NEW ENGLAND MOTORSPORTS SOUTH for Feb 12th 2016
By Lo Modestino
American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Ford Racing officials announced today they have renewed their partnership for the 2016 racing season. The Ford Racing contingency program, now entering its seventh season, has paid out more than $63,000 to ACT U.S. and Canadian racers since 2010.
The program offers bonuses to any team that finishes in the top three of an ACT Late Model Tour or Série ACT event while using a registered Ford S347JR Sealed Racing Engine. Bonuses are also offered to Ford engine users who win select ACT-sanctioned special events, such as the Bond Auto Parts ACT Invitational and the Vermont Milk Bowl presented by Northfield Savings Bank. Drivers or registered car owners must sign up for the program at www.fordracingparts.com in order to receive their bonuses, which are paid directly by Ford.
The last five ACT Late Model Tour Championships have been won by drivers using Ford Racing engines, with Wayne Helliwell, Jr. and car owner Bruce Bernhardt taking the 2015 crown. Patrick Laperle and Alex Labbé also won the 2012 and 2014 Série ACT titles, respectively, while using Ford powerplants. Helliwell, Joey Polewarczyk, Jr., Brad Babb, Brian Hoar, and Karl Allard all won ACT events in 2015 using a Ford engine.
The 2016 ACT Late Model Tour season opens on Sunday, April 10 with the New Hampshire Governor’s Cup at Lee USA Speedway. Série ACT kicks off its 2016 campaign at Quebec’s Autodrome St-Eustache on Saturday, May 21. The two series will visit a combined 15 different tracks in the Northeastern United States and Eastern Canada.
Buoyed by the intense on-track competition and an ascending television and online following, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is riding high into the 2016 season.
When Doug Coby emerged from the closest championship battle in 31 years of Whelen Modified Tour competition last fall at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, it punctuated one of the most prosperous seasons in the tour’s history. The 2015 success stories are already bearing fruit for 2016.
Upstate New York’s Oswego Speedway and Southeastern Massachusetts’ Seekonk Speedway will welcome the Whelen Modified Tour back to their markets for the first time in decades. Likewise, a host of drivers have expressed or announced intent to either join or rejoin tour competition, while others are looking to increase their frequency of participation from 2015.
Here’s a look back at the 2015 competition, sponsorship and consumption highlights:
Coby, Ryan Preece and Woody Pitkat entered the season finale separated by just four points in the closest championship competition since the Whelen Modified Tour was born in 1985.
The championship was tight from start to finish. The only time the margin between first and second place reached double figures was on the final day of the season.
The final championship margin of 11 points for Coby over Preece was tied for the third-closest in tour history. Coby also edged Preece by 11 in 2012.
Coby became just the third driver in Whelen Modified Tour history to earn three career titles.
With championship podium finishes in each of the past four seasons, Preece parlayed his Whelen Modified Tour success to a full-time NASCAR XFINITY Series ride for 2016.
The 15 championship events featured an average car count of 31.2, up from 26.5 in 2014. It was the highest average since 31.6 in 2010.
Those 15 events featured an average of 6.5 lead changes, the second-highest mark this decade.
Hoosier Tire, the official tire supplier of the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours, increased their commitment by adding three new contingency awards per race that did not exist in previous seasons.
Between the Hoosier Tire Lap Leader Award, Hoosier Tire Fastest Lap Award and Hoosier Tire Most Improved Driver Award, 13 different drivers earned 45 of the new awards.
With 11 different contingency awards up for grabs each race, a total of 165 were handed out during the campaign.
In NBCSN’s first season as the official television partner of NASCAR’s regional touring series, the network televised a combined 14 events between the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours in 2015.
The 14 telecasts provided triple the exposure of the open wheel divisions from 2014.
The expanded coverage resulted in a 41-percent increase in unique viewers over the previous season.
NASCAR’s regional touring and weekly series’ official website, NASCARHomeTracks.com, earned a 10-percent increase in unique visitors and an eight-percent bump in page views in 2015 compared to the previous season.
Modified fans once again showed that they’re among the best consumers of news in the sport as the Whelen Modified Tour’s home page was the most viewed series page in 2015 on NASCARHomeTracks.com.
Outside of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing from New Smyrna Speedway in February, the Whelen Modified Tour also produced the three most followed events during the remainder of the year from the site’s Race Central Live coverage.
