There was a time when Modified Stock Car drivers raced the same car on both dirt and paved tracks every weekend, but, through years of development and defining, those days have been long gone and replaced with purpose built cars.
Popular northeast Modified standout Doug Hoffman, who along with his wife Gena operates Lehighton’s Mahoning Valley Speedway, are adding a Modified class to this year’s lineup that is specifically intended to be for cars that race on dirt and will be able to bring that same mount to their ¼-mile paved speedway.
Dirt Modifieds are by far the most prevalent type of race cars in the Northeast. They range in classes from big blocks to 358’s to sportsman. And, there are plenty out there to support such an endeavor thanks to some very simple rules. Any style dirt Modified, that includes engine combination, is allowed to race at Mahoning. The main rule is they must use dirt tires and not asphalt slicks.
The idea to run the dirt cars on pavement stemmed from a special year end show in 2005. It was well attended with a very respectable car count the numbered in the 30’s. The 50-lap feature was competitive throughout and Hoffman, who came from mid-pack, emerged as the winner. It was his very first time racing at Mahoning too.
“Actually that was a great test to how the dirt cars would work on an asphalt race track in dirt trim, pretty much the way they came off a dirt track, including dirt tires and what we learned from that show is dirt tires work fine on the blacktop and when you get those cars handling they become real comfortable to drive,” said Hoffman who is a winner of nearly 500 features and numerous track championships.
“It’s a real popular division throughout the Northeast and I think that’s going to be great for the fans.”
Although a big block Modified is the premier class, Hoffman is quick to point out that the 358 and sportsman cars should fare the best at Mahoning due to its unique layout.
“That’s one of the benefits that we have at Mahoning. It’s a race track that is not known as a motor track. It’s not a horsepower track. It never has been and anyone that runs there will attest to that fact. That’s why we listed in the rules for the dirt cars we don’t have a motor rule for this class. You can run anything from a big block on injectors to a crate GM motor if you want. It’s all about handling,” he said.
“Obviously a big block would make lots of power but it would probably affect the handling to the point where it would hurt it so that type of motor combination in all likelihood won’t be the choice. A lot of dirt tracks actually become like blacktop. For instance Hagerstown, Syracuse and Orange County. A lot of those surfaces get like blacktop and that’s why it’s not difficult to get a dirt car to handle on asphalt.”
Hoffman has been part of dirt Modified scene for the past two decades and admits there has been too many rule changes that have altered the class to the point where many teams could not come up with the proper amount of funding to keep pace. Some teams have been forced to park their cars but with the open rules at Mahoning he feels this will be an affordable opportunity to get back on track.
“The way race tracks have been changing rules over the years, they’ve obsoleted the motor combinations or they made them where there not competitive anymore and a lot of times that just flat out devastates a race team and they wind up parking their stuff. There’s so many cars out there and there’s so many people out there just sitting on the sidelines with these race cars who are no longer competitive at the dirt tracks and I guarantee they’ll be competitive at Mahoning.”
At the same time others can test their skills at becoming more versatile by racing both dirt and asphalt on the same weekend.
“I just think it’s the greatest felling in the world to get that self satisfaction that you’re not known as a person who can only run on dirt or only run on asphalt. By racing on both dirt and asphalt in say the same weekend it makes you a driver capable of adapting to any racing conditions and as a driver that’s one of the coolest feelings,” said Hoffman.
The distinctiveness about adding the class is that it is not another newly designed race car trying to work its way into an already congested arena of race divisions. Rather it is a throwback on a proven concept.
“That’s another cool thing about this class. Why did asphalt cars and dirt cars go down a different road to where they are today as two completely different types of cars. There’s really no reason,” noted Hoffman.
“What I think will also happen is there are a lot of guys at these dirt race tracks that don’t get to taste Victory Lane just because there are so many high dollar teams that are running up in front of them and personally there’s no way to compete with money.
“Our race track kind of levels the playing field because motor is not going to be an issue. This will be fun racing without having to re-mortgage your home. Believe me that affects how you feel at the end of a race weekend just as much as where you finish.”