Right Fit: Les Hinckley III Looking To Add Tri-Track Series Win To Solid Modified Racing Legacy



Les Hinckley III (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on February 20, 2021.

It’s fair to say in the landscape of Modified racing in the Northeast Les Hinckley III is an under the radar flyer. 

A 27-year racing resume is packed with accomplishments in both Modified and Pro Stock competition for the Windsor Locks driver. 

Though despite his successes, the 47-year old veteran is oftentimes lost in the mix of the roster by fans and fellow competitors at Tour Type Modified events. 

“It’s never bothered me at all,” said Hinckley, who sits third on the Modified Racing Series all-time win list with 19 victories. “I think some of that had to with when I had a decision to make when [the former Riverside Park Speedway] closed [after the 1999 season], whether I went to Stafford [Speedway] or not. I never ended up going through the ranks of [SK Modifieds]. I stayed with my Pro Stock and went to Monadnock [Speedway] and Thompson [Speedway] some. Maybe because of that, in the Connecticut scene it made me a little under the radar even though I’m from Connecticut. … But it’s really never bothered me. I think people know when we’re there.” 

In 2021 the mission for Hinckley is to let people know he’s there by getting seen in victory lane as he chases down his first win with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series. 

Hinckley will focus his racing efforts on the six-event Tri-Track Open Modified Series schedule in 2021. He says at this point in his career the Tri-Track Open Modified Series model fits perfectly with where he sees his racing career. 

“The Tri-Track schedule seems to work pretty good for us,” said Hinckley, the 2003 Pro Stock champion at Monadnock. “Six races on average and they’re spaced out usually three weeks to a month in between events. That schedule fits well with the lifestyle that I need with everything. 

“It’s something that it’s spaced out well. It’s something we can plan for. It’s something we can commit to. It’s not an every week thing. It allows your life to have other things you can that you’re committed to.” 

When it comes to those “other things”, for Hinckley, that includes coaching his sons Allen (15) and Garrett (13) in American Legion baseball. Hinckley said at this point it doesn’t look like his sons want to follow in dad’s racing footsteps. 

“There’s flashes of interest,” Hinckley said. “They like going to see me race, but they don’t have a whole lot of interest if I’m not racing. My younger one I think kind of has a little interest in driving, but neither of them have shown a whole lot of interest in working on the cars. I’m always of the belief that if you want to drive them and we’ve got to pay for them you’ve got to learn to work on them. 

“I never pushed it. I know a lot of guys – right, wrong or indifferent, it’s a matter of opinion I suppose – but a lot of guys I think get their kids involved in racing to keep their own dreams alive. I’ve never had to do that. I’ve continued to race because it was my dream, not my dream for my kids. If they wanted to do that it’s something we’d certainly explore, but it kind of really hasn’t played out that way and I don’t push them.” 

The 2020 season saw Hinckley bring longtime Modified team owner Ralph Solhem into the fold with his operation. Solhem will continue in his role as crew chief for the Hinckley owned team in 2021. 

Hinckley said he met Solhem when he was a teenager through his relationship with his former car owner Chuck Montville, who passed away in 2013. 

“We’ve just known each other a longtime through Chuck,” Hinckley said. “Chuck helped Ralph for a long time when Ed Kennedy was driving for Ralph way back. Ralph hasn’t been racing so he had some time to do other things that weren’t his own deal. We had always kept in touch and talked back and forth. We’re short on help a lot of times at the race track so it was a good fit for Ralph to come help. We get along great. Ralph is a really good guy, a smart guy. With us working together, Ralph is just kind of an easygoing guy. He just fit right in with the rest of us.” 

Hinckley ran all four events with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series in 2020 and ended up sixth in the series standings.

He looked to be on his way to his first Tri-Track Open Modified Series in the season opener at July 5 at Monadnock Speedway. But in the final corner Craig Lutz used a bump and run to move Hinckley out of the lead and grab the win. 

