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   The Chrome Horn - NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour



Brunnhoelzl Steams Along; Burt Myers Bounces Back

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour for the past several seasons has been the playground of George Brunnhoelzl III, but the competition is closing in and aims to knock him from his perch.

Brunnhoelzl won his third straight tour title this year and fourth in five seasons dating back to 2009. The only miss was 2010 when the West Babylon, N.Y., driver competed for the NASCAR Whelen Modified tour championship and raced in just three Southern Tour events. Nineteen of his all-time tour-best 20 career wins have come in those four title seasons.

In 2013, though, Brunnhoelzl recorded just three victories and none after July 6. He collected five or more in his other three championship-winning seasons. Could this be signaling a change? Only time will tell, but it wasnít as if his season was predicated on just those three events. His 11 top-five finishes in 12 starts led the tour, so while the trips to Victory Lane were down a tick, the consistency of running out front was still there.

Top Driver
George Brunnhoelzl III: Other than following a runner-up finish in the season opener, Brunnhoelzl was atop the point standings with a lead as great as 32 markers following the penultimate race of the year and finished with a 31-point advantage over runner-up Kyle Ebersole. Of his 11 top fives, eight were either first or second-place efforts. His only blemish was a 14th-place showing in early August at Bowman Gray Stadium where he battled persistent mechanical problems in his No. 28 Epox-Z/Oval Speed Chevrolet. Not even an offseason switch from Ideal Racing back to his family-owned team slowed the tourís winningest driver.

Kyle Ebersole (Honorable Mention): In just his second season of Southern Modified Tour competition, Ebersole was alongside the four-time champion Brunnhoelzl virtually every step of the way. His eight top-five finishes was the second-highest total on the tour and the Hummelstown, Pa., driver tied Burt Myers for second-best with 10 top 10s. A Lap 174 crash at Bowman Gray, resulting in an 11th-place finish, short-circuited a chance to make up some valuable ground on Brunnhoelzl, who had his own struggles in the event. Aside from just two finishes outside the top 10, the performance of the No. 5 Ebersole Excavating Ford team was as solid as any this season.

Comeback Driver of the Year
Burt Myers: The 2010 Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion missed a total of three races in the 2011 and 2012 seasons due to injury, but the Walnut Cove, N.C., driver stayed on the track this season and registered three wins. That victory total equaled his career-best established in 2005 and eclipsed that of his title-winning 2010 season. With five top-five and 10 top-10 finishes, Myers piloted his No. 1 Citrusafe BBQ Grill Cleaner/Adamís Towing and Recovery Ford to a third-place finish in the final point standings up from 10th in 2012.

Andy Seuss (Honorable Mention): While his improvement in the point standings went only from fifth in 2012 to fourth this season Seuss got to Victory Lane on multiple occasions for the first time since 2011. The Hampstead, N.H., driver has recorded at least one win in each of the last seven tour seasons including a total of nine from 2009-11. Three double-digit finishes in the seasonís first eight outings unraveled any championship hopes this time around, but three victories in the yearís final four events sets the stage for a run at Brunnhoelzl in 2014. The driver of the No. 11 Tammie Davis/Phoenix Pre-Owned Chevroletís average finish of 6.8 and average starting position of 5.0 were below his career marks of 8.4 and 8.3, respectively, coming into the season.

Top Team
Brunnhoelzl Racing: After dusting off their family-owned equipment after a pair of seasons with Ideal Racing, the Brunnhoelzl gang barely missed a beat with a championship season. Considering that their equipment had not spent appreciable time on or at the track since 2009 the feat should be given its proper due. The team confessed to an adjustment period early on, but with three wins and five top fives out of the gate; it surely wasnít noticeable.

Meyers Racing (Honorable Mention): The team fielded by one of the most storied families in the sportís history just keeps rolling along. This season, brothers Ė Jason and Burt Ė combined to add four more wins to the Myers Racing ledger. The two veterans also finished inside the top 10 in points for the eighth consecutive season and have combined for more than 200 career starts and over 160 top-10 finishes since the Southern Tour was established in 2005.

Top Breakthrough Performance
Kyle Ebersole: In a veteran-laden tour victories are hard to get. There just arenít that many to go around after the likes of Brunnhoelzl, Seuss and the Myers brothers gobble theirs up. Ebersole broke the ice on Aug. 31 at Langley Speedway in his 19th tour start. After starting seventh on the grid on the .395-mile Virginia oval, he led the final 15 laps of the race to edge Brunnhoelzl by a scant .181 of a second. He also posted eight top fives this season after recording three in his 2012 rookie season.

Gary Putnam (Honorable Mention): Despite being 43 years of age Putnam has just 31 career starts in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The Connecticut native moved to North Carolina 18 years ago and got his racing start as a crew member in the NASCAR Sprint Cup SeriesTM. As a 40-year-old rookie driver, Putnam collected just one top-10 finish in six starts. In 2013, the Concord, N.C., resident drove his No. 77 Stock Car Steel Chevrolet to nine top 10s in 11 outings including a career-best finish of fifth at Caraway Speedway in July.

Top Races
Charles Kepley Memorial 150, Caraway Speedway, March 16: The 2013 season opener seemed to be in the hands of pole sitter Tim Brown after fending off an early challenge from then eight-time Caraway winner Brunnhoelzl, but the veteranís No. 02 Hayes Jewelers/T&C Motorsports Chevrolet ran out of fuel with just six laps remaining. The subsequent caution set up a green-white-checkered finish in which Jason Myers was able to get the best of Brunnhoelzl to earn his third-career tour win.

Spring Fling 150, Caraway Speedway, April 20: Just as in the opener Brown seemed to be in command after leading every lap and into another green-white-checkered scenario. This time, Brown had enough gas in the tank to make it to the end, but a little contact from Brunnhoelzl on the white-flag lap sent Brown up the track and Brunnhoelzl to Victory Lane.

UNOH Southern Slam 150, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Oct. 10: On one of the Southern Tourís biggest stages, eventual NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece was en route to his second southern win of the season before the engine on his machine soured. Reminiscent of his thrilling Charlotte win in 2010 to claim the season title, Burt Myers was right there to capitalize on Preeceís misfortune to snatch his third win of the season.

  Source: Jason Christley / NASCAR
Posted: December 21, 2013

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