In His Own Words: Tom Fox Recounts Confusing, Controversial North-South Shootout Event

Tom Fox (Photo: Tiesha DiMaggio/Sid's Vault Productions)

Tom Fox (Photo: Tiesha DiMaggio/Sid’s Vault Productions)

On Sunday at Concord Speedway in Concord, N.C. hours after the conclusion of the John Blewett III Memorial 125-lap Tour Type Modified North-South Shootout event, it was announced that race winner Matt Hirschman was being disqualified for plugging a leaking tire during a red flag late in the event.

Second place finisher Justin Bonsignore was declared the winner of the event. Hirschman was penalized to a 16th place finish. Also, top-10 finishers Patrick Emerling and Bobby Santos III were also penalized for doing work during the same red flag. Emerling was credited with a 17th place finish and Santos an 18th place finish.

A story late Sunday on Speed51.com reported on the confusing closing of the event and eventual penalties.

The actual event ended after race director Tom Fox had left the track.

The race was under a red flag with nine laps remaining for weather when Fox was forced to leave the track. Before leaving the track Fox had suggested to race promoters Darren and Renee Hackett – the owners of Caraway Speedway in Sophia, N.C. – that they should red-checker the event and declare it finished.

Fox was unable to speak with Speed51.com for their race recap on Sunday evening. Monday Fox spoke with RaceDayCT and went over the issues that took place at the event, which was promoted by Caraway Speedway owners Darren and Renee Hackett.

Question: You had to leave the track because of commitments to flights and work?

Tom Fox: “I’m lucky that I was able to go down Thursday and Friday. This is my busy time of the year for the work I do and I’m out of vacation time. My boss was gracious enough to let me go down there. There was no way I could bang him for a Monday. This travel time and travel day has been scheduled for months. If there was legitimate concern we certainly could have done more to condense the pit party or eliminate it altogether. There was a lot of avenues that we could have went down. But at the end of the day, I think the safe bet would have been to pull the plug and we didn’t and we had some confusion at the end there unfortunately.”

Question: Can you talk about the aftermath of what you’re dealing with today?

Tom Fox: “There was a quote in a story that Matt [Hirschman] got the tire plug approved from Tom Fox, which didn’t happen. I just got off the phone with Matt a little while ago and he said that clearly he was told by his guys that I said he could plug it, but Matt never heard me say that and I never said that. You know how racing goes. Matt and I are good and he knows that what he attempted to do, he said ‘I got two choices here, I can either restart the race with a flat tire and pull in the pit area and change it and come back out and try to blast through the field or I can plug it and they’re going to put me to the back and I’m going to come down pit road.’ What he didn’t anticipate to happen was to get a penalty afterwards. And I agree with him, for what it’s worth. That’s a tough way to go.”

Question: Can you recount what was taking place with the officials and promoters near the end of the event?

Tom Fox: “We were in the middle of packing up and leaving. The event was running much longer than it was supposed to. Our flight was leaving. We had the rain start. The red flag came out and I pulled the cars down pit road. Darren and Renee came into the tower and they wanted me to finish the race. They wanted me to get the racecars on the racetrack to keep the track dry and finish the race. I told them it was time to red-checker the race. It’s a fuel mileage race. It’s 125 laps and every one of those Tour Type Modifieds have the big carburetor on it. Some people had elected to pit for a couple gallons of gas and some people were trying to conserve fuel. There was no way I thought it would be proper to run them around the racetrack to try to keep the track dry because that would change the face of the race. I elected to park them. We sat it out for a little while.

“Darren and Renee knew that sometimes around 5 o’clock was our deadline and they came up to the tower and I urged them to red-checker it. I said ‘Now is the time, I don’t foresee us getting this going again without having issues for various reasons with the fuel deal, pit stops, cars sitting for a while, tire pressures, just all that typical stuff. I’ve been there and done that. But he was determined to make it happen, so he reached out to Tom Mayberry [of the Pro All Stars Series] and asked him if he could have his Late Models, that were ready to go, on the racetrack to dry the track. Tom did that. Darren instructed me to get the Modifieds out there to follow them and I again told him, ‘You can’t do it because they’ll run out of fuel.’ So he said ‘Let them fuel up right now.’ So I announced on the radio they could add fuel because we’re going to go out and dry the racetrack. He took over the event at that point in time. And he knew that there was three potential penalties on the board as I was walking out the door. I looked at him and said ‘We’ve got three guys, including the leader that have potential penalties.’ And I say potential because typically what you would do in a scenario like that is you would call down to the pit road officials and you would say ‘Who had car 60? Who had car 07? You would ask them what they saw. Repeat what they saw to you. Verify that there was in fact some sort of a penalty. And then do the assessment certainly before you go racing again. I was not in charge. I was going out the door. I’ve apologized to two of the players so far. I still have to reach out to Bobby Santos just for any of my involvement to it, because I don’t want it to end that way at all. If I was in complete control of the event it would have been red-checkered, that’s all I can tell you. That would have been the smart thing to do. There was five more extra lap features to be run and it was quarter to five and there was more weather on the radar. I don’t think nine laps was a big deal.”

