By Shawn Courchesne
The non-points exhibition event gives the drivers of the Whelen Modified Tour an extra chance to showcase their action packed brand of New Hampshire Motor Speedway racing.
The 35-lap shootout event seems to accomplish multiple goals. It gives Whelen Modified Tour drivers another chance to compete at the track many consider “their Daytona”. And it also gives the series chance to play in front of fans that may not have had the opportunity to see them before.
But there seem to be some issues with Friday scheduling of the event.
Friday’s event had a 30-minute time limit. Not a shocker considering a packed Friday schedule in Loudon which also included Sprint Cup Series practice, XFINITY Series practice, Whelen Modified Tour practice, K&N Pro Series East qualifying, Sprint Cup Series qualifying and a K&N Pro Series East feature event.
But that time limit leaves open the possibility that one or two bad wrecks could essentially destroy the event.
Another problem is that scheduling the event the day before a points event at New Hampshire only serves to keep some teams from competing. The reality is, many teams on the Whelen Modified Tour don’t have the resources to have a second car, and going out to run the exhibition event the day before a points event can be a huge gamble.
So how about a radical idea? Call it a pipe dream, because we know it’s probably not something that could ever really happen. But what’s wrong with dreaming?
Run the Whelen All-Star Showdown on Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
It would seem the positives that could come out of a Sunday Modified Tour shootout in Loudon would far outweigh any of the positives gained by the Friday event.
First, those teams that are worried about wrecking their primary – or only – car the day before the points event would have no worry about that anymore. That would surely seem an attractive element.
The biggest positive it would seem would be getting the eyes of new fans on the division.
It’s a factor seemingly always talked about with the division. The Whelen Modified Tour has a hearty group of devoted fans across the Northeast, but every racing division needs to make sure that positive gains are being made all the time in creating the next generation of its fanbase.
It would seem in a lot of ways that’s something that may not be happening as well as it should with the Whelen Modified Tour.
Some might argue that the promotion of the division focuses too much on those that are already devoted and not on creating new converts.
The question often is, where and how do you create Whelen Modified Tour fans? Well, really what better place than at a racetrack?
The Sunday crowd at New Hampshire Motor Speedway is a different monster from many you’re going to find at most short tracks where the Whelen Modified Tour primarily competes.
It’s a fanbase that in its majority is there because they’re fans of Sprint Cup Racing. The modern age “TV race fans” who have been drawn to the sport for its top level fanfare but may not necessarily realize or understand just what’s going on at short tracks in their area.
So here it is you have thousands of those “TV race fans” strolling around New Hampshire Motor Speedway in anticipation of the Sprint Cup Series event at the track. So take the chance to overwhelm their senses in person.
We are of the belief here that the Whelen Modified Tour events that are broadcast now on NBC Sports Network in the days following their running don’t serve to create new fans. In the landscape of cable broadcasting today, it’s hard to believe many non-Whelen Modified Tour fans are stumbling upon the broadcasts and being converted or convinced to go see an event live.
But on a Sunday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway the series has a chance to cram themselves into the brains of people that may never have even thought about going to see them before at say Stafford Motor Speedway or Thompson Speedway or the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
It’s like the free sample booth at Sam’s Club. One probably didn’t go to the store with the idea that they wanted to purchase Thai Chili wings, but darned if that free sample doesn’t have them running to the freezer to grab a big package of them.
And that’s the same philosophy that it seems could work on a Sunday morning in Loudon. The fans are there to see the Sprint Cup Series, but why not try to sell them on the Whelen Modified Tour live and in person?
Though we know, for all the positives, it’s likely a longshot dream. The logistics of a Sprint Cup Series races day and all the pomp and celebration going on through the garage and on the track for much of the hours leading up the race probably makes putting on the event an impossible vision.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming right?