When the track transitioned from 602 Sportsman engines to 604s favored by the rules established by the NHSTRA, the drivers had more power at the command of the right foot. In 2019, Byrne decided to try his hand in competing in Modified Racing Series and Tri-Track Open Modified Series sanctioned Tour-type Modified events at the southwest New Hampshire quarter-mile.
Competitors soon found Byrne mixing it up with them in not just heat races, but also in the 100-lap features. Byrne has started races strong, even leading laps. While finishes at the front have slipped away, he has been able to hold on for some strong results. Now in 2021, he has acquired a proper Tour-type engine.
With one race under his belt now, he looks to go for the gold in the Modified Racing Series season opener at Monadnock this Saturday night.
“Modifieds; we’re in our fifth or sixth year now, I’ve been at Monadnock since I was 15, so I’m coming up on 25 years that I’ve been at the track, man I’m sounding old. This year Jerry Gomarlo from Gomarlo’s Supermarket, hooked up with us and bought us a motor, transmission, and drive train. We had a car to put it in and we decided to make it a big motor car. We’d see how we’d do with that.”
His best Tour-type result to date, a third-place on July 4 of last year in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series. A race he was in with shot to win to the very end as Craig Lutz and Les Hinckley banged bumpers to the checkered flag. Just a reminder, he was still running the 604 crate engine at the time.
It was amazing. We thought we’d be relatively competitive at Monadnock with the home track advantage and because Monadnock is not a horsepower track. For us to run up front and then finish third in Tri-Track, I was quite surprised. Considering we were only about 400 horsepower and those guys can run north of 650. It was quite pleasing for us.
So why the decision to upgrade when Byrne was starting to find a possible edge with a more affordable power-plant?
“I found the biggest differences with the crate engine is that we were faster early on, but as the tires wore out, our corner speeds matched. So, then it turned into a drag race on the straights and that’s where the lack of power came in. Now, if we can manage our tires for the longer run, we’ll have a little bit for them at the end.”
While Byrne may have added a significant piece to put a major win together, he knows there’s still plenty left to learn. Part of the reason he is always ready to challenge the corps of touring drivers.
There’s always more to learn. I don’t think any of us have all the answers. I love running with the talent and all the experienced guys, I learn so much more from them. I don’t want to say the guys aren’t good at the local level, but racing with the same guys, you get used to the same moves, and the same patterns. It’s good to really pick the brains of everyone around you, I like the challenge.
Despite his ongoing Monadnock campaign, Byrne is eyeing trying Tour-type races on the road in the future. In fact, they have one on the calendar this very month.
“We are planning on hitting Seekonk for the Tri-Track Wednesday race (June 28). I’d love to run Star, but we’ve got to think about the Monadnock points. We’ll see in the future, it comes down to time and money. Plus Monadnock is right in our own backyard, it’s convenient. So we’ll hit all the Tour-type races at Monadnock, but looking forward to trying out Seekonk as well.”
As for now, he feels that this Saturday is the best chance to check off what would be a major career milestone.
“That would be our first Tour-type win ever, that would be huge.”
See the Modified Racing Series season-opening Milton CAT 100 at Monadnock Speedway live on Speed51.TV this Saturday, June 5 at 9pm ET with your yearly or monthly Speed51 subscription.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Spee51