“If you get under my skin I can get plenty mad,” Hinckley said. But it takes a lot to kind of get me there. But then I have a hard time holding a grudge.” 

After the race Lutz was unapologetic in victory lane saying: “It’s Modified racing. You have to understand that I’m going for the win, he’s going for the win. He’s hanging on for dear life. I gave him a little tap that he wasn’t expecting and I was able to open up the bottom. We both finished, he still finished second.”

It was an explanation that didn’t sit well with Hinckley. 

“That particular in instance in all my years of racing was pretty much the most wronged I’ve ever been. I’m not a fan of it and I said it back then when it happened and I’ll say it again. I thought it was a cheap shot. I thought he had no shot at passing me. And then what really got under my skin was how he reacted in victory lane, and kind of like boasted about what he had done and he didn’t have any regard for how he did it. 

“I certainly would have been better about it if he had reacted a little bit differently and was a little more humble about it in victory lane and not glorified it. I wouldn’t have liked it, but it would have been a little different.” 

Seven months after the fact the last lap move remains a heated topic among Modified racing fans when Lutz’s name is brought on on social media. That fact doesn’t surprise Hinckley. 

“I think there’s a couple things that play into that,” Hinckley said. “For the most part, I think if you took a survey of most drivers that I’ve raced against most of them will probably come back to you and say I’m a relatively clean driver and they’d probably say they respect the way I’ve raced them over the years. I think being that what happened happened to me with that type of reputation and the fans kind of know that reputation, I think that also kind of played into it. There’s still of fans that are in the seats that are older … a lot of those guys just don’t appreciate a leader getting ruined for a win. So I think that there’s still a lot of people that appreciate racing the right way. … I think you add all those things up and I think that’s maybe why that thing still has legs.” 

Hinckley said his team is excited about their preparation for the 2021 season and buoyed by their results in 2020. This season the Tri-Track Open Modified Series will host two races at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. (May 1, Aug. 14), two races at Star Speedway in Epping, N.H. (May 22, July 24) and two races at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway (June 30, Oct. 23). 

“I think there’s a lot to be encouraged about moving forward,” Hinckley said. “Pretty much every race we went to we were fast, we had speed. I think multiple races we were the car – if not the car – one of the cars to beat. 

“We went through the car like we always do every year. We always look at everything that we can kind of improve. Bob Bruneau has been my engine builder for quite some time now. We talked about where I stood with what I had as far as a power package and kind of where we were lacking. So we’re going to try to help that program a little bit too and just kind of look at everything we’re doing. … I’m just looking forward to getting back out there.” 



Comments

  1. Who doesn’t like Hinkley and smile when he does well? Who remembers a controversial dust up involving Hinkley that he instigated? Clean driver and expects to be driven clean.
    Don’t understand if Lutz executed a strategy and it worked how being contrite in the winners circle changes anything. It not like it was an accident.

    *2014 son Allen undergoes two major surgeries and recovers after a lengthy recuperation
    *Les is operated on in 2015 and first race back won VMRS ‘Victor Johnson 100’ at Monadnock
    *As the pandemic cascades across Connecticut, dad and former modified driver at Riverside Park Les Hinkley Jr passes in April.
    *one career NWMT start at Myrtle in 2017. Started 29, finished 9th
    *Tri Track record since 2014: 25 starts, 11 top 5’s and 16 top 10’s
    *Recent Stafford races. 2017, 10th VMRS, 9th MTS, 9 MTS. 2018 7th VMRS. 2019 5th VMRS, 2020 TTOMS 7th.

    I suppose the engine and Spafco setup are configured for shorter tracks but he always seems to do pretty well at Stafford yet doesn’t enter Stafford opens. Wish he did.
    Hinkley’s are all athletes back to Les Hinkley Jr anyway. Big racing roots but so much more. Everyone says they like someone because he’s a good guy. This guy is genuinely a good guy from everything I’ve read. Has had more then his share of challenges along the way and still is showing up to race and a threat to win.
    Good luck in 2021!!

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