July 18, 2011

ARCHIVES                                         

By Brian Danko                           

LOUDON, N.H.---Whenever the NASCAR  modified tour returns to the New Hampshire Motor speedway, from the fans up to the competitors, they  know that it is going to be one of the must see races of the year but this year, fans who were used to seeing the high powered rockets won’t be able to watch either live or on tape delayed because the spring race won’t be broadcast. After watching the race, it’s a good thing as the race wasn’t one of the best.

Last year, fans of the open wheel series and fans of racing in general knew watching the mods at the one mile speedway was something special but this year fans will only be able to watch the modifieds twice on the tube this year beginning with the mid August race at Bristol and the fall race here at New Hampshire. Both of those races will be shown live on Speed..

Part of the problem was when the parent company of Versus was sold and they changed their upper management and dropped the coverage of the modified tour that they had in 2010, which consisted of at least 8 races, taped for a later broadcast and shown in a one hour version.

The fans, crews, drivers and car owners loved it. The modifieds, after years of neglect were finally getting the long overdue television exposure that NASCAR had promised for at least 10 years. And not only did they get a couple of live events but the taped shows were just as good as they replayed a couple times giving sponsors a reason to hop on board the modified tour.

When the 2011 television schedule was released, needless to say, competitors of the modified tour were downright ticked off  at going from 8 races to just two, albeit it live events.

I caught up with a trio of drivers to get their views during Saturday morning and none were two happy with it.

“It’s not disappointing.” Doug Coby said, “Its downright ridicules. We’ll do everything we need to do to get television and then we have it and lose it.”

Doug was aware of the deal with Versus but he can’t understand how the K and N Series East and West has 24 of their 25 events on TV and the modifieds get two.

“There is TV here for the Cup practice, Nationswide practice and race and they tape the K and N  race (on Friday) and we can’t get something, especially here.”

“You can’t build up a following if you only have one or two races a year on TV. Right now, we need to start now for next year. We’ll all bitch and complain about it and nothing will get down. It almost seems the K and N got more races at the expense of the modified tour.”

Doug’s biggest complaint was ‘don’t tell us your working on something when you’re not.’

Teddy Christopher is another driver used to being at the front of the pack and he and his sponsors would love the exposure but he too was disappointed. “It’s very disappointing. I understand that they lost a deal with Versus but they don’t say anything. We are expecting it and we don’t have it.”

Mike Stefanik, a seven time modified tour champion too was disappointed in the lack of coverage this year after the large exposure last year.

“Everyone wants TV. I know that but it’s very disappointing to go from the number we had to two. It was great morale booster for our team, our crew and our car owner. It gave our car owners business great exposure which otherwise we wouldn’t have had.”

NASCAR said that they never promised the modified tour competitors anything in 2011 and that, like all their sanctioned races, they would like TV for them but this year the deal with Versus fell through and it was too late to secure anything other than the two live events at Bristol and New Hampshire later this year.

Many of the drivers did say that they lost potential sponsorship when the lack of television dates dried up and in today’s economy that hurts every team that banked on coverage in 2011.

PETTREE INVOLVED IN PRACTICE WRECK

Many eyes were looking at what Andy Pettree, III, the long time Sprint Cup car owner turned announcer would do in his modified. He turned many heads when he qualified fifth for the F.W. Webb 100 but his day turned sour on Saturday morning when he was clipped by another car and turned into the wall on the front stretch during the modifieds only practice of the day.

His team was seen working feverishly to get the car repaired for what would be his first ever event at New Hampshire but he was forced to withdraw from the race.

NEWMAN DOES IT AGAIN

If Ryan Newman ever loses his full time ride on the Sprint Cup circuit, he might be willing to come and play in the NASCAR Whelen modified tour series as he captured his third straight modified pole for the Saturday companion event.

Newman, running a Kevin Manion/Gary Putnam owned modified not only won the pole position, his third straight at Loudon but he captured the 100 lap race in dominating fashion.

There is some question on the win as reports on the way home were that Newman’s car was found to have issues but that no decision would be made until during the upcoming week.

Newman who loves racing on the modified tour when asked if would like to see the modifieds at more races with the Cup series said it would be great for the series.

“These cars would be awesome at the one mile tracks. They would be great at Phoenix, Richmond and Martinsville.”

That’s when crew chief, Kevin Manion spoke up and said he remembers going  Richmond and Watkins Glen with the tour back in the 90’s and how awesome the modifieds were at Richmond in particular.

The modified tour returns here next month as part of the Indy Car weekend while the Sprint cup series are in Watkins Glen, N.Y. A quick trip today by air  but would they come?

According to Kevin Manion, they have discussed it but they haven’t made any decisions. You can tell that Newman loves running the modifieds and the tour regulars, while they don’t like getting beat by him, like him running because of the respect factor. It goes both ways.

34 CARS FOR 38 SPOTS

A sure sign of the struggling economy is that only 34 modifieds showed up in New Hampshire for the 38 starting spots available. It surprised many that teams with multiple cars didn’t do a start and park, a ritual performed weekly on the Cup and Nationwide series weekly.

The track was paying $1800. To take the green yet nobody budged.

Chad Little the modified tour director even called on one competitor who usually runs the two Loudon races to inquire if he would consider running Loudon. The reported response out of the drivers mouth was, “are you going to buy me a set of tires?”

Rob Fuller, nephew of tour champions Rick and Jeff Fuller qualified for the race but he lost the motor early Saturday morning and they loaded up for the weekend.

TOUGH DAY FOR MANY TOUR REGULARS

It wasn’t the kindest day for defending series champion, Bobby Santos. Although the talented driver finished 13th, it was a distant 13th as he and former champion, Teddy Christopher, who finished 11th just couldn’t get a handle on the car.

You usually expect both these drivers to be battling for the win at NHMS.

Mike Stefanik’s streak of lousy luck continued as he finished in 28th after having issues during the early part of the race.

GOOD DAY FOR COBY AND HIRSCHMAN

While some drivers had their problems, Doug Coby and Matt Hirschman  has great days finishing fifth and fourth respectively. Eddie Flemke, Jr. had underneath his hood a Rousch motor and while Eddie said the team did have problems, a ninth place finish is what the doctor ordered after his rough stretch.