NASCAR Efforts Seem Hardly Tuned To Trying To Save Whelen Modified Tour From Failure

In 2012 Jimmy Blewett showed up on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to run full-time with a newly created family owned operation.

NASCAR Modified Tour cars line up for the running of the Battle at the Beach last February at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

NASCAR Modified Tour cars line up for the running of the Battle at the Beach last February at Daytona International Speedway (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

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.

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  1. Good read here Shawn. it is a shame what goes on in this division. I am a crew member on a VMRS team, we ran the Whelan Tour back in the 90’s and it wasn’t always fun but it was a lot better then. We had a lot of fun this season with the VMRS and if you ask me as a crew member and a fan we don’t need NASCAR what we need is a Northeast based open modified series.

  2. Rich mans hobby . Nobody can race at this level for a living like Evans and the old timers did . Too much cost involved .

  3. Great words Shawn…it leads me to wonder it the series would be better off withOUT the NASCAR banner?

    The non-nascar tours, (ROC, TWMRS) seem to be thriving. The mighty modifieds don’t need to be NASCAR flag wavers to be successful…

    Just sayin’…

  4. Mike Kalasnik says

    The Daytona race was a joke for ALL divisions running. I dont know what NASCAR is thinking. Take it to a REAL local short track, put up some money, and let em race. Down in the Carolinas, we throw up big money for dirt modifieds and late models. We have gotten cars from Ohio, NY, PA, Florida and Missouri. Maybe if NASCAR loosened the purse strings, guys would want to run it more. NASCAR doesnt care about the mods and it shows. They can put all their money into the K&N series and ignore the fact theres some real talent in the mods.

  5. Shawn, I’m curious what Mark and Jackie think about all of this. I doubt either would go “on the record” about their opinions, but I would love to know their perspectives. Has their relationship with NASCAR soured in recent years? I’m thinking if they ever decided to lower the number of events at their track, that would be it. If Car Quest/Advanced Auto decided to scale down that would be the final nail. I wouldn’t ever want to see that happen. Your thoughts?

  6. Been around racing since the Danbury days and I think everyone on here is right,we don’t need Nascar banner,all it is ,is a money pit.Pay all this money to Nascar and get nothing in return.It’s like going to a fine restaurant ordering your food and then leaving to let someone else eat it.We can contact tracks throughout the north like New Hampshire,Maine,Pennsylvania,New York,etc and maybe get more cars.If this keeps up there will be no “up and comers” because there will be no where to race.I think someone said tracks pay like $3000 or something a week to carry Nascar banner,why carry it??

  7. well said all .. its really sad nascar cant help or save its most exciting and oldest division… maybe they just don’t care.. all they care about is their precious chase .. can you say boring… I cant watch it, same guys all the time up front…

  8. Judy Amiot says

    Sorry to say that is our reality. I blame our poorly run government is what ails our country. It’s the trickle down effect . . . .

  9. Steve,
    Haven’t really talked to Jack and Mark lately about the issues with the Tour.

  10. coors light says

    nascar has made the wmt like CUP.nfg we are regular people not CUP people

  11. The RoC tour is struggling too. VMRS tour is doing quite well, though. I think the Whelen tour is dying. Sad to say, but it is. They’ve priced too many teams out. Even the high purse races have motel bills and longer hauls too, so how much more is really gained with those higher purse races? The tour needs to be all one day shows. Maybe New Smyrna should have a February Whelen southern mod race. Any northern teams that want to race can go down, but smaller northern teams aren’t in the hole for points.

  12. It appears NASCAR has NO solution to the problem that they created other than a Band-Aid. I agree with dave’s comment “The non-nascar tours, (ROC, TWMRS) seem to be thriving.”

  13. They always announce the tour schedule at the Banquet in Charlotte in December… Or for the last 5 yrs anyway

  14. Avesta,

    Yes, they do usually announce the schedule at the banquet, but the point is, teams typically know and understand what they’re preparing for with that announcement. Last year they know throughout the 2012 season that they were going to Florida for the Battle at the Beach. This year, they don’t know that. That’s the point, there’s not enough concern from NASCAR to even give these teams more than a couple months to financially prepare for a trip that it out of the normal realm.

  15. The only cure is putting more money in the point fund. NBC just agreed to pay billions for the TV rights to Nascar, including all regional touring series. How much of that money will go to the tour point fund?? My vote is zero. Every time the tour is on TV people are paying Nascar money to advertise. How much of that goes into the point fund. My vote is zero again. The well is dry, tracks can’t pay anymore to host these events. Fans can’t pay anymore money to get into these events. The money has to be generated from within Nascar if this is going to work.

    As far as th VMRS goes it is a nice series but for all of the WMT woes, none of the top teams are going racing with them. In fact, apparently they rather close shop than race with them. So its not all gum drops and lollipops over there.

