NASCAR SOUTHERN MOD TOUR LEFTOVERS: GREENVILLE-PICKENS by Matthew Dillner
Controversy, Kings, Myers, Right-Rears, Elvis and More
FROM THE BACK TO THE FRONT FOR LW

Greenville-Pickens Speedway’s first ever NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race was one that was dictated by tire conservation and patience. But when you start next-to-last in the race, it is hard to take it easy if you want to make it to the front. LW Miller found out first hand how to delicately charge through the field in Greenville, starting in the back, but still grabbing a third place finish at races end.
“When we started by points I didn’t think it was going to hurt us as much as it did,” said Miller.  “Junior and those guys up front set a real easy pace so they didn’t kill their cars. I set an easy pace but I still had to pass cars. I just guess passing all those cars killed my right rear more than theirs. We had a car that was capable of winning and we finished in the top-three, so we will take that and we will go win Caraway next week.”
LW Miller's #36 at Greenville-Pickens.  (51 Photos)
GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER CAUSES CONTROVERSY AND KNOCKS OUT HOAG

Alex Hoag returned to competition on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Mod Tour. His return went well as the young New York driver fought his way into the top-three.  Hoag was one lap away from a great finish but then all hell broke loose. A chain reaction started by Junior Miller’s sideways restart created a flurry of chrome horn action that ended with Hoag spinning in the final turn and finishing eighth.

“Brown got into Junior I guess and everyone checked up,” explained Hoag. “Then we all go into turn one and everybody is sideways. LW (Miller) gets into me in turn one on the last lap, whatever, and it got us real high. He and Burt (Myers) got by me and I moved down off of the top. Then we go down into turn three and Bobby (Hutchens) hit me twice. He never lifted when he hit me the first time and turned me the second time. I started behind all of those guys tonight and passed everybody and never laid a bumper on any one of them. But they took me out on the last lap.”

Hutchens went over and talked with Hoag in the pits after the incident to clear the air.
“The 4 hit the 87 and got him sideways,” said Hutchens. “Then he came down across the track and hit me and got me sideways. We were both about 2/3 out of control when we got to the corner. I hate that I got into him. I wouldn’t have turned him around on purpose. It’s just one of those last lap things where we were both out of control pretty much.”
Although a lack of power steering and a green-white-checker scenario nearly changed the face of the race, there was no mistaking that tires were still the name of the game. Miller’s dominance and uncanny ability to save his right rear tire left many of his competitors scratching their heads as they looked at their severely worn tires after the race.

“I don’t know how Junior done what he done,” said 10th place finisher Frank Fleming.  “I rode for 75 laps and never mashed the car wide open. I just followed the #23 car (Brian Loftin) and I reckon we fell to the rear there.
Hutchens had a great run at Greenville despite the craziness on the final circuit.
Although LW’s bumper may have played a role in the craziness, the former SMART Mod champ was the benefactor of the situation.

“I knew everyone was gong to protect the bottom on the green-white-checker restart,” said LW.  “So I told my guys that we didn’t come here to finish fifth and if we went to the outside and lost a few spots it was no big deal. We were sitting fifth anyway. So we went outside and they all jammed up and it worked to get by Burt. Then we run down in the next corner and the 87 car (Alex Hoag) was really stopping in the corner. I went to get underneath him and he whoa’ed up and I bumped it a little bit. He chased it up the track and I got underneath him and went on by. With one lap to go on a race track like this where everyone is sliding around I would say it’s pretty much a free-for-all with every man for himself. I guess we came out on the good end tonight.”

BURT BUSTS OUT ANOTHER GOOD RUN

Although starting on the outside of the front row didn’t produce the type of finish Burt Myers was looking for at Greenville, he was just happy to finish in the top-five, even if his biggest rival came out on top.

“I don’t think we had anything for Junior (Miller) tonight,” said Burt. “He was in a class by himself tonight. Tim Brown would probably argue with that but Junior’s car never wiggled, slipped or bobbled all night. We just fought a loose condition all night and saw it pointless to come in to adjust it and lose track position.”

Burt fought a lot more than a loose condition at Greenville. The third generation driver had to survive a green-white-checker slugfest. On the restart race leader Junior Miller got loose and the field stacked up behind him. The bottleneck created an interesting predicament for Myers.

