2021 Preview: Ramped-up schedule puts NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour stars in spotlight

Nichole S. Gehr

Soon after an unpredictable 2020 time, 2021 guarantees to bring the same pleasure Modified admirers have come to appreciate. It all begins in Virginia at Martinsville Speedway Thursday night time for the Virginia Is For Racing Enthusiasts 200 (obtain tickets | check out on TrackPass). And it will wrap up […]

Soon after an unpredictable 2020 time, 2021 guarantees to bring the same pleasure Modified admirers have come to appreciate.

It all begins in Virginia at Martinsville Speedway Thursday night time for the Virginia Is For Racing Enthusiasts 200 (obtain tickets | check out on TrackPass). And it will wrap up Saturday, Sept. 25, at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway with the 48th Annual NAPA Car Components Fall Remaining.

In in between, loads of action and rising stars vying for race wins and the 37th championship in tour record.


A revamped agenda

The 2021 plan is created up of 14 races, from Maine to Virginia, highlighted by three shared Cup weekends and three new tracks.

In just two days, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to Martinsville for 200 laps in the series’ initially stop by to the keep track of considering the fact that 2010.

After a year absent owing to the pandemic, the two New York’s Riverhead Raceway and Oswego Speedway are back again on the agenda, every with a pair of race dates. Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania, which stepped in last calendar year as the tour year-opener, has a date this yr on Memorial Working day weekend.

Relevant: Whelen Modified Tour Announces 2021 Agenda

The tour heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July for 100 laps as section of the Cup Series weekend.

Stafford hosts 3 Tour races in 2021, which include the 49th Annual NAPA Automobile Parts Spring Sizzler in April.

There are other tracks creating a lengthy-awaited return to the agenda, way too, and one more creating its first foray on to the Whelen Modified Tour scene.

Richmond also provides the tour south for their September Cup weekend, and Maine’s Beech Ridge Motor Speedway will see floor-pounder motion for the to start with time given that 2005.

New York Global Raceway in Lancaster will host its very first race on July 31. Western New York is a traditional modified hotbed, and the monitor joins Oswego on the timetable.

Defending Tour winner Justin Bonsignore dealt with a lot of program curveballs in his 2020 title operate. And 2021 is not a issue for him.

“I welcome the new tracks,” Bonsignore reported. “Any time a new facility is keen to host the Modified Tour, which is a substantial point and we truly recognize the racetracks that are on the schedule this calendar year with all the uncertainties of COVID. For them to get on the process of internet hosting a Tour race, which is genuinely, actually amazing.”

Chasing down the champs

The most significant concern mark coming into 2021 in phrases of levels of competition: Who is going to stop the juggernaut that is Bonsignore and the No. 51 Phoenix Communications Chevrolet team?

It is one particular of the greatest runs of achievements in Modified heritage. They’ve concluded in the best 10 in 20 straight races and within the best 5 15 consecutive instances, streaks that date again to June and August of 2019. Very last calendar year, Bonsignore’s regular complete of 2.7 set the all-time record for greatest common finish by any Whelen Modified Tour champion.

Ron Silk was a person of the hottest drivers in the series in the again fifty percent of the 2020 period. Just after the No. 85 group withdrew from the August race at Jennerstown, the 2011 tour winner tore off five top rated-three finishes together with two wins to wrap up the calendar year.

When he did not get a race in 2020, Jon McKennedy rallied late in the year to end 2nd in the standings in his 1st complete-time time. Doing the job with Tommy Baldwin, McKennedy was the only driver apart from Bonsignore to finish all nine races inside the major 10. McKennedy’s normal complete of 5.6 was considerably and absent the best of his tour job.

Of program, it would be silly to count out 6-time Tour winner Doug Coby. In his initially 12 months as an owner-driver, Coby gained a race at New Hampshire’s White Mountain Motorsports Park, making 2020 the 10th straight season he won a race That tops all other lively motorists. Coby also scored two poles en route to a third-area details complete.

A 22nd in the season-finale at Thompson was the only time Coby failed to rating a top rated-10 all yr.

Coby was the only driver to continue to keep inside of striking distance of Bonsignore in details. With championship No. 7 at stake, Coby will pretty much certainly be in the title discussion down the extend.

And never overlook about Craig Lutz. Lutz won a pair of races in 2020. In executing so, Lutz turned just one of a few motorists, alongside with Bonsignore and Silk, to earn multiple races previous period. Extra regularity from Lutz would vault him into really serious championship competition. Considering the steps that the No. 46 group took in 2019 and 2020, Lutz appears ready to do just that.

For their element, the No. 51 Ken Massa-owned team concluded developing a new car or truck this offseason that will make its debut at Martinsville. They program to use it along with their other chassis that have led the Tour in wins the final 3 seasons.

“We have a system in our crew in which we rotate cars and trucks centered on the program,” Bonsignore reported. “I’m absolutely sure we’ll continue on to do that this calendar year as effectively, but we’re just wanting to see how this new auto debuts. If it is seriously thriving, we’ll probably use it much more than we be expecting to.”

Craig Lutz, driver of the #46 Riverhead Bld Chevrolet,  before the White Mountain Showdown 200 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at White Mountain Motorsports Park in North Woodstock, New Hampshire on Saturday, August 1, 2020. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)
Craig Lutz, driver of the #46 Riverhead Constructing Materials Chevrolet, received a pair of races final 12 months and is envisioned to be a championship contender in 2021. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

Fans back in the stands

When the Modifieds consider the green flag at Martinsville, the grandstands will be open up at 30 p.c ability. That will give the tour its premier group given that the 2019 period.

Connecticut now will allow racetracks to function at 50 p.c potential, indicating a different strong group when the series heads north to Stafford for the Spring Sizzler.

The 2021 Whelen Modified Tour year will be decidedly far more normal than a yr back. It is some thing that Bonsignore appears to be forward to as things start to open up up around the course of the spring and summertime.

“The point that we can go to a major facility like Martinsville and have a 30 p.c capacity, that’s wonderful for our series,” Bonsignore reported. That would be an magnificent crowd.”

Bonsignore’s victory at the period-opener at Jennerstown very last May well underscored to him what fans necessarily mean to a raceday environment, when he received out of his car or truck to full silence in front of an empty grandstand.

“You usually realize how important admirers are, but when they are not there at all, it just seriously is eye-opening,” Bonsignore mentioned.

“We certainly skip the enthusiasts becoming at the racetrack. No matter whether they are cheering or booing for you, they are just diehards about our collection. To me, that is what can make the Modified Tour so distinctive.”

The 2021 Whelen Modified Tour year is just about right here. It’s likely to be one particular heck of a experience.

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