RING: There’s Nothing ‘Modified’ About Modifieds Anymore!

Thom Ring Asphalt Modifieds, Staff Columns, Thom Ring Blog 3 Comments

Les Hinckley (00), Doug Coby (2) and Matt Swanson battle during NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour practice at Myrtle Beach Speedway in March. (Jacob Seelman photo)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — “Modify: verb; from the Latin ‘to limit,’ to change partially in character, form, etc.”

That’s the definition found in Webster’s New World Dictionary for the term modify; or it its past tense, modified.

Read it again: “To change partially in character or form.”

Modifieds, of course, comprise the oldest division in NASCAR and are arguably the most popular race cars in the Northeast. Divisions around the country have been created that feature mods in various guises and forms as built for pavement or dirt.

Yet I look at that definition and see nothing modified about modifieds. They are thoroughbred race cars, as specialized and custom-engineered as any Formula 1 machine.

But I’m not here to complain. (Really, Thom? What’s changed?) I like mods as much as anyone. Indeed, some of my favorite memories have been of watching the modified race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on a NASCAR “Sponsor-Paid-Us-Millions Cup” race weekend outshine by 100 miles the action witnessed on Sunday.

And oh, by the way, that’s with the mods running restrictor-plates so they don’t embarrass the Cup guys even more.

But when I explore the origins of the modified — when I visit a place like Rhode Island’s Pro Nyne Museum and see the crude-but-effective devices built by guys like Lenny Boehler and Sonny Koszela with the likes of ‘58 Chevy chasssis and Ford rears — I wonder if a modified still could be … well, you know, modified.

Sure, it’d be tough. Rear-wheel drive continues to be the choice to push a race car around the track at maximum velocity. It’s now archaic on the street. Unibodies spell disaster, not only for the car builder but for any hope of tough and tight racing. High-revving four-cylinder motors don’t inspire drives on the outer cushion.

So finding a frame you can build a car up from, as well as a V8 powerplant and an actual driven rear end, is a task more daunting than finding an honest man.

Yet I wouldn’t have thought it would be impossible. There are pickups equipped both with ladder-frames and V8 motors. They’re rear-wheel drive, too. If you’ve seen Seekonk Speedway’s Sport Truck division, you’ve seen compact Chevy S10s with V8s installed. They might make a good starting point.

And bodies? There are tons that could be fitted that would look as sharp as any mid-thirties Chevy coupe.

Now, I’m not talking about cobbling such a contraption together to go race on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. What I had in mind was a new division at some weekly racetrack. It would be entry-level, both because of price and because they would be an obvious step down from regular mods, late models and even some streeters.

This division would allow some folks to get into racing without spending a ton, and more importantly, might teach some people not only that race cars are built as opposed to ordered, but how they’re built.

I pictured a bunch of funky mods with crate V8s and cut down sheet-metal from Ford Fiestas and Toyota Corollas.

Continued on the next page…

Comments 3

  1. So, I just read your article…..and though I can not disagree with it, I don’t totally agree with a certain point of it that you were trying to make! Particularly, about, “little eco-boxes scampering around the track like gnats chasing an odor?!” I’m sorry……I happen to race one of those little, so-called “eco-boxes” as you put it and, happen to love doing so?!! Do YOU race?! Who are YOU to judge what kind of cars we race?! We started out in an enduro division. Ran there for a couple years than our hometrack bumped our division up to Mini Stock status! Now, our cars both have roll cages, racing seats with 5 point harnesses, cold air intakes, Bassett racing rims, window netting, transponders, mounted fire extinguishers, fuel cutoff switches…..and this is to just name a few things!!! Our rules package has changed drastically, we get to practice before race time, we time trial and Now, this coming weekend, May 6th, we have heat races as well…..cause our division is growing fast! With all that said, when someone like you comes along and takes a “vocal dump” all over us because we don’t have 8 cylinder under the hood….it’s insulting! We work just as hard, try just as hard and play just as hard as everybody else in the racing community! I know we are not as popular or important or just plain cool as everything else out there……but we are making a go of it……and we’ll have FUN……regardless of what people like YOU will EVER say about us! Remember……gnats are annoying……and they are EVERYWHERE!!!

  2. Seems to me that the current mods are not much like the originals just like stock cars are not even close to stock. Not that I consider that a bad thing.

    1. Yes, that’s the way of the world. Still, I’d like to see some divisions where you still build a car from scratch. These days it’s like building a model. An expensive model.

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