NASCAR unveiled the 2016 schedule in mid-December. With the addition of Oswego and Seekonk, the slate features 17 points events, the most dates since 2005. The Whelen Modified Tour campaign will begin on April 10 at Thompson as the headlining event of the 42nd Annual Icebreaker weekend.
After racking up four victories and a runner-up championship finish during 2 full and 2 partial seasons of SK Light competition at Stafford Motor Speedway, Prospect native Nick Salva is ready to make the jump up to the SK Modified® division for the 2016 season and run for Rookie of the Year honors. Salva has carried sponsorship from J.G. Poulin Drywall with Jean-Guy and Brigitte Poulin for the past several seasons on his #98 SK Light machine, and it was their support that helped make a dream come true for Salva as he prepares to embark on his rookie campaign of SK Modified® racing.
“Jean and Brigitte decided that they wanted to see me give it a shot in the SK’s and help me out,” said Salva. “Without them, this move wouldn’t have been possible. I got a text message from Brigitte saying she needed to talk to me and after that conversation I was on cloud nine. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to race in the SK division. I am bouncing off the walls right now and I can’t wait for the season to get started. I’ve heard for years that SK racing is hard, balls to the wall racing and I can’t wait to be a part of that. It’s going to be a totally new driving experience for me with having a spotter on the radio. There’s definitely going to be a learning curve. I’ve driven an SK at Thompson and Waterford and I drove Teddy’s car a couple of times in practice so I feel like I got my feet wet enough that it won’t totally be brand new to me.”
“Both Jean and I are excited for this new opportunity with Nick,” said Brigitte Poulin. “We support him 100% and we believe that he is a young driver that is just starting to show what he is capable of. Nick has an entire team that is behind him and this is a perfect fit for us. The PPP team that we had formed with Ryan [Preece] was the best team that we’ve ever had and we’re looking forward to duplicating that this season with Nick and his team.”
Salva knows he will face a rookie learning curve in making the transition to the SK Modified® division, but he feels like he has a couple of aces up his sleeve that will help to narrow that learning curve. Salva ran several SK Modified® events last season and he can always lean on his uncle Bo Gunning, who is second on the all-time SK Modified® feature win list with 47 career wins and he also has 3 SK Modified® track championships at Stafford.
“I’d love to be a top-10 car every week but as I’m sure everyone knows, I can’t think of a more competitive or consistent field of cars anywhere than the SK Modified® division at Stafford,” said Salva. “It’s definitely going to be a challenge and I think the biggest challenge will be the level of driver ability. I’ve seen Keith [Rocco], Teddy [Christopher], Rowan [Pennink], Ryan [Preece], and a bunch of other guys drive the wheels off of their cars and when you’re sitting in the stands watching them you go, ‘Wow, that was a great move.’ And now that’s what I’m going to be racing against. I’m lucky that the one SK race I ran at Waterford was a 150-lap race so I learned a little about pacing yourself and not beating the heck out of the car. Having someone like Bo to go to for information with the experience he has is an invaluable tool. Like they say, Bo knows best. I’m going to have the same crew coming back and we’ll have J.G. Poulin, Del’s Vinyl Siding, and Northeast Racecars coming back as sponsors on the car.”
The SK Modified® division won’t be the only new division that Salva will find himself in this season. Salva has teamed with Wayne Darling to run a part time schedule on the Whelen Modified Tour and one of his scheduled starts will be the 45th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler.
“We’re planning on the Sizzler and Fall Final at Stafford, Waterford, the middle of season and World Series races at Thompson, one of the New Hampshire races, and Seekonk,” said Salva. “The Sizzler weekend is going to be very busy for us. Our goal will be to learn a lot and keep the car in one piece. With the Tour, you have to know your car and know when you can and can’t push to bring it home. A top-10 finish would be great and if we could somehow get in the top-5, I don’t even know what I’d do.”
The 45th Annual NAPA Auto Parts Spring Sizzler gets underway Friday, April 22 with a practice session for Stafford’s weekly divisions and the Mr. Rooter Trucks. The practice session will be open to the public at no charge. Action continues on Saturday, April 23 with Coors Light Pole Qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour cars, along with heat and consolation races for Stafford’s weekly divisions, the U.S. Legend Cars, and the Mr. Rooter Trucks. Saturday will wrap up with feature events for the SK Light, Limited Late Model, DARE Stock, Legend Cars, and Mr. Rooter Trucks. Spring Sizzler action continues on Sunday, April 24 with the NAPA Auto Parts Pit Party from 11 am-12 noon followed by Stafford’s SK Modifieds® in a special 45-lap feature and Late Models joining the Whelen Modified Tour in feature action.
