DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — official series release — NASCAR via Getty Images photo —
For the tradition-rich NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, each offseason has historically brought little turnover among the ranks. Although ride swapping can occur with frequency, many of the drivers and teams remain the same from year to year. Things are a little different in 2015, however.
Most all of the drivers that fans have known for years will still be at the Whelen Modified Tour’s season-opening Icebreaker 150, slated for Sunday at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Champions like Ted Christopher, Doug Coby, Donny Lia, Ryan Preece, Bobby Santos, Ron Silk and Todd Szegedy. Contenders Justin Bonsignore, Eric Goodale, Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat and Timmy Solomito will be there as well. But make no mistake; this is a new day for the Whelen Modified Tour.
At the beginning of the week, there were 37 entries for the Icebreaker 150. Eighteen of those 37 drivers did not participate in this same race a year ago. Four drivers will attempt to make their tour debut, and it will be just the second career start for four others. Five additional competitors in the field have single digit start totals to their credit.
Fans in the stands Sunday will be treated to one of the more diverse Whelen Modified Tour starting grids in some time. Drivers old and young, veterans and rookies, some that are making a return to the tour after a number of years away, and plenty of others that haven’t gone anywhere.
The Race: The 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season will open with the Icebreaker 150, the 127th all-time race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, and the first of four events this year at the famed northeastern Connecticut oval.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 37 cars, including provisionals. The first 32 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (93.75 miles) and the tire change rule is three tires, any position.
The Track: A .625-mile high-banked oval that opened in 1940, Thompson was the first entirely asphalt track in the nation, and was the largest in New England for five decades. Thompson has played host to 126 Whelen Modified Tour races all-time, more than any other track, and is one of two facilities to welcome the tour in each of its now 31 years of competition.
Race Winners: There have been 34 different race winners at Thompson, led by Mike Stefanik’s 15 victories. Justin Bonsignore is the defending Icebreaker 150 winner.
Pole Winners: There have been 42 different pole winners at Thompson, led by Tony Hirschman’s 13. Woody Pitkat earned the pole for this race last year and Bobby Santos maintains the tour’s track qualifying record at 18.237 seconds (123.376 mph), set on April 10, 2011.
Thompson Race Notes
Milestone Seasons: The Icebreaker 150 will mark the confluence of milestone seasons for both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. This is the 30th anniversary season for the tour, and the 75th season of auto racing for Thompson.
Coby Opens Title Defense: Reigning Whelen Modified Tour champions Doug Coby and the No. 2 Mike Smeriglio III Racing team return in-tact for a title defense in 2015. They’ll have to overcome a decade’s worth of history to repeat, however. The last driver to earn back-to-back tour titles was Tony Hirschman in 2004-05.
Preece to Challenge Coby with New Team: Coby and Ryan Preece have alternated 1-2 finishes in the final championship standings each of the three previous seasons. This year 2013 titlist Preece will challenge Coby with a new team as he has moved over to TS Haulers Racing to pilot the No. 6 Chevrolet. The new pairing has already found success with a championship in the World Series of Asphalt Racing modified division at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway in February in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action.
New Teammates with Family Ties: The Icebreaker 150 will mark the debut of Rob Fuller Motorsports’ new lineup of Corey LaJoie and Ron Silk. The team, sponsored by 15-40 Connection, will field the No. 15 for LaJoie and the No. 40 for Silk, both on a part-time schedule in 2015. Family ties predate the new racing alliance, however. LaJoie’s father, Randy, is Silk’s godfather while Silk’s father, Scott, is LaJoie’s godfather.
Goodale, Preece Lead Southern Tour Points: Although not unprecedented, in a unique set of circumstances, Eric Goodale (129 points) and Preece (120) enter Whelen Modified Tour opening week sitting atop the points standings in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Each has registered a win through the southern tour’s first three races. By raceday on Sunday at Thompson, however, the Whelen Southern Mods will have a different leader as neither Goodale or Preece will compete in that tour’s fourth race on the schedule, which will be Saturday night at Hampton, Virginia’s Langley Speedway.
Home Tracks: 75 for 75 in Thompson Sunoco Mod Opener
To commemorate the beginning of its 75th season of auto racing, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will contest a 75-lap Sunoco Modified feature on Sunday to headline its weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program on Icebreaker 2015 weekend. Ryan Preece is the defending NASCAR track champion out of the Sunoco Modified division, which has traditionally contested 30-lap features.
CREDIT: Jason Cunningham/NASCAR PR