The Tour-type Modified field for this year’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna is one of the biggest fields seen in nearly a quarter-century. Nearly 30 cars have competed in the first two races of the week, with drivers from the Modified hotbed of the Northeast, as well as drivers from the Southeast making up the field.
The resurgence in Modified numbers this year is something that has generated a lot of excitement for fans, teams, and media members alike. Legendary Northeast announcer Ben Dodge announced over the public address system on Monday that this year's field is the strongest at New Smyrna since 1993. For those who don't want to do the math, that's 25 years.
2017 Southern Modified Racing Series champion Jeremy Gerstner has mostly start-and-parked the first two nights as he prepares for the rest of the week, but the Florida native couldn’t be more excited when talking about the size of the field.
This writer’s first World Series at New Smyrna was in 2015. One night that week saw less than 15 Modifieds take the green flag, and it wasn’t because of crashes in prior nights. That’s just how the field was at the time.
Since then, the field has been consistently growing.
But this year has been a different story. Thirty-one Modifieds took the green flag for Monday’s 50-lapper. Twenty-eight cars started Tuesday’s 35-lap race.
Jon McKennedy won Monday’s 50-lap race before crashing on Tuesday night. Unfortunately, the damage is too severe for McKennedy to return for the rest of the week, but before the race began he too spoke about how great it is to see such a healthy field.
“It’s really great to see. It’s a strong field too. For a few years it seemed like the rules got a little out of hand and people were bringing really big engines down, but I guess Ricky Brooks (chief technical inspector) has changed that and now you’re seeing the results.”
As a Modified fan, a large field is great to see. But it isn’t just the size of the field that has made this week exciting. It’s the quality of the field that is really impressive.
This field has 11 different touring series or track champions in the field, plus a variety of race winners from all over. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, RoC Asphalt Modified Tour, Modified Racing Series, Modified Touring Series, ISMA Supermodifieds, Wall Stadium, Chemung Speedrome, Stafford Motor Speedway, and Bowman Gray Stadium are all covered by this field.
And that depth has shown through in the first two nights of racing. Yes, Ryan Preece dominated the first race before falling out due to a mechanical issue and won the second night, but the cast of characters at the front of the field has been different each time.
Kyle Ebersole finished second the first night to McKennedy with Chuck Hossfeld, Matt Hirschman and Patrick Emerling rounding out the top five.
The second night of action saw Preece in victory lane, followed by Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett, Emerling and Timmy Solomito.
The racing deeper in the field has been stout as well, and the best part is the field is only supposed to get deeper.
Burt Myers and Brian Loftin are expected to be down before the end of the week for Eddie Harvey Racing. There’s chatter around the pit area of other drivers making it down for the Richie Evans Memorial 100 on Friday as well, but so far those reports have been unsubstantiated.
With two nights of great racing and big fields in the books, three nights of racing remaining and more drivers expected to be arriving, this is a great time to be a Modified fan. If you can, be sure to get on down to New Smyrna Speedway. You won’t be disappointed.
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com