RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Modified Racing Up & Down The East Coast, News & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of this coming Friday, March 26, only two weeks remain before the green flag drops at Martinsville on Thursday April 8. Round two of the WMT will be the annual Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 25.

Years ago when most of the pre-tour big events were run in the Northeast it was easy for one to catch many of those special events without breaking the bank or getting fired for lost time at work. With the modern day tour now requiring extensive travel it is almost impossible for the average fan to take in only a few of the events presented.

Due to the miracle of the internet and cable tv one can catch almost all them now for a small price and no loss time from work. NBC TrackPass carries all the Whelen Modified Tour Series events and the Stafford Motor Speedway has FloRacing Live streaming. Both services have the best competition there is at a modest price and are well worth the cost.

Jimmy Wilson, Director of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour issued the following to competitors and fans of the NASCAR Modifieds:

“The 2021 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season is upon us, and there’s a lot of excitement heading into the season opener at Martinsville on April 8. In addition to the $96,215 purse, drivers will compete for a Martinsville grandfather clock – one of the most iconic trophies in all of motorsports. Beyond Martinsville, there’s even more to be excited about this year. Consider the following, as we prepare to embark on a 14-race schedule that includes stops at other historic venues like Richmond, Stafford, New Hampshire, Riverhead and Oswego.”

  • All of our races are shown live on NBC Sports TrackPass and re-aired on NBCSN, providing unmatched TV and marketing exposure.
  • All participating contingency sponsors from last season are back for 2021, and we’ve added another – E3 Spark Plugs.
  • The bonus money up for grabs. For example:
    • The Whelen Winner of the Race receives $3,500 in addition to the race-winning purse. That means most of our events pay more than $10,000 to the race winner.
    • The Mayhew Tools Pole Award pays $1,000 for winning the pole.
    • The Hoosier Tire Lap Leader receives $600 for leading the most laps.
    • The Hoosier Tire Hard Charger, awarded to the driver who gains the most positions during the race from their qualifying position, earns $500.
    • For new teams, the Hoosier Tire “Most Improved” Award pays $500 to the new team/organization that improves their position the most through the race. If no one is eligible for this award, the money rolls over until paid out. If no one wins, the money goes into the season end point fund.
    • The Phil Kurze Memorial/Jostens Halfway Leader Award provides $400 to the race leader at halfway.
    • Additional bonuses are awarded to the highest 25 car owners in points each event.

But those are only some of the benefits that come with competing in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. We’ve also reduced costs by making all events one-day shows, while providing best-in-class inspection resources that provide all of our teams with a fair and competitive environment. Combined with the steadfast reliability and insurance that comes with participation in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event, and the benefits are crystal clear.

We realize 2020 was challenging, but even with a shortened schedule caused by the pandemic, we paid more than $220,000 in the season-ending point fund. With the pandemic trending in the right direction and more fans joining us at the track, 2021 is shaping up to be an incredibly rewarding season.

Please reach out if you have any questions as we head into the season. I look forward to seeing you at the track!

Sincerely, Jimmy Wilson

Ryan Newman and Ryan Preece tested NASCAR Modifieds last Wednesday morning at the .526-mile oval. Both of them are set to race in April when the Tour runs at Martinsville for the first time in 11 years. Newman will be racing for Gary Putnam in the No. 77, while Preece is set to be behind the wheel of the No. 6, owned by Eddie and Connie Partridge. Jon McKennedy, who finished second on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2020 for car owner Tommy Baldwin Jr., also turned some laps Wednesday.

Down in the southland the SMART Modifieds were at the Florence SC Speedway based on a report from website Speed51. With just over ten laps to go, Modified rookie Caleb Heady had Southeast Modified aces and a NASCAR Hall of Famer looking to steal a win at Florence Motor Speedway. However, the Kentucky driver would not be denied. In just his second-ever Tour-Type Modified start for Tommy Baldwin Racing, Heady fended off a charge from 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte to take the SMART Modified Tour win in South Carolina.

After setting fast time in qualifying, he saved his tires for the majority of the event before taking the lead from Burt Myers with 20 laps to go. After a pair of late cautions, he was left to fend off a field of drivers with fresh tires.

Heady has come far since his first Modified test session held earlier in the year at Carteret County Speedway, when he crashed. He looked back on that test session and the progress he has made both physically and mentally behind the wheel.

It was a case of too little, too late for Labonte in the final laps of Saturday’s race. After hanging out towards the rear most of the race, he took his one new tire with 12 laps to go and made a charge towards the front. After restarting in the latter parts of the top-ten in the final restart, he finished the race just under three-tenths behind Heady at the checkered.

Brian Loftin, Gary Putnam and Burt Myers rounded out the top-five.

Kyle Souza sends word that more than $23,000 in Posted Awards Per Event at the Thompson Motorsports Speedway has been set for the five weekly divisions for 2021.

All five divisions will compete as part of the six-race oval track event schedule at Thompson, which begins with the annual Icebreaker on April 10-11. The schedule also includes four Wednesday night races in the summer (June 16, July 7, August 11 & September 15) and the Sunoco World Series (October 8-10).

May 30, 1969, Stafford started the Memorial Day weekend off with a 100-lap event. Long Island’s Charlie Jarzombek, in one of his first off-island trips made the one to Stafford a successful one as he won the 100 lapper in his radical offset coupe. Fred DeSarro finished second and was followed by Bobby Santos, Jerry Cook, Bob Karvonen, Ed Yerrington, Frank Faria, Moe Gherzi and Wild Bill Slater. It took a bit of doing before Jarzombek was declared legal as his car was weighed three times before a decision was made. A well-advertised battle between Ray Hendrick and Bugsy Stevens never materialized as both crashed out of the event on lap 16.

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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