Daytona 500 qualifying, Ricky Stenhouse turned a fast lap at 194.582 mph to claim the pole, edging Alex Bowman for the top spot. Bowman reached 194.363 mph around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway to lock down a front-row spot for the third consecutive year. Forty three cars attempted to run for the pole.

Stafford Motor Speedway’s best kept secret is Bryan Narducci. In only 2 short years, Narducci has showed he is a quick study behind the wheel of his #01 machine sponsored by The Florida Connection by winning 2018 Rookie of the Year honors and 13 races in the SK Light division.

With plans to make the move into Stafford’s premier SK Modified® division for the 2020 season, Narducci will be looking to carry his success from the SK Light division with him for his rookie year.

Narducci will begin his quest for 2020 SK Modified® Rookie of the Year honors at the 49th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 24-26. Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now by calling the Speedway Box Office 860-684-2783 or online at www.staffordspeedway.com.

NASCAR announced today several leadership promotions across the breadth of its business. Ben Kennedy has been promoted Vice President, Racing Development; John Martin has been promoted to Vice President, Media and Event Technology; Patrick Rogers has been promoted to Vice President, Marketing Services; and Chris Schwartz has been promoted to Vice President, Media Properties.

Kennedy is the son of Lisa France Kennedy and the grandson of NASCAR founder William France.