(Lehighton 2-18-21) The Sportsman Modified division at Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway will be coming into its fourth season and by all accounts it appears that 2021 is shaping up to be a the best yet for the fledgling class that is focused as an affordable springboard into Modified stock cars.
The rules have been amended to closer conform to other tracks and judging by the many off-season inquiries coming from a surrounding four-state region there stands to be a noticeable uptick of cars once the action gets underway with the first race on April 10.
One the latest to file an entry comes from 2003 Modified track champion Troy Bollinger who had not run regularly since 2016 due to personal commitments but is now ready to make an out-and-out return with the Sportsman Modifieds.
“I’ve never really been away from it, I was always around and had been helping Mike Sweeney and things like that,” said the 51-year old Bollinger who has won in Modifieds, Late Models and Street Stocks dating back to the mid-1990’s.
“I raced for a long time on a weekly basis but when my kids were growing up and playing sports there came the time when you I had to choose what was more important and of course work and financial factors all attributed into not doing the every week thing.”
For Bollinger, who runs his own trucking firm, the Sportsman class fits nicely into his plans. With as many as a dozen races slated it means he doesn’t have to put in the effort racing every week as he had in the past.
“What I really like it that the Sportsman class is on a limited schedule so for me that will make for a pretty decent year,” expressed Bollinger.
“The number of dates will make things a bit easier with the kind of lifestyle I have and I can make virtually all of the races.”
Bollinger also took a liking to the class after watching last year’s races that saw a mix of young and old talent. At the end of December he purchased a 2008 Troyer that ran in upstate New York’s Lancaster Speedway. He will utilize a GM 602 crate engine.
“I can honestly say that it’s a good class. I do feel, in my opinion, a lot of the focus needs to be keeping this heading towards a crate class. I understand that the rules where worked on to allow more cars but personally I think it needs to be geared towards a stock 602 class which gives the opportunity for the guys on budgets to step up from other divisions,” he explained.
“And, let’s face it most racers want to be in a Modified at some point and this class opened the door for the lower budget but talented guy. I also think that with the tire bank it will be a big help in controlling the cost” he continued.
“I think the way the rules are that just about anyone can win a race on any given night, From watching last year, even though these are not full-blown Modifieds, the racing was still very good. There was a lot of respect within the class with the younger guys coming in and racing the veterans. There’s a good mix of talent. I wish this class was around when. I moved up to the Modifieds,”
Though there is a solid number of races, the most ever for the class since it’s inception in 2018, Bollinger noted that he’s not intent at running for points, although that same thought process came about when he won his Modified title 17 years ago.
“I’m not going to turn away the other things I do away from the track in the event I have a conflict for that particular night. But if it turns out that the schedule works in my favor and we come down to being in that position then I won’t deny trying to make all the shows,” he acknowledged.
“I was a rookie the year I won the championship so coming into that I had no expectations of anything. We came into the first race sitting on the pole and then raced wheel to wheel with Bobby Jones and finished second to him that night which was a great learning experience going up against a guy like him,” he went on to say.
“The whole year I never had the expectancies of winning the championship but we won a race and stayed top five most of the year and the championship came to us. I want to keep it fun and not make it a point thing but if it does it does.”
Bollinger says he will be looking to take in the upcoming Test and Tune days March 13, 20 and 27 to shake off the rust and get himself well-heeled when the season gets underway.
The 2021 season at the paved ¼-mile oval starts on Saturday, April 3 at 2:00 pm with the opening race of the Mahoning Valley Speedway Hall of Fame Series featuring the Bill Teel Tribute. The following Saturday, April 10 will be he kickoff race for the Sportsman Modifieds, also a 2:00 pm start. Earl Paules is the defending class champion and will be back in defense of his crown but there will be the likes of Bollinger and a host other worthy opponents.
“I hope to come back and be comfortable and hopefully things will go great.”