Flash Format Doesn't Find Many Fans in Mod Tour Pits by Denise DuPont and Mike Twist
Competitors Complain About Roughness, Short Races and Reduced Purses
The flash format was first used at Wall Township Speedway on May 6th. The concept was to designed to expand the Tour schedule by putting on a string of lower-purse, shorter distances races at tracks that had been priced off the Tour schedule, or wanted to experiment with their first Tour race. The race format is made up of two 50-lap heat races that set the starting grid for another 50-lap feature event. The prize money was reduced and no tire changes would be allowed
At Wall, that was a recipe for mayhem. Thousands of dollars in racecar damage resulted from the events. Not many people were happy with the results. Even one of the hometown heroes, John Blewett, III, who finished in second-place, wasn’t impressed.
“I am not the guy who started at the back of the pack with a couple of hundred dollars of damage to the car,” said Blewett after the race. “I would have preferred to have come in here and time trialed and then run a 75 or 100 lap race. If we need to cut purses, then you cut the laps in the race and then you cut the purse. We are still going to race 100 green race laps, whether it is in a heat race or feature. If we ran a 75 lap and qualified through time trials that would be a better format. That is something that we should be looking towards.”
Donny Lia was one of those guys who finished in the back of the pack with a bent racecar. Lia came into the Wall race as the most recent winner on the Tour. He left feeling like a ping-pong ball that had been bounced around the track.
“My outlook on this whole deal is probably not as good as other people’s. I don’t understand it,” said Lia. “I do not see the concept. If they want to see everybody race, we should time trial 20 cars and the next 20 cars race for the rest of the spots. This is unnecessary. It puts you in a situation where you are going to tear up equipment no matter what. It is not good. It is not good for the future of the series.”
The crowd got to see plenty of wrecking at Wall, but did they see much good racing? (Jim DuPont Photos)
It’s hard to tell how well a new race format works after a single event, but if the rumblings about NASCAR’s new “flash” races by competitors on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour are any indication, the concept seems to rank right up there with such infamous products as the Edsel, “New” Coke and the XFL.
It’s also not good for the championship fight. Tony Hirschman, a five-time champion of the Tour skipped Wall to protest the flash format and at least one perennial title contender thinks that toying with the race format throughout the year can make an unwelcome impact on the title chase.
“I’m opposed to changing the format like this,” said Eddie Flemke, who has finished second in Tour points on two occasions. “I’m not saying the we don’t need change. If they said that in 2008, that they were going to make changes, that would be fine. I know that we need to experiment, but do that without the points and not during the regular season. We need changes and we need to spice things up, but not like this. I’m against things not being the same week in and week out.”
Flemke points to the change in format at the Thompson 300 in 2005 as an example of what could happen. That was the season when the race was changed from a 300-lap endurance run to three separate 100 lap mini-races.
“It’s like the 300,” said Flemke. “That had the potential to change the whole season and it did. Hirschman had a bad day and he had the potential to end up finishing 30-something in that race instead of 11th.”
And while many fans claim to enjoy heat races, this particular format has not been popular among many of the fans so far either.
“I do not object to anything as long as it is going to draw fans,” said Blewett. “To me this is not exciting and it is not going to do anything. A perfect example is my heat. I race here every week and I stunk it up. If you want to see a heat race, to me that was not an exciting heat race. Whatever fans say that they want to see heat races
Eddie Flemke (#10) escapes trouble at Wall. (Mary Hodge Photo)
“I like running heat races,” said rookie Bobby Grigas, III. “In time trialing, you only have two laps and if you blow those two laps, you aren’t making the race. I think it is good for the fans. They see a lot of action in a heat race.”
But in the end, all of the opinions might not matter too much. These guys are racers and like the format or not, they might just have to adapt to it.
“I’m not in favor of the routine that they are going to use,” said Tony Ferrante, one week before the Wall race took place. “But if I want to go there, I need to play by their rules.”
The flash race format will also be used at Twin State Speedway and Riverhead Raceway in 2007.
The Tour returns to its traditional format on Friday, May 25th at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) for a 150-lap show.
and then they see a heat like that, I would hope that they changed their mind. I am a fan for whatever is going to work best for the series, not just what works best for me. We will have to wait and see.”
“The only thing that it is going to do is turn people away from the series,” said Lia. “It will turn people away, as far as car owners and drivers. All the effort and money that goes into these things, to just go out there and beat them up like that just does not make any sense to me. I hope that they really take a look at this whole deal and do something about it. Because I already know of a few people who probably will not be at the next one. So hopefully they do something about it.”
Donny Lia (#4) found the Flhas race concept to be a a little...well...backwards. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Competitors aren’t happy about the reduced purses for flash races either. The lowest paid starter at Wall only received a check for $300, with expenses far greater than that.
“I understand that the purses need to be down, but I’d rather that they all do it [share the pain] – the teams, the tracks and the popcorn vendor,” said Flemke. “As I’m driving to Wall Stadium and I fill up the truck with $400 of gas, the guy who pumps the gas isn’t going to say, ‘you’re going to that flash race and it’s a reduced purse, well let me take 40 cents a gallon off the bill.’ It’s costing us the same amount of money. The tire guy charges the same amount. The travel is the same. We don’t save money.”
Jimmy Blewett won at Wall, and had a more optimistic take on the entire situation.
“I kind of like it because it is two races,” said Blewett. “But you have to look at what is better. Like my brother said, if they did wanted to cut purses they just could have run shorter laps. We could have timed. I would have rather run one big race but I am
kind of enjoying getting to run two races. I do not know, we will see. Like John said they got the guys in the back. If I was them I would probably have a whole different outlook on it. But I am not in the back so. I like short track racing. I just like racing all together. The more racing that I do the happier I am.
“We want to go with what is good for the series, not just what is good for us. You always have a different opinion if you are in the back of the pack. I was lucky enough to get a good drawing position and start up front. It is unfortunate for some of the guys at the back of the pack when you run the races this way.”
And many drivers aren’t opposed to running heat races either. It’s just a question of finding the right format.
Jimmy Blewett in victory lane at Wall. (Jim DuPont Photo)