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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When the UNOH Battle At The Beach was unveiled last February, a pair of NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour drivers knew they had to be a part of it.
Although they were part-time competitors in 2012, Brian Loftin and Brandon Ward had targeted the inaugural short-track showcase at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 18-19 as an event they must add to their schedules. When they each found Victory Lane during the 2012 season, their plans were cemented.
Race winners and points champions during the 2012 season earned secured starting positions for the feature race between NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tour teams.
Even with his locked-in status via his victory at Caraway Speedway on April 7, Loftin had planned to head to Daytona all along.
“I had already had plans to attend anyway,” Loftin said. “That’s just such a special event with so much money on the table that if you’ve got a Modified, I don’t see how you couldn’t take part in it.
“As soon as I heard about the event – being a part of Daytona Speedweeks – we were definitely planning on coming down,” Loftin said.
The 2008 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion from Lexington, N.C., Loftin has run a partial schedule the last two seasons since his late wife, Melissa, passed away from a car accident in 2011.
“We haven’t run full-time the past couple of seasons just because of money and from adjusting to life since my wife’s passing, but this is definitely a special event that I knew I wanted to be a part of,” Loftin said.
Loftin’s participation in the inaugural UNOH Battle At The Beach will launch a 2013 season in which he intends to the Whelen Southern Modified Tour full time.
Ward, who intends to run seven Whelen Southern Modified Tour events in the coming season, had very similar thoughts to those of Loftin about heading to the “World Center of Racing” for this special event.
“When they first announced about this Battle At The Beach race, we were definitely interested and excited about it and hoped that something would come together so we could race in it,” Ward said.
Ward, from Winston-Salem, N.C., has run between two and four races a year on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour since 2006. His 2012 participation was highlighted by his first career tour victory at South Boston Speedway on April 14, which locked him into the UNOH Battle At The Beach feature.
“Bryan Fishel, our car owner, had never fielded a car of his own at Daytona, so this is kind of an important deal for him,” Ward said. “That was kind of the plan from the start – to try to make it happen so we could go – and then after winning South Boston and securing a guaranteed spot, that just kind of sealed the deal.”
Ward will be one of the few with experience at Daytona International Speedway. Albeit on the big track, he competed in a handful of Daytona events in the former NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series.
He’s looking forward to racing the .4-mile short track on the DIS backstretch this time around, which will be a first for every competitor in the event.
“That’s another thing about this race that is going to make it fun and interesting – it’s going to be new to everyone,” Ward said. “It’s not like anyone has had a chance to test there or race there before. With this new track configuration, it’s going to be exciting for everyone to unload and try and see what the race track is all about. It should be a pretty equal playing field going into it.”
Driver Appearance on Saturday: Fans at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, Feb. 16 are encouraged to come by the Sprint Fan Deck on the infield to participate in a fan meet-and-greet with drivers from each of the three NASCAR Home Tracks series that will be competing in the UNOH Battle At The Beach. The driver appearance will run from 2:30-3 p.m.
Battle Events: The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Late Models will have qualifying races and a 150-lap feature on Monday, Feb. 18 while the action on Tuesday, Feb. 19 will include a similar schedule of qualifying races and 150-lap races for both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tours and NASCAR K&N Pro Series. All three features are non-points races.
Event Coverage: All three UNOH Battle At The Beach features will be carried live on SPEED, the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio while all practice and qualifying sessions will feature live streaming video at www.nascarhometracks.com.
Event Tweets: The official Twitter hashtag for all events surrounding the UNOH Battle At The Beach is #NASCARBattle. Join the conversation using the #NASCARBattle hashtag as well as the official Twitter accounts for NASCAR Home Tracks (@NASCARHomeTrack) and Daytona International Speedway (@DISupdates).
Additional Info: For more information, please visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com. Grandstand and garage admission can be secured via the website or by calling 1-888-PITSHOP.
Ward earned his first southern modified win at South Boston last April. Jason Smith/pixelcrisp for NASCAR