Ron Silk Scores Second Whelen Modified Tour Title At Martinsville; Ryan Preece Wins Event

Ron Silk (center with trophy) celebrates with his crew and family after winning his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship Thursday at Martinsville Speedway (Image: FloRacing)

As is tradition for events at Martinsville Speedway, the winner’s trophy for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 200 Thursday was a grandfather clock. 

For much of the night on the track Thursday at Martinsville Speedway, Ron Silk was just hoping the minutes would click off faster to the end of the 2023 Whelen Modified Tour season. 

In the end, Silk was able to avoid disaster on multiple occasions and finish sixth in the Virginia Is For Racing Lovers 200. The finish was plenty good enough to clinch the 2023 Whelen Modified Tour championship for Silk.

It was the second series title for Silk, of Norwalk, who got his first title driving for late team owner Eddie Partridge in 2011. It was the first series title for the Haydt-Yannone Racing. The team, owned by Tyler Haydt and Joe Yannone, joined the series full-time before the 2022 season. 

“It’s great,” Silk said. “We’re super happy to win. It’s a long season. A lot of effort goes into this. I just can’t thank everyone enough that’s a part of this. I’m lucky to be a part of it. I’m the lucky guy that gets to drive it. But my car owners, Tyler Haydt and Joe Yannone, my crew chief Phil Moran … they do so much on these cars. It just feels good to reward the team with the championship. It’s satisfying for sure.” 

It was the seventh Whelen Modified Tour title as a crew chief for Moran. He won his first with Todd Szegedy in 2003. He won five with Doug Coby, grabbing four consecutive from 2014-2017 and another in 2019.

Silk became the seventh driver to win multiple series championships over the 39 years since the Whelen Modified Tour began. Silk joined Mike Stefanik (7), Doug Coby (6), Tony Hirschman (5), Justin Bonsignore (3), Donny Lia (2) and Jimmy Spencer (2) as a multi-time series champion. 

Silk came into the night holding a 13-point lead in the standings over Bonsignore. An eighth place finish or better would have clinched the title for Silk even if Bonsignore had won the event and collected the maximum bonus points. Bonsignore finished second. Silk ended the season with a nine point advantage over Bonsignore in the final standings. 

“It’s been a long season, kinda weird racing tonight knowing the scenario, you gotta finish eighth or better if he wins,” Silk said. “I tried to keep myself in a decent position most of the night, got turned around once on the backstretch but luckily didn’t hit anything. It feels great, lot goes into this and it’s really rewarding to get another one.”

It marked the end of one of the fiercest season-long battles for a title in the history of the Whelen Modified Tour. 

Silk, who kicked off the season with a victory in the series opener at New Smyrna Speedway in February, ended the season having been first or second in the standings after all 18 events this season. Bonsignore was third in the standings following the second and third races of the season. From the fourth race of the season to the finale Thursday at Martinsville, Silk and Bonsignore occupied the first and second place spots in the standings. Silk and Bonsignore ended the season having been first or second in the standings following 16 of the 18 events this year. Silk led the standings or was tied for the lead after 15 of 18 events this season.

Silk went into the penutlimate event of the season on Oct. 8 at Thompson Speedway trailing Bonsignore by two points in the standings. Silk won the event and Bonsignore was 13th, allowing Silk to take a healthy lead to the finale at Martinsville.

Silk closed out the championship season with five victories and 15 top-fives and 17 top-10’s in 18 starts. He only had one finish worse than eighth all season (a 12th place). 

“We want to try and keep this up and keep winning races,” Silk said. “It’s never easy. We’re going to work hard over the winter and try to be better next year than we were this year.” 

Ryan Preece, making his first Whelen Modified Tour start of the season, won the event. It was the 26th career series victory for Preece, who competes full-time for Stewart-Haas Racing on the NASCAR Cup Series. 

“Words really can’t describe it,” Preece said. “… The amount of effort that goes into this, and what a lot of people don’t get to see is really in this pit area. The passion for racing. … Our car was just so fast all night long.” 

Patrick Emerling was third. 

Despite having a 36-car field at Martinsville, the Whelen Modified Tour ended the season setting an all-time record low for overall participation during the season. The series had an average starting field of 25.1 cars in 2023. The number marked the lowest average starting field for a season in the 39 seasons since the series was started in 1985. The previous low for an average starting field for the season was 25.3 in 2021. 

The first caution of the event came out on the first lap for a pileup involving Ken Heagy, Kyle Ebersole, Andy Jankowiak and John-Michael Shennette. 

On the lap nine restart it was Preece going by pole-sitter Tyler Rypkema for the lead. 

The second caution of the event flew on lap 53 for the stopped car of Dave Sapienza on the frontstretch. Caution flew with Preece leading Rypkema and Emerling in third. Bonsignore was in sixth at the caution and Silk was eighth. 

With some of the field heading to pit road under caution, it put Emerling in the lead with Matt Hirschman in second. Bonsignore restarted eighth and Silk restarted 12th. 

