Four drivers with varying degrees of experience behind the wheel of a Tour-type Modified participated in a test Tuesday at Martinsville Speedway.
The test session, hosted by NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Preece, saw fellow Cup Series driver Kevin Harvick and rising star Max McLaughlin make their first laps behind the wheel of a Modified, while veteran Gary Putnam also made laps in the car that he owns.
Out of the four drivers that turned laps around the half-mile paperclip oval, only Preece is planning to compete when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to Martinsville on May 8.
Preece, a former NWMT winner at Martinsville Speedway, is excited to return to the track for his shot a second grandfather clock.
“I want to get another grandfather clock, that’s what I want,” Preece said. “I’m excited about it because I have a lot of passion towards racing and a lot of passion towards Modifieds. There’s a lot of heart up in the Northeast and a lot of people who are excited to come back down to Martinsville. The past month I’ve been able to look up some of the old Modified races here, and they were great races to even go back and watch. I expect it to be one that a lot of people are going to want to come out and see. It will be a show.”
Now competing full-time for JTG Daugherty Racing on the NASCAR Cup Series circuit, Preece’s starts behind the wheel of a Modified have become more limited. However, that has not decreased his desire to reach victory lane, and he believes the test on Tuesday will help give him the chance to do exactly that during the 2020 season.
“I feel good. I’ve had a fire lit under me for probably a solid month after Turkey Derby, and really just how everything went between Thompson when I brought this car out and Loudon and then the Turkey Derby,” Preece stated. “It just wasn’t responding the way it should have. We found out thanks to Gary Putnam what was going on, and Wilwood for helping me diagnose what was wrong with it. Now I feel very confident that when we show up to New Smyrna that we won’t just have one good car, we’ll have two.”
In addition to Preece testing his own No. 6 Modified, he also invited Stewart-Haas Racing driver Kevin Harvick to participate in the test. Following the test, Harvick made it clear that he hopes to participate in a Modified race in the future.
As for the advice that Preece gave the Modified rookie before he climbed behind the wheel, there was none.
“I’m not going to give him any advice just because Kevin Harvick is a bada– race car driver,” Preece said. “I don’t have to tell him nothing that he’s not going to feel as he goes through those first one, two, three laps. It was really cool that he came out here, drove over three hours in 40-degree weather and came out. I appreciate that and it was cool seeing him do it. He’s been somebody that’s been one of my biggest supporters anytime I need any sort of help or advice. Between Kevin and KHI management, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
Joining Preece during Tuesday’s test was Modified veteran and car owner Gary Putnam, who will have NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman behind the wheel of his car in May.
“Ryan Preece was kind enough to let us come with him to test here,” Putnam said. “I’ve never run my car here so I wanted to give it a shot and get it ready for the race in May. I love it. It’s everything I thought it was. It was a blast to drive and should be a blast to race on.”
After making a few laps early in the day, Putnam gave up his seat to Modified rookie Max McLaughlin, the son of 1988 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion “Magic Shoes” Mike McLaughlin.
“I’ve never even driven an asphalt Tour Modified before, so Gary Putnam is giving me an opportunity to race a handful of races on the Modified Tour this year, so just getting my feet wet,” the younger McLaughlin told Speed51. “I ran an SK Modified last year and actually ran second to Preece at Thompson. We battled hard for the win there and hopefully we can do that a few more times this year.”
For McLaughlin, the chance to compete in the same race cars his father found success in is not something he takes for granted. The opportunity to race a Tour Modified is something that he’s looking forward to, with select NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts in his plans for 2020.
“I’m having a blast. It’s really cool; this place is awesome,” McLaughlin said. “My dad has won here in a Modified, he has a few clocks, Busch car and whatever else. It’s pretty cool to finally be able to get on Martinsville. I’ve always wanted to drive a Tour Mod, so it’s really, really cool to be able to say I’m going to race one this year for Gary. I’m really thankful for him and Mike Curb, Curb Record, for giving me this opportunity.”
Speed51 will have additional coverage from Tuesday’s Modified test available soon.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51