“NASCAR has the largest pavement asphalt modified point fund in the country,” said Hawk. “We believe in our product and there’s room for everyone at the table. The health of one of us is dependent on the health of all of us. NASCAR is not the 600-pound gorilla standing in the back of the room. We want everyone to succeed.”
He uses the ASA Late Model Series as an example of where NASCAR is working with the promoters of a series, in this case Ron Varney and his family, to work on things for the future.
“I’ve talked to the Varneys about 50 times in the last few months,” said Hawk. “You might see something happen with us down the road.”
NASCAR'S DON HAWK TALKS ABOUT STATE OF MOD TOUR by Mike Twist
Schedule Adjustements and a Future TV Deal Face NASCAR's Oldest Tour
The winter of 2005-2006 was not a fun time for those involved with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Sure, there was the usual anticipation of the season opening Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway (CT), which was won last weekend by Mike Stefanik, but there was also an unhealthy amount of anxiety as well.
The first change was the addition of a June 17th event at Jennerstown Speedway (PA). Now, another date has been added as well. The Tour will visit New York State’s Holland Speedway on July 29th. It appears that another date might be ready to be announced soon.
“The race at Holland is a done deal and we are working on a 17th race right now,” said Hawk. “That is very close to being finalized.”
Where might that race be? Hawk is tight lipped. Garage area speculation has ranged from a second Waterford date to a return to Lake Erie Speedway (PA) or Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME). A support event to the Indy Racing League at Richmond in June could be a possibility. There could even be a trip down South to Motor Mile Speedway. Those who are talking don’t know. Those who know aren’t talking.
A tentative schedule released by NASCAR, initially showed only 14 dates. There was not much regional diversity either. 10 of those races were split between three tracks in Connecticut, leading to cries that the Modified Tour had morphed from a series that ran all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, to a one-state mini Tour.
In the past few weeks though, things have started to look up for the Tour.
“Things aren’t as bad as they might appear,” said NASCAR’s Don Hawk. “We’ve got a good thing already and we’re working to make it even better.”
No matter where that bonus race might be, one thing is for certain. Finding tracks eager to host, and pay the purse of, a major touring series race isn’t as easy as it used to be.
“It’s not just the Modifieds,” said Hawk. “It doesn’t matter if you have CART, IRL, USAC, NASCAR, ASA, SRL…it’s tough for everyone. It’s even starting to be difficult to put together dates for the stand alone NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races. If you find anyone in motorsports who says that it is easy to book dates, then they aren’t telling you the truth.”
There are a few other asphalt modified tours across the country, notably the RoC Tour and the True Value Modified Racing Series. Hawk doesn’t see either as a threat to NASCAR though. In fact, he welcomes their participation in combination events such as when all three series share a weekend at Thompson this September.
NASCAR's Don Hawk (51 Photo)
Mods at New Hampshire could be a televised affair in the coming years.
How healthy are the Modifieds? Well, the sky isn't falling and there could be much better days ahead. (Howie Hodge Photo)
“Some races might be live, some will be tape delayed. I think that most track operators would prefer to have the races tape delayed, so that doesn’t hurt getting fans into the stands.”
The races will most likely air on SPEED, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic.
Hawk also addressed another concern by Modified fans and teams. That is that the tour is too reliant on races in Connecticut. After all, there are five dates at Thompson, four at Stafford and one at Waterford.
Hawk is trying to balance out the need for new markets with the safety of bringing races to a state where the support is already well-known.
“I think that for the health of the series, we need to break into new areas. But we’re not going to take away a date from a partner who has been loyal to us. Long term though, that [having schedule so heavy with Connecticut dates] might not be the best business model.”
The biggest thing that Hawk emphasizes is that NASCAR is a friend of the teams, not a foe. Nobody in Daytona Beach is getting rich off the Modified Tour.
“Most people in America have a strong misconception of what the NASCAR sanctioning fee is,” said Hawk. “68-72% of the sanctioning fee pays for insurance. That leaves the rest for officials, their travel and everything else. That is all of what NASCAR gets. We don’t get a dime of the gate, front or back, from a race.
“Everyone is hurting right now. We’re trying to help everybody in a bad economy.”
Another thing that is more likely to be seen down the road is the Modified Tour on television near you. NASCAR has been criticized after televised races at New Hampshire and Watkins Glen disappeared for the tour. Hawk has put together the pieces to bring that back.
“The 2007-2011 television package has the tours packaged with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. There will be 25 televised races a year and that will be divided between the Grand National and Modified Tours, with maybe…maybe…some type of Late Model Showdown as well.