Enough: Whelen Modified Tour Team Owner Bob Garbarino Fed Up With Treatment From NASCAR

Since the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour started in 1985 team owner Bob Garbarino has been staunchly loyal in his support of the series and the sanctioning body overseeing the series.

Bob Garbarino

During that time Garbarino has never competed in a Modified event with his team that wasn’t sanctioned by NASCAR.

Wednesday that streak nearly came to an end. After competing with his team last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Garbarino made the decision that he would run in the non-NASCAR sanctioned Open Wheel Madness show Wednesday at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. Garbarino had planned to field a car for Ted Christopher in the event before it was postponed to Aug. 1 because of weather concerns.

“I just thought I should run that,” Garbarino said. “There just comes a time when you have to make a statement. I felt like it was time to do something.

“I was frustrated a half hour into practice at New Hampshire [Motor Speedway on Friday] with what’s going on. All the powers that be say everything is perfect. It’s not perfect.”

Garbarino, a three-time championship owner in the series, said Thursday that everything surrounding the division has become miserable for him and that he believes NASCAR has essentially forgotten about the Tour.

Many within the series have voiced frustrations of late concerning the continued dropping of purses around the series, rules changes and the introduction of a spec motor.

“I have no other way to speak other than with my actions,” Garbarino said of entering the event at Seekonk. “I’m not trying to start anything, I’m not trying to advertise anything, I was just going to go do something and say at least I did it and tried it.

“Nobody is having any fun. We just end up with more hoops and the hoops get smaller every year that we have to jump through and we’re having less and less fun.

“We used to have a cookout [at New Hampshire Motor Speedway], the teams all did. Now everybody is just going through the motions. They go to the track, they unload, they race, they put it back in the truck and they go home. We’ve just managed to vacuum the fun and the spirit out of it for the sake of refining rules or whatever it is we’re doing, but we’re not having any fun. And I think that goes through the officials and all. You’ll see the officials are just going through the motions, ‘Give me this sheet and I’ll sign off and move on to the next.’”

Recently, Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman and CEO Bruton Smith suggested publicly that NASCAR should have mandatory timeout style cautions in the Sprint Cup Series to make races more exciting. It was an article following that suggestion that raised the ire of Garbarino.

NASCAR mandated that the Whelen Modified Tour would have a halfway break caution during the running of Saturday’s Town Fair Tire 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

“I read an article [recently], they interview [NASCAR president] Mike Helton and he said NASCAR was not going to have any timeouts,” Garbarino said. “Well when I got done reading that article you know what Bob Garbarino read into it? He doesn’t know we exist. I’m not saying that was right or wrong. His statement was that was never going to happen in NASCAR events. As far as I know, and I sent my license down, it was made out to NASCAR. When I bought a dozen licenses and all that stuff I wrote the check out and it said NASCAR on it. But evidently we’re not part of that master plan. … That’s not going to happen in NASCAR racing? Well, then tell me what we are.”

Many around the series feel NASCAR is forcing teams to use the spec motor the sanctioning body helped develop through Robert Yates Racing Engines by massaging series rules to make the motor produce far better performance numbers than typical built motors. While the spec motor is cheaper off the shelf than most traditionally built motors, many around the series say the additional costs that come with it end up making it far more expensive to run for teams in the long run.

Ron Silk, driving for Ed Partridge, used the spec motor over the weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Silk blitzed the field in qualifying. Silk was in first or second place the entire event Saturday at NHMS. He easily led the first half of the race. He battled eventual race winner Mike Stefanik for the lead for the entire second half of the event. Stefanik beat Silk to the line by three one thousandths of a second for the victory. After the race Silk said he thought he got a bad tire at the halfway break and that he was struggling with handling. Stefanik said he thought if Silk’s handling had not went away that Silk would have won easily.

“The spec motor thing is just salt in the wound,” Garbarino said. “That’s going to happen. By this time next year they’re going to tell you it’s mandatory regardless of what they’re telling you today. They’re going to have it because that’s what they want. Frankly, it’s confusing to me because every time they’ve gone in the engine business they’ve bankrupted everybody. … They did it in the K&N Series and there’s nobody left in that K&N Series that was there. All those generations, it just stopped because they killed it for them. Somebody is not watching the henhouse.

“It’s about loyalty. I’ve been with my engine builder since 1981, never spent a dime in anybody else’s engine shop. They’re telling me that’s what I need to be doing. I’m saying point blank, I will walk before I do that.”

Garbarino said NASCAR has turned the division into an apprenticeship ground for training its officials.

“Some of the people that are running this whole thing have forgotten the basic, basic, basic fundamentals of business,” Garbarino said. “We’re in a business. Its not a good one, but we’re in it. And that basis is, it’s much easier to keep a customer than go make a new one. All you’ve got to do is treat them right. That’s all you have to do. I don’t care if you’re selling light bulbs or rocket ships. With your customers, do the right thing and he should be happy. I don’t think we’re treated right at all.

“I think the promoters do a great job, they have big investments and I understand that part of it. But on the other side of the coin, they do what they want with us and we have to buy it.

“We work hard at this and we want to have to some fun. You’re not going to get anything else out of this. If you can have some fun doing it at least in your mind you can say ‘I enjoyed what I was doing.’ I’m saying ‘Does anybody care?’ Does anybody care that there’s a level of loyalty?

“[NASCAR] won’t listen to me, they don’t listen to anybody. And we don’t have anybody that knows the series. We lost [former NASCAR vice president] Jim Hunter and that was the last of the roots that we had down there. I have some wonderful handwritten notes from Jim Hunter to me about why things were happening in the past, notes that make you understand a little better why things were happening. We’re not privileged to know any of that any more. They tell us to show up, they herd us over to a corner and we’re told to shut up and do what we’re supposed to do.”

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