(The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was previously named NASCAR Winston Modified Tour and NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series)
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (WMT) is a stock car racing series owned and operated by NASCAR in the Modified division. The Modified division is NASCAR's oldest division, and its only open-wheeled division. All 2006 Whelen Modified Tour events are in the Northeastern USA, but the 2007 Tour will race in the Midwest with a race in Mansfield, Ohio. The Whelen Southern Modified Tour, established in 2005, races in the Southeastern United States. The two tours race primarily on short oval paved tracks, but the WMT also has made appearances at larger ovals and road courses. The two tours have a combined race in Virginia.
It is rumoured that with the demise of the Elite division, NASCAR may feature Modifieds with the Grand National Division in the Toyota All-Star Showdown in the fall of 2007.
As part of NASCAR's plan to cut costs and unify rules among different tours in the same division, the two Whelen Modified Tour divisions use identical rules.
Whelen Modified Tour cars are substantially different from their Sprint Cup counterparts. Today's cars are based on tubular chassis built by fabricators such as Troyer Engineering, Chassis Dynamics, Spafco, and Raceworks. Bodies are partial versions of passenger cars, largely fabricated from sheetmetal, with the front wheels and much of the front suspension exposed. A NASCAR Modified is eleven inches shorter in height and over twenty-three inches wider than a Cup car. By rule, Tour-type Modifieds weigh at least 2610 pounds (with additional weight for engines 358 cubic inches and larger) and have a wheelbase of 107 inches. They are powered by small-block V-8 engines, usually of 355 to 368 cubic inches displacement, although larger or smaller engines can be used. Engine components are largely similar to those used in the Sprint Cup Series, but Whelen Modified Tour engines use a small four-barrel carburetor (rated at 390 cubic feet per minute, about half the airflow of previous Modified carburetors), which limits their output to 550 to 650 horsepower. On large tracks such as New Hampshire International Speedway, the engines must have a restrictor plate between the carburetor and intake manifold, reducing engine power and car speed for safety reasons. Approved body styles for 2006 include the Chevrolet Cavalier and Monte Carlo, the Dodge Avenger and Stealth, the Ford Mustang and Escort, the Plymouth Laser and Sundance, and the Pontiac Sunbird, J2000, and Grand Prix. 
History of the NASCAR Modified divisionEdit
The NASCAR Modified division was formed as part of NASCAR's creation in December 1947. NASCAR held a Modified race as its first sanctioned event on February 15, 1948, on the beach course at Daytona Beach, Florida. Red Byron won the event and 11 more races that year, and won the first NASCAR Modified Championship.  (The Strictly Stock division, which evolved into today's premier series Sprint Cup, did not race until 1949.) Post-World War II Modifieds were a form of "stock car" (contrasted against purpose-built AAA Championship Cars, Sprints, and Midgets) which allowed some modification, typically substitution of stronger truck parts. Most cars were pre-WWII coupes and coaches. This pattern continued through the 1960s, with aftermarket performance parts and later-model chassis (such as the 1955-57 Chevrolet's frame) becoming more common. The Modifieds became known for technical innovation, both in homebuilt parts and in adapting components from other types of vehicle. By 1970, many Modifieds featured big-block engines, fuel injection, eighteen-inch-wide rear tires, radically offset engine location, and other technology that made them faster on short tracks than any full-bodied race cars including Grand National cars.
The predecessor to the Whelen Modified Tour was NASCAR's National Modified Championship, which was determined by total points from weekly NASCAR-sanctioned races as well as a schedule of National Championship races. Parts of the northeastern and southeastern USA were hotbeds of Modified racing in the 1950s and 1960s; some racers competed five nights per week or more. Often the same car was raced on both dirt and paved tracks, changing only tires and perhaps springs and shock absorbers. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the technology of dirt and pavement Modifieds diverged to make them separate types of race car. NASCAR was no longer sanctioning dirt tracks which held modified races, so the NASCAR Modified rules became the standard for asphalt Modifieds. (Starting in the early 1970s, Northeastern USA dirt Modified racetracks began to join the DIRT organization founded by Glenn Donnelly.) Most unsanctioned tracks used similar Modified rules to NASCAR's, or specified the same cars with cost-limiting rules such as smaller engines or narrow tires.
In the 1980s, it became prohibitively expensive for Modified teams to tow long distances to sixty or more races per year, including Watkins Glen International and Daytona International Speedway, Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC, North Wilkesboro Speedway, and Martinsville Speedway, with the North Wilkesboro races part of the Cup weekend.
Richie Evans ran 66 NASCAR Modified features (and several unsanctioned events such as the Race of Champions) in 1984, the final year of the old system. To enable more than a few teams to contend seriously for the championship, it was decided to reformat the Modified division's championship to a limited schedule of races not conflicting with one another. This change mirrored similar format changes to the Grand National (now Sprint Cup) division starting in 1972 and the Late Model Sportsman (now Nationwide Series) division starting in 1982.
