Mods Warriors Suit Up to De-Throne The King by Jason Buckley and Matthew Dillner
Vets and Newcomers Wage War for the Southern Mod Crown
Junior Miller is in the position all drivers want – being the King of the Southern Modified castle.
There are plenty of Southern Modsters who want to wrestle this ring off Junior Miller's finger.
referring to the points battles in 2005 and 2006. “It has been close. Two years ago I was right there and it was close. I was leading the points going into Martinsville when we had problems that took me out of it. We are a bit more organized this year and refocused on the whole deal.
“Our goal is [to win] the Championship, and win 13 races in the process. I want to win everything we can win, and go to the banquet in New York with NASCAR paying for it.”
Junior Miller has made the most of his New York City NASCAR visits and has enjoyed the riches and spotlight that comes with the crown. He knows it is going to be even more of a challenge to stay on top with so many aiming to gun him down.
“NASCAR is what is making everyone want to jump in and run,” said Junior Miller. “It looks a lot better being the ‘NASCAR Champion’ rather than just the Southern Modified Champion, so everybody wants to get their name in the record books. We got ours in there twice and nine times total as far as Southern Modified Champion, but you get a whole lot more recognition out of NASCAR. We have won the only two [championships] under NASCAR [sanctioning] and we are going for the third this year. The other guys are gunning for us and we will be right there with them.”
George Brunnhoelzl III is one of those guys gunning for Miller. After taking time off from the Modified ranks to run in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series, he is back, running the full Southern Modified Tour schedule. Miller and Brunnhoelzl know each other well as their
Brandon Ward is making the switch from Late Models to Modifieds this season.
“Our goal is to win the championship. I am bringing the same guys in that worked with me to win the UARA Championship last year. It is going to be a learning curve for us, but these guys have what it takes to win. As long as we pick up on things the way we need to and have a little luck, we definitely have a good shot at the Rookie-of-the-Year as well as the championship.”
“Brandon Ward will be awesome,” said Brown. “Brunnhoelzl will be pretty good too. Also there are guys like Burt Myers, Brian King, Michael Clifton and LW Miller who will be gunning for Miller.”
While Miller has basked in the championship glory the past two racing seasons, Burt Myers has been lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. Two years ago he almost pulled it off. 2007, he feels, is his year to claim top honors.
“He (Junior Miller) has not just run away with it as far as points are concerned,” said Myers,
epic Southern-Mod battles a few years ago created quite a buzz. Brunnhoelzl is ready to continue the war.
“Our ultimate goal is the championship this year,” said Brunnhoelzl, a third-generation Modified star. “There’s a lot of competition on the Southern Modified Tour, but hopefully we can pick up where we left off four years ago with the Modified and finish strong in the top three as much as we can and hopefully win a few races. A lot of people have tried to knock Junior Miller off the top. Hopefully we can be the one to do it.”
“He is a good driver,” said Miller of Brunnhoelzl. “But he needs to get a little cooler head on him, because he blows up a bit too easy sometimes. When he gets in a wreck it is always ‘your fault’ and it never is. That is what I have run into. I think he is a little less of a threat for the championship if they can’t get a cooler head on him. He runs good and has a good car but he has to get a little cooler in the way he uses it.”
Thrown into the mix for the championship-chase is the ever present invasion from the North. Ted Christopher, Andy Seuss and Bobby Grigas are just a few drivers from the Northern Modified Tour that will periodically swoop in to the Southern events looking to steal trophies, taking valuable points with them. Also, the Hillbilly Racing #79 entry with Mod Tour regular Chuck Hossfeld is planning on going for wins in every non-conflicting race on the schedule. The Southern drivers know this may affect their points but welcome the challenge.
“Those guys can’t run every race down here, so we are really battling for points with the same guys that will be here week in and week out,” said Brown. “I like it when they are down here because it makes us have to step up our game. Those guys ‘bring it’ when they come down.”
“I am looking forward to these guys coming down from up North,” said Ward. “I think they set the standard for the entire Modified division. If they come down and you can race with them, you can go anywhere in racing. They are a little bit ahead of the game right now. It forces us to step up to keep up.”
His championship reign on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour has placed him in the master throne for the past two years as many tried remove him from the top spot. While the last few months have been calm in the Kingdom, war is about to erupt as the season kicks off Saturday, March 24th at Caraway Speedway. Veterans in the Mod world will once again take aim at Miller, while fresh faces strap on their armor, ready to battle.
Last year, in his first full-time Touring season, Tim Brown surprised the Mod world, and even himself, finding success and coming up just short of capturing the title. By adding a known Modified mastermind, he feels he has the ammo needed to storm the castle.
“We have added Phil Moran as my crew chief,” says Brown. “I have never had a crew chief before, so this will allow me to focus on driving more and going for that championship. I have won six Modified titles in the past (Track Championships at Bowman Gray Stadium), so we can get it done. We will do everything we can to knock Junior off that top spot.”
Hoping to play the role of the spoiler who can sneak up on the un-suspecting King, 2006 UARA-
Stars Late Model Champ Brandon Ward has strapped on his battle gear by making the jump to the Southern Modified Tour in 2007. While racing for the title against guys like Miller could be intimidating to a rookie, Ward is going headstrong into the season with something to prove.
“I think we can come in and run with Junior Miller,” said Ward. “We ran two races with the series last year and did fairly well off the start. The Modified Tour is like any other series right now. There are a lot of good drivers and teams with good equipment running down here. If we can come in and run with them at the start that is our first goal. If you can run in the top five you can definitely win.
Still, all eyes are focused on Junior Miller. He has ruled the Southern Modified world under the NASCAR banner, and doesn’t appear ready to step down from the top for anyone.
“Probably the same ones that have been there before will be there this year,” said Miller. “LW Miller, Burt Myers and Tim Brown all should be good. We will probably be the top four cars. Any one of 10 cars can win it this year, but we have a good car so we are going for it.”
Some in the Southern Modified World have shown frustration from time to time with "King" Miller's dominance. Although they are great rivals, Burt Myers is drawing on experience and patience rather than frustration in his approach to de-throning the King and getting his first NASCAR Touring Title.
“When I first started driving at Bowman Gray Stadium, I was one of the top five cars basically every week,” said Myers. “I went three years without winning a race. It tore me all to pieces. I couldn’t believe it. Well, I am looking at the championship in the same way. We are going for it as hard as we can. If it comes, it comes. It takes years and years of racing to understand that you can want it as bad as you want to, but it all has to come together for you.”
Although a cast of characters are breathing down Junior Miller's neck in hopes of stealing the crown, Myers says he wants to be the man to do it.
“I love competition. It is just like when the Lakers are tied with two seconds to go, Kobe Bryant wants the ball. That is the way I feel. I love it, I love the competition, and I want the ball. Give me the ball.”