50th Running Of Whelen Mods On Long Island
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Coming from New Hampshire Motor Speedway - which measures a little more than a mile - the Whelen Modified Tour will head to Long Island for its 50th all-time running at the quarter-mile bullring. The first race at Riverhead took place on July 10, 1985 and was won by Jimmy Spencer.
For the Whelen Modified Tour drivers from Long Island that regularly cross the sound on the ferry for the vast majority of the schedule, Riverhead is always a welcomed event. Of the 30 entries in for the race, 10 are drivers from across Long Island that relish the opportunity to compete at their home track with friends and family in attendance.
While the locals will be on home turf, and perhaps have an edge in experience, there are plenty of other competitors that have had success at Riverhead through the years. Mike Stefanik has six wins to his credit at the tight quarter mile while Ted Christopher has three. Season points leader Rowan Pennink got his first career win there last year, but will face an uphill battle in his bid to repeat as the last time a driver won two in a row at Riverhead was Stefanik in 2001.
Riverhead will also be a good midseason test for the championship hopes of Pennink. Last year's performance was his first top five in four starts at Riverhead, while his main competition in this year's championship chase - Ron Silk - has finished on the podium in three of the previous four events there. Silk trails Pennink by just 10 tallies after six races.
The Lighthouse Mission 200 includes a 25-lap qualifying race and a 175-lap feature, the second and final race with this format in 2011 following the Monadnock 200 in June that was won from the pole by Todd Szegedy.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will go from the largest track on its schedule to the smallest when it heads to Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway on Saturday, July 30 for the Lighthouse Mission 200.
Preece driving for Park: Ryan Preece, who won from the pole at Riverhead Raceway in 2009, has landed a one-off deal to race the No. 20 for Bill and Barbara Park. Park has won multiple track titles in the weekly division at Riverhead, was runner-up in the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event there and earned the pole in 2008 in the No. 20.
Getting some laps in: A total of 12 Whelen Modified Tour regulars have competed in one or more NASCAR Whelen All-American Series events in Riverhead's Modified division this year. Justin Bonsignore is challenging for the track title this year while Tom Rogers Jr. also ranks in the top 10. Other drivers that have got laps in there this year include Byron Chew, Erick and Kevin Goodale, Gary McDonald, Richie Pallai Jr., Preece, Ron Silk, Todd Szegedy, Glenn Tyler and Ron Yuhas Jr.
Brode and Brunnhoelzl join the field: Among the 10 competitors from Long Island on the entry list, eight are full-time participants on the Whelen Modified Tour. The Tour races usually attract a few additional local entrants and this year Howie Brode and George Brunnhoelzl III will give it a shot at their first win at their home track. Brode has competed in 16 Whelen Modified Tour races at Riverhead with a best finish of third in 2003 and 2009. Brunnhoelzl, has returned to compete full-time on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour after a one-year stint on the Whelen Modified Tour a year ago. In the 2010 Tour event at Riverhead, his first at the track where the Brunnhoelzl name has prominent through the years, he won the pole and finished fifth.
Moving on up: By being awarded the New Hampshire victory due to the disqualification of Ryan Newman, Szegedy gained his 16th career victory. He is now tied with Mike McLaughlin and Steve Park for 10th on the Whelen Modified Tour wins list. Szegedy's wins have come at 10 different tracks, but the 2003 Tour champion is still looking for his first victory at Riverhead.
Home Tracks: Fortin, Bonsignore Battling For Title
The ultra-competitive NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified division at Riverhead Raceway has just a two-point spread between first place John Fortin and Justin Bonsignore, who also competes full-time on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
While they each have one win apiece through the season's first 11 events, Fortin has 420 points to Bonsignore's 418. Their point totals also had them in the top two positions in the New York state standings as of July 19.
Defending track champion Tom Rogers Jr., also a Whelen Modified Tour competitor, ranks seventh in his title defense. Ron Silk, who is second in Tour points entering the Lighthouse Mission 200, also ranks 15th at Riverhead as a part-timer thanks to his win in last week's 77-lap feature.
Riverhead, a charter member of the Whelen All-American Series, also features Late Models and Figure Eights among the multiple divisions on their Saturday night racing cards.
Last Time Out: F.W. Webb 100
In the first of three events for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2011, Ryan Newman was once again the driver to beat.
Newman, who swept both poles and races at the Loudon, N.H., track in 2010, did the same thing in the F.W. Webb 100 on July 16. However, due to a disqualification for post-race technical violations, the win was officially awarded to Todd Szegedy.
Ron Silk, Matt Hirschman, Rowan Pennink and Eric Goodale rounded out the official top five finishers. It was a career-best effort for Goodale and the best finish for Hirschman and Pennink at NHMS.
With just two cautions, the F.W. Webb 100 set a Whelen Modified Tour track record for time of race (51.11) and average speed (123.087 mph) for a 100-lap event at the 'Magic Mile.'
Up Next: Town Fair Tire 150
The third of four stops for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2011 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway, the Town Fair Tire 150, is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 5.
Bobby Santos was victorious in the first race of the year at Stafford, the Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST, and Ron Silk was dominant in the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 when he led wire-to-wire. Mike Stefanik has the most Whelen Modified Tour wins at Stafford with 20 while Santos has won three of the last five events at the historic half mile.
Practice is scheduled for 2:30 p.m., with qualifying slated for 5:45 p.m., and the green flag for the Town Fair Tire 150 will be at approximately 9:15 p.m.
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