The Chrome Horn News


by Walt Stubbs

    The one thing I have learned in covering auto racing is that you can not please everybody, be it the drivers, owners, track operators, fans, or even us media members. It just can't happen, no matter how hard you try or not try. Thus, it was with a sense of curiousness that I headed up I-95 to attend this year's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour banquet to not only celebrate the past year, culminating with Mike Stefanik celebrating his record tying ninth NASCAR Championship and seventh in a modified, but to see and hear what some of the drivers, owners, track operators, fans and even media members felt about the just recently released 2007 schedule. When I initially saw the schedule on Thursday afternoon heading up to New Hampshire with Howie and Mary Hodge, I figured more than a few drivers would have some issues with the "Flash" events that were added. News flash; a Flash event is either an event featuring twin 50 lap qualifying races followed by a 50 lap feature or an event featuring twin 60 lap qualifying races followed by a 70 lap feature race. The "Flash" events with the 50 lap format are at Wall Township Speedway on Sunday May 6th and at Twin State Speedway (the old Claremont Speedway) on Sunday July 8th. The 70 lap feature is to be run at Riverhead on Saturday August 4th. And as I said, you can't please everybody. However, more than a few drivers were taking a wait and see approach. Jamie Tomaino, who has raced more Tour races than anyone, is a former Champion of the Tour and who was honored on Saturday Evening with the Dedication award along with his wife Cheryl, was diplomatic. I think NASCAR had to try something to get some of these tracks to sign up, said Tomaino. I spoke to a few of the people in NASCAR and I think they are looking at is as an experimentation, with nothing set in stone. They're obviously a few issues that need to be worked out and I hope they have most of them resolved by the time we get to Wall. Who would have thought that Wall, of all places, will be the place where this first takes place?
    My thoughts exactly. A month ago who would have thought Wall would have even been on the schedule, let alone the first race for this 'Flash' format to be tested at? Some of the teams had some interesting points regarding the heat races for qualifying. Some wondered, since you allegedly will be using the same tires in the heats as the feature, what would happen if Mike Stefanik or someone else high in points decided to just pull in during his heat race and use a provisional so he could save 50 laps of wear and tear on his tires? Then what? Some also posed what would happen if one of the top point runners wrecked in the heat and his car couldn't be fixed in time for the feature. Could he use a back up car? What if he didn't have a back up car? All of these are legitimate questions that need to be addressed before the season kicks off on April 15th at the Icebreaker at Thompson. Ed Flemke, who finished second in points to Stefanik, probably summed up the kinks that need to be worked out this way, I'm going to be as optimistic as I can. I'm going to sum it up this way. In order for us to be successful we need to keep the teams, track operators, NASCAR, sponsors, and the fans happy. We have a four prong investment. If these races are good for all four entities, I'm all for it. If it's good for one or two, then I'm not for it. It's that simple. I think we need to do some things to bring us to a new place or level but if it doesn't help all four, then it isn't going to work. As a die hard modified fan, we need to shake things up. Racing in general needs to be shaken up. Look at the Nextel Cup. You want to talk about a sleeping pill solution. That Series is too long, and more importantly, too expected. Even our race at Loudon, that is usually a great race, but it can even be better if shaken up. Why is every race there 100 laps? Why not 125 lap or 75 lapper so you don't know what's always going to happen. So if we need to do these heat races, then I'm all for it because if standing on your head spitting nickels brings people in the stands and puts money in the pockets of the tracks, car owners, and drivers and the fans get a good race, then I'm for it. However, if it stinks for two or three of us, then I'm not for it.
    Needless to say, NASCAR will hopefully be listening to all of those people who have a vested interest in the Tour and come up with the best way to go forward. One issue of note that really wasn't touched on has to do with the potential All Star race scheduled for October 19-20. Rumor had it that the race would be held in Irwindale, California but no sight was given on the schedule. If it is California, some people are concerned with the date, which is just one week later than the final race at Thompson on October 14th. It's a lot to ask for team to leave Connecticut on Sunday and be in California five days later. Why not have the race scheduled for October 26th? Or if Irwindale has another event scheduled for that date, why not at another track? Also, a reasonable expense allowance by NASCAR would be nice to help the teams in there travel efforts.
    NASCAR and the Mohegan Sun did put on a nice event, as always for the teams at this year's banquet. A lot of people remarked how cool it was to see banners hanging of every modified champion hanging with the American Flag on the wall. A classy speech was given by Stefanik, who got choked up when mentioning his mentor and the man he is tied with for most NASCAR championships, Richie Evans. I'm sure Stefanik will be shooting for one more for the second thumb next year. Also, it was also good to see his car owner, Eric Sanderson, get his first championship as well as Chris Kopec, who handed over the seat to Stefanik. It will be interesting to see how Stefanik does in Lake Placid New York in a few weeks when instead of taking on Thompson or Stafford, he will be taking on the bobsled run in a vehicle with no wheels.
    Earlier in the week, I was fortunate enough to get up to New Hampshire for there banquet/Christmas party to honor there champions Mike Olsen from the Busch East and John Blewett III in the mods. Unfortunately, Blewett got delayed in trying to fly from Florida up to New Hampshire and was a last minute scratch. His friend and sponsor, Bob McHugh was on hand to accept on Blewett's behalf. By the way, both modified races at New Hampshire are scheduled for Saturdays in 2007. The first is June 30th while the fall race is set for September 15th. As I always preach, if you want to watch real racing, head to Loudon and watch the modifieds. Well, that'll do it for this week. Hope everyone has a healthy and joyous Holiday Season. And, in ending, we wondered whatever happened to Jeff Spraker? And This Week's Quote of The Week comes from Jamie Tomaino, on the Flash Schedule, 'Who knows, the Flash Schedule could be gone in a flash.' All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030


Source: Walt Stubbs/
Posted:  December 20, 2006

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