In 2012 Jimmy Blewett showed up on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to run full-time with a newly created family owned operation.
It was a breath of fresh air for a division struggling yearly to attract quality new teams to continue filling the starting lineups for Modified Tour events.
Today, Blewett and that team owned by his grandfather are gone.
And what of 2012 series champion Doug Coby? His Darling Racing team will go to running part-time on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2014.
And then there’s the rumors that abound about a handful of other teams that may or may not be returning or may be going to part-time operations.
After finishing second in the Whelen Modified Tour season finale on Oct. 20 at Thompson Speedway Donny Lia said he hoped his team could carry the momentum of a late season hot streak into 2014. He said that hope rode on whether or not team owner Bob Garbarino would return to the series in 2014, something he said he wasn’t sure was going to happen. Garbarino’s Mystic Missile team has been a fixture at tracks over the 29-year history of the division.
And while the roster of teams ready to compete full-time or even part-time in the division grows smaller and smaller with each passing year, the folks that manage the series with NASCAR seemingly show no visible desires to want to fix what’s causing the issues.
More oddly, some of what they do seems only to serve as ways to continue to injure the division rather than serve to help what few teams are still around trying to make it all survive.
On Nov. 5, the teams of the Whelen Modified Tour don’t know where they will be starting the 2014 season.
Rumors abound, but NASCAR isn’t saying a thing. Will the division open its season on Feb. 17 or Feb. 18 with an exhibition race at Daytona International Speedway like they did last year? Will the season start with a rumored points event at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway that same week in February? Will there will be an exhibition race at Daytona and a points race at New Smyrna together in one February week?
It’s all to wonder about. And the reality is, if it’s happening, it’s happening in just about three months.
Think about that, in less than 15 weeks the Whelen Modified Tour might be opening its 2014 season, in central Florida, and team owners don’t know if it’s happening or not.
And one wonders why there’s frustrations from these teams with NASCAR.
It’s become bad enough that teams are struggling to make it to events in the Northeast, where the division is based. Now NASCAR won’t even tell whether or not they’ll be expected to start the year in Florida, in just a few weeks for that matter.
Here you have Whelen Modified Tour teams trying to figure out budgets to make it to events through the summer in the Northeast and NASCAR can’t even tell them if they’re going to have to budget in a trip to Florida, possibly for a week?
And on top of the wonder of the Florida question is the next mystery, why would they even want to return to Daytona?
What is the positive that can come out of it? In what tangible way does running a no-holds barred wreckfest on a glorified temporary go-kart track on the backstretch of Daytona International Speedway help the Whelen Modified Tour?
If anything, last year’s inaugural UNOH Battle at the Beach only served to hurt the reputation of the division. NASCAR can say it was an opportunity for the division to get attention on a national broadcast? Sure, at what cost?
Anybody keeping an eye on social media during last year’s Modified Tour event at Daytona could quickly realize that the division was being made into a laughingstock across the spectrum of motorsports. A cursory look across the realm from national NASCAR media, to competitors in IndyCar to drag racing personalities were all there cracking jokes and laughing about the debacle of a Modified show that was taking place on TV.
And that helped the division how?
And yet today, on Nov. 5, somewhere NASCAR is planning out the likely possibility of a return to Florida for the division instead of trying to fix the real problems, like an economic model for the series that doesn’t work any longer. Like the fact that most short tracks around New England and the Northeast – where the division should be thriving – can’t afford to bring the division to their facilities any longer.
If NASCAR is earnest in saying they care about the health of the division they’d be doing everything they could do to fix the real problems, not having a division full of teams on tight budgets travel thousands of miles to run on poorly planned temporary circuits like they’re some sort of circus without a tent.
The 2013 season saw the smallest average fields in the 29-year history of the Whelen Modified Tour. And while nobody puts a gun to anybody’s head and says they have to do it, NASCAR saying they’re trying to work to make it better for teams that remain loyal just comes across as enormously insincere.
We’ve said it before, NASCAR isn’t to blame for all the problems that ail the Modified Tour, but they sure don’t seem to be doing much to help either.