Monday June 5, 2006


By Brian Danko                                        


When word was leaking out that Don Hawk, the director of NASCAR's touring series had either resigned or was asked to leave, it set off shock waves in the modified community.

While many people liked Hawk for his direct approach, many also viewed him as another in the long line of NASCAR mouthpieces telling people in the modified series what they wanted to hear.
I called Phil Kurze, the director of Whelen Motorsports and the modified series sponsor, to get his reaction to Hawk leaving his post.

"I had no idea that anything like this was going to happen." Kurze told me over the phone with a hint of shock in his voice.

When NASCAR first released the 2006 schedule the first week of the New Year, 14 races dotted the schedule and many in the modified family were not happy, either were Phil Kurze and Whelen.
"I don't get involved in signing up the events, that is for NASCAR. We were not happy about the 14 races and we let NASCAR know it when it was first announced.

We told NASCAR our views on the schedule and to their credit, they got to work on it and added races at Jennerstown, Holland and Waterford Speedways."

Kurze said that Hawk told him what goes into signing a sanctioning agreement, and Kurze said he learned a lot of what is done to sign up a track for an event.

"Don told me that they have to listen to the promoter and get their concerns and that NASCAR also tells the promoters about NASCAR's concerns."

While Kurze said that Whelen is pleased with how the 2006 schedule came together, he also knows that 2007 and beyond will be better.

When Kurze was told that rumors of Bob Duvall, a senior manager in events and operations for NASCAR and who worked for the Jennerstown Speedway was going to be taking over Hawk's job with the help of another NASCAR employee, he was upbeat about the news.

Phil said he had no official word but seemed happy if that is indeed how everything shakes out.

"If it is going to be Bob, I will be very pleased with that. Bob is the one who got us to get involved the NASCAR Weekly racing series and I have worked with him for over six years."

Phil was asked to comment on the NASCAR Whelen southern modified tour in just its second season under the NASCAR banner and you could hear the excitement in his voice.

"I feel that there is a great deal of growth there. The enthusiasm for the series is evident. We have tracks down there that wants more races.

When people on the southern modified tour saw how their champion, Junior Miller was treated at the banquet with all the awards and then going to be apart of the banquet in New York and getting together with Tony (Hirschman) and Tony (Stewart), they saw what NASCAR could bring."

Word is that NASCAR is looking to add more combination races, like the event at the Martinsville Speedway for next season, something NASCAR officials are excited about.

It is rumored that the Motor Mile in Virginia is interested in hosting an event next season and that is something that most figure would benefit teams on both the southern modified tour as well as the northern modified circuit.

Kurze said that he would be thrilled to see more combination races. "I think it would be great for both tours. The southern modified have good drivers and good enthusiasm and I think that they would have fun with the North South rivalry."

When news broke that Hawk had indeed left his position, Kurze said he called Hawk to thank him.
"Don Hawk did a lot for the modified tours, for Whelen Engineering and for Phil Kurze. I just wanted to let him know."

Everyone with the modified tour was thrilled that Nextel Cup champion Tony Stewart was going to get behind the wheel of one of Curt Chase's modified for the July event at New Hampshire International Speedway.

That excitement seems to have waned when Stewart was injured not once but twice at Charlotte last weekend and his status is up in the air right now.

Word is that Joe Gibbs, owner of the Home Depot car that Stewart drives told his driver to cut out the moonlighting so that they can concentrate on another NASCAR title.

It would be his first NASCAR Whelen modified tour start, which is being sponsored by Foxwoods Casino and it would benefit the Cancer Society.

While Stewart is up in the air, Carl Edwards is set to make his first modified tour start when he drives for Don Barker, who was the car owner of 2003 modified tour champion, Todd Szegedy.

The 2006 season started off great for officials of the Stafford Motor Speedway when a packed house watched Doug Coby win the Spring Sizzler, since then, it been nothing but rain.
It was so frustrating for Stafford, that they canceled their June 2nd event the day before because of threats of rain and more rain and did it ever rain with over 5 inches falling on some parts of Connecticut.

The Connecticut Classic 150, which is a Memorial Day tradition on the modified tour was postponed to Tuesday night, July 4th because of rain but it must be hard to get all set to host your weekly racing series and Mother Nature interferes with plans week after week.

The modified tour, which has been in hiatus since the running of the Spring Sizzler the end of April returns to the Jennerstown Speedway in western Pennsylvania on Saturday, June 17th.
This 100-lap event will offer the modified competitors a purse of $75,000.