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Anticipation and History Collide at New Smyrna NWMT Showdown

Saturday's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event sets the tone for Speedweeks and the season while paying homage to Modified racing history.


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A World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing preview? The start of a pivotal NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) season? An homage to the past and present of Modified racing?

Saturday’s New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau 200 at New Smyrna Speedway is all of that and more.

The race marks the first time Tour Modifieds hit the track at New Smyrna for 2023, where many of these same drivers and teams will race five more times during the World Series over the course of next week. That’s not to mention drivers like Tommy Catalano, who will be bouncing between his Modified and a Super Late Model over the course of the World Series.

“I’m looking forward to it today,” Catalano told Racing America. “Last year, we ended up eighth [in the NWMT race] when it was all said and done. We had some trouble on pit road on the last stop. Hopefully we can time trial a little better and be up front more consistently.

“I had to work yesterday, so I got in late. The deal with the Super this week is just to get some seat time and get laps. Hopefully, with the Mod, we’ll get a couple of wins this week. We’ll find out here in a little bit.”

It’s also the start of the 19-race Whelen Modified Tour campaign. For Doug Coby, teaming up with Tommy Baldwin Racing, it’s the beginning of this year’s pursuit of a seventh Tour championship.

“Last year, we got to race together quite a bit, 12 races and we won three,” said Coby. “We got a good feel for how we work together. It was just a natural transition to try to race full-time. Thank you to Mayhew Tools for coming on board to make that happen for me and TBR to have the same driver in the car for all 19 shows.

“They won the owners’ championship last year with three drivers, so they don’t need one driver, but it does help with chemistry and making changes, going with the same driver from week to week.”

One year ago, Justin Bonsignore’s season started off on the wrong foot at New Smyrna with a 31st-place finish. Even with four wins, struggles at New Smyrna set the tone for a year where he’d finish fourth in the points. He hopes to change those fortunes this year.

“We’re looking forward to hopefully having a good run tonight,” said Bonsignore. “Last year, obviously, was a tough one for us. Came down and blew up early in the race. We’re excited to get the season off to a good start, get some momentum and then enjoy Florida for a week or so.

The race’s winner will also receive the 1948 Cup, a special trophy inspired by the hardware Red Byron received when he won the first NASCAR-sanctioned points-paying event on the Daytona Beach and Road Course on February 15, 1948.

“The trophy is pretty awesome, the history behind that,” said Bonsignore. “That would be really cool to win tonight.”

“Anything they can come up with something that has historical significance with the Modifieds and what we represent for NASCAR history is something extra to go after,” said Coby. “They did a great job with that. Being here for Speedweeks, it’s a great fit for our series. It’s a long trip, expensive trip, but it’s worth it to be in front of these fans at this track.

Regardless of what Saturday’s race means to everyone in the field, everyone involved is excited to get the action underway.

“It’s a really fun track, great for the Mods, and it’s awesome to kick off the season with a huge car count and packed grandstands,” said Coby. “You can’t ask for much more than that.”