Whelen Modified Tour

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Whelen Modified Tour
Category Stock cars
Country United States
Inaugural season 1985
Constructors Troyer, Chassis Dynamics, RaceWorks, Spafco
Engine suppliers Hutter, Bob Bruneau, Performance Engines by Billy the Kid, Performance Technology, ECR
Tire suppliers Hoosier
Drivers' champion Ryan Preece
Teams' champion Flamingo Motorsports
Makes' champion Troyer
Official website Whelen Modified Tour
2006 cars

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) (previously the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour and NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series from 1985 until 2005)[1] is a stock car racing series owned and operated by NASCAR in the Modified division. The Modified division is NASCAR's oldest division, and its one of two open-wheeled divisions. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events are mainly held in the northeastern United States, but the 2007 and 2008 tours have expanded to the Midwest with the addition of a race in Mansfield, Ohio. The Whelen Southern Modified Tour, established in 2005, races in the southeastern United States. The two tours race primarily on short oval paved tracks, but the NWMT also has made appearances at larger ovals and road courses. The two tours have a combined race in Martinsville, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee every year.

Following elimination of the Elite division, NASCAR will feature Modified drivers (driving Grand National cars) with the Grand National Division in the Toyota All-Star Showdown in the fall of 2007.

As part of NASCAR's plan to cut costs and unify rules among different tours in the same division, the two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour divisions use identical rules.

The cars[edit]

#45 Modified car, courtesy of Navy Lakehurst

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour cars are substantially different from their Sprint Cup counterparts. Today's cars are based on tubular chassis built by fabricators such as Troyer Engineering, Chassis Dynamics, Spafco, and Raceworks. Bodies are related to their passenger car counterparts in only two ways. There is a "manufacturers" logo placed on the car, and a logo indicating the type of road car it is alleged to be. Neither logo is actually associated with the actual manufacturer of the race vehicle. Largely fabricated from sheetmetal, with the front wheels and much of the front suspension exposed. A NASCAR Modified is eleven inches shorter in height and over twenty-three inches wider than a Cup car. By rule, Tour-type Modifieds weigh at least 2610 pounds (with additional weight for engines 358 cubic inches and larger) and have a wheelbase of 107 inches (2,700 mm). They are powered by small-block V-8 engines, usually of 355 to 368 cubic inches displacement, although larger or smaller engines can be used. Engine components are largely similar to those used in the Sprint Cup Series, but Whelen Modified Tour engines use a small four-barrel carburetor (rated at 390 cubic feet per minute, about half the airflow of previous Modified carburetors), which limits their output to 625 to 700 horsepower. On large tracks such as New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the engines must have a restrictor plate between the carburetor and intake manifold, reducing engine power and car speed for safety reasons. Approved "body styles" for 2006 include the Chevrolet Cavalier and Monte Carlo, the Dodge Avenger and Stealth, the Ford Mustang and Escort, the Plymouth Laser and Sundance, and the Pontiac Sunbird, J2000, and Grand Prix.[2]

History of the NASCAR Modified division[edit]

The NASCAR Modified division was formed as part of NASCAR's creation in December 1947. NASCAR held a Modified race as its first sanctioned event on February 15, 1948, on the beach course at Daytona Beach, Florida. Red Byron won the event and 11 more races that year, and won the first NASCAR Modified Championship.[3] (The Strictly Stock division, which evolved into today's premier series Sprint Cup, did not race until 1949.) Post-World War II Modifieds were a form of "stock car" (contrasted against purpose-built AAA Championship Cars, Sprints, and Midgets) which allowed some modification, typically substitution of stronger truck parts. Most cars were pre-WWII coupes and coaches. This pattern continued through the 1960s, with aftermarket performance parts and later-model chassis (such as the 1955–57 Chevrolet's frame) becoming more common. The Modifieds became known for technical innovation, both in homebuilt parts and in adapting components from other types of vehicle. By 1970, many Modifieds featured big-block engines, fuel injection, eighteen-inch-wide rear tires, radically offset engine location, and other technology that made them faster on short tracks than any full-bodied race cars including Grand National cars.[4]

The predecessor to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was NASCAR's National Modified Championship, which was determined by total points from weekly NASCAR-sanctioned races as well as a schedule of National Championship races. Parts of the northeastern and southeastern USA were hotbeds of Modified racing in the 1950s and 1960s; some racers competed five nights per week or more.[5] Often the same car was raced on both dirt and paved tracks, changing only tires and perhaps springs and shock absorbers.[4] In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the technology of dirt and pavement Modifieds diverged to make them separate types of race car. NASCAR was no longer sanctioning dirt tracks which held modified races, so the NASCAR Modified rules became the standard for asphalt Modifieds. (Starting in the early 1970s, Northeastern USA dirt Modified racetracks began to join the DIRT organization founded by Glenn Donnelly.) Most unsanctioned tracks used similar Modified rules to NASCAR's, or specified the same cars with cost-limiting rules such as smaller engines or narrow tires.

