Distance Runner: Inaugural Musket 250 Brings New Challenge For Whelen Mod Tour At NHMS

Crew chief Phil Moran, with driver Doug Coby, expects some new wrinkles for teams when dealing with a 250-lap Whelen Modified Tour event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

LOUDON, N.H. – The history and tradition of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is such that the schedule is dotted with numerous marquee events that in the culture that is Modified racing carry huge cachet.

Events like the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway or the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway carry with them a reverence among racers that is bulletproof.

And then there are the events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Ask a driver of the Whelen Modified Tour what series events mean to them in Loudon and the nearly trademark answer is almost universally the same: “It’s our Daytona 500.”

And in 2018 that “Daytona 500” feel for the series at New Hampshire Motor Speedway will taken on an even grander feel in September at the track’s inaugural Full Throttle Weekend Sept. 21-22.

The Full Throttle Weekend will bring together the Whelen Modified Tour, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series for a regional short track series extravaganza.

The centerpiece of that weekend will be the Whelen Modified Tour running the Musket 250 on Sept. 22. It marks the first 250-lap event for the series ever at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I hope it’s a great event for the speedway and I hope it generates some buzz because it’s certainly something special,” said Doug Coby, who has four career victories at NHMS and has won the last four series titles and five championships overall. “Regardless of how the event goes, it should be kind of viewed as a sacred thing for New England race fans. There’s obviously a huge potential for this to be an amazing race with hundreds of lead changes and a last lap pass in a grueling event.

“I think this race needs to be treated as the special event that it is. Certainly everybody at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and NASCAR and whoever kind of came up with the concept and made the reality of this happen should be applauded because it’s an amazing thing for us. I’m excited for it.”

The Whelen Modified Tour has been competing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway since 1990. The track has hosted the division 68 times. In 1991 and 1992 the series ran two 150 lap events at NHMS. Those two events mark the longest events in series history at the track and the only two times that the 150 lap events were scheduled. Since 1999, 100 lap events have become the standard for all Whelen Modified Tour events in Loudon.

Whelen Modified Tour veteran Timmy Solomito of Islip, N.Y. is still looking for his first series victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He said that hunger for a win in Loudon will only be increased exponentially for the historic 250-lap event.

“I’m hungry to win at every event, but I’d have to say of any race track that I feel like I’ve struggled at the most and I have improved at the most, it’s probably New Hampshire. Going there last year, we led the last race of the season there and we were coming up through the pack at the beginning of the year. We have a fast car there I think.

“There’s always going to be history there being that it’s the first race of that type going 250 laps. It’s probably the biggest race in the history of Modifieds for a long time. Of course you always want to win that first one. I’m sure everybody will be hungry to win that one. It should make for an interesting event for the fans.”

The race will bring an entirely new set of unknown variables to teams and crew chiefs.

Asked what he thinks of building a strategy for the event, Phil Moran, a five-time championship winning crew chief with the series literally grunted.

“Fuel mileage,” said Moran, who oversees Coby’s car with the Mike Smeriglio Racing team. “That’s going to be the biggest thing. We’re going to have one break in the race. They haven’t really said when it’s going to be yet. Other than it’s going to be live pit stops for fuel. We’re going to have fuel at least twice being that long of a distance of a race. I think that’s going to be the biggest thing. We can get into a run there where we’ve seen it in the past where we’ve run 90-something laps of green. You’re going to have live pits stops under green for fuel. That will be one of the key things.”

Said Solomito: “It’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out. I’m sure there will be a lot of different ideas from crew chiefs and drivers on how to execute it just right, but I’m sure it will be exciting nonetheless.”

Moran said pinpoint preparation will take on even greater meaning than ever when it comes to ensuring that cars will be able to handle the demands of 250-laps at Loudon.

“It’s just about the longevity of everything as far as wheel bearings, brakes, greases and oils,” Moran said. “Just making sure that everything is tip top. Because it’s the longest race that we will have ever run. Two-hundred fifty miles, there’s a lot of unknowns for a lot of Modified people with that.”

