And that’s a point the Wallingford driver will try to prove once again in 2014 when he starts off the season by
running the first three events of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule for a team he is behind forming.
Rocco confirmed Tuesday that he will run the season opening Icebreaker on April 6 at Thompson Speedway and
then the Spring Sizzler 200 at Stafford Motor Speedway on April 27 and the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 on May 23 at
Rocco will run for a newly formed team owned by John Rufrano, who also owns the team Rocco runs for in an SK
Modified at Stafford Motor Speedway. Rocco also runs part-time on the Valenti Modified Racing Series in a
Rufrano owned ride.
Rocco said the team has purchased a car that had been part of Justin Bonsignore’s stable on the Whelen Modified
“I’m excited, it’s something new,” Rocco said. “John Rufrano is the owner and I will take care of maintaining it. I’m
excited to get my hands on it and work on it a little bit.”
Rocco said if all goes well for the first three events of the season the team will look at expanding their schedule. He
said ideally he’d like to see the team run all eight of the Whelen Modified Tour events at Connecticut short tracks in
2014. The division visits Stafford four times, Thompson three times and makes one trip to the Waterford
It’s all part of an aggressive schedule of competition that has become the norm for Rocco, the 2010 NASCAR
Whelen All-American Series national champion.
He will compete full-time in the SK Modified divisions at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson in 2014. He will race for
Rufrano at Stafford and as a partner with Vin Beedle’s Mr. Rooter Racing team at Waterford and Thompson. He will
also compete in a Scott Fearn owned Late Model at Waterford and likely in a Fearn owned Late Model regularly at
Thompson. He said he also expects to run all eight Valenti Modified Racing Series events at Connecticut tracks
with Rufrano’s backing.
And Rocco can guarantee at least one new fan will be cheering on all his efforts in 2014. Rocco and his wifeCassie
celebrated the birth of their first child, a son named KJ, on
Darling will field his car for Hirschman for an unspecified portion of the 14- event schedule in 2014 with Hirschman
fielding his own car for the remainder of the events.
Hirschman previously ran for Darling on the Modified Tour from 2006 to 2009. During that span Darling fielded a
car for Hirschman for half of each season with Ed Bennett fielding a car for Hirschman for the other half of the
“I think the transition coming back together with them, it’s not going to be like starting with a new team,” Hirschman
said. “I think things are going to click pretty quickly with them again. Their reputation and their results speak for
themselves and the same can be said for my program. I go into this with 100 percent confidence in both sides.”
Hirschman, of Northampton, Pa., replaces Doug Coby in Darling’s No. 52 ride. Coby, after winning a series title in
2012 with Darling and finishing as the series runner-up with the team in 2013, will move to Mike Smeriglio Racing in
2014, replacing Todd Szegedy in the No. 2 ride.
Hirschman finished third in the Whelen Modified Tour standings in 2007 and second in 2008 but a falling out with
Bennett at the end of the 2008 season dissolved the tandem team effort.
“We are teaming up to make things easier on both ends, and we’ll probably spread the races out and kind of go
about it that way,” Hirschman said of the reunion with Darling. “ Obviously I’ve raced with them before and we
always maintained a good relationship. I just, at that time when that split up happened, I wasn’t in the position that I’
m in now to join up with [Darling] and field a car myself. But I can’t complain with the way things have gone for me. It’
s a good chance for me to get back together with him again.”
The 31-year old Hirschman has two career Whelen Modified Tour victories, both coming during the 2008 season
when he finished second in the series standings to Ted Christopher. Over 77 career starts dating back to 2005,
Hirschman has 15 top-five’s and 40 top-10’s.
After running two events in 2009 and none in 2010, Hirschman returned to the series full-time with Boehler Racing
Enterprises in 2011 and finished sixth in the standings. He has made two Whelen Modified Tour starts each of the
last two seasons. The last two years have seen Hirschman establish himself as the driver to beat in the Northeast
when it comes to Open Modified shows, earning him the moniker Big Money Matt for his knack for grabbing
victories in high paying events. The 2013 season saw him win both the North-South Shootout at Caraway
Speedway in Sophia, N.C. and the Turkey Derby at Wall (N.J.) Stadium among events on his schedule.