  16. Here is the problem as I see it the tour racing is the best division in nascar but they don’t want to overshadow the cup side come on they run restrictor plates at nh,if they didn’t the mods would be way faster and more exciting then the cup cars oh that’s right they are already but Daytona is a joke with that track an rc car could run on nascar needs to get there head out of there butts and raise the purse to the tour it’s insane what little they pay out not enough to pay for much

  17. Josh paradis says

    NASCAR needs to make the purse so teams can at least break even. I think the reason behind NASCAR’s doing is that they are upset that the mods have faster lap times than the sprint cup cars at bigger tracks like new Hampshire and Bristol. And that the mods are usually the must see race on a cup weekend.

  18. The big issue at hand is of course money. Who remembers when the K&N series was the Busch North series? Local guys local tracks…single car ops. Now what is it…a devo series for cup. NASCAR emilinated the local element to allow for a feeder series. Let’s face it….it takes a certain type of driver to pilot a mod. This is not the cookie cutter pretty boy NASCAR wants to put on TV or put money into for that matter. Big cup teams are not going to build a modified for the series to devo their drivers in…..nor do I want to see that. NASCAR just wants their cookie cutter cars on their cookie cutter tracks with their pretty boy drivers who have half the talent as a lot of Saturday night guys out there. Ask how many quality drivers missed great opportunities because they are not marketable…otherwise known as not appealing to a certain part of the fan base.

  19. This was the first year I did not go to a NWMT race in years….and I didn’t miss it. While I think it sucks for Coby and Blewett and the Hills? It’s the lack of support from NASCAR financially that, at the end of the day, will bring the tour to an end. It’s already darn near on it’s knees. Low purses, long travel to some tracks, high fees, etc.

    We’ve heard it all before, and there are no signs that NASCAR is willing to do anything, Yes, they got behind the Yates Spec engine, but even that has some high initial investment to switch over to.

    I have seen no other efforts by NASCAR to reduce costs for these teams.

    2014 may be the first time you see less than 26 NWMT cars starting at Stafford’s events regularly.

    Do I hope that happens? Not at all….but i just placed my bet on red.

  20. ray cote. p.b. fl says

    New Smyrna World Series in Feb. used to be FULL of modifieds, not anymore. I live 40 minutes away and don’t bother going to see 9 – 10 cars. I expect this to be cancelled soon. Drivers can’t afford to race with lack of purse money whether Stafford or Smyrna. Miss the old days.

  21. top spotter says

    anybody know what car t.c is racing next year…i hope he does what matt hirshman does and go race were ever he wants ..the tour is the worst…i would rather tractor pulls at a county fair then watch a 200 lap tour race …oh wait 200 laps and cautions count there is 75 green flag laps come on mr france..give us…125 green flag laps 10.000 to win races then you will get teams to come back…please save the best racing you have in nascar….please…

  22. As someone who covered the tour since 1985 until a few years ago, I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly. But since I have left and now just attend a few races a year, it is sad to see the demise of the once proud series and its great history.
    NASCAR knows exactly what they are doing and they know that by doing nothing to help promote the series, bring in new sponsors and tracks, that the series will slowly die and then they can say, well we tried.
    As you mentioned, it is 3 months before Daytona and no one knows what if anything is going on in Daytona. Note to teams, if and when the schedule is released boycott the race at either Daytona or New Smyrna. Points race of not. That is the only way to send a strong and united message but we all know that will not happen.
    As far as going to Daytona last year, one team, that did not go said the reason was it would cost them at least $10,000 for the week(end) event.
    As someone who loves the series, it makes me sad to think about what once was and know I see 26 cars for a field of 32.
    NASCAR can say all they want about the series and how much they care for the oldest series in NASCAR but we all know better and so doesn’t NASCAR.

  23. Harry Franssen says

    Great article . Pretty much tells it like it is.

  24. wayne darling says

    ok time to respond with our team it not about purses it about help in the shop getting ready to go to the races race day help is not a problem,cant prep cars in ffour days with just one guy and a seventy something [ being nice here] helper,. most teams you talk with will say same thing ,we need people who enjoy racing and want to be apart of it not only at track but in the shop. also.have to much respect to ask peopole to give up family time to seven days a week to get race cars ready . bottom line is we need crew member that want to work on race cars in my case when were at the track i pay all you can all say its nascar fault but in my cvase its not

  25. Interesting contrast; they took the old Busch North regional Tour and recycled it into a development series that doesn’t run anywhere they used to. Remember the old twin 150’s, BNN / WMT? The BNN would have suffered the same fate were it not recycled into something that people with large pockets can support. And what did they do for the WMT? Not a thing. As someone else said, they’ll let it die and then blame it on the racers.

    I personally like what someone else said, make a independent tour of open mod races. Give the tour back to the racers, let NASCAR go play with the pretty boys with deep pockets.

