51's Modified Madness Presented by Advance Auto Parts Compiled by Mike Twist
North, South, Dirt and Asphalt...All The Latest From the Mod-ern Racing World
WMT: SILK IS THE LATEST HILLBILLY
Ronnie Silk of Norwalk, CT has been named as the new driver for Hillbilly Racing. Silk, one of the up and coming stars of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is coming off the most successful season of his young career, having earned his first career Tour victory and finished forth in the point standings. He replaces Woody Pitkat who drove the #79 Coors Light Pontiac in 10 races for Hillbilly Racing in 2007.
DIRT: VAN HORN LEADS THE WAY TO FLORIDA
Just a handful of weeks have passed since the DIRTcar Racing NorthEast season came to a close. In just two more months the roar of the big-block powered DIRTcar Big-Block Modifieds will be heard once again when open-wheel teams make their way down south for the 37th Annual DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.
With entries beginning to trickle into the DIRTcar NorthEast Office in Weedsport, N.Y., third-generation racer David VanHorn Jr. from Phillipsburg, New Jersey was the first driver to officially sign up for DIRTcar’s 11th consecutive year of competition at the popular Barberville speedplant. VanHorn has participated in the past two winter tour excursions to the Sunshine State, last February placing eighth in the final point standings after a fourth-place finish in the 50-lap finale.
The move is made with the hope that this will be the beginning of a long successful relationship. “We’re looking to build a relationship that will last for awhile,” says team owner Roger Hill. “We not only want to win now, but work with a driver who we can have in our car for a number of years. Ronnie Silk is that driver.”
Crew Chief David Hill believes this is the next piece of the puzzle as the team tries to return to victory lane on the Whelen Modified Tour for the first time since 2004. “When we made a change in the middle of last season, Ronnie was someone we had a lot of interest it but was committed to anotherteam at the time,” said Hill. “As we started to look toward the future when the season ended, it became clear that he was the right fit for us going forward.”
Silk, who will be in his third full season on the Tour, is excited and optimistic about the opportunity to drive for the Hill family. “I’ve wanted to race for a team like the Hill’s - who wouldn’t,” said Silk. “I was hoping to find a ride that I could be in for quite a while and I think this will be that car.” As he looks toward the 2008 season, he knows communication will be key to the success. “I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone and begin the communication process. Getting off to a good start will be important. I’ve never driven a RaceWorks before, but I understand how a racecar should feel and just need to communicate that to the team.”
Parting with Pitkat wasn’t an easy decision for the Hills. “Woody did a great job last season and gave our team a much needed lift,” said David Hill. “We were certainly a much better race team at the end of the year. Woody’s going to be very successful in the future, we just believe our best future is with Ronnie behind the wheel.”
Silk and Hillbilly Racing will compete full-time on the Whelen Modified Tour as well as select events on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour and the ROC series. The team will begins its season with four nights of racing at New Smyrna Speedway in February. Coors Light and LeBlue Water will return as sponsors for the 2007 season.
"Its always nice to make the trip to Florida, just to get everybody back in the groove," said VanHorn, 24, who will make a return aboard the familiar yellow Diamond Hart Enterprises no. 71 Harmony Sand & Gravel-Art's Radiator-Robinson Products/TEO machine powered by a motor prepared by his father. “Volusia doesn’t compare much to any track up north but you can still try out some new stuff and whatever is learned can be brought back home.”
The Advance Auto Parts Florida Tour begins Feb. 13 at Volusia with a 30-lap DIRTcar Big-Block Modified feature headlining the program. The open-wheel action continues at the Barberville oval with 30-lap feature events on Thursday and Friday before a big $5,000-to-win 50-lapper brings the curtain down Sat., Feb. 16. An optional practice day has been set for Thursday, Feb. 12.
David Van Horn's #71 (DIRT / Bob Fairweather Photo)
VanHorn was satisfied after missing only one feature at Volusia in his 2006 debut and gained more confidence qualifying for all three main events last winter. This coming February, the recently crowned DIRTcar 358-Modified points champion at Orange County Fair (NY) Speedway hopes to be a factor every time out.
“I’d like to win at least one race and finish in the top-five in points, I think they’re realistic goals right now,” added VanHorn, who also finished fourth in Orange County's final '07 Big-Block point standings. He qualified for four Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series shows, finishing 15th in May at Orange County and placing 29th & 30th in the July ‘Firecracker Twin 50s’ at Rolling Wheels (NY) Raceway before mechanical problems relegated him to 44th in the Eastern States 200 at Orange County.
“Back up north I’d like to get another Small-Block championship and if things work out one in the Big-Blocks. When all the schedules come out we’ll make our final plans. This year we want to do a little something different, do more traveling and look around for some new tracks to run on. Starting out in Florida is a fun way to start, it’s a nice winter break, especially when you do well.”
More than 30 DIRTcar Modified teams are expected to join VanHorn for the popular Advance Auto Parts Florida mini-tour staged at Volusia.
