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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour



Days To The Icebreaker

The calendar has turned to April- the unofficial yet official start of the racing season here in the Northeast.
Finally, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Icebreaker at Thompson is not months or weeks but just days away. Getting a jump on the season, I was able to catch up with a few NWMT drivers at Waterford Speedbowl this last weekend and find out their plans for 2011.

Ron Yuhas of Groton, CT will be making a return to the Tour with a full time ride driving for Mike Murphy. It has been five years since the 2009 Waterford Speedbowl SK Champion ran the entire schedule. “It actually has been a couple of years in the making,” said Yuhas about his KLM Motorsports entry. “I started driving for ‘Murph’ in ’08. He’s kind of always wanted to go this route but we started running the SK in ‘08 and then in ‘09 we won the championship here at Waterford and that is what kind of when the ball really got rolling.”

At the Thompson open practice with two race ready Troyers, Yuhas was able to run both machines and at the end of the day was smiling. “Everything went good- we kind of accomplished what we set out to do- we pretty much shook both cars down and make sure we didn’t have any issues.”

“This past winter the final pieces got put into place, I mean we still have work to do, don’t get me wrong, but we’re at the point now we can go, be competitive. Learn- that’s the biggest thing. It’s going to be a learning curve for all of us. We’re going to take this as a learning year, take it one race at a time.”

Yuhas will also maintain his SK modified schedule at Waterford. While schedule conflicts are few, there will be a time when Yuhas can’t be in two places at once. “We’re really thinking that when the conflict comes, it will be like where are we at on the Tour and where are we at here (Waterford) and try to make the right decision- what makes the most sense. First we have to make the show, be competitive, but then again, it’s all going to be a big learning year.”

Doug Coby has been a Tour part timer for the last five seasons. That changes this year for the Milford, CT open wheel driver taking on the full schedule in the #52.

“It’s funny, my mind set is still that of a part timer. And as much as I know I have the ride, until we really start going with the season, race to race, definitely it will sink in that I have a ride for all 16 shows. I think that mindset, of a part timer, is going to be really good because as a part timer you go out and you have one shot to run good. Full time, you might start points racing, I’m not too sure about that,” Coby said smiling. “I’m excited. It’s pretty cool. You know, for some reason if after this year I didn’t end up with a full time ride, being a part timer is not too bad. After all the part time that I’ve done, I like my mind set now. When you have to work with different people, drive different cars, it’s a little more challenging.” Not leaving his part time mind set completely anytime soon, Coby will be running his share of shows in the Valenti Modified Racing Series as well as part time SK rides at Stafford and Waterford. After setting fast time then leading his share of the VMRS 100 lap feature at Waterford Speedbowl this last weekend finishing second is any indication of his season, Coby shouldn’t mess with his mind set.

The Boehler #3 will turn another page in history this year with driver Matt Hirschman. “I’m really looking forward to this,” said Hirschman who was also at Waterford for the VMRS event. “After two years of not doing the Tour, it’s good to get back to the Thompson/ Stafford’s, those places and I’m really looking forward to working with the ‘3’ guys. They’re a great group of guys- there is a relationship that goes back to when my dad drove for them so really it has been an easy transition so far working together. Few of the crew guys are new to me but the core crew is still the same- it’s really neat that it’s the next generation - it’s a neat combination and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Tony Hirschman who was on hand ‘watching only’ at Waterford, drove for the Boehler family from ‘95-98- four seasons, claiming two championships, back to back in ‘95 and 96. “I don’t feel pressure at all,” said Matt. “They’ve always been successful not matter who drives the car, always been in contention and I don’t expect it to be any different.” Practice last week at Thompson? "We did want we wanted to do and that was to make sure we were comfortable, that we didn’t a have any problems with the car and we accomplished that. We weren’t worried about how fast we were- we’ll worry about that next week. Working together has been smooth during the off season and I think that’s just the way we’re going to go.”

“I’m impressed with the combinations that we’re going to be competing with this year, the driver/crew chief combinations,” add Matt. “When you start to look at some of the combinations that have won - just off the top of my head- Phil is back with Todd, Brad is back with Teddy, Stefanik and Sly, Santos with Troyer Bob, and the list really goes on and on down the line. It’s a very impressive. And although this is our first season working together, I expect we will be in contention with those teams.”

Rowan Pennink didn’t attend the Thompson practice but was getting his season off to a jump start in the Gary Casella VMRS modified Sunday. “We didn’t want to go up there and just go out in practice and not have the car how we wanted it. There was no point in going up there when we’re not ready, try and test when we don’t have everything we wanted. We’ll go up there next weekend and get our practice. The guys on our team will have the car where it needs to be and hopefully we’ll be right up there.”

“We had an up and down season last year, a bunch of DNF’s - some were out of our control, some were our fault. Then we had some bright spots, we won Riverhead.” Top of Pennink’s list then as you can imagine is being consistent in 2011. His fifth season on the Tour, Pennink will have a new face turning the wrenches with Doug Chouinard heading up the crew chief duties. “Doug came with us to the North-South Shootout and then the Turkey Derby. We worked well together, everything went well.”

While not running the Tour full time, Rob Summers of Vernon, CT will be ‘doing plenty of racing’. Summers opened his season at Waterford in the VMRS event in the Bill Frasco/Guy Ronzoni 01. We’ll most likely see Summers at a ‘couple of Tour Stafford races,’ and while other Tour events are possible, Summers will be busy tackling the full ISMA schedule for 2011 which kicks off May 7th in Oswego, NY. “I’m looking forward to that,” said Summers. “Last year was part time; it was a brand new deal. This year, we’ll run the whole deal.”

Mike Stefanik made good use of his time at the Thompson practice over a week ago, echoing what several teams set out to accomplish during the session. “We didn’t go there to put up any numbers,” said Stefanik, the two cars kept the Coventry, RI driver and the Flamingo Motorsports team busy. “Basically we were there to shake down both cars so when we return to Thompson we can unload at the track and not worry about any problems. When we show up for practice (at the Icebreaker), we can really use the time.” Fortunately we didn’t have anything big happen, just a small water leak that we could fix, a fitting, that was good.” “We didn’t put on new tires- we were using old feature tires. Just from the winter, the track was kind of dirty but you could tell it was getting faster. I would imagine by the end of the day, it was the same old Thompson.” Stefanik is quick to add that for all the time he has raced, there is something special about opening day. “I’ve never had a problem getting excited about the season. I’m always excited about getting to the track, a new challenge, starting a new season. I still like walking through the gate smelling the fuel, seeing the haulers.”

And a new season it is. Check out Thompson Speedway’s website for the complete Icebreaker schedule http://www.thompsonspeedway.com.

  Source: Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: April 4 2011

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