RPW Column: The Champ Trail; SMART Tour Runs At Caraway, Busy Weekend Of Racing Ahead & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The SMART Modified Tour powered by Pace-O-Matic headed to the Caraway Speedway near Ashboro, NC for the Warrior 100 on March 25th!

Twenty four cars were on hand. Brandon Ward scored his 4th SMART win over Joey Coulter and Bobby Measmer.

Outside pole sitter Burt Myers had the field covered until he pitted on lap 42 under caution for a water leak. Jonathan Brown assumed the lead and held it until he pitted on lap 68 for a tire.

Coulter assumed the top spot and held it until lap 93 when he gave way to Ward who went on to take the win. Tim Brown finished fourth with Zach Brewer rounding out the top five. Jonathan Brown finished sixth with Burt Myers all over him at the end.

The SMART Modified Tour heads to South Boston Va. This Saturday night.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action a week from this Friday on March31 at the Richmond Int. Raceway. It will be a busy weekend for some of the modified teams. Following Richmond some teams will head north for the Thompson Speedway IceBreaker while most of the southern teams will head for South Boston for a SMART event on Saturday.

Richmond is NASCAR sanctioned while South Boston is sanctioned by the Southern Modified Auto Racing Team and Thompson is open competition with a big purse. Speculation has it that Thompson may come out on the short end of the stick as most tour type teams only want to run once a week. FloRacing will provide live coverage of both Richmond and South Boston events.

Matt Hirschman has added his name to the growing entry list of talent for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, “Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150” event that will take place on Friday night, March 31 at Richmond Raceway.

The list of early entries also includes former NASCAR Cup Series stars Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte, along with current Cup standout Corey Lajoie, winner of the NWMT season finale at Martinsville Speedway last October. They will challenge an equally impressive list of Modified stalwarts Doug Coby, Ron Silk, Justin Bonsignore and 2022 Champion Jon McKennedy to name a few.

While he will only say that his confirmed schedule doesn’t go past the month of May, Hirschman couldn’t deny rumors that he might enter all 19 tour events this season. That should cause a great deal of anxiety for any 2023 Championship hopeful drivers. The Northampton, Pennsylvania driver last season had an average finish of 2.7 in seven starts, which easily ranks higher than any of the 67 drivers who made at least one NWMT start last season.

Race fan Craig Gabriele has come up with some interesting data that pertains to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. Whelen Modified Tour Per Event Sponsorship for 2023: The WMT could not be where it is today without the following Sponsors. Whelen Engineering out of Connecticut: “What can you say about Whelen and what they have done for the sport of auto racing? Whelen Engineering has been the biggest supporter of NASCAR Tour Modified racing for over 17 years and is going on 18 years in 2023 as a Major Sponsor of the NASCAR Modified Tour. Can’t thank them enough.” Whelen Engineering is also responsible for the huge point fund that is paid out at the end of the year. Whelen Engineering “Winner of the Race” award to the winning driver $3,500 per event. Total awards for the 2023 season $66,500 for the 19 events. $1,000 Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole per event award to the driver with the fastest qualifying time eligible to participate under the Manufacturers’ Prize Money Conditions. Total for the year Awards $19,000. “Thank You to Mayhew Tools for sponsoring the Pole Award and for sponsoring the 7ny of Tommy Baldwin, Jr. and its driver Doug Cody.”

Jostens Phil Kurze Halfway Leader Award $400 per event: Total for the year Awards $7,600. “This is a great award from Jostens to keep the memory of our beloved leader Phil Kurze from Whelen Engineering. Anybody who new Phil could tell you just much he loved the Modifieds and could give you a history lesson on all of the great drivers, tracks and Modified races held for over 60 years of the sport.”

WMT 2022 Champion Driver #79 Jon McKennedy: “McKennedy will receive $600 per race in 2023 for being the 2022 WMT Champion Driver on the WMT. That’s a payout of $11,400 as long as he competes in all 19 events in 2023.” 2022 ROTY #64 Austin Beers will receive $200 per event for every race he enters in for 2023. If Beers races in all 19 events he will receive an extra $3,800. Hoosier Tire: “Hoosier Tire is also a long time sponsor on the WMT.” They have 3 separate Awards on the WMT:”#1 Hoosier Tire “Hard Charger” per event award to the highest finishing eligible driver who advances the most positions during the course of the race. In the event of a tie, the highest finishing driver will receive the award. $600 per event. Total Awards for the 2023 season are $11,400.” #2 Hoosier Tire “Lap Leader” per event award to the eligible car owner whose driver leads the most laps in each event. In the event of a tie, the award will go to the highest finishing car in the event. This is also a $600 Award per event. Total awards for the 2023 season are $11,400. #3 Hoosier Tire “Most Improved” per event award to the eligible new team/organization whose driver improves the most positions during the course of the race. In the event of a tie, the award will go to the highest finishing car in the event. If money is not awarded during this event, funds will rollover to the next event and will continue to rollover until an eligible new team/organization claims the money. This is also a $600 Award per event. Total awards for the 2023 season are $11,400. Sunoco Spec Fuel Award: 1st $550 5th $150 and 10th$100. Total Award per event is $550. Total awards for the 2023 season are $10,450. “The Rookie of the Year will again award $10,000 to the winner.”

