Two months delayed due to COVID-19, the Tri Track Open Modified Series finally opened the 2020 season on Sunday evening at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire.
There were 37 of the top Tour Type Modified drivers in the Northeast at the high-banked oval, with four heat races, two consolations, and a 100-lap feature keeping fans busy throughout the day. Monadnock’s NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series divisions were also on the track, along with the Pro Truck Series.
The Tri Track Rundown is a quick look back at the most recent series event.
LUTZ PUSHES HINCKLEY INTO THREE, WINS DRAG RACE TO THE LINE
Not bad for a debut.
Craig Lutz, a rising Modified star in New England, entered the final corner of Sunday’s Tri Track Open Modified Series opener in second, a car length back from race leader Les Hinckley. By the time they hit the middle of turn four, Lutz was under Hinckley and winning a drag race to the line, pocketing a $6,000 check as part of a more than $40,000 purse. But the way he made the move was what set off some major controversy post-race.
Lutz slammed the back bumper of Hinckley at the bottom of turn three, sending Hinckley up the track, and Lutz by to the win. In the debut start on a competitive series, Lutz was holding the checkered flag at Monadnock.
“It’s Modified racing,” said Lutz. “You have to understand that I’m going for the win, he’s going for the win. He’s hanging on for dear life. I gave him a little tap that he wasn’t expecting and I was able to open up the bottom. We both finished… he still finished second.”
The day didn’t start off well for Lutz. After a blind draw, he started last in the second heat race, and finished sixth, missing a qualified spot by one. When he rolled out for the consi, he started at the front, and picked up the win – advancing him to the main event, with a 22nd place starting spot.
It took him 99 laps to find the lead.
“A little bit of both, you come in here and you think the setup is going to work and it just didn’t,” Lutz said of what happened in the heat, with a bad draw and the setup off. “We drew last for the heat race, and the whole field is stacked because there are so many good cars. We had to be patient with a small track and not a long of room to make passes. I just tried to pass everyone smart and keep the wheels on it so I could be at the front.”
Lutz, who drove a family-owned car with help for Russell Goodale and Goodie Motorsports, plans to be back with Tri Track on July 25 at Star Speedway for the annual SBM showdown.
HINCKLEY NEARLY BREAKS WINNING DROUGHT
Les Hinckley was one corner away from his first career Tri Track Open Modified Series win. But it all went away in the final 500 feet. After the push from behind, Hinckley lost control, and nearly saved it enough to beat Lutz to the line. But it was the final drag race that hurt his chances, while he was still trying to collect the car.
Hinckley started at the bottom of the top five, led laps, and was in contention in the final corner.
“We found a home in the first two-thirds of the race to ride and keep our spot,” Hinckley said. “I just tried to take care of the car. After the competition caution, we made the right adjustments and to the front we went. They weren’t going to catch me without the cautions. He tried to drive through me on the restart but drove over the left-rear and bottomed out the car. I would have been a fool if I gave up the bottom, and he had no chance of going around me on the outside. He never tried. If you could pull up record books, I’ve never driven through anyone like that for a win. I never squared a guy up, punted him in the back, moved him up two grooves and felt good about myself. That was his only shot.”
After the checkered, Hinckley showed his displeasure with Lutz, driving up beside him coming to the start/finish line for Victory Lane ceremonies. He was also visibly and verbally upset with Lutz.
“Craig wasn’t faster than I was. He didn’t have a shot to pass me,” Hinckley said. “He didn’t have any turns left to get it done. That was his move. Not lift, drive in the corner, and use me for the brake.”
Hinckley will have his next shot to earn his first career Tri Track win at Star Speedway on July 25, another track he is familiar with. Hinckley had plenty of background experience at Monadnock, both in Modifieds and Pro Stocks.
Notebook: Monadnock Regulars Impress; Some Tri Track Stars Were Quiet
-Ben Byrne, who won the NHSTRA Sportsman Modified race at Monadnock on Sunday, a drove a crate motor in the Tri Track Series race and pulled off a third-place finish, leading laps in the middle stages. Byrne also showed success at Monadnock last year, where he nearly won the Tri Track race. For his third-place effort, the team collected a $300 bonus courtesy of Barlow Construction for being the highest finishing crate motor in the field.
-Matt Kimball, who was fastest in practice, struggled in his heat, missing a qualified spot. He rebounded in the consi and drove through the field late to finish fourth.
-Ron Silk and Chase Dowling finished fourth and fifth — strong runs to open the season for the veterans. Dowling was looking for his third straight Tri Track win driving for Jimmy Paige, dating back to last year. He was on the bumper of Hinckley with 10 laps to go, but got shuffled on the outside lane on a restart and missed his opportunity.
-Matt Hirschman, Woody Pitkat and Ronnie Williams all finished at the bottom of the top-10, but all three seemed off on the setup all day. Williams earned the final qualifying spot in heat one, while Hirschman did the same in heat four. Pitkat struggled in both the heat and the consi and didn’t qualify. He earned a provisional, and started deep in the field — driving through for an eighth-place finish. Courtesy of Green Construction, Pitkat earned the Hard Charger award worth $500.
The Tri Track Open Modified Series, along with the $40,000 purse/6,000 winning prize, also paid out a long list of contingency awards through sponsorship from supporters of the series.
Superior Refinishing was also providing a $200 award if the polesitter had won the race. However, since Tommy Barrett didn’t take the checkered flag first, the $200 rolls over to the next stop at Star Speedway and raises another $200. If the driver who starts on the pole wins at Star, they will collect $400 in bonus money on top of their winnings.
CONTINGENCY AWARDS: MONADNOCK SPEEDWAY; JULY 5, 2020:
-Green Construction Hard Charger: $500 – Woody Pitkat
-Pepsi Challenge Heat Winners: $300 each – Brian Robie, Chase Dowling, Ben Bryne, Dave Sapienza
-Pepsi Challenge Consi Winners: $300 each – Matt Swanson, Craig Lutz
-Barlow Construction Top Crate Motors: $300 (Ben Byrne) & $200 (Brian Robie)