Question: Were you upset as the race director that suggestions for managing the end of the race were not heeded by the promoters?

Tom Fox: “It is what it is. At the end of the day everybody has a boss. It’s not my North-South event. It is awkward for sure. Watching the thousands of races of I’ve seen and certainly managing the hundreds that I’ve managed, I could foresee there being an issue if we tried to restart the event for various reasons based upon the content of that feature event. I couldn’t see it restarting without several issues. I couldn’t find a way, unless we could go out on the racetrack and run two caution laps within a couple of minutes and go right back to green, there was going to be some negative impact to what we had going on there. Been there and done that. For what it’s worth. I think we had some communication issues too between the tower and pit road and what the pit road officials were allowing. What my instructions and what my intent was versus what may have been carried out down there. Sometimes that differs as well.”

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Comments

  1. Does anyone have a list of the results from the SK Mod race? I have been searching all day and only know that KJ’s Dad won (which works fine for me!) There must have been others on the track, right?

  2. Kathi,
    I’m not sure why no event results were released by race organizers. I never saw anything on the SK Modified event either or any reporting of that event from outlets that were covering on site. Leading up to the North-South Shootout there were numerous press releases put out by event organizers so I was quite surprised to see that after the event there was no post-race results press releases that were distributed.

  3. Crazy in NY says:

    Keith Rocco won it walking away
    Todd Owen was second
    Jim Zacharias was third.

  4. Read it again says:

    5 cars were in the SK feature

  5. Heard Todd Owen was running rocco down at the end. Great run for him.

  6. Joe Lajoie says:

    With the weather being questionable, the schedule being so tight, and teams and fans trying to get home on a Sunday, why on earth would the track have a pit party??

  7. old observer says:

    There were 8 cars as the entry list stated

  8. They should have run the sk’s w the mods. I know Rocco also had a tour car but the fans have to come first. I’m sure the promoters could have made it worth the tow down. Must have been a real snoozer for the fans

  9. Shawn –
    Thanks for the informative interview with Tom Fox re: Sunday.

  10. old observer says:

    Should have been penalized before the restart as was talked about on the scanner. Maybe they didn’t want to drag the race out while the offenders protested.

  11. Geez, the more I read, the more frustrated I get as a fan, and I wasn’t even there. But I feel for Matt Hershman and I guess a little for Tom Fox. But Tom should have been more controlling over the whole event. Run it as he did, or does Stafford. There are no questions there.
    Now, to me, the image of Modified Racing has had another stain. It seems this season has seen more than its share of goofy decisions. Fuel, Tires…Now I know why INDY and NASCAR have Tech Bulletins when questions arise. Maybe there should have been one that explained Just the Red-Flag stuff.

  12. The whole weekend seemed like a bit of a disaster with the weather, the track weeping, qualifying on a clearly wet track, low car count for the SK’s. Rough for everyone involved.

  13. What a joke this sounds like. Had to leave early. He’s the one calling the shots and leaves at the end off the most important part of the race. Tom fox should be ashamed of himself for ruining it for the fans. Hope he didn’t get paid in full.

  14. Thank you indeed Shawn.I had the wrong impression of the whole story.Red checker is the smart move with cars sitting around after running most of the race.Tom Fox should have been listened to by the promoters.

  15. Interesting perspective!

    Any time you’re working with part-time employees, stuff like this can happen. Thanks for sharing Tom’s side of things, it made for an interesting look behind the scenes.

    On a side note, does anyone know if Todd Owen had the same car down there he runs at Stafford? If so, he’s done pretty well with a homebuilt chassis!

  16. while I can certainly understand Tom Foxes need to get on his plane.. he also had a job here to do and as he said he reminded people they had potential penalties on the board. How could he have not left the promoter or a asst. race director with specific orders. Confirm use of tire plugs and stagger boards for the cars in question and if we go back out place them at the end of the lead lap cars ? end of the longest line whatever.. don’t leave with that over everyones head ? Drivers and teams should be very aware that you can not do these repairs ( adjustments ) under red flag conditions and I am sure if the penalties were made at the end of the red flag condition the teams would have been fine. to come out after is a joke . Though probably a fitting end to the modified season in the northeast. The inconsistency and randomness of the penalties has been at an all time high from the Tour to the MRS to the weekly shows … just mind blowing. the real loser is the fans. all though most of us seem to thrive on the controversy. lets us vent and you can see the passion in everyone posts as ridiculous as some of those are.. Officiating is not an easy job especially when there are long time professional and personal relationships with the owners and competitors . Not saying its all political only difficult to make calls against friends… but if you take the job you need to do the job in the fairest MOST CONSISTANT way possible…

