Scores First NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Win at Myrtle Beach
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Even though both Jon McKennedy and Tommy Baldwin have put together a long list of accolades in their racing career, both entered the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season looking to prove a point.
Saturday, McKennedy took the new pairing between the two veterans of asphalt modified racing right to the winner’s circle.
McKennedy captured his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win in the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
“It feels great, I feel like this is way overdue,” McKennedy said. “Over the years, I was never really able to put 100 percent effort into the Tour. When Tommy called me, I just knew it was going to be a great deal. I’ve won races from Florida to Canada. It feels good to finally get the monkey off my back.”
Although McKennedy has a successful resume built in New England Tour-Type Modified racing, his first Whelen Modified Tour victory came in his 34th career start in the NASCAR modified ranks.
The Chelmsford, Massachusetts, driver started from the outside pole, but quickly backed up through the field, trying to save his tires for the final stages on the tricky half-mile surface known for eating at Hoosier rubber.
Following a pit stop for fresh tires during the final caution, McKennedy charged through the field and found himself staring down the back bumper of 20-year-old Chase Dowling in the final laps. On lap 139, McKennedy took his No. 7 Accell Construction Chevrolet to the bottom of Dowling, and took control of the race off turn two.
He never looked back.
“Tommy gave me a great opportunity to run this car, and I’m glad I could make the most of it,” McKennedy said. “We’re really off to a good start together. It’s great to be in good equipment and have some great knowledge behind us.”
Although Jimmy Blewett took second and inched closer to McKennedy in the final laps, he came up just short, and settled for second. Blewett was driving for Ed Partridge, the defending Whelen Modified Tour owner’s champion, while Ryan Preece finished ninth in the NASCAR XFINITY Series at Auto Club Speedway.
“I can’t thank Eddie and his wife Connie enough, I’m just happy to be able to come out here and help them,” Blewett said. “This is a car that Eddie and my grandfather own together. We came here in the dark, with no notes. But we got ourselves pointed in the right direction fairly quickly today.”
Matt Hirschman led 77 laps and finished third after winning his sixth pole award in qualifying, while Chase Dowling was fourth. Justin Bonsignore, who led 26 laps, was fifth in his debut with LFR Chassis.
Dave Sapienza was sixth, followed by Eric Goodale, Calvin Carroll, Craig Lutz and Rob Summers.
It seems like the 2017 NASCAR WMT season was just put in the books, Doug Coby driving the #2 Mayhew Tools LFR chassis Modified notched another championship. Ryan Preece driving the #6 TS Haulers Troyer won the owners championship for Eddie Partridge, the first time that the owners championship did not belong to the championship drivers car owner.
But that was 5 long months ago. As the northeast digs out of its its 3rd Nor’easter in 10 days NASCAR WMT teams from New England and all over the east coast have made their way to the state of South Carolina for the start the 2018 season at Myrtle Beach Speedway.
30 teams from up and down the east coast have entered the only event in the state of South Carolina, we will have a final car count later this morning.
We had a chance to talk to three people who will be a big part of the upcoming NASCAR WMT season.
Doug Coby 2017 Champion:
We are ready for the 2018 opener. 2 LFR cars are ready and by the time we get to the Icebreaker at Thompson a 3rd LFR car should be ready giving us a solid stable of cars to look to win a 6th championship.
Mayhew Tools is back for a second season as the primary sponsor of the team and are very happy with the relationship. Mayhew is a 160-year-old company and has used racing the last 2 years for brand awareness and name recognition. Mayhew also likes the TV exposure that the tour gives them and the huge rolling billboard that the hauler for the #2 takes to the track
Doug spoke about last year’s 5th championship. When we asked if he was confident on championship #5 after his early season troubles his answer was if I said yes, I would be lying. He didn’t think he had a shot to continue the championship streak until Stafford in August when he finished second to Ryan Preece.
We asked Doug if he feels the teams that go to Fla. have an advantage In February and why his team does not head south. Doug said that absolutely some of his competitors get a small advantage as they work the bugs out of new equipment, but work commitments keep him up north.
