When news broke that Jimmy Blewett and the Bob Garbarino-owned Mystic Missile were parting ways, the rumor mill began to churn with names of drivers that could possibly take over the legendary Modified seat. We here at Speed51.com decided to come up with a list of 10 drivers that we think Bob Garbarino should give a call to.
1. Ted Christopher – The man known to many as simply “TC” is one of the best Modified drivers of all time. Even though Christopher isn’t the youngest driver out there at 58 years old, he can still get the job done. Another reason why Christopher is the top choice for the Mystic Missile is because he was almost put into the car for the 2016 season. Garbarino narrowed his choices down to Blewett and Christopher before eventually putting Blewett into the car.
2. Jon McKennedy – The 29-year-old driver has made his fair share of NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts with mixed results, which may have a few people surprised to see the Massachusetts native on this list. But McKennedy is a Modified stalwart. Whether it’s a Tri-Track Series race against truly stiff competition or a Supermodified race, McKennedy is always a threat to win. A McKennedy/Garbarino pairing could do some serious damage together.
3. Chase Dowling – By far the youngest driver on this list, Dowling is considered by many to be the next big thing in Modified racing. Dowling has shown his potential with wins in Stafford Motor Speedway’s deep SK Modified class. While the wins have yet to come on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for Dowling, they will. They definitely would come if he was to drive the Mystic Missile.
4. Donny Lia – Lia may not be our top choice for the Mystic Missile but he’s still a leading candidate. Although he’s said that he wants to take time off from the NWMT, Lia has wavered before, only to come right back because his love of Modified racing is too strong. Lia and the Mystic Missile have won two championships together. Perhaps a reunion could be what Garbarino and Lia need to see success again.
5. Matt Hirschman – Some people may now be asking “Why? Why Matt Hirschman? He’s committed to the RoC Asphalt Modified Series. Don’t you know that by now?” Yes, of course we know that. But wouldn’t it be awesome to see one of the best pavement Modified drivers in one of the most historic rides? We think so. We also think that “Big Money” Matt and Bob Garbarino could put up some big time numbers together.
6. Keith Rocco – “Kid Roc” is another driver that has had his fair share of NWMT starts only to see mixed results, but we don’t believe Rocco has ever had an opportunity in a car as good as the Mystic Missile. Rocco could be tough to beat if he was able to sit in the seat of the Mystic Missile.
7. Tommy Barrett Jr. – This driver had all the ingredients to be the next big thing in Modified racing. However, before he was able to reach his potential he ran into some troubles away from the race track and lost his ride with Our Motorsports who has since ceased operations. Barrett hasn’t been heard from much since then with the exception of one or two starts here and there. While Barrett still has to sort out some things, a pairing with the Mystic Missile could be the perfect way to restart his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour career.
8. Shawn Solomito – Even though Shawn Solomito already has a ride with the 1994 NWMT champion Wayne Anderson, we’re still going to include Solomito on this list just because of history. The Solomito family is a history-rich racing family. Garbarino’s Mystic Missile is a history-rich ride. Pairing the two together would be a lot of fun to see, and while Anderson’s car is a lot more than just a field-filler, the Mystic Missile would certainly be a step up for Solomito.
9. Tony Stewart – Okay. Take a second to go back and confirm that you just read the name Tony Stewart. Because you did. How cool would a Smoke/Mystic Missile pairing be? Think about it. Stewart has made a couple of NWMT starts in the past and has expressed interest in running Modifieds again now that he has retired from what was formerly known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Of course, Stewart wants his primary focus to be racing as many events on dirt as possible, but he could still do both.
10. Mike Stefanik – “Steffy” has been retired for a couple of seasons now, but we’re pretty certain the Modified legend could still get the job done. How awesome would it be to see Mike Stefanik drive the Mystic Missile? It can’t really get much cooler than that.
Missed the Cut:
Bobby Santos III – While Santos and Tinio Racing seem to be unsure of their 2017 plans, we don’t believe that a Santos/Missile reunion would be the best thing. Sure, they’ve won a championship together, but the two sides were at odds all season long.
Matt Swanson – It would be cool to see Garbarino put a true young gun like Swanson in the car, but Swanson seems pretty committed to Spafco for the time being.
Patrick Emerling – Emerling had his best season ever in 2016 while running the Race of Champions circuit, but we don’t believe that an Emerling/Mystic Missile pairing would work out as well as the 10 pairings we’ve listed above.
Eric Mauriello – The Wall Stadium (NJ) regular has proven he can beat a strong field of cars by winning the 2014 Tour-type Modified feature at Turkey Derby, but Mauriello has little experience at places other than Wall.
-Text by Speed51.com. Photo Credit: Speed51.com