SK MODIFIEDS: COBY TO COMPETE FOR TITLE AT STAFFORD
Johnson Motorsports has selected 2006 Stafford Motor Speedway Spring Sizzler winner Doug Coby as the driver of their #15 SK Modified at Stafford in 2008. Coby and Johnson’s Xtra Mart Convenience Stores team have set lofty goals for the season and have their sights set on contending for the 2008 SMS track championship.
“Glenn Johnson has proven that his #15 is a really good car,” said Coby, “They had some bad luck that prevented them from getting better finishes with Ronnie Silk last season, but they had a really fast car and made a lot of progress every week. Ronnie already has other commitments in place for next year that will prevent him from running Stafford on a weekly basis, so I’m really happy to be the next one tabbed by Glenn to drive the car. I’m really confident that we can go out there and win some races for our sponsors and crew. If we can focus on staying out of trouble and trying to make the car as fast as we can week in and week out, you’d better bet we’ll be a contender for the championship.”
The 2008 season will be a reunion between Coby and several of the team sponsors, as Coby has previously driven an Xtra Mart, Mansfield Paper, and Village Springs sponsored car at both Stafford and the Waterford Speedbowl. All three companies are important contributors to the success of the Johnson Motorsports team.
“I’ve been working with Sean Cassells from Village Springs since I first got into an SK Modified in 2001. He helped me when I drove my own car, the #2 at Stafford and Waterford, the #8 for half a season again at Stafford, and he’s also helped me out when he could while I was competing on the Modified Tour,” said Doug, “Our paths went in separate directions over the last few years, but we’ve always kept in touch and always said we’d work together again someday. It just happened a little sooner than we expected, but needless to say, we’re both really excited to get out there again.”
During the 2002 season, Coby and the Xtra Mart/Village Springs machine competed full-time at Stafford and captured three wins and a fifth place finish in the point standings. In 2004, they captured one win in a limited schedule at Waterford, and in 2005, they had a best finish of 2nd in another shortened season at Stafford. Both seasons were cut short by Doug’s other commitments on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but with no Modified Tour ride on the horizon as of yet, Doug’s focus will be Friday night racing at Stafford. With a different car owner and chassis combination this time around, Coby is ready to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
“Anytime you get a new car owner and a new driver together, there’s always going to be that ‘figuring-out stage’ where everyone has to learn each other,” said Doug, “With Glenn’s abilities as a car owner and mechanic, and a positive attitude from all of the crew members, I have no doubt that this could be a tremendously successful season They’ve got the right pieces in place for any driver to step in and do a good job, so I’ve just got to do my part every week to stay out of trouble and get the team the finishes they deserve. I’ve also never really had the opportunity to drive a Chassis Dynamics car on a full time basis, so learning the new chassis setups and changes to make will be new to me. It’s going to be fun though, because I’ve always raced against the CD cars and now I get to drive one.”
Coby won’t be the only driver out of the Johnson’s garage this season, as Zach Sylvester will return for a third season in the seat of the Xtra Mart #51. Last season, Sylvester and crew captured one victory at Stafford, and hope to add more wins to their resume in 2008. Both Xtra Mart cars will feature horsepower from Pettit Racing Engines, and additional sponsorship from Mansfield Paper, Village Springs, and ESPN Radio.
“Two cars means more exposure for all of our sponsors, and I think Zach and I have the ability to go out there and put on a great show every week,” said Doug, “Our primary goal as a team is to go out there and have fun, run up front, and contend for wins every week. I’m really thankful to have the opportunity to come back to Stafford with Glenn and the Xtra Mart team, so I’ll be counting down the days until the Spring Sizzler.”
Race fans can catch the Xtra Mart #15 and #51 in action at Stafford Speedway beginning with the 37th annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by Carquest on April 26-27. Following the Spring Sizzler, both cars will compete on Friday nights at the historic Connecticut half-mile oval.
Ronnie Silk (Top - 51 Photo) will wheel the #79 Modified (Bottom - Rick Ibsen Photo) in 2008.
WAAS: MODS GO TO LAS VEGAS
The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s popular Modified division will race under NASCAR sanction for the 2008 season. The class, which had been sanctioned by the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) for several seasons, will join the Bullring’s Super Late Model, Charger and Late Model classes in racing under the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series banner.
IMCA will return as the official sanctioning body for the eleventh annual Duel in the Desert modified event to be held at the LVMS dirt track on November 13-15, 2008.
The official 2008 Bullring rules will be released in mid-January. The first event is scheduled for Saturday, March 29, 2008.
DIRT: ’08 SUPER DIRT SCHEDULE IS RELEASED
A preliminary schedule for the 2008 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series is now solidly in place, with 25 race dates currently comprising the premier tour for Big-Block Modifieds that culminates with the crowning of an overall Mr. DIRTcar Champion for the 33rd straight year. Discussions remain ongoing with other Northeastern tracks with additional Series dates pending.
