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CONCORD, N.C. – It is one of two flat, quarter-mile tracks on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule, but make no mistake: Charlotte Motor Speedway is nothing like Bowman Gray Stadium.
“You can't compare it to Bowman Gray at all,” said Burt Myers, a champion of both the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified Division at Bowman Gray Stadium and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, who finished third in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 on Thursday night. “We brought our Bowman Gray setup today, and after the first practice, we changed every shock and spring on the car. We went totally away from what we run at Bowman Gray.”
Three-time series champion George Brunnhoelzl III, who set a track record in qualifying and led every lap en route to winning the UNOH Southern Slam 150 for his first career Charlotte Motor Speedway win on Thursday night, said the two tracks are very different.
“I guess it's the closest thing to a Bowman Gray, but it's definitely a different race track the way you transition the infield track up onto the big track frontstretch,” Brunnhoelzl said. “It's a huge transition there, and then coming off of (Turn 2), where you transition from the blacktop to the concrete.
“There's really nothing else like it out there.”
The 11-race NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule is held across seven different tracks – five of which are .400-miles in length or longer. Still, there's nothing “cookie cutter” about the two smallest circuits on the schedule.
According to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular Ryan Preece, there's nothing like the quarter-mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway anywhere that he's raced.
“Bowman Gray doesn't even look anything like this,” said Preece, who finished second. “Basically, if you bring me to a parking lot and make it as big as this, that's what it is – with a little bit of sand, man.
“It was definitely interesting. I love tracks like this. It was a lot of fun.”
It's fun, but with no banking in the corners and racing in such tight confines, it can be as challenging mentally as physically.
“It definitely tests your patience,” Brunnhoelzl said. “Any race track's fun, but it does test your patience. It's very easy to over-drive. You have to constantly back yourself up, because you just want to drive it in (the corners) harder, and then you just go slower.
“It's definitely about having patience. It's a use-your-head kind of race.”
EXCLAMATION POINT: Brunnhoelzl had the kind of championship night at Charlotte that most champions dream about.
He won the Coors Light Pole Award, set a track record in the process, led the most laps and won the season finale – the second time in his career he's won the final race of the season to lock up a championship. He also accomplished that feat in 2009 when he won the last race of the year at Caraway Speedway.
“It's huge,” said Brunnhoelzl, who only needed to start the race to clinch a series-record third title. “After the past couple of races we'd been not up to our par, so to come out here (winning) was our A-No. 1 goal. We didn't have the pressure to points race to worry about, so we tried a couple of things we wouldn't normally have.
“We came here with one thought in our head – we wanted to win practice, sit on the pole and win the race. We came up short in the practice department, but we came up good in the other two.”
Brunnhoelzl is the first driver to win two consecutive Whelen Southern Modified Tour championships since Junior Miller won the first two titles in series history in 2005-06.
“It's amazing. To win one, it's a really tough feat,” he said. “To win three championships, it's unbelievable. It's hard to put it into words.”
ROOKIE SOARS: Danny Bohn locked up the Rookie of the Year honors for the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and with a fourth-place finish at Charlotte the 24-year-old New Jersey native secured a second-place finish in the final overall point standings.
“With the schedule we have, with only 11 races, it's tough to have 11 good races,” Bohn said. “It's tough to go to some of these tracks – places like South Boston, Bristol, Thompson, places like that – where you've never even turned a lap. You don't know what to expect.”
Bohn finished the season with his first career win at Caraway Speedway and seven Top-5 finishes in 11 races. He closed out the season by posting Top-10 runs in six of the final seven races.
“We learned a lot this year,” Bohn said. “Hopefully next year, if we decide to do the same thing, we can make a run for the title.”
NORTHERN STAR: Ryan Preece has plenty more to think about this weekend after finishing second in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 at Charlotte on Thursday. The Connecticut driver heads to the Sunoco-Town Fair Tire World Series 150 sitting second in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings, just 17 points out of the overall lead.
“I looking forward to it,” Preece said. “This was definitely a good warm-up (at Charlotte). I really think we have a shot at winning this title, and I have a really good feeling about Sunday.”
Preece, who also joined the Whelen Southern Modified Tour at Bowman Gray Stadium this season, said he's entertained the idea of running both Tours full-time, but scheduling conflicts are the main drawback.
“You'll definitely see me at Bowman Gray (in 2013), I know that's one that's definitely on our schedule,” Preece said. “As far as doing the full (Southern) Tour or doing anything else, it really depends on schedules. I already have commitments up north for weekly series stuff and the northern Tour. We'll see in January or February.”