NASCAR SOUTHERN MOD TOUR COMES TOGETHER By J. Troiano, M. Dillner
Organizational Meeting Sheds Some Light, Leaves Some Questions
The biggest issue with Bowman Gray is that the Tour will run larger, 15-inch tires during the year, while the weekly Stadium drivers in the Modified Division run 11-inch tires.
“We heard that the Stadium would get a race,” said Meyers, a Stadium regular. “I told people I just don't see that happening. But I guess I was wrong. It is a big race weekend too. The 199. If you run weekly at the Stadium, that race can make you or break you.
“The tire issue will be the biggest thing. I don't know how they are going to do it yet. I don't think it would be fair to the regular Stadium guys to run big tires, but it would not be fair to the regular Tour guys to run the small tires.”
“I figured it would be pretty close to what we heard,” said driver Burt Meyers. “Basically, it looks as if it will be the same as we had last year, except with the NASCAR banner on it.
“They were pretty impressed that they had over 50 teams' hands in the air there last night. I think if they think there are going to be 50 teams at the first race, they are in for a rude awakening. I think basically you see what we had last year.”
If you are unaware of what is going on with the new series, NASCAR is stepping in to run a Southern Modified Series, which was normally run under the SMART banner. The SMART organization will still be around, but the Southern Modified Tour will be a NASCAR-sanctioned property, joining big brother, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, along with the six other NASCAR Touring Divisions.
Last night's meeting was the first official meeting to discuss what will change in 2005, what will stay the same, what to look for and what the future holds.
It was, in most viewers eyes, a rousing success.
“With about 150 people there and 50 teams represented,. I'd say we thought it was very positive,” said NASCAR's Ed Cox, who conducted the meeting along with NASCAR's Don Hawk, who oversees all of the NASCAR Touring Divisions.
“I was pretty impressed,” said driver Brian Loftin. “I am comfortable with the whole series after that meeting. It think it going to bring some good things, from the professionalism to the competitive side of things. There are still a lot of unknowns. No one still knows what exactly we are getting into, but most people are positive.”
“It is great to have NASCAR back in our corner,” said Jeff Riggs, co-owner and crew chief of the #69 Riggs Racing car that will race with the series with driver Junior Miller, who is known as the "King of the Southern Modifieds." . “I think it will be like getting back to true grassroots racing. When I say that, the integrity that goes with NASCAR will be spread out. When someone calls and asks 'what series do you run?' it will have a little more to it now. Not knocking anything we've run in the past either though. When we used to run the Northern Tour and you said you ran the NASCAR Modifieds up North, people knew that and thought it was cool. So this will be a big boost in the arm for us.”
Cox and Hawk outlined what the former SMART teams could expect in 2005 in terms of rule changes, points fund, scheduling and other issues. A lot of issues were brought
up and made clearer, including the release of a tentative 13-race schedule that will be expanded before the season starts, while some issues still have a murky outlook, including some rules.
One of the first thing that many wanted to know is the schedule that will be laid out. NASCAR announced a tentative schedule that has 13-confirmed date on it. By all indications, the final schedule will have a total of 16 races. NASCAR is still talking with several tracks and trying to confirm a coupe of more dates.
Caraway Speedway (Asheboro, NC) has hosted several SMART races during the past several years. The tentative schedule shows six 2005 NASCAR Southern Tour races at the .4-mile track, much more than any other track on the schedule.
“Caraway helped the SMART Tour last as long as it did,” said Loftin. “There were some years where Caraway was about the only track we had. We have to look after them. I don't have a problem with it. There are a lot of worse places we could race.”
A huge date released was the August 6th race at the legendary Bowman Gray Stadium (Winston-Salem, NC). The series will run the legendary 199-lap race that nears the end of the Stadium season. It is a huge event for the Southern Tour, but there are plenty of questions left by the event, considering there will be drivers in the race that either race the full Southern Tour or the full Stadium season.
Junior Miller, known as the "King Of The Southern Mods," wasn't at the meeting, but his owners were.
It's finally here. The NASCAR Southern Modified Tour.
The much awaited and talked about Tour held its first official meeting on Thursday night in Winston-Salem (NC), drawing in over 150 interested individuals representing over 50 teams. The meeting, called by NASCAR officials, was the first time they had “officially” gotten together with competitors and teams to discuss the upcoming 2005 season.
Cox gave Speed51.com his side of the rule changes.
“We told everyone that we were going to try to run the series to the format they were running with a few minor changes. I'm sure there will be some changes and they knew that coming in.
“Safety is our first and foremost issue and that is where several rule changes will come into play. As for other things, we;ll see. We are going to do an addendum that will specifically address each thing that is different with this series (compared to the Whelen Modified Series in the rulebook). We encouraged them, if they were building a new car, to build it to the Northern Tour rules.”
“We are having conversations with Friendship (officials),” said Cox. “We had some last night (Thursday) after the meeting. We haven't decided which avenue we are going to go there yet.
“We just gave (those in attendance) the dates that have been confirmed. We are still talking with other race tracks at this time.”
Cox said those other tracks could include South Boston, Greenville-Pickens and Orange County Speedway.
“It looks good,” said Riggs of the schedule. “ We do have too many at one track. Overall it is like 7 different tracks and 13 race s on the tentative schedule. The way I understood it last night, there were four other tracks
“There are some mixed emotions about going to Bowman Gray, but I'm looking forward to it. They couldn't tell us for sure if we were running 15 inch tires or not. I'd hate to buy different wheels just for that one race. Some people that don't run there all the time are a little apprehensive to go there and run with those guys that run every week too. It is an unusual place.”
Cox said NASCAR is reviewing the tire situation and will have further comments on it when they decide what they will do.
The rest of the schedule was made up with races at Ace Speedway, Myrtle Beach, Motor Mile, Concord and Hickory.
One notable track missing was that of Friendship Speedway, which had five SMART races in 2004..
“I don't think they'll get a date,” said Meyers of Friendship Speedway. “The main conflict is that Friendship has is that they run a weekly Saturday night show. The Stadium and NASCAR might be threatened by that. They are ASA (sanctioned) too. Friendship doesn't have a lot going on their side right now.”
Cox said the schedule is not set and that Friendship, along with a couple of other tracks, might still get a race date.
Currently, Caraway Speedway has six races on the 2005 schedule.
“There will be some extra expense, but we kinda figured that,” said Meyers.
Cox also made several other announcements during the night, including introducing Scott French as the Tour's new Director. French has previously served as a Busch Series official and was most recently the Director of the Elite Division Northwest Series.
One of the biggest news items for the new Tour, Cox said that the Series has already attracted a title sponsor.
“We have a sponsor for the series,” said Cox. “We don't have the contracts all signed, but as soon as it's done, we'll announce it and have a press conference.”
That was some welcomed relief to hear from the drivers. However, Cox also indicated that the series' purses were not likely to change much from the purses the SMART Series paid last season.
This year will be a building year.
“It is hard to say if this will be a rebirth of the series, as back in the days, Modifieds were a big part of the south. I'd like to see this as a rebirth. It will be interesting to see the fan's response and to see if there is any growth. I think there will be. This will be a good series for our racers and our fans alike.”
Burt Meyers was one of the interested observers at Thursday night's meeting. (51 Photos)
Brian Loftin's #23
looking for dates and I think they are going to cap it off at 16 race this year. That is perfect for us.”
The other major portion of the night came when talking about the rule package for 2005 and how it will differ from the SMART rules the drivers have run in the past.
Simply enough, NASCAR has said they are going to make minimal changes in the rules, most of which will revolve around safety issues, all while trying to grandfather the Southern Tour teams into a rules package that matches the Whelen Modified Tour of the Northeast.
Things were still cloudy though after Thursday night's meeting.
“Rules is the one topic they couldn't tell us everything about as of yet,” Loftin said. “I know LW (Miller, a two-time SMART Series Champion) pressed them hard on the rules but never could get a concrete answer on some things. They said if we are building a new car, to build it towards the North tour rules, but that we are still running under our rules with the exception of some safety stuff.
“They told us pretty much 2006 we should have a regular tour-type car.”
In 2006, the Southern Tour should have rules that are jut like those of the NASCAR Whelen Tour.