In the 1980s, it became prohibitively expensive for Modified teams to tow long distances to sixty or more races per year, including Watkins Glen International and Daytona International Speedway, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, North Wilkesboro Speedway, and Martinsville Speedway, with the North Wilkesboro races part of the Cup weekend.

Richie Evans ran 66 NASCAR Modified features (and several unsanctioned events such as the Race of Champions) in 1984, the final year of the old system.[5] To enable more than a few teams to contend seriously for the championship, it was decided to reformat the Modified division's championship to a limited schedule of races not conflicting with one another. This change mirrored similar format changes to the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) division starting in 1972 and the Late Model Sportsman (now Nationwide Series) division starting in 1982.

Safety[edit]

Richie Evans' 1985 death at Martinsville, along with other asphalt Modified fatalities such as Charlie Jarzombek (in 1987), Corky Cookman (1987), Tommy Druar (1989), Don Pratt (1989), and Tony Jankowiak (1990), led to questions about car rigidity with Tour Modifieds, and safety changes.[5] In particular, straight frame rails were phased out, with new chassis required to have a step which could bend in hard impacts rather than passing the force to the driver. The death of Tom Baldwin, Sr. in 2004 led to more safety modifications, with HANS devices (or equivalent) and left side headrests becoming mandatory. For the 2008 season, rear bumpers have been shortened in response to the 2007 death of John Blewett III.

After a severed wheel caused a fatality at an Indy Racing League race, NASCAR in July 1999 required the Featherlite Modified Series teams (and eventually all NASCAR teams) to add steel cables as tethers linking each front spindle to the chassis, the steel cables were later replaced with marine rope which is stronger and weighs less.[6]

History of the Modified Tour[edit]

The modern-day NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was first held in 1985 with 29 races, named the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour.[5] It switched sponsorship to the Featherlite Trailers brand in 1994, and was renamed to the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series.

Two major changes to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour came in 2005.

In 2005, Whelen Engineering took over sponsorship of the series, which was renamed to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Beginning in 2005 NASCAR sanctiond a new modified division in the southeastern United States known as the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The two tours agreed to run a combined race at Martinsville Speedway.

1985[edit]

Richie Evans, who ties (with Mike Stefanik) the record for the most NASCAR championships with nine NASCAR Modified championships, won his last championship posthumously in 1985, the first year of the Winston Modified Tour. Driving cars built and maintained in his own shop for sponsor B.R. DeWitt, Evans won 12 of his 28 starts on the Tour, including five consecutive victories at five tracks in July and August. Billy Nacewicz was the team's crew chief.[5] Other strong contenders on the Tour included George Kent, Jimmy Spencer, Brian Ross, Reggie Ruggiero, Brett Bodine, Charlie Jarzombek, Jeff Fuller, George Brunnhoelzl, Doug Heveron, Jamie Tomaino, John Rosati, Corky Cookman, Greg Sacks, Mike McLaughlin, Mike Stefanik, and Bugs Stevens. Many other top racers focused on their local tracks but ran limited Tour schedules. In October, the season ended in tragedy when Evans was killed in an accident while practicing for the final race of the Tour season, the Winn-Dixie 500 at Martinsville Speedway. He had already clinched the title; Mike McLaughlin, driving for Len Boehler, finished second in the point standings.[5]

Public stature[edit]

The series has been a minor league with a strong and loyal regional following. Most national media attention has appeared in racing-centered publications (magazines such as Stock Car Racing Magazine or Speedway Illustrated, or newspapers such as National Speed Sport News or Speedway Scene) rather than general mass media. In the 21st century, several books about historical Modified drivers have been published. The series was featured in the EA Sports NASCAR series starting in 2004, though after 2006, the series became exclusive to PlayStation 2 releases.

