By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Noah Watts/My Race News
It might be 50 laps shorter, but the prestige around Saturday’s Musket 200 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway won’t be diminished.
What once was tabbed as the longest race in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour history for the last two years has now lost 50 of its laps — which is about 50 miles at the ‘Magic Mile’ — but drivers aren’t going to do anything different when it comes down to the final laps.
It’s still a chance to win at New Hampshire and it’s still NASCAR’s Super Bowl when it comes to the Whelen Modified Tour.
“I think it will be better, it could probably be even a touch shorter,” 2018 Whelen Modified Tour champion Justin Bonsignore, who finished sixth and fifth the last two years, said. “I think it will take some of the riding out of it. It was great… but I think this might be a little bit more action-packed and more used to what Modified fans and drivers are accustomed to having.”
The first two years of the race haven’t disappointed. It all started when New Hampshire lost their NASCAR Cup Series date for September of 2018, and they had to figure something out to get back some of the revenue that was about to be lost. They ran the inaugural Musket 250 in 2018, with Chase Dowling winning, followed the second last year, which was won by Bobby Santos III.
“This was all part of the initial conversation with NASCAR,” David McGrath, the executive Vice President and general manager of NHMS said back in 2019. “When we made the announcement to move the September race, we wanted to create a new event with as much NASCAR in it as we could. With the long history of modifieds at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the draft, the restrictor plates, and the way they have raced here for so many years… we wanted to create a marquee race that really showcases the racing of the Modifieds and the ‘Magic Mile.’
And they’ve done every bit of it.
The final laps in 2018 were eye-opening to say the least. Current NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Preece and Bonsignore went barreling into turn three on the final lap racing for the lead and $25,000, and both ended up wrecked in the outside wall, handling the lead and the win to Dowling, his first career. Last year, Santos edged Jon McKennedy by just a few car lengths at the line.
As a 250-lap race, it paid $25,000 to win. Now, as a 200-lap event, it will pay $20,000 to pick up the checkered flag — with more than $150,000 in posted awards throughout the field. The advertised entry blank for the race given to teams shows a $12,000 prize for second and $8,000 in winnings for third.
RACING-REFERENCE: Previous NWMT Races at NHMS
The entry list, usually released on Monday by NASCAR, will include a stout list of regulars set to compete for the big prize. Bonsignore, who holds a 18-point lead over Doug Coby in the championship standings entering the race, is one of the favorites, with three wins already this year. Coby, who opened his own team at the beginning of the year, has one victory in the first six races himself. Both are previous winners at New Hampshire but would love to add the Musket 200 to their resume.
Bobby Santos III, who hasn’t made a start on the Whelen Modified Tour since Thompson last October, will return driving a second car for Dave Sapienza. Names like Craig Lutz, Jon McKennedy, Chris Pasteryak, Sapienza, Matt Swanson and more are also expected. There could also be a surprise, or two.
The first two years the race averaged about 32 cars, and the number is expected to be at, or a bit below, that amount.
Originally, the ARCA Menards Series East was scheduled to compete as part of the Saturday schedule, but they have since been eliminated. It leaves the Musket 200 to take the green flag at 12 p.m., with the American Canadian Tour also making their return to New Hampshire for their own 75-lap feature, slated for approximately 2:30 p.m.
Teams will practice and qualify for both races on Friday afternoon and evening.
The Whelen Modified Tour Musket 200 will air live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, just like the first six races of the season did. It will also be available on replay and will air tape-delayed on NBCSN at a later date.
New Hampshire Motor Speedway is allowing fans for the event, and tickets are on sale through NHMS.com. All grandstand tickets that will be sold are required to sit in the specific seat to ensure social distancing is followed. Masks will be required for entry any part of the facility but once fans are seated, socially distances in the grandstands, masks are not required.
Camping reservations are also available for race fans and teams.