For the third consecutive year, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will make its way to the Volunteer State for the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday, Aug. 24.
However, this year will be a little different for the southern modified competitors. They will finish at Bristol and less than 48 hours later will take the green flag for the Caraway 150 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C on Friday, Aug. 26 at 8 p.m.
While it may seem unusual to schedule two races in two different states in two days, it is not the first time it has been done in the series.
In 2005, the southern modified division competed in a combination event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway and two days later contested in a pair of 100-lap races at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, N.C. Once again in 2007, the division raced at Martinsville and returned to Ace for a race two days later.
While it will be a challenge, drivers are ready and hoping for a little good luck.
“It will be a challenge for sure,” said defending tour champion Burt Myers. “You have to set your car up totally differently for Bristol with the suspension and changes that you need to make to the car because Bristol is our Daytona so to speak.”
Myers is the only driver to earn a top-five finish among his fellow Whelen Southern Modified Tour competitors in each of the first two combo races at Bristol, both times in second place.
While he is out of the championship picture after missing a pair of races in the spring due to suffering cracked ribs and a punctured lung in a non-NASCAR event at Ace Speedway, the driver of the No. 1 Capital Bank/Patterson Brand Hot Dog Chili Ford still has a lot to race for this season.
“We are still in the hunt for the car owner’s title and I want to add a Bristol to our list of tracks we have won at on the tour,” Myers added. “We have been close and will give it everything we have this week. We also run well at Caraway and we could really get back in the hunt with a good week.”
Another driver looking to have a good week at Bristol is 2009 champion George Brunnhoelzl III. Brunnhoelzl enters this week’s races in his No. 09 Phoenix Pre-owned/Triad Auto Sales Chevrolet with a 131-point lead (1,045-914) over John Smith in the season standings, but he knows anything can happen in Bristol.
“We were fortunate enough to come away credited with a win at Bristol in 2009, but last year we didn’t run so well there,” Brunnhoelzl said. “I probably over-engineered the car last year and I don’t want to do that again this time.”
Brunnhoelzl finished fourth in the inaugural event which gave him a win as the highest finishing southern modified regular. The victory helped propel Brunnhoelzl to his first tour title later that year.
The West Babylon, N.Y., native knows two races in a week can be a good or bad thing for him points wise. Any bad luck for him and it gives his competitors an opportunity to cut into his lead in a short amount of time.
“We have a lead now, but there is a lot of racing remaining on our schedule and anything can happen at Bristol, so we want to go up there and qualify well and run for the win,” Brunnhoelzl added.
While Brunnhoelzl enters with the lead, the hottest competitor on the tour right now has to be the driver of the No. 36 Speedco/Lucas Oil Chevrolet – L.W. Miller.
Miller is coming off of back-to-back wins at Caraway and Bowman Gray, respectively. Miller wants to be the first driver on the tour since Brian Loftin during his 2008 championship season to win three races in a row.
“I feel real good where we are as a team right now,” Miller said after winning at Bowman Gray two weeks ago. “Tony [Templeton] and Danny [Baker] and all the guys at Baker Motorsports have given me a great car to drive all year and I hope we can keep this hot streak going for our team.”
Miller wants to be the first to take home the trophy from Bristol.
“You have to keep your eyes on the big picture [points] but I want to take home the trophy from Bristol and keep our winning streak alive,” Miller said. “It is going to take a little luck and a good car, which I know we have.”
Another driver looking forward to Bristol is Corey LaJoie. LaJoie, who won in his first start on the southern tour in 2010 at the season opener at Atlanta Motor Speedway, will make his third start this Wednesday and is excited about racing at Bristol.
“We have a chance to go race at Bristol and anytime you can do that it is something to look forward to as a driver,” LaJoie said. “We have a good car and I am going up there to try and get another win.”
Caraway will host the tour for the 36th time which is the most of any track on the schedule, so the silver lining of the challenging schedule is that almost all of the competitors have enough experience on the track that getting the car ready for Caraway will be easier than getting ready for a new track on the schedule.
“We have a ton of notes on Caraway and everyone pretty much knows what you need to do to the car for Caraway,” added Brunnhoelzl. “We just need to leave Bristol with our car in one piece.”
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
Here is a quick ‘By the Numbers’ look at Bristol Motor Speedway.
.322 – In seconds, the closest margin of victory at Bristol Motor Speedway after Ryan Newman edged Mike Stefanik last year for the win at Bristol.
5 – The number of southern division drivers who have been credited with top-10 finishes in each of the first two races. (Burt Myers, Jason Myers, Andy Seuss, Frank Fleming, and John Smith)
10 – The number of NWSMT regulars who have started in both the 2009 & 2010 versions of the UNOH Perfect Storm 150 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
190 – Number of laps led by NWMT competitor Ted Christopher in the first two races combined (110 in 2009 & 80 in 2010).
20 – Fewest laps led by a race winner of the race (Ryan Newman in 2010).
5 – The number of drivers who have led races in the first two races.
3 – Fewest number of cautions in the UNOH Perfect Storm 150.