No full-time Sprint Cup driver competed regularly in Whelen Modified Tour events until 2010, when Ryan Newman won at Bristol and won twice at New Hampshire driving for Kevin Manion. However, Ron Bouchard, Geoff Bodine, Brett Bodine, Steve Park, and Jimmy Spencer went on from WMT competition to become race winners at the Cup level. Other WMT veterans such as Mike McLaughlin, and Jeff Fuller have advanced to become race winners and championship contenders in the Nationwide Series, the top minor league under Sprint Cup. 2-time Nationwide Series Champion Randy Lajoie also began racing Modifieds in Connecticut before moving on the NASCAR. Sprint Cup crew chiefs that started in WMT include Tommy Baldwin Jr. and Greg Zipadelli.

In recent years, small numbers of races in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour have aired on network television, with none appearing on prime-time television.

Traditionally, there are two weekends when the Modifieds run as part of the undercard for the Sprint Cup: i.e., the July and September races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In the past, Modifieds ran with the Cup cars at Martinsville, and the old SMART tour (which today would be the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour) at North Wilkesboro with Cup cars. Typically, a name driver is recruited to participate in the race to pique the interest of casual fans. For example, Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards and defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart raced in the July 2006 race. On August 19, 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour made its debut at Bristol Motor Speedway as part of a four-series meet (with the three national series) that week. This was a combination event for the Whelen Modifieds and the Southern Whelen Modifieds, with same-day coverage on Speed Channel, and part of the Camping World Truck Series race meet that evening. The Modifieds have also historically run with INDYCAR when the series raced at Richmond International Raceway, and will add a third New Hampshire Motor Speedway race in 2011 when it is paired with the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Whelen Modified Tour champions[edit]

Click here for a list of all champions including 1948–84 National Modified Champions.

Year Driver Team owner Wins Number Make Sponsor Chassis
2013 Ryan Preece Eric Sanderson/Flamingo Motorsports 4 #16 Ford East West Marine/Diversified Metals Troyer
2012 Doug Coby Wayne Darling 5 #52 Chevrolet Sims Metal Management/Reynolds Auto Wrecking/Seekonk Grand Prix Troyer
2011 Ron Silk Ed Partridge 3 #6 Chevrolet T.S. Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm Troyer
2010 Bobby Santos Bob Garbarino/Mystic Missile Racing 4 #v4 Dodge Mystic River Marina Troyer
2009 Donny Lia Bob Garbarino/Mystic Missile Racing 4 #v4 Dodge Mystic River Marina Troyer
2008 Ted Christopher Eddie Whalen 4 #36 Chevrolet Al-Lee Installations Troyer
2007 Donny Lia Bob Garbarino/Mystic Missile Racing 6 #v4 Dodge Mystic River Marina Troyer
2006 Mike Stefanik Eric Sanderson/Flamingo Motorsports 1 #16 Pontiac Diversified Metals Troyer
2005 Tony Hirschman, Jr. Bob and Tom Kehley 5 #48 Chevrolet Kamco Supply Troyer
2004 Tony Hirschman, Jr. Bob and Tom Kehley 4 #48 Chevrolet Kamco Supply Troyer
2003 Todd Szegedy Don Barker 4 #50 Ford Haynes Materials Chassis Dynamics
2002 Mike Stefanik Art Barry 2 #21 Chevrolet Lombardi's Inside-Out Spafco
2001 Mike Stefanik Art Barry 3 #21 Chevrolet New England Egg Spafco
2000 Jerry Marquis Mario Fiore 5 #44 Pontiac Teddy Bear Pools Troyer
1999 Tony Hirschman, Jr. Gary Cretty 6 #25 Dodge ATC Stefanik
1998 Mike Stefanik Peter Beal/Charlie Bacon 13 #x6 Chevrolet Burnham Boilers Stefanik
1997 Mike Stefanik Peter Beal/Charlie Bacon 10 #x6 Chevrolet Burnham Boilers Stefanik
1996 Tony Hirschman, Jr. Lenny Boehler/BRE Racing 3 #3 Chevrolet BRE Racing BRE
1995 Tony Hirschman, Jr. Lenny Boehler/BRE Racing 1 #3 Chevrolet BRE Racing BRE
1994 Wayne Anderson Lenny Boehler/BRE Racing 1 #3 Chevrolet BRE Racing BRE
1993 Rick Fuller Curt Chase Racing 2 #77 Pontiac Polar Beverages Spafco
1992 Jeff Fuller Sheba Racing 6 #8 Chevrolet Sunoco Race Fuels Troyer
1991 Mike Stefanik Jack Koszela 5 #15 Pontiac Auto Palace / ADAP Stefanik
1990 Jamie Tomaino Danny Ust 1 #U2 Pontiac Danny's Market Troyer
1989 Mike Stefanik Jack Koszela 7 #15 Chevrolet Koszela Speed Stefanik
1988 Mike McLaughlin Sherwood Racing Team 5 #12 Chevrolet Sherri-Cup RaceWorks
1987 Jimmy Spencer Frank Cicci Racing 6 #24 Oldsmobile Apple House Trucking / Quick Stop Beverage Troyer
1986 Jimmy Spencer Frank Cicci Racing 4 #24 Oldsmobile Apple House Trucking / Quick Stop Beverage Troyer
1985 Richie Evans B.R.DeWitt 12 #61 Chevrolet DeWitt Construction Evans

Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year award winners[edit]

Year Driver
2013 Cole Powell
2012 Keith Rocco
2011 Patrick Emerling
2010 Justin Bonsignore
2009 Eric Goodale
2008 Glen Reen
2007 Richard Savary
2006 James W. Civali
2005 Tyler Haydt
2004 Ken Barry
2003 Donny Lia
2002 Todd Szegedy
2001 Ricky Miller
2000 Michael Boehler
1999 Dave Pecko

Whelen Modified Tour Most Popular Driver award winners[edit]

Year Driver
2013 Mike Stefanik
2012 Ryan Preece
2011 Justin Bonsignore
2010 Ted Christopher
2009 Ted Christopher
2008 Ted Christopher
2007 Todd Szegedy
2006 Tony Hirschman Jr.
2005 Tony Hirschman Jr.
2004 Tom Baldwin
2003 Tom Baldwin
2002 Ed Flemke Jr.
2001 Mike Stefanik
2000 Rick Fuller
1999 Reggie Ruggiero
1998 Mike Stefanik
1997 Mike Stefanik
1996 Steve Park
1995 Steve Park
1994 Jeff Fuller
1993 Jeff Fuller
1992 Jeff Fuller
1991 Satch Worley
1990 Satch Worley
1989 Reggie Ruggiero
1988 Reggie Ruggiero
1987 Jamie Tomaino
1986 Jamie Tomaino
1985 Mike McLaughlin

Pre-Tour NASCAR Modified Most Popular Driver award winners[edit]

Year Driver
1984 Brian Ross
1983 Richie Evans
1982 Richie Evans
1981 Richie Evans
1980 Richie Evans
1979 Richie Evans
1978 Richie Evans
1977 Harry Gant
1976 Jerry Cook
1975 Richie Evans
1974 Richie Evans
1973 Richie Evans
1972 Bugs Stevens
1971 Bugs Stevens
1970 Ray Hendrick
1969 Ray Hendrick
1968 Red Farmer
1967 Al Grinnan
1966 Runt Harris
1965 Bobby Allison

NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10 drivers[edit]

The following drivers were named to the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10 list [1] in 2003 :

  1. Richie Evans – Evans won nine Modified titles between 1973 and 1985, a championship total that was unmatched in all of NASCAR [2] until Stefanik's championship in 2006, 52 wins in 84 NASCAR and unsanctioned events in 1979[5]
  2. Mike Stefanik – 7 WMT and 2 Busch North championships
  3. Jerry Cook – 6 NASCAR National Modified Championships in the 1970s, helped direct the series' changes as series director in 1985
  4. Ray Hendrick – "Mr. Modified" raced "anything, anywhere" in the 1950s to 1970s
  5. Geoff Bodine – in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning 55 Modified races in 1978
  6. Tony Hirschman, Jr. – has won 5 WMT championships
  7. Bugs Stevens – won three consecutive NASCAR National Modified Championships in 1967–69
  8. Fred DeSarro – 1970 NASCAR National Modified Champion
  9. Jimmy Spencer – 1986 and 1987 WMT champion
  10. Reggie Ruggiero – the "best driver to never win a championship", his 44 victories rank him second to Stefanik since the modern era began in 1985

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Jeremy, Davidson. "NASCAR Featherlight Modified Series - Turning 20". Automotive.com. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  2. ^ 2006 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Media Guide. NASCAR, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.
  3. ^ http://www.livinglegendsofautoracing.com/drivers_pages/drivers_red_by.html
  4. ^ a b "Through the Years at Shangri-La: The Final Chapter". Monnat, Michael E. Gater Racing News, August 26, 2005.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Bourcier, Bones. RICHIE!: The Fast Life and Times of NASCAR's Greatest Modified Driver (1st ed., 2004). Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA: Coastal 181. ISBN 0-9709854-6-0
  6. ^ Jewett, Larry: "Innovations in Safety", Stock Car Racing (ISSN 0734-7340), Vol. 35, No. 5 (May 2000), pp. 62–63.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]