The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is heading into Riverhead Raceway for the third time this season, but with much heavier hearts compared to when the series was there in May and June.
Ed Partridge, Riverhead track owner and the tour‘s most recent winning car owner, passed away on Friday, Sept. 10, just hours after Ryan Preece wheeled Partridge’s No. 6 car to victory lane at Richmond Raceway. Partridge owned Riverhead with his wife, Connie, and while his passion for motorsports has been highlighted in the passing days, so too has his kindness.
Preece, who won each of his final three races for Partridge this season, will not be able to compete at Riverhead this weekend, as he will be busy piloting the No. 37 Chevrolet for JTG Daugherty Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series at Bristol Motor Speedway.
RELATED: Car owner Ed Partridge passes away
With two races in the books already this year at Riverhead and only one winner, we know a little bit more of what to expect heading into Saturday night’s Miller Lite 200 at the New York bullring. With a former six-time champion knocking on the door of sweeping the season, and a points battle heading to the final stretch run, fans will be intrigued to see what happens over 200 laps at the quarter-mile.
The Miller Lite 200 is set for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET and can be seen live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
MILLER LITE 200
Six-time tour champion Doug Coby won the first two races of the year at Riverhead and is hoping to make it a clean sweep come Saturday night. After not winning in 19 previous Riverhead attempts, the Milford, Connecticut, native finally scored the checkered flag in May, leading 25 laps, and followed it up by dominating in June. Coby was at the front for 149 of the 200 laps in the June race and has proven that his Mayhew Tools team have figured out the setup at the tricky track. He will be heading to Riverhead fresh off his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Bristol on Thursday, which will come behind the wheel of the No. 24 Truck for GMS Racing.
Meanwhile, the Whelen Modified Tour championship battle comes into full focus, as Justin Bonsignore eyes his third tour championship in four years. The Holtsville, New York, native had an opportunity to truly widen his point lead over Patrick Emerling at Richmond, after Emerling broke a driveshaft at lap 47. Instead, a mechanical gremlin eliminated Bonsignore from the race just 13 laps later and only he finished one spot ahead of his championship rival.
Riverhead marks the penultimate race of the 2021 season, with only a September 25 race at Stafford Motor Speedway left to decide the title. Bonsignore enters with a 22-point cushion over second-place Emerling, and has a clear advantage this weekend on Long Island.
Bonsignore is an eight-time winner at Riverhead — most recently winning four straight tour races from July 2018 through September 2019, and he finished third in both races this season. Emerling, meanwhile, is winless in 11 starts at the ¼-mile oval, but finished runner-up in each of the races there earlier this season.
And while the driver‘s title is where all sights will be set, the heat for the owners championship is still ablaze, too. Bonsignore‘s No. 51 team owned by Ken Massa holds a 20-point advantage over Coby‘s No. 10 team. And just two points behind Doug Coby Racing sits Emerling‘s No. 07 team. That fight could last until the closing laps at Stafford.
Ron Silk won each of the two races prior to Richmond and sits third in points, but at 53 points behind Bonsignore, a title run seems out of the picture. Silk has yet to find victory lane at Riverhead, but turned in solid performances earlier this season, running seventh in May and fourth in June. Jon McKennedy enters off a runner-up finish at Richmond, his best result of the season and fourth top five in the past six races. McKennedy could use some of that momentum heading into Riverhead. In his two prior starts this year, McKennedy placed 16th and eighth respectively.
The race will also showcase some of Riverhead’s best local stars, as their NASCAR Modified division takes the night off, and drivers come to play with the Whelen Modified Tour. Kyle Soper leads the weekly track championship standings on the heels of a handful of wins this year, and will return to tour action on Saturday, driving for Wayne Anderson. Dylan Slepian, who is third in the track standings, will also compete in the Miller Lite 200.
Former multiple-time track champion and winner Tom Rogers Jr. is set to compete for the Darch family in their familiar No. 03, as Rogers extended a streak to 18 consecutive years of winning a race at the track earlier this year. Timmy Solomito, a longtime weekly regular at Riverhead, is busting out his own No. 66 family-owned ride for competition. The Islip, New York, native shook the car down last week during weekly competition and has three of his nine career tour wins at Riverhead.
Miller Lite 200
Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021
8:00 p.m. ET
Sold at track
NBCSN (Delayed: Thursday, Sept. 23, 5 p.m. ET)
TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold (Live)
RACEDAY SCHEDULE: Saturday, Sept. 18 — Garage opens: 12:45 p.m. ET; Practice: 3:15-4:30 p.m.; Qualifying: 6 p.m.; Race: 8 p.m.
CREW CHIEF HANDOUT:The starting field for the Miller Lite 200 is limited to 28 starters, including provisionals. The field will be set by qualifying (1-22) and provisional process per the entry blank (23-28) for the Miller Lite 200. In the event that qualifying as stated on the entry blank does not take place for any unforeseen circumstance, the field will be set in accordance with the 2021 NASCAR Touring Series Rule Book.
QUALIFYING: Two consecutive qualifying laps. Faster lap determines qualifying position. Adjustments or repairs may not be made on the vehicle after the vehicle has taken the green flag at the start-finish line. NASCAR reserves the right to have more than one vehicle engage in qualifying runs at the same time.
The maximum tire allotment available for this event is as follows: The maximum tire allotment available for this event is eight (8) tires per team. All tires used for qualifying and the race must be purchased at the track and scanned by Hoosier, unless otherwise approved in advance by the Series Director. Four (4) tires must be used for qualifying and to begin the race. All qualifying tires must remain in impound until released by NASCAR Officials. The remaining tire allotment may be used for practice and/or change tires during the event. The tire change rule is zero (0) tires, any position.
QUALIFYING AND SPECIAL AWARDS
$400 Phil Kurze Halfway Leader Award presented by Josten‘s per event award to the race leader at the halfway point of the event, regardless if the race is running under green or yellow.
$600 Hoosier Tire “Lap Leader” per event award to the eligible car owner whose driver leads the most laps in each event. In the event of a tie, the award will go to the highest finishing car in the event.
$500 Hoosier Tire “Hard Charger” per event award to the highest finishing eligible driver who advances the most positions during the course of the race. In the case of a tie, the highest finishing driver will receive the award.
$500 Hoosier Tire “Most Improved” per event award to the eligible new team/organization whose driver improves the most positions during the course of the race. In the event of a tie, the award will go to the highest finishing car in the event. If money is not awarded during this event, funds will roll over to the next event and will continue to roll over until an eligible new team/organization claims the money.
$1,000 Mayhew Tools Dominator Pole per event award to the driver with the fastest qualifying time eligible to participate under the Manufacturers’ Prize Money Conditions.
$550 Sunoco Spec Fuel award divided: 1st-$300 5th-$150 10th-$100.
$3,500 Whelen Engineering “Winner of the Race” award to the winning driver.
Whelen Non-Starter award will be paid to the first 15 competitors throughout the season who pass inspection, practice, attempt to qualify but fail to make the feature event.