Successful Switch To Weekly Sportsman Modified Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Russ Hersey Jr. completed a seamless transition from full bodied stock cars to fulltime open-wheel racing this year.
Hersey, 44, of Swanzey, N.H., tops the NASCAR Sportsman Modified division point standings at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, N.H. He leads defending division champion Bill Kimball by 32 points entering the track’s final race of the season Sept. 15.
The 2012 season marked the first year of NASCAR Division I designation for Sportsman Modifieds on Monadnock’s quarter-mile paved oval. Hersey is bidding for the first open-wheel division track championship of his 20-year racing career. He drives a car he built and tested in late 2011.
“Last year, I ran the final two shows with this car and had a third-place finish and a win so we knew we had a good piece,” Hersey said. “This year we have seven wins in 15 starts, but five rain-outs hurt our chances in the state point race. We had quality finishes but couldn’t get the quantity of races.”
Hersey also has 13 top-fives and 14 top-10s and is second to Wayne Helliwell Jr. in the current state NASCAR standings.
Helliwell is gunning for his third consecutive New Hampshire state championships. He did double duty at two tracks in two divisions this year. He placed second to Tommy Tombarello Jr. for the 2012 small block Supermodified championship at Lee (N.H.) USA Speedway and leads the Late Model division points at Canaan (N.H.) Fair Speedway. Overall Helliwell has 16 wins in 31 starts so far this year.
“When you’re racing for a championship against Wayne Helliwell, you’re racing against the best there is,” Hersey said.
Making a late-season bid to add starts, Hersey got help from Helliwell at Lee on Sept. 1. The two are longtime friends going back to the days when their namesake fathers were racing.
“Wayne introduced me around the pits at Lee, trying to find a ride in a small block Super,” Hersey said. “They had double features that night and Mike Ordway Jr. let me drive his car in the second feature. We finished 11th but got an additional start.”
Hersey won NASCAR Pro Stock division championships at Monadnock in 2005, 2007 and 2009. NASCAR tour-type Modifieds were NASCAR Division I at the track from 2009-11.
Hersey started out racing Modifieds on a limited basis in the early 1990s. He soon zeroed in on fulltime Pro Stock competition until last year. He built a tour-type Modified of his own and also drove a Sportsman Modified at Monadnock in 2011. The divisions appeared on alternating weekends. He placed ninth in Modified points and third in Sportsman Modified points. The two divisions at Monadnock were alike except for the engine. When Sportsman Modifieds were promoted to Monadnock’s top weekly division, all Hersey had to do was drop a crate engine into his tour-type Modified to compete fulltime.
“People had to adjust to running weekly, but everyone’s done a great job,” Hersey said of his division. “As a whole, I’ll give us an ‘A.’ We didn’t lose a single car to wrecks and only lost a couple to blown engines. There’s interest from a lot more guys for next year. Fans are learning we’re still racing tour-style cars. The only difference is in the horsepower.”
Hersey is an owner-driver who works as a regional manager for Bond Auto Parts. Howard Deitz, a winner of several NASCAR mechanic of the year awards, is the team’s crew chief. David Castor is tire specialist and Bill Barnett is chassis specialist. Team members include Grant Fischer, James Carpenter and Tommy Hughes. Sponsors include Twin State Truck Service, Bond Auto Parts and Spafco Race Cars.
Sources: Paul Schaefer/NASCAR PR