Monday December 4, 2006

By Brian Danko                                 

When the first look of the 2007 NASCAR Whelen modified tour schedule came out track by track, some interesting dates appeared on the various tracks web sites.

One of the most interesting is that the modified tour will run both of their races at the New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturdays. Last year, the modifieds and the Busch East each had one race on a Friday and one on a Saturday but NHIS officials, most notably that of track owner, Bob Bahre wanted the modifieds on Saturdays and what Bob wants, Bob usually gets. Last week, I talked with Bob about the change. "We had gotten a lot of calls as to when the modifieds would race. A lot of fans love to watch the modifieds at New Hampshire and many can't get here on a Friday. I asked NASCAR if we could do it and they said yes. We also have many Cup drivers who want to race the modifieds and this way everything can be on one day for them." Bob Said. "The modified put on a hellava show and now they will be apart of the weekend and the larger crowd on Saturdays." When I mentioned that in order for the modified teams to race on Saturdays, they still need to be here on Wednesday night or Thursday morning, it makes for a bigger hotel bill. Bob agreed with me but also mentioned that he believes the modified teams will get much more exposure running on Saturday with the Busch Series in June and with the Trucks in September. "You know, I was a racer." Bob said, "I never raced myself but I owned cars (midgets) and we always needed something to complain about. Hell, even if we won, we weren't happy if we couldn't complain about something." All joking aside Bob feels the modifieds will benefit by the Saturday dates. For Bob Bahre and his son, Gary, the owners of the popular New England track, the two stops at NHIS are two of the most anticipated dates on the schedule. When one looks at Bob Bahre, he is a race fan. When I first interviewed him years ago, I called him Mr. Bahre of which he quickly replied to me, "I'm Bob. My friends call me Bob." To see him at a track, you would never know that he owns a track, let alone a Superspeedway with two Nextel dates. He always wears Khaki pants and a opened collar white shirt, never a suit or tie and that is why he is so revered in the modified garage as well as the Busch East, because he is one of the racers.

Matt Hirschman of Northampton, PA wishes more races were scheduled for the month of November. A couple weeks after winning the North South Shoot-out in Concord, NC, Matt and his #60 team headed to the South Boston Speedway in Virginia and dominated the first annual Melt Down 250. Matt held off his neighbor Eric Beers to earn the $12,500 win. "To win the first Melt Down is very special to me and my team. We could have gone to Wall and had more crew be able to help us out but we decided about a week before the Melt Down to head down to South Boston and I'm glad we did." Matt said reflecting on his biggest payday to date.

While the NASCAR Busch East schedule was released several weeks ago, the NASCAR modified tour schedule is still in the process of being finalized.

Thompson Speedway has their dates, although they haven't been released yet and Stafford has their dates on their web site. We know that NHIS will have two races with Martinsville Speedway running on Labor Day weekend and a new event in Mansfield, OH the week before for the modifieds. The Twin States Speedway in Claremont, NH will have a date on July 8th. It is believed that Riverhead Raceway on Long Island will once again be back on the modified tour with their traditional date of August 4th being finalized.

But there is word out the NASCAR is trying to lure tracks like Jennerstown and Holland with gimmick races. These races, if the rumors were somewhat true, would consist of triple 50 lappers or some idiotic races with the tracks paying around $35,000 and NASCAR kicking in money to fill out the purse. If NASCAR wants to make a sweetheart deal with these fine tracks, both of which are good tracks for the modifieds. That is fine but make them 100 lappers or one 150-lap events. Don't get into gimmick races like was done a few years ago at the Thompson Speedway when they ran triple 100's. The racers hated it and the fans hated it. A lesson is to be learned but when is the last time that NASCAR listened to the racers or the fans.