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Whelen Modified Tours News & Notes: Bristol

Modifieds First Up On Bristol’s Revamped Racing Surface
By Jason Cunningham, NASCAR
August 20, 2012 - 10:30am

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Since the inaugural UNOH Perfect Storm 150 in 2009, the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours have navigated the progressive banking at Bristol Motor Speedway. That will all change this week when the open-wheel racers become NASCAR’s first division to compete on the revamped racing surface at the “World’s Fastest Half Mile.”

With stock car fans clamoring for a return to the beating and banging that typified Bristol prior to its 2007 renovation – when progressive banking was introduced – this spring the speedway milled the racing surface in the upper groove through the turns. The degrees of banking are now the same from the middle through the top of the turns, with the purpose being to eliminate the third groove as a viable option for drivers, and thus create tighter racing.

While the cars of the Whelen Modified Tours don’t have fenders like their fellow NASCAR series, and are thus less likely to excessively beat and bang, they’ll be the sanctioning body’s first representatives to determine exactly how the revamped surface will race.

Reigning Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion – and current season points leader – George Brunnhoelzl III is one of the few competitors to have driven on both of the previous two configurations, and he projects that the milled surface will change very little for the Modifieds.

“I think we always put on a good show there in the Modifieds, and I really don’t see that changing,” Brunnhoelzl said. “Most of us weren’t quite up the track like the [NASCAR Sprint] Cup cars are. [Ryan] Newman used the top a little bit, but from my understanding of what they did to the track, the bottom and the half of the middle groove hasn’t been changed at all, so I think for the Modifieds it should be as good a race as ever.”

While he doesn’t believe the track changes will affect the quality of the race, Brunnhoelzl says that passing has the potential to be a little more challenging.

“Not a lot of guys used the top, but it was there, and during the course of the race I’m sure there were passes made up there,” Brunnhoelzl said. “The racing groove basically got a little smaller, so you will probably see a little more rubbing, bumping and banging to get past a guy because real estate will be a little bit more important.”

Whatever effect the milled surface will have on this year’s event, it’s unlikely to reduce the amount of lead changes. The last three years the race leaders have been quite successful at staying out in front, with an average of five lead changes per race, and there have been just five different drivers that have run at the front.

Brunnhoelzl has yet to be one of those select few to run up front at Bristol, although he was the highest-finishing Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver in the inaugural 2009 event when he crossed the line fourth overall. This time around he hopes to be in a position to deliver the southern tour its first victory in a combo race over the northern counterparts.

“Bristol, if not the biggest, is one of the biggest races we’ll run all year, so it would be really cool if we could [win] and to be one of the first southern drivers to do it,” Brunnhoelzl said.

RACE: UNOH Perfect Storm 150
PLACE: Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway
DATE: Wednesday, Aug. 22
TIME: 6 p.m. ET
TELEVISION: Live on SPEED
TRACK LAYOUT: .533-mile, high-banked concrete oval
2011 WINNER: Ryan Newman
2011 POLESITTER: Bobby Santos
EVENT SCHEDULE: Practice 8:30-9:50 a.m., Final Practice 11-11:50 a.m., Driver Autograph Session 1:45 p.m., Qualifying 2:45 p.m.
TRACK CONTACT: Lori Worley, 423-989-6948, lworley@bristolmotorspeedway.com
TRACK TWITTER: @BMSupdates
EVENT HASHTAGS: #UNOH150, #ItsBristolBaby
NASCAR CONTACT: Jason Cunningham, 704-201-6658, jcunningham@nascar.com, Twitter: @NASCAR_NE or Tim Southers, 386-235-3634, tsouthers@nascar.com, Twitter: @tsouth1968

EVENT SCHEDULE  |  ENTRY LIST

FAST FACTS
The Race:
  The UNOH Perfect Storm 150 will be the ninth of 14 races for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, the seventh of 11 events for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and the lone combination points race for the two this year.

The Procedure:  The starting field is 36 cars, including provisionals. The first 30 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining six spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (79.97 miles). The race will have a midway break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75 and the tire change rule is four tires, any position.

The Track:  Nicknamed the “World’s Fastest Half Mile,” Bristol Motor Speedway is a high-banked concrete oval. The track opened in 1961 as an even half-mile with 22 degrees of banking in the turns. It now features progressive banking approaching 30 degrees through the corners and a distance of .533 miles.

Race Winners: Donny Lia was victorious in the first UNOH Perfect Storm 150 in 2009 while Ryan Newman took the checkered flag in the last two editions. The highest-finishing NWSMT drivers in the first three Bristol races, which are credited with a win in that tour, were George Brunnhoelzl III, James Civali and Frank Fleming.

Pole Winners:  Qualifying was rained out for the inaugural event, but Justin Bonsignore took the Coors Light Pole Award in 2010 with a fast lap of 14.835 seconds (129.334 mph), which remains the record. Bobby Santos was the overall pole winner last year while James Civali and Tim Brown have been the highest-qualifying NWSMT drivers.

