The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour kicks off its season for the second straight year on the shore at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina. As always, a new season means familiar faces in new places, and some new faces in familiar places. We decided we wanted to make sure our Modified fans are prepared with the proper information when they roll into Myrtle Beach Speedway on Saturday, so let’s take a look at who is in what car and doing what this season.
01 – Melissa Fifield: By all indications, the New Hampshire driver is back for her fifth NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season. The 2017 season was Fifield’s best yet, as it saw her finish 15th in points.
1 – Burt Myers: The two-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion will be running a majority of the 16-race schedule and he’ll be doing so for another familiar NWSMT face. Myers has partnered with Eddie Harvey who won multiple NWSMT titles with Andy Seuss. Myers will be missing a few events throughout the season due to commitments to race full-time at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) where he is seeking his ninth track title. New Jersey native Jimmy Blewett will be piloting the car at the events Myers can’t attend.
2 – Doug Coby: The five-time NWMT champion is back with the Mike Smeriglio III team and crew chief Phil Moran for another year. Of course, Coby and his team are once again the championship favorites for this year. Winning four championships in a row will do that.
3 – Rowan Pennink: The winner of the Icebreaker at Thompson last year is expected to miss at least this weekend’s season-opener, according to RaceDayCT.com. Pennink had surgery to repair two herniated discs in his back. Pennink also said that he could miss the Icebreaker depending on how his recovery goes.
6 – Ryan Preece: The 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion will be running a partial schedule this year, but his car, owned by Eddie and Connie Partridge, is expected to be at every race. Preece will be skipping Saturday’s opener and a few other events due to commitments to race for Joe Gibbs Racing in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. When Preece is out of the car, Jimmy Blewett will be behind the wheel, as he will be this weekend.
7 – Jon McKennedy: The Massachusetts native has a partial schedule planned with a chance for more races behind the wheel of the famous No. 7ny for Tommy Baldwin Racing. McKennedy told NASCAR Home Tracks that his hope is to be able to run the full season, but more funding will be needed. McKennedy and Baldwin got off to a hot start by winning their first race together at New Smyrna Speedway in February. However, a crash one night later ended their Florida trip prematurely. The 7ny will be in action on Saturday.
07 – Patrick Emerling: The former Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Series champion will once again return to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for select races in 2018. Emerling will begin his season at the Icebreaker before visiting Bristol, New Hampshire and Oswego, with a potential for more races throughout the year.
11 – Brian Loftin: The 2008 NWSMT champion will be racing a partial schedule as a teammate to Burt Myers out of the Eddie Harvey Racing stable.
15 – Chase Dowling: The Massachussets driver will be chasing the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship for the first time as he and his LFR Racing team have decided to run the full campaign in 2018.
16 – Timmy Solomito: After finishing third in points in 2016 and second in 2017, “The Natural” is hoping to finish one spot better in 2018 and claim his first NWMT title. Solomito is back for another run with the Flamingo Motorsports team out of Massachussets.
18 – Ken Heagy: The Calverton, New York native has scaled back his number of starts over the past few seasons, making just two in 2017. That said, Heagy is on the entry list for the opener at Myrtle Beach this weekend.
20 – Max Zachem: The President of the Modifieds will not be racing full-time this season unless additional funding is found, but Zachem will be behind the wheel of the SPAFCO house car this season.
21 – Ronnie Williams: After joining the Bertuccio team during the season last year, Williams is hoping to run the full campaign with the Long Island-based team this year.
23 – Joe DeGracia: This New Jersey native is making his NWMT debut at Myrtle Beach. According to his team’s Facebook page, DeGracia will make a few NWMT starts this season, but the main focus will be racing weekly at Pennsylvania’s Mahoning Valley Speedway.
24 – Andrew Krause: Krause ran just under half of the races in 2016, but added a few more events to his calendar in 2017. We’re not fully sure if Krause plans on adding event more NWMT races to his schedule this year, but we do know that he will not be at this weekend’s season opener at Myrtle Beach.
25 – Calvin Carroll: The New Jersey native won the Rookie of the Year title for the 2017 NWMT season. He is back this year but with the No. 25 instead of No. 39 he ran on his door last season.
26 – Gary McDonald: The veteran driver from Ronkonkoma, NY ran only the races in Connecticut and on Long Island in 2017, but his No. 26 is on the pre-entry list for this weekend’s opener at Myrtle Beach.
33 – Wade Cole: The Connecticut veteran has started every race the last two seasons in his No. 33 machine. As far as we know, that is the plan for this year as well.
36 – Dave Sapienza: The man known simply as “Sap” has been getting closer and closer to his first NWMT victory. It could possibly come this season as Sapienza continues to wheel his No. 36 machine based out of Long Island.
40 – Frank Fleming: The North Carolina veteran driver will be making a rare NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start on Saturday at Myrtle Beach. This is one of the few expected NWMT starts he will be making as he will be full-time at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) and with the Southern Modified Racing Series.
46 – Craig Lutz: The driver from Miller Place, NY enters his first full season driving for Goodie Motorsports. Lutz took over the No. 46 in midseason last year and quickly showed speed. The plan is for Lutz to run the full season and chase a championship.
51 – Justin Bonsignore: The Holtsville, NY driver is once again back with car owner Ken Massa. Bonsignore has a new chassis this season. The No. 51 will be a LFR Chassis this year as Bonsignore looks for his first NWMT title.
54 – Tommy Catalano: The RoC Asphalt Modified Tour regular will be making his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start on Saturday at Myrtle Beach.
58 – Eric Goodale: The former Bristol winner will be back for another full season in his familiar black and red Riverhead Building Supply Modified. Goodale scored one victory in 2017 in the Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) and finished fifth in points.
60 – Matt Hirschman: “Big Money” is expected to live up to his nickname this year. He is following the same plan as last year, which was to chase the big money races and not commit to any specific tour or series. Hirschman is on the entry list for Myrtle Beach, a track that he’s had a lot of success at recently.
64 – Rob Summers: Summers has missed just one race over the course of the last two seasons. After finishing ninth in points last year, Summers is expected to race the full season once again.
75 – Chris Pasteryak: The Lisbon, CT driver is returning to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for the first time since 2010. Pasteryak told RaceDayCT.com that his plan is to run all but two races this year. Those two races are at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July and Bristol Motor Speedway in August.
77 – Gary Putnam: The Concord, North Carolina driver made starts in a majority of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races held dating back to 2011. After the merging of the northern and southern tours, Putnam scaled his efforts back to just under half of the events last year. As far as we know, that is once again the plan. Putnam will be at Myrtle Beach this weekend.
78 – Walter Sutcliffe: A veteran of Late Model racing in the northeast, this Connecticut native made starts in all but three NWMT races in 2017. One of the tracks he did not race at last year was Myrtle Beach Speedway. Sutcliffe is on the pre-entry list for this weekend’s race at the Beach.
82 – Woody Pitkat: Pitkat took over the Dan Watts Racing No. 82 after the untimely death of Modified legend Ted Christopher late last year. Pitkat will be full-time in that car this season as he chases his first title.
89 – Matt Swanson: Swanson will be driving for his family-owned team this season and as a result it will be a partial season effort.
97 – Andy Seuss: The two-time NWSMT champion will be racing a partial schedule similar to what he did in 2017, except it will not be in the familiar No. 11. At Myrtle Beach, Seuss will pilot a car owned by Bryan Dauzat. He is also expected to drive his family-owned car at a few events as well.
99 – Jamie Tomaino: “The Jet” is expected to run a similar schedule to last year. Tomaino has scaled back his racing efforts since moving south from New Jersey.
-Story by Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo credit: Speed51.com