JR Bertuccio stole the show in the Speedweeks opener and came away with the win at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). The win was Bertuccio’s first at the track in nearly 15 years.
Bertuccio, a native of Centereach, New York, who now lives in Tennessee, races with a crew based back on Long Island. The victory snapped a two-year winless drought for Bertuccio that dated back to the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN). Bertuccio finished 13th in that race but he was the highest finishing NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver. Bertuccio’s last true victory came earlier that year at North Carolina’s Southern National Motorsports Park.
The win is not Bertuccio’s first at New Smyrna, as he also won here back in 2002 but today he beat a stellar field, a field that included former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champions Ryan Preece and Ron Silk, NWMT stand-outs Justin Bonsignore and Timmy Solomito, and RoC Asphalt Modified Tour champion Matt Hirschman.
“We have always had a good car, but today we finally put it all together,” Bertuccio told Speed51.com powered by JEGS in victory lane. “My last win here was back in 2002 so that tells you how long we have been coming here. We have been running here the past 10 to 15 years but to finally have a new motor as opposed to the used one we had might have set us up to be in front all week.”
For Bertuccio, the win on the first of five nights of racing was certainly a confidence booster.
“This is huge. It gives the guys a lot of confidence that we can be better for the rest of the week and drive a little easier now that we have this win.”
Bertuccio took the lead from Jimmy Zacharias on a lap-34 restart. Then he had to hold off Preece for a few laps and then a late charge from Hirschman as well. Bertuccio beat Hirschman to the checkered flag by 0.237 seconds to take the victory.
Hirschman finished second over Preece, Jon McKennedy and Ron Silk.
While the win was a long time coming for Bertuccio, he gave all of the credit to his Long Island-based team.
“These guys bust their ass in the shop all week. Being that I live in Tennessee, it makes it hard to do everything we want but these guys give it their all. I can’t work on the car anymore so I kind of lose touch with everything going on at the shop, so I don’t even know what I have anymore.”
For an on-demand replay of our Trackside Now coverage presented by Jerico Performance of night four of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, click here.
-By Reese Nobles, Speed51.com Mid-Atlantic Correspondent – Twitter: @RNoblesSpeed51
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com
Tour-type Modified 50
New Smyrna Speedway, New Smyrna Beach, Florida
|20||73||Paul Hartwig Jr.|