51's MODIFIED MADNESS  Presented by Advance Auto Parts by Mike Twist
News From Throughout The Mod-ern World - North and South, Asphalt and Dirt
DIRT MODIFIEDS: LAST YEAR’S WINNER READY FOR FLORIDA RACES

Brett Hearn, Andy Bachetti and his car owner Steve Hough left the Sunshine State last February as co-champions of the Florida Tour. Aside from both racing regularly at New York's Lebanon Valley Speedway during summertime, that was about all the triumphant trio of Advance Auto Parts Modified Super DIRT Series competitors had in common.

Since DIRT MotorSports™ returned to the Sunshine State in 1998, no one has dominated the oval-track action more than DIRT MotorSports NorthEast's all-time open-wheel winner Hearn. In the past eight Winternationals held at Volusia Speedway Park, the 'Corporate Jet' has racked up five tour points titles and 11 of his 15 career feature race victories in Florida at the Barberville half-miler; with at least one win scored every year.
owner will once again enter the back-up no. 34 TEO car and run it later in the week if time permits. Hough used two top-five tallies to place 12th in Lebanon Valley's final point standings last summer while Bachetti scored a pair of feature wins to end up fifth in the '05 track standings.

"We had some intentions of taking the second car out last year but getting track time with the PMC was our primary concern," said Hough, who has operated a car dealership in East Greenbush, N.Y. since 1995. His own short-track career in the Empire State's Capital District started in the early 1990s with Pure Stock and IMCA Modified racing laying the ground work for entrance into the big-block ranks. "We'll see how things go and I might drive the last couple nights if Andy continues to run well. There's always a lot more work involved maintaining two cars and this whole trip is about having some fun."

Joining Hearn, Bachetti and Hough on the pre-race entry list are brothers Alan and Danny Johnson and Randy and Roger Chrysler, New York teammates Billy Decker and Pat Ward, Massachusetts invaders Wayne Jelley and Chic Chandler, Pennsylvanians Rick Laubach, Ray Swinehart and Colin Jackson, New Jersey pilots Jimmy Horton, Wade Hendrickson and David VanHorn, Ohioans Jim Rasey and Rex King; Delaware drivers Jamie Mills and Beau Wilkins, and third-generation driver Stewart Friesen from the Canadian Province of Ontario.  (DIRT PR)

NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR: HIRSCHY GUNS FOR THREE STRAIGHT
offer that safety enhancement to our competitors."
On board data recorders have shown up to a 75% reduction in the g-force impact felt by the driver when impacting the SAFER Barrier compared to impacting a concrete wall.

TVMRS: SHUMWAY MAKES SWITCH TO MODS

Monadnock Speedway Pro Stock regular Bryan Shumway will make the jump into the Modified ranks in 2006.  Shumway will race a limited schedule of True Value Modified Racing Series events including five shows at his home track.

In 2005, Shumway won two Pro Stock races at Monadnock as a rookie.  He will continue to race regularly in that division in addition to his Modified excursions this season.

DIRT MODIFIEDS:  A SUPER BOWL OF DIRT RACING?

As the countdown to the Super Bowl ticks down, it appears that there could be a Super Bowl of sorts in the racing world sometime in the future.  There is a possibility that the World of Outlaws Sprint cars, WoO Late Models and DIRT Modifieds could put on a major event together in the future.

The show would take a lot of planning, but could be a real touchdown with the fans.




In contrast, prior to a year ago Bachetti only made the trek south to Volusia in 2000 and 2001 while '05 marked the maiden voyage for Hough and his crew. With snow covering the ground last winter, the pair made the decision to team up in December before heading toward Gator Country where they reached victory lane and eventually laid claim to the coveted Race Weeks crown.

"I had become friends with Andy while racing at the Valley but until last year coming down to Florida had
There hasn’t been any change at the top when it has come to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour over the past two seasons.  2004 and 2005 was the year of the Hirschman – just like in 1995, 1996 and 1999.

Now five time title winner Tony Hirschman is looking ahead to try and notch his next championship.  He doesn’t expect it to be a cakewalk IN 2006 though since there are several worthy opponents gunning for his trophy.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Hirschman.  “We’ll be going against the same teams that we were up against last year and they’ll be strong.  Also, Todd [Szegedy] will be tough, as will Chuck Hossfeld in the #79 car.  There are some good competitors and everyone runs hard.  There are only 14 races now, so if you have a bad race there isn’t much room to make that up.”

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season kicks off with The Icebreaker at Thompson International Speedway on April 8th-9th.
always been a vacation," said Hough, 29, who ironically purchased his first big-block DIRT Modified ride from Hearn in 2003 to begin his rookie campaign. "Last year we still went down with the idea of just having some fun. I never owned a PMC car before but Pete (Chuckta, chassis builder) was there to help, we had a good tire guy and made some good notes. Everything got better as the week went on."