Doug won his 5th championship in unusual style. 2017 he flipped flopped his successful tracks with tracks he normally did poorly. NHMS and Thompson were not his best tracks in 2017 which is very unusual. Putting aside the Icebreaker at Thompson where he barely made 1 lap being caught up in a wreck he feels the completion has really stepped up at those tracks closing that gap.
Riverhead which for many years was a thorn in his side including the 2013 when his throttle hung during his time trial run costing him a race and probably a chance at a championship. That changed last year he came away with a 2nd and a 3rd and feels the focus on getting better at Riverhead helped those finishes.
Last year Doug won only 1 race, the first time with that total since 2014, we asked Doug if he felt he could increase that number this year. Doug said they come to the track with the mentality to win each race and this year would be no different so he hopes he can increase that number.
This season Doug will have a few new crew members and crew members doing different jobs than they had in the past. Doug said many of the crew members are also his friends and have been for many years and that helps
Series Director Jimmy Wilson:
We reached out to Jimmy as we get close to opening day to ask his views on the state the tour for 2018.
Fist we asked Jimmy about his outlook for the 2018 season.
We are very pleased with the scheduling for 2018. With the Seekonk race being moved to June 2nd NASCAR has broken up the long stretch during the summer. With the longest road trip for the teams heading to Bristol it gives them a week off at the end of August before the stretch run to the end of the season.
As far as rules for 2018 there are no major rules changes for the upcoming season
Jimmy is also pleased with the young drivers that are coming up in the series, it bodes for a bright future for the tour.
Two things that Jimmy really likes about the 2028 season are the winners purses , point fund and the new crown jewel event at NHMS.
Whelen Engineering Winner of the Race award has increased this year from $500.00 per race to $3,500.00. That will push the winner of most of the races to a minimum of $10,000. The only races below that will be the 2 Riverhead races plus the Thompson mid-week race. When we spoke about the purse money Jimmy always likes to point out the NASCAR pays more than any tour out there. The purse, bonus and point fund the money is second to none of any Modified tour.
Jimmy is also very excited is the Full Throttle weekend Friday September 21st and September 22nd. The weekend will feature the WMT, K & N East and for the first time Pinty series from Canada. The winner of the Modified feature will take home a minimum of $25,000. With bonus and announced lap monies a driver who dominates the race and leads many laps could win upwards of $30,000 or more.
We asked about the format of the race and the expected tire count that will be needed. He said there will be a 5-minute break at a lap to be determined. As far as the tires, there will be a Hoosier tire test before the Eastern Propane 100 July 21st to determine the needed compound. Hoosier had some uncharacteristic issues with the right front tires that they want to resolve before the next WMT race at NHMS.
NHMS will be issuing press releases with more information about the race format as the year progresses. Increased access to the cars and drivers that the fans have not enjoyed in the past will be part of the show. Unfortunately, NHMS lost a Monster Energy NASCAR Cup weekend but they are putting a significant effort into making the WMT/Pinty/K & N as great a weekend as any Cup race they have hosted..
Eddie Partridge owner of the TS Haulers #6:
Eddie took 2 cars to Fla. With Ryan Preece but only came back with 1 intact car.
What is the status of the white #6 that left the park at Bronson Speedway?
“The white #6 was not repairable, Troyer is building us a new one hopefully to be finished by the Icebreaker. The team will run the 2018 season splitting races between the beautiful new black #6 that they shook down at New Smyrna Speedway and the white #6 that will be delivered shortly.
Ed pointed out that while Ryan Preece is still his full-time driver he will have to miss a minimum of 2 races as Ryan continues to race for Joe Gibbs on the Xfnity Tour.
When asked if Ryan could have a shot at the championship Ed responded that they have a shot at the owners championship again Ryan and his fill in, Jimmy Blewett . Jimmy will drive the car today at Myrtle Beach and at one race at Riverhead.
Making the task a little tougher this year, at Thompson Ryan will start last at the Icebreaker after racing at Texas in the Xfinity series on that Saturday. With veteran Jimmy Blewett filing in the team should not miss a beat.
