RPW Column: NASCAR Modified Tour Gets The Green Flag For 2022, Good News For Speedbowl & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The flat lands of central Florida came alive this past Saturday night, Feb 12 with the sounds of racing engines as the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series got the green for 200 laps at the New Smyrna Speedway.

Night two with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series making it’s first appearance was a complete sellout with a huge crowd. All 31 cars on hand would start the event. Matt Hirschman was the pole sitter, turning the track in 17.462 seconds. Ryan Preece, in Ole Blu was second fastest at 17.522 seconds. Kyle Bonsignore was third fastest as Ronnie Williams and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five.

Living up to his nickname, Money Matt Hirschman claimed the checkered flag at New Smyrna Speedway in the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at the half-mile bullring, opening the 2022 season by winning the Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award and heading the field over the final 40 laps to earn his fifth career Tour victory Saturday in the New Smyrna Visitors Bureau 200.

Hirschman started on the pole alongside Ryan Preece, Hirschman got the jump and maintained the lead over the first 60 laps of the race. But shortly before the halfway mark, Preece was able to get to Hirschman’s inside and use the lapped car of Ken Hagy as a pick to get to the lead. Hirschman began to fade and found himself seventh as the third caution of the day found Matt Kimball backwards on the inside of Turn 2 at Lap 97. Pit strategy mixed the field and found Hirschman mired back in 15th place while others like Ron Silk, Andrew Krause, Jon McKennedy and Austin Beers cycled to the front of the field.

The event came to a stop at Lap 141 though when a battle for fourth went awry. Preece battled to the inside of Krause exiting the fourth turn and washed up into Krause’s driver-side door. The No. 3 broke loose, and Preece corrected back into Krause’s left rear, sending both cars sliding with Krause’s No. 24 car getting the worst of it, pounding the inside wall on the front stretch hard with the left front of the vehicle. Krause exited the car unharmed while Preece was able to restart.

The final yellow of the day flew at Lap 150, when seven cars piled into each other along the backstretch, with only Chris Young among those unable to continue. With 38 laps to go, Hirschman took the lead.

Eric Goodale in the GAF Riverhead Building Supply #58 would chase Matt Hirschman for about the last twenty-five laps and gave it all he had but he could not catch him. Third place went to Mike Christopher Jr. in the Tommy Baldwin Racing #7. Michael ran a solid race all night to earn a podium finish in his first trip to New Smyrna Speedway. Jon McKennedy and Tyler Rypkema rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Craig Lutz, Silk, Tommy Catalano, Patrick Emerling and Preece.

On the down side, three-time and defending tour champion Justin Bonsignore saw his night end after just 32 laps as engine trouble forced him to retire from the event, ending his night in 31st spot. Others who failed to finish were Joey Coulter, in 25th spot, who dropped out one lap from the finish with electrical problems, Kyle Ebersole, in 26th spot, who was collected in a multi car wreck on lap148. Also collected in the same wreck was Jeremy Gerstner (27th) and Chris Young (28th). Andrew Krause(29th) was eliminated on lap 140 in a grinding wreck on the front stretch after coming together with Ryan Preece. Preece was able to restart at the tail end of the field.

Next stop for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series will be on Friday, April 1 in Richmond, VA,

Following the NASCAR Tour event on Saturday night the tour type modifieds would not return until Monday night.

In some good news for competitors at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl it was announced on Facebook late last week that the Connecticut shoreline oval will host its annual Blast Off event on May 7, 2022. No other details involving the 2022 schedule were released. The track also has yet to release the 2022 rulebook to potential competitors.

When the grid for the first Spring Sizzler® took formation in 1972, a young kid from Maine lined-up on the pole. That kid was Bobby Turner, a 20-something year old driver who made the trip down from Maine to race against the top drivers in the northeast at the inaugural Spring Sizzler. Over 50 years later the same #85 modified that led the field to green in 1972 will pace the field for the 50th running of the NAPA Spring Sizzler, this time with Bobby’s son Pete behind the wheel in a tribute to his father who passed away in March of 2021.

In addition to the #85 pacing the field, the Turner family has also posted a $1,085 “pole award” in honor of Bobby’s 1972 pole. The bonus will be split between each of Saturday’s NAPA Auto Parts Duel winners increasing the winner’s prize money for the two 40-lap NAPA Spring Sizzler® qualifying events to $4,042 to win.

On a sad note, Jerry Dostie former driver of the Art Barry 909 and the Ted Marsh 55 passed away. Dostie developed the racing automatic transmission that was popular at one time before being outlawed by NASCAR.

Carl “Bugsy” Stevens is the All Time full blown Modified winner at Stafford. From 6/23/67 to 5/23/86, he recorded 72 wins.

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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