If Tyler Rypkema had a lever to pull running behind Eric Goodale in the closing laps of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour opener on Thursday night at Martinsville Speedway, it had probably already been pulled back in February.
The Virginia Is for Racing Lovers 200 was not the first time Goodale and Rypkema had run nose-to-tail in the closing laps of a Tour Type Modified race.
The first time was the Blewett Memorial 76 at New Smyrna Speedway when Goodale spun due to contact from Rypkema behind him.
Pushing the issue on Thursday, even with a grandfather clock at stake, just wasn’t worth the risk and Goodale emerged victorious in a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event for the first time since October 1, 2017 at Stafford Motor Speedway.
“Me and Tyler are friends,” Goodale said. “We had a little scuffle down in New Smyrna a couple of months ago. We put that behind us, we raced clean tonight, he raced hard, we both had really good cars.”
Both admitted Goodale had a better one at the end of 200 laps.
“Other than roughing him up, or pushing him down into the corner, or getting him loose in the middle,” I couldn’t roll with him on the outside … my best option was on the restart. Once I couldn’t get him there, that was pretty much me saying alright, let’s get to the finish and run this one out.”
The victory was especially rewarding for Goodale who has struggled in recent years. Last season was arguably rock bottom for the 15-year veteran with a 16.9 average finish with a best finish of ninth and 13th or worse in every other event.
Goodale went to work over the winter.
“Yeah, we got some new crew guys, and have real good chemistry,” Goodale said. “Some of these guys have been with me since I was 12 so it’s a good mix.
“We had good years in 2016-17 and we just struggled after that. We found out everything not to do. It reminded us to keep trying and putting it behind us. We didn’t win in Florida and I felt like we probably could have won one or two of them.”
They took everything they gained at New Smyrna and bottled it up for the races that count the most, starting on Thursday in Ridgeway, Virginia, the one that pays a grandfather clock.
“To finally win one feels pretty damn sweet,” said Goodale. “It is about that clock. I’ve wanted one for so long.
“We had this one circled on the schedule as soon as it came out.”
It’s a trophy that will sit in his kitchen for the foreseeable future, ironic considering that he grew up with one in his childhood home, and it drove him crazy.
“I want to look at that thing,” Goodale said. “Martinsville has always been cool to me. It was where I made my first start and it feels good to polish one off here.
“I knew we were fast when we unloaded and we just needed to make the right calls and it worked out by the end of the day.”
The first three NWMT wins of his career came at his home track of Riverhead Raceway in New York, one was at Bristol Motor Speedway and then the most recent came at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway.
“Other than Riverhead, which was in front of my family and friends, nothing can top that to have everyone there, but this one is special because I love Martinsville,” Goodale said. “The aura of it. I’ve watched Cup races here. I have at Bristol too, but it’s all about that clock.
“It’s one of the coolest trophies in racing and to finally win one feels pretty damn sweet.”
Cup Series drivers Ryan Preece and Ryan Newman started the race on the front row. Preece, the 2013 Modified Tour driver led the first 110 laps but finished 12th after losing a lap during his final pit stop. Newman was fasted in final practice but triggered a multiple car crash early in the race when he failed to launch on the second restart and ultimately failed to finish due to a mechanical failure.
Meanwhile, two-time and defending champion Justin Bonsignore started at the rear of the field due to pulling his car out of the impound line after qualifying, but finished third after leading 49 laps.
Goodale says the key was making the move on Bonsignore as soon as the opportunity presented itself.
“I wanted to get out front and just control [the pace],” Goodale said. “I felt like he [Bonsignore] was better than me earlier in the race, but after the pit stop we made, the car was spot on. We didn’t make any adjustments, but we didn’t screw it up. I think we were just better at the end of it.
“I knew the longer I waited, the tougher it was going to be. I don’t know if he got in [the corner] hot or if I just hit it right, but getting in there, I knew that was my opportunity. I closed right up to him and I knew that I had to take it while I was there, because it may not have opened up again.”
As for Bonsignore, the 2018 and 2020 champion has now finished in the top-five in every race dating back to August 2, 2019 at Stafford and just couldn’t retain the pace after their final trip down pit road.
“We just missed it on adjustments during the final stop,” Bonsignore said. “To continue the top-five streak is cool. Starting at the tail and working our way into the top-three is a really good day. If you can’t win, you have to go out and run in the top three. We were able to get the season off on the right foot.”
So for the likes of Goodale and Rypkema to have any shot at the championship, they need to finish ahead of Bonsignore, so mission accomplished on Thursday.
In the case of Goodale, mission accomplished with a grandfather clock.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season will resume on Sunday, April 25 for the Spring Sizzler at Stafford.
- Eric Goodale
- Tyler Rypkema
- Justin Bonsignore
- Max McLaughlin
- Kyle Bonsignore
- Doug Coby
- Tommy Catalano
- Patrick Emerling
- Woody Pitkat
- Jamie Tomaino
- Jon McKennedy
- Ryan Preece
- Ronnie Williams
- Bobby Measmer, Jr.
- Jeff Gallup
- Jared Fryar
- Andy Seuss
- Bryan Dauzat
- Rob Summers
- Gary McDonald
- Ron Silk
- Gary Byington
- Anthony Nocella
- Kyle Ebersole
- Kyle Soper
- Walter Sutcliffe, Jr.
- Melissa Fifield
- Jeremy Gerstner
- Ryan Newman
- Dave Sapienza
- Sam Rameau
- Andrew Krause
- Craig Lutz
- J.B. Fortin
- Jeff Fultz