Coby, of Milford, CT, has 30 career starts in Whelen Modified Tour points events in Loudon dating back to 2003 with 11 top-five finishes. The big purse and custom musket trophy for the winner have Coby excited.

“Certainly the purse is going to be the largest Modified Tour purse pretty much ever with the addition of the bonus money,” Coby said. “… I’m excited. I think we have a great shot at winning it. I’d love to stay out front all day and cruise away, but I doubt that’s going to happen. There’s just so many good guys at Loudon. It will be fun. I think the race fans are really going to enjoy it. Hopefully a lot of people get their camping gear out and go up there and camp out and make it a Modified special weekend up at Loudon.”

Eighteen year old Matt Swanson of Acton, Mass. is in his fourth season of competition with the Whelen Modified Tour and is looking for his first series victory. He has made six career starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with best run of fourth place in the F.W. Webb 100 on Sept. 24, 2016 in Loudon. He finished eighth in July’s Eastern Propane & Oil 100 at NHMS.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Swanson said. “Loudon is one my favorite race tracks to go to. One hundred laps feels like it takes forever there. I can only imagine what 250 is going to be like. We’re going to go to it like we go do every race. We’re going to go open-minded. We know we always have a good car at Loudon. … We had a fourth place finish there. Hopefully we can work off of that and turn it into something better.”

For series driver Dave Sapienza of Riverhead, N.Y., the 250-lap has taken on a focus for his team. Sapienza had a third place finish in the Whelen Modified Tour Eastern Propane 100 in Loudon on July 15, 2017.

“Now I’m really looking forward to it,” Sapienza said. “We bought a new car. We’re basing that car specifically for Loudon. I’m really looking forward to it. You know, over there I’ve learned you really don’t have to have good track position at the beginning of the race, it’s all at the end of the race. I’m always beating myself up because of the time trials. I was never a really [good at time trial]. And most of the time when you start in the back you get caught up in unexpected events. Somebody gets out of control and you get caught up into an accident. But last year we didn’t start toward the front, we started kind of deep, and I was able to work my way through and I kind of learned. You’ve just got to be more patient than anything else and it will come to you. You just try to not drive over your head and just try to be patient and work your way forward. As long as you don’t get caught up in somebody else’s mess you’ll be fine. I’m really looking forward to it.”

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Comments

  1. My calendar has been designed around this event.

    This event with local series headlining will be awesome!!!

    The potential for green flag pitstops is rather exciting.

    This race would be awesome with built motors.

  2. wmass01013 says:

    WELL this should be an interesting weekend to see how this draws both fan and teams wise, if you look at the NEW ENGLAND short track showdown with VMRS the last 2 yrs looks like about 500 people in the stands if that.
    Will this draw more than the average 30 teams the WMT has been drawing? purse I think I saw was $181,000 plus lap money.
    I do hate Breaks in races, if you have to do green flag pitstops then by all means no BREAKS, Thompson 300 never had breaks nor did the Riverside 500
    WILL engines and equipment last for 250 miles of modified racing? Being 250 laps will that still have the drafting and multiple lead changes that 100 lap races have that excites everyone.

  3. Lets just sit back to enjoy it. Then comment on the good.bad.n.ugly. the winner will be big money Matt Hirschman. Or Preece lightning

  4. wmass01013, the big difference between this event and the New England Short Track Showdown the VRMS has been involved in is that the track is actually promoting the Full Throttle Weekend. The New England Short Track Showdowns and also the time PASS ran there before that were basically treated as club events\track rentals by NHMS along the lines of the local motorcycle, sports car and drifting races. Almost zero promotion was done by NHMS for those and you would be lucky to even find them on the track’s own website. For the Full Throttle weekend NHMS is even promoting it at other tracks. There is a huge banner on the back of the grandstands at Lebanon Valley advertising it.

  5. The secret: fresh valve springs.

  6. Fast Eddie says:

    There were 34 at Loudon last week. I would bet the $$ will attract over 40. If the weather is decent, I’d bet they get at least 10,000 people. And I’m STILL picking Bobby Santos #44!

  7. Crazy in NY says:

    “the winner will be big money Matt Hirschman.”

