Jon McKennedy takes lead late to win Whelen Modified Tour opener

Veteran modified racer passes Chase Dowling with 10 laps to grab his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win.

Jon McKennedy takes lead late to win Whelen Modified Tour opener

Although all eyes were on Doug Coby as he began his march for a fifth consecutive NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship, it was Jon McKennedy who celebrated in Victory Lane after the season opener Saturday at Myrtle Beach Speedway.

McKennedy, whose previous best Tour finish was fifth last year at Stafford Motor Speedway, was able to pass Chase Dowling late and hold off a hard-charging Jimmy Blewett for the win.

“It feels great, I feel like this is way overdue,” McKennedy said. “Over the years, I was never really able to put 100 percent effort into the Tour. When Tommy called me, I just knew it was going to be a great deal. I’ve won races from Florida to Canada. It feels good to finally get the monkey off my back.”

McKennedy is no stranger to winning modified races in his native New England, but his first NASCAR tour win came in his 34th start. Myrtle Beach Speedway has a reputation with old asphalt of using up tires quickly and it showed throughout the race.

The Chelmsford, Massachusetts, driver started from the outside pole and fell back through the field saving his tires for later in the race.

Following a pit stop for tires during the final caution of the event, McKennedy came back through the 27-car field and challenged Dowling for the lead in Turn 2 on Lap 139.

Veteran NASCAR car owner Tommy Baldwin owns the modified driven by McKennedy and he was quick to thank the third generation racer for providing him such a story race car for the race.

“Tommy gave me a great opportunity to run this car, and I’m glad I could make the most of it,” McKennedy said. “We’re really off to a good start together. It’s great to be in good equipment and have some great knowledge behind us.”

Blewett, driving for defending Whelen Modified Tour champion car owner Ed Partridge, finished second and almost brought home the win for the team as he filled in for this race while Ryan Preece competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series event at Auto Club Speedway.

“I can’t thank Eddie and his wife Connie enough, I’m just happy to be able to come out here and help them,” Blewett said. “This is a car that Eddie and my grandfather own together. We came here in the dark, with no notes. But we got ourselves pointed in the right direction fairly quickly today.”

Matt Hirschman started from the pole and led a race-high 77 laps and finished third with Dowling fourth. Justin Bonsignore led 26 laps and finished fifth.

Finishing sixth through 10th were Dave Sapienza, Eric Goodale, Calvin Carroll, Craig Lutz and Rob Summers.

The Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety Kleen will air on NBCSN on Wednesday, March 21, at 6 p.m. ET. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the track at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park for the annual Icebreaker 150 on April 8.

FinSt#DriverSponsor / OwnerCarLaps StatusLed
1 2 7 Jon McKennedy Accell Construction Inc.   (Tommy Baldwin) Chevrolet 150   running 12
2 10 6 Jimmy Blewett TS Hauler   (Ed Partridge) Chevrolet 150   running 0
3 1 60 Matt Hirschman Pee Dee Motorsports   (Roy Hall) Chevrolet 150   running 77
4 7 15 Chase Dowling 15-40 Connection   (Rob Fuller) Chevrolet 150   running 9
5 6 51 Justin Bonsignore Phoenix Communications Inc.   (Kenneth Massa) Chevrolet 150   running 26
6 8 36 Dave Sapienza Sapienza Enterprise   (Judy Thilberg) Chevrolet 150   running 0
7 11 58 Eric Goodale GAF Roofing   (Edgar Goodale) Chevrolet 150   running 0
8 22 25 Calvin Carroll Power with Prestige / Cruising w / Betty   (Joe Carroll) Chevrolet 150   running 0
9 19 46 Craig Lutz Riverhead Building Supply   (Russell Goodale) Chevrolet 150   running 6
10 4 64 Rob Summers Hoosier Tire East / Fast Track   (Mike Murphy) Chevrolet 150   running 0
11 16 14 Blake Barney * Atlantic Sprinkler   (Richard Barney) Chevrolet 150   running 0
12 5 16 Timmy Solomito Starrett Racing   (Eric Sanderson) Ford 150   running 0
13 12 97 Andy Seuss O.B. Builders   (Byran Dauzat) Chevrolet 150   running 1
14 9 2 Doug Coby Mayhew Tools   (Mike Smeriglio III) Chevrolet 150   running 1
15 18 77 Gary Putnam Curb Records   (Mike Curb) Chevrolet 150   running 6
16 13 1 Burt Myers Citrusafe / Dunleavy Truck & Trailer   (Eddie Harvey) Ford 150   running 5
17 26 26 Gary McDonald Lakeland Landscape / TRC Electric   (Sean McDonald) Chevrolet 150   running 0
18 14 75 Chris Pasteryak Dawley's Auto   (Charles Pasteryak) Chevrolet 150   running 0
19 24 99 Jamie Tomaino Atlantic Sprinkler / PSR   (Cheryl Tomaino) Chevrolet 150   running 0
20 27 23 Joe DeGracia * PJ DeGracia Contracting   (Paul Degracia) Chevrolet 150   running 0
21 15 21 Ronnie Williams Gershow Recycling / Empower Financial   (Joseph Bertuccio) Chevrolet 149   running 0
22 23 40 Frank Fleming Lewisville Motors / Smith Trucking   (Gina Fleming) Chevrolet 148   running 0
23 3 22 Kyle Bonsignore Snap-On Tools   (Kyle Bonsignore) Chevrolet 148   running 7
24 21 33 Wade Cole Perf. Engines / Kendall Oil   (Wade Cole) Chevrolet 141   running 0
25 25 01 Melissa Fifield Crowells Towing   (Kenneth Fifield) Chevrolet 141   running 0
26 20 18 Ken Heagy Buoy One Seafood   (Robert Pollifrone) Chevrolet 120   tire 0
27 17 82 Woody Pitkat Horton Avenue Materials   (Danny Watts Jr.) Chevrolet 115   running 0
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