2020 Nwmt Thompson 2 Preece Goodale Sapienza Triple Battle Dick Ayers Photo
NASCAR's Whelen Modified Tour at Martinsville Speedway. (Dick Ayers photo)

NASCAR Modified Title To Be Settled At Martinsville

MARTINSVILLE, Va. — For the second straight year, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship battle will come down to the half-mile circuit of Martinsville Speedway as the tour’s season concludes on Thursday night.

Ron Silk leads Justin Bonsignore by 13 points as the veteran duo of former champions prepares to put on a show under the lights.

As NASCAR’s oldest division helps wrap up the sanctioning body’s 75th anniversary season, adding to the sentimentality of the weekend will be Donnie Allison pacing the field in the modified car he won with at Martinsville in the fall of 1967.

The historic car, which was owned and fielded by the storied Wood Brothers Racing team, will make its return to the track 56 years later to help lead the field to green for a title bout.

“Modifieds is where I started in my early days. You know, it was quite an honor to be asked to drive for the 21 car for the Wood Brothers at Martinsville back then,” Allison said. “This race is going to be bringing back a lot of memories.

“To me, it’s quite an honor for them to ask me to do it this year as a NASCAR Hall of Famer and it’s especially rewarding because its in the exact same car that I drove back in 1967. I ran second in the 100-lap race to my brother Bobby (Allison) and I won the Cardinal 300. That was a special win.”

Allison, voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2024, jumped in the car recently in anticipation of pacing the field on Thursday.

“That car brings back a lot of memories,” he added. “In fact, I was in the parking lot at the Wood Brothers Museum in Stuart and I really didn’t want to pull over and stop. I saw Pat come out the door and I drove around to where they were and they were taking pictures and I was waving, and it was really cool. It felt good to be back in that car.

“I’m looking forward to it on Thursday. I can’t wait.”

Silk enters Thursday night’s event with a 13-point advantage following his win at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park two weeks ago.

That race was a turning point for the 2011 Tour champion Silk, as Bonsignore had been leading the standings by two points entering the penultimate race of the season. But Silk’s win, coupled with a 13th-place result for three-time Tour champion (2018, ’20, ’21) Bonsignore, put him in the driver’s seat for Thursday’s showdown.

If Silk finishes eighth or better — no matter what Bonsignore does — Silk leaves Martinsville with his second career Whelen Modified Tour championship trophy. But the pair’s history at the short track shows that might not be as easy for Silk as it seems.

Although he’s never won the Grandfather clock, Bonsignore has had a pair of top-three finishes at Martinsville in a trio of starts — a runner-up result in 2010, then a third-place finish in 2021. Last year, however, a mechanical failure led to Bonsignore’s retirement with approximately 50 laps remaining in the race, relegating him to a 29th-place finish.

Silk, on the other hand, has made seven starts at Martinsville with only one top-five — a fourth-place finish in 2009. In fact, that result is Silk’s only top-10 finish at the track. In last year’s season finale, Silk finished 11th.

In all, 37 cars are entered in the race, including Burt Myers, who won the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour titles in 2010 and 2016. Myers is a standout at Bowman Gray Stadium, having won 10 modified championships there.

The 2013 Whelen Modified Tour champion and current NASCAR Cup Series regular Ryan Preece is also bringing his passion for modifieds to the track on Thursday. A 25-race winner on the tour, including at Martinsville in 2008, Preece is preparing a car out of his race shop at his home in Kannapolis, N.C.

Members of his No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford team from the Cup Series, including crew chief Chad Johnston and car chief Tony Cardamone, will be coming to Martinsville early to assist with the car. Several other Stewart-Haas Racing pit crew members will be helping out with the No. 40 modified car.

Preece’s dad, Jeff, helped build the car and will also serve as the crew chief on Thursday evening.

“I’m really excited. This is what I grew up doing and this is where my passion for racing started. It’s something my father and I did my whole life, so it’s cool that he’ll be there as crew chief this weekend,” said Preece. “Martinsville is special because it’s where I got my first Modified Tour win in 2008.

“These short tracks that we visit in the Cup Series that are the same as places the Modified Tour go to are always cool because I’ve got that experience. I love the short tracks, they’re where I excel and I’m excited that I get to get back in my modified with my father and friends and teammates.

“It’s going to be awesome, and it’s been fun showing my Cup guys what it’s all about. It’s a different kind of racing and atmosphere.”

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte, as well as former Cup Series star Ryan Newman, are entered with Virginia-based Sadler-Stanley Racing. Newman finished sixth in this race a year ago.