LW SURVIVES A FEW SHOTS FOR THIRD WIN AT CARAWAY by Matthew Dillner
Southern Mod Tour Heats Up With Racing and Rivalries
“These guys are good old-school Modified racers. When they’ve got a shot at you, they are going to take it.” - LW Miller
LW Miller knew several young guns and ‘old school’ mod-men were going to be aiming at him when the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour returned to action on Friday. LW has been strong on the Tour this season, but in particular that success has come at Caraway Speedway. Heading into the Whelen 150 at the Carolina half-mile, Miller had two wins in two races at Caraway during the 2007 season.
Second-place finisher Frank Fleming (right) gives congrats to winner LW Miller after Friday night's race at Caraway Speedway. (51 Photo)
“If he got under me I wouldn’t have wrecked him to hold him off. Obviously I am big picture racing for the points and I’m looking for that championship but I wasn’t going to give hit up either.”
“I want it bad,” said a re-jubilated Fleming after his runner-up effort. “Ten years ago I might have won it because I would have put the bumper to LW but that is not the Frank Fleming of today. I was a little rough. These boys are a class act now on this Tour and NASCAR isn’t going to stand for that type of racing. I’m not here for that. It ain’t that I layed off of him. I got into him and tried to get him to overdrive the corner and open up the bottom for me. He’s a good enough driver that he didn’t let that happen. We are going to get one of these wins before too long.”
Caraway Speedway seems to be a streaky-track when it comes to the Mod-Squad. Last season another Miller, the “King of the Southern Mods” Junior Miller, was dominant at Caraway. Now the man on top of the hill in Ashboro, NC is LW Miller. The win was his third there this season and but dating back to the fall-race last year, his fourth-straight at the speedway.
“He’s on a roll here at Caraway,” said Fleming. “I remember a time where Frank Fleming was the man to beat up here at Caraway. I won a bunch of races here. I’ve seen Junior Miller win a bunch of races up here. Drivers find a good setup and become dominant at a track for a while. Things change, the track changes and tires, and somebody else is going to be the dominant one and beat LW.”
“This track has always been a favorite of mine,” said LW. “I think the first race I ever won in a Modified was here back in 1998 or 1999. We really have our program strong here. We’ve been a good car everywhere but we’ve been real good here.”
The dominance have left some scratching their heads and others banging them in frustration.
“I’m tired of LW winning,” laughed third-place finisher Brian King, who is awaiting his chance at a Caraway win.
Miller (#36) pushes Brian Loftin's #23 at Caraway.
“He was protecting the bottom,” said Fleming, “and my right front wasn’t holding enough to where I could get up on the outside of him. I tried to get a run on the outside and all I could do is get my front bumper up to his right-rear tire. I done layed on him a little bit trying to shove him up but he had his brakes on him and he was choking it down. I’m not here to turn a car to win a race. I took a chance trying the outside to win the race and risked finishing third. But that was the chance I had to take to try and win the race.”
LW pulled away from his last challenger and was able to cruise his Danny Baker-owned #36 across the finish-line first. Knowing his challenger was without a win in the Tour’s 3-year history, Miller appreciated the sportsmanship that Fleming showed in the closing laps.
“I know Frank and he wants to win one of these races real bad,” said Miller. “Frank and that team really have their car running good. He wants to win and he wants to show that he can still do it. He can. The last few races up here he’s been one of the cars to beat.”
LW knows his streak may come to an end but is enjoying his dominance at a track that he truly enjoys getting around.
“I guess my quick response to Brian King is that ‘I hate it for ya but we have three more races here so get used to it.”
RACE NOTES: CARAWAY
BURT AND JUNIOR MILLER HEAT UP RIVARLY AND BEND BUMPERS
Any Southern Mod fan knows of the rivalry between the veteran Junior Miller, and Burt Myers. After Caraway you can add another chapter to the Myers-Miller saga. Miller was knockin' on Burt’s bumper to try to get around him and Burt answered with his left-foot instead of his right one.
“We got a little loose out there at the beginning and I reckon then I had a bulls-eye on me because everybody took a shot at me,” said Miller who ended up 11th. “Then Burt brake-checked me three or four times.”
