RPW Column: The Champ Trail: NASCAR Clash This Weekend, Speedweeks Almost Here & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – As of this coming Friday, Feb 3, one week remains before the green flag drops for the 2023 Whelen Modified Tour Series and the World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Modified entries totaled 43 as of last weekend. In addition there is expected to be an additional 25-30 Whelen Modified Tour Series entries on hand.

One of the headlining divisions for the week again this year, alongside the Super Late Models and Pro Late Models, is the Tour-Type Modifieds. The division will return for five straight nights of action from February 13-17 — including multiple major events — like the John Blewett Memorial 76 and the Richie Evans Memorial 100. New for 2023, the minimum distance for Tour-Type Modified races will be 50 laps, up 15 circuits from other years.

However, before the Tour Mods hit the track for racing action, the opening act might be the best way to get the week rocking. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to New Smyrna for the second year in a row on Saturday, February 11, for the New Smyrna Visitors Bureau 200. The season-opener for another year of Whelen Modified Tour action is expected to draw close to 30 cars or more to try and compete in the 200-lap event.

Last year, it was Matt Hirschman, a multiple-time Tour Mod champion at the World Series, who picked up the victory. But he has a strong field of drivers going to try and knock him down. Reigning Whelen Modified Tour champion Jon McKennedy, three-time champion Justin Bonsignore, Ron Silk, Patrick Emerling, defending Sunoco Rookie of the year Austin Beers, Jimmy Blewett, Kyle Bonsignore, Eric Goodale and many others are hopeful to open the season on top.

Once the Tour moves out of town, all eyes will turn towards the World Series action for the Tour Modifieds, beginning with a 50-lap race on Monday, February 13. Tuesday will follow with another 50-lap event, followed by the Blewett Memorial 76 on Wednesday, February 15. Thursday includes one more 50-lap race before Friday’s Richie Evans 100, which will help crown the champion of the World Series for 2023.

Race fans can watch the entire World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, including the season-opener for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, live on FloRacing February 10-18.

Coming up this weekend is the second annual Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum in Los Angeles, Cal. On Sunday. FOX will provide TV coverage. Qualifying heats are at 5:00pm with the Clash going at 8:00pm. Among those in the field will be Ryan Preece who will be making his initial start in the Stewart-Haas NASCAR Cup entry.

Doug Coby and Tommy Baldwin Racing jointly announced that Coby will pilot the No. 7NY for a full-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour campaign in 2023. Set to compete in the 19-race schedule that begins on February 3 at New Smyrna Speedway, the team will carry primary sponsorship from Mayhew Tools – a sponsor that has been with Coby since 2017 and is happy to make the move with him to TBR.

The partnership between Baldwin and Coby will allow the six-time series champion to chase a seventh championship, while also allowing Baldwin to try to continue his incredible run of success with his team. In 2022, Baldwin won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour owners championship with three different drivers – Coby as one of them. The Milford, Connecticut, veteran won three races with Baldwin in 2022, including two straight early in the season at Lee USA Speedway and Riverhead Raceway, and another at Langley Speedway. Baldwin is excited to get work with Coby again, this time on a full-time basis.

Coby sits inside the top-six on the all-time wins on the Tour with 34 victories to go along with his six titles. He has finished inside the top-10 in the points in 12 consecutive seasons – including in 2022 – where he competed in 12 of the series’ 16 events – driving nine races for Baldwin and three for his own team.

MDP Motorsports Productions, Star Speedway, and The Racing Guys are pleased to announce a #racershonoringracers event at Star Speedway on Saturday July 1, 2023. This year they will be honoring Russell “Butch” Perry, Bob Webber Sr, Art Barry and living legend Bentley Warren who is a multi time champion at Star. These gentlemen are being honored for their love, help and contributions to racing but also what they have done for their communities and for fellow racers.

For the third consecutive season, Call Before You Dig will present the CBYD Open 81 at Stafford Speedway. The May 19th race will be the second of five open modified races scheduled at the Connecticut half-mile facility during the 2023 season and will follow the 51st Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® on April 29-30.

“Call Before You Dig is happy to continue working with Stafford Speedway,” said Derek Brown, President of Call Before You Dig in Connecticut. “Again this year we’ll be sponsoring the Open 81 race and CBYD recognizes that the race fans at Stafford are a great fit for our target audience of users of CBYD. Teaming up with Stafford is a great opportunity for us to promote CBYD and to remind everyone about the importance of using the CBYD service before putting a shovel into the ground.”

In addition to presenting the 5th Annual CBYD Open Modified 81, CBYD will provide the open modified field with some extra motivation to win the race in the form of a $1,000 bonus. Last year’s CBYD 81 saw a pair of Stafford SK Modified® veterans fighting for the win with Ronnie Williams outlasting Woody Pitkat to claim the checkered flag.

On a sad note, Tuck Hoffman passed away last week. A Massachusetts car builder, team owner, and mechanic who’s blue #73 Modifieds were always in the mix. Tuck had great days and nights with a lot of drivers, most notably John Rosati and Billy Harman.

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).

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