As some Modified teams in the Northeast begin to strip down their cars to prepare for the 2020 season, a great number of them are taking advantage of an opportunity to get to Victory Lane one final time in the Northeast this weekend. For the third straight year, the Northeast Modified season will come to an end this weekend with the Haunted Hundred for the Tri-Track Open Modified Series at Seekonk Speedway.
One team that is most excited about the opportunity is that of Boehler Racing Enterprises and young gun Matt Swanson. With both the driver an the team hailing from Massachusetts, Seekonk is right in their backyard. With promising runs at the "Cement Palace" in 2019 in both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Tri-Track Series, the 19-year-old from Acton, Massachusetts is eager to claim his first Tour-type Modified win this weekend.
“That’s kind of the Boehler boys’ backyard. All the guys that work on Ole Blue have raced at Seekonk over the years," Swanson said on Speed51's The Morning Bullring on Monday. "Every time we go there we know we’re going to have a solid piece when we hit the road, just really looking forward to it. Hopefully we can finally check one of these Tri-Track races off the win column."
With Rowan Pennink stepping away from racing late in 2018 and opening the seat in Ole Blue No. 3, Swanson was tabbed to take his place. The 2016 NWMT Rookie of the Year seemed to be a good fit right from the get-go, but even so, there has been a period of adjustment. However, with his family helping to back the BRE camp, things have improved in recent months.
“The family operation after I got the full-time ride with BRE got sold. We sold all of our car and just ended up putting our full focus on Ole Blue and making sure we could keep that operation going," Swanson explained. "We started off kind of slow to start off this year, but as the year has gone on and the end of the year came around, we started running consistently in the top ten cars and a handful of top fives. We really started to gel as a team at the end of the year.”
This Saturday brings a unique challenge for the ground pounders, as they will share the spotlight with Pro All Stars Series Super Late Models, who will run for 150 laps to start out the day, along with the ACT-type Late Models who are on tab for 50 laps as the middle of three features. This will put a strain on both driver and crews to make the proper adjustments come race time.
“It’s definitely going to be tough," Swanson admitted. "When we ran this race last year, almost every time we went out on the race track, the race car wanted something different. We actually tested the day before the race last year, we thought we were fairly good, then showed up the next day and had to throw the kitchen sink at it. But these guys can predict what Seekonk is going to be. We just got to keep working hard and get Ole Blue dialed in Saturday morning, get a good heat race draw and get transferred right in to the feature.”
No matter what the challenge, Swanson expects the 100-lap Tri-Track Modified race to be as competitive as past races have always been for Modifieds.
"Seekonk not having straightaways is a big factor, just because there’s not a lot of speed change; your speed is very consistent around the race track, and it’s a very wide track. When you take a Modified with 15-inch tires around, it makes for some really good racing, and every time the Tri-Track Series or the Whelen Modified Tour goes there, it’s an excellent show."
In the first Tri-Track appearance of 2019 at Seekonk, Swanson led from the middle to late portion of the race before being run down by Ronnie Williams and Tommy Barrett, who would eventually dual for the win in the final laps. Reason being, Swanson had not pitted for fresh rubber, banking on the unpredictable nature of the race.
"That day we didn’t pit for a fresh right-rear tire. We made the call to run the race on the same four tires. I think having a right-rear tire might of helped me a little bit," he said. "But, it also depends on when we would’ve come in to get our tire. The cautions didn’t really play in our favor. We were hoping for a long green flag run at the end, and if we had gotten that, we would have had a better chance of holding off Ronnie and Tommy."
As for Swanson's thoughts on achieving victory Saturday, it will all come down to having the right car to start, but nailing that pit call just right.
"Every Tri-Track race you can never predict what’s going to happen. You can have a race filled with yellows or have one that goes green to checkered. You never really know. We just got to play it by ear, if the race plays out where we might not take a right-rear tire, we’re going to try and hang on to win the race. So, we got to get ready to contend first and see how it goes from there."
Those unable to attend Saturday's Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway will be able to watch a live pay-per-view broadcast of the event on Speed51.com. More information about the broadcast will be announced this week.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor - Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen / Speed51