Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Competitors in New England Modified Racing went up-country last weekend, starting at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester , New Hampshire for the first of five Monaco Ford Modified Tri-Track Series events on Saturday.
Then, on Sunday, it was time for a brand new series, the Whitcomb 5 Series which is part of the NHSTRA Modified division in New Hampshire.
At Monadnock on Saturday night, Matt Hirschman waited until time was right, pounced, and rocketed to another Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series win. Hirschman tamed the high-banks of Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire, scoring a $10,000 prize and once again living up to his “Big Money” name. After starting 18th, Hirschman passed Monadnock NHSTRA Modified regular Matthew Kimball and held off some of the top Modified contenders on multiple final restarts to capture the checkered flag. Sam Rameau, a two-time Tri-Track winner at Monadnock, crossed the line second, while Brian Robie was third.
Rameau, who was at the front of the field for nearly the entire first half of the race, decided to play a different strategy than most and stay out while nearly everyone else pitted. Laps later, from the lead, when another caution flew, Rameau decided it was time to head down for fresh Hoosier racing rubber. He would restart outside the top-15, and charge through the field to finish second. The Westminster, Massachusetts, native was back on the podium at his home track.
Hirschman, who never shows his hand early, played the strategy of pitting with everyone else, after riding at the rear in typical Hirschman fashion early, saving his equipment for when it mattered most. Hirschman’s strategy took shape in the heat races. With every car in the pits guaranteed to start, the Northampton, Penn. veteran saved his tires, rolling off 18th in the 100-lap feature. While Sammy Rameau set a brisk pace out front, Hirschman rode in the back.
Rameau, the defending race winner, built an early advantage over Richard Savary and Chase Dowling, but his lead was erased on lap 37 when Joey Jarvis launched himself over Dylan Izzo’s nose in turn four. The night’s first caution put most teams’ pit strategy into play early, with Rameau and only three other leaders staying on the track. Dowling emerged from the pits in 12th, with Hirschman 13th.
Rameau and Kimball, a weekly NHSTRA Modified contender, looked none the worse for wear on the restart, with Robie and Jake Johnson holding steady in third and fourth. But when another yellow flew just shy of halfway, Rameau and Robie ducked into the pits, leaving Kimball on the point for the restart.
A quick caution for Derek Robbie gave way to another green-flag run, with Kimball putting distance between himself and a lead pack that now included Hirschman and Connecticut star Ronnie Williams. Chris Pasteryak’s lap-60 spin brought Hirschman and Williams back to Kimball, who had yet to pit for a tire.
Jake Johnson got into Richard Savary with only five laps remaining, setting the stage for a battle to the finish.
Taking advantage of the series’ new “cone rule” for restarts, Rameau vaulted into second on the restart, lining up alongside Hirschman for a shot at the win. Rameau indeed took his shot, delivering it to Hirschman’s rear bumper after the restart, but the Pennsylvanian kept Rameau at bay until a front stretch spin for Cory Plummer gave the field one last shot at victory.
This time, Robie gambled on the cone rule, bringing Dowling and Williams along on the high side to jumble the top five. Rameau would line up behind Hirschman with two laps to go. But Hirschman timed his restart perfectly, leaving Robie to battle Rameau as he drove to his first victory at “Mad Dog” since 2015.
Hirschman’s $10,000 prize, followed by Rameau’s $6,000 check, was only part of a purse that was over $40,000 for the event. Hirschman’s win was his 15th career in 36 series starts, now 10 races above anyone else in history. The race also included the debut of the Call 811 Before You Dig “Cone” rule, where drivers must select their restart lane when they approach the orange cone. The addition of the cone rule allowed competitors to gain positions if they were brave enough to try a different lane.
The Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series will return to competition for the second race of the season at Thunder Road Speedbowl on Sunday, May 29.
Following the top three were Kimble and Chase Dowling. Sixth thru tenth included Ronnie Williams, Todd Patnode, Chris Pasteryak, Kirk Alexander and Les Hinkley.
Following the event Hirschman didn’t let any grass grow as he did an all-nighter back to Pennsylvania to compete last Sunday at the Evergreen Speedway. That event rained out.
In Sunday racing at Monadnock, Todd Patnode was the NHSTRA Modified winner. Sam Rameau finished second.
In other Saturday Modified racing, twin 25 lap events were run at the Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC. Jonathan Brown went pole to pole to win the first event over Jason Myers, Randy Butner and Paul Hall. Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Randy Butner won the night cap. Eleven-time Modified champion Tim Brown scored ninth- and third-place finishes. Ten-time champion Burt Myers finished fourth and ninth.
The Winston Salem Journal reported that the Bowman Gray Stadium will get more improvements thanks to a Motorsports Grant Fund Award from the state of North Carolina. The state’s budget includes $46 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds, and according to the N.C. Department of Commerce, Bowman Gray Stadium will receive $530,020 for improvements.
According to the act, the funds are intended to enhance amenities and increase opportunities for events in recognition of the impact of these venues on the local tourism, travel, and hospitality industries.
Ben Rowe, the assistant city manager, said: “The grant will be used to address a number of needs, including HVAC upgrades to the tickets booths, lighting in the stadium stock pit, guardrail renovation, dedicated fiber optics, signage supports, permanent covers for the sponsor hospitality areas, permanent storage on the concourse, replacement of the flag stand, lighting and security improvements for Forest Park, and improvements to the east parking lot.”
These improvements come on top of the $9 million in limited-obligation bond money that funded upgrades over the last two years. The final phase of that project went to the repaving of the asphalt track. The other noticeable improvements were the complete upgrade of the bathrooms and concession areas on the concourse.
Weekly racing at Stafford on Friday night and at the Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night shift into high gear this week. The New London-Waterford Speedbowl is also scheduled to open with their Blast Off event on Saturday.
July 5, 1968 Bugsy Stevens, who had won the night before at the Catamount Stadium in Milton, Vermont, won the Memorial Day 100. Fred Harbach finished second and was followed by Smokey Boutwell, Leo Cleary and Frank Faria.
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!