Monday December 10, 2007

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By Brian Danko
Since I was a child, I always looked forward to the coming of March and April. Not only did it mean that winter was behind us but that the start of the racing season was close at hand.

But come this March, it will only mean the start of the baseball season. The reason being that for the first time since 1977, I will not be covering the sport of the auto racing and the division that I love the most, the modifieds.

I have been so fortunate that for the past 31 years that I have been able to cover modified racing, first at local tracks like Stafford, Thompson and Riverside Park but then across the country when I began covering the modified tour.

I have met and become friends with hundreds, possibly thousands of people in that time and are still close with many of them and their friendship, laughter and jokes is what I will miss the most.

Many asked me why give up what I love to do and it comes to three items. Passion. NASCAR. Money.

The passion that I have had for the last three decades has waned considerably. No longer did I look forward to going to the races or look forward to covering a much-anticipated event as I did in years past.

A lot of this is because of the lack of commitment that NASCAR has shown the modified tour and the recent direction of where it is headed with these ‘Flash’ Style events.

NASCAR has promised for years more contingent sponsors, more television and more marketing opportunities for teams and what have they gotten, more lip service than a Washington Senator could give out.

Now I certainly don’t know or have all the answers but you would figure that someone who has been around the sport 31 years might have an idea of what is right or wrong with it.

I have been told that some are quite pleased that I won’t be covering the series because they said that my ‘negative writing’ was hurting the tour and modified racing but if that is the case than we should only write about the positives but what positive has the modified tour shown in the past few years? Flash events that cost teams more money than it’s worth?

The modified tour is still the northeasts most popular form of racing, despite what the folks in NASCAR might want you to believe.

If the modified tour is ‘an important part of NASCAR’ as they claim at each and every banquet, why aren’t you promoting the series like you do the Busch East series? Remember them, the series they had to pay tracks to take.

Now while I blame NASCAR for a lot of the troubles with the tour and rightfully so, some of the blame needs to go to the teams for spending recklessly in a series that you can only earn so much even if you won every race.

Does everybody need a tractor-trailer to haul their cars in and is it imperative that they spend $50,000 on new engines?

The modified tour is a vital part of NASCAR history and heritage and I wish that they would sit down with owners, drivers, crews and promoters and have a sit down so that everyone can give and share ideas of what is good for the tour in the future.

The tour does have a dedicated sponsor in Whelen Engineering and they have shown their devotion to the modified tour and Southern modified tour as well as sponsoring the NASCAR Weekly Racing series.

The other reason is money. In the past, I have always had sponsors to pay my expenses, sponsors like Koszela Speed and Tidy Cat. Thanks to Mike and Julie Stefanik and Paul Converse of Ralston Purina in St. Louis, I was able to cover the modified tour.

I know that come March, I will get the itch again but not like in the past.

The modified tour will always be the number one series in my life. I love baseball, college basketball and both pro and college football but they all fail in comparison of my love for the modified division.

When you look at the modified series as a whole, it might be stronger now than in their day with modified cars on the tour, Race of Champions series as well as the True Value series. Throw in modified racing at local tracks and you have a division that is not only strong but is growing at record numbers. Make no mistake; modified racing is alive and well.

I have always tried to cover the series in a professional manor treating all teams and tracks with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

I have been able to cover the sport for the past 20 years for Area Auto Racing News and the New Britain (CT.) Herald before that covering events from Daytona to California to Phoenix and Talladega on the Cup side and modified racing from New Smyrna to St Eustache QC Canada and west to Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Thanking people can be hard to do because of not wanting to miss some people but a few special thanks you go out to Lenny Sammons and Earl Krause of Area Auto Racing News for their patience and guidance. To fellow modified lifers like Mary and Howie Hodge along with Ben Dodge of Thompson Speedway for your help.

Gary Danko of the Speedway Line Report for using his website as another venue for getting out my columns as well as many other media members who I looked to for ideas and whom I respect.

To all the track promoters, media representatives and even some friends at NASCAR, I owe you all a debt of thanks.
I will be around for a few races next year and I have told Area that I will fill in or write a race report or column when needed, just to keep my hand in it.

There have been a total of 31 champions of the NASCAR modified division during the last 60 years and I have been privileged to know most of them.

This year, Donny Lia joined that exclusive list as did his car owner, Bob Garbarino getting his first title in 46 years. Congratulations to both of you and your team for a job well done.

I look forward to seeing everyone at the banquet and hope that everyone has a great holiday season.

To everyone as Bob Hope used to say, “Thanks for the memories.”

Photo Credit: Fran Lawlor

BRIAN DANKO'S COLUMN CAN BE FOUND EACH WEEK IN AREA AUTO RACING NEWS.
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