Richie Evans' 1985 death at Martinsville, along with other asphalt Modified fatalities such as Charlie Jarzombek (in 1987), Corky Cookman (1987), Tommy Druar (1989), Don Pratt (1989), and Tony Jankowiak (1990), led to questions about car rigidity with Tour Modifieds, and safety changes. In particular, straight frame rails were phased out, with new chassis required to have a step which could bend in hard impacts rather than passing the force to the driver.
History of the Modified TourEdit
The modern-day Modified Tour was first held in 1985 with 29 races, named the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour. It switched sponsorship to the Featherlite Trailers brand in 1994, and was renamed to the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series.
Two major changes to the Modified Tour came in 2005.
In 2005, Whelen Industries took over sponsorship of the series, which was renamed to the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
Beginning in 2005 NASCAR sanctions a new modified division in the southeastern United States known as the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The two tours agreed to run a combined race at Martinsville Speedway.
Richie Evans, who holds the record for the most NASCAR championships with nine NASCAR Modified championships, won his last championship posthumously in 1985, the first year of the Winston Modified Tour. Driving cars built and maintained in his own shop for owner B.R. DeWitt, Evans won 12 of his 28 starts on the Tour, including five consecutive victories at five tracks in July and August. Billy Nacewicz was the team's crew chief. Other strong contenders on the Tour included George Kent, Jimmy Spencer, Brian Ross, Reggie Ruggiero, Brett Bodine, Charlie Jarzombek, Jeff Fuller, George Brunnhoelzl, Doug Heveron, Jamie Tomaino, John Rosati, Corky Cookman, Greg Sacks, Mike McLaughlin, Mike Stefanik,Ray Evernham, and Bugs Stevens. Many other top racers focused on their local tracks but ran limited Tour schedules. In October, the season ended in tragedy when Evans was killed in an accident while practicing for the final race of the Tour season, the Winn-Dixie 500 at Martinsville Speedway. He had already clinched the title; Mike McLaughlin, driving for Len Boehler, finished second in the point standings.
The series has been a minor league with a strong and loyal regional following. Most national media attention has appeared in racing-centered publications (magazines such as Stock Car Racing Magazine or Speedway Illustrated, or newspapers such as National Speed Sport News or Speedway Scene) rather than general mass media.
Nobody who was then driving full-time in Sprint Cup has competed in Whelen Modified Tour events except occasional one-time appearances. However, Geoff Bodine, Brett Bodine, and Jimmy Spencer went on from WMT competition to become race winners at the Cup level. Other WMT veterans such as Mike McLaughlin, Steve Park, and Jeff Fuller have advanced to become race winners and championship contenders in the Nationwide Series, the top minor league under Sprint Cup. Sprint Cup crew chiefs that started in WMT include Tommy Baldwin Jr. and Greg Zipadelli.
In recent years, small numbers of races in the Whelen Modified Tour have aired on network television, with none appearing on prime-time television.
Traditionally, there are two weekends when the Modifieds run as part of the undercard for the Sprint Cup: i.e., the July and September races at New Hampshire International Speedway. In the past, Modifieds ran with the Cup cars at Martinsville, and the old SMART tour (which today would be the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour) at North Wilkesboro with Cup cars. Typically, a name driver is recruited to participate in the race to pique the interest of casual fans. For example, Sprint Cup driver Carl Edwards and 2005 Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart raced in the July 2006 race.
Whelen Modified Tour championsEdit
Click here for a list of all champions including 1948-84 National Modified Champions.
|2009||Donny Lia||Mystic Missile Racing||4||#4||Dodge||Mystic Missile||Troyer|
|2008||Ted Christopher||Eddie Whelan||4||#36||Chevrolet||Al-Lee Installations||Troyer|
|2007||Donny Lia||Mystic Missile Racing||6||#4||Dodge||Mystic River Marina||Troyer|
|2006||Mike Stefanik||Eric Sanderson/Flamingo Motorsports||1||#16||Pontiac||Diversified Metals||Troyer|
|2005||Tony Hirschman, Jr.||Bob and Tom Kehley||5||#48||Chevrolet||Kamco Supply||Troyer|
|2004||Tony Hirschman, Jr.||Bob and Tom Kehley||4||#48||Chevrolet||Kamco Supply||Troyer|
|2003||Todd Szegedy||Don Barker||4||#50||Ford||Haynes Materials||Chassis Dynamics|
