RaceDayCT Poll: Who Is The Best Modified Driver Over The Last 39 Years

On Friday Matt Hirschman won the Richie Evans Memorial 100 at New Smyrna for the fifth consecutive time and seventh time overall. Hirschman winning the event once again invariably leads to comparisons between himself and Evans. Evans was killed in a crash at Martinsville Speedway in 1985. Today we ask the question, who is the best Modified driver over the last 39 years since Evans was killed? Vote below.


  1. Last 39 years?

    Shawn, how did you come up with that limit?

  2. darealgoodfella,
    Richie Evans died in 1985. And now, 2024 is the 39th season of competition since his death.

  3. Mike Stefanik hands down

  4. It came down to Mike and Teddy. Went with Teddy because he was successful across more venues

  5. chevelledude says

    I Loved T.C. But I Agree With Earl.

  6. Voted for Hirschman but the only logical choice I should think would be Stefanik. There’s the Hall of Fame deal kind of the elephant in the poll. Plus the fact he raced when all the top modified talent was concentrated in the Tour which at the time was loaded. Not just the number of titles but the fact they spanned 17 years. Built and set up cars as well an A to Z racer.
    Christopher is a good choice but he raced full time in 13 Tour seasons, much of the time over lapping Stefanik with only 1 title. Don’t most folks associate Christopher’s modified prowess with the SK’s and primarily SMS?

  7. To be the best you have to beat the best and only guy on list that could beat Evans,Bodine,Cook,Spencer,Sacks was Reggie.

  8. For me its Mike Stefanik, Ted Christopher. and Matt Hirschman in that order. Even though Matt is still racing at a really high level I don’t see him getting past Ted mainly because he doesn’t race weekly at the CT tracks to accumulate win totals and track titles. Can not grab a Nascar. Stefanik has 7 whelen titles when they meant something, there weren’t 3 different series watering down the modified talent pool. I don’t see anyone touching him ever. Great poll. jmo

  9. Richie only let two guys drive his personal cars – Eddie Flemke, Sr. and Mike Stefanik…that says it all.

  10. I voted for Stefanik. Couldn’t pick Christopher over him for the reasons already listed by Doug although Ted did have more wins in Tour type mods than Mike at New Smyrna and below the Mason Dixon line. I’ve gotta believe if Reggie could have won just one championship he would have gotten much more consideration in this poll.

  11. Mike Stefanik

  12. Alex Eric Shlatz says

    Bugs Stevens best wheelman ever at Stafford

  13. Because Mike Stefanik oft chose to remain at home with his family instead of building a cheater motor and heading to Florida in no way diminishes his place atop this poll.
    When he did, he gave one of the shortest but best emotionally packed interviews in sports. So good that it landed him to be featured on Jay Leno’s tonight show!

  14. We’re answering the question who is the most successfully driver when it says “best”. Come on man, the best is the guy most of we oldies knew by his first name……Reggie.

    Interesting poll. Aside from the top two vote getters there’s some interesting results further down. Preece, Coby and Bonsignor getting less then half the votes Hirschman is getting. That’s a little surprising isn’t it? Coby has one less championship then Stefanik in the same sanctioning body and gets 21 votes? That’s basically family and friends isn’t it?
    Enter Matt Hirschman. Is he getting some kind of recognition for creating a whole new genre of modified racing? He’s his own brand and tour. Two or three teams actually but somehow we identify him as the 60 and one racer.
    Was his strategy planned seeing more races from new sanctioning groups being formed or simply dumb luck as he followed the money? He always had his geographically friendly core like Mahoning and select ROC races. New Smyrna a staple and was all in on the team friendly TTOMS almost from the start winning 8 of the 10 championships. As SMART emerged he hit some of their races early and pounced on the new format big money Sizzler and won it. That’s opportunism 101.
    Stefanik and Christopher have won their last races and are where they are in fans minds. Hirschman at 41 is still at the top of his game and still winning races. If he somehow can keep his torrid pace of winning up where will he land when it’s all over.
    I’ve always considered Hirschman to be the rightful heir to Evans. Evans knew everything there was to know about how to get a modified to go fast, Hirschman ditto. Evans raced in the new Tour only one year most of his career was as an opportunist going to where he could win races just like Hirschman.

  15. Thanks Shawn, I knew that but just wanted you to put it out there for the benefit of so many others.

    It’s an in credible tribute to Richie, the GOAT, the greatest Modified driver, that the criteria for a poll is designed to eliminate him from contention. You could have left him in the poll, then every other driver would be weighed for 2nd place. Pretty much the same result.

    Back in the day, going to the track was to watch Richie. Richie was the show. He was the giant back then, and his giant reputation is still permeating Modified racing today. Nobody comes close.

    Reggie was good, one of the best to never win a championship. Like Michael Waltrip. You have to win championships in order to be a champion, or considered the best.

    Woof. No love for Doug Coby. Everybody knows Stefanik, and Stefanik never had to promote himself, his driving and his persona spoke volumes. Doug Coby? Who dat? Woof.

