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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour




Traditions Continue as Race Families Grow
NASCAR with the New Generation
Denise DuPont

Mid-December NASCAR wrapped up the 2014 race season with a week of events all leading up to one special evening, the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards at the Hall of Fame convention center ballroom in Charlotte, NC. The night was a culmination of a year and in some cases several years of hard work and dedication.

Throughout the week of celebrations, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT and NWSMT) 2014 champions, Doug Coby of Milford, CT. and Andy Seuss of Hampstead, NH. , participated in special functions and received several awards for their accomplishments. Festivities in the end sealed the deal for team both Mike Smerigilio’s #2 and Eddie Harvey’s #11 modified teams making their championships a reality.

“I am excited to go for more now,” stated Coby about being ready to jump in a race car again. “It is awesome to be here in Charlotte and be part of NASCAR’s whole Championship week. It is all for the guys on the team and the effort that they put in to get here. For some of these guys it has been many, many years of hard work and it is cool to be a part of it. It is awesome to see everybody so happy and to be here together. It is so exciting as the week goes on to have more and more of the crew guys and family members show up. I am looking forward to hopefully doing it again.”

Coby held off defending champion, Ryan Preece, to capture this year’s highest honors. It was not an easy road in 2014 for the team. More than once the team was on the sidelines rushing to get back out to compete. Making the right moves when needed, the Dunleavy's Truck & Trailer Repair/A&J Romano Construction/ HEX Performance sponsored team, overcame many a hardship to come back and finish where they needed to be. “It was not a cake walk of a season for us.” Coby confessed. “There were some bumps along the way and we were able to recover from them every time. And that is probably one of the most important part of winning the championship. Anytime we had something go wrong whether it was in practice, qualifying or when it rained at Thompson, or when we got knocked around at Bristol or Thompson we just kept bouncing back and had some good finishes together.”

2014 was Smeriglio’s dream year that he waited fifty years for. When he was four years old at a race track, he knew he wanted to be part of a modified championship team and his wish finally came true. “I knew that it was going to be an exciting year but the emotions are starting to kick in especially when you see the car in the NASCAR Hall of Fame with the trophy next to it, is pretty special,” Smeriglio stated with a big smile. “We could not be any happier with all that we accomplished this year. We were pegged to win the championship. So to do it when you are supposed to, is even more impressive.”

From the teams’ February win at the “UNOH Battle at the Beach” at Daytona to the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing seventeenth place finish. The #2 NWMT team never gave up as they constantly dealt with one challenge after the other. “At the ‘Battle at the Beach’, we knew we had a good program but to be in that position at the end of the race and to take it home was perfect. I am two for two now at Daytona so that is pretty special. That was a good insight on what was going to go ahead,” Smeriglio stated.

In the southern tour competition, Andy Seuss of Hampstead, NH held off defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour (NWSMT) champion, George Brunnhoelzl., III, from West Babylon, NY, to capture this year’s highest honor by a mere margin of fourteen points. Like the NWMT championship team, the #11 Ideal Finance/Phoenix Motors sponsored southern modified team of Eddie Harvey found themselves struggling throughout the race season to overcome the up and down challenges and strings of bad luck. In the end the NWSMT team got the job done and they were rewarded with their first NASCAR championship.

Seuss placed in the top five of NWST tour championship points for the last six seasons, including runner-up spots in 2009 and 2011. But in the 2014 season, he won the season opener at Caraway Speedway and then led the championship points from the third race forward. “Winning the 2014 NWSMT Championship is really cool for the team that we have.” Seuss exclaimed. “Seeing it highlighted in the group videos where it is focused on every little part of the car, you really get to appreciate everybody’s hard work and craftsmanship on the car. Then just to be here. NASCAR really – I am just speechless on how much goes into tonight compared to most banquets. To be here to celebrate with all of the families, friends and teams is pretty incredible. It is just the most amazing thing that I have been a part of.’
Excited with his first ever modified championship Eddie Harvey was lost for words. “This year was such an awesome deal. I am so excited that we were able to achieve the 2014 Championship.”