“When they about wrecked on the restart at the end I was door to door with the 87 car. I knew that I had to give it back before we got to the corner. When we gave it back to him LW got past me so that sucked. We finished fourth so that is good. We have struggled with this car before so it’s good that the first two races it has lasted all 150 laps.”
Burt posted another good run in race two.
HISTORIC TRACK A PERFECT FIT FOR MOD SQUAD

South Carolina’s Greenville-Pickens Speedway is one of NASCAR’s longest running weekly short tracks with a history that matches it’s longevity in the sport.  Just like the saying goes “if these walls could talk?” the walls at Greenville do tell a story. All of the champions from the track’s feature division have there names on the walls around the facility. Big names like David Pearson, Ralph Earnhardt, Robert Pressley and more wrap around the backstretch wall. And the Modified drivers, many of whom were making their first appearance at GP took notice.
Hoag made quite an impact in his return to the Tour.
“It’s pretty call walking in and seeing all the champion’s names on the wall,” said veteran Bobby Hutchens. “There are some people I grew up watching and some guys that I know. We come down here and tested with Dale (the late Dale Earnhardt) back in the late nineties for Martinsville. So to finally come here and get a chance to run with all of this history is pretty cool.”

“It’s just tremendous,” said long-time racer Gene Pack.  “I have driven down 85 so many times to go to other tracks and always have wanted to come here. The names on the back wall speak for themselves. There is a lot of history here so it’s a place I’d like to add my name to the list of winners here.
The walls tell the story around the historic NASCAR track in North Carolina.
“We moved down here from North Carolina to South Carolina about four years ago. The people down here are great. They deserve a win from a local guy instead of all these boys from the north coming down.”

And those locals showed up in a big way despite the forecast calling for 100% chance of precipitation. The fans showed up for a successful autograph meet and greet session and packed the stands to watch the 150-lap race.

“Judging the enthusiasm of all of these fans that have come out here in this weather I hope they have us back here,” added Hutchens while signing autographs. “I think this is where modified belong running right here in Greenville, South Carolina.”

JASON MYERS ESCAPES FIASCO FOR SIXTH PLACE FINISH
Jason Myers felt miserable after a disappointing run at the Caraway season opener.  But, what is better medicine than a good run?  That is what the doctor ordered for Myers at Greenville. The #4 car recovered from near disaster and returned home to Walnut Cove, NC with a sixth place finish.

“A lot better than Caraway,” joked the younger of the third generation Myers brothers. “I thought it was going to be a repeat on the last lap when I saw the #87 (Hoag) turned down there. I committed to go up high and that is where he ended up. I just got it cut in time. Luckily we did get through the mess and pick up a spot or two.
Myers pushes his #4 to the grid.
HAYES KING GIVING MOD KING A RUN ON THE TOUR

If you have followed the southern Modified ranks you know that Junior Miller is considered the “King of the Southern Modifieds”. But at the South’s crown jewel of local Modified tracks, Bowman Gray Stadium (NC), there is a growing debate to who the real king may be. Junior Miller, undoubtedly is one of the most successful in the Southern Mod world and is on the verge of breaking Ralph Brinkley’s all-time win mark at the Stadium. But last season, Tim Brown and his Hayes “King of Diamonds” team beat out King Miller and others to capture his sixth Stadium Modified crown.
Now Brown has set his sights on achieving success on the Touring level, running the NASCAR Whelen Southern Mod Tour. In his second season, Brown is getting better with each race. That was evident with his second place performance at Greenville behind…you guessed it, Junior Miller. So who is the real king?

“I’ve raced with Junior for 10 or 13 years,” said Brown. “He’s got a ton of races he has won.  There is respect that I have for Junior and I also think that he has respect for me. He’s taught me a lot over the years. They don’t call him “The King for nothing”. I’ve won more championships than him over at Bowman Gray now, which is pretty cool at my age.
Brown's crew is one of the best appearing teams on the Southern Modified Tour.
“I am just living a dream. I hadn’t really been able to come out and run a tour until NASCAR got involved. Then my sponsor Hayes Jewelers said ‘Hey we will get some publicity here. Then Speed51 comes and puts great stuff on the web site. It’s really big for me because we have never been able to afford to tour. Last season was my first season that I ran the full tour. We were decent but were still learning and we were learning tonight.  The next time we come here we will be even better. It’s just a building block. Junior and these guys that have been doing the tour for 15-years it makes it hard to beat those guys. But like tonight when you look up in the windshield and you see one car and in the mirror you see 18 cars behind us that feels pretty good.

GREENVILLE MAKES DRIVERS SLAVES TO THE RIGHT REAR

Just before the start of the Modified Tour race at Greenville, veteran driver Jay Hedgecock warned one thing about the up-coming race: “Lay off that right rear.”
And Hedgecock couldn’t be more correct. The first Mod Tour race ever at Greenville-Pickens was dictated by the right rear tire. The track’s rough pavement ate up tires, and without good rubber on a right-rear the cars raced like they were on ice.

“Nothing I have done down here at Greenville translates to what this thing has done,” said Hedgecock who has been down to GP with Late Model Stock Cars.  “Everything that we have come down here and tested with has been tight I the middle. These cars here everyone is loose coming up off the corners because of the horsepower we have. It has kind of threw me for a loop.”


