By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Michael Jaworecki/My Race News
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is headed back to the mountains of New Hampshire.
NASCAR and White Mountain Motorsports Park officials announced on Thursday their intention to run a second Whelen Modified Tour race at the North Woodstock, New Hampshire, oval on Saturday, August 1 at 7 p.m. The White Mountain Showdown 200 will again air live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
The Whelen Modified Tour made their inaugural stop at White Mountain on July 4 — where Justin Bonsignore used a late bump and run to score his second straight win to open the season. Matt Hirschman and Doug Coby completed the podium.
“The last few weeks have been a whirlwind in the best way,” White Mountain Motorsports Park managing partner Cris Michaud said in a press release. “In less than a month, we went from hoping that maybe the NASCAR Modifieds would come in 2021 to having two events in 2020. If the return visit is as good as the first one, the fans are in for a real treat.”
“The Independence Day 200 was everything we hoped it would be,” Michaud continued. “It received almost universal praise from the drivers, NASCAR officials, and most importantly the fans. Right in Victory Lane, drivers were talking about how they wanted to come back. When everybody involved wants something to happen, it’s pretty easy to get a deal done.”
Per the press release from White Mountain officials: “Admission for the White Mountain Showdown 200 will be $30 for adults and $5 for kids ages 6-12. Attendance will once again be limited to 50% of capacity per New Hampshire state guidelines. White Mountain is working on an online ticketing system for the event and aims to go live this coming Monday, July 13.”
By: Kyle Souza / Photo: Michael Jaworecki/My Race News
Two races in, Doug Coby Racing has a seventh and third place finish, and things seem to have taken off in the right direction. After his car owner Mike Smeriglio III retired weeks after Coby won his sixth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship last year, Coby decided to take things into his own hands after an offseason filled with question marks.
He launched Doug Coby Racing, bought a car off Smeriglio, and was ready to roll with 2020. Then COVID-19 hit. And things slowed back down. But now, with two races in the books for the Whelen Modified Tour season, Coby is itching for his first win with the new team.
He’s the owner and driver all in one.
“It’s the same,” Coby said of how different this season has been at the track with his own team, compared to last year. “Everyone’s jobs on the car are the same, so everything is the same.”
In the opener at Jennerstown Speedway, Coby qualified second, but struggled late after a pit stop and finished seventh. In the second race of the season, the Independence Day 200 on July 4 at White Mountain Motorsports Park, he rode inside the top three for the entire race after qualifying second. He would finish third after a wild battle between Justin Bonsignore and Matt Hirschman for the win.
Coby debuted a new LFR chassis at White Mountain, adding a second car to the stable.
“Truthfully I’m just ticked off about second in qualifying in both races, it’s $1,000 per race for the pole and every little position counts,” Coby said. “I’m not worried about points — but second would have been a lot better than third, money wise. I’m not racing any differently. I’m trying my best to keep the car clean. If I had to be aggressive out there I would have been, but I just didn’t have the car really to make any crazy moves. The crew guys have been awesome, and everyone is doing a great job.”
In the Whelen Modified Tour’s debut at White Mountain, Coby, like many other drivers, was originally concerned after practice about a bump down the backstretch, that dropped cars off the surface to the right briefly, then abruptly back on track, hitting the chassis on the ground in most cases. In the race, he used it to his advantage in the final laps, a bit of a surprise to most.
After starting second, he was on the bumper for Hirschman for the first 100 laps as the two worked through lapped traffic. But he lost a tick of speed in the final long run of the race that hurt his chances.
“I was really good for the first 100, I think I could have used the outside on Matt if I was really aggressive,” Coby said. “I didn’t want to kill myself over the bump, but I tried the bottom once or twice, and then decided to see how it was on the outside because we were going to be lapping cars. My car was really good on the outside and really good over the bump. We just lost some every restart, taking 10-15 laps for the car to come in. By the time it did, they had stretched it out.”
By the end of the night, Coby, like many other drivers, were praising how well the track raced, and how much they enjoyed the facility as a whole.
“We didn’t know how to adjust for the track or what to change, but it was a blast. Matt and I were talking after the race, and we didn’t win, or have a car that was driving perfectly, but man, it was a fun chess match,” Coby said. “Usually it’s a chess match between the drivers, but this was a chess match to figure out where you could find grip. Some of the short tracks, when the grip goes away, it’s gone. This track, grip might have gone away where you were on the track earlier, but you could search around and find something a little bit better where it would work.”
With the season delayed three means due to COVID-19, and just two races in the books as the middle of July approaches, Whelen Modified Tour teams are still not sure where the next race will be. The next race on the original 2020 schedule will send teams to Stafford Motor Speedway on August 7 but that race is highly in question due to COVID-19 guidelines in the state of Connecticut. Races at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (August 19 & October 11), Jennerstown Speedway (August 22), Oswego Speedway (September 5), New Hampshire Motor Speedway (September 12), Riverhead Raceway (September 19) and Stafford (September 26) are still on the schedule on NASCAR.com as of July 7. Riverhead Raceway announced last month they were rescheduling their June date for October 17. Wall Stadium postponed their race for July 11, but no official announcement on the postponement was released by NASCAR.
Sources close to My Race News have learned that NASCAR hopes to extend the season to the end of October, with races on October 17 at Riverhead, and likely at least October 24 at a track to be determined. Races at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway and South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway are also possible at some point in 2020. A source also confirmed to My Race News a second stop at White Mountain Motorsports Park, and a stop at Vermont’s Thunder Road Speedway are also in discussion.