“I didn’t like him hitting on me either so I guess we have something in common,” responded Myers.
“I got up under him a few times and he drove me down to the apron and drove over my right-front,” explained Miller. “I bumped him a little bit to tell him to let me go and he just slammed on the brakes and about wrecked us both.”
“As my car started to get loose,” explained Myers, “I just tried to run in the corner and keep it tied down to the bottom. Junior hit me one time and I motioned him to the outside. Then he hit me again. He got me loose enough to where we all kind of got together. I don’t understand him. He had the whole outside groove to use and he didn’t use it. If I was blocking the whole racetrack that is one thing. The only thing I was guarding was the bottom groove. As far as I am concerned we were in the right and it is irrelevant what happens behind me.
“I don’t care who it was. It just happened to be Junior. I thought he had a better car than we did. The way I see it is that if I am holding my line it is up to you to get around me. The only way Junior can usually get around somebody… is through them. And he tried to go through me tonight and it didn’t work.”
Now the two drivers and the NASCAR Southern Mod Tour head to the “madhouse” where their rivalry was born, historic Bowman Gray Stadium. Myers is on top in the weekly standings at the bull-ring. Miller is the all-time most winning driver at the Stadium. The Caraway get-together is sure to have fans eyes fixated to the two cars if they get next to each other at the rough-and-tumble short track.
Miller had to wait quite a while during Friday’s race before someone took a legitimate shot at knocking him off the winner’s pedestal. A long-green flag run of over 100-laps enabled him to put his #36 far in front of any challengers. But with a yellow flag, came Brian Loftin, who chomped at the bit to get his shot. Loftin took his shot, but bit off a little more than he could chew taking himself out in the process.
“I thought I had a good run on him,” said Loftin. “I got underneath him and of course he’s going to come down because he’s got to protect the lead. We got together and I didn’t gas up as soon as I should have because I knew I would have wrecked us both. I just couldn’t save it and spun out. You put me right behind him with 20-to-go and I am going to give it a shot. We were beatin’ and bangin.’ He’s a great racecar driver and did what he had to do to win the race.”
“I was good on the long runs,” explained LW Miller of defending his lead. “Brian got a run on me and he knew it was his shot to get me. He got into me once real hard on the first one and I about spun out. The next time he got under me he must have gotten loose and just
clipped me with his right front. He clipped me pretty hard but I think it was worse on him. It got me sideways but it turned him around. I had to protect the bottom and he had to take any shot he had at me. He did the right thing by taking the shot at me. “
Loftin wasn’t the last to take a shot at the Miller. A cagey-veteran salivated at his chance at a long-awaited return to victory lane. On a restart with only a handful of laps remaining, this driver filled up Miller’s rear-view mirror. Frank Fleming has wanted to win a race on the Whelen Tour since it’s inception, and Miller knew of this hunger. So to defend his turf, LW knew he had to stick to the bottom like glue again.
“Josh Nichols, my spotter and Jimmy Baker were on the radio with me and they told me he was pretty good on the top,” said LW. “You can be good on the top but everybody knows it’s hard to pass on the top for the win. You can pass early in the race on the top but if you can pass someone on the top with ten laps to go you did something. The guy on the bottom obviously has the better hand because he can run you up the track. I knew I was going to have to do a little defensive driving. I didn’t really have to do it too bad because he could only do it for a lap or so and then I could drive away. Once my tires got hot I could just drive away from him.”
Burt Myers (#1) and Junior Miller (#69) raced hard all night long and Myers' bumper showed the sign of the battle.
CIVALI JUMPS FROM FRONT TO THE BACK THEN FRONT AGAIN
Many drivers in the Southern Mod Tour pit area were un-happy that NASCAR did not penalize James Civali after allegedly jumping a couple of restarts. Civali, who was filling in for Woody Pitkat in the Hillbilly Motorsports #79, knew those restarts were his chance to make up for time lost. After starting on the front row, Civali had faded. After some adjustments made in the pits, he charged to the front and finished fifth.
“I’m real good at strategizing my restarts and getting a great run,” said Civali. “I got yelled at for the second one so I had to go easy on the rest of the restarts. It’s tough. Restarts are where you can gain all your spots and they are also where cautions breed cautions. You grab as many as you can but you have to do what you can do with what you have.
