LOUDON, N.H. — By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR — Getty Images for NASCAR photo — The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour has a history with New Hampshire Motor Speedway that dates back to the very beginning days of stock car racing at the Loudon oval. Another chapter will be written this week with the inaugural Whelen All-Star Shootout.
Saturday’s Sunoco 100 will be the 60th all-time Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire. The marriage between the northeast-based tour and New England’s largest racing facility began on Sept. 2, 1990 in what was just the third NASCAR event held at the 1.058-mile oval. Mike McLaughlin was the first Whelen Modified Tour driver to reach Victory Lane in Loudon, and this Friday – nearly 24 years later – there will be another “first.”
The Whelen All-Star Shootout was first revealed in December as an addition to the July race weekend event schedule. With the idea of taking the unique type of racing that is produced by the Whelen Modifieds at the “Magic Mile” and creating a special sprint race to showcase it, the non-points shootout was born. Tour entitlement sponsor Whelen then added its support to the event.
“We welcomed the opportunity to provide the modified fans with a special event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway,” said Whelen Engineering Vice President of Motorsports Phil Kurze upon signing on as event sponsor. “Some of the best NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour racing has occurred at Loudon through the years, and in July fans will be able to witness two days of the most exciting, bumper-to-bumper modified racing around.”
The event was designed by NHMS and NASCAR with the purpose of showcasing the best of the best in Whelen Modified racing. The event was open to entry for past champions and race winners from both the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours, as well as the 2013 Sunoco Rookies of the Year from each. The field is capped at 20 cars and it will run in two 20-lap segments that figure to provide high-intensity action from green-to-checkered.
“We take a lot of pride in New Hampshire Motor Speedway being known as the ‘Super Bowl’ venue of modified racing,” said Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager of the speedway. “With the addition of the Whelen Modified Shootout, a 100-mile NASCAR K&N Pro Series East race and the new NASCAR Sprint Cup qualifying format, I truly believe we have the most exciting “pole day” on the circuit.”
Following Friday’s Oxford Casino Pole Day activities at NHMS, the Whelen Modified Tour’s traditional 100-lap championship event, the Sunoco 100, will be contested on Saturday along with the NASCAR Nationwide Series’ Sta-Green 200. The Camping World RV Sales 301 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race will conclude the weekend’s activities on Sunday.
Whelen All-Star Shootout: The inaugural Whelen All-Star Shootout is a non-points invitational event. The starting lineup will include 20 cars whose participation is determined by championships won, race victories and highest championship finishes. The race is scheduled to run in two segments of 20 laps apiece with a time limit for completion. The starting grid will be determined by random draw and the second segment will begin with a redraw of the top finishers from the first.
Sunoco 100: The Sunoco 100 will be the sixth of 14 points races on the 2014 schedule and the first of two visits to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The maximum starting field is 38 cars, including provisionals. The first 33 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 100 laps (105.8 miles) and will have a five minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 50.
The Track: NHMS, a 1.058-mile slightly-banked asphalt oval, is the largest track the Whelen Modified Tour races at. NHMS has played host to the Whelen Modified Tour 59 times previously, the most of any facility outside of Connecticut.
Race Winners: There have been 18 different race winners at NHMS, led by Mike Stefanik with eight victories. Doug Coby is the defending winner of the Sunoco 100.
Pole Winners: There have been 25 different pole winners at NHMS, led by Jan Leaty’s six. Ted Christopher is the active poles leader with five. Mike Ewanitsko holds the qualifying record at 28.693 seconds (132.743 mph), set in 2001.
New Hampshire Race Notes:
Double-Duty Weekend for Preece: Fresh off his 100th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start at Riverhead Raceway, Ryan Preece will have a double-duty Saturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In addition to his regular modified duties in the No. 16 Flamingo Motorsports Ford, Preece will also attempt to make his second career NASCAR Nationwide Series start with Tommy Baldwin Racing. Preece piloted the TBR No. 8 to a 24th place finish a year ago at NHMS in his Nationwide Series debut. The NASCAR Next driver has four podiums and seven top 10s in 15 Whelen Modified Tour starts at the “Magic Mile.” Preece will also have a double-duty Friday, but it will take place at two different tracks as he will run the Whelen All-Star Shootout in the afternoon at NHMS and head back to his native Connecticut for NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified racing at Stafford Motor Speedway.
Christopher, Stefanik Share Track Wins Record: In the 25-year history of NHMS, two drivers stand alone atop the track’s all-time NASCAR wins list: Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik with 10 apiece. Christopher’s 10 have been evenly divided between Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR K&N Pro Series East triumphs while Stefanik’s tour record eight wins are complemented by a pair of K&N East victories.
Southern Invaders: Four NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour drivers are signed up to take on their northern counterparts in the Sunoco 100 with JR Bertuccio, Bryan Dauzat, Spencer Davis and Andy Seuss. Originally from Hampstead, New Hampshire, Seuss regularly competes in the Whelen Modified Tour events in his home state in his family-owned car. It will be the first “Magic Mile” experience for the 15-year-old Davis while Bertuccio and Dauzat each have one previous Loudon start.
Southern Mod Point Leader Takes on Northern Counterparts: Seuss is the season points leader through five Whelen Southern Modified Tour events. With his participation in the Sunoco 100, it will mark the first time since George Brunnhoelzl III in 2011 at Riverhead that the southern points leader competed in a northern mod points race. It was the reverse scenario last August when northern points leader Preece ran – and won – the southern race at Bowman Gray.
Szegedy Returns With Special Car Tribute: Todd Szegedy, a three-time NHMS winner, will make just his second appearance of the season in the Sunoco 100. What is notable about his participation is that the car he will drive, the No. 15 Chevrolet of Rob Fuller Motorsports, will carry a decal honoring 18-year-old cancer survivor Brian Regan from Dunstable, Massachusetts. This is part of a season-long effort by the No. 15 RFM team that is partnered with 15-40 Connection, a Massachusetts-based organization that raises awareness of young adults ages 15 to 40 dealing with cancer.
Tour TV Time: This weekend’s New Hampshire racing action will feature two of the five Whelen Modified Tour races that will be televised this year. The Sunoco 100 will air on July 18 and the Whelen All-Star Shootout on July 20, both on Fox Sports 1. The tour’s return to NHMS in September, as well as the combo race at Bristol Motor Speedway and the season finale at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park will also receive televised coverage.
NASCAR Night at Lowell Spinners: The Lowell Spinners – the Class A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox – will hold their annual “NASCAR Night” at LeLacheur Park on Wednesday, July 9 in Lowell, Massachusetts. Preece and fellow NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Woody Pitkat will be in attendance for the promotional night, along with the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East drivers from Tuner Scott Motorsports.
Last Time Out: Riverhead
The fifth race of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season was contested at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway on June 28. Here are some highlights of the Hoosier Tire 200:
• It was a night of career firsts as John Beatty Jr. earned his first Coors Light Pole Award and Eric Goodale captured his first checkered flag.
• Ted Christopher in second, Matt Hirschman in third and Ryan Preece in fourth all scored their best finishes of the season.
• Doug Coby’s fifth place effort, combined with Justin Bonsignore’s 16th place result, saw Coby move up to the championship lead and Bonsignore slip to third behind Bobby Santos, who finished 10th.
• Beatty led a career-high 108 laps in the event. His first career laps led came in this event last year.
Next Time Out: Monadnock
Following the Sunoco 100 the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to New Hampshire for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 on Saturday, July 19 at Monadnock Speedway. Justin Bonsignore is the defending winner of the race, which marks the tour’s lone appearance in 2014 at the rural Winchester quarter-mile.