51 Leftovers: NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Caraway Speedway By Denise Dupont, Jim Dupont and Mike Twist
The 2008 Season Starts Out With a Bang
LW GOES FOR VICTORIES, NOT TOP 10 FINISHES
There wasn’t a single NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race that ended without eventually champion L.W. Miller in the top 10. So you’d think that in his bid to repeat as the champion, Miller would do everything exactly according to that plan right?
Wrong. Miller’s top goal isn’t just to be consistent in 2008. Instead, he wants to win races – just like he did at Caraway. If he wins enough of them, the points will take care of themselves.
“We are going to go to every race with the intention of winning and at the end of the year it will be what it is,” said Miller. “We have another great race car and year ahead of us.”
LOFTIN IS A MAN ON THE VERGE
Brian Loftin finished third at Caraway. He was happy with his podium finish and even happier about what he feels that his team is on the verge of next.
“I think a win is just around the corner for us,” said Loftin.
TC DOESN’T GET ANY ROOM
Ted Christopher tried to make his runner-up finish into a victory at Caraway, but he felt that winner LW Miller just didn’t give him enough space to do it.
“I do not know [where I could have passed him],” said Christopher. “He had every lane.”
A BAD DAY FOR BURT
Burt Myers often gets to be the part of the battle for victory on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. At the very least, he’ll usually get to see the battle for the lead from his windscreen – just a little bit behind if his day isn’t going right.
But on Saturday at Caraway, his day really didn’t go right. That’s because he watched the finish from the sidelines after dropping out on lap 104 with an oil line problem.
Brian Loftin (#23) races with the #07 of Frank Fleming. (Jim Dupont Photos)
What exact was the problem? Myers did not know for sure after the race.
“I don’t know if it was when we put in the water coolers down here or if there is something we had to re-route or if we have a motor problem,” said Myers. “What I think happened is my water got out before the motor got good and hot and we ended up cooking the motor. It was pouring oil on the right rear. If I didn’t kill that one I think we had a good car if we could have just keep going. It is like the gremlins keep biting us down here.”
Myers was credited with a finish of 25th.
SEUSS SETTLES INTO RIGGS RIDE
Caraway marked Andy Seuss’ first ride as the new pilot for Riggs Racing. The day was far from perfect for Seuss or the team, but hard work and patience helped salvage a top 10 finish anyways.
Seuss expected a little bit of a learning curve…but secretly hoped for immediate success.
“We knew that there was going to be a learning curve,” said Seuss. “But we did have thoughts of coming out here and winning the race. This was a little bit of a reality check today. We struggled a little bit in practice and qualifying, but we came home with a top ten finish and that is more than we could ask for. It is a good way to start the season off. It was great working with the Riggs crew. It was good to see that we can work with them. I am very optimistic about the races in the future.”
Now that Seuss is an adopted Southerner, he was very proud of the job that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regulars did in holding off some of the biggest teams of the Northern tour. Only runner-up Ted Christopher, Bobby Grigas (fifth), Ronnie Silk (sixth) and Matt Hirschman (eighth) came down to Caraway from the “Northern” Tour and finished in the top 10.
“That was good,” said Seuss. “In the years in the past you would have said that they were going to kill us. But with only one in the top four, that shows that the competition in the south is tough. It is going to be that way all year.”
The Advance Auto Parts #47 team was actually a mixture of crew members from North and South. In addition to long-time Riggs tam members, Seuss brought some of his own crew to work on the team. The result was that once they adjusted to the different accents, they all worked very well together.
“Everybody meshed well,” said Seuss. “They utilized us as much as we did them. I think that it is great. We already seem as though we have we been together for years. It was neat to see the stuff that they have done on the Southern Tour. They also know that our crew (#70 race team) has been with me for a while. So a lot of times they turned to my crew when I told them a certain thing about the car. “
CIVALI GETS CRUNCHED
James Civali didn’t have the kind of race that he hoped for with his King Racing team. Just 12 laps from the end of the 150-lap event, he got taken out in a wreck with Jay Foley and Rowan Pennick and left with a finish of 22nd.
“Everybody checked up in front of me. It looked like about eight or nine spots in front of me they started checking up,” said Civali. “I think that the #57 car [Foley] got turned
around. I went too go low and got sideways because the car was so loose. I could not get away from the 57 car. He caught me in the right rear and ripped the rear end right off from the right. The car is pretty torn up.
“Tonight we just did not have the forward bite that we needed. Most of the time I was just trying to conserve tires. It never was just enough though.”
GRIGAS GETS A TOP FIVE FINISH
Bobby Grigas didn’t finish out of the top 10 during the entire running of Florida Speedweeks last month. At Caraway, he continued his strong streak by finishing fifth.
Grigas thinks that it could have been even better.
“It was good run but we were kind of struggling on the setup,” said Grigas. “We changed
the whole thing around for time trials. I wish I would have finished better, but a top five is
good for really my first time down here. I came down here last year but I did not get to
practice and did not get a good setup for the track. So this is really my first time down
Grigas had to hang on to outduel Ronnie Silk for the top five finish.
“The last five laps the car was getting both loose and bad. At the end I thought if I could
pull around the #79 car [Silk] I could get a top five finish. If this was last year at the
beginning I probably would have spun myself out. With the more seat time that I have
been getting I have been trying to do better. When you start finishing out front a win
should come eventually. The biggest thing is that I have been finishing with all the wheels
on the car. I mean that is a win right there. I am just trying and digging away at it. So hopefully we will get a win this season.”
HIRSCHMAN COMES FROM THE DEEP IN THE FIELD
Matt Hirschman finished eighth after starting the feature back in the 16th position.
“We didn’t qualify well.,” said Hirschman. “It was nothing like we should have or expected to do and that just put us behind. We made progress all during the race and near the end we made some moves and passes that were negated by cautions when they reverted back p[to the running order when the caution came out]. I passed the same guy like three times. It is just the circumstances of when you go back to the last complete lap. Realistically we could have finished as high as about maybe sixth but after the last couple of laps we ended up eighth. It could be better, but it could be worse. It is not what I expected myself or what we are capable of though.”
SILK STARTS OUT HIS TIME ASA HILLBILLY
Ronnie Silk had a good run his first time in the Hillbilly Brothers #79 car. Silk finished sixth.
“We started off a little bit too free,” said Silk. “I knew we were free so I took it real easy the first half. We were not terrible at the end but it was one of my first races in the car. At least we have something to work with when we come back here the next time.”
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour returns to action this Saturday night at Southern National Speedway (NC).