|2002||Mike Stefanik||Art Barry||2||#21||Chevrolet||Lombardi's Inside-Out||Stefco|
|2001||Mike Stefanik||Art Barry||3||#21||Chevrolet||New England Egg||Stefco|
|2000||Jerry Marquis||Mario Fiore||5||#44||Pontiac||Teddy Bear Pools||Troyer|
|1999||Tony Hirschman, Jr.||Gary Cretty||6||#25||Dodge||ATC||Stefanik|
|1998||Mike Stefanik||Peter Beal/Charlie Bacon||13||#x6||Chevrolet||Burnham Boilers||Stefanik|
|1997||Mike Stefanik||Peter Beal/Charlie Bacon||10||#x6||Chevrolet||Burnham Boilers||Stefanik|
|1996||Tony Hirschman, Jr.||Lenny Boehler/BRE Racing||#3||Chevrolet||BRE Racing||BRE|
|1995||Tony Hirschman, Jr.||Lenny Boehler/BRE Racing||1||#3||Chevrolet||BRE Racing||BRE|
|1994||Wayne Anderson||Lenny Boehler/BRE Racing||#3||Chevrolet||BRE Racing||BRE|
|1993||Rick Fuller||Curt Chase Racing||2||#77||Pontiac||Polar Beverages||Spafco|
|1992||Jeff Fuller||Sheba Racing||#8||Chevrolet||Sunoco Race Fuels||Troyer|
|1991||Mike Stefanik||Jack Koszela||#15||Pontiac||Auto Palace / ADAP||Stefanik|
|1990||Jamie Tomaino||Danny Ust||#U2||Pontiac||Troyer|
|1989||Mike Stefanik||Jack Koszela||7||#15||Chevrolet||Koszela Speed||Stefanik|
|1988||Mike McLaughlin||Sherwood Racing Team||5||#12||Chevrolet||Sherri-Cup||RaceWorks|
|1987||Jimmy Spencer||Frank Cicci Racing||6||#24||Oldsmobile||Apple House Trucking / Quick Stop Beverage||Troyer|
|1986||Jimmy Spencer||Frank Cicci Racing||4||#24||Oldsmobile||Apple House Trucking / Quick Stop Beverage||Troyer|
|1985||Richie Evans||B.R.DeWitt||12||#61||Chevrolet||DeWitt Construction||Evans|
Whelen Modified Tour Rookie of the Year award winnersEdit
|2006||James W. Civali|
Whelen Modified Tour Most Popular Driver award winnersEdit
|2006||Tony Hirschman Jr.|
|2005||Tony Hirschman Jr.|
|2002||Ed Flemke Jr.|
Pre-Tour NASCAR Modified Most Popular Driver award winnersEdit
NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10 driversEdit
The following drivers were named to the NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10 list in 2003 :
- 1) Richie Evans - Evans won nine Modified titles between 1973 and 1985, a championship total that is unmatched in all of NASCAR, 52 wins in 84 NASCAR and unsanctioned events in 1979
- 2) Mike Stefanik - 7 WMT and 2 Busch North championships
- 3) Jerry Cook - 6 NASCAR National Modified Championships in the 1970s, helped direct the series' changes as series director in 1985
- 4) Ray Hendrick - "Mr. Modified" raced "anything, anywhere" in the 1950s to 1970s
- 5) Geoff Bodine - in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning 55 Modified races in 1978
- 6) Tony Hirschman, Jr. - has won 5 WMT championships
- 7) Bugs Stevens - won three consecutive NASCAR National Modified Championships in 1967-69
- 8) Fred DeSarro - 1970 NASCAR National Modified Champion
- 9) Jimmy Spencer - 1986 and 1987 WMT champion
- 10) Reggie Ruggiero - the "best driver to never win a championship", his 44 victories rank him second to Stefanik since the modern era began in 1985
Whelen Modified TourEdit
- 4/11/2010: Icebreaker 2010, Thompson International Speedway, Thompson, CT
- 4/25/2010: Tech-Net Spring Sizzler pres. by CARQUEST, Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, CT
- 5/28/2010: TSI Harley-Davidson 125, Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, CT
- 6/6/2010: Made In America Whelen 200, Martinsville Speedway, Martinsville, VA
- 6/26/2010: New England 100, New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, NH
- 7/3/2010: NWMT Lime Rock, Lime Rock Park, Lime Rock, CT
- 7/17/2010: NWMT Monadnock, Monadnock Speedway, Winchester, NH
- 7/31/2010: NWMT Riverhead, Riverhead Raceway, Riverhead, NY
- 8/6/2010: Town Fair Tire 150, Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, CT
- 8/12/2010: Budweiser 150, Thompson International Speedway, Thompson, CT
- 8/18/2010: UNOH Perfect Storm 150, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, TN
- 9/18/2010: New Hampshire 100, New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, NH
- 10/3/2010: CARQUEST Fall Final, Stafford Motor Speedway, Stafford Springs, CT
- 10/17/2010: World Series of Speedway Racing, Thompson International Speedway, Thompson, CT
Notes and referencesEdit
- ↑ 2006 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Media Guide. NASCAR, Daytona Beach, Florida, USA.
- ↑ www.livinglegendsofautoracing.com/drivers_pages/drivers_red_by.html
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 "Through the Years at Shangri-La: The Final Chapter". Monnat, Michael E. Gater Racing News, Volume # Issue #, August 26, 2005.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Bourcier, Bones. RICHIE!: The Fast Life and Times of NASCAR's Greatest Modified Driver (1st ed., 2004). Newburyport, Massachusetts, USA: Coastal 181. ISBN 0-9709854-6-0