RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Racing Has Begun; NASCAR Cup Goes Green, Mods On Tap This Weekend

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The flat lands of central Florida come alive this coming Saturday night, Feb 12 with the sounds of racing engines as the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series gets the green for 200 laps at the New Smyrna Speedway. As of this past weekend, forty six cars had signed entries.

With FloRacing on board as the new streaming home of all NASCAR Roots properties, the Whelen Modified Tour will see a $10,000 per-race enhancement in 2022 payouts. Additionally, at each event, the Sunoco “Rookie of the Race” will be awarded $625 as the highest finishing eligible 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year candidate.

New for 2022, the FloRacing awards breakdown on a per-race basis is as follows: $1,500 for first, $1,000 for second, $900 for third, $800 for fourth, $700 for fifth, $600 for sixth, $500 for seventh-10th, $300 for 11th-15th and $200 for 16th-20th.

The $625 Sunoco “Rookie of the Race” award brings the per-race qualifying and special awards total to $7,675, up from $7,050 per race in special awards last season.

The Sunoco “Rookie of the Race” award in 2022 will add to the existing list of special awards for each Whelen Modified Tour event. The list includes the Whelen Winner of the Race award ($3,500), the Jostens Half Way Leader award ($400), the Hoosier Lap Leader award ($600), the Hoosier Most Improved award ($500), the Hoosier Hard Charger award ($500), the Sunoco SPEC Engine award ($550) and the Mayhew Pole Award ($1,000).

The New Smyrna event, which will be shown live on FloRacing, features $115,800 in posted awards. The first-place prize of $14,300 at New Smyrna does not include potential earnings from special awards.

From New Smyrna the WMT will wind its way north for a total of 16 events and will end the season at the Martinsville Speedway on Thursday, October 27.

It looks like Joe Coss and Ben Dodge had better pack their bags and put their traveling shoes on as NASCAR announced last Thursday that they will be the regular announcers for the series for 2022. One or both will be present at all Whelen Modified Tour events in 2022.

A release from NASCAR read: “Coss and Dodge will work alongside local track announcers in the booth at each venue to tell the story of the Whelen Modified Tour drivers and racing action. Their call of the race will also be heard by fans at home watching on FloRacing, Both have extensive experience with the division and know the majority of the competitors on a first name basis.

The World Series for the tour type modifieds at New Smyrna will begin on Monday, Feb 14 and wind up on Fri, Feb 18 with the Richie Evans Memorial 100. Included in the series is the John Blewett III Memorial 76 lapper on Wed, Feb 16. The Super Late Model Orange Blossom 100 closes out the World Series on Saturday night, Feb18, FloRacing will live stream all events.

The all-different Busch Clash was held on Sunday night, Feb 6 in Los Angeles on a flat quarter mile track inside the coliseum. It was anticipated to being a slam-bang affair but overall it was a close hard fought event. It was a hit with the fans as the main grandstands on both sides of the makeshift track were well populated.

Kyle Busch started on the pole with Tyler Reddick on the outside. At the half way break Busch continued to lead with Joey Logano, second. Logano gave Kyle Busch a bump and dove low to take the lead but it was after the lap 75 halfway break so Busch retained the lead at half way.

Following the restart after the break, Logano got the lead on Lap 116, moments before Kyle Larson retaliated against Justin Haley for earlier contact that was not of Haley’s doing. Larson steered toward the bottom of the track, knocking Haley’s Chevrolet into the concrete Jersey barrier on the front stretch.

Logano had control of the race for the restart on Lap 117 and held the top spot to the finish, with Busch frustrated in pursuit on the quarter-mile track.

Austin Dillon passed Larson to finish third, and Erik Jones ran fourth after overtaking the reigning Cup Series champion in the closing laps. Larson held fifth, as William Byron, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.

NASCAR has an option for two more years of competition at the coliseum. Chances are, based on the success of the event, it will return next year but without the awful rap music!

Third generation driver Jacob Perry of Pawcatuck, Ct drove full-time on the Modified Racing Series last year for team owner Jack Bateman, finishing second in the series standing with three victories. He will continue in that role with Bateman for 2022.

Perry, who recently raced in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will also add to his schedule by teaming up with his second cousin Norm Perry to launch an effort to run selected Tri-Track Open Modified events and Open Modified events at Stafford Speedway.

During the late stages of an extra distance championship event in the early seventies, Jerry Cook’s car was leaking oil and was “black flagged” by starter Frank Sgambato Sr. Cook ignored the black flag and was penalized with a low finish. Cook contended that he was running in a tight pack and stated that he couldn’t determine if the black flag was for him. After a lengthy appeal through NASCAR, Cook had his position restored. Stafford owner Jack Arute was extremely upset over this turn of events and ordered a large digital sign to be installed in the first turn which would indicate who was black flagged. Arute christened the sign the “Jerry Cook Light” and vowed this situation would never happen again.

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. The book documents Modified Racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway from 1967 to 1986. 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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