Hedgecock came into Greenville a favorite.
I couldn’t get no grip,” said fellow long-time Mod racer Frank Fleming. “For us to put on a show at a track like this you need a tire that will work. This tire just doesn’t work here. Everybody tonight was just riding around. You have to have a softer tire when you come to a track like this if you want the drivers to go at it for 150 laps. I was saving it and thinking I could then pass cars when I wanted to. I couldn’t. I was wrong.”
Now Brown has set his sights on achieving success on the Touring level, running the NASCAR Whelen Southern Mod Tour. In his second season, Brown is getting better with each race. That was evident with his second place performance at Greenville behind…you guessed it, Junior Miller. So who is the real king?

“I’ve raced with Junior for 10 or 13 years,” said Brown. “He’s got a ton of races he has won.  There is respect that I have for Junior and I also think that he has respect for me. He’s taught me a lot over the years. They don’t call him “The King for nothing”. I’ve won more championships than him over at Bowman Gray now, which is pretty cool at my age.

And youngster Johnny Sutton knew very well that he was a slave to his right rear.

“After lap 40,” said Johnny, “there was nothing you could do but just hang on and drive it.”
The tire wear was obvious on the right rear tire on Frank Fleming's car.
So what would be the solution for the Tour next time they come back to South Carolina, opinions varied.

“It may make it a better race if they gave us a tire,” said Burt Myers.  “It would be a super nice and super fast racetrack if they paved it. It’s fun and unique. I would rather come here once a year than go to Caraway once more.”

The Tour currently runs on a tire rule that prohibits teams from changing tires under caution unless they are deemed flat by NASCAR officials. The rule is in effect to help the cost of racing.

Junior Miller, who was able to somehow save enough of his right rear rubber to win the race, feels there is no need for a change.

“With a softer tire it would just chunk the rubber off there,” explained Miller. “If you gave us two tires it would give the fans a better race but that is a big expense. I like the way it is. I like the 150 lappers. I didn’t want any tires. When you go to a place with better pavement the fans see a better race with this deal.

“They asked me if I wanted to put tires on the car and I said my car was fine. I know I always have a little edge when you have to save tires.”

PACK JOINS LEAD PACK WITH FORMER LIA CAR

Brian Pack’s #81 turned a lot of heads when it was unloaded from the trailer at the season opener at Caraway. First off, it’s colorful cartoon paint scheme. What also has caught the eyes of competitors and fans alike is the unusual body style of the car. Pack bought the slick Modified off of Whelen (Northern) Mod Tour driver Donny Lia after the North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park.

The new car produced a lot more than just looks at Greenville, it helped Pack score a strong seventh place finish.

“I like this car,” said Pack after his impressive run.  “I think we missed on the gear tonight though. We came down here and tested with a 4.86 and turned just as fast of lap times. With fifty to go it was gone. We had no right rear tire and were spinning it half way down the straightaway. Last year we started out with 5 or 6 DNFs. Now we have the new car and are on the right track. Maybe I need to call Donny and see what else we need to do.”
Pack is feeling comftable behind the wheel of his new racecar.
ELVIS PRESLEY RACES AT GREENVILLE-PICKENS?

Elvis has left the building and has entered into the Sportsman division at Greenville-Pickens Speedway. Well, no..not exactly but let us explain.

Ken Guthrie is as enthusiastic of a car guy, racecar driver and Elvis fan as you will find at any local Short Track. Last year, Guthrie ran a station wagon racecar nicknamed “The Grocery Getter.”
Well now Guthrie, a fan favorite at Greenville, has a new creation and it has a lot to do with “The King”. No..not Richard Petty or Junior Miller, rather the King of Rock n’ Roll Elvis Presley.  Guthrie is racing a custom built Pink Cadillac as a tribute to Elvis Presley. And Guthrie’s Pink Caddy has all the trimmings and more!

“I love Elvis,” says Guthrie. “Everybody loves Elvis. We’ve got Elvis on the hood and the musical notes on the side. We painted it pink because he had a pink Cadillac he bought his mother. We’ve got the ‘shake rattle n’ roll’ on the quarters. We’ve got ‘Guthrie’s Heartbreak Hotel’ on the trunk for the guys chasin’ us.

“The Elvis in the car is the inspiration to help me run faster. I’ve got Elvis looking over me. We even have the factory owner’s manual in the dash. We have to have something factory.

“I always like to build something different. I built this car for the fans because the fans love crazy stuff. I lay in bed thinking and I always come up with ideas and it just hit me to do this. My son wouldn’t work on it because he kept on telling me he wasn’t gonna work on no pink Cadillac.”

And Greenville-Pickens Speedway knows the value of letting a character like Guthrie entertain the fans.

“Opening night they rolled the car out on the track for the start of the race and I dressed up like Elvis Presley. I came out of my trailer when they started playing the music and jumped up on the wall waving at all the fans.”





click on on shots for larger images