The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour


By Walter Newcomb

   Hey gang! It has been a while since I’ve had a chance to venture off to a track. Saturday an opportunity was afforded me and I jumped at the chance. I have a few observations from Saturday and I promise; I’ll try to be brief.
   This venture might have seemed spontaneous or impetuous but it was actually carefully planned out by Rick Jarzombek. Rick combined a trip that was necessary for his business with an opportunity to check out some racing. I was just thankful that he thought to include me.
   Bob “Grump” Heagy provided my transportation to the track. Ladies, most of you would not believe how few words might be exchanged during the course of a drive which lasted more than five hours with four men in the vehicle. Five hours of quiet…man heaven. Thanks to Grumpy for sleeping most of the way.
   We have to give a special thank you to Ralph Solhem for putting Rick and I on his guest list. Tim Arre got some good speed out of Ralph’s #0 Modified. Unfortunately, Timmy was forced to retire after some early race difficulties.
   This was my first trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Well, it was the first time I had been there since Speedway Motorsports purchased the former New Hampshire International Speedway venue. I have to say that most of the changes that have been made really improved the Magic Mile. Most of what I noticed, besides the numerous electrified signs, was changes made in the infield.
   Excavation and re-paving has been completed behind the wall from the Center Garage towards the pit exit which yields a regular pit wall for that entire length. I really liked that. We can be hopeful that similar changes are coming to the area from the Center Garage back to the North Garage.
   An emphasis seems to have been made for providing unobstructed travel lanes everywhere in the infield. Although I found myself a little disoriented at times, these changes are clearly for the better. I’m sure that more changes are coming and I’ll get to my suggestion later.
   It was great to see so many folk I hadn’t seen in a long time. Among those, who are way too numerous to mention, were Art & Ken Barry. I hadn’t seen Art that enthusiastic about being at a racetrack in a long time.
   Phil Kurze from Whelen Engineering & the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project and John Morgan, the Dean of American Bobsledding were pretty excited about the announcement they made on Thursday. It was announced that Joey Logano had been signed as the first entrant in the Fifth Annual Lucas Oil Geoff Bodine Bobsled Challenge presented by Whelen Engineering. Pictures of Joey’s bobsled are gorgeous and I can’t wait to share them with everyone on TCH.
   My thoughts of Cup happy hour:
 1) Juan Montoya was fast.
 2) Not many Cup fans felt like getting up early enough to watch Cup practice.
 3) Chad Knaus and Jimmie Johnson are the greatest opossum players in history.
   My thoughts of Truck qualifying:
 1) Watching time trials is like watching a chef try to boil a huge pot of water with butane cigarette lighter.
 2) The #02 truck was sponsored by a “Chillaxation” beverage with a brand name that is a homonym for “coma”. Insert your favorite Reverend Jim Jones joke here.
 3) NASCAR has to work at growing the Truck Series.
   Something that was very positive for the Whelen Modified Tour that came out of this weekend is really only a rumor at this point. The folks at SPEED TV, who broadcast the WMT New Hampshire 100 on a brief tape-delay Saturday, apparently really like airing the Modifieds in combination with the Camping World Truck Series races. This began with the race at Bristol in August.
   Now I’m not one to break stories, nor am I one to carelessly plant rumors. I didn’t hear anything from any official sources either. However, I heard it discussed several times that SPEED might be interested in airing a combination event with the WMT and the CWTS at Richmond in 2010. Will that rumor come to fruition? One can only hope. The Tour belongs there.
   One thing that will keep the Modifieds out of the minds of people who broadcast races on television is excessive caution periods. Eleven caution periods, caused during less that half the compliment of scheduled laps contested under green, isn’t doing to the Tour fans justice, nor does it make the Tour saleable. I’m not throwing any one driver under the bus, too many cautions during televised races has been the recent paradigm that must be broken.
   What has gotten and will continue to get the Modifieds exposure from the races at NHMS is the incredible amount of side-by-side racing and passing that our beloved Tour readily provides. Saturday was no exception. A really big crowd got to enjoy a very good race under weather conditions which were just about perfect.
   Ryan Newman and Bono Manion’s guys put on a show. Steve Park qualified Manion’s Modified on Thursday for Newman. Ryan had NASCAR obligations in New York that kept him away. Consequently Newman started from the rear of the field.
   After an early race tangle, Newman pitted several times under yellow to straighten out the 7ny. His march to the front was strong and seeing the Baldwin livery out front was something I’ll remember for a long time. The team’s run probably peaked a little early but Ryan still brought home a top-ten finish. That in no way diminishes this team’s repair efforts which were stellar.
   Defending Whelen Modified Tour champion Ted Christopher finished seventh and leaves the Magic Mile with a forty-eight point lead over a surging Donny Lia. Lia seemed to be in the eye of the storm through much of the race. Donny’s late-race charge yielded a runner-up finish.
   Ron Silk ran a very smart race. He’s the kind of driver that has the ability to fly under the radar, largely because he tends not to put himself in questionable situations. Usually when he finds himself in a bad spot, he backs out, regroups and gives it another shot.
   Silk drove a second T.S. Haulers Modified, as a teammate to Keith Rocco, for owner Connie Partridge. Ron passed multi-time Loudon winner, Reggie Ruggiero on the final lap for the victory. It was the first New Hampshire win for driver and the team.
   I had a great time at Loudon. I’d like to thank Fred Neergaard, Kristen Costa and the rest of the staff in the Jack Ratta Media Center for their accommodations. This is a PR staff that always seems to be on the top of their game.
   Suggestions for improvement at New Hampshire Motor Speedway: Something must be done to separate vehicle traffic from pedestrian traffic between the infield tunnel and the main exit onto NH 106.
   I only have one suggestion. I believe a large pedestrian bridge or a system of bridges, perhaps with an elevator or two might help alleviate this chronic problem.
   We left the track at a time when there wasn’t a particularly large amount of pedestrian traffic. Despite a fair number of people directing traffic and most of those driving vehicles appearing to progress at a patient crawl, we saw pedestrians who went out of their way to be confrontational with drivers. I can only imagine how bad that must be trying to exit the facility after the conclusion of a Cup race. We’ll put that on our Christmas wish list along with the WMT race at Richmond.

Source: Walt Newcomb / Newk's Notebook
Posted: September 20, 2009


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