(Editor’s Note: A previously published version of this story read as though the sale of the race cars had been completed. While there is a plan and agreement in place for Rypkema to purchase the equipment, the sale is not expected to be completed until Saturday, February 22.)
A new driver will be competing full-time on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2020, equipped with a pair of proven race cars in their arsenal. Tyler Rypkema of Owego, New York, a frequent competitor on the Race of Champions (RoC) Modified Series in recent years, has an agreement in place to purchase equipment from Mike Smeriglio Racing and plans to chase Rookie of the Year honors this coming season.
Rypkema confirmed exclusively to Speed51 on Sunday that his family-owned team will be purchasing two of the Modifieds previously driven by defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Doug Coby. Smeriglio announced at the end of the 2019 season that he was retiring as a car owner after winning four championships with Coby behind the wheel.
“It basically just came down to us knowing that it was really good equipment,” Rypkema told Speed51. “We didn’t think that they were asking an astronomical amount of money for it, and then we had a good week in Florida as far as racing smart and stuff like that. My father was talking to Mike (Smeriglio) and they were able to come to an agreement that they were both happy with. That’s how that all really came about. We didn’t buy everything. We bought a couple cars and a couple other miscellaneous parts.”
While Rypkema has not competed full-time on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in the past, he’s not a complete stranger to the series. He has six career starts on the tour, including five last season at tracks like Stafford Motor Speedway (CT), New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Oswego Speedway (NY) and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
Away from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Rypkema is a former winner on the RoC Asphalt Modified Series, as well as a winner during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. He’s coming off of a second-place finish in the 2020 Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna.
With the addition of two championship-winning Modifieds to his race team, Rypkema will have added confidence as he prepares for his rookie season competing against the best of the best in Tour-type Modified racing.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster, but we still have to go in with the same level head that we were going to with our own stuff,” he stated. “We just want to finish all the races, not tear up equipment and learn at the tracks I haven’t been to. But that will definitely give us a little confidence booster.”
Despite having race cars that have won races and championships on the tour, Rypkema is modest about his goals for the 2020 season. Most importantly, he wants to gain the respect of the Modified veterans while also showing that he can be competitive on the tour.
“We want to be able to win the Rookie of the Year title and we’d like to be able to finish every race, finish 100% of the laps and not go any laps down. We want to be able to be competitive. We don’t want to be a schmuck; we want to be competitive. But we also don’t want to tear stuff up, stick our nose where we shouldn’t and tear equipment up.”
With an ambitious 17-race schedule planned for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2020, Rypkema believes that all of his focus will need to be on those 17 races. While he isn’t completely ruling out competing in other races, he doesn’t believe that his team will have the time to do so.
“It’s going to be really tough with the amount of work we have this summer to take up any more than just the NASCAR stuff,” Rypkema said. “That alone is going to wear us out pretty good trying to make all of those shows. We’re going to put all of our eggs in one basket and focus on the NASCAR stuff.”
The 2020 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season begins on March 21 at South Boston Speedway (VA).
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51