There is also bad news about one race award that disappeared from the 2022 season. “In 2022 Sunoco paid $650 per event to the highest finishing Rookie of the Race. Losing this award might keep new race teams and drivers from dipping their toes in the WMT. I personally think this award should have been continued and not having this award will do nothing to entice new Teams to the Tour. What a Shame.” FLO-RACING has been a big plus to the WMT with it’s per race payouts and its year end awards. “Total Per Race $10,000, Total Paid for the Year for 19 Races $190,000. With an additional $25,000 year end monies to be divided evenly among each car owner who attempts to qualify for every NASCAR Whelen Tour event during the 2023 season. The Points Bonus will be paid to the top 15 in points per race. “Total Per Event $11,000”.

Competing on the tour requires extensive traveling. Many team owners, drivers and crews hold down day jobs which makes this quite difficult. The localized “Open Competition events provide an alternate venue with some pretty hefty purses without the travel and the extended time off.

Thanks to Craig Gabriele for providing this information.

In NASCAR cup action Tyler Reddick prevailed in three NASCAR Overtime restarts to claim his first trophy of the year — and first with his new team, 23XI Racing, with a 1.411-second victory over two-time series champion Kyle Busch in the EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix at the famed Circuit of The Americas course, in Austin, Texas. Ryan Preece was destined for a possible top five before he was taken out by a hack. Preece ended up in32nd spot.

It appears that the SK Modified competitors at Stafford may need to install heavy duty nerf bars and bumpers on their cars as a new breed of cat has voiced his intentions of making his Friday night home at the Connecticut oval. When the green flag drops for Spring Sizzler weekend on April 29 and 30 Jimmy Blewett will be in the SK Modified field. Blewett, from New Jersey has a reputation of being a hard charger and not one to be afraid of using his bumper and nerf bars to win races. Blewett will be driving the car formerly driven by Bryan Narducci.

Fresh off a fifth place finish in last year’s NAPA Spring Sizzler®, Blewett will return for this year’s 51st annual running of “The Greatest Race in the History of Spring” looking to add his name to the winner’s list with a brand new #02 Primary Services Group / John Blewett, Inc. modified.

With the advent of early spring warmer weather the installation of the Safer Barrier Soft Walls has progressed into the turn three area. Installation should be completed in time for the opening green.

The field for the 51st Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler® set for April 29-30 continues to grow and the latest entry is the Mike Curb owned #77 Curb Records / Mohawk Northeast modified, prepared by Gary Putnam with Max McLaughlin as the driver. McLaughlin has made two previous starts at Stafford, both behind the wheel of the Curb/Putnam #77 car and he is looking forward to returning to the Connecticut half-mile. McLaughlin’s father Mike notched a total of 6 feature wins at Stafford with 5 modified wins and 1 Busch North victory. A NAPA Spring Sizzler® victory would not only be huge for McLaughlin, but it would help turn around the fortunes of the #77 team who with McLaughlin have been so close to several wins only to see them slip away.

Pro All Stars Series (PASS) and American Canadian Tour (ACT) officials have a full schedule of events for the ten-division 49th Icebreaker Weekend line-up at Thompson Speedway. Often recognized as New England’s unofficial Lid Lifter for the year’s racing activities, the Thompson Icebreaker is once again highlighted by the PASS Super Late Model 75 on Saturday, April 1st and the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 for the Thompson Outlaw Open Modifieds on Sunday, April 2nd.

After a full afternoon of practice on Friday, March 31st open to all Icebreaker divisions, Saturday brings an exciting opening day for the 2023 season. The Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models make their 21st appearance at the 0.625-mile oval to headline the Saturday portion of Icebreaker weekend with a 75-lap showdown. In contrast, the newly minted Mighty Mini Stock Series will also be in attendance for their first-ever point counting event to the tune of 25-laps.Saturday’s showcase will also include the EXIT Reality Pro Truck Series and a $1,200 to win 50-lap Street Stock Open event. Starting off their 2023 seasons will also be the Sunoco Modifieds, who are pulling double-duty on both days of Icebreaker weekend, plus the always thrilling Thompson Late Models. Both local divisions will be pulling for 30-lap season opener events.

Sunday, April 2nd brings along the iconic Icebreaker 125, now in its 49th edition.A pool of talented teams are expected to make a run at the history books with $10,000 waiting for them under the checkered flag. Sunday will also include season-opening action for four more local divisions including the Limited Sportsman, SK Lite Modifieds and Mini Stocks. The Sunoco Modifieds will also return for a second 30-lap feature on Sunday.

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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