After much demand from both fans and competitors, Tour-Type Modified racing returns to Epping, New Hampshire’s Star Speedway this Saturday with the SBM 125 V.
The $10,000-to-win race, which is sanctioned by the Tri-Track Open Modified Series, is the second of three $10,000-to-win shows planned by the series in 2016. A full field of drivers, including some of the best Modified racers in the Northeast, are looking to cash that second check at a track that is loved by many drivers.
Two of the drivers most excited for the return of the SBM 125 are Jon McKennedy, winner of the last SBM 125 in 2014, and Les Hinckley who finished runner up in the last two SBM 125s.
Star has treated both drivers well, but for McKennedy the track has played host to some of the biggest wins of his career. The driver from Chelmsford, Massachusetts has two SBM 125 victories (2011 and 2014) and a Valenti Modified Racing Series victory (2008). He also claimed the track’s biggest prize in 2013 when he won the 150-lap Star Classic for the ISMA Supermodifieds.
“It’s a track I grew up racing on back when I was just a teenager,” McKennedy told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Definitely looking forward to it, it’s one of the biggest races of the year for sure. We’ll have cars from all different series all around the East Coast. Hopefully we’ll have a good run.”
Over the years, Star Speedway has gained the reputation of being a favorite for many drivers in the Northeast. But what makes it such a choice track for competitors?
“A lot of drivers like it because it’s a small quarter-mile, it’s a racey track. There’s two good grooves and it typically puts on a good race,” explained McKennedy. “If the car is halfway decent and you know how to run the place, there’s a lot of areas to pass, typically promotes a good race. At the same time it’s challenging too.”
Not only has the track made the SBM 125 the event it is, but the role of pit strategy will also add to the story as Les Hinckley has found out in year’s past.
“With the 125-laps and the one tire change, you can make adjustments to your car. If you late pit you may have a chance to come from the back,” said Hinckley. “We finished second there the last two years they ran it, one time was on a late pit deal and the other time was on an early pit, so it’s interesting.”
Hinckley has also become a master driver at Star in the Modifieds, but has yet to find victory lane there, with a best finish being the two SBM 125 runner-ups. Despite wanting the checkers, he feels that Star has nothing to repay him.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of guys who didn’t finish second that think that place owes them something than it owes me,” stated Hinckley. “I don’t know if you can ever go to a race track thinking that the place owes you anything. I certainly want to go in there and run good again, then bring home the trophy and the money. That’s our goal, we don’t go anywhere without the intention of winning. But, we don’t go anywhere thinking the place owes me anything, but it’d be nice to move up a spot.”
Hinckley enters the weekend with his familiar yellow No. 06 car with support from Wayne Darling and Seekonk Grand Prix. Though his appearances have been limited in 2016, he feels he once again has a Modified that can compete for the big check.
“Without a doubt,” he said emphatically. “Wherever we go, we run well with that car. The only time we had it out this year was the 200-lapper at Monadnock when we were in position to battle for a win and we got caught up in a wreck on a restart. We’re in contention to battle for a win, we’ve won our fair share in the MRS, I’m encouraged by that.”
But just as the case was two years ago, McKennedy brings some of the biggest competition, with the No. 29 team racking up victories from North Carolina to Maine this season.
“It’s been an awesome year so far,” said McKennedy. “We’ve won seven races out of 13; we’ve been up front about every race. Hopefully we keep the ball rolling. It’s been a good track for me over the years, I’ve won the race twice now. We’ll go with the same notebook, try to stay out of trouble and have a chance to win.”
For more information on the SBM 125 at Star Speedway, visit www.star-speedway.com.
For fans unable to make it out to this can’t-miss event, Speed51.com will have Trackside Now coverage presented by FK Rod Ends. Post-race video highlights will also be available next week on the Speed51 Network.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com State Editor (CT, MA, Long Island) – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen