Whelen Modified Tour Notebook: Ryan Newman, Bobby Labonte Bring Star Power To Richmond Race

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Bobby Labonte (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

Friday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Richmond Raceway will feature a little extra star power thanks to the additions of Ryan Newman and Bobby Labonte to the field.

Newman and Labonte both will be driving for Sadler Stanley Racing, owned by former NASCAR competitor Hermie Sadler and Virginia State Senator Bill Stanley, in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150 (6:30 p.m. ET on FloRacing).

The race at Richmond marks the anniversary of Newman’s debut with the team. In that event, he qualified fourth, led two laps and finished 13th. He improved upon that result later in the year, winning a non-NASCAR event at North Wilkesboro Speedway and finishing third in the Tour finale at Martinsville Speedway.

Newman believes those results show what the pairing is capable of accomplishing in Modifieds in 2023.

RELATEDRichmond entry list | Streaming | Tickets

“We proved at North Wilkesboro and Martinsville that we’re a good combination,” Newman said in January. “Hermie understands the business of racing; he understands being a driver. I can’t say he completely understands being a crew chief, because I don’t know that he ever has, but I think he understands enough about racing that it’s easy to have a conversation with him.

“Senator Stanley is a combination of a race fan and a car owner that lives and breathes it. He’s ultimately just engaged. He’s a behind-the-scenes guy that most race teams don’t have. It’s good to have him being part of it.”

For Labonte, Friday’s race will mark his first time racing a Modified at Richmond. While he never won a race at Richmond during his NASCAR Cup Series career, he did finish second on two occasions.

There’s no reason to believe Labonte won’t be competitive Friday evening.

“I want to go out there and definitely give it my best and learn as much as I can,” Labonte said. “I’m racing against guys who have done this all their lives or some type of short-track racing all their lives, and I haven’t.

“I really feel like the opportunity we have with Sadler and Stanley — we can be competitive everywhere we go. If we’re not, it’s probably going to lay on me as far as what I don’t know about a track or what this car is going to do or things like that.”

After two decades, Tim Connolly is back

The last time Tim Connolly raced in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, George W. Bush was president of the United States.

That statistic will no longer be accurate Friday when Connolly, now 62, makes his return to competition in the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150. It will mark the first time Connolly has raced with the Tour since 2002, when he competed in three events for PBM Motorsports.

Connolly’s career path almost had nothing to do with racing. During his college years, he was a standout quarterback at New York’s Ithica College. Knee injuries forced him to retire from football before he had a chance to reach the National Football League.

Still needing to scratch his competitive itch, Connolly picked up racing as a hobby. He made his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start in 1988 and won for the first time in 1993 at Pennsylvania’s Nazareth Speedway.

He became a championship contender after teaming up with legendary team owner Bob Garbarino to drive the famous Mystic Missile No. 4 in 1996. Despite going winless that year, the two stuck together in 1997, and Connolly enjoyed a career year.

Connolly won a career-best four times in 1997 with an astonishing nine poles, plus 11 top-five and 16 top-10 finishes. The only driver better than Connolly that year was Mike Stefanik, who scored 10 victories on his way to the Tour championship while Connolly settled for second.

In all, Connolly has won nine times in 187 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts with No. 188 arriving Friday at Richmond.

Tommy Catalano seeking redemption in his return to Richmond

Tommy Catalano could practically taste the champagne.

The driver from Ontario, New York was fewer than a dozen laps away from what would have been his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory last season at Richmond.

Unfortunately for him, Justin Bonsignore spoiled the party.

Catalano, who led a race-high 69 laps last year at Richmond, settled for a career-best second during the 2022 edition of the Virginia is for Racing Lovers 150. He lost the lead to Bonsignore with 11 laps remaining as he struggled to navigate slower traffic.

It was a heartbreaking result for everyone in the Catalano family, who were on pins and needles in the pits as they watched the 25-year-old Catalano come agonizingly close to his first Tour victory.

The good news is Catalano is heading back to Richmond this Friday to see if he can do one position better.

That could be bad news for the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour field considering how good Catalano was last year a the 0.75-mile, d-shaped oval.


  • Two drivers will be making their NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut appearances Friday night. Cory DiMatteo will pilot the No. 17 for team owner Michelle Davini, and Bryan Narducci will wheel the Ole Blue No. 3 for Boehler Racing Enterprises.
  • Matt Hirschman will race at Richmond Raceway for the first time thanks to a partnership between PeeDee Motorsports and Baker Racing.
  • A familiar face was a late addition to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour entry list for Friday’s race at Richmond. Max McLaughlin, the son of six-time NASCAR Xfinity Series race winner Mike McLaughlin, is scheduled to pilot the No. 77 entry owned by Mike Curb.

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