“I think it’s an opportunity to accomplish some things that I’d accomplish that I haven’t yet,” Hirschman said of going
into the 2014 season running full-time on the Whelen Modified Tour once again. “The last few years have been
incredible in terms of accomplishments in what we’ve been doing, but this presents a new challenge and an
opportunity to accomplish some things that are there for me to get.”
Coby, from Milford, Conn., moves over to MSR after three stellar seasons with the No. 52 Darling Racing Team that
produced eight victories and three top-five points finishes, highlighted by the 2012 championship season.
MSR announced on Nov. 8 that it had parted ways with driver Todd Szegedy, just days after it was reported that
the Darling team Coby drove for was scaling back to a part-time schedule for the upcoming season.
MSR crew chief and team manager Phil Moran confirmed the hiring of Coby Wednesday evening.
“We’re really, really looking forward to working with Doug,” Moran said. “Doug doesn’t have anything to prove to
me. He’s got a great reputation as a good, clean driver and that’s what we’re looking for.
“We’re going to be doing some new things from a technical standpoint, we’ve got a brand new 2014 Troyer car we’
re going to run that will be on display at the upcoming PRI Show, so we’re really excited about the coming season.”
Moran confirmed that MSR’s first race with Coby in the No. 2 will be the UNOH Battle At The Beach on the short
track at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway in February.
The move to MSR for Coby gave him the assurance of a full-time ride for the coming season.
“We were working on a plan [with Darling] to go full-time once again, but there was a little bit of indecisiveness,”
Coby said. “The biggest need I have as a driver is stability. When you have the opportunity to move to another
team that has comparable equipment and that has that stability factor, that’s important to me.”
Coby said he agonized over the decision to ultimately leave the team he had found so much success with the last
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do,” Coby said of reaching a decision on his future. “I’ve had sleepless nights
trying to make a decision based on so many different things, but it just got down to crunch time and I owed it to
both teams to let them know what I felt was the best thing to do.”
Owner of nine wins and 66 top 10s in 114 starts, he endured four years of part-time completion prior joining forces
with Darling in 2011, and didn’t want to chance slipping back into a race-to-race situation.
“It has nothing to do with equipment or people, because the 52 team is phenomenal, but it really is a stability thing,”
Coby said. “I feel like the 2 team is a really stable opportunity for me to move along in racing, and I’m really excited
for that opportunity.”
The 2014 season will launch for the second year in a row with the non-points UNOH Battle At The Beach on
Tuesday, Feb. 18. The full 2014 schedule is expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
year-old from Millis, Mass. Barrett, who is the first driver to declare intentions to compete for
2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors, made his first initial tour appearances in the last two
events of the 2012 season when he finished 19th in the Fall Final at Stafford (Conn.) Motor
Speedway and seventh in the World Series at Thompson (Conn.) Speedway.
“I’m excited to start the season off with Tommy Barrett, I think he’s a talented young man that’s gonna go places,”
Our said. “I figured he’s going to be a rising star.”
Barrett recorded 14 career victories in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified division action at
Stafford from 2010-11. He also has six wins in 35 starts since 2011 with the Valenti Modified Racing Series.
“To finally be on the Whelen Modified Tour is really exciting,” Barrett said. “All the names that have been there –
Richie Evans, Mike Stefanik and now Ryan Preece – I’m just really excited to go there and compete with all of the
great drivers there now.”
The No. 22 crew chief for the past two seasons, Brad Lafontaine, will remain with the team and work with Barrett
“I’m really excited to have Chris [Our] as a car owner and Brad Lafontaine as the crew chief,” Barrett said. “That
takes the pressure off of me a little bit, especially with Mike Stefanik – a seven-time champion – being in the seat
the last few years.
“Hopefully I can fill the shoes he left. It definitely won’t be easy, but I’m going to try my best.”
Our Racing has quickly expanded since he first joined the Whelen Modified Tour in 2012 when it fielded a car for
half of the schedule for Stefanik. Our then went full-time this past season with Stefanik, who registered two wins
and finished fifth in the championship standings.
Our was looking to expand his operation in 2014 with a second, part-time car for Stefanik. It was an offer that
Stefanik ultimately passed on.
