51's Modified Madness Presented by Advance Auto Parts Compiled by Mike Twist
North, South, Dirt and Asphalt...All The Latest From the Mod-ern Racing World
NWMT: STEFANIK TABBED BY MEDIA AS FAVORITE FOR ’07 TITLE
Defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I. is the favorite to win the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Championship, as voted in the preseason poll of media who cover the series. Stefanik, a seven-time Modified Tour champion and nine-time overall NASCAR champion, will attempt to set the all-time record for championships should he collect his 10th title in 2007.
Mike Stefanik has held plenty of NASCAR Championship trophies. He might earn another one this coming season. (Hodge Photo)
Stefanik, collected 132 points in the poll and six first-place votes. He will attempt to defend his title driving the Eric Sanderson-owned Diversified Metals Chevrolet.
“I have to thank all the members of the media who voted for me,” Stefanik said. “It’s a long season and you need the breaks to go your way. It sure would be easier to accept the championship trophy this way then to race everyone for it. There is a tremendous amount of competition on this series. Hopefully we’ll be prepared for it.”
Tony Hirschman of Northampton, Pa., a five-time series champion, was second in the balloting with 119 points. Hirschman was picked by two media members to win his sixth title.
Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn., was third in the vote tally for the second consecutive season. Christopher collected 114 points and two first-place votes. Eddie Flemke of Southington, Conn., runner-up in the 2006 championship, received 87 points and one first-place vote to place fourth in the poll. Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, Conn., the 2003 series champion, rounded out the top five in the preseason poll with 69 points and one first-place vote.
The 2006 Sunoco Race Fuels Rookie of the Year, James Civali, earned 67 points to finish sixth in voting. Civali was picked up one first-place vote and is hoping to become the first driver since Szegedy to earn a championship one year after winning the rookie title. Zach Sylvester was the seventh-highest vote getter with 49 points, followed by Matt Hirschman with 40 points, John Blewett, III with 38 points and one first-place vote, and Eric Beers with 36 points and one first-place vote.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Preseason poll was voted upon by media members who cover the Tour including print, television, radio and internet outlets. Drivers received 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second-place vote and on down to one point for 10th. The Whelen Modified Tour, NASCAR’s oldest open-wheeled touring series, will begin its 23rd season at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway on April 15.
NWSMT: MEANWHILE, DOWN SOUTH…
Members of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour media were to rank their top 10 drivers for 2007 in a preseason poll. The result was a tie between Junior Miller and Tim Brown for first place. The two also received the same number of first-place votes.
competitive. I want to do a good job not only for my team and sponsors, but I really want to do a good job for NASCAR.”
Miller laughed when told he was told he was ranked in a tie with Brown in the preseason media poll, but cautioned there were a lot of other top drivers that shouldn’t be counted out.
“You can never count out Tim Brown, L.W. Miller as well as (brothers) Burt and Jason Myers,” Miller said. “Those are probably the top four cars beside my team. Then again there are a lot of guys out there than can sneak up and beat you anytime. That’s what makes it so fun — you never know who is going to win when it comes to the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.”
In the poll, which was voted on by the media that covers the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, Burt Myers finished third, followed by L.W. Miller in fourth and Jason Myers in fifth. Rounding out the top 10 were Brian Loftin (sixth), Brian Pack (seventh), Bobby Hutchens (eighth), Jay Hedgecock (ninth) and Brian King (10th). Drivers getting honorable mention were Gene Pack, Jay Foley, Michael Clifton, Frank Fleming and Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year contender Brandon Ward.
Preseason questions will start getting replaced with answers as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour kicks off its 2007 season Saturday night at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. Whelen Modified Tour regular Ted Christopher will be among the drivers and full field of drivers to watch as he tries to win his third straight NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season-opener.
SKs: BIG GUNS SET SIGHTS ON WATERFORD’S BUD MOD NATIONALS
Five former winners led by defending champion Frank Ruocco head up the entry list for the 11th annual Budweiser Modified Nationals’ SK-150 March 31-April 1 at Waterford Speedbowl. Other former winners in the $5,000-to-win race include Bert Marvin (’98), Ted Christopher (’99),
Dennis Gada (’03) and Tom Fox (’05).
“It is pretty involved and actually kind of fun,” says Fox. ” He will practice with the “long term set up” and then turn his attention to the qualifying effort because “where you start is so important.” He wants to “start in the first few rows and settle into it quickly” rather than “use up my car early trying to get by others that are slower.”
