The winner’s circle at Seekonk Speedway is familiar territory for Anthony Nocella. But while he had come close, a victory in a big Tour-type Modified race had managed to elude him.
At least, until Saturday night.
Nocella took charge with 31 laps remaining and held off Chuck Hossfeld to win his first career Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series race in the season-ending Haunted Hundred at the “Cement Palace.”
And in Nocella’s mirror, Matt Hirschman crossed the line third to claim his seventh championship in the all-star Modified touring series.
“We’ve actually won a bunch here at Seekonk,” Nocella said of his past success at the Massachusetts third-mile. “We’ve been close in Tri-Track, but we never got the Tri-Track win. You know, seconds, thirds, and then third earlier this year here.
“Just, you know, we always came up a little short.”
The Woburn, Mass. wheelman ran a diverse slate of races in 2022, racing everything from Tour-type Modifieds and big-block Supermodifieds to a Super Late Model. Along the way, he picked up a big win in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Whelen 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In three Monaco Modified starts, Nocella had a best finish of second.
Chuck Hossfeld started from the pole and showed the way early, but Nocella fell into a rhythm in second, with Star Speedway feature winner Jake Johnson third. A couple early cautions closed the gap between Hossfeld and Nocella, but the New Yorker was able to hold Nocella back on restarts. A lap-41 caution flag opened the pit window, and while Ronnie Williams and Woody Pitkat were among those to stop for adjustments, Hossfeld and Nocella stayed out on the track.
Back-to-back cautions set up a lap-47 restart that turned chaotic when Joey Jarvis and Jacob Perry made contact in turn two, stacking up the field and sending Chris Pasteryak for a wild ride on the turn two wall. The race was red-flagged immediately to allow safety crews to respond to Pasteryak and Les Hinckley, who came to a stop just outside turn two. Chase Dowling was caught up in the aftermath, with terminal damage to his ride.
Hossfeld brought the field back to the green flag, holding off Nocella once again on a lap-55 caution flag. As the laps clicked off, though, Nocella reeled in the dominant Hossfeld, making his pass on lap 69 to take the lead.
Ten laps later, Derek Robbie came to a stop off turn two, erasing Nocella’s advantage and bringing Hossfeld back into the picture, along with Hirschman, who had been coasting in third. Lurking in fifth was Pitkat, carving his way through traffic and posting some of his fastest laps before the yellow flag flew.
Nocella handled Hossfeld on the restart, but a spin for Matt Galko brought out another caution. This time, Johnson bailed on the top five and ducked into the pits for a late stop. Kyle Bonsignore assumed fourth place with Pitkat lining up in fifth for the restart.
Another quick yellow for an incident with Jarvis and Tommy Barrett slowed the race once more, but the race ran clean and green to the finish.
And despite his concerns, Nocella was able to hang on for a long-awaited win in the Monaco Modified ranks.
“We struggled a little bit in the middle of the race,” he said. “I didn’t really want to run the pace they were running, I knew the car might give up. We got a little tight there at the end, but we were so close again, we weren’t giving this thing up.”
Hossfeld, driving a car prepared by Connecticut Modified standout Stephen Kopcik, ended his fifth career MMTTS start in the runner-up position. Hirschman finished third, with Bonsignore and Pitkat rounding out the top five.
Austin Beers, in one of two Boehler Racing Enterprises entries for the evening, finished sixth in his third MMTTS start of the year. Jacob Perry was seventh, ahead of Derek Gluchacki, who made his Modified debut in the Boehlers’ second car. Williams finished ninth with a mangled nerf bar from the Pasteryak crash, while Johnson could only climb to tenth in the closing stint.
Matt Swanson, Hirschman’s closest competitor in the title chase, finished 13th. With Hirschman carrying a 27-point advantage into the night, that meant the Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series championship honors went to “Big Money Matt” for a seventh time. The Northampton, Penn. native was the only multi-time winner of the year, winning April’s season-opening tilt at Monadnock Speedway and a June race at Seekonk to punch his championship ticket.
“It wasn’t our day for a win, but I’m glad to get the championship,” he said. “It’s always a good accomplishment for the team. We started off the season really strong, and we kind of had some mediocre finishes here late, and just nobody else capitalized.”
Hirschman’s title caps off a year in which he has won feature races from New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, landing multiple big-dollar paydays and even earning a berth in a Superstar Racing Experience event this summer.
Saturday’s event was the last major Tour-type Modified race on the schedule in New England, with the region’s tracks winding down for the year. With the exception of some November features in New York and New Jersey, most teams will begin preparing for 2023.
But Nocella and Hirschman are on the entry list for Thursday’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale in Martinsville, Va., so both winners have at least one more trophy to chase.
Unofficial Results, Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series Haunted Hundred at Seekonk Speedway:
1. (92MA) Anthony Nocella
2. (21) Chuck Hossfeld
3. (60) Matt Hirschman
4. (07) Kyle Bonsignore
5. (88) Woody Pitkat
6. (3) Austin Beers
7. (76) Jacob Perry
8. (03) Derek Gluchacki
9. (25) Ronnie Williams
10. (15MA) Jake Johnson
11. (25NH) Brian Robie
12. (13) Todd Szegedy
13. (89) Matt Swanson
14. (19) Anthony Sesely
15. (85) Ron Silk
16. (76CT) Dana DiMatteo
17. (82) Rob Murphy
18. (50B) Anthony Bello
19. (27MA) Derek Robbie
20. (50M) Carl Medeiros
21. (55) Ryan Doucette
22. (6) Matt Galko
23. (04) Joey Jarvis
24. (4NH) Tommy Barrett
25. (9CT) Chase Dowling
26. (75) Chris Pasteryak
27. (06) Les Hinckley
28. (06MA) Sammy Rameau
29. (20) Max Zachem