“I offered Mike five races [for next season] in a second car, and he has opted to turn that down at this time,” Our
said. “No hard feelings in any which way, but I am moving forward with Tommy as my main driver starting off the
tour and running one car at the moment.
“We are very much looking forward to starting the season off with Tommy Barrett, who we’re planning to bring to
Daytona [for the UNOH Battle At The Beach]. We’ll go down there and see how we make out, then start off the tour
Our emphasized that the past two years working with Stefanik proved invaluable in launching his program.
“It’s been a pleasure working with Mike, with all of his experience and knowledge,” Our said. “He’s helped us get as
far as we have as far as winning some races – Mike had a lot to do with that.”
Stefanik ultimately decided to pass on Our’s offer of a part-time role with the team in 2014.
“Chris offered the five-race schedule,” Stefanik said. “I thought about it, but I think it’s really hard to do a two car
programs out of one hauler. I just felt that it probably wasn’t the right thing, so I chose not to.
“Chris is heading down a different road, and that’s all good, so no problems.”
Stefanik, who will turn 56 next May, opened the door to possible retirement following his triumph at Bristol (Tenn.)
Motor Speedway this past August. Owner of nearly every one of the tour’s career statistical records, Stefanik has
compiled 74 victories, 48 poles and 300 top-10 finishes in 449 starts since 1985.
But as of Wednesday when he informed Our that he would not return to the team, Stefanik wasn’t ready to officially
call it quits, even though at this point he’s not sure what his racing future in racing holds.
“I’m not worried about it to be completely honest,” Stefanik said. “If it all ends now then I’m fine with it. I don’t really
have any regrets. If there’s no more chapters then there’s no more chapters.
“I’m not freaked out. I’m alright with everything. However it goes, I’m ok with it.”
The 2014 season will launch for the second year in a row with the non-points UNOH Battle At The Beach on the
short track at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The full 2014 schedule is expected to
be announced in the coming
NEW ENGLAND MOTORSPORTS SOUTH
Even though southern New England is in the grip of one of the worst winters in memory, racing action could
be heating up at the Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut on the weekend of March 28-30. Track promoter
Terry Eames is got his fingers crossed that early season Blast Off event. The Blast off will feature the two
touring divisions of the Valenti Modified Racing Series and the NEMA Midgets and Lites. The rest of the
classes are comprised of the multiple NASCAR Weekly Racing Series classes.
The NEMA Midgets get the opportunity to kick-off the 2014 season with a bang. Multiple champion Randy
Cabral of Kingston, MA hopes to rebound
after having to play second fiddle to John Zych last year. Other drivers in the mix include; Russ Stoehr of
Bridgewater, MA and his brother Greg of Lakeville, MA.
Tommy Barrett of Millis, MA had a difficult SpeedWeeks at the New Smyrna Speedway's World Series last
month in Chris Our's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ride. He had 2 DNF's and a third and fourth. The 2013
Millis High School grad could be looking for redemption and take in the Valenti Modified race in his family
owned Victory Lane Sports Bar machine. Rick Savary of Canton, MA could also be among the contenders in
the VMRS. Both Barrett and Savary are not high on the list of the VMRS due to past problems with the club's
tech inspectors. Both take exception to the fact that they were accused of soaking tires even though the
evidence was lacking. Both discussed court action against the VMRS.
According to the Waterford schedule practice is set for Friday for all 13 divisions. Saturday has qualifying for
all divisions and seven features while Sunday afternoon offers the remaining features including the VMRS
100. Post time each day is at 1 p.m.
In preparation for the 2014 season Stafford Motor Speedway has made multiple announcements that will put
a fresh look on weekly racing at the half-mile. One of the headline events for the 2014 season is the SK 5k
on July 4th. Stafford has already announced the largest purse in SK Modified® history paying $5,000 to the
winner and over $27,000 in total purse money up for grabs, but now a new never before seen twist will be
added to the all-new July 4thevent.
At last weekend's Frank Maratta Auto Show and Racearama we ran into Joe Bovin of Belchertown, MA. Joe
is moving up from the SK Lites to the SK Division at Stafford. His brother Nick goes to UMass and has been
racing in Stafford's SK Modified class. Nick also moved up from the SK Lites.