Cup Pair To Run With Modifieds At NHMS
For the fifth year in a row, the full-time competitors in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will have drivers from NASCAR's national series ranks to compete against as they fight for the checkered flag in the New England 100 on Saturday, June 27 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Ryan Newman, who competes in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in the Stewart-Haas Racing No. 39, made his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut at New Hampshire last September and will be back in the No. 7 Modified for more in 2009.
"I have really had a blast racing the Modified," Newman said. "I got my first chance in the car last year at New Hampshire, and we were able to get the pole."
Having never strapped into a Modified before qualifying day last year, Newman was fastest in practice and earned the Coors Light Pole later in the afternoon. The South Bend, Ind., native then went on to lead 28 laps and looked the part of a contender, but it wasn't to be.
"We had a great run going in the race," Newman said. "We led laps and then had a problem early with a flat tire, but we moved back up toward the front of the field. Unfortunately, we got caught up in an on-track accident and didn't get the finish we had hoped to get – we were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, we can change that this time around."
This year, Newman will be joined by fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne on the New Hampshire entry list. Kahne, who drives the No. 9 Budweiser Dodge for Richard Petty Motorsports, is set to make his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour debut in the No. 96 H&H Motorsports Modified at Loudon following his NSCS win Sunday at Infineon Raceway. The team will be headed by crew chief Tommy Baldwin Jr., son of Modified legend Tom Baldwin, and current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series team owner.
"Tommy [Baldwin] called and asked if I wanted to race for them in the Troyer house car and I said ‘Heck yeah,' Kahne said. "It's a great car, nice and fast, with good people working on it."
Like Newman, Kahne's participation in the New England 100 is not just a one-off deal. The Enumclaw, Wash., native plans to return to Loudon for the New Hampshire 100 in September, and intends to also compete in the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour's combination race at Bristol Motor Speedway in August.
"I love to race, so any chance that I have to drive a different type of car is a cool opportunity," Kahne said. "The Modified race at New Hampshire is always competitive. Those guys run pretty hard and it is going to be fun to be a part of it."
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour first ran at New Hampshire on Sept. 2, 1990, but the invasion of national series drivers did not come until a decade and a half later. Todd Bodine, a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor, started the trend in 2005 when he entered the September race. Bodine, the younger brother of former Modified standouts Geoff and Brett Bodine, competed in the fall date again in 2006.
The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers to participate were Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards during the June race in 2006. J.J. Yeley, then a full-time NSCS competitor, ran in the fall 2007 race.
In spite of their success in the top divisions of NASCAR, these drivers have found the competition in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races to be more than formidable. None have won and only Stewart has a top 10. The average finish for the aforementioned five drivers in their six combined starts is 27th.
Newman has had the most success to-date, when he became the first driver among the group to sit on the pole and lead a lap. Now with Modified experience under his belt, Newman looks to be a strong contender this week.
"Any racer will tell you that when they get the chance to race, they are going to, so I'm looking forward to getting back into the Modified at New Hampshire this weekend," Newman said. "I have good equipment, and I have some more experience in the car, so I am excited about Saturday's race."
Christopher Looks To Stay Hot, Qualify For Cup
It's hard to find a track that Ted Christopher does not excel at, but it is safe to say that New Hampshire Motor Speedway should be counted among his best venues.
Christopher is the all-time wins leader at New Hampshire with 10 triumphs, five in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and five in the NASCAR Camping World Series East. He swept both Modified races at NHMS in 2004 and 2005 and nearly did it again last year. The Plainville, Conn., native reached Victory Lane in September, but a 0.001-second loss to Chuck Hossfeld in June prevented a third sweep. The combined finishes were more than enough to earn yet another track championship, however.
As if a decorated resume at the track wasn't enough to make Christopher the favorite in the New England 100, Christopher was close to heading to Loudon with a clean sweep of the season to-date. The defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion earned the Coors Light Pole Award and the race victory in each of the first two events to start the season and captured the pole again for the third event, but Jimmy Blewett was able to fend off the No. 36 All-Lee Installations Chevrolet in the final laps and end the streak.
Christopher will head to Loudon, N.H., on top of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings after three races, 40 points ahead of Todd Szegedy. Spanning two seasons, Christopher has been atop the Tour standings since August 23, 2008, a run of 10-consecutive races.
In addition to trying to stay at the top of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour game, Christopher will also attempt to make the field for the Lenox Industrial Tools 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at NHMS. Christopher has six prior NSCS starts, including five in Loudon. He will qualify a car for owner Kirk Shelmerdine, who has fielded a car for Christopher in three of those five NHMS starts.
News & Notes
The Race ... The New England 100 will be the fourth of 14 races for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2009 and the first of two stops at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The Procedure ... Starting Positions 1-33 will be set from time trials with an additional five provisional positions rounding out the field.
The Track ... NHMS is a 1.058-mile, slightly-banked asphalt oval. The NWMT, along with the NASCAR Camping World Series East, became the second and third NASCAR series to compete at NHMS when it opened in 1990.
Race Winners ... There have been 15 different winners in 48 all-time races at NHMS, led by Tony Hirschman's seven victories, which is one more than Reggie Ruggiero and Mike Stefanik. Chuck Hossfeld captured the first race of the year in June in a photo finish with Ted Christopher. Christopher won in the fall race.
