The Chrome Horn News


Current Title Chase Not The First Time It Has Come Down To The World Series

   The 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship will come down to the final day of the season this Sunday, Oct. 19 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway as Ted Christopher and Matt Hirschman vie for the first title of their respective careers with just 35 points separating them after 15 races. The following is a look back at a handful of the closest title races in series history.

   1995: Tony Hirschman, 3,022 – Steve Park, 3,019 (three points)

   In the closest points race in the 23-year history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour prior to 2008, Tony Hirschman earned his first series crown by the skin of his teeth. After leaving the World Series on Oct. 15 with a 37-point lead against Steve Park, Hirschman could clinch the title with a placing of seventh or better in the season finale at Thompson on Oct. 29, a rescheduled date from Aug. 6. Park wound up in Victory Lane that day as he led 88 of the 150 laps, but Hirschman finished seventh and eked out the championship. Had Hirschman finished eighth, Park would have come out ahead in the points race by one.

   1989: Mike Stefanik, 3,941 – Reggie Ruggiero, 3,935 (six points)

   The fifth season of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour featured the series’ first nail-biting points chase as Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero duked it out through the course of a 26-race schedule. As they left Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Oct. 29, Stefanik clung to a seven-point lead against Ruggiero with only the World Series at Thompson remaining on the slate, and Tony Hirschman was in the mix at 40 points back. To earn his first title, Stefanik essentially had to finish ahead of Ruggiero in the race while Hirschman had an outside shot if the two leaders significantly faltered. When the checkered flag dropped, Hirschman was the victor, but Stefanik finished fourth and Ruggiero fifth. As a result, the first of seven championship trophies went home with Stefanik.

   1996: Tony Hirschman, 2,919 – Steve Park, 2,907 (12 points)

   As if the drama of 1995 wasn’t enough, Hirschman and Park dueled down-to-the-wire again the following year. After Park and Hirschman finished 1-2 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with four races remaining on the schedule, the pair stood together atop the season standings for the first time since their historic finish the year before. As they headed to Thompson for the World Series, Hirschman held what was a semi-comfortable 65-point lead against Park and needed to finish 15th or better to ensure a second title in a row. In another eerily similar circumstance to the year before, Park once again won the season finale, but Hirschman’s 12th-place finish was enough to take home the trophy.

   2005: Tony Hirschman, 2,749 – Ted Christopher, 2,731 (18 points)

   Unlike his first four, Hirschman’s fifth and final NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship was a come-from-behind effort on the last day of the season. Despite a Hirschman win in the Stafford Fall Final the race prior, Christopher had the upper hand as the series went to Thompson to close out the season. Ahead by 36 points, a finish of seventh or better would clinch Christopher his first crown, regardless of where Hirschman placed. The championship picture took a quick turn early on in the race as Christopher got caught up in an accident which eventually dashed his title hopes. With a 30th-place finish, Christopher gained only 73 points in the race while Hirschman’s 12th place garnered 127 points and his fifth championship in the last 11 years.

   1994: Wayne Anderson, 3,139 – Reggie Ruggiero, 3,119 (20 points)

   With two races remaining in the 1994 campaign, Ruggiero held a 38-point lead against Wayne Anderson in what was coming down to a two-horse race for the title. Ruggiero, who had been the championship runner-up five times previously in his career, had to settle for a 20th-place finish in the Fall Final at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway while Anderson reached Victory Lane. Thus, the points lead flip-flopped with only the World Series at Thompson left to go. With a 39-point lead going into the race, Anderson could clinch his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title with a finish of eighth or better. Jan Leaty took the checkered flag in the season finale and Ruggiero came home third, but Anderson finished seventh and went into the history books as the 1994 champion.

   2008: Ted Christopher, 2,261 vs. Matt Hirschman, 2,226 (35 points entering last race)

   In a strikingly similar scenario to 2005, Christopher will take a 35-point lead (36 in 2005) in the title chase against a Hirschman to the last stop of the season, the Thompson World Series. In 2005 Christopher led all competitors with seven wins and 14 top 10s in 17 starts entering the finale while Tony Hirschman had five wins and 13 top 10s. In 2008 Christopher again paces the field with three wins and 12 top 10s in 15 races compared to Tony’s son Matt’s two victories and 11 top 10s. Like 2005, if Christopher finishes seventh or better this Sunday, he will be assured of his first career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship regardless of where the younger Hirschman places. If he is unable to cross the finish line that high, there are numerous scenarios that would still allow Christopher to earn the crown. Hirschman would have to place 20th or better to have any hope of finishing ahead of Christopher in the final standings.


Source: Jason Christley / NASCAR PR
Posted:  October 16, 2008

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