The week also honored the young drivers who used their skills to move to the top of the rookie competition. Competing on the tour for their first time this year, these drivers proved they were ready to compete with the best of the best and carved out their place in race history.

Timmy Solomito from Islip, NY captured the NWMT ‘Sunoco Rookie of the Year’ honors in 2014. In Wayne Anderson’s #75 Eastport Feeds/Axel Anderson Inc. modified, Solomito had two top five and six top ten finishes to end the year eighth. “We had a really good year for a startup team. For a bunch of guys that we threw together at the last minute, we really put together a very good team. I am just really honored to win it. It is an award that you can only win in your first year so it is always good to knock that one out of the way. Now we have this year to focus on everything that is going to happen. I just cannot thank Wayne Anderson and his team enough for everything that they did for us. They are a great team and it was a good year.”

Spencer Davis is one of the youngest competitors on the Whelen Tour to capture the ‘Sunoco Rookie of the Year’ award. Turning sixteen this fall the other competitors’ tower over him in the pits but not on the track. In Susan Hill’s #79 Hillbilly Racing/Coors 21 Means 21 modified, Davis had two top five and seven top ten finishes to end the year eighth. “It was definitely a real cool deal to win this honor for the team. They won it before with Daniel Hemric, but it is cool to win the rookie of the year again for them. The season that we had was yes really good so it would have been kind of a downer if we did not win it.”

“It is definitely cool to look back at what we did in the beginning of the year and how far that I have progressed through out this year,” confessed Spencer reflecting on the season. “Going from being just happy with finishing in the top ten to trying to compete for wins is real cool “ Spencer began racing in 2005 at the age of six and is following in his father’s footsteps with motorsports talent and ability. “Being one of the youngest drivers on the tour it is definitely challenging because the veterans see me and think “Here is this kid. We can push him around.” So you have to show them that you can get up there with them and race too. I am the youngest by far sure and there are not very many people to hang out with but for sure it is fun to race with older more experienced guys.”

Melissa Fifield of Wakefield, NH was voted the 2014 NWMT ”Most Popular Driver”. She was the only female driver competing on the Whelen Tour in the family owned Allstate Insurance/Big Moose RV # 1 modified. Fifield started racing Jr. Champ Karts at age twelve at Londonderry Raceway and won the track championship in her first season. Migrating to the tour in 2014 she finished her year ranked twenty-first. “This is certainly exciting. It was shocking to me because I did not expect it at all. It is an honor really and I am proud to represent the series,” exclaimed Fifield about her rookie award. “There was definitely a lot of work put into it. I am certainly looking forward to next year. I gained a lot towards the end of the season with both the setup and gaining more confidence in the car.”

Defending NWMT champion Ryan Preece of Berlin, CT. had an up and down year in Eric Sanderson’s East West Marine/Diversified Metals sponsored #16 modified. Putting the down times behind him, he finished the year in the runner up spot in the NWMT Championship after a strong run at both Stafford and Thompson finale races. “Sometimes things just happen. They say it is usually the third year where you have bad luck and people tell you that you are going to have more heart break than wins.” Preece soberly expressed. “It is totally true. I could sit back and start counting them off. It was just great that we ended the year strong the way that we did. Now we just move on to 2015.”

The 2015 Whelen schedules are now released with the thirtieth anniversary season of the Whelen Modified Tour featuring fourteen points’ races while the eleventh season for Whelen Southern Modified Tour campaign will include eleven championship events at seven popular southeastern short tracks.

Happy New Year and see you next race season!

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Year End Notes:

Reflecting on 2014 race season, what was your major highlight of the year?

