After being shut out by the weather for the past month, the Valenti Modified Racing Series is back for their second event of 2019 at Lee USA Speedway in the Seacoast region of New Hampshire this Saturday and Sunday, May 18 and 19.
Once again, the MRS features at Lee will be twin 50-lap sprint races, allowing drivers to race hard and reduce the worry about saving their tires on Lee’s grippy but abrasive asphalt. But, there is also another wrinkle in store for both drivers in fans.
In 2018, the MRS decided to add another nugget to the format for its July date at Lee, adopting a ‘cone rule’ for all restarts during the Twin 50 races. Used famously on a weekly basis at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) down south, prior to each restart, drivers choose whether to start on the inside or outside line for a restart by going to the left or right of an orange traffic cone placed in the middle of the track under a yellow flag.
While the conservative choice is usually the inside, drivers willing to take a gamble can take the outside, leading to possibility of gaining positions on the restart if they can maintain their ground after the green flag.
Last summer, the procedure was met with a glowing response from both drivers and fans, including former MRS champion Anthony Nocella, who used the rule to great effect. After getting in a wreck in the first 50-lap feature, the Massachusetts driver had to start in the rear for the second 50-lapper.
Choosing the outside line multiple times on restarts, Nocella gained spots before the green ever came back out, and had the car and driver skill to hold the position gained under green.
“I liked it, it was a fun race that was something different. We didn’t have very good luck in the first one and had to start in the back for the second one. We passed some cars under green, but we also passed some cars being able to pick a different lane than everyone else using the cone,” Nocella told Speed51. “It can definitely help you, but it can hurt you. It plays into the race, you can start wherever your car is working.”
Nocella also appreciates how the procedure was good for both competitors and fans.
“It’s a good way to keep things interesting, especially for the fans who get to see where everyone is going to choose coming down to the cone to pick.”
After running mostly on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to start 2019, Nocella is looking forward to running on the series where he made a name for himself in Modified racing.
“We should be good, hopefully. This will be our first time with the Series this year, even though there’s only been one race. We’re going to go there with an old, but reliable car. We’ve had some good luck there in the past, including last year. We can win, just got to see how it goes.”
The positive vibes towards the ‘Cone Rule’ are shared by a number of drivers, including western New Hampshire talent Mike Willis, Jr., who also made good use of the procedure last summer.
“I thought it was fun and it made it different then a usual race. It added an interesting challenge to the race, there was one point last year where a lot of guys went to the inside and I tried going to the outside to try and get the lead,” Explained Willis. “We were fourth and ended up getting second by the time I could get back down to the bottom. It’s cool for the drivers and it’s exciting for the fans too.”
Willis also pays credit to the MRS for its continuing efforts to promote strong racing over the years at Lee, believing that the Twin 50 format first used in 2016, has been the biggest key to the exciting competition for the MRS at Lee.
“The 50-lap races are the best thing they ever did. My rookie season, we went there for a 100-lap race, and it wasn’t a lot of fun, because if you drove hard at the beginning you were going to be way out back at the end. It’s a good thing for Modifieds at Lee and it makes for much better racing.”
Following a February of ‘hard knocks’ down at New Smyrna Speedway (FL), Willis and the No. 83 crew came out of their corner fighting tough in the MRS season opener at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT) back on Icebreaker weekend in April, finishing third behind home track drivers Chase Dowling and Ronnie Williams.
Heading to a track where he has more laps and consistency, Willis thinks this is a weekend to make something big happen.
“The car was really good at Thompson and I’ve struggled there in the past. We had some tough guys there too, and the two in front of me race there a lot. We were not far off at all, so I was pretty happy. We just got done testing at Claremont and the car was really good running our Lee setup. If it’s as good this weekend as during the test, we have a really good shot at winning either of the races.”
Fans unable to make the trip to Lee USA Speedway for May Madness can watch Sunday’s feature race action on Speed51.com with either a monthly or yearly subscription to the Speed51 Network.
You can see the Valenti Modified Racing Series Twin 50’s, the 150-lap feature for the Granite State Pro Stock Series, plus the debut races for the Steel Sportsman Series and NHSTRA Mini Stock Battle for the Belt. Not a member? Click here to join today!
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51 photo