BRISTOL RACE NOTES
Points Leaders Enter Bristol on a Roll:
  Respective modified tour points leaders Doug Coby and George Brunnhoelzl III enter this week’s UNOH Perfect Storm 150 on a roll through the first half of their seasons. Coby has forged a 41-point lead over defending champion Ron Silk in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour standings after eight events while reigning NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour titlist Brunnhoelzl leads Jason Myers by 45 tallies following six races. Both Coby and Brunnhoelzl have made it difficult for the field to catch up since they got out front – Coby has posted seven-consecutive podium finishes in the northeast-based circuit, highlighted by four wins, while Brunnhoelzl has won four of the six events the southern tour has contested.

South Still Seeks Combo Victory:  Wednesday’s race will mark the 10th head-to-head, points-paying combination race between the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours. Through the first three editions of the UNOH Perfect Storm 150, and the six combo races between the two tours at Martinsville Speedway from 2005-10, the southern contingent still seeking its first outright victory over its northern counterparts. James Civali has the highest finish of a designated southern driver through the first three Bristol races when he crossed the line third overall in 2010 and was credited with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory for his efforts.

Newman the Two-Time Defending Winner:  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Ryan Newman has won the last two Whelen Modified events at Bristol. Moonlighting in Whelen Modified Tour races at Bristol and New Hampshire Motor Speedway since 2008, Newman has registered four victories in 10 starts overall. His four triumphs came in consecutive fashion during the 2010-11 seasons, but he enters Bristol this week with DNFs in his last two Modified outings, which was also the result of his start in the inaugural UNOH Perfect Storm 150 in 2009.

Christopher Seeks Elusive Bristol Win:  Although he did not attend last year’s UNOH Perfect Storm 150, Ted Christopher remains the event’s laps leader through the first three events with 190. He finished second to Donny Lia in 2009 after leading a race-high 110 circuits, then had to settle for an 18th-place result in 2010 when he again led the most laps, 80, but suffered a late-race engine failure. Christopher, who ranks third in Whelen Modified Tour history with 42 career wins, has been victorious at 12-different tracks during his career.

Strong Field for UNOH 150:  With 42 cars entered, this year’s field is shaping up to be the largest in the four years of the UNOH Perfect Storm 150. There are 22 cars on the entry list from the Whelen Modified Tour and 18 from the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. NASCAR national series drivers Newman and Carl Long are also technically entered as southern tour drivers. The previous high for entries was 40 in the 2009 inaugural event. The starting field for the race will be 36 cars.

HOME TRACKS: Monteith Leads Volunteer State
Nate Monteith is well on his way to a second-straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series state championship in Tennessee thanks to his performance through the season at Kingsport Speedway. As of the latest national standings, posted on Aug. 14, Monteith had 10 wins and 16 top fives in 18 starts to forge a lead of 662-534 on Zeke Shell. Monteith has also parlayed success at Southern National Motorsports Park in Lucama, N.C., and Greenville (S.C.) Pickens Speedway to compile 716 total points this season, which has him ranked second in the nation to Lee Pulliam’s 768.

NWMT LAST TIME OUT: Thompson
The most recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race was held at Thompson International Speedway on Aug. 9. Here are some highlights from the Budweiser King of Beers 150:
• Donny Lia came from a lap down to take the lead with 22 laps to go and cruised to his first victory of 2012. It marked the 16th triumph of his career, and first since 2009, his last full-time season on the tour.
• Points leader Doug Coby finished third to run his streak of consecutive podium finishes to seven races.
• Mike Stefanik earned the Coors Light Pole Award, which extended his tour record to 47, and marked his first pole since 2010 at Martinsville Speedway.
• Filling in for the injured Keith Rocco, Ted Christopher finished fourth in his first-ever race with Boehler Racing Enterprises in the famed No. 3 “Ole Blue.”

NWSMT LAST TIME OUT: Bowman Gray
The most recent NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race was held at Bowman Gray Stadium on August 4, in Winston-Salem, N.C. Here are some highlights from the Strutmasters.com 199:
• George Brunnhoelzl III took the checkered flag. The victory was the first of Brunnhoelzl’s career at Bowman Gray in five attempts.
• It was Brunnhoelzl’s fourth win of the season in six races in the division. He also added to his tour record with all-time wins with 15.
• The race featured 13 cautions for 84 laps which set a new record for most yellow flags flown in a race and the most laps since the tour began operation under NASCAR sanction in 2005.

NWMT NEXT TIME OUT: Thompson
The second edition of UNOH Showdown weekend is next up for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on Sept. 8-9 at Thompson International Speedway, where they will once again be joined by the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The Whelen Southern Modifieds will run the GreenPointe Energy Southern 75, followed by the Town Fair Tire Northern 75 Whelen Modified race. The highest finishers from both of those races will then transfer to the UNOH Showdown, an exhibition feature of 50 green flag laps. George Brunnhoelzl III was the NWSMT winner a year ago while Doug Coby took checkers in the NWMT race as well as the UNOH Showdown.

NWSMT NEXT TIME OUT: Langley
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will head to Langley Speedway for the Langley 150 on Saturday, Sept. 1. This will be the third consecutive year the track in Hampton, Va., will play host an event. Andy Seuss is the defending race winner, which was also the site of his most recent tour win. Tim Brown won the first race held at the track in 2010. Langley is the home track of NWSMT regular Thomas Stinson.