The mighty Modifieds capped off another great decade that saw a changing of the guard. The traditional names from the first part of the decade have shifted to the likes of Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore and other rising stars.
Coby won six NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titles, while Bonsignore scored his first in 2018 and challenged hard for a repeat in 2019. These two drivers set up a great rivalry heading into a new decade as Coby now seeks a new team to drive for.
The rise of Coby has been impressive to watch because he learned from so many drivers and ran several full seasons before finding his rhythm. 2017 might have been one of his finest runs after he was 16th in points after two races. Coby rattled off four second-place finishes before his lone win of the season. He used consistency down the stretch to lock up yet another title.
Bonsignore had a steady rise to stardom that now his him at the top of his game. At Myrtle Beach Speedway in 2018, we asked him when the winless streak was going to end. He said, “Hopefully soon. I am tired answering the question.” Bonsignore won the next week and every other race that season at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
On the Race of Champions (RoC) Asphalt Modified series, we saw Chuck Hossfeld hang up his helmet this year as Patrick Emerling won the second title of his career. Five different drivers won in 10 races to end the 2019 campaign.
Overall, the decade on the RoC Modified circuit was dominated by Hossfeld and Matt Hirschman. Although he hasn’t won the championship since 2015, Hirschman won four RoC titles during the decade, while Hossfeld scored three of his own.
Hirschman won 35 races during the decade, including eight out of 10 races during a dominant 2013 campaign. Hossfeld won 19 races from 2010-2019, with 10 of those wins coming during the first two years of the decade in 2010 and 2011.
The Valenti Modified Series had a strong showing during the decade with well over 150 events run. In all, seven different drivers won championships along the way. Jon McKennedy collected four VMRS championships, while Woody Pitkat was the only other multi-time champion during the decade with two to his credit.
A big addition to the Modified scene this decade was the creation of the Tri-Track Open Modified Series in 2014. The series started out as a three-race series offering big money to competitors before doubling the number of races and hosting six races during the 2019 season. Matt Hirschman has been the face of the series, winning four of the six championships and 11 of the 26 races held.
Speaking of Hirschman, the driver known as “Big Money Matt” seemed to win almost everything along the eastern seaboard. No, really. It was almost automatic at times that he would be in victory lane. He currently has won the last five Race of Champions and four North-South Shootouts in the decade alone.
His rap sheet for the decade is listed below:
Richie Evans Memorial (New Smyrna): 2010, 2017, and 2019
John Blewett, III Memorial (New Smyrna): 2018, 2019
Race of Champions Event: 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019
SBM 125 (Star Speedway): 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017
North South Shootout: 2010, 2011, 2013, 2017
Turkey Derby: 2012, 2013, 2016, 2019
In the south, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour had some great action up until 2016 when the series combined with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. It’s a shame because there were seven different winners in 11 races that season. George Brunnhoezl, III won three titles, while Andy Seuss and Burt Myers each won a pair.
Speaking of Myers, he won seven titles at Bowman Gray Stadium to pull even with Tim Brown. The pair have 10 titles each. Who’s ready for 2020?
We lost some good friends along the way during the decade, and it was a painful time for the Modified community. First, Ted Christopher left us after a plane crash in 2017 as he was on his way to race at Riverhead Raceway. Just two years later, it was Mike Stefanik who suffered the same fate also in an aviation accident. Not only were these two some of the best to ever run Modifieds, but they were also two of the best short trackers of our generation.
Notable Drivers of the Decade:
Doug Coby was the driver of the decade on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour after winning six championships in an eight-year span.
Away from the tour, Matt Hirschman racked up big wins everywhere around the county in the Modified ranks.
In the south, it’s hard to argue that anybody was better than Burt Myers after you add up his Bowman Gray championships, NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championships, North-South Shootout wins and Southern Modified Racing Series wins.
Notable Races of the Decade:
The inaugural Musket 250 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2018 produced one of the most thrilling finishes of the decade. When Justin Bonsignore and Ryan Preece collided in turn three while battling for the win, Chase Dowling slipped by and beat Patrick Emerling in a drag race to the granite stripe.
Another race that comes to mind is the 2014 SBM 125, a race won by Jon McKennedy after a thrilling three-way battle with Les Hinckley and Rowan Pennink.
-Story by Elgin Traylor, Southeast Correspondent, Speed51.com – Twitter: @ElginTraylor