Last week, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour played in front of their largest crowds of the season at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It was one of two weekends every year where the Tour got to race in front of a grandstand packed with fans on a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend.
But one day before they started to even practice for the New Hampshire race, a number of Modified drivers got to be in front of an entirely different type of crowd. This crowd came at a ballpark actually, as the drivers were part of NASCAR Night at a game for the Boston Red Sox-affiliated Lowell Spinners minor league baseball team.
The stands were full at the baseball game, and the drivers got to meet and greet fans in autograph sessions, take part in pre-game festivities and even race mini-cars around the outline of the field between innings.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers Ryan Preece Andy Seuss, Glen Reen and Richie Pallai took part in the event along with NASCAR K&N East Series drivers Ryan Gifford, Sergio Pena and Joey Pole. The #3 Modified of Preece, along with the #40 K&N Pro Series East car of Matt Kobyluck were also on display outside the ballpark's front gates.
The event provided a chance for mainstream sports fans at a sold-out game to be exposed to NASCAR Touring Series racing and a number of up and coming drivers.
“I think it's great because as we all know, NASCAR has been struggling lately with the economy the way it is and kids playing other sports,” said Pallai. “So to come out here and do this, we might meet a new 20 or 30 fans who could end up coming to the race at Loudon on Saturday. They might become race fans because of this.”
Seuss is a local boy, whose family can trace their roots back to the nearby city of Lawrence, Massachusetts. His own hometown of Hampstead, New Hampshire isn't over the state line from Lowell and he was very honored to take part in the event and meet new fans.
“It's a pretty neat deal,” said Seuss. “It's really neat to see how many people like baseball and racing. I think that they got a really good turnout here at the autograph sessions. A lot of people came out who knew what we were doing and are excited about going to Loudon this weekend. So hopefully some of the people here tonight with Red Sox or Lowell Spinners shirts on wlll be up in New Hampshire with Dale, Jr. shirts on this weekend. It's always nice to meet current fans and also try to make somebody a new race fans.”
The size of the crowd impressed Glen Reen.
“This is awesome,” said Reen. “It's a lot bigger than I thought it would be. I didn't realize what a huge game this would be. It's almost like going to see the Red Sox at Fenway Park.”
Pallai was impressed by the fact that so many people who might not be considered hardcore short track fans were familiar with the type of racecar that he runs.
“The Northeast is Modified country, so it's nice to have people show up at a baseball game and recognize a Modified right off the bat,” said Pallai.
The game might have been a minor league event, but it did have a few major league traits - one of which almost kept Reen from making it on time.
“Unfortunately, I got stuck in almost as much traffic as you would going to Fenway Park,” laughed Reen. “But we made it here just in time. As they were bringing the drivers into the stadium, I walked in right behind them all.”