With the start of a new season means new names in new places, sometimes familiar names in new places, new sponsors, new teams, and in the case of the 2017 season, a new unified NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
We wanted to make sure the fans of the ground-pounders know who is in what car when the mighty Modifieds take to the track at Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday to kick off the season.
00 – Les Hinckley: One of the most well-liked drivers in Modified racing will be racing one of the most famous cars on Saturday when Hinckley takes the green flag in the Brady Bunch ride. Speed51.com does not yet know Hinckley’s plans beyond Myrtle Beach.
01 – Melissa Fifield: The three-time NWMT Most Popular Driver is expected to return to the Tour for another year of competition with her family-owned race team.
1 – Burt Myers: Myers will be in his familiar No. 1 machine this year, but the driver who will go down as the last champion of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour is not expected to be at every NWMT event this season.
2 – Doug Coby: The champ is back. Doug Coby is returning to Mike Smeriglio’s race team after winning their third straight championship together. Mayhew Tools has jumped on board as the new primary sponsor for Coby. Nobody expected Coby to go anywhere, really, but Coby has had an unpredictable NWMT career, so it’s good that the now four-time champion has finally found a stable home.
3 – Rowan Pennink: The 2016 Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) champion in a SK Modified is expected to be back in the famous “Ole Blue” Modified for Boehler Racing Enterprises for a second straight season.
4 – TBA: Uncertainty surrounds the future of the legendary Mystic Missile. Since Jimmy Blewett parted ways with the team after the 2016 season, car owner Bob Garbarino hasn’t announced what’s in store for the team’s future. The car is not on the entry list for Myrtle Beach this weekend.
5 – Kyle Ebersole: Ebersole has run the No. 5 on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour for the past few seasons. At this point it is unclear what his plans are for the 2017 season, but he is not currently entered for Saturday’s opener in Myrtle Beach.
6 – Ryan Preece: The 2013 champion is returning to NWMT competition full-time in 2017 for car owners Eddie and Connie Partridge. Preece did not run for the championship in 2016 due to a full-time schedule NASCAR XFINITY Series schedule.
7 – Donny Lia: The two-time NWMT champion has teamed up with fellow Long Islander Tommy Baldwin Jr. to bring back the famous 7NY to the NASCAR Modified ranks. Lia and Baldwin will be running a 10-race schedule in 2017.
11 – Andy Seuss: Seuss has won two NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championships throughout his career. The Hampstead, New Hampshire native is expected to run as many races as possible with car owner Eddie Harvey once again this year.
14 – Trey Hutchens: Hutchens ran seven of the 11 scheduled NWSMT events in 2016 while also racing full-time in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. It is unclear what Hutchens’ Modified plans are for 2017, but he is entered for Saturday’s opener.
15 – Chase Dowling: The 2015 NWMT Rookie of the Year will be racing for Rob Fuller in the LFR Northeast house car on a part-time basis. Dowling will not be making the trip to Myrtle Beach.
15FL/70 – Jeremy Gerstner: The Florida native will be at the season-opener at Myrtle Beach with the No. 15 on the doors and roof of his car. Gerstner said they’ll be running on a race-by-race basis beyond Myrtle Beach. He added that they will be No. 70 if they run a race that Dowling is entered for.
16 – Timmy Solomito: Fresh off a career-best year in 2016 with four victories, Solomito will return to the Flamingo Motorsports ride with Starrett Tools as the primary sponsor.
17 – Kyle Ellwood: The Riverhead, New York native recently announced that he will be running at least the first four NWMT events this year after securing a new sponsorship deal with First Data.
20 – Max Zachem: The “President of the Modifieds” will be back with his family-owned team for the 2017 season. As of now the plan for Zachem is to run the full season once again.
21 – JR Bertuccio: Bertuccio has been a mainstay on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour for a long time, but had chosen to stop racing halfway through last season. If Bertuccio returns in 2017, it’ll be with his family-owned team based out of Long Island.
22 – Kyle Bonsignore: Bonsignore finished seventh in the overall NWSMT standings in 2016 with two top-five finishes. Bonsignore told Speed51.com that his plan is to run all three points-paying races in the south starting with Myrtle Beach, but as of right now he cannot afford to run any races beyond those.
26 – Gary McDonald: The veteran Long Island racer is expected to be back behind the wheel of his blue and white Modified for at least a few races in 2017 as usual.