Advance Auto Parts Series activity kicks off in February with open-wheel teams traveling south for the 37th Florida DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. Four non-point events make up the annual Florida Tour that will declare a Big-Block champion following the 11th straight winter bash, Feb. 13-16, in the ‘Sunshine State.’
“We’re looking forward to getting back on track in Florida and beginning our 29th year of touring up north,” said Cory Reed, DIRTcar Racing NorthEast Director of Competition & Track Sanctioning. “We’re excited about the four-race summer swing through Canada and return of the Rolling Wheels 200 in autumn. There’s been a lot of positive response to each. The Canadian tracks are working together on further incentives to attract both racers and fans alike, and with Granby back on board for a Big-Block show, Ontario and Quebec will be great destination points for travelers this season.”
The ‘North-South Shootout’ at Hagerstown in March begins the Advance Auto Parts Series
points chase followed by the Paul Sawyer Memorial at Virginia Motor Speedway in May that
awards the winner a $10,000 top prize. The DIRT Challenge Cup at Rolling Wheels and Hall
of Fame Classic at Cayuga County close out the month with Fulton hosting the lone event in
June and Ransomville opening up the busy month of July to begin the Independence Day
The ‘Great Canadian Tour’ slated for the second week in July features four straight nights of
racing at Brockville, autodromes Granby and Drummond, and Cornwall before Grandview
stages the popular stand-alone event in Pennsylvania on July 16. A return to Merrittville in
the Niagara Frontier leads off August followed by trips to Canandaigua during Watkins Glen
Cup Weekend and New York’s Thousand Island Region for Can-Am’s Battle at the Border Big-Block showdown.
The Labor Day holiday includes the traditional twin-bill at Cayuga County and Rolling Wheels while September showcases the first big 200-lappers at Lebanon Valley and Rolling Wheels that sandwich a return to the Land of Legends for the Finger Lakes Fall Championship. In October, the famed Syracuse Mile hosts the 37th Rite Aid 200 before the curtain drops on the 47th Eastern States 200 Championship at Orange County.
Contact the DIRTcar NorthEast Office (315/834-6606) during normal business hours for specific questions or log into the homepage at www.superdirtcarseries.com anytime to find out more about the entire circuit.
2008 Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series Schedule
*All events subject to change.
DAY-DATE TRACK LOCATION/WINNER
Wed-Feb 13 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Barberville,FL
Thr-Feb 14 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Barberville,FL
Fri-Feb 15 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Barberville,FL
Sat-Feb 16 Volusia Speedway Park-NP Barberville,FL
Sat-Mar 22 Hagerstown Speedway Hagerstown,MD
Thr-May 1 Virginia Motor Speedway Jamaica,VA
Sun-May 4 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Sun-May 25 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Sat-Jun 7 Fulton Speedway Fulton,NY
Thr-Jul 3 Ransomville Speedway Ransomville,NY
Thr-Jul 10 Brockville Ont Speedway Brockville,ONT
Fri-Jul 11 Autodrome Granby Granby,QUE
Sat-Jul 12 Autodrome Drummond Drummondville,QUE
Sun-Jul 13 Cornwall Motor Speedway Cornwall,ONT
Wed-Jul 16 Grandview Speedway Bechtelsville,PA
Mon-Aug 4 Merrittville Speedway Thorold,ONT
Sat-Aug 9 Canandaigua Speedway Canandaigua,NY
Sat-Aug 16 Can-Am Motorsports Park LaFargeville,NY
Sun-Aug 31 Cayuga Co Fair Speedway Weedsport,NY
Mon-Sep 1 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Sat-Sep 6 Lebanon Valley Speedway West Lebanon,NY
Sat-Sep 20 Canandaigua Speedway Canandaigua,NY
Sat-Sep 27 Rolling Wheels Raceway Elbridge,NY
Sun-Oct 12 New York State Fairgrnds Syracuse,NY
Sun-Oct 19 Orange Co Fair Speedway Middletown,NY
-TBA- Brewerton Speedway Brewerton,NY
-TBA- Orange Co Fair Speedway Middletown,NY
"The Modified class is one of the most popular divisions at the Bullring and asphalt Modified racing is growing across the Southwestern United States," said Chris Blair, LVMS’ vice president of racing operations. "The Modifieds will race 11 here times as part of our NASCAR sanction in addition to special events with the Hoosier Tire West/Lucas Oil Series and also as part of our Fall Classic Open Comp event."
Under the NASCAR sanction, the Modified class will follow the same rules as utilized in 2006 and 2007 under the IMCA sanction including tire and engine rules. Drivers now will earn NASCAR points and year-end awards from the NASCAR Whelen All-American Racing Series.
"In 2007, Whelen and NASCAR produced a great new program for member tracks that offered lucrative rewards for up to four classes under the sanctioning agreement," continued Blair. "We're committed to the future development of the Modified program and feel that the support from NASCAR and Whelen will help us in growing the program."
Coby will drive the #15 SK Modified at Stafford. (SMS Photo)
The fans at Las Vegas' Bullring will get to see some Modified action this season. (LVMS Photo)