Decade To Dominance: Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series Celebrates 10 Years Of Perennial Growth

The updated Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series trailer celebrating the division’s 10th year in 2023 (Photo: Courtesy Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series)

On May 11, 2014 Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H. came to life with the rumbling sounds of Tour Type Modifieds in action for the first ever Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series event.

Days before the event took place, series co-founder Jim Schaefer said: “I’m like a 9-year old again and just having a little party.” 

Today, in the crowded landscape of Tour Type Modified racing in the Northeast, that little party is now a big-time player. The Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series will celebrate 10 years in business in 2023. A decade that saw the series meteorically go from nothing to becoming the most highly supported, competitive and arguably healthiest Tour Type Modified series in the country. 

“I don’t think there’s a tougher field in Modified racing for a series than what you get with the [Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series],” seven-time series champion Matt Hirschman said. “That idea, in the beginning, might have been met with some resistance, but I think there’s a lot more in agreement about that now than are against that. I think when you average the field from top to bottom, I believe it’s the toughest field in Modified racing. Something like the Spring Sizzler could be above it, but that’s a one-off. As far as a series I believe that’s true though, event to event, it’s the toughest field around.

“From the beginning there was just a passion for Modified racing and seeing events prosper. I see that same vision today of having a platform for Modified racing that doesn’t involve some of the costs that you could have racing elsewhere. You can support all of the events or you can come to just a few and it’s a series that can make sense for a lot of teams based on where budgets are or how far you’re looking to travel.”

Said veteran Modified racer Chris Pasteryak: “[The Tri-Track is] really the toughest deal going right now when it comes to Modified events. When you go to a Tri-Track race you’re worried about just making the show. NASCAR doesn’t have that kind of competition anymore.” 

Under the watch of managing partners Wayne Darling and Ed Bennett, the series kicks off its 10th season on May 28 at Thunder Road International Speedbowl in Barre, Vermont. 

“My wife [Renee Dupuis] always says: ’Teamwork makes the dream work, get in the boat and row.’” Bennett said. “And I think what we have going on now is that everyone involved, the staff – which is second to none – our marketing partners, car owners, drivers, crew people and the tracks have all bought into this. And it’s really pushing it ahead. I believe at this point in time the series has developed an identity and sort of like even more of a personality. I really like where it’s going. I think [Darling] and I are just enjoying it and we’ll just see where it takes us.” 

Said Modified racing veteran Les Hinckley III, a longtime fixture at series events: “I don’t know if I could have ever predicted it would be a series getting like 50 cars at a place like Stafford [Speedway]. I don’t think you could have predicted how it would grow or the success it would have. Growth doesn’t always equate to success. I think it’s a really a testament to the different levels of management and the steps that it’s gone through because every step of the way the growth has been successful for the series. I commend them for that. I don’t think anyone could have predicted where they have taken it to with the minimal amount of hiccups they’ve had.” 

Early Days

Before 2014 Schaefer, a longtime Modified racing fan, had built a reputation around the sport as someone who had helped to generate additional purse money for various events. Prior to the 2014 season Schaefer teamed with longtime Northeast racing promoter Dick Williams and born was the concept of what was known then as the Tri-Track Open Modified Series. 

Schaefer and Williams wanted to create a series where nearly the entirety of all financial income surrounding putting on events went back to the teams who participated. They created a purse structure that not only paid well at the top but also was strong at the back end, and even paid those who didn’t qualify for the main event. They also wanted to have a series that primarily ran on bullrings so that car setup and driving ability was showcased in events rather than costly big motors. 

The first season saw the series scheduling events at Lee, Star Speedway in Epping, N.H. and Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Mass. 

“At that time, when it started, I wasn’t really committed to anything specific,” Hirschman said. “I was really dabbling in racing in a lot of different series’ and events, where most teams would stick to one certain thing and that’s what they focused on. … It really played right into my wheelhouse you could say of what I was doing and what I’m still doing now. Even though it created a mini-series where you can become a champion of the series, it still to me was more about the open type concept.” 

Then 14-year old Matt Swanson was one of four heat race winners in the series’ first event in 2014 at Lee. 

