December 31, 2008

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By Brian Danko
The 2009 NASCAR Whelen modified tour schedules for both the Northern modified series as well as the southern modified series was released and it featured a major surprise with the addition of a midweek race at the Bristol Motor Speedway in August.

For the northern modifieds, it features just a 14-race schedule with races in five states at eight different tracks while the southern mods will have 16 races at nine different tracks. The races at Bristol as well as the race at Martinsville are combination races for the two series.

I spoke with modified tour champion, Teddy Christopher of Plainville, CT to get his views on the schedule and needless to say, the man who loves to race wasn't too pleased with what NASCAR put out.

"14 races. Come on." Said TC when first questioned about it. "I mean it nice that we are going to Bristol because that race will separate the men from the boys but I am not happy with just 14 races."

Christopher said he was also upset that Thompson reduced their part of the schedule from 5 events to just three.

Rumor is that Don Hoenig wanted a reduced purse (Flash race) and that NASCAR wouldn't give him one and Teddy was all right with that.

"If that is what happened I am for it then. Thompson charges the most to get in the pits for the tour races and now he wants a reduced purse, no. I would rather have fewer races than run a reduced purse race there. Hopefully, NASCAR can come up with another race or two. It's always easy to add a race to the schedule."

I also spoke with part time modified tour racer, Reggie Ruggiero and he too was happy about Bristol but said losing a couple at Thompson will hurt his teams effort because they will generally run the New England races.

The only thing Reggie doesn't like is the rumored restrictor plate for Bristol, adding, "that will ruin the race."

The schedule will open on April 5th and close on October 18th with both races at Thompson Speedway.

They are too many gaps in the schedule especially from the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 26th, the tour doesn't return to action until May 22nd. Then the tour is off over one month when it heads to New Hampshire on June 27th.

But don't fear, the modified tour runs over one third of it's schedule in August when five races are run.

WHERE IS NASCAR AND ISC?
Looking at the schedule, two big things jumped out at me. One is now that Bruton Smith has three tour races (2 New Hampshire and Bristol) and NASCAR/ISC has one and that is iffy.

ISC is the International Speedway Corporation and is the parent company of NASCAR and the France family is the major stockholder.

Iffy in the sense that Martinsville is an ISC track but they have held modified races long before NASCAR assumed total control of the track.

If NASCAR cares, as they claim each year about their oldest division, where are the NASCAR owned, excuse me, ISC owned tracks such as Richmond, VA. And Watkins Glen, two tracks that the modifieds have raced on in the past.
You can't claim that they are vital to you when your own company doesn't schedule races for them.

CAMPING EAST IS JUST 12
While many on the modified tour were lamenting about the lack of races, one must wonder about the health of the Camping series East as they only have a 12 race schedule and those people are spread over the country.

In fact, the Stafford Motor Speedway didn't even schedule a race for the series in 2009.

While Stafford not taking a race is a mild surprise, Thompson taking another one is a major surprise.

Thompson officials are always complaining about the poor crowd turn out for that race and yet each year, they schedule one. One must wonder is NASCAR is subsidizing the purse.

The only other Connecticut date for a Camping Series East even is at the Lime Rock road course.

THOMPSON THINKING OF NON SANCTIONED EVENT
According to one person in the know, officials of the Thompson Speedway are thinking of running a major non-sanctioned race, much like the old Thompson 300 format that would be open for cars from the modified tour, ROC and True Value series.

I happen to think that if done right and that means compromising on the rules so those cars from all three can compete evenly, that this could be a home run.

Naturally, Thompson would have to offer a competitive purse and if they offered guaranteed starters like before, this could bring the stars, the cars and the fans of drivers with those spots to Thompson for a big shoot-out.

With Thompson dropping two of their modified tour events, this would be a good way to schedule a major race in June or July when the schedules are Very light, especially on the modified tour.