  17. Spotter Down South says:

    Hey Shawn, Maybe you can get in touch with the promoter for his side of the story. The conversations over the radios under the red flag had the whole spotter stand in an uproar. Fox knew about all the penalties at the time they occurred and never made a call. When there was overwhelming complaints from competitors, his offered solution (I say his because it still sounded like him) was to allow the whole field to come down pit road and jack their cars. That was met with 18 guys in the spotters box voting no. A lot of what Fox says here is not how he responded at the time. The whole race was a mess, It was like a typical night at stafford…..

  18. So Mr. Fox waits through a 20 minute red flag period, watches teams work on there cars, then decides with 5 to go to leave? Sounds like he knew he was wrong and took the easy way out.

  19. Sterling Marlin says:

    Benny Parsons said it best with ” Oh No, you can’t do that! Every individual in NASCAR knows the rules about red flag conditions. As long as the red is out, no work can be done on the car by anyone. “

  20. No reason to issue a final result by the PR folks. If you noticed all pre race PR invited you to purchace PPV. Can’t sell any now. They got what they wanted.

  21. I wonder if spotter down south heard anything about red checker?It still sounds to me like the smart move with all the laps run and the bad whether and uncertain length of the delay.I also think that racers know the deal on repairs during red flag periods.Can’t figure out why the officials on pit road would be unsure on this?

  22. speed kills says:

    AGREE WITH STERLING. YA CANT MAKE RULES UP AS YOU GO ALONG. HAVE TO SUPPORT TOMS WORK COMMITMENT.. HE DID NEED TO RETURN TO CT.. IN THIS CASE AN ALTERNATE FOR MR FOX SHOULD HAVE TAKEN OVER AND PENALTIES APPLIED PRIOR TO THE GREEN FLAG BEING WAVED FOR THE RESTART THIS WOULD HAVE SETTLED THE MATTER ..EVERYONE HAS RADIOS AND YOU STILL HAVE A COMMUNICAATION PROBLEM?????? PIT PARTIES NEED TO BE CANCELLED WHEN WEATHER IS A FACTOR ..AS SHOULD DRIVER INTRODUCTION.. IN THE END THE PROPER DECISIONS WERE AAPPLIED ..

  23. Given the weather, the long haul home and other series needing to run, red/checkers seemed like a logical call. The pit party was a bad call giving that the show was already delayed a day and weather was coming.The stands looked empty from the pics I’ve seen.

    The SKs don’t travel so I’m not sure why they keep getting added to these shows.

  24. There was no talk of a red checker. The only talk was that of fueling the cars. They never even announced any air pressure adjustments. People just did it. Fox did say on the radio to leave the yellow out for a bit to let the 3 car get fixed. Then they put the red out and said stop working. Not that that matters either. There was no rules posted. It’s not a nascar race. Some guys had 2 jacks and 3 air guns on pit stops. They did penalize one guy for the 2 jacks though. Fox was aware of all the penalties and only put the 9x to the back because he actually changed a tire. The 15 was told 5 times he couldn’t jack the car. The 07 used stagger boards. Fox said those guys were all ok. He offered to send the field down pit road and let everyone do it too. It was like Stafford speedway south down there. When the official called up 5 times about the tire plug, fox ignored it. He finally said it was ok. Matt Heirsman got screwed on this one. I hope fox apologized. If fox didn’t leave, there would of been no dq’s.

  25. Ed partridge says:

    I don’t know about all these comments but you can bet one thing I am getting a pug kit

  26. So why not have the pit party at 10am since no motors before noon? Am I the only one to think of that?

    Tom did leave someone in control…the race promotor. He gave them what he had known. All the people beating up the CT officials need to know a few things. These guys All work real full time jobs that feed their families. their airline tickets were purchased in advance by the promoters, the officials had no choice but to leave to get back to work. You want to pile on and beat these guys up? Did you know their connecting flight was canceled and they had to drive home from Northern NJ and most didn’t put the key in the door till 4am. I just don’t understand people sometimes.

  27. You don’t think the teams all had to tow home after the event and work too?

    They couldn’t run anymore laps under caution because the race was wreck fest. They ran way to many laps under each and every caution.

    What would have happened if they had a long caution instead of a red flag for sprinkles with 9 to go, would he have yellow/checked the event?

    They had two more cautions after the red flag period and no one ran out of gas.

  28. He committed to be the race director for the event, so unless he gets an emergency phone call concerning a family member…. I don’t think he should have left. Is it the race teams or the fans fault he burned up his vacation time?

