Monday January 9, 2006



By Brian Danko                                     


Now that NASCAR has released a preview of the 2006 NASCAR Whelen modified tour, there has been much discussion on various modified chat rooms as well as word of mouth.

Most are not pleased with a 14-race schedule and the fact that ten of the races are in Connecticut. When word was out that the Thompson 300, a race steeped in modified history was being replaced with a 150 lap Whelen modified tour event on that weekend. Also on the tap would be a 100-lap for the Race of Champions modifieds and a 100-lap event for the True Value modifieds as well as a 50 lap SK modified race.

When I contacted Thompson Speedway, a track that will host five modified races in 2006, an official called the event 'a true modified fans delight' in this new event called "Modified Mania."

Last year, Thompson officials tried to spice up the 300 by calling for a caution flag at lap 150, thus allowing teams to make changes to their cars. This was done for making the race more competitive but after complaints from most on the modified tour, Thompson officials and NASCAR made the change to allow for a 300-lap race with no special gimmicks.

In 2004 track officials at Thompson really ticked off the modified tour teams and fans by running the 300 in 3 100-lap races and the winner decided by the most consistent driver in all three races. Everyone hated it.

Thompson Speedway officials have tried many things to bring the Thompson 300 back to its prestigious history.

Now, the crowds for the Thompson 300 have slowly dwindled over the past several years and there are many reasons for it.

The race is usually head on with the opening Sunday of the NFL, baseball pennant races are heating up and the constant rise in ticket prices at both the front gates and back gate at Thompson have hurt this traditional modified event.

The bringing together of the modified tour, which has the best drivers and crews in modified racing with the Race of Champions, a traditional New York series with many fine drivers and teams happy to race closer to home.

They also decided to bring in the True Value modified series, a touring series started by former modified tour competitor, Jack Bateman. It was started to give New England drivers, who maybe didn't have the resources to compete on the modified tour, a chance to run at different racetracks.

Thompson is hoping that modified fans from New York, New Jersey and the upper New England states will join fans of the modified tour for a true modified weekend. According to the Thompson official, it will only be modified racing and nothing else and that Sunday will feature 400 laps of open wheel racing.

The problem for the modified tour is that the 300 posted one of the four biggest purses on the tour and now, that will be cut by roughly $50,000. It also is giving track promoters another option instead of the modified tour, which isn't healthy for the tour and its teams.

Now Don Hoenig, track owner and promoter at the Thompson Speedway is a shrewd businessman and he must do what will put people in the stands of his historic speedway. He knows that with the tour only have 14 events, NASCAR has no room to make demands on a track promoter who is sanctioning five races.

When I called Don Hawk, who is in charge of NASCAR's touring series to find out if Thompson had told NASCAR of their intention of bringing in the other modified series, the call was never returned. NOTE: (On Saturday afternoon, Don Hawk left me a message on my answering machine and filled me in on the question of the Thompson 300 weekend. He said that he and his staff were caught off guard by the Thompson Speedway move and that he will continue dialog with Don Hoenig Monday afternoon (January 9th).

Hawk continued to say, "We are trying to make the most out of it and the quickest out of it and understand."

"The unveiling of the event caught us off guard but I spoke with Don and we will continue to work at it and sort it out.")

I find it hard to believe that NASCAR was caught blind sided by this move as usually a track must sign a sanctioning agreement with NASCAR and it would state the purse and the number of laps before NASCAR would announce races at a track.

Earlier in the week, before the news on the Thompson schedule made modified people chatting again, I called the NASCAR public relations department in Daytona Beach, FL to find out if the schedule that was released was finalized.

According to a spokesman for NASCAR, he said the schedule was put out as a preview so that teams could make some plans and that it was possible that 'a race or two could be added.' But that nothing was set in stone.

When I had a Thompson Speedway official on the phone and asked about the two Thursday night tour races that they are hosting in 2006 and the hardship it presents to the modified tour teams, he said teams are in favor of it.

"They know that they get to come in for a one day event. They practice, time trial and race all in one day with no need for hotel rooms or a weekend away from home."

Stay tuned for more on this.


Ben Dodge, Jr. is getting geared up to host his annual Auto Parts Swap and Sell and it once again will be held at the Big E in West Springfield, MA.

It will, as always, have more than one million parts and literature on classic cars and racecars as well as a chance to meet with many racing friends over the winter.

The event will be on Saturday and Sunday, January 21st and 22nd and will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Tickets for adults are just $8.00 and children 12 and under are free with a paid adult ticket.

Respected Writer passes away

Gene O’donnell, a writer for the Springfield, MA Republican daily newspaper died after a lengthy illness.

He was slowed by the illness but was able to make a couple of modified tour events at Stafford last year.

O’donnell was always a fixture at the now defunct Riverside Park Speedway each Saturday night during the racing season and also covered weekly events at the Stafford Motor Speedway and the Thompson Speedway.

Gene also covered the Daytona 500 for the Republican on a couple occasions.

He will certainly be missed by all of us who knew him.