PHOTO: Les Hinckley won’t change his approach despite missing that elusive series championship. (T.J. Ingerson/VMM photo)

–by Ricky St. Clair

WATERFORD, Conn. — Les Hinckley doesn’t need any criticism to fuel his motivation for the 2012 Valenti Modified Racing Series season.

Despite 14 top-10 finishes in 15 starts last season, the Windsor Locks, Conn., native finished 14-points away from being the series champion. Hinckley said the disparagement within the New England racing community doesn’t faze him.

“I don’t really need anybody else to motivate me,” Hinckley said. “Should I take time to focus on something of that nature by distracting my attention; it’s taking away from moving forward in a positive manner. I just can’t get frustrated about not winning (the championship).”

Hinckley jokingly admitted that close friends compare him to former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) driver Reggie Ruggiero. The Rocky Hill, Conn., veteran Ruggiero failed to collect a championship during his racing tenure despite 24 years of racing and 44 career wins on the NWMT. Like Ruggiero, Hinckley is second in all-time wins on the Modified Racing Series.

“I’ve had people compare me as the Reggie of this tour,” Hinckley said. “Yeah, I want to win races, but I bet if you ask him the same thing, he’d probably tell you that he went to the race track with the intention to win. We’ve won our fair share, too. If it’s meant to be, it will happen.”

Hinckley and his CMR Racing team look to use last season’s consistency as momentum heading into Sunday afternoon’s 100-lap event at Waterford Speedbowl. The veteran driver finished fifth in the 2011 season opener before finishing second at Waterford on August 13.

“We were on a tear last season,” Hinckley said. “It’s always good to start the season heading in a positive direction. If you put yourself behind the eight-ball, you start off by playing catch up. This is race one of 15, so we have to make them all count. One bad race can knock you out of your ultimate goal.”

The veteran driver, who lives a little over an hour from the historic Waterford track, is satisfied with the direction of his team’s program.

“We’ve got the best equipment and personnel that we’ve ever had,” Hinckley said. “We’re all pulling in the same direction. So, I think we should be as strong as ever.”

The spirited racer looks to be a serious contender for multiple checkered flags in 2012, the same goal that they have had in recent years. Hinckley did so twice with wins at Monadnock Speedway and Seekonk Speedway last year.

“Every time we go to the race track, we want to be capable of winning a race,” Hinckley said. “If you do that, nine times out of 10, the points will take care of itself. So, we’ll go to the races and be competitive.”

Hinckley will rely on a provisional to start the feature event after battling power steering issues in practice Saturday.

The traditionally-animated driver is enthusiastic to begin this season’s campaign at Waterford. One can expect Hinckley to silence his critics throughout the entire duration of Budweiser Blastoff Weekend.