    The NWMT is the cream of the crop. When NWMT teams show up at off-broadway events, the NWMT teams usually own the event. When non-NWMT cars show up at a NWMT event, they are non-factors. Yeah, I’m looking at you southern mods. Not until you can hang with the best, on the NWMT for season after season, can you be considered for the honor of the best driver, regardless of time period. In order to be a great, you must have been a consistent, dominant factor on the NWMT, or its predecessor of open races with cream of the crop cars and drivers.

    Matt Hirschman has never been a major, consistent factor on the NWMT. He did good for a season or two, but couldn’t hang. He does well with the off-broadway series and events. Good for him.

    TC, he could have been closer to Stefanik if he didn’t leave the incredible debris fields. TC gets many demerits for all the wrecking and destroyed equipment, his and that of many, many others.

    The NHL lost its mojo when Gretzky and Mario Lemieux retired. It has taken many years for the NHL to come back. That’s the position the NWMT, or Modified racing, is in.

    Without Stefanik, the NWMT is hollowed, like modified racing was when Richie and Charlie were no longer there. Lost some luster for a while. There are no giants in NWMT racing right now. This poll shows that, and who is still considered the contemporary greats. In recent years, Modified racing has lost giants like Stefanik, TC, Partridge, Garbarino, and several others. No current participants have that appeal.

    Let’s keep in mind that Tony Hirschman won 5 NWMT Championships. Matt has ZERO NWMT Championships. Matt has only run the NWMT full schedule a few times. The NWMT is the benchmark, it is the major league of Modified racing. Matt does not have record like his father, how can Matt be considered a great or heir apparent?

    Matt Hirschman can’t even be Richie’s waterboy. There was no tour back then as we know it today, back in the Richie days. Great cars, drivers and teams, but no tour as we know it today. So the great cars were doing the opportunistic open racing bit. It was very different. If Matt and Richie could somehow have run together, Richie would not consider Matt a competitor. Stealing candy from babies is not the way to build a rep. Don’t be a big league player running in amateur/minor league events to make yourself look like a big fish in a little pond.

    And I’d go further… if Jarzombek and Spencer were in this poll, they’d be right behind Stefanik.

    Why was Ron Silk not included in this poll? He has TWO NWMT championships. That’s two more than Matt Hirschman.

  16. Oh how can you forget Maynard Troyer or Dutch Hoag does anyone remember Richie Evens original car number. Had to change it because Troyer already had it.

  17. Rob P, just wondering what you mean by more venues?… do you mean wins at tracks like Rougemont, Flemington, Nazareth, Pocono, Holland? Venues like that?… Or venues in the late 80’s early 90’s when 40 or so cars showed up for every race in a 30 race schedule?…

  18. I voted for Stefanik. For a lot of the same reasons already mentioned. I am flabbergasted to see TC get so much support. I always thought most of Teddy’s accomplishments were in an SK. So I’m curious, do y’all even consider what’s done in an SK when asked who’s the best MODIFIED driver??

  19. Rob P, I too am wondering about what you meant when you wrote, “Went with Teddy because he was successful across more venues”

    What does that mean? They ran the NWMT together for many years, same venues. What other other venues, and are you sure Stefanik never ran those venues?

    Camerrisa, I am your choir, and you are singing to me. I’m shocked TC has that much support over so many other drivers. As far considering SK Modified drivers in the same pool as Tour Modified drivers, the answer for me is “no”. There is no compelling history of SK drivers being successful in Tour cars. SK drivers are a Stafford thing, maybe Waterford once in a while. So for me, I do not consider SK drivers in the same class/league as NWMT drivers. Look at how low Rocco polled, and he is a dominant SK driver, not really a Tour car driver. Rocco is synonymous with SK racing. I share your opinion that TC was more of a SK driver than NWMT driver. The success a SK driver had didn’t seem to transfer to the NWMT.

  20. Does the reference to “venues” mean different types of race cars and trucks? One look at Christopher’s career on Wikipedia confirms he sure competed in a wide range of different series. Stefanick as well just not quite as much.

    I took the question to mean tour modifieds but it didn’t say that it said modifieds and SK’s are every bit a modified. I should think fans weighed in the SK’s to some degree which may be fair game. After all Preece and Pennink were regulars at Stafford and running Tour races at the same time. Blewett more recently.

    Perhaps Christopher is winning based on name recognition. After all every year he’s mentioned and has races in his name. SMS can’t use the Christopher name enough to promote events. Stefanik may be slipping from some fans memories because it’s been a while since he raced and he’s just not in fan’s consciousness as much as Christopher.

  21. Crazy in NY says

    To be the best you have to beat the best and only guy on list that could beat Evans,Bodine,Cook,Spencer,Sacks was Reggie.

    You have to be careful with the word only here. There was this guy near Rochester, NY named Maynard something that may upset that matter of fact statement.