But, none of them are set in stone at this point, as COVID-19 continues to develop — so Coby is hoping things become a bit more clear soon and he can plan for the rest of the year.
“Yes and no,” Coby said, when asked if the delay and uncertainty is concerning. “The concern that I have is that if all of a sudden we can schedule a bunch of races, I would be more concerned about that than not racing… I don’t love that they might schedule a race a week or two weeks from now, I think that’s a little bit hectic for us. But they are doing the best they can. To find a facility like this (White Mountain), that paid us a respectable purse, had fans in the stands, and it was blast and not terribly far… hopefully they are talking about a second race here. There is no reason why if they want us here in August we shouldn’t come back to this track, because it was awesome.”
By: Kyle Souza / Photo: TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold
What better way to celebrate Independence Day? The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour made their debut at White Mountain Motorsports Park on Saturday night, and the finish didn’t come without a bit of controversy. It was no surprise that a tight, small, banked track in the mountains of New Hampshire produced such a wild finish during a wild, COVID-delayed season.
Matt Hirschman started from the Mayhew Tools pole position and led the first 193 laps of the race. Justin Bonsignore started third, and rode there early — sliding by Doug Coby after a restart, and chasing Hirschman around the track for the better part of the final 40 laps.
Bonsignore would close to the bumper, lose a few car lengths, then close to the bumper again. All of this while Hirschman and Bonsignore diced through lapped traffic on a track that many drivers thought during practice would be one groove by the time the race started.
It was only one groove. But it also wasn’t. Some drivers used the top to lap others, while some used the bottom to make passes. You could run in both lanes, but the line seemed to change multiple times during the race. Early it was all about the bottom. Later in the race it was all about the middle and the top when it came to the grip.
And that’s what ultimately created such a wild finish.
Bonsignore closed to the bumper of Hirschman when they crossed the line with seven laps to go and some contact was made on the entry to turn one, sending Hirschman up the track and out of the groove. Bonsignore would go on to win the race after a green-white-checkered restart, but it wasn’t the story. The story was the bump.
Let’s go behind the bump. My Race News spoke with both drivers right after the checkered flag.
“We saved enough tire at the end, we just watched the replay, I definitely got into him but he was crossed up and there was a gap between us before I got into him the first time. That’s racing,” Bonsignore told My Race News of the incident. “It’s just hard racing. I don’t think I did anything wrong, I would admit it if I did. Watching the replay, that’s it for me. I know what I did.”
Hirschman had a bit different opinion of the situation.
But first, a little bit more background: Hirschman had been chased by Coby for the first 100 laps, and the two had gapped the field by more than one straightaway. Bonsignore, who was third for the first half, was riding saving a bit of tire, but also admitted the car wasn’t exactly right at the beginning of the race.
“Earlier in the race, the No. 10 (Coby) ran me pretty hard, and he probably saved a little bit so he might have had a little bit more tire left at the end because he got to save some early,” Hirschman said. “During the race, the track changed and I changed my line and the line I was running, I was giving another groove there… I know he was looking around and searching but he wasn’t able to make an attempt to pass other than moving me. He gave me a good shot and sent me up the track and out of the groove and into the marbles. I’m not going to be happy about it because I came out on the short end after such a great race.”
After the checkered, My Race News shared the below replay with both Bonsignore and Hirschman via NASCAR’s twitter channel (below). Both felt the same they did about it when it happened after they watched it back.
“It wasn’t a malicious move,” Bonsignore said.
When asked how he felt about Hirschman being to the outside of him with a green-white-checkered restart, and if he thought a return bump was coming, Bonsignore said: “He doesn’t race that way, Doug doesn’t race that way… we were all leaning on each other on the green-white-checkered. I don’t have any worries when you race with Matt. He’s a professional.”
Hirschman also acknowledged that he definitely had lost a bit of forward drive at the end, and the car was sliding. But so was Bonsignore. So was Coby. It’s the product of racing on a short-track in the heat of the summer, on one set of tires, for 200 laps.
“At that point we had run hard the whole race and used up tire, there wasn’t a lot left there, you’re working the wheel pretty good,” Hirschman said. “I was able to kind of run the line and stay ahead of him. He definitely got into me pretty good. That’s obvious.”
On the last restart, Hirschman: “Coby filled the bottom and it didn’t allow me to get in behind him, Coby got him a little bit loose once… there was only two laps to go. With Coby and I side-by-side, I would have stayed out in that lane… but it just didn’t work out,” Hirschman said.
Said Hirschman: “He drove into me and punted me up the track. We’ll just move onto the next race.”
Earlier in the race, Bonsignore and Coby got together racing for second following a restart, but Bonsignore was able to make a save.
The fun and games weren’t done when the checkered flag went in the air. On the track, post-race, a group of fans were screaming to Bonsignore, who climbed from the car in Victory Lane and chatted with them, jokingly. No crew was allowed on the track due to restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coby, who finished third, joined in on the fun on the track.
Hirschman and Bonsignore did talk after the race. But the record book will show that Bonsignore earned his 28th career Whelen Modified Tour win and 16th in his last 34 career starts.
The win tied Bonsignore with Coby and Mike Ewanitsko for sixth on the all-time wins list.