The No. 90 takes to the track sporting a new UNION Insurance Group paint scheme. Howie Hodge Photo.

NASCAR’s Whelen Modified Tour kicked off the 2010 season this past weekend with Thompson’s (Thompson, CT) traditional 150-lap Ice Breaker Event.

The teams started off the weekend on Friday morning – completing the detailed tech inspection that accompanies the start of each new season. The UNION Insurance Group team easily passed engine, body and safety inspections.

On Saturday, the WMT held a 90 minute practice session. The team was unhappy with the car for much of practice, but made some minor chassis changes and dropped their lap times into respectable territory. Late in the afternoon, Renee turned in her fastest time of the day in time trails – recording the 18th fastest time (out of a 37 car field) – during qualifying.

“It’s typical; the field is pretty tight,” Renee commented after her two-lap run. “Usually here – and Stafford – a couple hundredths or even thousandths of a second can easily be the difference between a dozen spots. With the exception of a few guys who are just way off the pace, this is war out here.”

With sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s, the green flag dropped on the 2010 season at 3:15 PM on Sunday afternoon in front of a packed house. Lining up on the outside of the 9th row, initially, the outside lane got the jump and Renee advanced several positions. The race went for 57 laps without a caution and during that time the car eventually faded.

“It didn’t help that Tomaino – who was clearly smoking for most of the green flag run – did a fabulous job of oiling down the track. But, we also missed a little on our setup. We caught a couple of cautions and pitted twice – once for tires and once for a wedge adjustment – and improved the car quite a bit.

Now headed in the right direction, on a lap 90 restart, Renee got drilled from behind going into turn one – spinning into the infield.

Obviously dissatisfied with the outcome, Renee offered her cutting opinion: “I’m not really sure what Robbie (Fuller, driver of the 71 car that re-stared behind Renee) was thinking. We had an awesome restart – I was glued to the car in front of me. The field was just stacked up two abreast a dozen cars deep. It’s just common sense, but in a situation like that you just have to wait it out – blasting the car in front of you certainly isn’t going to help the situation any. Plus, it’s like insult to injury because he was a lapped car. What’s he messing with a lead lap car for?  You know, I raced with Robbie back at the Park and, in fact, even bought my first Modified from him. Clearly the only thing he’s learned since those days is how to make money.”

The race resumed with about 50 to go, with Renee eventually working her way back up to the 13th spot. She worked particularly hard – especially with some uncooperative lapped cars – for the last several laps; successfully holding off Burt Myers – the much hyped star of the History Channel’s reality show Madhouse. The official results can be found here.

Reflecting on the day, Renee remarked: “For us, it was, at times, a bit of a physical race out there today – but the bottom line is we’re just going to keep giving what we’re getting. We’ve got a good thing going on here this year – all of the puzzle pieces are falling into place for us as a team. We salvaged a respectable finish here today and now we’ll focus on Stafford.”

As Renee indicated, the WMT will next be in action on Sunday, April 25 at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual 200-lap Spring Sizzler. In the meantime, please visit our gallery for photos from the Ice Breaker race.