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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — As the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour gets closer to resuming its schedule with the Daggett Schuler Attorneys At Law 150 on July 4 at Caraway Speedway, a number of different approaches have been employed by drivers during the three-month idle stretch.
Since its inaugural season of 2005, the Whelen Southern Modified Tour annually has had an unofficial “spring break” from May-July. The schedule respite came about via a symbiotic relationship with Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, North Carolina which has a large number of tour competitors participating in its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series modified division. The collaboration helps keep the competition strong for both.
When the 2014 Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule was laid out, there were to be six points races before the break, the annual Independence Day event at Caraway, then eight dates to close out the summer and fall. Mother Nature then added to the off time with early-season rainouts that ultimately lengthened the idle period from April 12 to July 4.
With the better part of three months off from the tour, drivers and teams take different routes to bridging the gap. While half of the full-time competitors beat and bang weekly on the tight quarter-mile at Bowman Gray, some pick and choose events to run while others utilize the time solely to prepare their cars for the stretch run.
A native of New Jersey, 2012 Whelen Southern Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year Danny Bohn didn’t grow up in the Bowman Gray culture like many of his competitors, but has immersed himself in the scene in recent seasons. He is running for the track championship for the first time this year.
“Just to go there and be able to say I raced there was the reason I started racing there,” Bohn said. “There’s no other track out there like it.”
While it’s not his sole purpose of racing at Bowman Gray, Bohn says staying behind the wheel during the break in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule is beneficial to that effort.
“It’s not like any other race track, but just to be in the car and to have some time in the seat [is beneficial],” Bohn said. “And you can play with some stuff that might help you at other tracks, so I definitely think it is an advantage in a way.”
In addition to Bohn, seven other full-time Whelen Southern Modified Tour drivers are also running weekly at Bowman Gray. Burt and Jason Myers are mainstays at The Stadium while Spencer Davis, Kyle Ebersole, Luke Fleming, Mike Norman and John Smith also rub nerf bars there on a regular basis. Others like JR Bertuccio, David Calabrese, Brian Loftin and Joe Ryan Osborne have also made appearances.
Bohn said competing weekly at Bowman Gray can be a double-edged sword when it comes to switching back to the Whelen Southern Modified Tour. He cited an incident in which he was involved with some beating and banging in the Whelen All-American Series modified feature that was paid back in the tour event there.
“It can definitely help you, but in other ways it can hurt you,” Bohn said. “That said, I think anytime you’re in a race car it’s going to help.”
The flipside of the coin are drivers like Andy Seuss and George Brunnhoelzl III who are 1-2 in the standings following the first four Whelen Southern Modified Tour races. Seuss typically makes a select few appearances through the summer while remaining focused on the schedule’s second half, as does Brunnhoelzl, the tour titlist in four of the last five years.
“Typically I don’t race during the break,” Brunnhoelzl said. “We usually just work on our stuff; things like scheduling our motors to where we can get them freshened during the break.”
Brunnhoelzl hasn’t been behind a wheel once since the last Whelen Southern Modified Tour race on April 12 at Virginia’s Langley Speedway, which he won. This year the reason for his not racing is different than in the past.
“This year I haven’t done anything because I had shoulder surgery again the week after our last race,” Brunnhoelzl said. “So I’ve just been recovering from that. Physical therapy three times a week and that’s pretty much it.”
Aside from the surgery, Brunnhoelzl would have liked to get a few races in during the break, just to keep sharp if nothing else.
“We thought about doing the [NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour] Friday night show at Stafford Motor Speedway, but my shoulder just wasn’t healed enough to do that,” Brunnhoelzl said. “I wish I could be racing. It’s like anything else, when you don’t race stuff just slips your mind and you forget what you were doing.
“I looked forward to keep racing because we won that last race before the break, and now you sit for three months and any momentum you might have had you lose.”
Despite the different paths the field of competitors will take in three months’ time, when the break ends and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour returns to action on Independence Day, Caraway will certainly provide a familiar setting for resumption of the schedule. The Daggett Schuler Attorneys At Law 150 will be the 50th all-time event at the .455-mile oval for the tour.
With so much experience at the track amongst the group, it likely won’t matter whether a driver has competed weekly during the break, or not at all. Case in point, Brunnhoelzl has won the July 4 weekend race each of the last four years he has entered it.
Brunnhoelzl had shoulder surgery during the break this year and has utilized the free time during recovery to spend with family. Getty Images for NASCAR