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Best of 2014: Whelen Southern Modified Tour

Seuss Scores Championship; Bertuccio Breaks Through
Tim Southers, NASCAR
December 26, 2014 - 3:37pm

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour for the past several seasons has been the playground of George Brunnhoelzl III, but the competition is closing in and this year featured a first-time champion in the tour for the first time since 2010.

Andy Seuss was able to end Brunnhoelzl’s record-setting streak of three straight tour titles and he had won four in five seasons dating back to 2009. Seuss, who finished second twice to Brunnhoelzl in 2009 and 2011, broke through to win his first championship for himself and car owner Eddie Harvey.

In 2014, Seuss opened the season with three wins in the first half of the season and used consistent top 10 finishes and a string of top fives over the final three races to deny Brunnhoelzl a fourth straight championship.

Seuss led a tour-high 527 laps out of 2,166 in competition during the 14-race season. Seuss also extended his streak of finishing in the top five in the final standings to seven with his title run.  

Top Driver

Andy Seuss: After coming close for several seasons, Seuss was finally able to break through to win his first tour championship after finishing second twice. The key for Seuss was getting off to a quick start picking up three wins in the first five races of the season to get the lead after the third race on the schedule and he never looked back. Seuss was the only driver to finish in the top-10 in all 14 races and led all drivers with 12 top five finishes. Seuss completed all but one lap in competition (2,165) with a spin on the final lap costing his attempt at completing every one season. 

George Brunnhoelzl III (Honorable Mention):  If it wasn’t for a pair of late-race accidents at Langley and Caraway Speedways, Brunnhoelzl - already the record holder with four tour titles - would have celebrated his fourth straight and fifth out of the past six seasons. Brunnhoelzl finished the campaign with two wins to extend his streak of consecutive seasons with at least two or more wins a season to four and now has a record-setting 22 career wins. It was the first runner-up finish for the West Babylon, New York driver of his career on the tour.

Comeback Driver of the Year

Danny Bohn: The Freehold, New Jersey, driver returned to Victory Lane in 2014 after a one-year absence and went on to enjoy his best season to date on the tour. Bohn picked up a pair of wins (Bowman Gray and Caraway) and finished with a tour-best four Coors Light pole awards. Bohn also brought home 12 top-10 finishes to return to the top five in the final standings. Bohn also finished third in laps completed (2,139) and led 265 laps during the season.

J.R. Bertuccio (Honorable Mention): After tasting the top-10 in the final standings in 2013, this driver used the momentum he gained and kept it going over the winter into the 2014 season. He used a win at Southern National in the spring to lead the point standings by one over Seuss for one race and remained in the top five the rest of the season. He was able to improve six spots from the 2013 championship standings and will likely enter the 2015 campaign as one of the favorites to unseat defending champion Seuss and become the second driver in as many years to pick up his first tour crown.

Top Team

Ideal Racing: Although this isn’t the first official championship for the team as Howard Harvey-owned the car George Brunnhoelzl III drove to championships in 2011 and 2012, this is the first outright title for his son Eddie Harvey. While they scored three wins, the amazing statistic is they completed every lap but one. Also, car owner and crew chief Eddie Harvey also enjoyed his first title as sole owner after he helped his father, Howard, win the pair of titles with Brunnhoelzl.

Brunnhoelzl Racing (Honorable Mention): Most teams would be happy with a second-place finish in the final standings; then again, most teams aren’t this father-son duo from New York. George Brunnhoelzl Jr. showed his strength after leading his son to his third straight title in 2013 after transitioning from the retiring Howard Harvey back to his own team. Brunnhoelzl Jr. led his son to his first touring series title in 2009 and after running one season in the northern tour, returned with Howard Harvey in 2011 and 2012. The team finished the season with two wins and remained within striking distance of Seuss throughout the season coming up just a little short at Charlotte.

Top Breakthrough Performance

J.R. Bertuccio: This Centereach, New York, driver displayed glimpses of improvement in 2013 with a pair of top-five finishes, but 2014 was the season Bertuccio finally showed he could be a winner on the tour. Bertuccio scored his first career win in the second start of the season which also gave him the points lead for the first time in his career. He also proved the win at Southern National was not a fluke as he also was the highest finishing southern tour regular in the combination event at Bristol Motor Speedway in August to get credit for his second win of the year. Bertuccio finished fourth in the final standings improving six spots from 2013. 

Spencer Davis (Honorable Mention): This young driver from Dawsonville, Georgia made his presence known in 2014 driving for one of the more established teams in NASCAR modified racing with Hillbilly Racing. Davis made the transition from a fendered-stock car to a high horse-powe,red ground pounder look easy for most of the season. Davis finished the season with seven top 10’s in 14 starts highlighted by a pair of top-five finishes (Bowman Gray & Bristol). Davis also collected five Sunoco Rookie of the Race Awards en route to winning Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. He also finished in the top-10 twice in four starts in the northern tour.

Top Races

Prestoria Farms 150, Caraway Speedway, October 4: The penultimate race of the 2014 season featured a late-race caution that set up a green-white-checkered finish to give fans one of the closest battles for a win in the history of the tour. Danny Bohn and Brian Loftin were out front for much of the race and the duo was up front on the final two-lap dash to the finish. Bohn was able to outdistance Loftin by just .019 to record his third career win. The race also ended any chance for Brunnhoelzl to pick up a fourth consecutive title and fifth overall when he was collected in an accident coming out of Turn 4 racing to the checkered flag.

Bayport Credit Union 150, Langley Speedway, August 30: This was the first race win of the season for 2010 champion Burt Myers. Myers was running second to Brunnhoelzl on the final lap when the two made contact coming out of Turn 4 with Myers able to continue while Brunnhoelzl made contact with the inside wall and came back across the track ending his chances for a win. After a review by NASCAR officials, Myers was confirmed as the winner and he used this race to go on and win two of the next three races and move up to in the final standings.

UNOH Southern Slam 150, Charlotte Motor Speedway, Oct. 10: This proved to be the most competitive and entertaining races out of the five that have been held at the quarter-mile track at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Myers held off Brunnhoelzl on a green-white-checkered finish to win his second consecutive season finale and third overall on the flat track. Myers finished the season with a series high four wins and Bertuccio was able to get by Brunnhoelzl on the final restart to finish second. 

The 2014 Year In Pictures