“We started the race too free. They threw the kitchen sink at it from on top of the hauler to get that thing hooked up. I just burned the tires off of it.”
BIRTHDAY BOY BROWN COMES UP SHORT
A win would have made Tim Brown’s birthday as special as it could be. Well, that wasn’t in the cards for Brown. But what was in the cards was a great day with his team and a comeback (after a spin) to finish the night strong.
“I was racing on the 17-car and we got a little crowded and when I checked up I got run over,” said Brown who started the race from the pole position. “It was just a racing deal. We got turned around and bent the car up a little bit and were fortunate to come back to finish 6th.”
Brown may have sung the blues during the race but in pre-race autograph session, his ‘diamond gang’ got on the PA mic and sang to their driver.
“My crazy guys that work on the racecar decided that it would be cool to sing ‘Happy
Birthday’ to me since today is my birthday. So that was fun. It’s fun and it’s entertainment and we are here to put a show on for these fans. You get them riled up or whatever or give them a laugh. I had a great birthday. My wife went out of the way to have a nice cake. We spent some time with our sponsors Hayes Jewelers on the way up here and all these guys support me and it makes it real nice.
HIRE HAPPY WITH FANTASTIC FINISH AT CARAWAY
Brandon Hire had a huge smile on his face as he and his team pushed their #44 Modified to the hauler at the end of the race. Hire had a lot to be happy about. First off all he survived 150-laps at Caraway unscathed. Secondly, he turned a lot of heads with a __ place finish. The effort was a career best for Hire on the NASCAR Tour.
“We’re really tickled,” said Hire. “It was about eight-months since I have raced so I was a little timid. I just conserved tires and pick and choose spots. It came down to the end and it got crazy but we were able to pick off a few more positions. The last caution I kind of kicked myself because I didn’t clean off the tires enough and that cost us a little. But still we are tickled.”
BREWERS DEBUT A TEST FOR HIS NEW TEAM
Tim Brown's birthday cake.
As veteran short-track racer Mike Cope once said that to make it in the elite levels of the sport “you need a famous last name or a pile of money big enough for a show dog to jump over.” If you don’t have either, things just don’t come easy. Zach Brewer knows this to be true. He’s been successful in the NASCAR Goody’s Dash series and has run in the Late Model ranks. After struggling to get a ride together, Brewer is back racing and this time in a Modified. The debut at Caraway was a trying-one, but a successful one that built character.
“Between changing the rear-end and just getting settled in with a new team it’s crazy,” said Brewer after a long-day at the track. “We changed the rear-end and went out for qualifying and the gear was upside down. It’s just a rookie mistake with a rookie team. We started dead last and ran 100-laps under green but still turned it around for a solid top-ten. I am tickled to death to do that and especially back with my family-owned team.”
Brewer plans on running the remaining races on the NASCAR Tour and the North vs. South Shootout at Concord Motorsport Park in the fall.
Zach Brewer's team goes to work on his Modified.
MYERS POLE HAS HIM OUT OF FINGERS
Burt Myers has swept qualifying during the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Mod Tour season. Caraway’s pole was his fifth of the season. But even more impressive of a stat, it was his tenth of the year. The other poles came in ASA Modified races and at Bowman Gray Stadium.
What is it that makes Myers the man when it comes to qualifying?
“I’ve always like qualifying,” said Myers with a smile. “You have new tires on and you can give it hell. As the race gets going or even in practice you can’t give it all it’s got. When you put those four-tires on it and go qualify you can give it all it’s got. Our cars got a lot. We have five consecutive pole and we’ve done it with two different cars. We come to win. I’d love to say that we had a decent points night and won another pole but we’ve been about a year and half without winning a (NASCAR) Tour race. We come here to win. This year I’ve won five races in other places but no Tour races. Hopefully the success we’ve been having at Bowman Gray will carry over to the Tour race there and we can get a win.
Myers can win poles, that is no doubt. He knows that his is pretty-close to being on his game when it comes to getting back into victory lane.
“The way I see it is it’s kind of like Golf. If you hit a bad shot and you know what you did wrong you can work on it. We know where we can improve at and if we do our homework we can hit it. We are right there.”