NASCAR's only open wheel division will have some fenderless companions when it returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the Granite State Classic on Saturday, Aug. 13.
The second of three trips for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to the 'Magic Mile' this year will be part of IZOD IndyCar weekend in Loudon. This isn't the first such pairing, however. Each of IndyCar's three previous events in 1996-98 also featured the Whelen Modified Tour on the same bill. Additionally, the Tour also raced in conjunction with the Firestone Indy Lights Series - also on the weekend card - in the last two of its four all-time events at NHMS in 1994-95.
The return of IndyCar to the 1.058-mile oval this year has also meant an additional opportunity for the Whelen Modified Tour at New England's premier racing facility. The Tour has raced in conjunction with NASCAR's national series at NHMS since the track opened, but hasn't had more than two dates since 1999.
Granite State Classic up for grabs: The last three NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have seen Ryan Newman take the checkered flag. While his win on July 16 was disqualified for post-race technical violations, Newman once again proved unbeatable on the track. Since the Granite State Classic doesn't fall on a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend at NHMS this time, Newman will not be in attendance, which opens the things up for the Tour's regulars to slug it out.
Race distance change: The Granite State Classic is scheduled for 95 laps around the 1.058-mile oval for a distance of 100.51 miles. Whelen Modified Tour events have traditionally been 100 laps and the last race scheduled for less than that was Pennzoil/Replacement Auto Parts 50 in 1997. Prior to 1997 it was common for the Tour to have shorter distance races at NHMS, but since that time there have been only two races that have gone less than 100 laps. Both 2007 events were shortened due to time constraints.
Season's second half begins: The Whelen Modified Tour reached the midway point of its 16-race 2011 slate on Aug. 5 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. Of the remaining eight events, just two will be held outside of Connecticut or New Hampshire.
Silk, Pennink not blinking: Just one point separates Ron Silk and Rowan Pennink atop the season standings, the closest the championship race has been all year. Silk has a win and seven top-10 finishes, with his only blemish being an accident in the season opener. Pennink is still looking for his first victory of the year, but has finished in the top 10 in all eight outings. The last time the top two drivers in the standings were separated by a single digit was following the event at Martinsville Speedway on Sept. 27, 2009 when Ted Christopher clung to a one-point lead on Donny Lia.
Home Tracks: Alexander Pulls Ahead
Despite having three less races than his main competition, Kirk Alexander leads the way in the chase for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series New Hampshire state.
In the latest standings posted on Aug. 2, Alexander complied 215 points on the strength of three wins and top 10s in all seven of his starts in the Modified division at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester. Wayne Helliwell Jr. was second in points at 205 with a win and top-10 finishes in each of his 10 Late Model starts at Lee USA Speedway.
Helliwell beat out Alexander to win the 2010 New Hampshire state crown 403-337.
Monadnock, located in Winchester, runs six divisions on Saturday nights throughout the race season. The other Whelen All-American Series track in the Granite State, Lee USA Speedway, contests five divisions on Friday nights.
Last Time Out: Christopher Victorious At Stafford
Ted Christopher continued to add to his legacy at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway with a victory in the Town Fair Tire 150 on Aug. 5.
Christopher passed Mike Stefanik for the lead on Lap 135 and rolled to his 41st career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory and 11th at Stafford. His third win of the 2011 Tour season also added to his record of 113 wins at Stafford across all divisions and series.
Stefanik held on for a season-best second. Bobby Santos, Eric Beers and Eric Goodale's career-best effort brought home the top five.
Up Next: UNOH Perfect Storm 150
The NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours will descend on the 'World's Fastest Half Mile' for the third annual UNOH Perfect Storm 150 combination race at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
Donny Lia was victorious in the inaugural event in 2009 and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series veteran Ryan Newman took the checkered flag a year ago, both representing the northern-based Whelen Modified Tour. George Brunnhoelzl III and James Civali have garnered Whelen Southern Modified Tour wins in the event as the highest finishers from that division.
The Modifieds will once again be joined on the race card at Bristol by the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Aug. 24. The UNOH Perfect Storm 150 is slated to take the green flag at 6 p.m., and will be carried by SPEED.