Monday May 8, 2006


By Brian Danko                                        


Officials of the Waterford Speedbowl announced this past weekend that they will host a second modified tour event during the 2006 season. It will either be held on Saturday, September 23rd or Sunday, September 24th as part of the Waterford Speedbowl season finale weekend.

It was rumored lately that Waterford might get the 17th race of the season but many felt when Waterford opted to take a True Value modified event in June instead of a second tour race that they were happy with the one tour race.

At the season opening race at the Thompson Speedway, Director of NASCAR Touring series, Don Hawk spoke to the media about the decision to add races at both the Holland Speedway located near Buffalo, NY and the Jennerstown Speedway in western Pennsylvania.

Both speedway have hosted modified tour events and Holland was by far, the most successful in terms of drawing fans, in fact, speedway management told me on several occasions that the biggest crowds of the year are when the modified tour comes to town.

So when NASCAR announced that the races would be for reduced laps and presumably reduced purse money, it raised the ire of teams and the media who cover the series.

NASCAR officials in late December put out a schedule that consisted of 14 races and it said that this was a tentative schedule. When it became the first of April and no new tracks or races were added, many assumed that it would be 14 races for the 2006 season.

Now certainly no one on the modified tour was happy with a 14-race schedule that included 10 events in the state of Connecticut but when no new events were added, teams figured out what they would need to compete the whole tour on.

I had one first year car owner tell me at the Stafford Sizzler pit party that the recently added races hurt because they had budgeted everything based on 14 event and then 16 and now 17.

Granted, everyone from the drivers, owners and crews to NASCAR officials and Whelen, the series sponsor would agree that 14 just wasn't a schedule that was enticing to anyone.

Whelen Engineering out of Chester, CT met with NASCAR officials because they were concerned with the number of races, or lack of, not only with the NASCAR Whelen modified tour in the northeast but also the Whelen Southern modified tour.

Whelen, as series sponsor needs races to promote their products and as a new sponsor to NASCAR, needs to get their moneys worth.

In fact, it seems when anything on the modified tour needs to have a race sponsor, pay for television or anything else, lets call Whelen, they'll do it.

That is not the proper way to get and hold onto a dedicated sponsor.

It now appears that 17 races will complete the schedule for this year and I know that talking with Ed Cox, the modified tours race director, that he is already working on the 2007 season and is hopeful of some new races and tracks.

The Whelen modified tour is the Nextel Cup of modified racing and if the fans want to see the best-modified drivers and teams in the country, you want to attend a modified tour event. Now, this is not a slap in the face of the Race of Champions series in New York or the newly formed True Value series.

They are great series for drivers and crews looking to get experience running a touring series and competing on different types of tracks but they are not in the same league as teams on the modified tour.

Seekonk Speedway dropped the modified tour and instead took several races from the True Value Series and what they will pay in purses money will certainly be less than the modified tour's but the name drivers that fans want to see also will be missing. How will that effect the crowds?

Last week at the Stafford Motor Speedway, I talked with TV Tim Deroin. Tim is a former modified driver and is in the sports television programming often directing many NASCAR touring races but also running a camera at hundreds of Boston Red Sox, Boston Bruins games and UCONN sporting events.

Tim told me that when he inquired about the Martinsville modified tour race being taped and shown on SPEED, he was informed that there are no plans for the event to be televised.

Tim did say that however that plans often change and like last year nothing is set in stone but as of right now, don't plan on watching the mighty modified under the lights at the Martinsville Speedway on Labor Day weekend.

The month of April is in the books as far as the modified tour is concerned and it was an eight-time champion and first time winner visiting victory lane.

Mike Stefanik took the win at Thompson while Doug Coby finally got the monkey off his back in winning the Spring Sizzler.

They were not the only winners as large crowds filed into both Thompson and Stafford helping the bottom lines for both tracks.

While two races in the books doesn't make a season, it does give you an idea of what to expect.
Stefanik, Christopher and Hirschman are all going to be tough to beat. Reggie Ruggiero, who has a third and a 13th, is expected to race at Stafford on Memorial Day Friday and then the Dick Barney team is expected to look at points and see if they will run the whole tour.

Rookies Danny Sammons and James Civali have proven after two events that they are more than rookies and with both driving for established teams will be harder to beat on a weekly basis.

Nearly 50 modified teams have signed in for each of the first two events and that is a healthy sign for any series. All in all, it should be another exciting series on the modified tour with the experienced veterans and the rookies looking to make a name for themselves.

Track officials of the Thompson Speedway and officials of NASCAR announced that they have added a 100 lap Busch East, formerly the Busch North series to the Thursday night, June 29th event at the Thompson Speedway.

The modified tour will also compete in a 100-lap event on the same night giving fans of the northeast two premier touring series a great value for the money.

This will be a one-day event and Thompson officials are known for the rapidly moving race programs and hope to have fans on the way home at a reasonable hour.