RPW Column: The Champ Trail: NASCAR Mod Tour Closes Out ’22 Season With Awards

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series closed out their 2022 season last week.

When the season wrapped up in Martinsville Jon McKennedy became the series champion for 2022 and Tom Baldwin became the car owner champion for 2022. The 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season featured 16 races, 67 drivers and more than 2,750 laps completed from February through October.

While Jon McKennedy claimed the biggest prize of the season, there were several special awards that were claimed by a variety of drivers. The following were the special awards winners: Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Award: Justin Bonsignore. For the second straight year, Bonsignore earned more No. 1 starting positions than any other driver. The driver of the No. 51 Modified for team owner Ken Massa secured four Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole Awards, one fewer than his total last season when he won the same season-long award. He was able to turn three of those four pole positions into victories, beginning with Richmond Raceway on April 1. He followed that up with poles and victories at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire, on June 18 and New York’s Riverhead Raceway on Sept. 18.His other pole came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he finished 12th after leading the first two laps. Mayhew Tools started sponsoring the Whelen Modified Tour pole award in 2019 and has continued the partnership ever since. Mayhew also sponsors six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby.

In addition to Bonsignore, others to secure poles during the 2022 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season included Matt Hirschman (three), Ron Silk (two), Jake Johnson (two), Coby (one), Timmy Solomito (one), Jimmy Blewett (one), Ronnie Williams (one) and Tyler Rypkema (one).

While he didn’t compete in every NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race this season, Doug Coby still earned a pair of special awards. The first of those awards is the Phil Kurze Mid-Race Leader presented by Josten’s, named in honor of former Whelen Engineering vice president of motorsports Phil Kurze and awarded to the driver who is the leader at the halfway mark in the most races throughout the year.

The late Kurze, who was honored last year at the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina, with a plaque in the Whelen Hall of Champions, was a strong advocate for short-track racing. He helped elevate the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour prior to his passing in 2018.

In the 12 races that Coby competed in 2022, he was the leader at the halfway mark in four of them. That’s two better than both Ron Silk and Jon McKennedy, who were each the leader at halfway in two events this season.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award: Austin Beers. The first year on the road with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was full of learning experiences for Northampton, Pennsylvania’s Austin Beers, but it was well worth the effort and paid off with the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. Beers, who competed in four races in 2021 in preparation for his first full season with the Tour in 2022, competed in all 16 races and finished the year ranked fifth in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings. Driving for team owner Mike Murphy, Beers collected one top-five and seven top-10 finishes against the best Modified drivers in the United States. His best race of the season came at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, where he earned a third-place finish.

Sunoco, the racing fuel of choice for all of NASCAR’s racing divisions, has been involved in motorsports since the 1960s and continues to be involved today as the Official Fuel of NASCAR and the sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.

Hoosier Tire Lap Leader Award: Doug Coby (Owner: Tommy Baldwin Jr.) NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour tire supplier, Hoosier Tire, is the sponsor of a trio of special awards each year. They include the Hoosier Tire Lap Leader Award, which goes to the car owner of the driver who leads the most laps in a race the most times during the season. This year the award goes to Doug Coby, who led the most laps three times during the 2022 season. Matt Hirschman also led the most laps three times during the season, but Coby got the nod thanks to his higher finishing position in the final NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings.

In all, Coby led a whopping 573 laps during the 2022 season despite missing four races. Hirschman, who himself only competed in seven races, led the second most laps at 384. Justin Bonsignore, who won a season-high four races during the 2022 campaign, was third on the laps led list at 377. They were the only three drivers who led more than 300 laps during the season.

Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award: Justin Bonsignore. While Bonsignore fell short of his fourth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2022, he still managed to win the most races throughout the year to secure the Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award for the 2022 season. Bonsignore captured four wins during the 16-race season, starting with his first victory at Richmond Raceway on April 1. He collected his second triumph of the season at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire, on June 18.

He didn’t win his third race of the year until September 3, when he conquered New York’s Oswego Speedway. He claimed his fourth and final triumph of the 2022 season at New York’s Riverhead Raceway on September 17 with his victory during the Eddie Partridge 256.

The Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race Award goes to the driver with the most NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins throughout the season. The award is sponsored by series title sponsor Whelen Engineering. Bonsignore was one of only two drivers to win multiple races during the 2022 season, with the other being Coby, who scored three victories this year. Other race winners in 2022 included champion Jon McKennedy, Eric Goodale, Corey LaJoie, Anthony Nocella, Craig Lutz, Jimmy Blewett, Mike Christopher Jr., Matt Hirschman and Kyle Soper.

Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award and Hoosier Tire Most Improved Award: Ron Silk. While Ron Silk fell six points shy of his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, he did still manage to collect a pair of special awards during the 2022 season. Silk collected the Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Award as well as the Hoosier Tire Most Improved Award during the 2022 season. The Hard Charger award is given to the driver who advances the most positions during a race. The postseason award is given to the driver who earns the award in the most races compared to his competitors throughout the season. Three drivers – Silk, Andrew Krause and Austin Beers – each earned two Hoosier Tire Hard Charger Awards this year. Silk was awarded the season-long award based on his higher finishing position in the final NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings.

The Hoosier Tire Most Improved Award goes to the eligible new team/organization whose driver improves the most positions during the course of each race. Silk secured the award for his team owners Tyler Haydt and Joe Yannone, who were in their first season as team owners on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. In the team’s first year, Silk was able to earn eight top-five and 12 top-10 finishes as well as two pole positions.

The Stafford Motor Speedway would like to remind fans to Lock in Big Savings. Order your 2023 Season Pass before December 15th and save over 50%. The SMS on line store is fully stocked with caps, shirts, jackets, etc along with books for Christmas giving.

The Riverhead Raceway on eastern Long Island has announced that after a two year absence their annual awards ceremony and banquet honoring the 2022 champions will return on Friday, Jan 26 at Giorgio’s in Baiting Hollow. The affair honors track champions, top five drivers from championship standings, and Rookie of the Year drivers from the 2022 NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series at the historic quarter mile oval. For the fourth time in five years Kyle Soper of Manorville will be honored for the NASCAR Modified championship along with car owner Wayne Anderson of Yaphank who’ll mark his 10th track title as either a driver or more recently a car owner.

The 2022 Riverhead Raceway parade of champions will be the busiest in the 72-year history of the track as 14 champions will be honored and recognized during the affair. Kyle Soper will lead the parade and be presented not only the championship plaque but his fourth championship ring from Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz who will then also bestow upon Soper the Eddie Partridge Drivers Cup symbolic of winning the NASCAR Modified championship. Six other 2022 Riverhead Raceway champions will take home a championship ring in addition to their plaque. After 30-years of trying Shawn Patrick of Brightwaters earned his first career Late Model championship and will be feted for doing so along with 2022 Crate Modified champion Owen Grennan of Glen Cove who also won his first track championship. During the 2022 campaign, Grennan became the all-time leading winner of Crate Modified events. 2022 Figure Eight champion Scott Pedersen for the second year in a row take home a championship plaque and ring as will Cody Triola of Bay Shore who annexed his second consecutive Blunderbust championship. Two first time champions will round out those who earn a championship ring as part of the Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series with Sean Glennon of Northport earning his first ever Super Pro Truck title while Eric Hersey of Commack notched his first career INEX Legend Race Car crown.

For the second straight year Dave Antos of Lindenhurst was tops in the Street Stock championship chase while the 2022 Mini Stock championship fell to first time champion Andrew Farnham of Baldwin. The INEX Bandolero champions will join the party on January 6th with Ben Morabito of Miller Place being honored for his first career Bandolero Bandit championship while Chevy Rommeney of Bohemia will be crowed 2022 Bandolero Outlaw champion. The top five championship drivers from the 11 classes will receive plaques for their 2022 accomplishments.

FloRacing announced that they have recognized Matt Hirschman as the Best Pavement Racer of 2022. Matt ranked #1 in the Country among pavement racers from all forms of pavement racing. Matt won 28 races out of 48 that he entered this year. Those wins came at 17 different venues up and down the East Coast in 2022.

JDV Productions announced two additional events for their 2023 schedule, as the organization will branch out to promote two Open Modified events for the new season. The JDV Open Modifieds will compete in a 100-lap event at Monadnock Speedway on Saturday, June 3 and a 100-lap race at Claremont Motorsports Park on Sunday, September 3.

The Open Modified division will highlight some of the top Modified drivers in New England up against many local house division drivers from the respective New Hampshire short-tracks, who normally compete in the NHSTRA Modifieds.

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.

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