Cars are lined up prior to the Jennerstown Salutes 150 Presented By DGV for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in Jennerstown, Pennsylvania on May 29, 2021. (Nate Smallwood/NASCAR)
(Photo: Nate Smallwood/NASCAR)

NOTEBOOK: Kentucky Derby flare gives the Inaugural Granite State Derby a unique atmosphere

The Inaugural Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation on Saturday at New Hampshire’s Lee USA Speedway is not going to be like any other NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on the 2022 schedule.

The event takes its name from the Kentucky Derby, the famous horse race held annually in Louisville, Kentucky, that typically draws more than 150,000 people to Churchill Downs.

Josh Vanada, the owner of JDV Productions and promoter of the Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation, explained he was looking for a way to connect the race at Lee USA Speedway to a major sporting event during the month of May when he settled on the Kentucky Derby theme.

“When you think of the some of the most iconic regional motorsports events, they are tied to larger sporting events happening nationally,” Vanada said. “I was looking to see what major sporting events were going on in May, and that one (the Kentucky Derby) stuck out. I thought there was something we could do with that, and it turns out that, in fact, there was.

“When you start to think of … in the Kentucky Derby, what’s competing? Horses,” Vanada continued. “Well, what’s under these Whelen Modified Tour cars? 600 horsepower.”

RELATED: Watch the Granite State Derby on FloRacing

Vanada is not just borrowing the Derby name for Saturday’s race. He is utilizing a number of the same themes for the Granite State Derby, including having a bugler on hand as part of the pre-race ceremonies. Tracking down a bugler, as it turned out, was one of the more difficult parts of organizing the Granite State Derby.

“It was probably one of the most challenging things of the whole event,” said Vanada, who confirmed his bugler for the Granite State Derby will even wear a red sport coat just like the bugler who performs at the Kentucky Derby. “Somehow or another we found a local music organization, and it turns out he does placement for musicians at events. We told him what he wanted to do, and he said no problem.”

Having a bugler perform is just one small part of what Vanada and his JDV Productions team are doing to give Saturday’s race a Derby flare.

“The pre-race will mirror very similar to what happens at the Kentucky Derby when the horses are brought to post,” said Vanada. “The trophy is a replica of the Kentucky Derby trophy. I actually saw a picture of it yesterday, it looks truly amazing. It’s going to be really, really cool.

“Our event production, our sound elements and other things you’ll see throughout the event, they’ll make you feel like you’re at a horse race.”

In addition to the Derby theme, the Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation is the first of three races that are part of the Whelen Granite State Short Track Cup. The three-race mini series includes the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at Lee USA Speedway, Monadnock Speedway and Claremont Motorsports Park and features its own purse and bonus structure.

“Whelen’s partnership on the Granite State Short Track Cup has really I think elevated these three New Hampshire races, and we’ve drawn some local talent who has never competed on the Tour and will make their debut on Saturday or who has had very random starts, but we anticipate competing in the three Cup races,” Vanada said.

Tickets for Saturday’s Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation are available by visiting JDVProductions.com. Tickets for the JDV Experience, an all-inclusive premium ticket package for each of the JDV Production events on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule that includes premium seating and a private autograph session, are also available.

Early owner’s championship lead for Tommy Baldwin Jr.

Doug Coby
Doug Coby (Photo: Mike Lawrence/NASCAR)

Through three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races this year, Tommy Baldwin Jr. sits atop the series’ car owner standings.

He has accomplished that with three different drivers steering his No. 7 Modified at three different race tracks.

Baldwin opened the season at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway with Mike Christopher Jr. piloting his car to a third-place finish, followed by Jimmy Blewett taking the reins and delivering a seventh-place run at Richmond Raceway in April.

Doug Coby got the call to drive for Baldwin last Saturday night at New York’s Riverhead Raceway in place of Blewett, who sat out the race in order to care for his sick daughter. Coby rewarded Baldwin’s confidence with a dominant victory in the Miller Lite 200, his third in four races at the New York oval.

Those three results combined have given Baldwin a 12-point edge in the owner standings, a position he would like to maintain throughout the season.

With that in mind, Coby will once again pilot Baldwin’s No. 7 this Saturday night at Lee USA Speedway while Blewett continues to spend time with his family at home.

While Coby does not have any NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour experience at Lee USA Speedway since the last event there took place in 1998, he does have experience on abrasive surfaces like the one he’ll face Saturday. He won the last Tour race at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway, another track with a famously abrasive surface.

“At Myrtle Beach, you couldn’t even go 100 percent,” Coby said earlier this week. “In these races, it’s definitely timing of when you take tires, versus when the cautions fall. In the last race I won at Myrtle Beach, we timed our pit stop well, when some others stayed out and were hoping for a caution later in the race, but it never came out. Being a six-tire race at Lee, it’s a big difference to be able to come into the pits twice. Someone may even try to time it right and only pit once and not need the second stop.

“The race is going to be about pacing yourself and not abusing the car. At Riverhead, I was able to pace myself the whole race, and knowing how the car responded to it, it gives me a lot more confidence. At Lee, we will be in a tire saving mindset from the drop of the green. Lee is a great facility and the track is a ton of fun.”

Matt Hirschman, driver of the #60 PeeDee Motorsports Car, celebrates in victory lane during the New Smyrna Visitors Bureau 200 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour during night 2 of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna, Florida on February 12, 2022. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)
Matt Hirschman, driver of the No. 60 PeeDee Motorsports Car, celebrates in Victory Lane after the New Smyrna Visitors Bureau 200 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour during night 2 of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, on Feb. 12, 2022. (Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

New Smyrna winner Matt Hirschman back in action

For the first time since he won the opening race of the 2022 season, Matt Hirschman will return to action with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on Saturday evening.

Hirschman’s win at New Smyrna in February was his fifth Tour victory dating back to 2005. While he hasn’t been a regular with the Tour since 2014, Hirschman is always a threat when he shows up at the race track.

His victory at New Smyrna was a prime example of that, as he led 112 of 200 laps and held off Eric Goodale at the checkered flag.

Last year in three starts with the Tour, Hirschman won once at New York’s Oswego Speedway and finished no worse than second in the other two events he entered. He also has experience at Lee USA Speedway, where he has at least one victory in a Modified during his career.

If you’re picking favorites for the Inaugural Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation, you can’t go wrong with a thoroughbred like Hirschman.

Notes:

  • Patrick Emerling, who currently sits sixth in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings, has withdrawn from Saturday’s race in order to compete in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway.
  • Jacob Perry will make his second career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start and first since 2019 on Saturday. His only previous start with the series came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where he completed only two laps before retiring from the race following a crash.
  • Steven Dickey Jr., who has experience in a Late Model at Lee USA Speedway, is entered in his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event.
  • Sam Rameau is set for his season debut with the Tour on Saturday. He last competed with the series in 2021, making starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
  • In addition to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the Granite State Pro Stock Series, NEMA Lites, New England Pro 4 Modifieds and NHSTRA Mini Stocks will also be in action as part of the Granite State Derby presented by USA Insulation.