Lastly as we start the 2018 season the tour will have a big void. While there is always great optimism as a season starts, this year there is a feeling something is missing. One of the all-time greats TC Ted Christopher will not be in the field. Teds untimely passing last year left us stunned and saddened. Ted was not only a great driver but a great friend to many. Ted touched many with his bumper, his humor, his friendship and his hard as nails attitude. Ted will be missed and surely never forgotten.
Notes: The Myrtle Beach opener March 17th is called the St Patrick’s Day 300 Race. The program will feature Late Models, Chargers, Super Trucks, Mini Stocks and NASCAR WMT Modified division.
The NBCSN TV schedule is out, Derick Pernesiglio and company will be back covering the NASCAR WMT starting with the opening day Myrtle Beach race. It will be broadcast the following week Wed. March 21 at 6:00PM on tape delay.
Myracenews will be at the track as the gates open Saturday at 9:30AM and give you updates throughout the day. Follow along on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
New Crop of Challengers Head To Myrtle Beach for NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Opener
As the green flag gets set to fly on the 2018 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season, all eyes are on the fight for the championship. Doug Coby enters the new campaign having won the last four titles, and five of the last six, as he continues to shatter the record books on NASCAR’s oldest touring series.
However, when the season revs up on Saturday at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway, Coby has a long list of rising talent looking to chase him down and make a name for themselves in the process. An early-look at the season shows that some of the youngest drivers in the history of the series could be the ones challenging Coby for victories through the 16-race points schedule.
Take Roxbury, Connecticut, driver Chase Dowling as just one example.
Dowling is ready for a full-time effort with LFR Chassis and Rob Fuller in 2018, and has plenty of momentum on his side. He finished second in the SK Modified points standings at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway last year, and captured his first career pole award driving for Fuller in the Whelen Modified Tour finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
That front-row starting spot helped propel him to a second-place finish in the Sunoco World Series — his best in his 41 career starts.
“I’m really looking forward to this year,” said Dowling, the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year. “Rob Fuller is giving me one of the best opportunities I have had in my racing career. Last year, being a part-time team, we got some top fives and we were close to winning a few races, but we just had some bad luck. That pole at Thompson was a really good way for us to finish the season. I think we have a good team together for this year.”
For the 20-year-old Dowling, the combination with LFR and Fuller may actually be the perfect fit. When Coby won the title in 2015, in his first season with LFR, he scored seven victories, and has followed it up with six more since driving for the company. Last year, Bobby Santos III swept both races at New Hampshire driving for LFR, and the team has also added Justin Bonsignore to their stable for this year.
In nine races driving the car last year, Dowling scored five finishes that were inside the top five.
“I think we’ll be pretty good, we need some luck on our side,” Dowling said. “I think we will be able to pull of a couple of wins, I know that’s the expectations for Rob as the owner. We tested a lot last year and we had some good solid runs. We feel prepared for this season. I think we will be up front.”
And in some ways, this is everything Dowling could have hoped for on the Whelen Modified Tour. Dowling has been successful at Stafford for many years — both in the SK Light and SK Modifieds — and he is hoping that valuable experience will help him get going on the right foot.
“All of the SK guys at Thompson, Stafford, they are all basically trying to get into the Whelen Modified Tour at some point in their career, and I’m there now,” Dowling said. “I’m pretty fortunate to have what I have for an opportunity.”
And much like Dowling, there is another former Sunoco Rookie of the Year winner looking to take his game to the next level this year. Calvin Carroll, who won the Sunoco Rookie award just last year, has a brand new car and a brand new crew chief with hopes of contending for his first win in 2018.
“We’ve done a whole lot to prepare for this season, with a new crew chief, I think it will make a new difference for us,” Carroll said. “We have a brand new car, brand new spec engine and a brand new Troyer chassis. I think the new crew chief, new car, it’ll come together and make a big difference for us. We are all really excited and we think we will do 10 times better than we did last year.”
