NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Banquet Leftovers by Jim Blacroch
News and Notes Make Up a Special Edition of Modified Madness Presented by Advance Auto Parts
The emotion seemed to peg for Christopher when he talked about, “Always loving to drive a modified” and mentioning some of his long time team members, like Eugene Senna and others who have been with Christopher with whatever team he has raced for. Christopher took his time and mentioned almost all of the influential car owners which he has driven for during his speech.

One of the most anticipated awards of the night was the Most Popular Driver Award, which was presented to Christopher by series director Chad Little.

“This is something I didn't expect,” offered Christopher to those in attendance. “I won this award at Stafford too and I told them they needed to recount the votes because it didn't seem right.”

Christopher was emotional during both speeches from start to finish, reflecting on his career and those who influenced him, including his current crew chief, Brad LaFontaine, who was also served as a crew chief for Christopher during some SK Modified championship efforts at Thompson earlier in his career.

Christopher and LaFontaine were both quick to point the efforts of Jimmy and Sally Paige as they loaned Christopher a car when things weren't going so well for the bunch during the mid-to-late part of the season, which propelled them back into the championship hunt.


Mike Joy emceed the banquet, which had a strong turn out. Joy stated, “this banquet is
Ted Christopher enjoyed all of the perks that go with being a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion - including his own banner.  (Jim DuPont Photo)


Most folks either love Ted Christopher or they just plain hate him. On Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Casino and Resort, Christopher showed a side of himself that was more human than most times. In fact, Christopher seemed to enjoy and relish the opportunity to be the champion as well as show emotion during the presentation.

forgotten and probably only some real diehards in the room would know is that Stewart and Christopher actually had a very strong rivalry going on during 'Speedweeks' at New Smyrna, prior to Stewarts debut even in the NASCAR Busch Series at that time (he was still driving for John Menard in the IndyCar Series). Anyway, how many folks can remember the late Tom Baldwin referring to Stewart as “Jackie” during the week and that Christopher's quote after Stewart spun to the fence during the final (or one of the final nights) of competition was “I guess I just got up behind him and took the air off his spoiler…” Ah, those were the days.


The traditional style banquet honored the top-twenty drivers in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point standings, plus presented several special awards. Eric Beers scored the overall Coors Light Pole Award; Mike Stefanik picked up the PowerAde Award, Ronnie Silk capturing the Featherlite Most Improved Award. Glenn Reen was the Sunoco Rookie of the Year and Ken Heagy, the Most Improved. Heagy was another surprised recipient, “We've only been with the Tour such a short time. This is truly a great honor”.

Stefanik was pleasantly pleased with the amount of the PowerAde Award. He did say, “we need to improve our qualifying efforts”.

Mike Smeriglio, III, owner of Todd Szegedy's car was rewarded with the Sportsmanship Award. “This award does not reflect on me, it reflects on our entire team,” offered Smeriglio, who is among the classiest individuals in Modified racing. “All of the guys and spouses, who work with our team, deserve this just as much as I do.”

Jamie and Cheryl Tomanio were chosen as the seventh recipients of the Smiley Waterman and Donna Parks Memorial Awards presented by the NASCAR Modifieds Woman's Auxiliary. “This is a great honor for us,” stated Tomaino, who was clearly emotional. “We'll be back next season.”
second in attendance only to that little party that NASCAR hosts in New York every year for the Sprint Cup Series.”

Joy also joked that he didn't know about his sponsorship on the H&H Troyer car that Donny Lia drove at New Hampshire which bore a M.K. Joy and New England Race Fuel, signage. Joy is a partner with John Holland at New England Race Fuels, one of the strongest Sunoco distributorships in the country.


A couple of surprise presentations came from Phil Kurze from Whelen, who is a big supporter of the Modified Tour. One was the presentation of driving gloves from Puma, to the top-10 finishers in the championship point standings; the second was the unveiling of a logo for celebrating the 25th year of the Tour, which stated, “25 Years, Still Running… 1985-2009”.


There wasn't a tremendous amount of news released during the event. It looks as though Kevin Crowley will not be returning as crew chief on the Berkley Auto Racing, J.R. Precast Troyer machines driven by Eric Beers. Jimmy Blewett sat at a different table than some of his TS Haulers counterparts, but my guess is that they will be together when the green flag drops for the 2009 season. Lenny Sammons, owner of Area Auto Racing News, has told us that Danny will not return to Ralph Solem's machine, but instead will help with the business more and his brother Davey's sprint car efforts.

George Silbermann of NASCAR, stated during his remarks, “that he hoped to have the schedule out in the next week as he was cleaning up some of those last minute details.”

Silbermann did tell a story about Christopher racing in the Rolex 24 at Daytona where Tony Stewart talked to Christopher following the driver's meeting. The story that was
The traditional Len Boehler Award was presented to Roger Hill, with his son David accepting.

NASCAR assembled a tremendous video production that featured the team speaking about their championship season. It was as motivating a video as NASCAR has ever compiled. The video was shot in champion crew chief's Brad LaFontaine's race shop (Northeast Race Cars and Parts) and featured candid interviews with the crew members and driver's from Eddie Whelan's team.

Ryan Preece finally received his Martinsville victory trophy, prior to the banquet starting. He and car owner, Janice Boehler were photographed with Clay Cambell and Phil Kurze prior to the banquet. The photos were taken and Preece asked, “where is my crew so I can spray them down with some water.”

The Carey and Coffey show played from the lobby prior to the banquet. They seem to be providing great coverage for the Tour as Doug Coby sat in and a variety of other guests made appearances on the show.

David Hill (left) recieves a very special award for his family's team.  (Rick Ibsen Photo)
The Carey and Coffey show set up camp at the banquet.  (Jim DuPont Photo)