February 25, 2013

ARCHIVES                                         

By Brian Danko                           

As a lifetime fan of the modified series, I was waiting with anticipation to watch the ‘Battle on the Beach’. It was a concept put together from the people in Daytona Beach at NASCAR, with UNOH, the University of Northern Ohio as the main sponsor and Speed Channel agreeing to showcase the two night affair on television, you could see why the build up was talked about for months.

It had the making of a terrific winter treat for the fans as well as the competitors of the NASCAR Whelen All American Series, the NASCAR Whelen modified tour as well as their southern cousins and the K&N East and West series.

On the first night, after seeing the track and watching the first few laps, you knew it was going to be messy. You just didn’t know how much or to what the damage would look like until the last checkered flag fell on Tuesday night.

Folks, it was UGLY. Some of the problem was the configuration of the track, some was over aggressive driving by the drivers and most was the NASCAR officiating, especially when all three leaders in all three races on the white flag lap were dumped by the second place car and NASCAR officials sat in the control tower and did nothing.

It was as if Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles were the race directors for the night and saw ‘nothing’.

NASCAR should be embarrassed but they and their PR department will tout the great racing by their ‘up and coming stars’. They will mention the thousands of hits on Twitter and Facebook and how the fans got their monies worth.

On night number one, in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series, Kyle Larson, the highly touted and highly talented driver dumped not once but twice getting into the leader, C E Falk. First Lawson clipped him in turn three and then planted him off turn four. It was on purpose, now doubt about it.

As the social media exploded on Monday night and Tuesday, little did the competitors in the modified tours and the K&N series know that the same sort of racing and officiating was in store for them.

As I settled in to watch the modifieds on Tuesday, I knew the track, a smaller version of Martinsville Speedway, with its tight turns and long front and back stretch might pose a problem but it would become apparent shortly into the race that it would be nothing but a caution fest.

Todd Szegedy led the race from the pole position and looked to be in position to win but he suddenly pitted with like 25 laps left giving the lead over to seven time modified tour champion, Mike Stefanik.

As caution after caution continued to slow the pace, each time the leader of the race was able to keep the lead on the restart as the inside row was the preferred lane of choice.

As Stefanik led, former modified tour driver and two time points runner up, Steve Park in second with Riverhead Raceway and tour competitor, Kevin Goodale in third, they all took the white flag but when the checkered flag fell, Park was the car in victory lane and Stefanik finished 13th.

Whether you believe that Park was pushed into Stefanik by a charging Goodale or that Park dumped Stefanik, once again the fans saw that it was a ‘drivers do what you need to do’ to win.

Again, the social media boards lit up like fireworks.

After being disgusted with the modified race, I didn’t expose myself to the K&N series race to what I knew would be another caution fest with a surprise ending

If I was UNOH and Whelen, the two sponsors of the event, I would have had a serious sit down with the meeting of the minds from NASCAR and demand to know what was going on with the officials and what, if anything would be done to make sure these highly promoted and highly anticipated races would not have a repeat act in 2014, if there is a 2014.

All that NASCAR did was tell competitors that raced at Daytona and the thousands that watched from home is that ‘once the white flag waves, its open season on the leader.’

I have been to hundreds of drivers meetings in my 33 plus years of covering NASCAR modified racing both on the local scene and on the modified tour and the tour directors would always mention that they are watching for unsportsmanlike like driving and penalties will be issued.

The Battle on the Beach was suppose to highlight the great racing around the country and on the two touring series in the modifieds and the K&N series, all it did was make NASCAR look like a sanctioning body that never saw a race before and should have embarrassed the officials from Whelen and UNOH as their names were associated with the event.

Would you as a race fan go back next year? How about the competitors? It will remain to be seen but the first Battle on the Beach was a disgrace.