Tinkering with the oldest division in NASCAR racing is inevitable, simply because of the amount of time that segment of the sport has been around.
That’s why there’s no Southern Modified Tour in NASCAR anymore. Or at least that is one of the factors.
Declining car counts at the Southern Modified Tour events in 2016 were no doubt a factor and the fact that NASCAR has cut its cadre of national touring officials across the board in favor of technology are two more. The same officiating group is handling both the NWMT and the NASCAR K&N Series, and the schedule makers have eliminated conflicts between the two to ease the strain on the group.
The Modified Tour reverting to a single entity is the bigger story, however.
At the end of 2016, NASCAR announced it was doing away with the Southern Modified Tour in favor of a combined national tour that would see a single, unified modified series. Regional pride aside, it’s a good deal for all concerned.
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As in all things motorsports, it’s a money deal. By combining the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, NASCAR is expanding the available year-end point fund monies to nearly $500,000 through a combination of series sponsor Whelen Engineering and existing contingency sponsors. Perhaps the key to the program is the kicker: a plan that will add some $230,000 in owner plan funding, which means teams making all 17 of the Tour’s combined dates will be paid for their efforts. That fund comes from the year-end point fund for the Southern Tour, as will non-qualifier money and a champion/owner plan for the teams that raced the Southern Tour in 2016.
“NASCAR is committed to growing and enhancing the profile of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour,” said George Silbermann, NASCAR vice president of weekly and touring series, upon the announcement of the 2017 plan. “The 2017 calendar is a mix of some of the best race tracks for the exciting brand of racing that modified fans have loved for more than 60 years. We are looking forward to a championship season worthy of the likes of Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and others.”
Indeed it is, as it captures the history of the series, both north and south.
The 17-race schedule includes the traditional dates at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in July and September and at the always-exciting Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August. While the series opened in mid-March at South Carolina’s Myrtle Beach Speedway, the 43rd annual Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and the 46th edition of the Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway in Connecticut followed in early April.
Best of both worlds is the operative phrase for the decision, and much of it was to curtail the costs associated with having tours ranging from the top of the Atlantic seaboard to very near the bottom.
“It’s very important to us, as we bring these two tours together, to keep in mind the financial realities of racing on the touring series level,” said Brandon Thompson, senior director of NASCAR Touring Series. “Since the end of the 2016 season, we have met with drivers and owners across all series and will continue to have an open dialogue to work to provide what is best for everybody involved in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.”
Among the primary movers in the decision to combine the tours was series sponsor Whelen, of course. Whelen Engineering plays a big role in NASCAR racing, especially at the grassroots level, and its blessing was certainly necessary for the move to a single Tour.