“Starting in the top five spots is the key to winning the race,” Pearl agrees. “Coming through the field just takes too much out of the car.”
Christopher, Summers, Coby, Charette and Silk all bring NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour experience to the race. All have been SK winners at the Speedbowl as well.
“Honestly, I think the key to that race is staying out of trouble,” says Coby, who returns to the Speedbowl this season. “I agree with everybody else, qualifying well is very important but you have to be committed to staying out of trouble for most of the race.”
“I’m not saying you have to qualify well to win but it’s a definite advantage,” says Silk, pointing out he likes time trials better than heats. “If you start in the top five or six, it’s trying to stay out of trouble but if you start in the back you can’t afford to dilly dally around.”
The Modified Nationals also begins the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series at the Speedbowl. Each division – SK Modifieds (Gada), Late Models (Tim Jordan), Sportsman (Dwayne Dorr), Mini Stocks (Danny Field) and Legends (Mark Bakaj) – had a defending champion.
DIRT: HEARN IN A NEW POSITION
It was just one year ago when 2006 Florida DIRTcar champion Brett Hearn drove into town and cruised home the winner of the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRT Series opener at Hagerstown Speedway. Hearn returns to the popular Maryland layout on Saturday, March 31, this time in defense of Hagerstown's headline Advance Auto Parts 'North-South Shootout 100' and knowing a lot can change in 12 months especially after he came up empty at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway Park in February.
The fact that both drivers are expected to be championship contenders isn’t surprising considering that both were in title contention until the final five minutes of the 2006 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season finale at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, N.C. In the closing laps, the scenario was simple: Each driver had to finish in front of the other to win the title. Brown led the first 83 laps until getting caught up in lapped traffic, which allowed Miller to pass by and take the win — and ultimately the championship.
“To be ranked tied with Junior Miller as to who the media thinks will win this year’s championship is pretty cool,” Brown said. “It’s a lot better than people expecting me to finish somewhere like fifth. I think the people that voted in the poll simply looked at both Junior and myself and based it on our past racing performances.
“It’s a privilege to me for people to be predicting that I’m going to win the championship this year because Junior Miller is always the man to beat. I just want to race hard and be
The experts think that Junior Miller's #69 team will be tough to beat down south this year.
Other contenders include last year’s runner-up Kenny Horton, ’05 champion Rob Summers, Doug Coby, Dennis Charette and Ronnie Silk along with Speedbowl stalwarts Rob Janovic Jr., Jeff Pearl, Diego and Shawn Monahan, ageless Donnie Fowler and youngster Jeffrey Paul.
The $20,000 150 heads up a busy nine-division agenda that also includes extra-distance races for the Speedbowl Late Models (50 laps), Sportsman (30) and Mini Stocks (30). The Legends, Northeastern Midget Association, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Trucks and Allison Legacy Cars are also on the schedule as the Speedbowl begins its 57th consecutive season.
SK-Time Trials (1 PM) kick off Saturday (March 31) qualifying, heats and consis for the other division following. The Legends, Pro4, AllStar Truck and Legacy Car features follow. The Midgets, Late Model, Sportsman and Mini Stocks share Sunday with the SKs.
A “Pit Party,” complete with the Shriner Clowns, is scheduled for Sunday at 10:15 AM.
The SK-150 is unique in SK racing in that it combines the pedal-to-the-metal demands of time trials and the more conservative aspect of planning for the long distance race.
“We didn’t win in Florida but we’re still confident with our program and the goal is always Mr. DIRT,” remarked Hearn, 48, a five-time overall Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT Champion and the all-time leader with 91 career Advance Auto Parts Series feature race wins. Hearn had posted at least one victory in Florida every year since 1998 before going winless this past February while his last Mr. DIRT title was claimed in 2001. “We’re just as prepared going into Hagerstown this year but everybody else has the same idea. We won a couple weeks ago and savor that although with all the top teams around for the tour race it makes winning two straight even tougher.”
Not only will Hearn be looking to repeat his stellar Super DIRT Series performance south of the Mason-Dixon Line, the Sussex, New Jersey superstar will also be in search of a second victory this season at Hagerstown. With snow and cold wiping out three of the first four shows, the ‘Jet’ flew into victory lane in the lone Big-Block Modified main run on March 4. Weather permitting, a complete program for Small-blocks is on tap Saturday, March 24 at Hagerstown.
