The past few years when the Modified Tri-Track Series has hosted races at Monadnock Speedway, one name that tends to pop up is that of Ben Byrne. The Deerfield, Massachusetts racer often challenging the major drivers of the Northeast with their Open-rules engines, with his No. 6 Modified and its NHSTRA-rules crate engine.
When the NHSTRA Modifieds were announced to be showcased in 2022 in the new Whitcomb 5 Series at the four New Hampshire Short Track Racing Association venues, many expected Byrne to be a winner and therefore title contender; and that’s exactly what he did, albeit up the road from Monadnock at Claremont Motorsports Park in the second of the three races run on the five-race schedule.
Byrne’s June win at Claremont, along with Todd Patnode’s in April at Monadnock, and Sam Rameau’s last time out at Lee USA Speedway, has locked all three into contention for the Whitcomb 5 championship which will be decided at Monadnock in September. They will be in a group of five drivers who will race within the season-finale race in a NASCAR finale-style showdown.
Before then is race number four at Hudson Speedway this Sunday, August 14. Should a fourth different winner take the day, the fifth driver in will clamber into the title fight on points earned over the first four races. But, a repeat winner would mean two drivers having to get in by the skin of their teeth on points instead.
Naturally, Byrne wants to be the first to repeat. But, he knows that a lot of work is ahead for the No. 6 camp. Hudson is not a part of his stomping grounds, but it is a trip east that he is excited about, especially with the improved state Hudson has shown the past few years under the ownership of Ben Bosowski.
“Looking forward to getting out there, we’ve only run there twice now since they started the NHSTRA races. It’ll be a bit of a challenge getting the suspension sorted out, but it’s a fun little track, and I like it. They’re doing a helluva a job over there, it’s seeing better days now with all the improvements they’ve made. Same with all the NHSTRA tracks, putting money and time into them,” Byrne told Racing America.
Other than being another rough and tough quarter-mile oval, Hudson and Byrne’s home track of Monadnock don’t have much in common. Adjusting will be critical, not just to the track, but the 125-lap distance that he is still getting accustomed to.
“Setup is the biggest challenge. The rhythm is all right and I think we can the groove and all that stuff sorted out. I just need a car underneath me that can go 125 laps without burning the rear tires off.”
The year 2022 for Byrne has been one most weekly Modified drivers would be happy with. In addition to the Claremont Whitcomb 5 triumph, the No. 6 has made it to Monadnock victory lane three times so far, with Byrne in a dead heat with fellow Bay State native Tyler Leary in the track point standings. A tried and true racer, Byrne knows that things could be better.
“We’ll take it, better than getting poked in the eye with a sharp stick for sure. We’ve actually struggled a little bit this year trying to get the car to rotate. I don’t know if it’s me, the tires, or something else. I know people have been complaining about the same thing. But, still not as quick as I’d like to see the car, but with four wins at two tracks, it’s hard to complain too much.”
While the inaugural Whitcomb 5 Series still has two races and championship to be settled, Byrne has been very impressed for what the series spearheaded by promoter Gregg Whitcomb and longtime motorsports announcer Jack Arute has provided for the NHSTRA Modified racers. Big purses, longer races, and more exposure.
“It’s been great, it’s helped to put a spotlight on more of the local drivers who can’t do the big tour shows with the guys who spend the big money. They’re doing a helluva job, the money is good, the format is fun; but it makes it challenging with having a change tire strategy-wise over 125 laps than just showing up and going all out for 40 laps.”
With the final showdown not scheduled until September, Byrne is looking forward to racing at Hudson with eyes out the windshield and not in the mirror. The goal being to learn, have fun, and go for a trophy should an opportunity present itself.
“We went to Lee to just have some fun and learn what we can, that’s another track we haven’t run a whole bunch. It’s nice to go to a big race and not have any stress, where we finished is where we finished. Wanted to bring the car home in one piece and we did just that.”
It will also be a last chance to race against his fellow compeititors before things get serious for him.
“The guys that have won so far are no slouches; Todd’s a shoe, Sammy’s a shoe. Brian Robie is looking good to get in on points. Matt Kimball you can’t count out. Leary’s having a helluva year at Monadnock. Geoff Rollins is tough at Hudson. There’s a bunch of guys that any given race can pull off a surprise win. I’m honored to be in that group of guys that everyone has about.”