Doug Coby
“The overall consistency of our season and resilience. It was not a cake walk of a season for us. There were some bumps along the way and we were able to recover from them every time. And that is probably one of the most important part of winning the championship. Anytime we had something go wrong whether it was in practice, qualifying or when it rained at Thompson, or when we got knocked around at Bristol or Thompson we just kept bouncing back and had some good finishes together.”

Andy Seuss
“I was asked by NASCAR what was the most fun race of the year and every single time this race team is at a race track we have fun. And that is a really cool thing that maybe a lot of teams cannot say. The three wins were definitely were a thrill. But in the end our highlight for this year is the Southern Modified Championship. After some of the adversity that we had come off of - the top is definitely impressive. We have been together a long time and the championship was definitely the ultimate goal. To be able to give that to everybody and to celebrate it with them is definitely the Highlight of my year.”

Timmy Solomito

“Definitely leading a lap at New Hampshire. It was pretty cool. We qualified twelfth and made our way up front. We passed some of the greatest guys that drive the modifieds. That was definitely a pretty cools event and then going to Bristol and just being out on the high banks was just pretty cool. But definitely leading a lap at New Hampshire and hopefully we will lead more laps this next year.”

Spencer Davis

“It is definitely real fun being part of the Hillbilly Team. It feels like you are at home with this team. Everyone is down to earth and it feels like you are hanging out with your relatives when you come to the race track. You feel real warm and welcome. It has definitely shown this year just the family type atmosphere the team has and how we always joke around and have fun at the race track.”

Melissa Fifield

“The only track that I was a little nervous going to was New Hampshire. Watching races there as a child -I got more nervous about it since I had not been there for so long. First off I was like – “That is it?”

Mike Smeriglio

“Our biggest highlight of the year was the second New Hampshire race. That really solidified what this team is all about - “Not Giving Up”. We were involved in someone else’s mess and came back and finished third. “

Eddie Harvey
“We came together more as a family and that resulted in more consistency. It was our fourth year together and by this time everyone came together as a true family on a week to week basis which just resulted in some consistency. In the past we were always able to win races, but we could not just finish that climb in the final hill. We are able to do that now. We finally go t it done.”

Plans for 2015

Andy Seuss
“We are looking at a variety of things. Either defending or splitting between the North and Southern Modified Tours. Picking the race tracks that we want to do. We are lucky to have that opportunity to be able to travel. So I might jump at that opportunity while it comes. We have two really good race cars and two great Rahmoc race engines. And we do want to go up north and show that we can compete at places like Thompson and New Hampshire with the Northern Tour. “

Spencer Davis

“We are not sure if we are going to run the northern or southern modified tour or run them both. We are just waiting for the schedules to come out and maybe run some of what is running in the other series and local tracks. But we definitely will be back in one of the NASCAR tours.

Timmy Solomito

:I will be moving to the #16 team and I definitely have some pretty big shoes to fill there. But I am really excited to learn with the guys of the #16 team. That team is one of the best teams on the tour and we will be learning with some of the best guys. I am really looking forward to working with Sly and Eric Sanderson and the guys. I really cannot thank them enough for the opportunity and everything they are going to give us this year to put our best foot forward. “

Ryan Preece

“2015 will bring with it a lot of racing with Eddie (Partridge). I was hoping that the schedule would come out today so that we could really put it together but I do know that we are going to be doing at a, minimum, of thirty races together to a maximum of fifty races together. Ed and Tommy both want to race so that is what we are going to be doing.”

Mike Smeriglio

“Same as 2014. I think that Doug is going to come back. I am not sure. I have not really asked him yet but I am really hoping he will come back in the #2 seat. That #2 seat is his as long as I can continue to do what I want to do:”

Eddie Harvey

“We are still not 100% sure. As far as the #11 car – everybody knows that is always Andy’s ride regardless. We do plan on bringing the #09 modified back out. At this time we are not sure who will be behind the wheel of that car.”

Source: Denise DuPont / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: December 29, 2014

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