Monday March 27, 2006

 

ARCHIVES

By Brian Danko                                        

  Well, itšs been quite a while since Išve sat at my computer, but when youlive in Connecticut, there is something called college basketball that keeps you busy during the winter months. Since that time, a lot has gone on in the world of the NASCAR Whelen modified tour. The last time we looked at the 2006 schedule that NASCAR put out, there has been much discussion about it, most of it not good. NASCAR officials told me in February that they were still looking to add to the 14 races that will make up the 2006 season. When I talked with Ed Cox, the director of the modified tour this past week, he too said the goal was to add one or two races for 2006.š Cox, who has been at the head of NASCARšs open wheeled rockets for years, said he was somewhat disappointed as we head into the upcoming season but that he was working hard to make it a success. When I asked Ed if he saw promise in the touršs schedule for 2007 and beyond, he said he did. The 2007 schedule is a work in progress and I think that it will be a good schedule.˛ Ed said that he is also pleased at the progress that the NASCAR Whelen Southern modified tour has taken and expects big things from the touršs cousin down south which opened their season this past weekend in Asheboro, NC at the Caraway Speedway.

THOMPSON SPEEDWAY SET FOR ICEBREAKER
For years, the Icebreaker has been the race that signifies spring has come. That first weekend when the smells of gasoline and tires hit the air, you know racing season is here in the northeast.
Last week, I talked with Ben Dodge, a consultant for the Thompson Speedway and he said the old speedway is ready for another season. The first topic of conversation was the replacement of the Thompson 300 with a new event called Modified Mania. That was a bone of contention for NASCAR when it was revealed that not only was the tour race not going to be 300 laps but that it would share the billing with the Race of Champions modified tour and the True Value series
modified tour. When I asked Ben if the furor of losing the 300 was over, he commented that the speedway received more good response over the decision. We got more letters and emails concerning this event and it was positive. Ben said. The original concept of the Thompson 300 was to bring together for one weekend, all people who raced modifieds for one afternoon, this is
what we will have now. Ben added, The tours rules donšt allow some of these teams to compete so this will allow them to race in their own series and allow fans from the other modified series a chance to see them. When asked whose idea it was to bring the ROC tour and the True Value
together, Ben said it was track owner and promoter, Don Hoenig and that everyone else was in the dark over it. This was Donšs idea. He had set up a couple of secret meeting with these groups and put it together by himself. He saw what was happening with the Thompson 300 and he wanted to make that weekend special again. Ben said that one of the misconceptions about the weekend is that drivers can't compete in the other series and he said that is not true. There will be three separate races and if drivers have cars that meet that series rules, they will be allowed to race. Eric Beers has three cars and can compete in all three, Chuck Hossfeld will run in the modified tour
and then in his own modified in the Race of Champions race. Dodge said that if you were a fan of modified racing, this would be the weekend to be at Thompson Speedway. He also said that the track has a few major renovations planned for the historic speedway including replacing the pit grandstands with a new high rise pit grandstand. The track also purchased MUSCO lighting and that the speedway will have them up and running by midseason. The speedway will host five events this year and the season will conclude in October with the annual World Series. The Icebreaker is set to go green on Sunday, April 9th with qualifying for all divisions on the 8th.

