Now is an exciting time to be part of the NASCAR Modified community. There are two tours organized by the stock car sanctioning body, divided up into the North and South. Anticipation runs heavy in garages on both sides of the Mason Dixon line.
Up in New England, the ‘mod squad’ is right in between two traditional and popular springtime weekends. The Icebreaker at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway was staged just two weekends ago. Longtime division car owner Bob Garbarino proudly walked into victory lane following the 150-lap event. His young driver, Bob Santos III, comes from another family with racing roots in the northeast for a few generations.
Santos has won in USAC open wheel racing in the Midwest and came off a driver development program with Bill Davis Racing. Still in his early twenties his future with motorsport’s highest levels is still a strong possibility.
Looming this weekend is the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway, also in the Nutmeg State. The Modifieds will again take center stage, this time for a 200-lap main event.
The Sizzler has a long and rich history but has lost its luster over time. The race was born with an original 80-lap distance and large dollars for the short sprint. Reggie Ruggiero won this format when it was last held in 1987. His prize money was $9600. In 2009 Ted Christopher won the 200 and was awarded a first prize of $9200. That is typical of watching the slow fade from glory NASCAR’s oldest division has endured over the decades.
NASCAR greats Richie Evans, Geoff Bodine, Maynard Troyer, Bugs Stevens and Jerry Cook all called the modified class home.
In the Southland, the local modified racers have become household names over the winter with the airing of “Madhouse” on The History Channel. The series focuses on racing action at Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Racing and non-racing fans around the country have come to know track stars Junior Miller, Tim Brown, Burt Myers, Jason Myers and Chris Fleming.
The Southern Modified Tour began its season in March with some Stadium crossovers in entries. And while Stafford Springs readies for the Sizzler, the Madhouse is preparing for opening night 2010. A 200-lap feature will christen the New Year as it traditionally does.
The fastest cars NASCAR sanctions are getting ready to rush into the untarnished season. After a cold winter of work by teams and waiting by fans the anticipation and optimism are at a high level.
We all have sentimental favorite tracks, cars, or drivers that influenced our auto racing passion. I grew up watching and being a fan of the Modifieds. I honed my mechanical skills on the Modifieds. My favorite type of racecar continues to be the Modifieds. Excuse me while I count down to the weekend.