    Now to his concern of fuel mileage, does anyone remember the SK5K at Stafford? I wonder why he would leave the caution out for 15 or 20 minutes that night and not go red…. oh wait, now I remember!

  29. Although there were a ton of press releases before the event, I think that the old management and especially the PR people did one hell of a job dispensing information to the media, fans, and competitors.

    Just following a variety media reports (I didn’t make the trip this year), it’s obvious that there is a lot missing from the “new” North-South Shootout. Too bad…

  30. What a shame. Nothing but controversy in modified racing lately. You would think they’re being run by Barnum and Bailey.

  31. Frank A. Jr says:

    Bring back the dirt…All the more reason to avoid the Mods and pavement racing.

  32. Paul and Paul M…

    Yes race teams had to haul home as well. All but 1 chose to stay. I would hazard a guess and say everyone may get what they want from all this. Why no outrage at the wasted time for a mid afternoon pit party that absolutely caused this problem of running out of time. Promotor knows their flight departure yet doesn’t move pit party to a time of day that motors cannot be running. Then when handed control of the race, drops the ball and rolls race director under the bus. get the race done on time and I promise you those 3 cars would have known drop to the rear before the green is put back out. Eh what do I know, I’ve been a fan, an official and a car owner/crew member.

  33. racer17788 says:

    Paul M, you’re a joke!

  34. This Tom is a idiot. Plain and simple. You don’t leave a race your in charge of before it ends. This guy put the final nail in this races coffin. No one will run this race next year. Its a joke.

  35. Race directing is his part time job people! He basically says in the article that he isn’t willing to jeopardize his full time job. If he was up front about this to the owners/promoters (which I’m sure most of you experts posting on here do not know, including me) then nobody has room to complain. If he had a flight to catch and the owners/promoters didn’t offer to pay for a new method of transportation (which I’m sure most of you experts posting on here do not know, including me) then nobody has room to complain. From the statements it sounds like Fox was overruled in a lot of the decision making. You can complain about lack of communication or the overtaking hands dropping the ball… But don’t sit here and knock the guy for having prior obligations to be home (6 states away) for his full time job!

  36. Crazy in NY says:

    bill’s points are valid however one shouldn’t take on a job if they could not be available to be there
    in the worse case scenario. The whole weekend was a mess to be sure but Sunday for however long
    it took was the scheduled rain date. Most of this unfortunate situation falls on two other people who
    will remain nameless. They know who they are.

  37. Enough of the finger pointing. Lets move forward and make certain it does not happen again next year. This is to good of a race to see scrapped.

  38. humphry, that gets said after every one of these disasters. In order to fix something, it has to be in the open, it has to be talked about. Consider this discussion customer feedback.

  39. I call it arm chair quarterbacking and that is real easy to do when you are not the one making the call.

  40. It has rained before, red flags have happened before, they all know the rules. It’s not like this was the first time this happened.

  41. Crazy in NY says:

    they all know the rules…..
    They didn’t include the officials on the ground on pit road. ” They” said don’t jack the cars
    One didn’t that we know of (the 9x) and received an immediate penalty. The they said the Mods
    were going out to dry the track and could add fuel. Really? add fuel under a red? I’m sure some of the spec motor guys liked hearing that. Then it was never mind the Lates will come out instead. Then…… “they said” it was OK to check the tires and adjust air and that’s when the tire plug went in with an official OKing it. Nobody at the time knew Fox wasn’t there and the officials on the radio were talking to???? They restarted the race with the one penalty imposed, the 60 went on to win by lengths and
    had a victory lane celebration, picture and interviews. The gong show is what happened in the ensuing
    2 and half hours. Never seen anything like it.

  42. Dont understand why this is even a conversation.. With weather playing a factor ALL weekend,who ever was in charge and pressed on with the “pit party” destroyed the whole day. What is so important about these “pit parties” Back in the ole days when we went to the track,we went to race.If your main concern is to party,your at the wrong venue
    As far as everyone knocking Tom for leaving early,everyone knew he had to go by 5:00 It wasnt like he saw everything starting to “unwind” and “booked it” out the door..Gonna be a long winter lol

  43. As a fan, I like oval track pit parties… I enjoy the opportunity to get up close to the cars and talk to drivers and crews.

    In many other forms of racing, including the NHRA and most all of the road racing series, fans have excellent access to pretty much everything except pit lane. A pit party is often the only opportunity to connect oval racers and fans. Over the years, as a “regular old fan” I’ve been able to have casual conversation with legendary drivers and owners, as well as experienced crew. The closest we get with NASCAR and clones is often a long line at an autograph table.

    All that said, I agree the racing should always take precedent, and any fan activities like pit parties, grid walks, etc… should always be cancelled if the racing schedule needs the time slot.

  44. Good lucki

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