New Hampshire Modified Testing Notes by Amie Campbell
A Few Mod Teams Test at the Magic Mile, While a Couple of Drivers Make Their First Laps There
The high school sophomore from Berlin, Connecticut knows he’s getting an opportunity that most people his age could only dream of, and he’s thankful for that. He’s benefitting from an off-season rule change by NASCAR that lowered the minimum driving age back down to 16 again and thus made him eligible to run on the Whelen Modified Tour.
Already a Quarter Midget Grand National Champion, Preece is planning an attack on the Rookie of the Year title this year with an eye towards the future.
“This year and next year are going to be real important years for me in my career,” said Preece, “We want to do well in this [the Whelen Modified Tour] and then hopefully get going in Busch East, do a couple of races there. This year, I just want to gain respect and finish good.”
Ryan Preece's #40 Modified. (Amie Campbell Photos)
FIRST LAPS ON THE BIG TRACK
Ryan Preece had never driven on New Hampshire International Speedway before Tuesday’s open test session – at least not in his Whelen Modified Tour car. By the 16 year old’s own estimations though, he’s run well over 200 laps using the NASCAR 2003 simulation game, a tactic he hoped would ease his learning curve.
Bobby Grigas III is a bit greener in terms of racing experience, but he’s proven to be a quick learner. The 25 year old 2006 True Value Modified Racing Series Rookie of the Year has watched races from the stands at NHIS, but never from behind the wheel of a race car.
“I never thought in my life that I would be driving a car around this track,” said Grigas.
A single late season run in 2006 in a Whelen Tour car earned Grigas the ire of a few of his contemporaries, as they expressed their opinions that his aggressive driving resulted in numerous accidents.
This season, Grigas has been flying under the radar – with good results. In three races, he has scored two Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards.
“I’ve just been trying to get respect from the Tour officials and the other drivers,” said Grigas. “I’m just trying to finish races because you have to finish races before you can win.”
HEAT RACES REVISITED
The “flash” races of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour were still on everyone’s mind at the NHIS test. Glenn Tyler has some suggestions to make the new ‘flash format’ races a better experience for both the fans and the racers.
“I think we need to qualify with time trials so that everyone times, then take the top 10, 12, 15, and then divide everyone up into heat races after that. Have at it,” said Tyler. “That at least gives everybody a shot to show what they’ve got in a racecar.”
Tyler also expressed frustration at the one-off drivers (those who only attended the event at their local track) having the opportunity to start ahead of those who regularly support the Tour.
“Who are we supporting?” Tyler asked. “They [NASCAR] don’t want us to race anywhere else – they can’t stand Teddy Christopher running all over. But they let other people come in and start ahead of their people who support them all year at every race track they go. That’s the problem.
"There are more than 20 cars that regularly support the Tour. There are 45 cars basically that show up every week. They’ve got to make it fair for everybody. They’ve got to give them a chance at least. Picking out of a hat isn’t a chance.”
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Tony Hirschman's team makes adjustments during the NHIS test.
Unlike the Busch East test session a week ago where 17 cars came out to test, just five Modifieds made the venture up to the village of Loudon.
Besides the aforementioned Rookie of the Year candidates Grigas and Preece, Richard Savary was also in attendance. Of the veteran drivers on the circuit, Glenn Tyler and Tony Hirschman also took laps once the weather cooperated and the sun came out.
Matt Hirschman, who wasn’t there in a car, was there to help his father’s team out in their test and gather information for his own team.
“I know they’re going to try some things with tires today, so any information we can learn from that I can pass on to the teams I’m going to be racing for,” said Hirschman. “We run the same brand cars and a very similar setup so the better his car runs, the better mine will run and vice versa.”
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at NHIS on Saturday, June 30th.