    Nope….the winner will be RYR when all those Pacific Ocean deep pocket teams buy new or totally refresh their Specs for this high paying event. Now..better go out and buy all the valve spring stock you can now that dagenius has let the secret out.

  8. This event is too long in length in comparison to the payout which is about 50% higher than the 100 lap events on cup weekends. The cost to run this event for a team would be huge using 5-6 sets of tires plus fuel and motor wear. Throw in requiring NASCAR rules and license costs drastically reduces the opportunity of many mod teams to compete. I seriously doubt that they draw the car count that the
    Tri-Track events normally produce. It has already been stated elsewhere that Hirschman is not planning on competing so what other outsiders can be expected to be there? Cost vs. Reward ($$$) is just too high for most modified teams.

  9. If Hirschman didn’t run 100 laps at a big boy track, he’s not going to run 250 laps at a big boy track.

    Perhaps intra-race incentives could make it more exciting. Award points and/or $$$ at 61 and 161 laps. No stopping for an intermission, just awards.

    And there does not need to be an intermission at all, there are plenty of natural yellows, and will be at this race.

  10. My guess is there won’t be anymore mods at this race then for the 100 lapper. Don’t think they will get 5k for fans – hope they get more cars and fans

  11. NH MOD CHASER says:

    Gheeezzz Crazy I just bought a valve spring company

  12. wmass01013 says:

    JMB I get that NHMS is promoting this as a replacement for the LOST cup weekend and it is WMT vs VMRS, the WMT does have a strong following. I don’t think KIDS AND NEPHEWS series add much crowd wise and The Canadian Pinty’s series might bring a limited number.
    I would say crowd on past Cup weekend was 25-30 K for sat tripleheader adding all the activities around the speedway.
    Stafford draws 3-4 K and Thompson 5-6 k on good WMT races, what will this draw as a stand alone event with NO added attractions around the speedway is a good question.
    Rich0 does bring up good points in cost vs reward for more teams to compete. Do I hope this all works? yessssss I sure do.

  13. Racers have been longing for an event like this since the Thompson 300 went away.

    I hope the rules are done right. Design the rules for the heavy hitters, the ones that have a chance to win. Let them have all it takes to battle it out.

  14. Muddbus says:

    The 01 will finish 52 laps down……4 cars on the lead lap….2500 fans in the stands….17 Pinty’s cars and 18 K&N East Cars….I’ll go to Lebanon Valley instead

  15. Bill Realist says:

    Please please please run this race first. Save me from a 13 car east whatever race. Maybe run Pinty race before. At least it’s interesting since I don’t really know the drivers save for a few. That at least makes it interesting.

  16. Bill Realist says:

    Everyone is going to bring their own beer and probably food so please NASCAR for the love of god spare me from the rest of the back gate classes so I can get home for dinner

  17. wmass01013 says:

    Sorry BILL IF U LOOK AT THE SCHEDULE
    PINTY 12:15 100 LAPS
    K & N 1:45 125 LAPS
    WMT 3:30 250 LAPS I think yur looking at a 3 hour race which means over around 6:30 if no delays in anything during the day and it is late September don’t know when sunset will be interesting

  18. MadModMan says:

    I don’t think NHMS could care less about what they get for front gate attendance…but if they could get 80 cars between the Mods, K&N, and Pinty’s, and each has a crew of 10…that’s 800 people that need pit access and overnight camping…lots of $$$ right there going to the track. They are selling a lot of crazy add-ons to this race…$1000 camping spots outside turn 4, infield camping for $550 (no electric). And they already announced a schedule and the mods are running last…

  19. What the hell is a pinty? Never heard of them. NHMS should have tried to organize a super late model event for this show. Predictions, maybe 40 NWMT cars, of those 7 will finish on the lead lap, 13 cars will take the checkered those not on the lead lap will be multiple laps down, with the 01 being 83 laps behind. And Ryan Preece winning. As far as the K&N series 22 cars with Burton for the win. And what the hell is a pinty?

  20. Fast Eddie says:

    Could the Pinty’s series be the old CASCAR series? I think CASCAR was the Canadian version of Busch North back in the day.

