“We had a real good racecar. I started way back and worked it up to fourth there. We had about 25 laps to beat ‘em and a good enough car at the end there to win the race but then all the cautions came out there.
“The last time Teddy (race winner and northern driver Ted Christopher) was down here we sent him home and he finished 10th. I think we could have done that tonight if things had worked out different. He was up front there and didn’t use up his tires all night. If it stayed green I feel like we would have made him use them up and been there with him.
“I enjoy racing with Teddy. I like for him to come down here. We just didn’t get a chance to race with him tonight because of starting so far back and all the cautions we had tonight.”
NASCAR SOUTHERN MOD TOUR LEFTOVERS: CARAWAY by Matthew Dillner
Redemption for TC, Crammer Ticked, Myers & Miller Top Southerners
BROWN FRUSTRATED…BUT LESS THAN LAST YEAR
Tim Brown had an up and down day at the Caraway Speedway during the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour opener. Brown and his Hayes Jewelers crew had to thrash just to get his immaculate #83 machine on the grid for the race. But the hustle paid off with an 8th place finish for Brown.
“There was enough room for two wide,” said Eckerich. “If he (Johnny Mize) was that slow he should have moved to the bottom of the track. It was wide enough for myself and the 23-car. When we caught him, he moved up right into the two of us. I clipped him with the left front wheel and my car got over the top of his. If you are that slow, as far as I’m concerned you better get your butt to the bottom of the track. I’m sure there are guys that are screaming and hollering at what I did, but you have to put yourself in my shoes.
Brian Crammer, who was working his way through the field was an innocent victim of the incident and was very critical of both Mize and Echerick.
“We had a good car and qualified second but the radiator blew up after qualifying,” said Brown. “So we had to replace the radiator and had to start in the rear.”
The frustration continued for Brown once the green flag dropped.
“I had a real good car. We came up through the field and I used the tires up a little bit and got boxed in with some guys. Some of those guys out there you just can’t race. I got to the outside of this car five times and he ran me in the fence. You get under them and they cut down on you. It is just aggravating. We finished and didn’t tear up anything but some nerf bars and body panels.”
But all in all it was a far better way to open the season than last year’s effort for the Six-time Bowman Gray Stadium Mod Champ.
“Last year we missed the race and this year we got a top-10. It is just disappointing to have that good of car and [only] finish with a top-10.”
Tim Brown and crew change the radiator right before the race. (51 Photos)
Crammer's #89 was fast until it ended up on the hook after the lapped car tangle.
Junior Miller drove to the front like a champion at the season opener. .
NOT IN THE CARDS FOR THE KING OF THE SOUTHERN MODS
Junior Miller put on a charge coming through the field from a 13th place starting spot to finish fourth. Miller was in a blanket of four cars going for the win in the closing laps, but cautions kept closing the door for the defending NASCAR Whelen Southern Tour champ.
“I think the tire deal is a good thing,” says veteran Northern driver and former Mod Tour champ Jaime Tomaino. “They got more cars this week so the Tour is looking promising.
“The tire deal they have going down here is a good things because of the purse structure they have. I noticed the 1-car (Burt Myers) got real loose and he then sat back and let the tires cool down and he came back and ran excellent. Junior Miller, who’s been running longer than me, he mandated his own tires so that when they told him to go he went.
And the champ, Junior Miller, agreed that you had to play the tire game, especially when coming through the field at Caraway, a track known for being hard on tires.
“We ran a few hard laps to get by a couple and then we would just have to ride around a while. Then we would catch another and charge by him.”
THE JET RACES LIKE A KID AGAIN WITH SOUTHERN TOUR
Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino may be approaching his 50th Birthday, but he looked like a teenager at Caraway. Not only was Jaime his usual colorful self, but the usually calculating driver was anything but calculating making an aggressive run to the front at the start of the 150 lap feature.
“The car was really good,” said a very happy Tomaino after his fourth place finish. “I was thinking ‘damn this car is good and I am going to be able to take care of these guys’. Being older I then said to myself ‘Jamie what are you doing? You are going to get crashed like when you were younger!’ So I kind of settled back. Now I wish I didn’t because it probably would have been better to get out front like Teddy did where you can mandate the race a little bit.’
“I thought we were going to have a one-two-three sweep for the northern guys. But I didn’t hold up my end of the deal and finished fifth.”
“TRIPLE LINDEY” TAKES OUT CRAMMER
In racing you often hear the expression: “Sometimes you have to slow down to go faster.” Well the saying for some would have been “Go fast or go home.” Several drivers were critical of slow-speed lapped cars. The issue came to a head mid-race when Kevin Eckerich approached Johnny Mize, whose number-8 ride was pacing around the track at a slow speed. Eckerich, who was a lap down himself, pulled up to Mize’s bumper and then went around the outside of the #8 on the frontstretch. The move put the 76 three wide with the lead lap car of Brian Loftin. Eckerich bounced off of Loftin and Mize and went airborne collecting several other cars.
“That wreck started with a lapped car that didn’t have to be up there and it wrecked about five or six cars and it didn’t have to happen,” said Crammer.
“I was four car lengths or so behind the 76 and 8. The 8 is riding around going two miles-per-hour. The 76 is a lap down. I look in front of me and the 76 is doing a triple lindey down the frontstretch. I slowed down and everyone just piled into us. It’s not a good way to start the season.
“You’ve got guys out there that are a lap down and restart next to the leader and after three laps they are getting lapped. When you are that slow why even waste your time to go back to the front and start with the leaders again? If my car was slow and not handling right I would at least use my head.”
TIRES, RATHER A LACK OF TIRES, PROVIDE INTERESTING RACING ON TOUR
Last year NASCAR decided to go with a completely different tire rule for the new Whelen Southern Modified Tour than its Northern counterparts. The rule, in an attempt to keep the cost of racing down, says that tires cannot be changed under caution unless they are deemed flat by officials.