“When it comes to favorites, Hagerstown is right up there near the top of the list,” said Hearn, who stands as the career Modified win leader at promoter Frank Plessinger's smooth Hagerstown half-miler. Last year’s 100-lap victory was just his second of 21 victories that came at night and that win under the lights in 1984 was his first. In series action he finished 12th at Hagerstown in 2005, placed seventh in 2001, fell to 21st in '02 and improved to third in 2004; the '03 event was cancelled due to rain. “There’s been some terrible weather opening up the season but Hagerstown always has a perfect surface. When going there all you worry about is racing, there’s never a question when it comes to track condition.”
Hearn will be back aboard the potent Madsen Motorsports no. 20 Wentworth Custom Homes-Kruger-WLR/TEO entry housing a Kevin Enders-prepared powerplant when the ’07 Advance Auto Parts Series kicks off at the end of March. He won the tour opener en route to claiming his first overall Mr. DIRT Modified Championship in 1990 yet despite collecting a half-dozen more Advance Auto Parts SDS lid-lifters and four additional Hoosier Tire-Sunoco Race Fuels Mr. DIRT crowns, that was the only time Hearn doubled up in the same season.
“I can’t thank Guy (Madsen, owner) enough, he gives me all I need to get the job done and if I don’t there’s no excuses,” said Hearn, who will be looking for his 326th career DIRTcar Big-Block Modified victory in the ‘Old Line State.’ Only Phelps, N.Y. native and reigning Hoosier-Sunoco Mr. DIRT Champion Alan Johnson (344) has seen more checkered flags although Hearn is DIRT’s all-time leader (487) with another 162 coming in the small-block ranks. “We’re hoping to be a little more consistent this year, something we lacked early in the season after winning at Hagerstown. Our numbers always seem to mirror each other year after year and that means just a little improvement here or there can make up the difference in a season-long series like this.”
While Hearn captured four Advance Auto Parts SDS wins last season ---second only to Alan Johnson (6)--- for the first time in the new millennium since DIRTcar Racing incorporated time trials at every event did he not win a fast time award. “It seems there are certain years when somebody gets on a major roll, last year it was Alan and Tim (Fuller) before that,” added Hearn, who has posted fast time in a tour-best 26 series events since 2000 with a season-high nine Integra Shocks awards collected in ’02. “We’ve been consistently off a little with our times so if we can strengthen the motor program and bring up the power curve a little more we’ll be in good shape.”
Over 40 teams competed at VSP in the recent Florida Tour winter exhibition and another all-star field is expected to sign in Saturday at Hagerstown. The 2007 event will mark only the sixth DIRT Big-Block Modified race ever staged at Hagerstown as the track continues in its 60th consecutive season. Hearn will be joined by brothers Alan Johnson (’05 Hagerstown winner) and Danny Johnson, the recently crowned Florida DIRTcar Champion as well as five-time DIRT NE Driver of the Year. Past Hagerstown tour winners Gary Tomkins (2002, '04) and Steve Paine (2001) will be making their season debut and will be joined by rising stars Jimmy Phelps, Matt Sheppard, Justin Haers and Kenny Stafford, 2006 Rookie of the Year, along with first-year full-time follower David Van Horn Jr.
NORTH-SOUTH SHOOTOUT: A SUPER BOOST IS PLANNED FOR ’07 RACE
C&C Racing Promotions made a major announcement at the first annual SpeedwayEXPO last weekend regarding the future of the North-South Shootout TM. In their efforts to further enhance the annual Shootout, already one of racing’s premier events, promoter Charles Kepley announced the addition of the Supermodifieds to the ground-pounding line-up. The Supermodifieds will join the headlining Tour-type Modifieds on the fast-paced race card that also features the SK-type Modifieds.
Doug Coby is one of several big dogs looking to take a bite out of Waterford in the SK 150. (51 Photo)
Brett Hearn's #20 (BrettHearn.com Photo)
“This has been in the works for a couple of years now,” said Kepley of Lexington, NC. “All the pieces finally fell into place to make it a reality. Having the Modifieds and Supermodifieds under the North-South Shootout TM banner is a dream come true for all of us at C&C Racing Promotions.”
The fifth annual North-South Shootout TM is schedule for Friday and Saturday, November 2&3, 2007 at Concord Motorsports Park in Concord, NC. The half-mile tri-oval speedway makes for ultra-fast racing for all the open-wheel divisions at the Shootout.
Since it’s inception, the 100-lap North-South Shootout TM has featured some of the best racers to take to the racetrack, North or South of the Mason Dixon line. This year, it will also feature the best Super drivers from East and West of the Mississippi. The event, a throwback of sorts, is guaranteed to provide the very best that open-wheel racing has to offer.