“That makes me feel old,” Swanson said. But I think we all saw the potential was there for something really cool happening with what was going on that day.”

Hirschman won the first series event, with Ryan Preece finishing second and Dennis Perry third. 

Jim Schaefer (left), Dennis Perry (third from left), Matt Hirschman (center), Ryan Preece (third from right) and Dick Williams (second from right) following the first Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series event on May 11, 2014 at Lee USA Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

Pasteryak was one of the 35 drivers entered in the first event, finishing 13th that day at Lee.

“The need was there,” Pasteryak said. “Something that was a viable alternative to the [NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour] where guys could run just locally and run for really good purses. When Jim and Dick started it there were plenty of cars looking for that sort of thing. They kind of unified the tire and put together some extra purse. They started with a few races and they drew really good car counts.”

Jon McKennedy won the second series event at Star and Tommy Barrett Jr. won the third race of the 2014 season at Seekonk. The season ended with the series averaging 37 cars per event and McKennedy as the first series champion.

The 2015 season saw the division’s schedule grow to five events with two races at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and single events at Lee, Seekonk and Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. Pasteryak, Hirschman, Woody Pitkat, Ron Silk and Richard Savary won series events in 2015 with Hirschman winning the first of his seven series titles. 

The series held four events in 2016, with two at Waterford and single events at Star and Seekonk.

Darling had long fielded cars on the former NASCAR Busch North Series and the Whelen Modified Tour. He won a Whelen Modified Tour championship in 2012 with driver Doug Coby. By 2016 Darling had grown frustrated with NASCAR. Like Darling, Mark Pennink had also owned a Whelen Modified Tour team, fielding a car for his son Rowan. Mark Pennink folded the team following the 2015 season. 

“We were in agreement that we didn’t like the direction of where a lot things were going with NASCAR or how we were being treated,” Darling said. “It was getting so expensive and it took all the fun out of it. I always said when I wasn’t having fun anymore I was going to get out. Racers don’t want to be lied to. They want to feel like they’re appreciated. When it got to the point that I didn’t feel like I was being appreciated by NASCAR it was time to do something else. Then I did get out of the Tour and I went over to do the Tri-Track stuff with my team and it was fun again. I really wanted to support what they were doing.” 

Before the end of the 2016 season Williams and Schaefer indicated to some that the series would likely fold due to financial constraints.

“Dick Williams told me they were all done, they were going to shut the thing down,” Darling said. “I said to Mark [Pennink], “What do you think? You think you and I could do it?’ So Mark and I got together and took it over. We decided that we were going to give it a try.” 

Darling and Mark Pennink took over operations of the series before the 2017 season with Williams and Schaefer staying with the series in advisory roles. 

“We took what they were having trouble with and we fixed those issues,” Darling said. “We made it where tracks wanted us and we didn’t have to go out and rent the tracks just to put on the races.” 

Said Mark Pennink: “The whole goal of the thing was to give back every penny to the racer. … That was a big difference in what other people were doing out there and I think it was really one of the reasons that it was continuing to grow the way it was.” 

During the 2018 racing season Rowan Pennink sustained a career ending back injury. With his son out of racing, Mark Pennink decided to step away from his role with the Tri-Track Series. 

“I just could not in good faith be a part of that and not go to every race,” Mark Pennink said. “And without Rowan racing that just wasn’t going to happen. It was just the right thing for me to do at the time.” 

It left Darling looking for a partner to replace Mark Pennink. 

Like Darling, Bennett had been a longtime car owner on the Whelen Modified Tour who had become disillusioned with the structure of the series under NASCAR’s watch. 

From 2006 to 2008 Bennett and Darling brought their teams together to run Hirschman full-time on the Whelen Modified Tour. Under the Bennett/Darling partnership Hirschman ended up finishing third in the Whelen Modified Tour series standings in 2007 and second in 2008. 

When Mark Pennink decided to walk away from the Tri-Track series he and Darling, approached Bennett. 

