Mixed Feelings: Not All Whelen Mod Tour Teams Happy To Get Back On Track At Myrtle Beach

LFR owner Rob Fuller (left) and Whelen Modified Tour team owner/driver Dave Sapienza (right) in the garage at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last September (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

Across the spectrum of short track racing in the United States, thousands of grassroots racers are hoping to get the opportunity to get back in action in 2020 despite restrictions and shutdowns due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. 

That feeling rings true with many teams and drivers on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but not all are thrilled about how the division’s return to racing will take place. 

On Friday NASCAR confirmed to Whelen Modified Tour team owners that the series will run an event on May 30 at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Myrtle Beach, S.C. The Wade Cole Memorial 133 presented by Dunleavy’s Truck & Trailer Repair will kick off the 2020 season for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. 

The race, which will be a points paying event for the series, was not part of the original 2020 Whelen Modified Tour schedule.

“It’s difficult to get a positive take on it,” said Ken Massa, team owner for 2018 series championship team M3 Racing with driver Justin Bonsignore. “I’m happy to start racing. I really thought that somebody or a track or NASCAR or somebody had to jump off the ledge to get it rolling. I’m happy about that. Obviously I’m not happy about having to go to Myrtle Beach. … But to get back racing, I’m happy about that.” 

Kevin Stuart, owner of Kevin Stuart Motorsports with driver Ron Silk, said he’s unsure at this point if his team will travel to the event. 

Stuart brought up the fact that for NASCAR to get it’s premier level Cup Series back on track events were scheduled at Darlington Raceway in Darlington, S.C. and Charlotte Motor Speedway. The events allowed for Cup Series teams and drivers to have limited travel for the one day events. 

For Stuart’s Lowell, Mass. team, travel to Myrtle Beach will involve about a 14-hour drive. For most Northeast based Whelen Modified Tour teams the trip will be at least 12 hours of driving each way and two nights of hotel stays. 

The reduced purse for the event will mean the race winner will earn $4,000. Fifth place will earn $1,000. Every team from 10th place back will earn $500. 

“You can’t even pay for the hotel rooms,” Stuart said. “I realize we’re in a situation with the whole country, but I think it’s not fair that the Cup guys can only go 200 miles and not stay in a hotel and we have to go 1,400 miles [round trip] and stay in a hotel, and we don’t even know where we’re staying. It’s a mess.” 

Stuart also was disappointed that NASCAR could offer no direction on what the plan moving forward for the series is after Myrtle Beach.

Six of the first seven events on the originally announced Whelen Modified Tour 2020 schedule have been postponed, with one additional event – at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway – cancelled. 

The next currently scheduled event on the Whelen Modified Tour schedule is at Wall Stadium in Wall, N.J. on July 11. Current government restrictions on crowd gathering in most Northeast states have been the bulk of the schedule in jeopardy.

“Guys are going to go [to Myrtle Beach] and you’re going to have guys that don’t go, but they can’t even tell us where the next race is going to be,” Stuart said. “They’re talking about a point fund championship. What are we going to have three races and have a championship?” 

Team owner and driver Dave Sapienza of Riverhead, N.Y. echoed Stuart’s feelings of not being sure if he will participate. 

“I’m still up in the air,” Sapienza said. “I don’t want to be the sour apple. It’s not about the money as much as it is the inconvenience. It does have to do with the money, but it’s more of an inconvenience. They said be ready at any time on two-week’s notice. Well right now you’re not giving us two weeks, you’re giving us seven days. So much for the two week notice.

“I’m more surprised that they don’t have anything in line for race number two. Why rush? If you don’t have something – a contingency plan for round two – who are they appeasing with this race? Are they trying to appease the drivers? Nobody was pushing for a race. Who are they trying to satisfy? We’re only doing it because we love to do it, but it’s almost like they’re forcing our hands. Like they’re saying ‘We did all this for you.’ Ok fine, what’s the next step? Nobody is even discussing it. They haven’t even brought it up.”

Whelen Modified Tour series director Jimmy Wilson was unavailable for comment concerning the event Friday.

Fans will not be allowed to attend the event at Myrtle Beach and teams will be limited to eight individuals entering the track, including driver and team owner. 

Massa said on a typical race weekend his team would include nine crew members plus himself and Bonsignore. He said he may not go to the event so that the team can have seven crew members for the car. 

“I’m not happy about the reduction in guys,” Massa said. “Every one of my guys deserves to be there. I’m actually considering staying back myself so another one of my guys can go. Very disappointing that the guy who spends the money would be one of the guys that has to stay home.” 

Sapienza said he was disappointed that NASCAR officials didn’t have a better dialogue with teams before planning the event. NASCAR first informed team owners of the scheduling of the Myrtle Beach event through a conference call on May 15 and confirmed the event to owners on another conference call Friday morning. 

“I would have rather that they planned it a little better,” Sapienza said. “I wish [car owners] weren’t all muted out of these conference calls. I would like for them, with 30 people on the line, to take a vote or take suggestions. They’re not taking any suggestions from anyone involved.” 

Prior to NASCAR informing teams of the Myrtle Beach plan on May 15, Rob Fuller, owner of LFR and Troyer, had been planning an Open Modified event based on series rules at Hickory Motor Speedway in Newton, N.C. Multiple sources have confirmed that the event Fuller was planning was expected to pay a purse that would offer $10,000 to win and would have likely been about four to five times larger in total than what will be offered in Myrtle Beach. Sources said Fuller had been in talks briefly to team up with NASCAR on the event before the decision was made to go to Myrtle Beach. 