Pole Winners ... There have been 20 different pole winners at New Hampshire, led by Ted Christopher and Jan Leaty with seven apiece. Mike Ewanitsko holds the qualifying record at 28.693 seconds (132.743 mph), set in 2001.
Win Leaders at NHMS
Tony Hirschman, 7
Reggie Ruggiero, 6
Mike Stefanik, 6
Ted Christopher, 5
Pole Leaders at NHMS
Ted Christopher, 7
Jan Leaty, 7
Mike Ewanitsko, 4
Four drivers with, 3
The Race: New England 100
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway - Loudon, N.H.
The Date: Saturday, June 27
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
The Distance: 100 laps / 105.8 miles
2008 Winner: Chuck Hossfeld
2008 Polesitter: None - rain
Event Schedule: Thursday, June 25 - Practice: 1:15 - 2:45 p.m., Tire Scuff: 4:30, Qualifying: 4:45 p.m. Saturday, June 27 - Final Practice: 8:15 - 8:55 a.m.
Spencer Details ... The Spencer Speedway 155 will have a slightly different format from last year's event at the half-mile flat oval in Williamson, N.Y. The 2009 edition on July 11 will see two-lap time trials followed by a pair of 15-lap qualifying heats, all of which set the field for the 125-lap main. Last year's race at Spencer included group qualifying (road-course style), 25-lap heats and 100 laps for the main. This year's race will feature 28 starters.
Martinsville Combo Race ... The NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour combination race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sept. 27 will be scaled back this year from 300 laps to 200, and a Limited Sportsman event has been added to the bill. The race, now it in its fifth year, has continued to evolve as it was 250 laps in 2005, 200 in 2006 and 300 from 2007-08.
Bristol Test ... Nineteen teams from the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours got together on June 8 and tested the high concrete banks at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in preparation for the combination race there on Aug. 19, the UNOH Perfect Storm at Bristol. Unofficially, Jimmy Blewett was the fastest among the contingent in attendance at 14.874 seconds. Six teams participated in an invitation-only NASCAR test at Bristol on Feb. 24 and Ted Christopher posted the fastest lap at 14.479 seconds in that session.
UNOH Works With MSR ... In addition to sponsoring the Bristol combination race, the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH) will also be the primary sponsor of the Mike Smeriglio Racing No. 2 Modified driven by Todd Szegedy. The team visited the institution - located in Lima, Ohio - on June 4 where tryouts were held to determine which students would be on the over-the-wall crew for the Aug. 19 race. The four students who earned a spot among the 25 candidates - Ryan Delabruere, Schuyler Nahre, Kyle Worley and Stephen Schnapf - then made the trip down to Bristol for the June 8 test. A pair of additional students were on hand for the test to serve in support roles and the entire group is expected to be in attendance for the race.
25 Seasons Running: Mods At ‘Magic Mile'
As the 25th season of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is celebrated in 2009, events and individuals who have carried the series from its historic first season in 1985 to the present day will be highlighted. The following is a brief look at the history of one of the Tour's marquee venues: New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
While NASCAR-sanctioned Modified racing had been around for more than four decades, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was still in its early days when New Hampshire Motor Speedway opened in 1990. When the initial decision was made to put the Modifieds on the 1.058-mile "superspeedway," perhaps few knew at the time just exactly how great of a marriage the Tour and the track would be.
In preparation for the inaugural event at New Hampshire, Mike Stefanik and Mike McLaughlin discovered that drafting was possible with the 1,500-foot straightaways, a race strategy that has become unique to the Modifieds at Loudon. McLaughlin and Stefanik finished one-two in the Sunoco Winston 125 on Sept. 2, 1990 and an new phenomenon in Modified racing was born.
Since that inaugural win by McLaughlin, 14 other drivers have reached Victory Lane on the Tour's biggest stage. Tony Hirschman heads the list of the most triumphs at seven, followed by six apiece from Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero. Ted Christopher, primarily a Modified driver, has five wins apiece in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Camping World Series East at New Hampshire, which makes him the winningest competitor in track history.
The 2009 New England 100 will kick off the 20th season that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has competed at New Hampshire and will mark the 49th race in Tour history at the ‘Magic Mile.'
Up Next: Spencer Speedway 155
For the second year in a row, and just the sixth time overall, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will travel to Williamson, N.Y., and Spencer Speedway on Saturday, July 11.
The Spencer Speedway 155 will be the first of three qualifying-format races in 2009, all three of which will take place in the Empire State. Matt Hirschman had a strong car in last year's event at Spencer as he won one of the two heats and led four different times for a race-high 79 laps to earn the race victory. George Kent won the inaugural NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Spencer in 1985 and Jeff Fuller, Mike McLaughlin and Mike Ewanitsko have also reached Victory Lane at the flat half-mile.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will begin on raceday at Spencer with practice at 5:30 p.m. Qualifying will commence with two-lap time trials at 7:30 p.m. and two 15-lap qualifying races follow at 8 p.m. Green flag on the 125-lap main is set to drop at approximately 9 p.m.