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Star Speedway’s SBM 125 To Shift Sanction, Date In 2023

The track’s signature Tour-type Modified race will become part of Star Classic Weekend in 2023, headlining Sunday’s racing program with a big-dollar purse.

Fans and teams gather on Star Speedway's frontstretch before "SBM X," the tenth running of the track's SBM 125, in 2021. The race will become part of the track's Star Classic weekend in 2023 with sanctioning from the Modified Racing Series. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Star Speedway’s SBM 125 will have a whole new look in 2023.

The Epping, N.H. bullring’s signature Tour-type Modified event will change dates and sanctions next year, becoming a part of the track’s 58th Star Classic next fall.

Under the sanctioning of the Modified Racing Series for the first time, “SBM XII” will anchor the third and final day of Star Classic festivities on Sunday, September 17.

The move is a significant shift for the SBM 125, one of the quarter-mile oval’s major race weekends since its inception.

Jake Johnson and Chase Dowling lead the field to green in this year’s “SBM XI.” Johnson would go on to win his first-ever Modified race in the 125-lap feature. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Tour-type Modifieds were still a part of Star’s weekly racing program when track owner and promoter Bobby Webber organized the inaugural SBM 125 in 2011. The big-payday open-competition feature welcomed racers from every regional Modified program, with local favorite Jon McKennedy besting Chris Pasteryak for a $7,000-plus check.

The event remained a Star special event for the next two years, earning promotional support from local writer Kevin Rice and Modified superfan Jim “The Long Island Mod Maniac” Schaefer, among others. For the fourth running in 2014, the concept of the SBM 125 was expanded, with Schaefer’s support, to a three-race miniseries dubbed the Tri-Track Open Modified Series.

After an off-year in 2015, the SBM 125 returned in 2016 and has been sanctioned as a Tri-Track event, now the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series, ever since. Matt Hirschman has won the race six times, pocketing over $14,000 in the race’s tenth running in 2021.

The Monaco Modifieds are slated for a July race of their own, per Star’s preliminary 2023 schedule, though the series has yet to release a full itinerary for next year.

Instead, September’s running of the SBM 125 will be in conjunction with the Modified Racing Series, the New Hampshire touring program founded by NASCAR Modified veteran Jack Bateman. The venerable series, which has elevated drivers like McKennedy, Anthony Nocella and Brian Robie to the region’s top ranks, ended the 2022 season on an up note with strong turnouts in its last two races, positioning it for a resurgence next year.

The MRS has been the main event for the final day of Star’s Star Classic weekend since 2020, with Anthony Nocella winning twice and Woody Pitkat winning this year’s rain-shortened feature over a strong field.

With the SBM 125’s plethora of bonus payouts carrying over to the MRS-sanctioned edition, the race will be the crown jewel of the 2023 MRS calendar.

Matt Hirschman has won six SBM 125s, but “Big Money Matt” has not made an MRS start since 2012. (STS/Jeff Brown)

The move adds a key point of intrigue to the third day of the Star Classic, a weekend-long event that has grown from a single historic race. For years, the Star Classic was the track’s biggest annual event for big-block Supermodifieds, the racing class that inspired Bob Webber, Sr. to purchase Star over forty years ago.

Webber’s son Bobby has taken steps to grow the weekend in recent years, first moving the track’s fendered weekly divisions to a Friday-night program, then adding the Sunday program with MRS as the anchor. But with the featured Supermodifieds racing Saturday night, the weekend’s energy peaked at its midpoint, making Sunday an optional extension of the weekend.

Moving the SBM 125 to Sunday gives the weekend’s third day a new sense of gravity.

The SBM 125’s grandeur also picks up some of the slack if, as has been speculated, the big-block Supermodifieds are not in action next year. The cornerstone of the Star Classic, the ISMA-sanctioned Bob Webber, Sr. Memorial 125, was the only ISMA-sanctioned event in New England this year. The Oswego, N.Y.-based organization has not confirmed any dates for 2023, but Star’s original schedule release positioned the track’s own 350 Supermodified class as the main event for Star Classic Saturday.

Talk of elevating the 350 Supermodifieds to the main event has persisted for years, due to the cost of hosting ISMA and the relative health of the local Supermodified ecosystem. However, Webber and ISMA have come to terms through the offseason many times before, and the door does not appear to be closed to a big-block return.

Should ISMA remain absent from the schedule, the SBM 125 could retain a lot of the momentum for out-of-town fans that favor a touring show.

Webber, staying true to his “no brand names needed” mantra, has been confident in his approach over the last several years, making changes as needed to bring the best racing value to his fans and competitors. Star’s loyal base has responded in kind.

Next year’s Star Classic Weekend, as much as it ever has been, will be a can’t-miss event from start to finish.

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Jeff Brown is a contributor to Short Track Scene. A native of New Hampshire and a long-time fan of New England racing, Brown provides a fan's perspective as he follows New England's regional Late Model touring series.

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