Mod Competitors React to Flash Race Version 2.0 by Mike Twist
Twin State Race Seems to Be a Step in Right Direction, But Heat Races Draw Fire
After Wall, the format underwent some changes. Gone were a pair of 50-lap heat races. Instead, dual 25-lap heat races were now in place. Time trials would also be held. The top six from qualifying could skip the heat races. Positions seven on back for the feature would be decided by the heat race finishes.
Generally, the comments by competitors at Twin State were similar. Everyone seems to think that NASCAR is making progress with the flash format,
“The format was better this time,” said race winner James Civali.
“I’ll race anything basically,” said Jimmy Blewett. “These were good changes. It’s new to us, new to the Tour and new to the officials. You can’t fix something after the first time. You’ve got to work the bugs out of it.”
James Civali (#28) and Matt Hirschman (#59) race at Twin State. (Jim DuPont Photo)
The flash race experiment for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour entered its second trial on Sunday at Twin State Speedway (NH). After receiving less the stellar reviews in its debut earlier this year at Wall Township Speedway (NJ), the format of heat and feature racing at Twin State were much better received by fans and competitors.
But there are still some tweaks that need to be made if the format continues. Whether that should happen or not is still the topic for some debate as well.
“This was definitely better than Wall,” said Donny Lia – who has won four of the five non-flash races this season on the Tour. “But I really still don’t know why we need this flash format. I don’t know what it does for us. Tell me one positive thing that comes out of these races. I just don’t know what it is. Until I understand what is good about these races, I won’t know why we need to be running them.”
The biggest complaint heard at Twin State centered around the heat races. Only 26 cars were in the pits for this race and everyone qualified for the feature. That led to some fairly insignificant heat race action.
“I think that the 100-lap feature was great. I still don’t see the point of having the heat races though,” said Matt Hirschman. “I watched both of them and I saw two passes in 50 laps. There’s no point in it. To me, it wasn’t entertaining. To the fans, I don’t think that it was entertaining. I’m a fan of Modified racing and I watched them. It wasn’t entertaining to me. To me, the feature was entertaining – especially where I was sitting. It was fun. There was side-by-side racing, swapping positions and the restarts were good.”
‘The heat races? I don’t know if that was good for the fans or not,” said Eric Beers. “They were pretty uneventful and there wasn’t a whole lot of passing.”
Fans watch Donny Lia time-trial at Twin State. Were the heat races much more exciting? Probably not this time. (51 Photo)
“The heat races…why?,” said Civali. “I can see running a shorter race, but the heat races didn’t change anything. If you just started the race based on time trials, there would have been the same starting lineup. There was no racing [in the heat]. At a track like this, it’s hard to race. Especially when you know that you are in the race. It’s hard to make a move on somebody knowing that you don’t have to. The guys in the heat race ran single file and did what they had to tdo get into the feature. I don’t think that is anymore entertaining than doing time trials and going racing..”
“If NASCAR is doing this [the flash races] to allow the fans to see more racing, that’s a moot point,” said Lia. “Today you didn’t have a full field of cars. Everyone knew that they were in the race, so those two qualifying races were just freight-train, ride-along, make-it-to-the-feature races. There was no excitement. You just watched cars going around in circles. That did nothing for the fans. I watched it and it was boring. But that is what you’ll have if you have heat races when everyone is in the race.”
Allowing the fastest teams in qualifying to skip the heat races drew mixed reviews.
“I like the idea that they are trying to time trial some people in,” said Beers, who wasn’t one of the top six qualifiers. “That’s a step in the right direction.”
However the fact that the drivers who ran a heat had more laps on their tires at the start of the feature drew some criticism.
“It’s not fair,” said Ted Christopher. “I talked to [NASCAR’s] Bob Duvall and there’s no way that you can run a heat race, put 25 more laps on your tires and compete. We had the best car in the heat race. It’s not fair. We were ------. Duvall asked me who came up with that idea and that came straight from a guy at NASCAR. They need to revamp that a little bit. It’s not right.”
But what would be a practical solution to the tire disparity? That is the $64,00 question.
“It’s hard to do without costing us more money,” said Beers. “Maybe they could shorten the heat races to 12 laps. That would do it. We put 25 laps on all four of our tires . You don’t want to say that anyone who runs the heats gets to have two right side tires because that’s another $300 and these purses aren’t too great to start with.”
Christopher might have a solution though.
“They’ve got to do something,” said Christopher. “Make everyone run a heat race again. That would be fair.”
Or there is the possibility of just cutting out the heat races and having the flash format include a shorter feature than what fans are used to. 150 laps has been the normal when it comes to Modified Tour short track events, but that doesn’t need to be the case.
Ted Christopher (51 Photo)
“In this series, we need to come in, time trial and then race,” said Hirschman. “A 50-lap feature might be good. A 75-lap race might be entertaining. 100 laps is good. We don’t have to go 150 laps like at Thompson or Stafford where we have to pit for tires. We don’t need to run a lot of laps to put on a good show. Let’s race for 50 or 75 laps for less money. We’ll be running half or two-thirds the distance and that will make more sense. Then people won’t complain and skip the races.”
“They need to do something about these races,” said Lia. “There isn’t anyone here who wouldn’t want to just come here, qualify and race. If they want us to race for 100 laps, let us race for 100 laps. Make the feature 100 laps.”
Then there is the subject of the purses for a flash race. Civali earned $4,100 for his victory at Twin State and the lowest paid starter in the field earned $327. This is compared to winner’s purses of $7,400 at Thompson and $7,200 at Stafford recently for 150-lap features. Both of those events paid a minimum of $750.
Several notable competitors including Tony Hirschman, John Blewett, III; Ron Yuhas, Woody Pitkat, Rob Summers, Reggie Ruggiero, Anthony Sesley and Rick Fuller skipped going to Twin State because of the low purse. You also got the feeling that if not for the points being awarded, many other teams wouldn’t have gone either.
“The purses are nothing good,” said Lia. “But we’re not here for that. We’re here because it is a link in the chain to win a championship. We lost money just pulling out of the shop to come here.”
“The teams and the owners weren’t happy about coming here under this format and
racing for less money,” said Hirschman. “So maybe a shorter feature [without heat
races] for less money is ok. But get rid of the 25-lap heat races. The 50-lap heats
at Wall were dumb and tonight, there was just no point to them. You aren’t racing
for anything and it was boring.”
One positive of having a lower purse and the flash race format though is the ability
of some short tracks that were priced out of a Modified Tour event to be able to hold
a race this year. Wall and Riverhead were likely to not hold Tour races in 2007
before the flash format came about. Twin State would not have had a race on its
schedule either without this format.
“The format is fine and I look forward to more short track racing,” said Jimmy Blewett.
“There’s a lot of beating and banging and that’s fun for me. I like that.”
The final of three flash races this season will be held at Riverhead Raceway (NY) on August 4th. There is no word yet as to what, if any, changes will be made to the format for that event by NASCAR.
Eric Beers' #94 was a car that did have to run a heat race. (51 Photo)
One positive of the flash races is the fact that tracks like Twin State, which might not otherwise get to host a Mod Tour race, get the chance to. (51 Photo)