Many of the competitors of the International Supermodified Association (ISMA) have already pledged their support, as have the teams of the Midwest Supermodified Association of Ohio and the Western States Supermodified Racing League (WSSRL) of California.
“This is just awesome,” said ISMA President Howie Lane, about the announcement. “In just a few days since the story got out, the response has been tremendous. The Shootout has gained a reputation for being fun and exciting, our teams are thrilled to be able to be part of it all.”
A full field of the “winged warriors” is expected as the factions of the Supermodified racing community unite for a much-anticipated return of an East-West showdown. (The Supermodified portion of the North-South Shootout TM has yet to be formally named.)
“All of our top teams are planning on coming,” said longtime WSSRL competitor and active member of the staff, Jim Birges. “We are real excited about the opportunity. It looks like the rules package will allow all the different groups to compete on equal ground. It’s going to be fun. There are no egos, just racing.”
The Supermodifieds last made an appearance at Concord Motorsport Park (CMP) in the late 90’s. The last “East-West” showdown was held in 1995 at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
“We are very excited about this event,” said Kevin Jaycox President of the Midwest Supermodified Association and owner of Sandusky Speedway. “A lot of people have been trying to do a deal like this (East vs. West) for a couple of years now. To see it finally come through is truly exciting.”
In 2007, the North-South Shootout TM celebrates five years. The goal of the North-South Shootout TM has always been to provide an arena to showcase great racing talent in an environment that teams will enjoy. From the inaugural year when John Blewett III edged out Jerry Marquis by inches at the checkers, to the emergence of Donny Lia, to Blewett’s triumphant return to victory lane right on through to the moment when Matt Hirschman stepped into the limelight, the North-South Shootout TM has produced memorable moments. This year it will be a grand anniversary celebration with the Modifieds, Supermodifieds and SK-Type Modifieds.
The format for the fifth annual event will once again boast time trials, heat races, and consolation event(s). The Modifieds will compete in a 100 green flag lap main event with the SK Modifieds competing in a 50-lapper. The ever-popular vintage Modified contingent and the crate motor limited Modifieds will remain part of the two-day racing extravaganza. The format for the Supermodified portion has yet to be determined.
“Everyone involved in Supermodified racing, whether it’s the drivers, owners, or fans will mark this event more than any other on their calendars for the 2007 season,” concluded Jaycox.
NCRA MODS: TITLE UP FOR GRABS
As the O’Reilly NCRA Modified Series, presented by ICM/Ethanol, readies for its 10th season, it could be one of the most exciting and competitive in series history.
Parity among the drivers should be even more evident this year because 2006 series champion Brian Franz has announced he won’t defend his title. The Halstead, Kan., driver will probably be at most shows, but will not run for a record fifth straight crown.
“With work and family commitments, I don’t have the time to run for another championship,” he said. “I’ve been doing this a long time and it’s time for someone else to take over.”
That leaves the top spot wide open with a plethora of drivers vying for it. Four of them from Wichita, Kan., probably have the inside track. Three are looking for their first series championship, while the fourth is a previous champion.
Last year’s runner-up, Greg Stephens, says he needs to be more consistent for a shot at the crown. With two wins, Stephens edged Marc Hurd by five points for second. Hurd took the checker once in finishing third.
Brian Powers picked up his third career NCRA win and recorded his third straight top five season in points (fourth). He hopes to extend that string in 2007.
Don Renfro won the first series championship in 1998 and put together one of his best years since then, finishing fifth. Look for him to run up front again this year.
Fellow Wichitans Scott Green, Travis Govern, and Jason Roe, along with Brian Casey of Hutchinson, Kan., all were in the top 10 last year and should challenge for top spots again. You can also toss last year’s two top rookies into that mix. Jason Teague (Tahlequah, Okla.) was seventh overall while Cody Gearhart (Turpin, Okla.) was 11th.
Two NCRA modified rookies of the year will return to run at least part of the season. Jason Friesen won the award in 2005 and finished third in the standings. Friesen, from Sutton, Neb., plans to run the entire NCRA schedule after only four shows last year. Chad Wheeler, of Muskogee, Okla., was second in points in 2005, his last season with the series. He was the top rookie in 2001 and will run at least the first few shows this season. Either of them could contend for the championship.
The O’Reilly NCRA Modified Series, presented by ICM/Ethanol, opens its 2007 season April 7 at 81 Speedway in Park City, Kan.
The Supers are comign to the Shootout. (51 Photo)