When Renee Dupuis decided to travel to North Carolina this week to field an entry in the second race of the season in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, she had no idea how significant that decision would be for the tour.
Dupuis will become the first female driver to start on the tour since NASCAR began sanctioning the division back in 2005. Although Dupuis is no stranger to modified racing, the Glastonbury, Conn. driver has 114 starts in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour; she will be in new territory this weekend at Hickory Motor Speedway for the running of the Hickory 150.
Dupuis will drive and entry fielded by veteran car owner Ed Bennett. Bennett has also entered cars for Eric Rudolph and Matt Hirschman on the southern tour in recent years.
“We don’t have the funding to run an entire season on the Whelen Modified Tour so we have decided to compete at selected events and Hickory will give us a chance to race for the first time this year,” Dupuis said. “Obviously we would like to run the entire schedule, but I appreciate the opportunity to come down and race at Hickory Motor Speedway.”
Dupuis has been driving some type of race car since she was four years old and is very familiar with modifieds.
The 38 year-old driver began driving quarter midgets at the age of four and eventually moved up to Pro-4’s and then SK Modifieds at her home track Riverside Park before it ceased operations in 1999. After the track closed she began traveling around the northeast competing at various tracks and occasionally making starts in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Dupuis has experienced ups and downs in her career, from a low of suffering a broken leg in a crash at Stafford in an SK Modified, to a high of returning from her injury to qualify on the outside pole at a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Thompson International Speedway in 2001.
“I was out of a car for 12 weeks recovering from my injuries and was really happy whenever we were able to come back and qualify as well as we did,” Dupuis added. “That was a great feeling.”
Dupuis has two top-10 finishes in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in her career highlighted by a pair of 10th-place finishes at Lake Erie and Thompson in 2003 and 2007, respectively. She competed in all 14 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events last season and finished 18th in the final points standings.
“We will probably run some races in the North this season with our own equipment and my younger brother Jason working as my crew chief,” Dupuis added. “We just want to race and will try to get as many as possible.”
Dupuis added Hickory is the only NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race on the schedule as of now, however, she did mention there is another track on the schedule she would like to try later this season.
“I would like to go to Langley and hopefully we can put something together to make that happen,” she said.
For now, Dupuis will be content to add her name to the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour record books when she takes the green flag this weekend for the Hickory 150.