On the lap 62 restart it was Emerling and Hirschman battling side-by-side for the lead while behind them Bonsignore went from eighth to fourth. 

Caution was back out on lap 64 for a pileup involving Austin Beers, Eric Berndt, Burt Myers, Dylan Slepian and Sapienza. At the time of the caution Bonsignore was fourth and Silk in 12th. 

The race restarted on lap 71 with Emerling getting the jump on Hirschman. On lap 73 seventh place running Bryan Narducci turned up the track from the inside lane on the backstretch, collecting Kyle Bonsignore hard into the wall. When Silk tried to slow and go around wreck, Eric Goodale made slight contact with Silk, sending him spinning on the backstretch. Silk somehow avoided major contact with any car in the spin. 

The race restarted on lap 79 with Emerling getting the jump on Hirschman. Behind them Justin Bonsignore ran fourth and Silk was 13th. 

Caution was back out on lap 87 for the spinning car of Brandon Ward. At the caution Justin Bonsignore was running sixth and Silk was 12th. 

Under caution leader Emerling, second place Hirschman and fourth place Andy Seuss went to pit road. It put Preece back out front with Justin Bonsignore in second and Rypkema in third. Silk restarted the race in 10th. 

The sixth caution of the event flew for the stopped car of Sapienza on lap 112. Preece led at the caution with Justin Bonsignore in second. Silk was running 9th at the caution. Under caution most of the leaders headed back to pit road. 

Justin Bonsignore led the race off of pit road with Max McLaughlin coming off pit road second, Anthony Sesely third, Preece fourth and Silk fifth. 

The restart order had Tommy Catalano out front with Bobby Labonte in second, Emerling in third, Hirschman in fourth and Bonsignore fifth. 

Caution was right back on lap 120 for a wreck involving Anthony Sesely and Ed McCarthy that nearly collected Silk. 

Catalano held the lead for the lap 126 restart, but it was Emerling moving back to the front on lap 127. Justin Bonsignore followed Emerling into second with Preece moving to third. Behind them Silk was up to sixth place by lap 132. 

The caution flew for the eighth time on lap 134 for issues with Ward and Myers. The yellow flew with Emerling leading, Justin Bonsignore in second and Silk running sixth. 

Emerling held the top spot on the lap 138 restart with Preece moving by Justin Bonsignore for second. Preece then got by Emerling for the lead on lap 140. 

The ninth caution of the event flew on lap 148 with the car of Craig Lutz backed into the wall. The caution flew with Preece leading. Justin Bonsignore was second and Silk was in sixth. 

Preece held the top spot on the lap 156 restart. Behind him Silk ended up up in a fierce side-by-side battle four four laps for sixth place with McLaughlin. 

The 10th caution flew for a wreck involving Sapienza and Goodale on lap 176 bringing out the third red flag of the event. Preece led the race at the caution with Justin Bonsignore in second. Silk was seventh.


  1. Have to say rooting for Silk was a real nail biter. Missed opportunity in the interview not asking his feeling as he was spinning in the wreck or dodging cars in another dust up. Mr Cool seemed to be his steady self in victory lane but he must have had some emotional moments in that one seeing it slip away.
    Ah the old days of Preece and Mike Paquette experimenting with unique rear suspension setups or the McGunegal engine prepping a car for a pop in to a tour mod race. Or just being a driver like in Ole Blue he was the plucky outsider trying to pull an upset with his main focus on CUP. I do believe the Tour regulars just got big timed.
    Don’t get me wrong he deserves it for sure but that car was special. Likely had the best of everything in it. Preece mentioned the advantage himself. He does like to wait until late to take on tires then drive to the front. Didn’t need to do it with this version of the 40 that’s for sure.
    Is using the resources of SHR fair? I’m not buying Preece being all hands on for this one. Some hands for sure but I’d bet mostly other hands and hands attached to very talented people. Bringing a professional (I would assume) SHR pit crew to an amateur race is a bit uncool isn’t it? Was that an SHR engine guy as well?
    You tell me was this kosher be honest now. Sure he’s our man Preece, we love the guy, the wife, baby, connecting with every crew member was a treat to see for sure. But didn’t you just get the impression that the scales were tipped just a little too far in the 40’s favor and the regulars got big timed?

  2. My thoughts are as follows;
    1 – Preece had all the bells and whistles bought for his car.
    2 – He had his team practice changing those wide 5’s
    3 – He used this as a team building exercise for him and his cup buddies.
    4 – It is a horsepower track with tight turns. Brakes and horsepower. He put his money into that.
    He beat up on the little guys. He put together a new car last year. No need to build another. I like Ryan, but, he had an advantage. Unlimited resources compared to most of the teams. He is a great driver and watch his cup races. But I am not a huge fan of him coming in and taking away from the guys who did it all year. That spot in my book is reserved for Matt Hirshman. Hirshman is old school. He is the epitome of an outlaw. He plays by his own rules and races where and when he wants. I am glad Ronnie Silk won the championship! Another hard nosed racer.

