Monday June 19, 2006


By Brian Danko                                        


WATERFORD, CT----------
While the NASCAR Whelen modified tour was off in the western hills of Pennsylvania at the Jennerstown Speedway, I decided to head off to the Connecticut shoreline and take in the newest rave for modified racing, the True Value Racing series.

The True Value modifieds are the brainchild of former modified tour driver, Jack Bateman, who became disenchanted with the owners of the Claremont Speedway.

His goal was to give owners, drivers and crewmembers a chance to get onto a touring series, run by a set of rules with a set purse that was affordable for all.

One of the best parts of the series according to several teams is that from 11th to 24th, the purse is the same BUT it pays their tire bills.

I caught up with former modified tour driver, SJ Evonsion, his wife, Carol, and their son, Dale who now competes on the True Value Series.

When I asked Dale, who was a crewmember when his dad was running on the modified tour what the best thing about the True Value Series was he said, "Money. You don't need to have a whole bunch of it. If you qualify you know that you are at least going to get your tires paid for."

The series rules stipulate that you can only buy three tires for the day and that makes it affordable for all of the teams that are running the series, which is a cousin to the NASCAR Whelen modified tour.

Getting to qualify for a True Value modified series is getting harder and harder and at the Waterford Speedway, a total of 41 modifieds attempted to make the 24 car-starting field at the one-third oval.

When the series started only 20 car were in the feature event, most if not all races are 100 laps of green flag racing that offers no infield pitting, just flat out racing.

Last year because of expanding car counts, the features started 22 cars and this year, 24.

Waterford car counts were higher because the rules were modified to allow Waterford competitors to be legal and compete in the event, making it a bonus for the promoters of the Waterford Speedbowl because they can make it 'them vs. us' Race.

While many on the series see more positives than negatives with the series, the addition of the 'big' track Thompson Speedway in September has many questioning where the series is going. Several midweek events are on the schedule in 2006 and that hurts everyone on the lower buck True Value series.

One car owner said that expanding to 21 races was "too much, too soon."

The series has already lost an event this season when Seekonk was forced to cancel because of weather but it does have a few 'open', non-points paying events offering $10,000 to win. The down size is that it is open to all drivers including those on the modified tour.

SJ Evonsion, who was always a favorite because of his low buck approach to the NASCAR modified tour, likes most of what the TVMS stands for.

He was on the tail end of his career when he ran the tour but in his hey day, SJ was track champion at the Riverside Park Speedway and ran in all the big events at tracks such as Martinsville and Pocono Speedways.

He and his wife know about cost as they help Dale achieve his goal of running modifieds on a touring series.

SJ said that as long as the series is going to run Thompson, and being a non-points paying events, you can skip it if they feel the cost are too prohibitive, that they should put in a gear rule and that would help everyone.

SJ continues, "As long as they don't make the races longer and add in pit stops, that the series is staying within budget."

One of the biggest cost is that of a pit cart and if you have infield pitting, everyone is going to spend a ton of money making a war wagon, it's just something on the series we don't need."

When I brought up the fact that series founding father, Jack Bateman is still competing on the tour, how can he be objective?

All of the car owner and drivers I talked with said he does a good job of keeping everything separate.

Many said privately the series would be better served if he either quit racing and ran the tour or handed off responsibility of the series to an official of the True Value Racing series full time.

The series does have a friendly attitude about it with other teams pitching in and helping out each other, much like that of the Whelen modified tour or the Busch East tour.

All in all the True Value modified series is just another reason to believe that modified racing is alive and well, whether it is the Whelen modified tour, the Race of Champions circuit or the True Value modified series, there is a series out their for anyone.

SJ Evonsion said it the best when he said, "We are not in competition with the modified tour, I wish we could run it and I hope that someday Dale can, but right now this fits our needs."

Robert Gingras, III won the Waterford 100 lap event while second was Jimmy Dolon and third was Dale Evonsion. Johnny Bush was fourth and fifth was Waterford regular, Jeff Pearl.

The event was cut to 53 laps because of curfew after heavy showers hit the area around 7-p.m. Saturday night.

A week ago, Ted Christopher literally saw his modified future sitting on flat bed Haulers after being seized by federal marshals into the alleged allegations that his car owner, James Galante of Danbury, CT was running a racketeering business in the trash hauling business.

Teddy figured that there was no way he would be racing on the modified tour anymore in 2006 unless something special happened.

On Thursday, Long Island car owner, Ed Whelan called and offered his back up car to Christopher for the race at the Jennerstown Speedway.

Christopher repaid Whelan by winning the race beating Tony Hirschman and Eddie Flemke, Jr.

The win propelled TC into the point's lead by 20 over Mike Stefanik and according to TC he will be in Whelan car for the June 29th race at Thompson speedway and hopefully beyond that.

The modified tour needs Ted Christopher, just as much as Ted Christopher needs the modified tour.