The reigning Florida Tour points kings will take center stage when the 2006 Advance Auto Parts Modified Super DIRT Series kicks off at Volusia with the first of four non-point events on Feb. 15. Thirty-lap features are scheduled Feb. 15-17 before a 5,000-to-win 50-lapper brings the curtain down on Feb. 18 at the revamped Barberville oval. An optional practice date on Feb. 14 has also been secured.

The World of Outlaws Sprint Series (Feb. 9-10) and WoO Late Model Series (Feb. 16-18) will join the mighty Advance Auto Parts Modifieds in kicking off their race season down south in February, with DIRT-owned UMP Super Late Models (Feb. 13, 14, 15 & 17) and UMP Open-Wheel Modifieds (Feb. 7-14) adding to the 11-day DIRT MotorSports marathon. Independent National Late Model and All-Star Sprint specials open up the month before DIRT teams regain the spotlight in the Sunshine State.
RoC ASPHALT MODIFIEDS: ’06 SKED HITS THE STREETS

The 2006 RoC Modified schedule has been released and will kick off with an ISMA Supermodified/RoC doubleheader at Oswego Speedway on May 7th.  Other tracks on the schedule include Mahoning Valley Speedway (PA), Chemung Speedrome (NY) and a trip to Thompson International Speedway (CT) in September.

There could still be more to come as well.  There is a strong possibility that the RoC Modifieds might make it to Wall Township Stadium, a New Jersey track with a rich history of Modified racing.

“We’ve been talking about a race there,” said RoC head Andrew Harpell.  “It would be a spring race on a date that doesn’t conflict with the NASCAR Tour Modifieds.  The interest is there, but it hasn’t been wrapped up yet.  We didn’t want to hold up our schedule either, so if it happens, we can always add it.”

TRACKS: STAFFORD GETS SAFER

Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway has always been quick to follow the lead of big league NASCAR tracks when it comes to promotions.  The facility has had television coverage of their events and large sponsor hospitality areas for years.  Now the facility is doing the same progressive thing when it comes to safety.  The track is borrowing an idea from several Nextel Cup tracks and installing a SAFER Barrier in time for the 2006 season opening “Spring Sizzler”.
The SAFER Barrier system is unloaded at Stafford.  (SMS Photos)
Crews from the Elrod Corporation, the product manufacturer, have already been hard at work installing the system.  The barrier has been installed in the turn one area which includes 100 feet of concrete wall and 40 feet past the wall as it merges into the existing guardrail system.

The SAFER Wall that extends beyond the concrete wall and merges with the guardrail system is a new development that utilizes a steel support structure to support the foam energy absorption system behind the SAFER Wall. The Stafford Speedway installation is the first application of this new technology. The steel support structure was designed primarily for installation at new venues, alleviating the need for concrete walls. It is
Brett Hearn will be going for glory again in Florida this month with his #3h.  (DIRT Photo)
Tony Hirschman knows that winning against tough competition in 2006 won't be easy.  (Hodge Photo)
"We have a lot of notes from last year to fall back on so we'll run hard, cross our fingers for some luck in the draws and just hope for the best," said Bachetti, 30, who combined his first career Florida feature win on the second night with a pair of thirds and a fifth-place to top the final points standings. "Steve's got everything fresh and I'm going through the whole car in my shop this week. When we get to the track we'll just work on fine-tuning. Whatever happens, l'm looking forward to some good eats, getting some sun and having fun, that's what Florida is all about."

Bachetti will return to steer the red no. 34 Steve Hough Motors/PMC ride housing a JPM powerplant while his
Once the SAFER Wall has been completed, Stafford Motor Speedway will be the 26th track in the world, joining tracks such as Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Texas Motor Speedway, and California Speedway to have installed the SAFER Barrier. Stafford Motor Speedway is also the first NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series track in the country to have such a safety application.

"Our goal is to always do everything we can to provide a "safety first" environment for our competitors here at Stafford," continued Arute. "At this point in time, we're the only weekly short track in the country to have a SAFER Barrier installed, and we're pleased to be able to
mounted to a concrete slab and utilizes a series of upright structures that support and retain the SAFER Wall. The product was developed and crash tested over the summer by the Midwest Roadside Safety Facility (MwRSF) at the University of Nebraska with funding from the Indy Racing League and NASCAR. The final specifications and design was specific to Stafford's application.

Discussions with the Elrod Corporation began in February 2005 in regards to the project at Stafford. "At that time, there was not a product that could adapt to our facility without the addition of additional exterior concrete wall," said Mark Arute, SMS CEO/GM. "Through the summer months discussions continued and with the development of the new backup structure at the MwRSF, Elrod was able to deliver a product that was capable of filling our needs without the need to add a significant concrete wall section. Elrod has manufactured and installed SAFER Wall on most of the installations done to date and we are very pleased that they have been able to fulfill our requirements in a very timely fashion."

Being the first application of the new backup structure at any track anywhere in the world, Professor John Rohde from the University of Nebraska design team will be visiting Stafford Speedway to oversee the final installation in transitioning the SAFER Wall to SMS' existing guardrails.
The SAFER barrier will be a welcome addition to Stafford's tricky turn one.