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Nocella Wins First Supermodified Race In NESS Season Finale

Nocella’s first Supermodified victory capped off the first season for the all-new New England Supermodified Series.

Anthony Nocella climbs from one of Howie Lane's potent Supermodifieds, celebrating his first Supermodified victory, a 1-2 finish for car owner Lane and Lane's second-straight NESS win. (STS/Jeff Brown)

Anthony Nocella’s win at New London-Waterford Speedbowl with the New England Supermodified Series in October was a double milestone.

For the Modified veteran, it was his first career victory at the wheel of a winged Supermodified. For the fledgling Supermodified touring series, it marked the end of an up-and-down first season.

For both, it left them craving even more next year.

Nocella’s win came aboard a car prepared by veteran car owner Howie Lane, who has fielded entries for all of Nocella’s winged starts. (STS/Jeff Brown)

On an afternoon shared with season finales for the Pro All Stars Series and American-Canadian Tour, Nocella put on a show of his own. The Woburn, Mass. racer blistered the coastal Connecticut oval, leading every lap and lapping all but two other cars en route to victory.

Fellow Tour-type Modified racer Matt Swanson finished second in a one-two sweep for car owner Howie Lane. Swanson drove Lane’s familiar #97 entry to victory in the penultimate NESS contest at Thompson Speedway, giving the esteemed car owner back-to-back wins to close out the year.

Thunder Road feature winner Ben Seitz, the 2014 International Supermodified Association champion and 2021 ISMA runner-up while driving for Lane, rounded out the podium.

Connecticut veteran Rob Summers finished sixth to clinch the inaugural NESS championship honors.

Known best for his success in Tour-type Modifieds, with 18 Modified Racing Series wins and the 2017 championship, Nocella added winged Supermodifieds to his diverse open-wheel resume in 2020. The Woburn, Mass. racer teamed up with Lane that fall for an ISMA start at Thompson Speedway. Since then, Nocella has filled gaps in his Tour-type Modified schedule with a handful of Supermodified starts.

Nocella’s win capped off a week that started in Seekonk Speedway’s winner’s circle. After capturing his first career Monaco Modified Tri-Track Series win in the season-ending Haunted Hundred, Nocella and his team headed south for Martinsville Speedway for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season finale. Nocella finished fifth at the Virginia track, then returned to New England for one last Supermodified start for the year.

Matt Swanson, aboard Lane’s second entry, followed up his own first career Supermodified win with a second-place finish. (STS/Jeff Brown)

With Nocella winning a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July, the open-wheel ace earned first career wins under three different sanctions in 2022.

Nocella was one of six drivers, meanwhile, who found victory lane in the first season of NESS, a series chartered in the offseason to provide options to New England’s big-block Supermodified stalwarts.

Announced in the fall of 2021, NESS was organized by PASS founder and president Tom Mayberry with technical input from Brian Allegresso of New England Motor Racing Supply. Originally dubbed the New England Big-Block Super Modified Series, NESS aimed to combat both a lack of local events for the beloved winged cars and the runaway costs of fielding a big-block Supermodified.

The new series was not without its challenges. Supply-chain woes, particularly regarding the new General Motors big-block crate engine that NESS had championed in its early meetings, impacted a handful of teams as they tried to prepare for the new series. NESS’ planned season opener in May was scratched, and weather postponements further pared the schedule back. Short fields at some races prompted officials to shorten the feature distances. The starting grid at Waterford matched the series’ high-water mark, with nine cars taking the green flag in three of the season’s seven races.

Veteran racer and tire supplier Rob Summers wheeled the red “SNAFU Special” to the first-ever NESS championship with a win earlier this season. (STS/Jeff Brown)

But those shortcomings reflect more on the health of big-block Supermodified racing than they do on NESS. ISMA, the Northeast’s flagship touring option for big-block Supermodifieds, sanctioned only one race in New England in 2022. Eighteen cars took the green flag in September’s Star Classic at Star Speedway, with eight of those hailing from New England.

Six of those eight drivers made at least one NESS start.

NESS has attracted attention from most of New England’s Supermodified faithful, including car owners Lane and Vic Miller, both of whom fielded entries in NESS and ISMA events this year. NESS has attracted new eyeballs as well, with Kenny White fielding a car for fendered pros Nick Sweet and Derek Griffith. Sweet took a more cautious approach at his native Thunder Road, while Griffith drove to victory at Oxford Plains Speedway in his first-ever Supermodified start.

The key to growth is getting more racers involved in the platform at all, and the availability of GM’s big-block crate offering is a big part of that.

But without a foundation, building is a challenge.

The foundation has been set. NESS’ next step is to frame.

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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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