The only thing more difficult than having several races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour within the same month is having no races at all during a month. That has been the case with the Tour during the month of May. Following the third race of the 2018 season at Stafford Motor Speedway on April 29, the Tour has gone on its longest break of the season, with no races scheduled over the past month.
But the hiatus is about to be broken as the NASCAR Whelen Modifieds will roar back to life this Saturday, June 2 at Seekonk Speedway (MA) for the first “bullring” race of the season.
Though a number of drivers have been running races outside the Tour, some who stick with the Tour like five-time and defending champion Doug Coby, have not raced since the Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Understandably, Coby is ready to resume the campaign, especially with a track coming up that has treated him and the No. 2 team well.
“We all would have rather been racing in May, but the schedule is what it is,” Coby told Speed51.com. “It’s nice to have Seekonk so early in the schedule this year; it tends to be a pretty good track for us. So hopefully we can end up with a pretty good run out there.”
The extended break has not been all bad for Coby, who works in the real estate business away from the shop.
“It’s a busy time of the year for me. On the other hand, it’s a good time not to be racing so much,” he said. “The month of May is a busy time in real estate, so it’s a good time to have a few weeks with work and get that squared away and then go have some fun with the Modified during the summer.”
Coby’s record at Seekonk has included a win the past two years, coming on the Tour in 2017 and in the Tri-Track Open Modified Series Open-Wheel Wednesday 100 in 2016, a race he and the MSR team will tackle once again late in June.
After a rocky start to the hunt for a fifth straight Tour title, Coby feels that Seekonk could turn things around, but he and the entire crew will have to work hard upon unloading Saturday.
“We won last year and the year before we finished third after leading most of the race. I know both times we’ve gone there with the Tour setup and Tour tire, we’ve struggled in practice, but I think our team is now ready for that; struggling in practice and then working at it using our notes from the previous two years as well as the Tri-Track races. It’s a tough place to setup for, but you never know, we might be good right away.”
Justin Bonsignore is another Tour star chomping at the bit to get going, especially after the one race he had scheduled for May, the Islip 300 at his home track Riverhead Raceway, was postponed to mid-June.
“I’m excited. It’s been a long month off and everybody is excited and anxious to get back to the race track,” Bonsignore said.
The driver of the No. 51 is still seeking his first win at the “Cement Palace,” but his past consistency there, coupled with his overall record on the Tour’s shorter ovals, gives him confidence entering the weekend.
“We’ve run good at Seekonk the years I’ve run there in MRS and the Open Shows,” Bonsignore stated. “I haven’t gotten a victory yet, but I’m pretty confident that (Crew Chief) Ryan (Stone) will have a good race car for us and we’ve unloaded fast for each race so far. Hopefully we can do it again, it’s the first race of the year at a short track with no pit stops. We’ve run really well at those types of races in the past, so I think we’ll have a good shot at it.”
Adding to his confidence is the fact that Bonsignore and the No. 51 team have a win under their belts in 2018 in the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT). He leads the championship standings, but is in a near three-way deadlock for the points lead with young guns Chase Dowling and Craig Lutz.
While the great start to 2018 is a welcome sight for him, he does not want to get wrapped up in the points hysteria too early, but is still being mindful.
“It’s still early in the season, but we’re always conscious of the points, so it’s good to get off to a strong start; it’s better than playing catch-up. It’s not the biggest of concerns yet this season, but we want to keep stacking points, and the best way to do that is to get some wins and stay in the top three and top five as much as we can. But, we’re still very happy with the start of the season.”
The Seekonk 150 is scheduled to begin at approximately 8 p.m. on Saturday night.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / MoJo Photos