MODIFIED PROGRAMS SET TO BATTLE FOR TITLE
“Mystic Missile” And “Ole Blue” Vie For 2009 Whelen Modified
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is a racing series steeped in history.
Whether you trace its roots to the beaches of Daytona in 1948, or the paved
banks of Thompson, Conn., in 1985, there is plenty of history and tradition
to go around. The present-day incarnation of that tradition will be on full
display as the Tour heads to Thompson International Speedway to crown the
The World Series of Speedway Racing presented by Xtra Mart - the
finale for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s 25th season - will see two of
the most notable teams in the history of the New England Modified racing
battling for the trophy. Donny Lia, pilot of the No. 4 “Mystic Missile”
Dodge owned by Bob Garbarino, will take a 26-point lead on Ryan Preece,
driver of the No. 3 “Ole Blue” Chevrolet, of the famed Boehler family.
“It’s pretty cool - this being the 25th season [of the Tour] - and
the two longest running teams going for the championship,” Preece said. “It
just goes to show you that experience helps a lot to contend for a
The only two Modifieds that carry a nickname, the Nos. 4 and 3 have
been around longer than any other teams. Garbarino fielded his first “Mystic
Missile” in 1961, nearly a quarter of a century before the present-day
Whelen Modified Tour was founded. “Ole Blue” dates back even further as
legendary car owner and builder Len Boehler founded the team in 1957.
Garbarino’s dedication to NASCAR Modified racing through the decades was
finally paid off in 2007 when Lia delivered the longtime owner his first
championship. The No. 4 has featured a host of notable drivers in the seat
through the years, but the pairing of Lia with the team in 2007 resulted in
the perfect combination to bring home the trophy. Garbarino, who was
recently selected as a 2010 inductee for the New England Auto Racers Hall of
Fame, has only the utmost respect for the No. 3 team.
“We’ve been parking alongside of them for a long, long time, and
anything that’s in my truck they can have, and I think that goes the other
way too,” Garbarino said. “I’m happy for them – I’m glad that they’re in the
running for this whole deal.”
Garbarino reasoned that because the teams have been so close
through the years, it will be tough for one to leave Thompson disappointed.
“I almost wish it was any other car in the pit area [in
championship contention],” Garbarino said. “I consider those guys all good
friends – and this won’t change the friendship at all – but somebody’s going
to win and somebody’s not going to win.”
Now in their sixth decade of Modified competition, Boehler Racing
Enterprises continues to be a stalwart. The cars built by Boehler - a 2004
NEAR Hall of Fame inductee - produced NASCAR Modified national championships
in 1967-69 with Bugs Stevens behind the wheel. “Ole Blue” earned another
three-peat in the mid-1990s as Wayne Anderson (1994) and Tony Hirschman
(1995-96) captured the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titles. And while Len
passed away in 2001, his widow, Jan, and son, Michael, have sustained the
Like Garbarino, BRE President and Manager Michael Boehler has
mutual respect for the competition.
“Bob and his wife Joan are great, great people - they’re first
class,” Boehler said. “They’re always the first ones there to lend a hand if
something goes wrong. They’re positive, encouraging people, and they’ve
given their life to the sport like we have. There’s not many of those
families left that do that, so it’s just great that it’s the “Mystic
Missile” against “Ole Blue” [for the title].”
The significance of the two teams competing for the title is not
lost on the drivers either, even though they are only in the second year
with the respective teams.
Following his win at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on Oct. 4, Lia
acknowledged the history of the two cars that will battle for the 2009
“The 3 car and the 4 car - they’ve been around forever - and are a
big part of Modified history,” Lia said. “So for me, whether I was driving
the car or not, I think it’s pretty cool that those two cars are going for
While Lia is already part of - and will look to add to - the
history of the “Mystic Missile,” the 18-year-old Preece is just in his
second year behind the wheel of “Ole Blue,” and his third year of NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour racing overall.
“I’m really happy that the 3 car is where they are, and that we’re
going for the championship together,” Lia said. “He’s a good kid, and he’s
got a great future ahead of him. Hopefully we can hang on and win it, but if
they do, that’s pretty cool.”
The young Preece is well-versed in Modified history. His
grandfather - Bob Judkins - was a longtime Modified car owner.
Lia can clinch his second Whelen Modified Tour crown by finishing
fifth or better at Thompson, but with Preece just 26 points out, there are a
number of scenarios that will make every lap important in the season finale.
The World Series of Speedway Racing presented by Xtra Mart will
commence with practice and qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour on
Saturday, Oct. 17. The 150-lap race is set to go green on Sunday, Oct. 18 at
approximately 3:30 p.m.
Source: Jason Cunningham