The NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours will head to Thunder Valley and Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway for the third annual UNOH Perfect Storm 150 combination race on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
The only combination event on the schedule for NASCAR’s two Modified Tours, the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 brings in teams from both sides of the Mason Dixon Line for bragging rights on the grounds of one of the most hallowed racing facilities in the nation.
Donny Lia took the checkered flag in the 2009 inaugural event and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman earned one of his three Modified wins in last year’s return engagement. Thirty-four other drivers will now attempt to add their name to the Bristol wins list in the third edition.
Based on past results, Todd Szegedy and Mike Stefanik head the list of challengers for a trip to Victory Lane this week. Szegedy is the only driver to finish in the top five overall in each of the first two races while Stefanik led two-different times during the last third of last year’s event before he succumbed to Newman’s late charge.
Another driver to watch would be last year’s pole winner Justin Bonsignore, who wound up sixth in the race. Bonsignore earned his first Whelen Modified Tour win at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway on July 30 and was fourth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last time out on Aug. 13.
Bristol will be a stout test for points leaders Ron Silk and Rowan Pennink, who sits 16 tallies out. Silk’s best finish in the two previous events is 15th overall – last year – while Pennink finished seventh in 2009. Both racers suffered a DNF in their other outing at the ‘World’s Fastest Half Mile.’
This year’s UNOH Perfect Storm 150 will also provide another opportunity for a Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver to be the first to the finish line. The best showing so far at Bristol was James Civali’s third-place run last year while George Brunnhoelzl III was the top Southern Tour driver in 2009 at fourth overall. There were five combination races from 2005-09 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, which were also all won by representatives of the northern tour.
Christopher out: The third-winningest driver in Whelen Modified Tour history, and a dominant car in the two previous events at Bristol, Ted Christopher is not expected to participate in this week’s race. Christopher and No. 36 car owner Eddie Whelan – who paired in mid-2006 – parted ways following the last race at New Hampshire. Christopher finished as the inaugural Bristol race’s runner-up and suffered a blown engine last year, but he led a total of 190 laps across the two events, more than all other drivers combined.
Newman slated to return: Defending UNOH Perfect Storm 150 winner Ryan Newman will return to Whelen Modified Tour competition at Bristol. Newman took the checkered flag in the Tour’s event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 16, but was disqualified for post-race technical violations. Newman will be designated a Whelen Modified Tour entry the No. 77 Chevrolet owned by Marcy Putnam, who has fielded a car for two races this season for Gary Putnam in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
TV time: The UNOH Perfect Storm 150 will be the first of two events for the Whelen Modified Tour in 2011 that will be carried live on SPEED. The Bristol broadcast will begin at 6 p.m., preceding the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event. The New Hampshire 100 will also be carried by SPEED on Sept. 24.
The Race: The UNOH Perfect Storm 150 will be the 10th of 16 races for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2011, and the only combination race with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 30 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (79.97 miles).
The Track: Nicknamed ‘The World’s Fastest Half Mile,’ Bristol Motor Speedway is a high-banked concrete oval. The track opened in 1961 as an even half-mile with 22 degrees of banking in the turns. It now features progressive banking between 24 and 30 degrees through the corners and a distance of .533 miles.
Race Winners: Donny Lia was victorious in the first UNOH Perfect Storm 150 in 2009 and Ryan Newman took the checkered flag a year ago.
Pole Winners: Qualifying was rained out for the inaugural event, but Justin Bonsignore took the Coors Light Pole Award in 2010 with a fast lap of 14.835 seconds (129.334 mph).
Home Tracks: Monteith Paces Kingsport Field
The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series returned to the Volunteer State in 2011 with the sanctioning of Kingsport Speedway.
In the latest Tennessee state standings posted on Aug. 16, Nate Monteith has the inside track to gain the track and state title with a 27-point lead on Lee Tissot in the Late Model division at the .375-mile concrete oval.
Kingsport sanctions Late Model, Street Stock and Pure 4 divisions on Friday nights throughout the racing season.
Last Time Out: New Hampshire
Mike Stefanik returned to Victory Lane at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Aug. 13 with a win in the Granite State Classic.
The second of three scheduled events this year in Loudon, N.H., the Granite State Classic saw Stefanik add to his Whelen Modified Tour record for career wins, now at 71. He ended a 21-race drought at NHMS, and nearly a two-year stalemate overall. The victory was Stefanik’s seventh at NHMS, which tied him with Tony Hirschman for the most Whelen Modified Tour wins at the ‘Magic Mile.’
Woody Pitkat had his best career run with a runner-up finish while Todd Szegedy, Justin Bonsignore and Eric Beers brought home the top five.
Up Next: Delaware
The NASCAR Whelen Modified will make its first foray outside of the United States with the inaugural event at Delaware Speedway in Ontario on Sunday, Sept. 4.
Delaware, a half-mile oval located east of Detroit, Mich., and west of Toronto, Ont., will become the 38th facility that the Whelen Modified Tour has raced at since the first year of competition in 1985. The Whelen Modified Tour will become the second of NASCAR’s current touring series to compete internationally. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West has contested races in both Canada and Japan previously.
Delaware is a sanctioned member of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series.