Well with a year under its belt, most drivers agree that the rule not only helps their wallets but makes for an interesting race for the fans in the stands.
“This is a good scenario for a race,” explained second-place finisher Chuck Hossfeld. “It’s like a chess game. You have to have a lot of patience because tire wear is such an issue. Tire wear has got to be an issue to have a good race. You have a guy that is patient and lets a few guys go around and he come back around. Or you have a guy like Teddy that runs hard every lap. It’s really like a chess game and that is what makes it good.”
NEW ENGLAND’S SEUSS HAPPY RACING IN CAROLINA
They say there is nothing like Southern hospitality. New Hampshire Modified racer Andy Seuss got to experience just that as he crossed the Mason-Dixon Line to make his first start with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Mod Tour.
“This is a great tour,” said the 2006 Smyrna Speedweeks Mod Champ. “It is my first NASCAR race altogether so I can’t compare it to the Northern Tour. But they’ve got their act together. There is a great group of guys here who are all wicked nice. We had some problem in tech and had to get some new equipment and everyone was right there helping us and making sure that we were all right.”
LW MILLER BACK ON THE NASCAR TOUR
LW Miller was outspoken last year in his decision not to join forces with the newly formed NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Instead Miller focused his efforts on running Mods at Friendship Speedway and running in the Pro Cup Series. Just a year later, Miller, a former SMART (Southern Modified Auto Racing Teams) Champion has hopped the fence back into the NASCAR Touring world.
But LW’s Tour run at Caraway didn’t go as planned.
“I got spun out early,” said Miller who ended up 19th. “I had really good car. I was trying to drop back to get a spot and the number-17 car got a little over his head or something and drove into me spinning me out. It didn’t hurt the car thankfully. I took my time coming back up the field and really thought I had the car to beat at the end. I was passing Junior with 30 to go. I told the guys we are going to go. We were running a little quicker to what the leaders were running. I was passing the No. 69 car down in three and four and he didn’t leave me any room and run me in the curb. We bent the tire rod and at that point we said we mine as well park it.
“After taking the year off on this southern modified tour I was a little concerned on how we would do. I really believe we had the car that could have one the race if didn’t have that trouble with Junior. We will be back.”
BURT MYERS OFF TO A GOOD START IN 2006
Burt Myers may have taken the pole in both the 2005 and 2006 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour openers. But in the latest edition, Myers took advantage of the starting spot and ended the night with a third place effort.
“It’s a lot better than we started out last year,” said the third-generation Modified racer. “I think the first race last year that may have cost us the points championship. We brought this same car down here and sat on the pole. The car that night (last year) just went away and we ended up parking it because we thought something was wrong in the rear end. That probably cost us the championship. So to come down here this year and start this season out with a third isn’t’ too bad.
“It bothers me that we didn’t win and finished third. But, I look at it on the positive side… we are the first southern car in the points.”
LW's 2006 debut with the NASCAR Whelen Tour didn't last long.
Burt Myers was awarded the first Bud Pole of the Tour season.
TC REBOUNDS AFTER DISAPPOINTING SPEEDWEEKS
Teddy Christopher left Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway in February without a Modified win. He started out his Speedweeks effort running in the Bear Motorsports #14. With a handful of races left down in Florida, he parted ways with the team and returned to run for car owner Joe Brady.
Well TC and Brady were together at the Southern Mod opener and TC finally got to taste victory lane in 2006.
“The problem with Speedweeks is when you start with junk you run like junk,” said Christopher. “When you go down with junk like Bear had, you run like junk. I put my motor in Joe’s car and almost won the first time in it. Now I come up here with Joe and won with it. You have to have good equipment to run good.”
TC at speed in the Brady #00.
PACK-MAN DEBUTS COLORFUL MODIFIED AT CARAWAY
Brian Pack has been well known throughout the Southern Mod ranks to have some of the more colorful cars. Pack purchased his latest car from Northern Tour driver Donny Lia, and made it his own in typical Pack fashion.
“We come up with stuff every year,” said Brian Pack. “We had Sponge-Bob and then last year “The General Lee” car. My last name is Pack so I figured this year we would go with Pac-Man. We put it on my son’s go-kart last year so now we will have team cars.
“The Pac-Man is getting chased by the ghosts on the side of the car. Hopefully I will be the Pac-Man chased by everyone else. This is more for the kids than anybody. I have three boys and they like it so that is all that matters.
“It kind of looks like an old school car. We wanted to be different and not look like anyone else. Not to mention the body looks different from anything anyone has out there.
Like it or not... Pack's Pack-man scheme is one of the most creative schemes in Short Track racing.
TOMAINO TO JET DOWN SOUTH?
Although Jamie Tomaino is a mainstay in Northeast Modified racing, “The Jet” is contemplating a move south.
“With my boys moved down here now (working for Bill Davis Racing) I’m really contemplating moving down here once my daughter graduates high school,” admitted Tomaino. “I hope I can get the Modifieds built up built up again down south like they are up north. And that one day the Southern guys will be at the same level all around as the Northern guys. If I can help that I would enjoy that.”
And Tomaino is not only content with the move, he is content with his place in the racing world as a Modified veteran.
“I enjoy the hundreds of people that come up and talk to me and I talk right back to ‘em. I am never going to be no big shot on the levels of them Cup people. But down deep inside I have something that they don’t have. I’ve got my own freedom. I have hundreds of people. I can go anywhere I want and do anything I want. I still say I have the greatest life.
Jaime Tomaino (right) with his son Trey at Caraway.
“I’m just so happy I can still do what I love doing. I control all of my own stuff and answer to one person… my wife every once in a while. “