SEEKONK, Mass. — After close to a decade away from the cement grounds of Seekonk Speedway, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is on their way back this Saturday night.
The tour will make a triumphant return with the running of the AnytimeRealty.com 150, a race that will surely pack the grandstands and keep fans on the edge of their seats for the entire distance.
Though it’s the first stop at Seekonk since 2005, these tour drivers are not afraid to visit a track they haven’t seen in a while. They are coming off a stop at Oswego Speedway for the first time in decades, and the racing at Oswego proved these drivers are fearless. They take whatever is thrown their way, brush it off and keep on digging.
The drivers have to put the unknowns of Seekonk quickly out of their head, especially if they are in the championship fight. Seekonk is one of the final four races of the season (followed by New Hampshire, Stafford and Thompson) and the championship chase is close at the top.
Doug Coby leads Justin Bonsignore by just 20 points coming into the 150 lap main event and anything can happen around the third-mile ‘Action Track of the East’.
Below are just some of the major headlines going into the race…….
Storied Modified History at Seekonk
Even though there have only been six Tour races in the history of Seekonk, all six produced winners that have long-lasting legacies in modified racing.
Reggie Ruggiero took the victory in the inaugural race in 1987, but following that event the tour didn’t make another appearance at Seekonk for 13 years. In that 2000 return, modified great Jerry Marquis took the win and used its momentum to capture a championship for legendary car owner Mario Fiore.
Massachusetts native Chris Kopec won at Seekonk in 2001, his last win on the Tour after back-to-back top-six points finishes in 1998 and 1999. He was followed in 2002 by Ed Flemke Jr., who needs no introduction as a modified stalwart and two-time title runner up.
Chuck Hossfeld, a five-time top-10 finisher in Tour points and Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series legend, won the 2004 edition of the event and Eric Beers took the most recent Tour checkers at Seekonk in 2005 — driving Ol’ Blue, the famed Boehler Racing Enterprises No. 3 entry.
Prior Track Time Will Be A Benefit
Keep in mind, the Whelen Modified Tour isn’t the only modified series that visits the track — and that may give some drivers an advantage.
Over the course of a regular racing season in the past decade, the track has run the annual ‘Open Wheel Wednesday’ program in the early part of the summer. The $10,000-to-win, 100-lap, open-competition modified event has produced winners like Coby, Chris Pasteryak and Matt Hirschman.
Coby brought his No. 2 Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair mount to Seekonk in July and took the big trophy and the big check home with him — gaining crucial track time with the setup under the hood.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) also makes frequent stops at the third-mile. Bonsignore has competed with the VMRS and so has Max Zachem, among other drivers. Though the cars are not the exact same, the track experience is crucial. It could make the difference.
Track Position Will Be Crucial
In a race where caution laps count, a 150 lap race around the third-mile oval will go by in the blink of an eye, meaning track position will most likely play a big role in the finishing order.
Qualifying will be key. In the six prior races at Seekonk, no driver has started outside the top-10 and ended the night in victory lane. The winner of the race will most likely come from the top four or five rows.
Pitting isn’t going to be a factor. If a driver dips off the track and takes a ride down pit lane, they are going to come back on the track at least one lap down. There is no question about it. It’s impossible for a team to make anything happen fast enough for them to not go a lap down — so pitting is out of the equation.
If you don’t start in the front, it will be hard to get there. Sure, passing will happen throughout the race. But with the talent and speed on the Tour at this point, the drivers in the front at the start will most likely stay there for the entire distance.
I’ve been tossing and turning pondering the question.
It’s such a stout lineup that really, the answer could be anyone in the field.
It could be Doug Coby, there is no doubt about that. Coby has plenty of experience at Seekonk, winning the most recent open modified show in July and also winning multiple NEMA Midget races in the past couple of years. You can’t bet against the man who has dominated the class since the early part of the 2014 season.
You can’t bet against Coby’s championship counterpart Justin Bonsignore either. He is on a roll right now — winning two of the last four races and finishing inside the top five in three of them. His only falter came at Bristol in August, when a part failed on the car at speed and saw him pound the outside wall, ending his night early. Otherwise, he has been the top challenger to Coby in the past few weeks.
Names like Timmy Solomito, Bobby Santos, Max Zachem and Jimmy Blewett are great picks as well. Zachem has been impressive this season and the bullring style of Seekonk could fit right into his style. Santos has run Midgets at Seekonk and Solomito can plain adapt to a track better than just about anyone in the field.
But, this race will be different. It’s time for a young, upstart team to shine and put all the bad luck behind them. At the end of the AnytimeRealty.com 150, Stuart Racing and driver Woody Pitkat will celebrate the big win.
Pitkat had a championship caliber season last year, but came up just short. He has struggled at times this season and hasn’t run all the races. The team is still trying to put the pieces together to score a win.
But they will have them together at Seekonk.
They know the track — they have run there before and Pitkat has had some success. In a race where pitting won’t be a factor, Pitkat will save his equipment, challenge late and put all the bad luck behind him.
It’s time for Stuart and Pitkat to shine. It’s time for Woody to show everyone he needs and deserves a full-time ride for 2017.
It’s also time for the Tour’s return to the Action Track of the East.
Are you ready?
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.
About the Writer
Kyle Souza is an aspiring Journalism major at the Roger Williams University in Bristol, R.I. Souza is Race Chaser Online’s New England motorsports insider, covering everything from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the NASCAR Whelen All American Series and the PASS North Super Late Models.
When not writing, Souza works at the Seekonk Speedway as the track’s Friday night public address announcer and press writer, and is also the Media Director for both the Granite State Pro Stock Series and the Tri Track Open Modified Series.
Email Kyle at: email@example.com
Follow on Twitter: @Kouza34
Email Race Chaser Online: firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow RCO on Twitter: @RaceChaserNews