  3. So I guess he should have not entered and raced because he has resources now? What do you think Shawn. Poll question?
    I picked him to finish close to last in the pick 6, because imo, the guy always has great stuff, but tends to overdrive a bit, and has not enough at the end. It was nice to see I was totally wrong, and he ran and managed a good race. Yeah. Pit crew, unfair. But no rule against it. I have mixed emotions on this one.

  4. Bobf,
    Every race in every division has some people that have more resources than others. That’s just racing. Justin Bonsignore’s team probably has a lot more resources than many other teams in the series. That’s just racing. Until there’s a spending cap or spending limits in place it’s all good.

  5. I’d like to think if I was an acquaintance of Preece I could go right up to him after the race and say congratulations on the win, you big timed us right proper. It’s more busting shops then any kind of serious beef.
    So there have always been inequities in resources in racing you say. I’m pretty sure I have first hand knowledge of that. To all you future racers out there don’t let any engine guy tell you it’s the handling that wins races on a half mile track. You’re going to need a great engine to keep you even to get to the corner and make handling count.
    That rig of Massa’s is simply spectacular. For sure it indicates that on the components necessary to win races he will spare no expense and it’s paid of for sure. But at the end of the day and excepting the crew chief, Bonsignor, the crew members and even the truck driver have day jobs other then racing.
    Preece is welcome to use any resources he can to win races as long as NASCAR says it’s OK. And when Bonsignor can’t catch him because of those resources it just as fair as Calalano not being able to keep up with the 51 not able to match resources.
    I’m just busting chops here that’s all. But to me there is a dividing line between professional racers and amateurs as faint as it can get at times. From personnel to components to the expertise to set up the components the 40 car took full advantage of it’s favored position in the sport as a professional. All of which was completely different then him sitting in Ole Blue and driving for amateurs.
    I should never have used the word fair, there’s not much that is fair about motorsports racing. However, at the very least what the 40 car team did was different in a substantive way, fertile ground for some chops busting and “big timing” not whining in any sense.

  6. As others have expressed , this race kinda left me feeling a little deprived. I would really like to look in comparison at lap times of significant cars throughout from Thursday night’s race and the last two Whelen races at Martinsville. Knowing that would help us see if Preece was lightning fast when it counted or did the race play out perfectly for his team’s strategy. At best I discount : at worst I completely dismiss the possibility that those crew guys from SHR cup team gave Preece any edge in prep or execution of the race plan over the other contenders other than maybe psychological and possibly brake technology. Is Preece the #1 car for SHR in cup or were them crew guys like 2nd or 3rd string team members? Even though Preece is an above average modified race car driver, betting odds would favor teams like 16, 51, 60, and maybe a few others every time against a one off of the aforementioned. I will concede that right now the cream at the top of Whelen modified racers is a pretty thin layer of cream. Heck, last year when the cream was a little thicker, LaJoie won, beating Preece and the others and we weren’t complaining about that. I don’t think it’s even debatable : Preece is a better modified racer than LaJoie. Seems like LaJoie did run over about half the field to get to the front last year, but maybe I am remembering wrong. Maybe I am remembering right and that’s why he didn’t come back this year.

  7. 🍃 High Steaks 🥩 says

    Ryan Preece has too much funding & resources to race against Tour regulars………….

    Ryan Newman, no problem because he didn’t win?
    Probably out paces Preece in Net worth significantly.

    I don’t get the rationale sometimes…….

  8. I’m not really that committed to defending a minor chop busting but since there’s interest I’ll try to hold up my end.
    Check out the SMART results for the last couple races. Maybe the SMART guys did get big timed by Sadler/Stanley racing.
    SHR a multi divisional, multi car team competing up to the CUP level. Sadler/Stanley formed specifically for the SMART tour and I believe out of the PSR shop. Apples and oranges.
    No we don’t have lap times do we? Or do we?

    Martinsville 2022 qualifying: 60-18.733, 7ny-18.738, 50-18.792
    Martinsville 2023 qualifying: 32-18.653, 40-18.673, 07-18.753

    Faster this year obviously but with track conditions changing who knows. We all know that one lap speed is an indicator but not definitive. The ability of a car to stay consistently fast with changing tire wear and track conditions not easy to define but critical. See eye test in last paragraph.
    Did LaJoie and Curb Records big time the NWMT boys last year? If I said it last year would that make this year more valid?
    Agree the pit crew who had to wrestle those deep modified tires did not provide an advantage. In fact I believe they cost the 40 the lead at one point. How the observation can be made that all the shop resources of a CUP team are not an advantage doesn’t seem logical but I can’t prove it otherwise.
    Believe what your eyes saw. A car competing in it’s first race of the year and without any issues qualifying on the front row, rallying to the front fast after pit stops and smoking the best funded, highly motivated 51 at the end. Then again the eye test is not quantifiable so forget it.

  9. What happened with the 01?

    Only 4 laps?????

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