    Stefanik has to be the one to anybody with a pulse the last 39 years. 9 titles over 2 divisions. I mean come on…….. Reg the runner up…please (yes he was good)

    Matt v Richie…..I’d never venture there. Two totally different era’s. Fools paradise to compare these two greats of their days heads up . DaNarrowmind and his Tour snobbery not withstanding I’ll offer up this. AS I grew up as kid in the early 70’s U/R was my Sunday night home from 71-76 . Plus the other now defunct local (NYS) NASCAR tracks. Rich and Cook whipped up on the regulars on a weekly basis in large part (but not all) with the unlimited tire rules in effect. Regular shows had these two guys with fresh tires in most all these feature races. Rich had a side gig selling his takeoffs to lessor teams back then. I assume Cook did the same. Rome, NY secured the NASCAR Mod title for 15 straight years between 71 and 85. In any real sense there were only 2 guys chasing the title. Sending two cars in different directions to distract each other or cover rainouts, fly mid week to south to grab a double point show somewhere. NONE of that is in play today. 80% of the cars today CAN win, the tires all come out of the same box trailers and first to last on the clock (mostly) is tighter than back in the day. In a sense winning titles today is harder to do than back then. But…like I said …really foolish to compare these guys today……Is Matt better that Rich?…..Nope (but the final chapter isn’t written yet either) Stay tuned kids.

  22. “ Rich and Cook whipped up on the regulars on a weekly basis in large part (but not all) with the unlimited tire rules in effect. Regular shows had these two guys with fresh tires in most all these feature races.”

    “ In any real sense there were only 2 guys chasing the title. Sending two cars in different directions to distract each other or cover rainouts, fly mid week to south to grab a double point show somewhere.”

    Now I shall proceed to twist those two statements into a point I’m been rolling out on occasion that predictably gets torn to shreds every time I attempt it.

    Nobody would waste their time with a greatest modified driver of all time poll Evans would win it overwhelmingly. But is he the greatest driver? Most successful for sure but in my view claims of greatest driver way over rated.

    Stafford Speedway 50 Greatest Drivers-Richie Evans

    “About 1970, Evans, who was now a full time, professional racer, took NASCAR to court over ‘Right to Work’ laws. He won his case, and was allowed to race in both NASCAR and non-sanctioned events. Once Evans won his case, NASCAR never again suspended a driver for racing in non-sanctioned events.
    Evans hit full stride in 1973, teaming up with Gene DeWitt, a concrete supplier in upstate New York. He arrived armed with two new Pinto bodied Modifieds built by Clayton ‘Sonny’ Seamon, and hit the road running for the championship which, in the fall of 1973, was his.”

    Sidebar: interesting is it note that Hirschman can float in and out our NASCAR sanctioned events in part thanks to Richie Evans?

    Back to my point the key here was Evans starting in 1970 was a full time professional driver who once teamed with DeWitt had the best and no day job to distract him from his quest to win races and he did win races.

    From the 2012 Nascar Hall of Fame induction page:

    “Evans captured nine NASCAR Modified titles in a 13-year span, including eight in a row from 1978-1985.”

    “Starts: 1300 (estimated)”
    “Wins: 475 (estimated)”

    To put that in perspective Tomaino the leader in recent era NWMT starts in 39 years has 628 starts.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the greatest modified driver in the history of the division was Chick Stockwell. A guy who routinely won races and championships in the very equal solid front axle, flat head engined cars at Danbury RaceArena in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s but lets forget him for the purpose of this discussion.
    In 1982 I had just started becoming a regular fan and eventual racer at Stafford and witnessed Evan’s appear at a Friday night event he was not scheduled to be in but was rained out elsewhere. The paddock abuzz with his appearance remembering the times when he was a regular winning races and championships in years past. I can’t remember if he won but do remember he looked every bit the professional looking faster and more aggressive simply warming up his tires.
    Now I know years later that it was never a fair fight. Guys like my favorite and Stafford regular Ray Stevens would come from his job at Pratt & Whitney to race whereas Evans was a full time professional. The two quotes above by a witness to the early years confirms Evans as a professional, chasing events and wins full time all week with apparently a monster tire advantage taking on working stiffs that had day jobs.
    Forget about Chick Stockwell I know practically no one here ever saw him race. But I don’t know Reggie, Stefanik, Bugs, Coby, Hischman or any other driver you like was not a better driver.
    The one year it was closer to a fair fight was 1985. That year Evans won 12 races but only 7 cars raced enough of the full 29 race schedule to win the championship. Evans still held all the cards by that time having amassed a huge reservoir of expertise as a full timer that wasn’t taking time off or being distracted by a day job to get to the races.
    We saw Jerry Cook in a wheelchair at New Smyrna who was clearly the first of the modified legends. He get’s little remembrance because he survived and thrived in a career outside of driving. Evans indelibly etched in all our minds, forever young, forever winning, forever orange and in my view completely over rated as a driver.

    ” In a sense winning titles today is harder to do than back then.”
    Not only is that right but it’s a compete understatement.

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