DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Story by Race Chaser Online New England Correspondent Kyle Souza — Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images photo —
Boogity, Boogity, Boogity — let’s go racing boys.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is geared up and ready to kick-off their 30th anniversary season this weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.
For the 31st season overall, the tour will be hanging lefts around New England’s top race tracks with the chance of holding the championship crown and glory in October.
Originally, the tour began as a regional touring series because of the style of race cars that were involved — open-fendered ground-pounders.
The series founders based the new tour off the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series — holding over 25 championship races in their first season of action. Longtime modified veteran Richie Evans was named the tour’s first champion.
That season, Evans beat out Mike McLaughlin by 123 points — solidifying himself as the tour’s first ever champion — but beginning a list that now has grown to over twenty historic champions.
Former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmy Spencer followed up Evans by collecting the crown in 1986 and 1987 — by a combined 300 points in the two seasons. Spencer’s opening days in a modified showed dominance and supremacy over the rest of the cast — which later sent him up the ranks in NASCAR.
Among multiple champions, Race Chaser Online has compiled some fun facts — things that may shock you.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Fun Facts
– 66 different drivers have won a race on NASCAR’s oldest touring series (the history of NASCAR’s involvement with the modifieds stretches back to 1948).
– Mike Stefanik, current NASCAR Hall of Fame Nominee, has scored 74 career victories since the modern era of the Tour began in 1985. That mark is more than 30 wins above anyone else.
– Among active tour drivers, Ted Christopher has 42 wins in his career. Behind Christopher, Todd Szegedy is ninth on the all-time list with 18 career wins.
– 589 races have been held since the tour began in 1985.
– Originally, the tour was named the NASCAR Winston Tour and also held the title of the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Series before the Whelen Engineering team took over the title sponsorship in 2005.
Top 10: All-Time Series Wins List:
- Mike Stefanik (74 wins)
- Reggie Ruggeiro (44 wins)
- Ted Christopher (42 wins)
- Tony Hirschman (35 wins)
- Jeff Fuller (31 wins)
- Mike Ewanitsko (28 wins)
- Rick Fuller (20 wins)
- Jerry Marquis (19 wins)
- Todd Szegedy (18 wins)
- Ed Flemke Jr. (17 wins)
Top Ten: All-Time Wins List Among Active Drivers:
- Ted Christopher (42 wins)
- Todd Szegedy (18 wins)
- Donny Lia (17 wins)
- Bobby Santos III (13 wins)
- Doug Coby (11 wins)
- Ryan Preece (11 wins)
- Ron Silk (9 wins)
- Justin Bonsignore (6 wins)
- Ryan Newman (4 wins)
- Jamie Tomaino (3 wins)
All in all, Mike Stefanik arguably is the best modern-era Tour driver ever. His seven championships and 74 career wins lead in both categories, but he also holds nine top three championship point finishes in his career.
Looking back, Richie Evans was the platform for how modified racing began. His championship in the inaugural 1985 season and before his death at Martinsville — what would have happened if he did not suddenly pass? More championships? It seems likely. Evans’ legacy as the greatest to ever set foot in a modified remains, however — with more than 400 wins in his NASCAR Hall of Fame career and a total of nine NASCAR modified titles (eight of the nine came before the launch of the modern Tour in 1985).
In 2015, as part of the 30th annual season, the Tour will hold sixteen races at seven different race tracks across the Atlantic Coast. Races will be held at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, Stafford Motor Speedway, Monadnock Speedway, New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Riverhead Raceway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway.
As the new season approaches, multiple drivers stand out as favorites for the championship. Ryan Preece, behind the wheel of a new ride, the No. 6 TS Haulers machine will be chasing his second career championship. After parting ways with Flamingo Motorsports, Preece is chasing success with a new ride and a new team. He has already won races in the car at last year’s North-South Shootout and at this year’s Speedweeks World Series at New Smyrna Speedway.
Doug Coby, driver of the No. 2 Dunleavy Truck and Trailer Repair ride, will be trying to be the first driver since Tony Hirshman in 2005-2006 to be crowned as a back-to-back champion. With a new LFR chassis under the hood, Coby has already been in action with the Southern Modified Tour — testing his new ride.
Justin Bonsignore, a front-runner in 2014, will be attempting to grab his first title this season. Bonsignore was inside the top two for the championship up until the final few weeks — when mechanical failures forced him to the sidelines.
As the season gets underway, there are more than a handful of drivers that could pick up multiple victories and be there when it matters most in October. No one should be surprised if the series title comes down to a showdown of two or more drivers in the final laps at Thompson Speedway.
Get out to the track this weekend at Thompson. Support not only some of the most talented drivers in NASCAR — but some of the best racing you will ever see in New England.
It’s thirty years later, but the action is the best its ever been. The grand old Tour remains the hallmark of NASCAR’s humble beginnings — and now, it remains as a signal of short track racing’s brightening future.
The opinions expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views of Race Chaser Online, Speed77 Radio, the Performance Motorsports Network, their sponsors or other contributors.