“I did not want to get involved with the series,” Bennett said. “It was six months of Mark and Wayne kind of talking to me about it. Truthfully, at that point in my life, I wasn’t really interested. I had been to Tri-Track races. I thought the racing was Ok, but I wasn’t really a fan of the events. So it really got down to my relationship with Wayne and he had just said that he really needed help. Renee and I talked about it and I thought ‘What the hell, I’m not really doing anything and I’m going to give it a try.’ And it’s worked out and I’m obviously glad I did that.” 

Wayne Darling (left) and Ed Bennett (right) (Photo: Courtesy Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series)

Under the management of Darling and Bennett, in 2019 the series hosted six events, with two races at Seekonk and single events at Star, Monadnock, Claremont (N.H.) Motorsports Park and Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford, Me. The series was averaging 33 cars per event and was regularly attracting many of the top drivers from across the Modified landscape. 

Following the 2019 season series management parted ways with Schaefer and Williams. 

“Dick said he wanted it back,” Darling said. “‘No, no, no, you gave it up. Now that we’ve built it into this you want it back?’ It didn’t work that way. We decided it was best to just move on from them at that point.” 

Positive For COVID

The Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series had plans for another six-event schedule in 2020, but then the world changed with the COVID-19 pandemic that hit early in the year.

With lockdowns and crowd restrictions in place, the series was unable to run the first three events of their original schedule. And while many short tracks and touring divisions suffered deep wounds in 2020 due to issues surrounding the pandemic and restrictions placed on public events, the Tri-Track Series actually saw growth in numerous facets. 

“When the world was shutdown Wayne and I spent a lot of time talking on the phone,” Bennett said. “We both agreed that we would stay home before we would cut our purses. As a matter of fact that year an operator insisted on giving us a cut and we simply didn’t go there. Not only did we not cut the purse, but we raised them. We made an investment in ourselves and I think it paid off.” 

The original 2020 schedule for the series had two events tabbed for Seekonk, with Open Wheel Wednesday scheduled for early July and the Haunted Hundred for late October. COVID restrictions in Massachusetts put a halt to any racing shows at Seekonk that season. But losing Seekonk ended up opening an unexpected door for series management. 

Management at Stafford Speedway approached Tri-Track officials and offered to host a late October event for the series at the historic half-mile. The Modified Classic 81 on Oct. 24, 2020 blew up into one of the most highly anticipated Tour Type Modified events in decades, with an entry list of over 50 cars that included nearly every top-name in Modified racing.

“It was unfortunate that Seekonk never got to open, but then [Stafford Speedway owner] Mark Arute approached us about doing the Modified Classic at Stafford and I think that helped put us on the map a little bit,” Bennett said. “It was a widely televised event, it got 52 cars and I think it pushed us ahead a little faster than maybe we would have gotten without that.” 

The 2020 season saw the Tri-Track average 37 cars per event while the Whelen Modified Tour saw its average car count drop from 32 cars in 2019 to 29 cars in 2020. 

Tri-Track returned to a six event schedule in 2021 with the series averaging 32 cars per event that season. Across the way the Whelen Modified Tour saw it’s car count take a significant drop to a 25-car average in 2021. 

“The fields that the Tri-Track was starting were way more competitive than what the Whelen [Modified Tour] was putting out,” Mark Pennink said. “The top-10 on the Whelen Modified Tour are really competitive, but the bottom 10 are really pretty poor. It was way tougher to get into a Tri-Track race and there was competition from top to bottom of the field. On the Whelen Tour everybody that showed up made the race.” 

With car counts staying strong, Tri-Track officials went to work for the 2022 season in improving the schedule. Seven events marked the most in series history. The schedule included a first-time visit to Thunder Road, an August return to the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and a spot as the division replacing the Whelen Modified Tour as the anchor for the NAPA Fall Final at Stafford. Tri-Track saw a jump in car count for 2022 at 35 cars per event while the Whelen Modified Tour car count remained stagnant for the season at 26. 

