By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR
Load up the trailer, plan for a long season, and somehow still navigate the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s the tough task ahead of Modified race teams in New England for 2021.
And most don’t have much time to waste thinking about it: for many, the season will begin in just under two weeks, down south.
New Smyrna Speedway will continue tradition, hosting the 55th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing from February 5-13, including five nights of Tour Modified racing. Races will be contested from February 8-12, including two annual historic events — the John Blewett Memorial 76 (February 10) and Richie Evans 100 (February 12). If the entry list is any indication, race teams from New England aren’t concerned that there are over 40 Tour-Type Modified races planned for this season.
Yeah, you read that right: over 40 races for a Modified team to chose from in 2021. Crazy to think about.
Combining the opening five at New Smyrna, the 14 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, six for the Tri Track Open Modified Series, four at Stafford Motor Speedway and six at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park already brings the number to nearly 40 just itself. Add races on the Race of Champions Modified Tour and additional one-off events, it’s going to be quite busy. And it’s becoming clear drivers are going to have to pick and chose what races they run in order to stick within their budget and be competitive. It’s not feasible to say that anyone will be able to compete in all of them.
New Smyrna’s entry list includes a stout list of talent looking to start their season with success in the Florida sun. It includes five former Tour Modified champions at the World Series: Matt Hirschman (2020, 2018), Chuck Hossfeld (2019, 2012), NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece (2017, 2016, 2015), Ron Silk (2014) and Jimmy Blewett (2008). Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby, who earned a victory at New Smyrna a few years ago, is heading back looking to chase more wins and the week title with his own team. Add former Tri Track Open Modified Series champion Jon McKennedy, driving for Tommy Baldwin Racing, two-time Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified champion Ronnie Williams, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winners Craig Lutz and Eric Goodale and somehow you have just scratched the surface.
Former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion and 10-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion Burt Myers, former Modified Racing series champion Anthony Nocella, Race of Champions Champion Patrick Emerling and Brian Robie — who won three championships in 2020 at Claremont, Monadnock and Hudson Speedway in New Hampshire — are also on the list. Add more than 25 others and it’s sure to be a packed week in Florida with some of the top talent New Smyrna Speedway has seen for the World Series in decades.
It might be the first time in recent memory that New Smyrna officials may have to consider sending cars back to the paddock for the night before the green flag drops for the feature. The entry list brings together top talent from the entire East Coast, led by New England stars, to thrill race fans in the grandstands as part of a rather open Florida state — and some online. NBC Sports Gold, through the TrackPass platform, will stream the entire week to fans across the country again in 2021.
Post New Smyrna, the battle is on for who can make it through the year in a battle of attrition, talent and desire. The Whelen Modified Tour schedule begins on April 8 with a return to Martinsville, while the series will visit Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual NAPA Spring Sizzler in late April. The Tri Track Open Modified Series opens their six-race slate on May 1 at Monadnock Speedway, followed by a special event at Star Speedway on May 22. Tri Track’s season also includes two stops at Seekonk Speedway, including the prestigious $10,000 to win Open Wheel Wednesday on June 30, and second dates at Star and Monadnock.
The Whelen Modified Tour will visit some historic tracks — with stops at Stafford two more times, two stops at Oswego, a visit to Beech Ridge Motor Speedway for the first time over a decade and a return to Richmond Raceway in September, along with others. The final four races of the season will crown a champion, all in the month of September.
Hot on the tail of the Whelen Modified Tour and Tri Track are Stafford’s annual four Open Modified showdowns — May 14, June 11, July 9 and August 20. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, leased by the promoters of the American Canadian Tour and Pro All Star Series, has their own six-race Modified slate planned, including the return of the historic Thompson 300, worth $20,000 to the winner, in October. In April, the track will host the Icebreaker 125 worth $10,000 to win, along with four Wednesday-night races — one each in June, July, August and September. All of the Thompson races are coined as part of the Outlaw Open Modified Series.
The Race of Champions Modified Tour already released five dates of their own in upstate New York and Pennsylvania, with at least a select few more expected.
Riverhead Raceway, in New York, announced they were keeping their prestigious Islip 300 in November, with the 2021 date set for the 13th. The track will host three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races, up from two in recent years. They are bringing back the Ted Christopher Cup — a four-race series, which cumulates with the Islip 300 — in honor of the late Modified champion.
And all of this is just Tour-Type Modified racing. It doesn’t include the prestigious SK Modifieds of Stafford, the Sunoco Modifieds at Thompson, weekly Modified events at Wall Stadium Speedway and New London-Waterford Speedbowl, and more. The landscape of Tour-Type Modified racing is changing — with tracks running their own events.
It’s going to be a busy year for a Modified team owner, driver, crew, and fans. Buckle up, New England.
FULL NEW SMYRNA TOUR MODIFIED ENTRY LIST AS OF 1/26/21:
0 Randall Richard. Titusville, PA
0 Zane Zeiner. Bath PA
1 Bobby Jones. Palmerton, PA
1 Burt Myers. Walnut Cove, NC
1NY Chris Ridsdale. Rochester, NY
2 Chuck Hossfeld. Ransomville, NY
6 Ryan Preece. Berlin, CT
7 Jon McKennedy. Chelmsford, MA
8 Chris Finocchario.Macedon, NY
9 Tom Martino Jr. Farmingdale, NJ
10 Doug Coby. Marion, CT
11 Paulie Hartwig III. Galloway, NJ
14 Bobby Measmer Jr. Concord, NC
16 Ron Silk. Norwalk, CT
17 Tommy Catalano. Ontario, NY
17K Danny Knoll Jr. Amherst, NY
20 Eddie McCarthy. Brick, NJ
21 J.R Bertuccio. Statesville, NC
21 Jim Gavek. Effort, PA
25 Brian Robie. Sunapee, NH
28 Paul Charette. Woodstock, CT
32 Tyler Rypkema. Owego, NY
32X Dean Rypkema. Owego, NY
36 David Sapienza. Riverhead, NY
45 Timmy Catalano. Ontario, NY
46 Craig Lutz. Miller Place, NY
48 Marcello Rufrano. Northhaven CT
50 Ronnie Williams. Tolland, CT
51 Jimmy Blewett. Howell, NJ
55 Jeremy Gerstner. Wesley Chapel, FL
56 Amy Catalano. Ontario, NY
58 Eric Goodale. River Head, NY
59 Matthew Galko. Moodus, CT
60 Matt Hirschman. Northhampton, PA
64 Tyler Catalano. Ontario, NY
73 Paul Hartwig Jr. Galloway, NJ
79 John Jensen. Ormond Beach, FL
92 Anthony Nocella. Woburn, MA
02 Joe Bertuccio. Centereach, NY
07 Patrick Emerling. Holland, NY
158 Michael Curtis. Riverhead, NY
179 Stephen Kopcik. Newtown, CT