Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour headed to Martinsville, Va this past Thursday on Oct 27 for the 2022 season ending event.
Four drivers were in contention for the series title, two from New England, Jon McKennedy and Ron Silk and two from Long Island, New York, Justin Bonsignore and Eric Goodale. McKennedy led Silk by six points.
Bonsignore was 11 points behind the leader and Goodale was 17 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five was Austin Beers. Although out of the championship hunt, 52 points back, Beers had sewed up the Rookie of the Year title.
Thirty six cars were pre-entered for the event, 35 took time. Matt Hirschman took the pole as he toured the half mile oval in 18.733 seconds. Jimmy Blewett took the outside pole with Ronnie Williams, third.
Jon McKennedy watched a season long effort almost go up in smoke as Corey LaJoie, who was so obsessed with winning a grandfather clock, drove like an animal and almost junked the title contender into the backstretch wall. McKennedy, who started ninth, took the lead following a restart from a caution on lap 133. McKennedy was running on rails with Blewett, Kyle Bonsignore and Lajoie in hot pursuit with the laps winding down. Ron Williams brought out the seventh caution when he hit the wall and while the field was under caution Max McLaughlin ran out of gas on lap 189. Following the drop of the green on lap 193 a big wreck ensued on the backstretch. Lajoie turned into McKennedy who then got run over by Kyle Bonsignore.
One final restart was set with a green-white-checker situation. LaJoie was able to hold off Matt Hirschman for the win. Ryan Newman ended up third with Bobby Santos III and Anthony Noscella rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Andrew Krause, Eric Goodale, Austin Beers, Tommy Catalano and JB Fortin. McKennedy managed to restart and finished 12th.
Title contenders Justin Bonsignore and Ron Silk has rough nights. Bonsignore appeared to break a panhard bar and silk had a mis-handling machine. Eric Goodale was put out of contention by another competitor on the final restart.
For six decades the Baldwin name has been synonymous with Modified racing starting from their Bellport, LI hometown. Tommy Baldwin Racing brought the years of hard work, blood, sweat and dedication full circle with the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Owners Championship.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour officials have released a 19-race schedule for the 2023 season, the largest schedule for the tour since the 2004 season. The 19-race schedule, which is highlighted by the addition of North Wilkesboro Speedway, is the largest schedule for the Modified Tour since the 2004 season.
As announced last February following a successful inaugural event at New Smyrna Speedway, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season will once again begin in New Smyrna Beach, Florida on Saturday, February 11. Likewise, the season will again conclude, and a champion will be crowned during NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Martinsville Speedway on October 26.
What happens between the season opener and the championship race is where things get interesting for NASCAR’s oldest touring division. The most intriguing addition to the schedule comes in the form of the revitalized North Wilkesboro Speedway on Saturday, September 30. It is unclear at this time whether that date will be a standalone event for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour or a combination race with one of NASCAR’s national series.
In addition to North Wilkesboro, a pair of tracks will return after not being on the schedule in 2022. On Saturday, June 10 the tour will return to “The Cement Palace” known as Seekonk Speedway for the first time since the 2019 season. After a year away, Lancaster Motorplex also returns to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule on Saturday, August 5.
The tour will once again share the spotlight with the NASCAR Cup Series on three different occasions in 2023. These occasions include a visit to Richmond Raceway on March 31, New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 15 and the season finale at Martinsville Speedway on October 26.
A handful of staple tracks on the tour will return with multiple dates during the 2023 season. Riverhead Raceway hosts three events on May 20, June 24 and September 16. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park returns with a traditional Wednesday event on August 16 and for the Sunoco World Series on Sunday, October 8.
After hosting just one race in 2022, Monadnock Speedway will double the fun in 2023 with events on May 6 and September 9. Other events on the schedule include a return to the Jersey Shore’s Wall Stadium on July 8, Virginia’s Langley Speedway on August 26, and Oswego Speedway on September 2 during Bud Classic Weekend.
The New England Antique Racers (NEAR) held their Hall of Fame inductions at the Westford, Ma. Regency Inn. The Class of 2022 was inducted. Those inducted were Race Announcer and writer Matt Buckler, Engine builder Nat Chiavettone, drivers Dick Houlihan, Phil Rondeau, Russ Stoehr, Ken Tremont Jr, Tony “Jap” Membrino and Charlie Webster.
All eyes will be focused on the North-South Shootout in Asheboro, NC this weekend. Activities for the NSS kick off on Wednesday, November 2nd with a “Hauler Parade” through the streets of Downtown Asheboro, NC, the hometown of the North-South Shootout at Caraway Speedway.
Early parking for the event will also take place on Wednesday evening. Thursday, November 3rd, is open practice for all divisions competing in the NSS. Friday will see more practice and qualifying for the Modifieds and Late Models and Saturday, the 602 Mods qualify, and all four divisions will run their feature races with the green flag set to wave at 1:30 PM.
In NASCAR Cup racing, Christopher Bell won his way into NASCAR’s championship race, while Ross Chastain used a move more suited for a video game to also advance in Sunday’s thrilling regular season finale at Martinsville Speedway. Bell had to win to advance to the final four next week at Phoenix Raceway and he pulled it off to give Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota one spot in the finale.
In one of the most daring moves ever seen on a speedway, Chastain leaned his Chevrolet against the outside wall of the 0.526-mile speedway and was wide open on the outside, sailing at some 70 mph faster than the rest of the field as he went from 10th to fifth in a half lap to give Trackhouse Racing its first championship appearance. Bell passed Chase Briscoe, who also needed to win to advance to the championship, with five laps to go to earn the automatic berth into the championship race.
With the cooperation of the Arute family a book has been published with pictures and biographies of the 50 Greatest Drivers at Stafford.
The Stafford Motor Speedway had become the epicenter of NASCAR Modified racing in the northeast by the late 1980’s. From its dirt beginnings to its lightning-fast asphalt, Stafford had become the toughest and most gratifying track to score a victory.
The Arute family which has owned and guided the destiny of the facility commissioned their thousands of loyal fans to name their favorite drivers. In alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone:
Tom Baldwin, Gene Bergin, Brett Bodine, Geoff Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Ron Bouchard, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Ted Christopher, Leo Cleary, Tim Connolly, Jerry Cook, Corky Cookman, Pete Corey, Fred DeSarro, Richie Evans, Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Flemke, Sr., Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Ernie Gahan, Bill Greco, Bo Gunning, Ray Hendrick, George “Moose” Hewitt, Tony Hirschman, George Janoski, Charlie Jarzombek, George Kent, Buddy Krebs, Randy LaJoie, Jan Leaty, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin, Ray Miller, Steve Park, Bob Polverari, Bob Potter, Brian Ross, John “Reggie” Ruggiero, Greg Sacks, Ollie Silva, “Wild” Bill Slater, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Stefanik, Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, George Summers, Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino, Maynard Troyer and Satch Worley.
Books are priced at $17.95 each and be purchased at the track at the Novelty Booth or at the Stafford Motor Speedway on line store. Books are also available at Amazon.com and at Coastal181 (877-907-8181.