First time competitors: Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Austin Pack and Jonny Kievman are expected to make their first start at Bristol in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
School’s In: Corey LaJoie, a regular competitor on the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and a member of the ‘NASCAR Next 9’, was part of a pre-race tour of schools in the Bristol area last week meeting with students and local media.
The Race: The UNOH Perfect Storm will be the seventh of 14 races for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2011, and the only combination event with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
The Procedure: The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 30 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (79.95 miles).
The Track: The first NASCAR race at Bristol Motor Speedway was held on July 30, 1961 and the inaugural event for NASCAR’s modified tours was held on Aug. 19, 2009.
Race Winners: There have been two different race winners at Bristol after being the highest finishers from the southern division. Brunnhoelzl was credited with the win in 2009 and James Civali picked up the win last year.
Here is a quick ‘By the Numbers’ look at Caraway Speedway.
.160 – In seconds, the closest margin of victory at Caraway since the first tour race held at the track. On Oct. 24, 2009, in a race Brunnhoelzl only had to start to clinch the championship, he held off John Smith in an exciting final lap dash to the finish line.
8 – The number of top-five finishes at Caraway in the past eight starts for Brunnhoelzl since July 3, 2009.
2– The number of drivers, (L.W. Miller and Loftin) who won races at the track during a nine-race stretch between March 24, 2007 and August 22, 2008.
19 – How many top-five finishes Loftin has at Caraway to lead all drivers on the tour. Of the 19 top-five showings, seven of them resulted in Loftin taking home the checkered flag.
5 – The record for consecutive wins at Caraway. L.W. Miller accomplished this from Sept. 23, 2006, to Sept. 8, 2007.
3 – The number of wire-to-wire wins at Caraway. Seuss led every lap twice in 2010 (March 14, Aug. 28) and Junior Miller dominated on June 30, 2006.
Familiar sight: This will be the 36th NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Caraway, which is considered the home track for the tour.
Welcome back: Thomas Stinson is expected to return to the action on the tour after suffering motor problems that kept him out of the race at Bowman Gray and will also have him sidelined for Bristol. Stinson could make his return special by scoring his first win after finishing third and second, respectively, in his last two starts at Caraway.
Welcome back: Daniel Hemric returns to the tour at Caraway for the first time since last October. Hemric finished fifth in the season finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway and has two previous starts on the tour.
The Race: The Caraway 150 will be the fourth of six races at Caraway Speedway for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2011.
The Procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 24 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (68.25 miles).
The Track: Built in 1966, initially with a dirt surface, Caraway was later paved and configured to its current size of .455-miles in length. The track has been owned and operated by Russell & Valastra Hackett and their family since 1977, however this season, Russell’s son Darren and his wife Renee have take over day-to-day operations.
Race Winners: There have been nine different race winners at Caraway, led by Brian Loftin’s seven victories. Andy Seuss is the defending winner of the Caraway 150. Seuss led all 150 laps last season and it was his most recent win on the tour.
Pole Winners: There have been seven different pole winners at Caraway, led by Burt Myer’s 13.
The Records: Qualifying: George Brunnhoelzl III, April 11, 2009, 103.987 mph, 15.752 sec.; Race: Junior Miller, Sept. 9, 2006, 90.977 mph, 44 minutes 31 seconds.
Home Tracks: Consistency Pays For Brinkley
Although he has yet to win a feature race this season in the Late Model Stock division at Caraway Speedway, Brad Brinkley has proven you can still contend for a track title. Brinkley, who has 13 top-10 finishes in 16 starts going into last weekend at the track, leads the division.
Caraway’s other division leaders include: Junior Kendrick (Limited Late Model), Andrew Sanders (Mini Stock), and Ray Chriscoe (Super Mini Stock).
Last Time Out: Miller Scores Another Win
L.W. Miller won his second NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race in a row when he won the Strutmasters.com 199 at Bowman Gray Stadium earlier this month.
Miller took the lead from pole winner George Brunnhoelzl III on Lap 97 after the duo made contact in Turn 3, and held off a hard charge from Burt Myers for his record 13th career tour victory. He also became the first driver in the seven-year history of the event to win back-to-back races at Bowman Gray.
Miller also drove the No. 36 Speedco/Lucas Oil Chevrolet to victory in the previous race at Caraway Speedway on July 1 in Asheboro, N.C.
Myers, who was spun out on Lap 54 and blended in eighth, was able to work his way back up through the field to supply plenty of pressure on Miller down the stretch. A two-time winner of the Strutmasters.com 199 himself, Myers had to settle for a second-place finish.
Brunnhoelzl crossed the line third, followed by Jason Myers and Randy Butner. Mike Norman, Greg Butcher, Andy Seuss, Tim Brown and Derrick Hill - making his tour debut - brought home the top 10.
Up Next: Newport News Shipbuilding 150
The next event for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will be the Newport News Shipbuilding 150 at Langley (Va.) Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 3. This will be the second consecutive year the Southern Modified Tour will visit the speedway located on the east coast of Virginia. Tim Brown won last year’s race in the return of NASCAR Touring events at the historic track.