Over the past month, one of the mightiest teams in New England short track racing has been the No. 25 Roscoe Racing Tour-type Modified team, with Ronnie Williams turning the wheel and car owner Gary Casella turning the wrenches. Winning Valenti Modified Racing Series rounds at Monadnock Speedway (NH) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway, plus the Tri-Track Open Modified Series at Seekonk Speedway (MA), little has been out of their reach.
But with Williams competing for his second straight SK Modified title Friday nights at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT), Casella is turning to another young talent to pilot the red No. 25 this coming Friday night during the Valenti Modified Racing Series Twin 50s at Lee USA Speedway (NH).
Monday morning, former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour rookie of the year Matt Swanson got the call to once again take the wheel for Roscoe Racing.
This will be the second time in 2019 and third overall that the Acton, Massachusetts driver has gotten the call from the Saugus, Massachusetts based team. To add to the intrigue, Swanson recently went toe-to-toe competing against Roscoe Racing at the Tri-Track show at Seekonk on June 26, with Swanson running Ole Blue No. 3 against Williams in the No. 25 over the late laps.
After that spirited battle, Swanson is now set on getting his own trophy in the 25, as well as the fourth car owner trophy for Casella in 2019.
“I’m excited to be back. Every time I’ve run for Gary I’ve finished third. I ran third in the Seekonk Tri-Track race to Ronnie and Gary when they won,” Swanson told Speed51. “That car has definitely proven this year that it is a winning car, Ronnie and the team have been working really hard together. Hopefully, I can finally get one in the Casella 25 and add my name to the list of drivers who have won in that car.”
Swanson made his first start for Roscoe Racing last October during the MRS portion of World Series weekend at Thompson Speedway (CT), finishing podium on that occasion as well. The similar goals and winning attitudes that both Swanson and Casella share have seen the 2014 Star Speedway (NH) Modified champion driver mesh well with the same team that won the 2013 MRS title with Rowan Pennink.
“I think we’ve worked well. We came right of the gate at Thompson last fall where we were top of the charts in practice and just messed it up a little in the race and finished third. Up at Claremont we just missed it for the race a little and ended up third again. If we get the car handling better and it’s more to my liking, we can finally put one together.”
Lee USA Speedway is a track that Swanson has run twice before in a Tour Mod but the last time was nearly four years ago. He hopes that the knowledge that the 25 crew has gained at ‘New Hampshire’s Center of Speed’ over several years will help to refresh his memory in a timely fashion.
“I’ve only run Lee twice. The first time was with Marco Turcotte when I was 14; we ran the inaugural Tri-Track race there. We won our heat race, but ended up having an overheating problem when we were running up front in the main. We went back with the family car for the MRS in 2015 but ended up having a shock problem. We haven’t had a lot of luck but Gary and his guys make sure that car is ready every single race, so I don’t think we’ll have any problems mechanically.”
Once again, the MRS is enacting a format of full points-paying Twin 50-lap features for this Friday, along with a "choose your lane" rule for restarts. With Lee’s grippy but abrasive surface known for eating up Modified tires, the Twin 50 format has kept the action heavy, with no time to save your tires if you want to win. It's a format that Swanson is looking forward to taking on.
“I like the idea of the Twin 50 races, especially at Lee. It reminds me of running with the Whelen Modified Tour at Myrtle Beach where you see a lot of pit strategy go into it with the tough surface. With the MRS splitting it into two 50-lap features, it makes it more of a ‘run what you have’ type of race. You don’t have time to adjust or save your car during the races. If your car is off in the first race, you have to fix it during the break and march back up in the second race.”
This also means Swanson will have two chances to put the No. 25 in victory lane Friday night. With the main goal being to win, there is also a second goal that both Swanson and the team’s primary driver Ronnie Williams also have in mind: the MRS owner’s title. With Roscoe Racing second in the owner’s points race to the No. 83 Willis Racing team by just four points, it also means two opportunities to take over the top spot.
“It would be awesome to finally win one for Gary. He and Ronnie have been stellar with their three wins; they don’t mess around when they go to the race track," Swanson stated. "Gary is the same with everybody who runs his cars. I know that’s the goal when I get the chance to drive it. Gary is also going for the owner’s championship with MRS this year, so with Ronnie running for the SK championship at Stafford on Friday, I normally get the call from Gary to fill in. That’s become a goal for Ronnie and I, is to get that owner’s championship for Gary. Hopefully we can continue to work together to make that happen.”
MRS officials have also put up a $500 bonus for a driver that can sweep both 50-lap features at Lee USA Speedway this Friday, an extra carrot which will keep Swanson, as well as fellow drivers such as points leader Mike Willis Jr. up on their steering wheels.
Race fans unable to make the trek to Lee, New Hampshire on Friday, as well as those around the globe can see all the Valenti Modified Racing Series during the Summer Heat Twin 50’s live on Speed51’s Summer Thunder TV presented by PFC Brakes.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor - Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com