Although he failed to finish four races last season, Carroll still earned a 12th place finish in the championship standings, and scored a best finish of 13th during points-paying races. However, in October, Carroll finished third in the non-points event at Charlotte, which he is hoping helps give him a little bit more motivation and momentum going into the new year. The 17-year-old is expecting to get to the front of the pack right from the drop of the green flag at Myrtle Beach.
“I think we’ll be good coming straight out of the trailer,” Carroll said. “I want to win races. I think we will have a good finish in the points, I think we have a great combination here.”
And right alongside Dowling and Carroll, Craig Lutz is another driver who will be putting his foot to the floor looking to make a name for himself this season. After driving his family-owned modified for much of his career, Lutz connected with Goodie Motorsports halfway through last season, running the final nine races in the No. 46 Riverhead Building Supply Chevrolet.
Now, with some experience under his belt at just 23-years-old — including a pole award at Stafford in just his first start with his new team last August — Lutz is ready to see the green flag on a full season.
“My crew chief prepares awesome race cars, and we’ve been really close right off the trailer. It just makes everything easier,” Lutz said. “Everyone is always going to be pumped up when you’re fast. If we keep unloading close and we make the right calls, we can be there at the end of these races.”
Lutz got the season started in February when he traveled to New Smyrna Speedway for the 52nd annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. The opportunity to compete at the half-mile opened the door for him to knock some offseason bugs from the car, and help for the team to continue to gain confidence in preparation for the Tour kick-off.
“I think it’s an advantage, just being able to kick the season off before you go and run full-time on the Tour,” said Lutz, who enters the year with a best career finish of seventh. “We were lucky enough to run down there. We had some really fast cars, we had some good runs, and we had some tough breaks. I’m really excited to start the season off.”
For Lutz, the opportunity with Goodie Motorsports gives him the best chance to win races he has been given in his career.
“We just try to do our best every week, the goal is to finish races, and hopefully be able to contend for some wins this year,” the Miller Place, New York, driver said. “We had fast cars last year, I just couldn’t put the whole race together. I hope that’s something we can work on this year.”
Along with these three rising stars, NASCAR New York state champion Tommy Catalano will make his Whelen Modified Tour debut on Saturday. Catalano is coming off championships at Holland and Spencer in the Empire State last season. As of Wednesday, there are 30 cars entered for the season-opener.
The 16-race schedule for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour gets underway Saturday at Myrtle Beach, with the running of the Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen. The green flag is scheduled to fly at 5:35 p.m.
Five-Time: Doug Coby enters the new season having won four straight championships, a record for the most consecutive titles in the modern era. The Milford, Connecticut, driver begins his quest for a fifth straight and sixth overall triumph on Saturday. Coby finished 13th in the Tour race at Myrtle Beach last season, but is hoping to get things started on a better note in 2018. In the last six years, Coby has 21 wins behind the wheel.
Solomito’s Time To Pounce: After coming just six points short of the championship last year, Timmy Solomito is back with a ton of momentum on his side entering the new campaign. Solomito returns to Flamingo Motorsports with Starrett Tools back as his primary sponsor coming off a year where he won five races. The Islip, New York, driver will look to capture the checkered flag for the second straight year at Myrtle Beach to start the season.
Pasteryak Is Back: Chris Pasteryak is returning to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for the first time since 2010. After departing from tour competition, Pasteryak put together plenty of successful years of racing in New England tour-type modified racing. Entering Myrtle Beach, Pasteryak has 30 career starts.
McKennedy Ready For New Challenge: Much like Pasteryak, Jon McKennedy has been having plenty of success in New England modified racing. But now, he’s ready to take his talents to compete for victories on NASCAR’s oldest touring series. McKennedy teamed with Tommy Baldwin over the offseason for competition behind the wheel of the No. 7, with new sponsor Accell Construction.
First of 16: Saturday’s season-opener is the first of 16 points races on the 2018 Whelen Modified Tour schedule. There will also be one non-points event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July. NBCSN will air 11 tour events, starting with the Myrtle Beach race on Wednesday, March 21 at 6 p.m. ET
Up Next: Following Myrtle Beach, the Whelen Modified Tour will return to the track at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the annual Icebreaker on April 8.