MANY NEW DRIVERS AND TEAMS LINED UP IN 2006
While the 2006 NASCAR Whelen modified tour schedule might not be a liking to many veterans on the series, it obviously is good enough to draw many rookies and first timers to the premier open wheeled circuit. Ron Yuhas of Groton, CT is one of the new breeds of drivers that will
tackle the series. Ron is a past champion at the Waterford Speedbowl and is looking forward to the challenge. "Since I was a kid, I wanted to compete on the modified tour. I am extremely fortunate to have that opportunity now. I have a great group of people behind me allowing me to pursue my ambitions." During the off season, Yuhas purchased a Chevy-powered Chassis Dynamics car that campaigned on a limited basis in the past with Ronnie Silk and James Civali at the wheel. "We hope to be able to run the full schedule this year. We understand that there are a lot of factors that will play out in the early part of the season. If we can qualify for the first few shows, I think wešll be in good position to run the remainder of the year. During the winter months, it was also announced the former modified tour competitor and 2006 champion at the Waterford Speedbowl, Rob Summers of Vernon, CT has hooked up for long time car owners, Guy Ronzoni and Bill Frasco and the TG Racing team. The past several years, Rick Fuller has driven the #1 to top ten finishes in the points standing but Rick decided to leave at the conclusion of the  2005 and that opened the door for Summers. "I am really looking forward to getting back to the tour full time. It was always my ultimate goal to race on the Whelen modified tour again, but I did not want to go back until I had the right situation." Rob, during his time on the tour had impressive stats including 10 top five finishes and 23 top tens as well as capturing four poles during the 2000
season. Mike Christopher of Plainville, CT, twin brother of Ted, will be back on the tour full time in 2006 after being released at the end of the season from the Roger Hill team. Mike will run Bear Motorsports car and they should once again be a threat at each race, especially at the Stafford Motor Speedway and the Thompson Speedways, where Mike is a former track champion.
Christopher finished the season with a fourth place finish at the World Series and is hoping to get the 2006 season off to a quick start with another top five finish. Dennis Charette of Southington, CT is another former Waterford regular that is looking to make an impact on the modified tour as he is teaming up with Chris Drouin to run a minimum of 10 races. "As of right now, wešre doing 10 races but wešre shooting to do the whole schedule. We'll focus on the Connecticut races (10) but we"re hoping to do them all." Dennis said he knows the tour will be the biggest challenge of his
racing career to date but that he is confident heading into the Thompson Icebreaker set for a couple weeks from now. Rick Fuller according to all reports has worked out a deal to compete
in the Icebreaker driving the Joe Brady 00 machine but the rest of the season was still up in the air. The tour would certainly be better off with Fuller on the tour. Todd Szegedy, who won the 2003, modified tour championship but left the following series to pursue driving on the Busch series is returning home and will run the entire tour in the same car he won the title with. He will also have his former championship crew chief; Phil Moran on top of the war wagon calling this shots and should be again be a threat for the title.

HIRSCHMAN TABBED TO REPEAT ACCORDING TO MEDIA
The traveling members of the media that cover the NASCAR modified tour have taken the easy way out and picked two time defending champion, Tony Hirschman of Northampton, PA to repeat as the champion of the series. Tony has a total of five championships and is looking to tie Mike
Stefanik who has six titles but with Stefanik returning full time to the modified, it could be a barnburner for the 2006 title. Stefanik was picked second by the media with 2005 runner up Ted
Christopher slated for a third place finish. Eric Beers was picked for fourth with former modified champion; Jerry Marquis picked for fifth.

WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR SET
As the NASCAR Whelen modified southern tour kicks off it second season under the NASCAR banner, everyone connected with the series is upbeat about it. The contingency awards have increased nearly doubled for the 2006 season and 12 races will determine the champion. Junior Miller of Pine Hall, NC is the defending champion. The southern tour will race April 8th at Greenville-Pickens in Greenville, SC, April 15th at Caraway in North Carolina and April 22nd at Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia. The tour is off two months before returning to action on June 30th at Caraway. The series then races on August 5th at the historic Bowman-Grey Stadium
before teaming up the northern modifieds on September 2nd at the Martinsville Speedway.
On September 9th, the mods return to the Caraway Speedway while on the Friday the 15th, they compete at the Ace Speedway before closing the month again at the Caraway Speedway. The southern tour will conclude the 2006 season on October 14th at the Motor Mile Speedway.

CHECKERED CHEERS
Reggie Ruggiero of Rocky Hill, CT, and his longtime girlfriend, Kim Mott, tied the knot a couple of weeks back when they were married in Las Vegas. Reggie is again going to run several events on the modified tour.

BRIAN DANKO'S COLUMN CAN BE FOUND EACH WEEK IN AREA AUTO RACING NEWS.  FOR THE MOST IN AUTO RACING NEWS SUBSCRIBE BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW.