2023 SMART Low Country 99 at Florence Motor Speedway

10 Things To Watch For During SMART Modified Season

10 Things To Watch For During SMART Modified Season

10 things to watch for entering the 2023 SMART Modified Tour season, which begins March 4 at Florence Motor Speedway.

Mar 2, 2023 by Brandon Paul

A new season will begin for the SMART Modified Tour on Saturday, March 4 at Florence Motor Speedway. With an expanded 14-race schedule and a roster featuring some of the biggest names in Modified racing, anticipation is high for the 2023 season. 

Let's take a look at 10 things to watch for during the upcoming SMART Modified Tour season. 

A Record Number Of Races

This year's SMART Modified Tour schedule features the largest number of races in tour history. On five previous occasions, the tour has contested 13 races in a single season. In 2023, SMART will eclipse that number with 14 races on the current schedule. 

Out of the 14 races on the schedule, the tour will visit 13 different race tracks. Caraway Speedway is the only track slated to host more than one SMART Modified Tour event in 2023. 

The tour will make eight stops at race tracks in North Carolina, five stops at Virginia race tracks and a single stop in South Carolina. 

NASCAR Stars Will Be Modified Teammates

A pair of former NASCAR stars will join forces and compete for the same team during the 2023 SMART Modified Tour season. 2000 NASCAR Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte and 2008 Daytona 500 winner Ryan Newman will both race for SS Racing, a team owned by Virginia Senator William “Bill” Stanley and former NASCAR driver Hermie Sadler. 

Labonte, who finished third in the SMART Modified Tour standings last year driving for car owner Terry Hall, plans to once again compete full-time with SMART in 2023. The former Cup Series champion is a two-time SMART winner, with both of those wins coming during the 2021 season. 

Newman is currently slated to race in nine of the 14 SMART Modified Tour events on the schedule. Modified driver Jonathan Cash will fill the seat of the No. 39VA Modified for the five races not on Newman's schedule. Newman won in his SMART Modified Tour debut at North Wilkesboro Speedway last August. 


VIDEO: Ryan Newman made his debut with SS Racing last April at Richmond Raceway. 

The Rocket Goes Touring

"Rocket Man" Ryan Newman isn't the only driver with "Rocket" in their nickname who will be chasing SMART Modified Tour checkered flags in 2023. 

"The Rocket" Tim Brown will fill the void left by Labonte in the Terry Hall owned Modified. The 12-time Bowman Gray Stadium Modified champion will be looking to score his first career SMART Modified Tour this season. After the team made the "SMART Championship Three" with Labonte last season, expectations will be high for "The Rocket."

Can Big Money Be Stopped?

Matt Hirschman has been nearly unstoppable in 10 previous SMART Modified Tour starts with eight wins and 10 top-five finishes over the last two seasons. Last year, Hirschman won six races in eight starts including the season-opening event at Florence Motor Speedway. 

The bad news for the competition is that it doesn't seem like Hirschman is slowing down anytime soon. "Big Money" is fresh off a sweep of five Tour-type Modified races during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. 

Heady & Baldwin Ready To Defend Crown

Defending SMART Modified Tour champion Caleb Heady Is back with powerhouse team Tommy Baldwin Racing in search of the combination's second straight title. 

Heady used a consistent season that included one win and nine top-10 finishes in 11 starts to win the championship one year ago. 

Entering the season finale at Florence, Heady will be a favorite to win both the race and the season-long championship. In two previous starts at Florence, Heady has finished first and second. 


VIDEO: Caleb Heady discusses his 2022 SMART Modified Tour championship. 

A Trip To Little Rock

One of the highlights on the 2023 SMART Modified Tour schedule is a stop at Rockingham Speedway's "Little Rock" on October 14. The ground-pounding Modifieds will rumble around the half-mile race track that is located behind the backstretch of the larger track at Rockingham Speedway. 

Will Burt Myers Finally Win A SMARTY?

Burt Myers won the SMART Modified Tour championship in 2021, but he still hasn't won a race since the tour was revitalized in 2020. In 28 attempts since the return of the tour, Myers has recorded 20 top-five finishes. 

He's hungry to capture one of the new SMARTY trophies. Will 2023 be the year that he finally puts one on his shelf? 

Orange County Debut

For the first time ever, the SMART Modified Tour will visit the always-entertaining Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, North Carolina in 2023. The Rumble at Rougemont will serve as the season finale on October 28. It will also be the first Tour-type Modified race held at the track since a Southern Modified Racing Series event in September 2019.

Youth Movement

The future of the sport will be on display this season on the SMART Modified Tour. In addition to defending champion Caleb Heady, a pair of rookies will be looking to gain experience and follow in the footsteps of previous generations. 

Carson Loftin, the son of eight-time SMART winner Brian Loftin, is set to make his series debut at Florence. The Loftin family has been a name synonymous with Modified racing in the Southeast, and now the third-generation racer is ready to write the next chapter. 

Riley Neal, another third-generation racer, is also set to compete with the SMART Modified Tour In 2023. Neal is the son of Kevin Neal and grandson of Tommy Neal, the 2004 SMART Rookie of the Year. 

A Return To Lonesome Pine

For the first time since 1999, the SMART Modified Tour will return to Lonesome Pine Speedway in Coeburn, Virginia on March 18. Burt Myers is the only driver expected to compete in this year's race that competed during the last SMART event at the track on April 10, 1999. No other Tour-type Modified series has competed at the track since that day.