NASCAR Whelan Southern Modified Tour cars head into a corner side by side, a common sight
LOVIN' THE EDGE
A number of guys have turned a successful Modified career into full-blown NASCAR stardom-Jimmy Spencer, Geoffrey Bodine, and Martin Truex Jr. to name a few. Truex excelled in racing Modifieds at his home track of Wall Stadium in New Jersey, winning his first feature in just his eighth race in 1998. The following year, he clinched the prestigious Turkey Derby, Wall's annual star-studded Modified race. He likens the Modifieds to a sports car and says that racing a Modified is somewhat of an art form.
"Modifieds are really fast. You have to have really good car control because they have so much grip," says Truex. "They are low to the ground, stuck down, and have a lot of horsepower. They drive really, really good. They're a lot of fun to race. They've got so much horsepower you've got to really drive them hard, really drive them on the edge."
Modifieds will turn a lap of around 13 seconds on Wall's high-banked third-mile asphalt. That's quick for a third. Take the mods and put them on a high-banked half-mile like Music City Motorplex in Nashville, and you've got one wild show.
"They put on a great show, good fan turnout," says Music City's David Underwood. "It was the very first time Modifieds ever raced at our track, and they turned about a 19-second lap, but the tire they brought was way too sticky." By comparison, that's a tick quicker than a NASCAR Late Model. A different tire would make the Modifieds even quicker.
With a good show under their belt, Underwood is optimistic the Modifieds will return in 2008.
Burt Myers discusses feature strategy with his crewchief.
MAKING THE DRIVER
Current Modified star Burt Myers, who is tearing up the track in both the ASA and NASCAR Southern Mod Tours, says, "I don't want to sound boastful, but if you can run up front and win in modified racing, you can drive most anything and win."
Truex, who is one of the hottest drivers on the Nextel Cup circuit, agrees with that stance.
"Look at the guys who run the tour who have been doing it for 15 to 20 years," says the 27-year-old. "They're the best of the best, so if you can go out and beat them, you can probably get in just about anything and run up front and win races."
But why is that?
"When you're racing a Modified at a short track, you've got to be very smart," explains Truex. "Obviously, your wheels are hanging out all the time. If you bump somebody with your right front tire, you're gonna knock out the toe, break the rack or whatever, so it [racing mods] gives you patience, makes you smart, makes you really aware of all the cars around you. You can't afford to bump wheels with them or you'll be wrecked, so it definitely helps you race smart."
A healthy field of Modifieds prepares to go racing at Music City Motorplex in Nashville.
SOUTHERN MOD FUTURE
Even with two sanctions running competing tours, Southern Modified racing seems to be doing well. Car counts remain constant, with at least 20 racers showing up for almost every race so far this year. Driver crossover between the series is healthy.
Four races into the season, ASA Southern Modified Race Tour promoter Randy Myers is optimistic. "Car counts have been a little better than I expected and about what I had hoped for. The first race was a little bit off, the second race at Friendship we had 20 cars, then we had 23 at Hickory, and we had 20 Sunday back at Friendship. The entry list for Franklin County [Speedway in Central Virginia] went over 20 today of people I'm pretty sure are going to be there."
Myers has a keen eye on that Franklin County race as he believes it is a gauge for the true health of Modified racing in the South. "While Hickory and Friendship and all those other places are important, I think Franklin County is pivotal in the success of this season of the ASA Modified tour and southern Modifieds in general," he says.
Reason being is the Franklin County race is the first Modified tour race in 30 years that runs against Bowman Gray, the staple Southern Modified track, on a Saturday night. That's the meat of their season and, to Myers, if the Franklin County race is successful, it proves there's enough of the Modifieds to go around. "I respect what they do at the Stadium, but if the division is going to grow, now is the time to do it," says Myers. "If there are enough cars around to make that happen, Bowman Gray can be successful, and a Modified tour in the South-be it ASA or NASCAR or whoever-can be a viable piece of property."