  26. Well Shawn I hope the local track owners read your column and then they will see how passionate about the modifieds the fans are, just look at the number of fans expressing there opinion here, that speaks volume and I agree we don’t need Nascar we just need some track owners to step up to the plate and make the change, away from Nascar.

  27. I can see the headline now. ” Shawn Courchesne had been banned from reporting on any nascar sanctioned track”

  28. I’ve been following modifieds since the 60s at Thompson Speedway. When they ran the 300 lap race in Sept. they had over 100 entries. They had to run a non-qualifiers event to get DOWN to the 50 car field. It was exciting racing for reasonable prices. In the past 15 years, this division has slowly faded with no constructive help from the Beach. Instead they concentrate on THE CHASE….BORING, and I’m a die hard cup fan. End their season just before the chase ! Take the rest of the big bucks and help the other divisions that made Nascar what it is.

  29. I agree with everyone that has posted. One thing I agree with more than anything is nascar doesn’t care if the mods go away. The question is why. Why would they want to push the only division that is exciting to watch out .. I’ve seen a couple cup races this year. Bristol Daytona and Martinsville.. everything else is crap. I’ve seen more mod races on tv than cup races. I even watch the taped race at Thompson and I was in the stands watching it live.

    But the question remains. Why? Why would they impose new rules year after year to “improve” competition but yet costs teams a fortune to install. A new engine package, why? everyone has probably three or more engines already. Rear ends , most teams have or had plenty or them. Seats , seat belts . Nascars fees The list goes on. If anyone tell me why then maybe it would make this stuff easier to understand.

    K&n boring rich daddies, nationwide boring cup drivers chance to soak up some extra cash, sprint cup boringgg I’d rather watch paint dry, at least the fumes would make it more entertaining than a cup race ..even arca.. leader wins by a lap.

    But the mods. There almost never boring. Don’t get me wrong the race at Stafford were coby won by a land slide was boring.. don’t get me wrong Mr darling he had the best car no doubt but people were walking out of the stands with 40 to go.

    If everyone got up and moved to the Mrs nascar wouldn’t even blink an eye … They wold welcome it and I don’t understand why. The teams could very easily tell nascar bye and put the extra money they spend on entry fees and tires into a points fund our even to increase the purse.

    I love the mods but there may be more sks than tour mods at the sizzler

  30. awesome I totally agree…. I remember the islip 300 .. watching evans cut through the like nothing … god I miss those days… if the beach meaning nascar would give a little juice , it would work…

  31. muddybrookrambler says

    Fred, I think the “why” question is a good one. I think it’s about mismanagement. Do any of the folks connected to the Mods at NASCAR actually have any connection to the 70s or 80s, the “glory days” of Modified racing and the strong era for the tour? I think the only reason they choose not to cut the cord entirely is an attempt to keep the NASCAR brand in as many locations as possible. What I don’t think they get it that the product they are presenting may actually hurt that brand. Of course, I’m stumped as to why anyone who once watched 24-30 mods on a short track in the 70s or 80s would want to sit through 500 laps of taxi cab racing, but that’s just me. Why not just cut the cord and let go of the Mods? Sean, that’s a real question NASCAR should be made to answer.

    And you car owners still on the tour–why? Why not do the MRS? I haven’t been to a NASCAR tour race in 5 years. I used to attend 50+ mod races a year, but NASCAR and the cookie-cutter rules have killed it for me. I’m not alone in this. I know there are many, many aspects to the issue, but the bottom line is–NASCAR has chased off their most loyal customers by offering an inferior product.

  32. Dan Purcell says

    It’s a shame. I used to watch the Mod Squad at World Famous Islip Speedway for years, then traveled all over the northeast to see the Mods. I have seen some of the greatest races and some of the greatest drivers to ever get behind a wheel of a race car in this division. Problem is the purses along with escalating costs. Dirt mods have average purses over $7000… World of Outlaw Sprint Cars have even bigger purses. Nascar’s own top series is hurting. They lost what racing was about and who the fans were. Local Saturday night tracks are where the fans are from. Nascar has forgotten that, and it will cost them for years to come. VMRS is a great series, and I’ve seen great races in that series. But again, the costs of running a team are out of this world. Nascar has ruined its product and maybe its time we fans let ’em know we don’t need their name to enjoy great racing… See ya at Wall Stadium for Turkey Derby XL

  33. What needs to happen is an individual such as Burton Smith needs to grab the “Tour Series” including the Southern side and run with it.You need to promote the series as grass roots. The timing is right. NASCAR is struggling (empty seats at every major event including the DT 500.They (NASCAR) bled everyone to death.The frustration levels are being felt and heard through commentary made by those whose yearly incomes are not tied to NASCAR.You need someone tied to “Wall Street” and/or a marketing guru to assist in running this series. Jack A are you listening. The drivers that run this series are the true grit racers and deserve the respect they never fully received. New England including NY/NJ,PA is the marketing capital of the world. The talent is here …show them the money and recognition. The history speaks for itself !!!.

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