28 – George Brunnhoelzl III: The four-time NWSMT champion is expected to be at Myrtle Beach on Saturday, but as of now Speed51.com does not know Brunnhoelzl’s plans beyond Myrtle Beach as our attempts to reach Brunnhoelzl were unsuccessful.
29 – Brendon Bock: After running 11 of 17 NWMT races one year ago, it’s unclear what Bock’s plans are for 2017. He is not on the entry list for the opener at Myrtle Beach this weekend. Bock is currently a student at the University of Alabama, so that could have an impact on his racing schedule.
33- Wade Cole: Cole has been a fixture on the NWMT for a long time. He races on a tight budget and as a result is not expected to be at every race this season.
36 – Dave Sapienza: Sapienza has missed one race in each of the last two seasons, but is expected to be back in NWMT competition this season.
39 – Calvin Carroll: The New Jersey native made two NWMT starts in 2016, but he will be at Myrtle Beach Speedway for the opener on Saturday. Carroll scored one top-10 finish at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) last month.
40 – Danny Bohn: Bohn will be back in Luke Fleming’s 40-car for at least four races starting this weekend at Myrtle Beach with Dunleavy’s Truck and Trailer Repair as the primary sponsor on his new Troyer TA1 Modified.
41 – Jason Myers: The younger of the Myers Brothers will pilot the No. 41 entry at any NWMT race he decides to race. That said, Jason Myers told Speed51 that is currently not sure if he will be at any NWMT races this year. Myers will not be racing on Saturday at Myrtle Beach.
44 – Bobby Santos III: Santos will be back with Tinio Racing in 2017, but it will not be a full campaign for the 2010 NWMT champion. Santos and Tinio Racing will be running 12 NWMT races beginning with the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) in April.
46 – Woody Pitkat: After running a partial schedule in 2016, Pitkat is returning to full-time competition in 2017. Pitkat will be racing the car driven by Jeff Goodale the past couple seasons. Goodale has decided to step out of the driver’s seat and into the position of car owner for this year.
51 – Justin Bonsignore: Bonsignore is returning to the same team he’s been with since 2010. Silly season rumors typically involve almost everybody, but Bonsignore’s name once again was left out of it because of the security he has had with Ken Massa and the M3 Technology team.
56 – Craig Lutz: Lutz is returning to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with his family-owned race team. Lutz made his NWMT debut in 2014 and ran his first full season last year.
58 – Eric Goodale: Last year’s winner at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN) will return for his ninth full season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour with his family-owned team.
60 – Matt Hirschman: The nine-time RoC Asphalt Modified Tour champion will be making the occasional NWMT start in 2017 beginning with Saturday’s race at Myrtle Beach Speedway with the new Pee Dee Motorsports team.
64 – Rob Summers: Summers has been racing with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour since 1997, but before 2016 it had been about 10 years since he ran a full campaign. Summers is expected to run the full season again this year once again.
75 – Shawn Solomito: The older brother of Timmy is back for another year in the car of 1994 NWMT champion Wayne Anderson. Solomito and Anderson won the track championship at Riverhead Raceway together last year.
77 – Gary Putnam: Putnam has also been a fixture on the Southern tour throughout the years, and has also made the occasional starts up north at places like New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
82 – Ron Silk: The 2011 NWMT champion is returning to competition for the second straight year driving for Danny Watts. Silk scored one victory in 2016 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT).
83 – Tim Brown: The 10-time Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) track champion had not run a single NASCAR Modified Tour race since 2013, but the all-time wins leader at the Stadium is entered for Saturday’s opener at Myrtle Beach.
85 – Todd Szegedy: The 2003 NWMT champion is expected to be racing part-time in 2017 for car owner Kevin Stuart. Szegedy’s last full season was in 2015 in Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile. He then decided that he wanted to step away from full-time racing to be able to spend more time travelling with his family.
89 – Matt Swanson: The 17-year-old Swanson is expected to be racing a full season once again in 2017 with help from new sponsor Starrett Tools.
99 – Jamie Tomaino: “The Jet” is entered in his familiar No. 99 machine for Saturday’s season-opener. Tomaino continues to be the ironman of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour having missed just two races since the first year of the Tour in 1985 according to 51’s The Third Turn.
Well, there you have it, Modified fans. Like we said, plenty of names have changed places, but now when you head to Myrtle Beach to take in some racing on Saturday you’ll know exactly who is in what car.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos