SMT LEFTOVERS: INAUGURAL RACE AT CARAWAY by Matthew & Bob Dillner
Hedgecock, Foley, the King, the Myers Boys, Tomaino, Bertuccio, Fleming, Hoag & More
DID HEDGECOCK HAVE ‘EM COVERED?

Longtime Southern Modified competitor and chassis-builder Jay Hedgecock may have been winner Ted Christopher’s biggest threat.  He led early until the bottom dropped out on him Saturday at Caraway Speedway. 
“It’s a shame because that’s the first motor trouble I had in four years,” explained the two-time Southern Modified champion, who finished 17th. “The car was exceptional; the best I’ve been down here in years.  I really wasn’t going to run hard and I didn’t, but I got such a good start that I got to the lead pretty quick.  I watched the 2-car and when he made a mistake I got the lead.  I knew Teddy was smart enough that he wasn’t going to race early either so I just tried to set a pace and not push the car.

“It’s the most disappointed I’ve ever been.  I’m not saying I was definitely going to win, but I would have been around at the finish, win lose or draw.”
LOFTIN ON POLE… BUT NOT FOR LONG

Brian Loftin is one of the highly-touted young guns of the Southern Modified scene.  Everyone expects him to challenge for the inaugural NASCAR Southern Modified Tour championship, but his season is off to a rough start.
After the redraw, Loftin was scheduled to start on the pole, but he didn’t even make it off the starting grid.

“To be honest with you we don’t know what happened,” said Loftin, who was scored 21st in the finishing order.  “It just quit firing out there.  We brought it in and changed ignition box, the ignition coil and everything, but it still didn’t fire.  We are lost right now.

“This is pretty bad.  We are real disappointed, especially to see Teddy run away with it like that because I wanted to show him what we got down here.  I hope he comes back next week (at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, NC) because I am ready for him.”
Ironically, starting off slow is not a new thing to one of the start of the Southern Modified Tour.

“Last year we didn’t make it a lap before we wrecked and now this, maybe I need to stay away from the first race and just show up for the second one.”

MYERS WINS INAUGURAL BUD POLE THEN FADES

Burt Myers is one of the most charismatic guys in all of racing, so it was quite fitting that he won the inaugural Bud Pole for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
His happy parade didn’t last long though.  He went from the top to the bottom pretty quickly in the race, but fought back for a 14th place finish.

“I wished I could tell you what went wrong,” said Burt with a shrug of his shoulders.  “We have been fighting this car since we bought it last year.  It’s got about seven races on it and on new tires it is awesome.  When the tires get hot it seems to run off the right rear only and it gets loose.  With the setup in this car tonight there’s no way it should have gotten loose.
Jay Hedgecock sits on his #41.  (51 Photos)
“Then I had a small vibration and I wasn’t sure where it was coming from.  When I came in the pits, I left one black mark going out, so I might have something wrong in the rear-end.  We are going to go home and tear it apart and find out what it wrong.  Next week we will run the other car that I know runs well.”

BOTH MYERS BOYS DON’T FAIR WELL

Burt’s brother Jason qualified well, but he too was not at the top of the pack at the end of the 150-lap race.  It’s not what some expected from the Myers boys.

“Imagine how we feel,” said Jason, who finished 20th.  “We expected a whole lot more too.  It’s just luck.  We had a problem with the oil line and lost oil pressure.  We have one car and one motor so when I see the light come on we are parking it.  If we lose that motor then we gonna be sitting out and that’s not what I want to do. 

“Bad way to start off the year.  It does make you feel better to know you have a good racecar when you fall out.  It’ll come around.”

TOMAINO WOULDN’T HAVE MISSED IT FOR THE WORLD

“I’ve never missed a Tour show,” said the 1989 Northern Modified Tour champ Jamie Tomaino after the race.  “I’ve been to every race, every single one since they started.  It didn’t matter if I got hurt, if I had no car, I couldn’t even walk; I made every race.  This was the first one down South; I couldn’t miss this one.”
Brian Loftin is looking for a better run this weekend at Ace Speedway.  (51 Photos)
You think Tomaino is passionate about Modifieds, you should have seen that passion come through during the 150-lap race.  He started off in the wild blue yonder after a poor qualifying attempt and would end up third.

“I thought I was 20-years-old again when I time trialed because I went into the corner and I almost went through the wall,” said the 48-year-old with a laugh.  “Starting in the back is not the end of the world; in fact, sometimes it is a better place to be.  I think Earnhardt Sr. started in the back quite a bit and his record speaks for itself.
“Being the old man that I am these days I know how to finish.  You don’t make any money if you wreck your racecar; you have to bring it home in one piece.  I thought I was going to finish second, but Foley played the cat and mouse game and he got me back the same way I got him.”

Don’t think Tomaino is going to be a stranger in the South.

“I’m going to support this Tour as much as I can.  Hopefully in the future I am going to move down here.  If I don’t ever move up, this is the greatest division ever and I want to see it succeed down South.”

FOLEY FOILS THE KING OF SOUTHERN MODS & NORTHERN IRON MAN

Former Southern Modified champ Jay Foley beat “The King” and “The Ironman” on Saturday, but came up short on taking down modified’s version of “The Intimidator.”

Foley followed Ted Christopher to the line, but was two spots ahead of seven-time SMART champ Junior Miller and Tomaino.

“I’m tickled to death to come out of here with second-place,” said Foley.  “We had a pretty good car early on, but the 41-car got to leaking oil there and I got a little too patient and I lost a spot or two.  Once I got everything back in line I gained some spots back, but I knew Teddy had a really tough car and he was going to be hard to beat.  Me and Jamie have had some scuffles before, but I was happy to get out there and race him nice and clean.  Now I can’t wait to get to Ace.”

CLIFTON CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO ACE TOO

Michael Clifton tested the track in Altamahaw recently and feels he’s got the combination dialed in there.  Problem is, the defending winner of the Caraway race was just a bit off on Saturday.
“We didn’t qualify that well.  It was a little slick and we got in the wall.  We just over compensated for some things,” said Clifton, who plans on competing on the SMT as long as he’s got the money.

“We started in the rear and by the time we worked out way up to where we needed to be the race was over.  I still had a good car though, so I am looking forward to next week at Ace.”

Clifton finished ninth.
THE KING TRYING TO GET BACK ON HIS THRONE

Junior Miller is a seven-time Southern Modified champ, but he hasn’t won in the past couple seasons.  Saturday he began his quest to get back on top of the Southern Mod world in his Advance Auto Parts machine.  It wasn’t quite what he hoped for, but a 4th place run will have to suffice for now.

“We had a better car than Tomaino and that 57, just couldn’t get under them.  We were just a little bit too tight tonight,” said Miller.  “I bumped a little bit and got underneath them a little bit on that last corner, but it was a quarter of a lap too late.  Hopefully we’ll just get hooked up a little better next time and beat 'em.”

FLEMING PACES HIMSELF TO A TOP-5

Frank Fleming has always been a calculated racer; that’s what has won him oodles of race in the Southern Mods.  And in classic Fleming-style, he came away with a fifth Saturday night at Caraway.
“The cars upfront wore their tires out and they were slowing down.  I had a great car all night; I just needed track position,” said Fleming, who started 14th.

“They told me five laps to go and I had run with the 87 for a bunch of laps.  Every time I got up beside him he’d lean on me awful hard.  So I just put it up on the outside and beat him back to the start finish line.  If there was another lap he probably would have banged into me and go me up in the marbles.”

“We had a good time,” Fleming said of racing with the rookie Hoag.  “This is the first time I’ve ever raced with
Frank Fleming (07), Junior Miller (69) and Brian Pack (81) battle at Caraway.  (51 Photos)
him.  He’s a little bit rough, but I just kept working him.  I’d run into him and and get up beside him and then he’d run into me.  I was probably getting on his nerves a little bit, but I wasn’t doing it intentionally.”

HOAG LOOKING GOOD AFTER TOUGH BATTLE

Young Alex Hoag is as calm as can be both outside and inside his modified, but he did give the veteran Fleming a heckuva battle.

“That was just good hard racing,” said Hoag, who finished sixth.  “He gave me a couple shots while he was behind me and we ran wheel-to-wheel and coming to the line.  That was just awesome.  I’ve never been that close at the finish before.”
“I needed some more green there at the end.  Besides Teddy I think we were the next best out there on tires.  Those guys from Bowman Gray can really take up a lot of racetrack.

“It was fun to race him (speaking of Junior Miller), but I just wanted to get by him; he was taking up a lot of racetrack.  But that’s my learning curve too.  I just need to figure out where to pass him.  If we were a little bit better in the middle of the corner, we probably would have got him.”

Hoag will compete in the entire Southern Modified Tour this year and he’ll do it from his home-state of New York.  So to get a good start to the season was important for the grandson of famous Mod racer Dutch Hoag.
“I figure two of the guys in front of us won’t be running the whole Tour, so right now we’re top-5 in points and that’s a pretty good start.”

CRAMMER ALSO HAULIN’ FROM THE NORTH

20-year-old Brian Crammer may not be able to legally get into a bar yet and it’s a good thing because he’ll be spending plenty of time on the highway this year.  Crammer will haul his racer from New Jersey for every one of the SMT races.

Saturday night he had a top-six run in the bag, when was squished by another car.

“We were sitting there, biding our time; we got underneath JR (Bertuccio) going into three and he said they never said anything to him on the radio.  He rode me up on the speed bump and she (the car) just came around.  Then it wouldn’t restart and we lost two laps.  It’s was disappointing.”

BERTUCCIO LEADS EARLY THEN GOES UP IN SMOKE

J.R. Bertuccio made the haul from Long Island to compete in the first ever SMT race, but his night didn’t last long.  Shortly after his contact with Cranmer, he was in the pits with the hood up.
You'll be seeing a lot of this kid on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Mod Tour this year.  (51 Photos)
“We were running good,” explained Bertuccio with his thick Long Island accent.  “We got the lead there for a while and then I figured I’d just hang out for a little bit and let some cars get in front of me and the next thing I know the motor broke.”

Bertuccio, unlike Hoag and Cranmer won’t be making the trek down for the entire SMT race, but he doesn’t rule out the possibility of more.

“We had nothing better to do so we decided to come down.  We are going to run the regular Northern Tour and Riverhead (Raceway, weekly racing Modifieds) and whatever doesn’t conflict we’ll be down here.”
J.R. Bertuccio  (51 Photos)
Bertuccio has a deal to race the Bear Motorsports #14 in the first three races on the Northern Modified Tour.

SINK IS SUNK IN RACE #1 - TRIES TO HELP TIM BROWN

Rupert Sink ran the SMART Tour and weekly and Bowman Gray Stadium last year and he plans to do the same this year, but his season got off to a tough start at Caraway.
“Everybody was bunched up, getting on the throttle and on the brakes and I got tapped a little bit.  I got turned and it felt ok after that, but then the last few laps it got out from under me.”

Sink tried to help out fellow racer Tim Brown, a regular competitor on the southern tour, during the inaugural event.

“His car is not done and he wanted to run my other car, but the other one had an oil leak and he didn’t want a chance to hurt it.”
Tim Brown attempted to run this car.  (51 Photos)
Brown does plan to be at Ace Speedway this Saturday night with his own equipment.

TALK ABOUT A TOUGH WEEKEND

Nobody had a tougher initial weekend to the season than Brian Pack.  All you have to do is listen to him talk about it.

“We blew up a motor on Thursday, so this weekend didn’t start too well for us,” explained the driver of the #81.  “When we unloaded the car, it blew up when we cranked it up.  We went home and put another one it in; we worked all night and then all day yesterday and then we had brake problems and clutch problems so it hasn’t been a good first race for us.”

THE PACKS RUN INTO TOUGH LUCK ALL THE WAY AROUND

Gene Pack is a longtime supporter of Southern Modifieds and a fan favorite with his beautiful #31 racecar.  Beauty doesn’t always equal success and that was the case at Caraway.
“We started in the back like we usually do because I don’t qualify well, we got it up to eighth and I thought we had a really good chance at finishing in the top-3,” said Pack.  “Then we got hit in the rear and it moved the panhard bar and it took out the rear-end housing.  It started throwing grease under the tires.  They were hollering to me on the radio that it’s on fire and I’m looking at the scoreboard and we only had 30-laps to go so I just rode it out to get the finish we got.”

That finish was just outside the top-10 (11th).
JOHN SMITH IS LIKE A TIMEX WATCH – HE KEPT ON TICKING

John Smith’s never-say-die attitude paid off for him Saturday night at Caraway.  He battled through adversity for a seventh place finish.

“I had to get at it tonight.  Hedgecock was leaking oil early on and they started to slow down and I went to the outside and when I did I spun in the oil and hit the wall,” said Smith.

“Then we made an adjustment and went to the back and got past a few and blew a right front and that about put me in the wall again.  I had to go to the back again.  We came back to fifth, but I lost a couple in that scramble at the end. 

“Tomaino and the 57 were all sideway and hitting each other, so it was either hit the 87 or hit the brakes.  I hit the brakes and we lost a couple spots.”

HUTCHENS SATISFIED WITH HIS RACE
Bobby Hutchens left Caraway with an eighth place finish.  Bobby’s gets a lot of attention since he is one of the top-brass at Richard Childress Racing, but at heart, he’s just a true racer.

“We had a bad set of tires to practice on and I didn’t get the car set up quite like we needed to,” said Hutchens, who drives the #14.  “I could keep up, but I couldn’t race like I wanted to.”

“It’s a lot better start than we had here last year; we destroyed two cars the first to races here last year.  I am pretty happy.  It’s been a year since I’ve been in a car at a track like this.”.




Bobby Hutchens (14) & Brian Crammer (89).