One of the most talked about young guns in Modified racing will take over the seat of a Modified racing legend in 2014 on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Whelen Modified Tour team owner Chris Our confirmed to RaceDayCT on Wednesday that Tommy Barrett Jr. will replace Mike Stefanik in his team’s No. 22 entry on the series.
Our said he offered Stefanik a part-time ride for next year but that Stefanik declined that offer.
“Mike and I have a good relationship,” Our said. “There’s no hard feelings. I have nothing but respect for him and he has the same for me. I think we were looking to switching gears a little bit and Mike was looking at retiring a little bit and I think the karma together kind of changed scenarios a little bit and this is what it led to.”
Stefanik, of Coventry, R.I., is a seven-time Whelen Modified Tour champion and a two-time K&N Pro Series East champion. Stefanik, who has hinted at the possibility of retirement since August, said he’s unsure what the future holds for him.
“I don’t know, it could be the end,” the 55-year old Stefanik said. “There’s no big urgency. I’m really happy with the way my career has gone. It always could be better I guess, you always wish for different things that could have happened. But you know, if it all comes to an end, I have no regrets. Am I ready to never race again? I don’t know, maybe. I’m not really worried about that.”
Our came into the series as a team owner with Stefanik in 2012. Stefanik ran half the schedule for Our and half the schedule for owner Ed Marceau in 2012. Our decided to step up and run the series full-time with Stefanik in 2013.
Stefanik had two wins last season and finished fifth in the Modified Tour standings. He had victories in the season opening event at Thompson Speedway in April and also at Bristol Motor Speedway in August.
Stefanik is the Whelen Modified Tour’s all-time winningest driver with 74 career victories. He has series championships in 1989, 1991, 1997, 1998, 2001, 2002 and 2006. Over 449 career Whelen Modified Tour starts he has 223 top-five finishes and 300 top-10’s. He had K&N Pro Series East championships in 1997 and 1998.
“There’s no animosity, we just decided to do this,” Stefanik said.
The 18-year old Barrett, of Millis, Mass., arrived as a 15-year old in the SK Light division at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2010 and recorded 14 victories in two seasons at the track before moving on to the Valenti Modified Racing Series full-time in 2012.
He had three victories with the Valenti Modified Racing Series in 2012 and three wins, ten top-five’s and 15 top-10’s in 17 starts in 2013 to finish second in the standings to series champion Rowan Pennink.
“It’s going to be a learning curve for all of us going from a veteran like Mike to a young aggressive driver like Tommy, but I think overall it will be for the better,” Our said.