Monday February 5, 2007

By Brian Danko                                 

As the calendar clicks away towards the middle of February, and with trace amounts of snow on the ground, many race fans minds are turning to spring and the start of another NASCAR Whelen modified tour season. Last week, I contacted both George Silbermann, the managing director of racing operations for NASCAR and Ed Cox, the longtime modified tour race director about the upcoming season and get their thoughts. I asked Silbermann why his speech at the NASCAR modified tour banquet in December wasnıt more than a hand full of words and not a state of the modified tour, he joked that "maybe I just not as accomplished a speaker as my predecessors." Silbermann said taking the modified tour to other markets and seeing how it plays out is part of NASCARıs plan for the future. "We want to see how it goes for the promoter, the teams and the fans." George said from his Daytona office.

Ed Cox, who has overseen the modified tour for years, believes that this will be a test year for the modifieds and to see what will work. "These "Flash" races are a test. We donıt know how to approach it." Cox said but added "We are running out of places to go and by trying these races it may expand our market."

Both Silbermann and Cox agree that the more venues that can see the modifieds the better for the tour, the promoters and the teams. "I really like going to new venues to race and these "Flash" races will see if these types races are viable." But Ed quickly added, "we canıt turn the series into this format, weıre just asking teams to give it a try." Ed said that the three tracks the "Flash" races will be run at are good tracks for NASCAR and the series. "Riverhead wasn't going to have a race this year and when we approached them about this idea, the Comarty's jumped at the chance. Riverhead has been a longtime supporter of the tour."

Both Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey and Twin States Speedway in New Hampshire are new to the tour, although both have hosted modified tour races in the past. "Wall will be another good track and Twin States will give Whelen a chance to host its employees as they have plant near Twin States. I haven't been to Twin States but I heard that that have spent a lot of money in making the track a good place to race."

I asked Cox why the modified tour and the Busch East are running the same day as the Bristol night race in Mansfield Ohio and if that might conflict with the anticipated crowd. "What we are doing for that race is to try and have it finished just before the start of the Bristol race on television and the promoters are bringing in a Jumbotron television for the fans to watch the Cup race." Cox stated that going to Mansfield will be good for the tour because that is "open wheel country out there."

When Silbermann and Cox were both quizzed about the Save the Date, listed on the schedule for October 19-21st, both said something should be announced after Speedweeks in Daytona. While speculation is that the race would be in Los Angeles as part of the Toyota Showdown, many insiders are now wondering if that is indeed the plan.

There has been some talk about the modified tour looking into a "spec" motor in the near future so I asked Silbermann if NASCAR has plans for it in the modified tour, just like the motor the Busch East series is using. He said that it is something to take a look at but that the series needs "controlled growth" if it is too continue to grow. Both gentleman expect the 2007 season to be a "trying" season but both expect that the modified tour will again produce some of the exciting races that fans have come to expect. Cox said that he has already gotten calls from new teams wanting more information on running the modified tour.

When he was asked if he has talked with either Bob Garbarino or the Boehlers about their situation, he said that he hasn't but that he expects to see Bob (Garbarino) in Florida but added he hopes that they are part of the modified tour.

The start of a new season usually always bringing in more questions than answers but 2007 could be a season that comes to define the modified tour.