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Tyler Leary looking to repeat modified title at Monadnock Speedway

Tyler Leary started watching races at New Hampshire’s Monadnock Speedway when he was just a little kid.

Before he could even drive, he dreamed of one day racing a modified at the track.

“Growing up, my dad would bring me to tracks like Monadnock… and I just fell in love watching,” Leary said. “My ultimate end goal was to run modifieds. Watching as a little kid, I just instantly fell in love and knew I wanted to race.”

Since racing a modified was a lifelong dream, winning a championship in one was even better.

Leary last season won the modifieds title at Monadnock, a NASCAR-sanctioned quarter-mile paved oval track in Winchester, New Hampshire, after winning four races. It was his second track championship at the track, and his first in a modified.

“Especially in our second year in the division at Monadnock, it‘s kind of huge,” Leary said.

Much of Leary‘s success came early in the season. He won the first three races at Monadnock to take a quick lead in the standings.

He‘s hoping he can have a similar early-season run as the 2023 season gets started this month. Leary finished fourth in Monadnock’s first race of the year on May 7.

Unlike last year, Leary would like to have sustained success throughout the 2023 summer.

After starting the year “like an absolute ball of fire,” Leary said, following his three early wins he said the team got a reality check.

“We felt almost invincible at that point. The car was handling so well. The team, we were just performing on every level,” he said. “A few weeks after that we kind of got a reality check. I think our race car started showing some signs of ill-handling, so we rebuilt, worked hard and got the car back in the middle of summer.”

Leary didn‘t win another race until August, and then went winless the rest of the year.

“We had a handful of barely top 10s,” he said. “It just goes to show how hard modified racing is. You feel like you‘re on top of the world one minute, and my best finish other than the wins, I think I had a few thirds and a second.

“It was a very up-and-down year, but it started good and it ended good, and that was the main goal starting out the year.”

The struggles of the summer made winning the championship sweeter, Leary said. He felt like it was “a weight off of our shoulders,” and was a morale boost after a tough stretch.

The title also gave the team confidence heading into the 2023 season, and Leary said he learned a lot about the mental side of racing.

“It‘s honestly hard,” he said. “I have some good friends in racing and they tell me a lot of it is a mental game. Me still being young in the sport and not being an experienced veteran yet, it‘s tough. The mental side of it is a huge part.

“To try to dig down deep and stay positive can be hard at times, but you‘ve just got to dig deep, go back to the shop and do your homework, cross your Ts and dot your Is, and go back and give it your all out on the track. That‘s really all you can do.”

In addition to racing a full season at Monadnock, Leary also races at Connecticut‘s Stafford Speedway and is part of the New Hampshire Short Track Racing Association, a series that travels to four NASCAR tracks across the northeast, including Monadnock, Claremont Motorsports Park, and Hudson and Lee USA Speedways.

In the first NHSTRA Quest for the Cup race at Claremont on April 28, Leary finished fifth.

He travels across New England, but none of the other tracks where Leary races gives him the comfort of his home track. Monadnock is where he began his career 12 years ago.

“For me, it‘s just knowing the track like the back of my hand,” he said. “I think it‘s knowing what works at the speedway where I started racing at. Being there for so long and carrying over some of the things that I learned in the late model for the modifieds definitely helped compared to running the other tracks where I‘ve only raced a handful of years.”

Leary said he wouldn‘t be able to race or have any success without the help of his team, which includes his dad and his crew chief and chassis builder Bob Fill.

“We don‘t obviously have a huge bunch of people that help, but we‘ve got the right people that help,” Leary said. “And they definitely are important and play a huge role and are honestly a majority of the reason why we‘re so successful.

“It definitely doesn‘t go unacknowledged I have great people around me, and great partners. The people who help me get to Victory Lane and ultimately help me win the championship are really the people who got me there. I‘m just the pedal-pusher and wheel-turner, and that‘s cool, because I enjoy doing what I do, but if it wasn‘t for the great people I‘m surrounded by it definitely would make it that much harder.”

Coming into the season as defending champion gives Leary confidence, but also adds pressure. Knowing he‘s the car to beat is “a cool thing,” he said, but it’s also another aspect of the sport that plays into the mental side of racing.

After starting the season with a top-five finish, Leary is hopeful he can get to Victory Lane early and often again this year.

“I‘m feeling really good,” he said. “I think we‘re just going to build on our notebook from last year. Last year was the first year, honestly, I realized how important note-taking was in this sport. I took a lot of notes, learned a bunch of stuff from a lot of different people. I saw how the track changed throughout the year going from the spring to hot summer months and back into the cool fall, so we have a lot of notes there.

“I‘m really looking to just start off strong and start the year on a good note like we did last year, and hopefully carry some of that momentum further into the middle of the year and hopefully not have that bad fall-off like we did last year.”

Monadnock Speedway will host Military Appreciation Night on May 20, featuring NHSTRA Modifieds, NHSTRA Late Models, Mini Stocks, Pure Stocks, Young Guns, NELCAR and Bandoleros.