WATERFORD — When Les Hinckley III of Windsor Locks thinks about the Tri Track Open Modified Series, one word comes to his mind — “competition.”
“It’s as competitive as any racing series you’ll find in New England,” Hinckley said. “There are top notch drivers from every division that competes in the Northeast. The heat races are stacked with great drivers. Then if you have to go to the consolation races or the B Mains, it doesn’t get any easier. You’re surrounded by great cars.”
Hinckley, however, has watched the first three races in the Tri-Track series from the disabled list. He competed in the opening Valenti Modified Racing Series event at Monadnock Speedway, but then was operated on to have a disk removed from his neck.
His return was a memorable one. After being idle for three months, he came back and won in his comeback race, the Valenti Series Victor Johnson Memorial 100 at Monadnock Speedway on Aug. 22.. Then on Aug. 29, he was pinch-hitting for Ryan Pennink in the Gary Casella Automotive No. 25 and finished third.
His toughest challenge will take place Sunday. He be driving his own car, the 06, in the Dunleavy Truck & Trailer Repair 100 at the New London Waterford Speedbowl, a track on which Hinckley has had mixed results.
“We won a Valenti race there a few years back, and we’ve also crashed there,” Hinckley said. “But we’ve always been quick there.”
Hinckley will be surrounded by open-wheel all-stars. Drivers such as Ryan Preece, Doug Coby and Ted Christopher on the Whelen Tour, Chris Pastryak, Woody Pitkat and series point leader Todd Annarummo from the Valenti Series, Matt Hirschman and Andy Jankowiak from the Race of Champions Series and George Brunnhoelzl and Andy Seuss will be in action. Also entered is one of the most talented teen-age drivers in the Northeast, Tommy Barrett.
Hinckley, however, should be motivated by the competition.
“This is what we do best; we know we’re going to have a fast car,” Hinckley said. “It‘s all about the circumstances you find yourself in. Sometimes they shine on you. Sometimes they bite you.”
The money is also a motivator — an overall purse of more than $50,000, with $5,0000 going to the winner. A driver can also pocket $1,000 by winning the Ballard Trucking Circle of Friends B Main. It will be one of the most lucrative races ever held at the Speedbowl.
Team will be allowed to change one tire during the race, putting an extra layer of strategy into the 100 laps.
“The guys who put a right rear tire on in the last race had a difficult time getting back through the field,” Hinckley said. “We’ll probably plan on making a tire change. That’s something we always plan on before the race. But that plan is always subject to change during the race. It all depends on what happens. That’s a decision that Butch Shea, my crew chief, will have to make.”
Hinckley is just happy to do what he does best — rubbing fenders with the best drivers in the Northeast.
During the past five years, one of those drivers has been Keith Rocco. He has won more races than anyone at the Speedbowl including two victories last year on the Valenti Modified Racing Series with a full-powered Modified.
His No. 68 car will be in action Sunday to take a shot at the $5,000.
“Sunday is going to be an eventful day,” Rocco said. “I’d love to see about 50 Modifieds show up.”
Rocco says he has a car that can run with anyone.
“My car is pretty fast all the time,” Rocco said. “Whether we pit for a tire or not depends on how the race goes. George Savery didn’t change a tire when he won the Tri-Track race at Seekonk, so he proved it can be done.
“Tire strategy will be important. We just don’t know what our strategy is yet.”
He doesn’t have to know until Sunday afternoon.
Practice starts at noon Sunday, with the first qualifying heat races starting at 1:30. The Speedbowl’s SK Lites and Late Model divisions will be in action.
Following the consolation race and the Ballard Trucking Circle of Friends Race, the Dunleavy Truck & Trailer Repair 100 will take place.
Tickets are $30 for adults and $8 for juniors 13-16, Children 12-and-under always are admitted free.