2024 Peanut Patch 99 SMART Modifieds at Florence Motor Speedway

Breaking Down The 2024 SMART Modified Tour Driver Roster

Breaking Down The 2024 SMART Modified Tour Driver Roster

Breaking down the SMART Modified Tour driver roster entering the 2024 season-opening Peanut Patch 99 at Florence Motor Speedway.

Feb 29, 2024 by FloRacing Staff

With the season-opening Peanut Patch 99 for the SMART Modified Tour powered by Pace-O-Matic set for Saturday at Florence Motor Speedway, it is necessary to get fans up to speed with the new-look roster as the tour kicks off its 2024 campaign. After one of the wildest silly-seasons in Southern Modified history, there is a lot to unpack as the Tour begins its fourth season in the modern era of SMART.

Musical Chairs at SS Racing

NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte is noticeably absent from the entry list for the season opener at the Timmonsville, SC track. That is because Labonte has chosen to compete part-time behind the wheel of the No. 18 ride with Sadler Stanley Racing. Labonte’s car will be a third car in the stable and his schedule will also include a few select NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races.   

Labonte’s shift paves the way for 17-year old Luke Baldwin to get a big opportunity.  Baldwin, a former 602 Modified Champion at New Smyrna Speedway’s World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, will compete full-time in a No. 7VA machine out of the SS stable. The youngest son of Tommy Baldwin, and grandson of legendary Modified driver Tom Baldwin, looks to capture Racing Electronics Rookie of the Year honors on the Tour. Baldwin spent time as a spotter for the team and part-time driver Ryan Newman in 2023.

Ryan Newman’s departure from the team, co-owned by former NASCAR driver Hermie Salder and Virginia Senator Bill Stanley, opens up another spot on the roster. Jonathan Cash, a decorated Go-Kart racer with a long relationship with Sadler, gets his chance to run full-time on the Tour.  Cash has seven career starts in the Pace-O-Matic ride with a best finish of fourth in the Flying VA Classic last season at South Boston Speedway. 

Hello Newman

Speaking of Ryan Newman, after running part-time for SS Racing in 2023, the Indiana native had decided to give the full schedule a go and compete for the SMART Modified Tour championship.  Newman moves into the seat of one of the top-rides as he will pilot the Randy Renfrow owned Coulter Motorsports No. 2 Mod.  How stout is this team?  They have finished runner-up two-years in a row on the SMART Tour with short track veteran Brandon Ward behind the wheel.

Ward’s Move a Familiar One

Brandon Ward will make a run for the title for a new team but a familiar one. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina driver slips into the Jeff Day and Kevin Powell owned #04 with Will Spaugh as his crew chief. This exact combination earned Ward the 2023 Bowman Gray Stadium Modified Championship. Can the combination bring that success to get Ward his first SMART title?

Changes Galore

2022 SMART Modified Tour champion Caleb Heady has no plans to compete in SMART during the 2024 season.  The Tommy Baldwin Racing No. 7NY ride will race a limited schedule on the SMART Tour in 2024.  Tommy’s son Jack Baldwin will make his Tour debut in 2024 and run select races in the family-owned mount..

12-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion Tim Brown is out at Team25 racing after going winless in 2023.  Tom Buzze will take the wheel of the famed Southern Modified ride owned by Michaael “Andretti” Smith. Buzze closed the SMART season strong in his family-owned No. 5 picking up a seventh-place finish at Tri-County Speedway (NC) and a fourth at the Pace-O-Matic 99 at South Boston Speedway (VA). He made his debut for Team25 in November’s North South Shootout at Caraway Speedway (NC) leading laps and bringing home a ninth-place finish. 

New Jersey native Danny Bohn joins the SMART Modified Tour for his first full-season on the circuit.  Bohn, the 2014 Bowman Gray Stadium Modified Champion, will drive the Buddy Ellis owned No. 24 car.  Ellis won the 2021 SMART Modified Tour owner's championship.  Danny is a third generation driver as his father Eddie and grandfather Parker were long-time competitors in the Northeast Modified wars. The New Jersey driver, who moonlights in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, should be an instant threat for the 2024 SMART Championship..  

Speaking of New Jersey, young Garden State Modified driver Blake Barney announced last week that he will join the Rookie of the Year race in 2024 driving the Justin Gumley’s black and white No. 27. The 24-year old driver has 33-starts on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.  He also has two top-five finishes in the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium Speedway in his home state. 

2009 Martinsville Speedway Valley-Star Credit Union 300 winner Jake Crum will race a full-season in the Paul French owned No. 12 Modified. Crum raced in four races on the tour last season with a best of fourth at Tri-County in October.

CARS Tour star Landon Huffman will run select races in his High Rock Vodka No. 98 for Shamrock Racing. Huffman will begin his SMART season at Tri-County Speedway’s Cardinal 99 on March 30.  The North Carolina track is the site of Huffman’s big $30,000 Late Model win on the CARS Tour in 2023.

Frank Fleming was a big surprise to many on the Peanut Patch 99 entry list. Fleming is one of only active driver to have participated in SMART’s first official season in 1989. The Mount Airy, NC driver has 17 SMART Modified Tour wins to his record with his latest coming in 2002 at Caraway Speedway.

Young northern Modified ace Anthony Bello brings his helmet southbound to pair with the famed Hillbilly Racing No. 79 team and will race in select races throughout the 2024 SMART Modified Tour season. 

Jeremy Gerstner will be sidelined for much of the season after a ferocious crash at New Smyrna Speedway left him with a broken pelvis and a fractured tibia that required surgery.  The throttle-hung on the his No. 55 causing the scary practice crash in turn-one.  The Florida driver can not bear weight for three-months.  

A Few Things Remain The Same

Two of the “SMART 3” enter the season without much change.  Fifteen-year old Carson Loftin finished in third place in the final points standings becoming the 2023 Rookie of the Year.  After two near-wins, he returns with his family owned No. 23 team looking for his first win and an improved sophomore campaign.

Champion Burt Myers only changes some decals as he ads a new sponsor to the side of the No. 1 Modified. The change has some people “going nuts” as Peanut Patch has come aboard as a sponsor on the three-time SMART Champs ride. Myers looks to deny the superstition of peanuts in the pits, and race for his fourth SMART title.

Another thing that doesn’t change is the threat any time Matt Hirschman enters a SMART Modified Tour race.  The Northampton, Pennsylvania driver is the two-time defending winner of the Peanut Patch 99 at Florence Motor Speedway  The track’s abrasive surface chews up Hoosier tires and fits right into the driving style of the super-smooth second generation driver. Hirschman only competed in two SMART races in 2023 because of being sidelined for a broken arm from a crash at Thompson Motorsports Park in August. In 13 starts on the SMART Modified Tour Hirschman has nine-wins. That’s a staggering 69.2% win percentage.

And lastly, another thing that remains the same is the fact that you can watch every SMART Modified Tour race throughout the 2024 season live on FloRacing. If you're not already a FloRacing subscriber, click here to sign up today.