“The race that Fuller had, they should have jumped on board with that,” Sapienza said. “… Rob Fuller was putting up five times the amount we’re racing for at Myrtle Beach. Fuller reached out to them with five times the amount [for a purse] and they didn’t want any part of it. I think they’re being biased because Rob is a chassis builder. … I would use the word prejudiced. I think they discriminated against him. Rob Fuller came up with a great idea and I guess they thought it would make them look bad and tarnish their great standing as a series, that an outsider with that type of vision could have done something better than they did. I think they treated him unfairly, almost like he’s being discriminated against.” 

Comments

  1. 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

  2. “I think he’s being discriminated against” mind you this is one rich race car driver talking about another rich race car driver. Nah, you don’t know anything about that.

  3. Then Fuller should run his race. And all of the teams should go. That would make a great statement. Then NASCAR would ban Fuller or something to that effect. And who knows what would happen then. Unfortunately until they stand up to the bullying the will continue to be treated like the red headed stepchild so to speak.

  4. Well, I hate to say it again, but I WAS RIGHT!!!!! I’M RIGHT AGAIN!!!!! I brought this up on one of the earlier threads about this. This is a one-off event at best. This is not something to do until the northern tracks open up. The tracks up north where modified racing traditionally takes place will not be conducting races with fans for the next few months, or without fans. State mandated restrictions will only allow maybe 100 people gathering by late July or August. As it is, this Myrtle Beach event will not have fans.

    What is the point of forcing this race? To what end? Will the NWMT end up running the season down south in states and at tracks will allow events? I said in an earlier thread that owners are not going to want to spool up for one race and then wait around for word on the next race. The NWMT owners are not going to want to run a season down south.

    The owners have to form some solidarity group and have NASCAR present a comprehensive plan. This season approach of one race and then figure out when and where the next race might happen just isn’t going to work.

    Can’t wait to see the entry list. Has it been posted yet?

  5. Entry blank was just sent out at 4:30 tonight so there isn’t a list yet

  6. Well then just don’t go. It’s not like this can be any kind of real season anyway or a points fund fully funded. It’s an asterisk season. Enough teams take a pass they cancel it and wait for Northeast States to allow fanless racing. Or these guys are blowing off steam and who can blame them.

  7. Fuller cancelled his event as soon as he heard rumblings of Myrtle Beach, no question. Was this against him?? NO. I do believe it probably provoked NASCAR to do something though. You can’t go against NASCAR. It’s their court and their ball….but it’s not their game. You can offer something as a alternative to them however. The problem is that NASCAR means well, but they play politics because of how big they are. They have outgrown the modifieds honestly. They won’t have fans at Myrtle Beach because if the Cup series doesn’t have fans then mods won’t either. Well the cup series can afford no fans. Mods can not so what happens? The purse gets cut 60% and the entry fee doubles. Oh yea, the travel is the highest of the season as well. Should have made it a non points race instead of forcing teams to go. At least then no one can bitch. Don’t want to race done go. Want to race see you there!

  8. Everything in North Carolina goes thru Bowman Gray Stadium. Them and Nascar need to be sued for manipulating a region for 50 plus years.

  9. I’m totally against NASCAR decision to race next week but it’s funny how these team owners cry about the cost when they have these high dollar tow rigs, multiple cars etc… but they will still let NASCAR bully them. Start your own series – now is the time to do it, hire a marketing person, get that series sponsor and race for real money in 2021

  10. Purse gets smaller and smaller. Might as well say there is no purse. This is just club racing now. And very expensive club racing.

    The NWMT is not flush with an abundance of teams that are overflowing with limitless funding. There are only a handful of those teams. The rest are funding limited. And it shows.

    We are not fully recovered from the period of very low car counts. It takes funding to run a car. The more expensive it gets, some formerly ready, able and willing hobbyists are left out. Running the NWMT at southern tracks will make several or many teams effectively take a season off. We never got to the point of sending a couple cars home from every event. Look, there are only a handful of NWMT team owners that can spend that kind of unlimited money. That is obvious. Some won’t, and the rest simply can’t.

    You need to realize we have spent a period of many, many years of pretty scary poor car counts, and only the last couple seasons have been decent to stable car counts. I don’t recall many recent full fields or cars being sent home from every race. Why is that? Because owners are priced out of the game.

    If it was affordable, everybody would be doing it.

    The cost of running the NWMT down south could be a no-go for many owners. And they have to be thinking of the pandemic and safety of their team.

    Look, these guys are addicted to racing. But there are limits. People can break their addictions when conditions are right.

    I don’t care what people do with their money, but when something like this happens, a sharp increase in costs and almost an elimination of a purse, then that qualifies as a threat to the racing I love. Granted, this is all rooted in the pandemic, but why force the issue? Sit it out. What will be achieved by running a local short track series with no fans? The local home track short track racing is all about getting the regular people out to the track.

  11. My opinion is this if NASCAR can get 1race in on the tour then they do not have to pay back all this money the owners and crew members for registrartion and license cost back.

  12. Brian is onto something…. MONEY! Follow the money and it’s very clear. Licenses and fees I’m guessing is $5,000 per team in my estimation. $100k plus. If you say that’s so small it doesn’t matter to someone huge like NASCAR then answer me this, why the insulting $4,000 to win and minuscule purse? For comparison my son won almost that for a 50 lap late model race in a weekly division last year at Stafford, 20 minutes from home.

  13. Plugs 2020 says

    Don’t hate to say it dafella. Be proud! Scream it from the rooftops. I know you try your best to be modest but stop it. You need to let everyone and their mother know how good and smart and right you are every chance you get. You are hands down the best. Don’t let anyone say otherwise. We love you!

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