April 30, 2009
NASCAR doesn’t like to be ridiculed,
but they just make it so easy

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By Brian Danko

It’s been a while since I've written, but certainly it hasn’t been for lack of news lately and that brings up a few items of interest that has come to light on the modified tour the last couple of weeks.

It was first reported by NASCAR, that the annual individual banquets for each of their series would be replaced with one ‘Champions Banquet’….oh and by the way it will be in Charlotte, N.C.

That in itself left everyone connected with the modified tour up in arms because everyone enjoyed the festive atmosphere at Mohegan Sun Casino in southeastern Connecticut.

Then the modified heads off to the Spring Sizzler and thanks to record breaking weather, over 8000 fans file into the Stafford Motor Speedway to watch Ted Christopher work his way from the back of the pack after spinning and win his fifth Sizzler event but all of the good mood from Stafford was wiped away on Monday when the entry blank for the next tour race, a Memorial Day Friday race back at Stafford was a reduced purse and reduced laps.

The purse last year was $89,000 for 150 laps while this year’s event will be $69,880 for a 100 lap race.

The one big buzz all winter was the modifieds heading to the Bristol Motor Speedway for a mid August event and most figured the purse would be at least what they paid the Hooters cup series race held there last year which was $115,000 but the teams were notified the purse would be in the low $90,000 range.

Needless to say, with the latest news concerning the NASCAR Whelen modified tour wasn’t good news and the competitors are not happy over any of it.

I spoke with defending modified champion, Ted Christopher, and the winner of both modified events held in the northeast and TC isn’t happy.

“I am not happy about any of it.” TC said from his business in Plainville, Ct that he owns and builds heavy duty transmissions. “I am the only one here who builds them; I can’t just pick up and leave any time I want.”

Teddy was referring to the fact that NASCAR is expecting the champions of all their series to partake in the week long activities in Charlotte, if he were to repeat as champion.

As far as the reduced purse at both Stafford and Bristol, TC was clearly annoyed at both Stafford and NASCAR for allowing this.

“I am not happy about it because I race for a percentage of the money and a reduced purse means I make less. I talked with Mark (Arute, promoter of Stafford) and he said that TSI, the sponsor of the race couldn’t come up with the full sponsorship they did last year. At least, it’s not a Flash type event where we need to run heat races but this is where NASCAR needs to step in.”

On Tuesday, I contacted George Silberman, the managing director of racing operations for NASCAR and he spoke candidly about the banquet and the purses for the two events in question.

I asked him about the banquet and why it was moved. “The idea is to make this event a national event and to hold it in Charlotte in the heart of racing country.” George said. “The modifieds are one of our key series and we felt it was important for them to be there.”

When I replied that no one connected with the tour was happy, Silberman wasn’t surprised but said “in the long run this is going to be a benefit for the tour and the competitors.”

When I told George that the modified tour is the second largest banquet outside of the Sprint Cup banquet and what would happen if all 500 people who attended last year decided to come down, he said all would be welcomed.

“There isn’t going to be any restrictions on who can come because at the place it will be we have the ability to expand the banquet hall if necessary.”

I asked Silberman if that meant all of the yearly awards that are handed out each year would simply disappear because of time constraints.

“All of the details of the banquet aren’t worked out yet but we are looking at a number of things such as holding some of the awards during the week and making them high profile events also.”

We then talked about the purses and how outraged the teams were when they were notified about the Stafford purse and the Bristol event.

“The Bristol purse will be comparable to a Friday night tour race at Stafford of around $90,000 or so. We knew that there were going to be some pros and cons about going to Bristol and this is one of them. We are also looking at making this event a sustainable race for years and sometimes you have to do certain things to get a promoter to sign off on it.”

But when I replied that the entire cost of the trip down, the hotels, and all the time off for a mid-week event that once again is falling on the car owners to deal with it.

“We have to have a business model that makes sense for everyone. Sometimes you have to make concessions to make sure that it continues for many years.”

While the talk was sincere on both parts, I then asked him about the Stafford ‘Flash’ race and he replied that there are no more ‘Flash’ races.

“We’ve done away with the ‘Flash’ format and we are trying a new format with a new purse, we are trying different things to see what works for everyone.” Silberman adding, “To advance the series, we are going to try different things to find out what works and what doesn’t.”

Drivers such as Christopher, nine time NASCAR champion, Mike Stefanik are openly questioning NASCAR about the direction that NASCAR is taking the series and both are not going down without getting their views expressed and hopefully listened too.

Mike Stefanik when asked by the Hartford Courants auto racing writer, Shawn Courchesne said, “When the division is not around in a year or so, then don’t be surprised, that’s my opinion of what they are doing. When it’s gone, we remember stuff like this being part of the reason.”

Christopher, who has always voiced his views said, “I am 50 years old, I am not going anywhere else in racing so I am going to say what I feel I need to say for the divisions sake.”

Eddie Flemke, Jr. is another of the ‘veteran grey beards’ on the modified tour and he too is disgusted with NASCAR and some of their moves.

“I don’t know where they are planning on this tour but some of their moves are highly questionable to be sure. I feel that guys like Mike (Stefanik) and myself need to speak up, not for ourselves but for the next generation of drivers on the modified tour and modified racing in particular.”

As far as my views, having taken several giant steps away from racing and the division that I love the most, NASCAR this year is almost toying with the modified tour in their handling of the purses at both Stafford and Bristol and the banquet.

NASCAR doesn’t even offer the competitors the chance to voice their opinion about anything; they in Daytona Beach just do it and don’t worry about the repercussions. If NASCAR likes to say, this is a trying year in the motor sports industry they why are they putting all of the added expenses on the car owners and crews.

NASCAR doesn’t like to be ridiculed, but they just make it so easy.