“I feel like the [Whelen Modified Tour], throughout the last decade, whoever the top three or four really good cars are are the ones that are just always up front in qualifying, or leading the most laps or winning races,” Pitkat said. “It’s been like that for 10 years plus. Where the Tri-Track, I feel like the competition is much harder. On any given race day with the Tri-Track you probably have 18-20 cars that could really have a shot at winning. Look at 2022, you had a guy like Dana DiMatteo winning at Waterford, a guy who you could call a sleeper. You had Jake Johnson win at Star with very limited Modified starts. It just shows you right there the positivity and parity in the structure and competition of that series. Obviously [Hirschman] has been really good in that series, but it seems like each year the competition gets deeper and deeper.” 

Battle For Supremacy

As is the case in any type of competitive venue, the argument over who reigns as the top dog is always there and in 2023 across the landscape of Tour Type Modified racing the argument is often raised, has the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series supplanted the Whelen Modified Tour as the top touring Modified series? 

It’s a debate Darling never expected to be a part of. 

“I never thought we’d compete with the [Whelen Modified] Tour,” Darling said. “Sometimes I can’t believe that it is what is and what it’s become. Racing is my passion. It’s not my business, it’s my passion. It’s a hobby. I’m just lucky enough to have a hobby that I like that is so much fun and has been so successful.” 

When it comes to the opinions of those who have made the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series home over the Whelen Modified Tour, many credit Bennett and Darling’s experience and history as race team owners for the division’s continued postive growth.

“They’re racers running a series for racers,” Pasteryak said. “And we’re lucky that everybody that has been involved with the Tri-Track Series, they were doing it because they loved it and they wanted it to succeed. They weren’t doing it because they needed a 9-5 job Monday through Friday. And when you’re running something like a business versus running something like a passion you’re going to run it two totally different ways. NASCAR does what they do and I can kind of understand why they do some of the stuff they do, because it’s their business. We’re lucky to have a series around here that we can go and run and it’s run by people who love Modified racing and they do everything because they want to do it not because they have to do it.” 

Said Swanson: “[Bennett and Darling] know what we go through every week to get to the race track because they’ve done it before. They know what it takes to get a car to the track. They’ve been around a long time and in my opinion, with them having that background, it makes the series that much better. If you have a guy that stayed up all night putting a motor in his car to get there and he doesn’t make it out in time for practice, they’re going to be the guys to make sure that you get out on the track. They’ll work with you on things because they pay attention to what you’re going through before you got there. You don’t see that in a lot of places these days. They’re very understanding when it comes to what it takes to be in a competitive car and get these cars to their races. They’re always willing to work with the racers.” 

Said Hinckley: “[Bennett and Darling] … put things in place that keep the car owner in mind. As a car owner, I go to the pit window and pay for my guys to get in, but there’s always a pit pass waiting for me as a car owner. Little things like that mean a lot to people involved in this sport.” 

Many also point to the difference in schedules between the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series and the Whelen Modified Tour as a reason for the divisions going in different directions. The Tri-Track’s six-race schedule in 2023 keeps teams in the Northeast. The Whelen Modified Tour has a 19-race schedule that includes trips to Florida, Virginia, North Carolina and western New York. 

“The schedule is a big thing for a lot of guys,” Hinckley said. “With the Tri-Track, you’re racing on average every three to four weeks. Not only are race weekends more manageable, but your preparation in between races is more manageable to allow yourself to have other things to do and other commitments, whether it’s work or family. All those things are a selling point for the series that people also look at.” 

Said Pasteryak: “It’s part of the draw. They keep it small, without a lot of races. But the races that they do have are important. It’s nice to be able to go run for points and run for something at the end of the season without putting the time and effort that it takes to go chase a 20-race series. You can go do it and run six and every race is part of something that’s just a little bit bigger than that race. It’s fun.” 

Bennett said there is no communicative relationship between Tri-Track management and management with NASCAR, but said Tri-Track officials understand it’s best for them to avoid head-to-head scheduling again Whelen Modified Tour events.

“The relationship with the Whelen Modified Tour is a tremendous amount of crossover between team members, car owners, drivers and fans, but other than that we have no relationship with the Modified Tour at all,” Bennett said. “But we are still respectful, and I believe we’ll keep it like that moving forward, that we will not schedule on top of one of their dates.” 