  21. True race fans will support this event !!! What is up with all the negativity? I think its great that NHMS is giving us this race in place of the Cup cars and trucks. The Pinty cars are Nascar Canada stock cars around 500hp, faster than ACT late model but slower than a Whelen Mod. Now Live Free And Race!!!!

  22. Pinty’s series was previously called the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series and was named CASCAR before becoming part of NASCAR. (the sponsor Pinty’s is some type of Canadian frozen chicken company) The series has been around over 35 years, but never raced in the United States before. The series covers quite a bit of ground traveling from Alberta all the way to Nova Scotia. As CASCAR they used to get most of their races covered on TV taped delay back when SPEED Channel\Speedvision still existed. They run both short tracks and road courses. Would not be shocked if the drew a decent amount of fans to come down from Quebec.

  23. The 01 will be black flagged.

    Sunset is about 6:43 PM on that date. The event needs to move along swiftly.

  24. Just Me says:

    dareal – What rules are you referring too? The tech rules are no different than any other WMT points race.
    RichO – Teams don’t pay for the fuel, Sunoco gives it to the teams for free

    $25,000 to win and if all the lap sponsorship comes through, that’s another potential $25,000.

  25. Just Me, the event rules, what are usually stated on the entry form, such as crew over the wall, gear, tires and/or fuel during a hot pit stop, total tires allowed, etc. Those rules. This event will require several sets of tires and 3 or more refuelings. Let them race, and don’t turn it into a tire mileage or fuel mileage competition.

    This is going to be AWESOME!!!

  26. Seekonk fan says:

    Not interested, these cars,teams are not made for these long distance races.Anybody that ever went to the Thompson300 will know the average fan made 2-3 trips out to the parking lot during the race.The highlight of the weekend was the party in the parking lot,not the race.

  27. Thanks jmb for the info on pintys. Basically they are comparable to the K& N cars, maybe they should merge the two, or maybe run them both on the track at the same time like they do in sports cars. This would give the fans the illusion of a full field.

  28. I’m going and camping with about 8 people. We’re figuring it’ll either be a decent race or make history as the only time mods ran 250 laps at NHIS.

    If it sucks, tickets and camping were cheap and we’ve got campers full of beer and grills.

    It’s interesting how this event seems to be very infield focused, unlike typical NASCAR events. Weekend tickets include pit passes, and there’s a band in a beer garden ’till 10 or 11 PM.

  29. A grueling race for sure but will attrition be excessive? Maybe not. In the last seven 100 lap races at NHMS there have been an average of 3.7 cars that have dropped out due to mechanical failure. Even if that triples it shouldn’t be a factor in the quality of the event considering the high participation expected.
    10 to 15 cars could easily finish on the lead lap and that would be good.
    Bravo to NASCAR and the teams that must have endorsed the race for the most part and it’s length. It’s an experiment and a risk that had to be taken to fill the void.
    They better hope Canadians have their passports up to date and travel well to help fill seats.

  30. Liz Cherokee says:

    I am predicting a top 15 finish for Melissa! A top 10 in this race will send a tingle down my leg! Bottoms up boys!

  31. Fuel is not free. The only time fuel is free is when we run on the Cup weekends and it’s unleaded fuel.
    The $25,000 for lap money is all good. $100 to lead every lap.
    It’s hard to figure that Matt is not running this race. The fans lose out again.
    Every one who owns a Modified and is a fan of Modified racing should be supporting this race.
    For $35 you can’t lose. Just go and have some fun
    If you have a Modified with a built motor you should come on down to race with it. Try to stretch your fuel mileage and make only 2 stops for fuel and one 4 tire change. These tires go a long way. Let everyone else make 3 or 4 pit stops and you will be in the game. Somebody has to be thinking this way.
    This race is loaded with unknowns.

  32. Boogity boogity boogity… let’s going racing boys !!!

  33. Reading the comments in this thread it looks like there is a lot of enthusiasm for this event. You guys almost have me convinced to go. This should be an interesting special event. I hope it is successful.

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