In the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, the team to beat for the past three seasons has been the team of HScott Motorsports. They have won the last three series championships with drivers Dylan Kwasniewski, Ben Rhodes, and William Byron. With Stafford Motor Speedway adding a K&N East race for the first time since the 2008 season, HScott Motorsports will once again be the team to beat and they will come to Stafford for the 19th Annual NASCAR 150 on June 17 with a five-car driver lineup consisting of three rookie drivers in Hunter Baize, Harrison Burton, and Tyler Dippel, a second year driver in J.J. Haley, and third-year driver James Bickford.
15-year old Tyler Dippel, from Wallkill, NY, has already amassed quite a resume at such a young age.
He began his racing career on the dirt tracks in the northeast at the age of 7 and by the age of 10 he was racing Legends cars and competing in the south. He advanced quickly into the Super Late Model cars running the PASS National and the PASS Southern Series. As a Rookie, he led the National series up until the last race when a transmission failure took his hopes for the title and he finished runner up in the National Series and a top 5 in the Southern Series. Dippel has won numerous championships and awards on both dirt and asphalt and captured his first northeast dirt big block modified win at the age of 14.
Dippel made his debut in the ARCA Series last season, running a total of three races. Dippel ran as high as second in his first start he was involved in a late race incident which cost him several positions. In his third and final start at Salem Speedway, he finished fourth in what was his first ever race on asphalt and he took home Rookie of the Race honors. With most of the K&N East drivers having zero experience at Stafford, Dippel is looking forward to racing at the Connecticut half-mile.
“I’ve heard a lot about Stafford” said Dippel. “I’m really excited they included the K&N East Series race there this year at a track that is so close to home and my racing roots, family, and fans. I’m hoping to have a good finish there.”
When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour comes to Stafford for the 45th Annual NAPA Spring Sizzler, one driver who will be looking forward to the race is Rob Summers. The 2016 season will mark a return to full-time NWMT competition for Summers, who hasn’t run a Tour race since the 2013 season. Summers has recorded 4 of his 7 career pole positions and 3 of his 14 career top-5 finishes have come at the Connecticut half-mile facility.
“Stafford is a track that I seem to have a niche at,” said Summers. “Everything seems to really go good for me at Stafford and I’m hoping that we can do something decent for the Sizzler. I haven’t been to Stafford in a couple of years so it’ll be nice to just be able to go back and get out on the track and go racing.”
Summers will make his return to NWMT racing behind the wheel of the Mike Murphy owned #64 Complete Construction / Fast Track Electric / Hughes Motors Chevrolet that was formerly piloted by Ron Yuhas, Jr. and Anthony Nocella. The two parties go back 10 years together while racing at Waterford and they struck up a deal around Christmas for Summers to take the keys of the #64.
“I know Mike from when I ran at Waterford back in 2005 and I know Ron [Yuhas, Jr.] and his father and a deal materialized around Christmastime,” said Summers. “It’s been a long time, I don’t even remember the last time I ran a Tour car. I’m looking forward to doing it and being a little closer to home. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be competitive. Mike has great equipment and a great crew and hopefully things will go well for us. It would be awesome to be able to win a race this year, especially if it was at Stafford.”
Summers is no stranger to finding his way into victory lane at Stafford during the NAPA Spring Sizzler. Summers piloted his own #11 car to victory in the SK Modified® feature during the 2008 Sizzler and he won an ISMA Supermodified feature at Stafford the year prior. With Yuhas, Jr. serving as the crew chief, Summers feels like he has all the ingredients in place to find his way to victory lane once again.
“I’m hoping we can win a race this season, we’re certainly going to try to give it hell,” said Summers. “It’s kind of a new team and you always want to go out and win races. We’re going to set the bar high for ourselves and hope for the best. Ron Yuhas, Jr. will be the crew chief on the car and I think that having him as the crew chief will be a big help for me. When I tell him what the car is doing he’ll know what I’m talking about and the best changes to make since he’s driven the car in the past. The whole team is real enthusiastic and everyone is working really hard on the cars this winter.”