In 2023, in addition to the season opener at Thunder Road, the Tri-Track will run two events at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and one event each at Stafford, Star and Seekonk. 

“We talked about how the landscape of Modified racing in New England is very busy this year,” Bennett said. “So we actually ran seven races in 2022 and we decided a six race schedule was more appropriate. We made a conscious decision that the early season was very crowded. We had the date with [Thunder Road co-owner] Cris Michaud going to Thunder Road and we decided to make that our opener, and I think it’s a good decision. It’s just awfully busy around here in the early spring. We’re going back to Stafford for the Fall Final, which it’s just awesome to be able to go back there. Waterford twice fell right into our plans. We couldn’t get back to Seekonk for the Haunted Hundred so that event worked at Waterford. But we still keep Seekonk in the plans with Open Wheel Wednesday, so that’s a good thing. We’re going to go visit [Star Speedway owner] Bobby Webber Jr. as usual, everybody loves to go back to Star. It’s a good schedule. I like it. And I think our competitors like it a lot.” 

Said Swanson: “Looking back at that first event in 2014 you knew the potential was there from the start, it just needed to be steered down the right path and keep the original idea in place. The reasoning to have these races was to have a lot of cars and pay a lot of money and to put on a good show. You knew if they could keep that core belief it could be something really amazing and they’ve done that and just made it better and better every year. They’ve never lost that core belief of what Open Modifieds needed in New England.”


  1. “I don’t think there’s a tougher field in Modified racing for a series than what you get with the [Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series],” seven-time series champion Matt Hirschman said.

    OK sure I could see that if we’re talking top to bottom. If you’re talking about the elite teams vying for the win as well as the top 10 the NWMT gets the nod. 51, 16,79, 7ny, 58, 07 and this year maybe add in the 64 we’ll see on that one. All elite, well funded teams with very experienced drivers excepting Beers of course who’s still in career building mode. Plus Hirschman himself in some races.

  2. Shawn;
    Just a great article. Timeline, facts. I learned much about the history of the series, that I had forgotten or never knew. My favorite modified series as well, so thank you for that article and chronological timeline of the series. Nice stuff.

  3. Stuart A Fearn says

    Very well written piece, lots of facts, quotes, more facts to support the argument. Good job and excellent length as well, not too long although it might seem so but there is a story to tell

  4. Very good article. I am not sure if it was discussed on here before but why didnt the Haunted Hundred work out at Seekonk this year? That was my favorite race with mods, pro stocks and Act. Its a shame to see it move from its birthplace and lose the Pro stocks from the event. Personally I enjoy Tri track more than Nascar mostly due to format, driver roster, and geography but there is room for both series. It is quite amazing that with all the history and name recognition Nascar has, you can make a good case that Tri Track is the stronger series.

  5. Fast Eddie says

    Great article Shawn! Additionally with the schedule being more workable for race teams, it is also easier for Modified fans to go to most or all of them as well. Thanks to the original Open Wheel Wednesday and SBM 125 events, I knew I wanted to go to as many Tri-Track events as possible when they first appeared. Those events are still at the top of my list every year. At the end of each season they are always most of the “best of the year” events that I attend.

  6. The Fan, man. says

    NWMT is King and they all know it but keep on keeping on.

  7. Here’s to MMTTS and 10×10 more.. Keepin New England Racing alive..

  8. Fast Eddie says

    Hey Fan-man, who exactly is “they”? Enjoy 25 WMT mods and 15-18 NHSTRA mods this weekend, about 20-30 laps of heats & 280 laps of main events. Next week I’ll be enjoying 50 tour mods, 30 SK’s and 35 SK Lights at Stafford, about 80 laps of heats, 40 laps of LCQ’s, and 240 laps of main events on a track twice the size! Oh, and the ACT tour too! Numbers are approximate, but I think they’re close.

  9. The Fan, man. says

    “They” would be the other Modifieds Fast Ed. The emotion of envy is not limited to humans.

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