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HISTORY: NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR

 

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is NASCAR’s oldest running division, and the only open-wheel class. The tour features a passionate, veteran-laden core of drivers as well as emerging young talent. Even though the modern era of the Whelen Modified Tour started in 1985, the first recorded NASCAR Modified race was held in 1948 on the sands of Daytona Beach, an event won by Red Byron, who eventually was crowned NASCAR’s first champion.

Prior to the formation of the tour, NASCAR crowned modified champions from 1948-84 via national championship events that were held up and down the East Coast. NASCAR Hall of Fame member Richie Evans was the first champion of the formed tour in 1985. The series was known as the Winston Modified Tour until 1993, then the Featherlite Modified Tour from 1994-2004, before Whelen Engineering became primary sponsor in 2005.

Over the 34-year history of the Whelen Modified Tour, 18 different drivers have earned championship glory. Mike Stefanik leads all drivers with seven titles and 74 wins. Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, which has played host to the most events, and Riverhead Raceway, have sanctioned at least one series race every year of tour competition.

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Riverhead Raceway has played host to at least one NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race since the series inception. (NASCAR)

From 2005-2016, the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour (NWSMT) also visited tracks across the southeast, adding another dimension to NASCAR’s deep modified history. The tour held its first combination race with the newly-formed NWSMT in 2005 at Martinsville Speedway. The annual tradition continued at Martinsville through 2009, and continued at Bristol Motor Speedway through 2016.

At the start of 2017, the unified Whelen Modified Tour commenced with the first unified race held at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina. The series currently visits tracks up and down the East Coast, headlined by marquee races in New England, like the NAPA Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway and the Sunoco World Series at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park.

The tour has produced several drivers and crew members who have climbed up the ladder to the three NASCAR national series. Brett Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Donny Lia, Mike McLaughlin, Jeff Fuller, Steve Park, Jimmy Spencer and Stefanik are included in the list. The 2013 series champion, Ryan Preece, will run full-time in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series in 2019.

WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR FIRSTS

 

First Race: Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, March 31, 1985

First Race Winner: Richie Evans

First Pole Winner: Richie Evans

First Champion: Richie Evans (1985)

Nwmt First Race Vl
Richie Evans celebrates victory in the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park in 1985. (Howie Hodge)

First Woman To Qualify For A Race: Gilda Berti (Thompson, 1986)

First Road Course Race: Watkins Glen International, August 25, 1996 (Mike Stefanik)

First Sunoco Rookie of the Year: Dave Pecko (1999)

First Combo Race: Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, September 2005 (Ted Christopher)

First International Race: Delaware (Ontario) Speedway, September 4, 2011 (Ron Silk)


YEAR-BY-YEAR: Whelen Modified Tour Results & Point Standings


WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR STATS & RECORDS

 

Number of Series Races: 651 (Beginning of 2019)

Most Career Starts: 

Most Career Wins:


FULL LIST: Whelen Modified Tour All-Time Wins Leaders


Most Races Won in a Season: 

Most Career Poles:


FULL LIST: Whelen Modified Tour All-Time Poles Leaders


Most Poles Won in a Season:

Most Consecutive Races Won:

2006 Championship Rings
Mike Stefanik celebrates his seventh and final NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title in 2006. (Howie & Mary Hodge)

Most Top Five Finishes in a Season:

Most Laps Led in a Season:

Highest Race Finish by a Female: 

  • Renee Dupuis — 10th place, twice — Lake Erie Speedway (2003) & Thompson Speedway (2007)
  • Dupuis also holds the highest finish in NWSMT history, an eighth at North Carolina’s Caraway Speedway in 2011.

Highest Points Finish by a Female: Melissa Fifield — 15th (2017)

Drivers To Win a Race in Both NWMT & NWSMT:

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Ted Christopher won 42 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races in his career, and was active in the series up until his passing in 2017.

Drivers To Win Both The Final Race & Title in Same Season:

Youngest Sunoco Rookies of the Year:

*Ages recorded at the final race of that season

Youngest Driver To Win A Race:

*Ages recorded at date of race won

Smallest Margin in Championship Standings:

*Point standings based of a 43-1 scale

Modified Tom Hirschman
Tony Hirschman celebrates one of five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships.

Closest Finishes in History:

Most Lead Changes in a Single Race:

LOUDON, NH - JULY 12: Ryan Preece, driver of the #16 East West Marine/Diversified Metals Ford, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 12, 2014 in Loudon, New Hampshire. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)
In 2014, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race produced 35 lead changes at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. (Jeff Zelevansky/NASCAR via Getty Images)

Most Cautions in a Single Race:

Worst Starting Position For A Winner:

Largest Number of Cars To Start A Race:

Number of Different Race Winners (Season): 16 –1986

Car Owners To Win More Than One Title:

  • Frank Cicci (1986, 1987)
  • Jack Koszela (1989, 1991)
  • Len Boehler (1994, 1995, 1996)
  • Peter Beal/Charlie Bacon (1997, 1998)
  • Art Barry (2001, 2002)
  • Bob Kehley/Tom Kehley (2004, 2005)
  • Eric Sanderson (2006, 2013)
  • Robert Garbarino (2007, 2009, 2010)
  • Mike Smeriglio III (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)

QUALIFYING RECORDS — 2019 TRACKS

 

Myrtle Beach Speedway (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

1-lap qualifying record: 20.065 seconds, 96.526 mph (Matt Hirschman, March 2018)

South Boston Speedway (South Boston, Va.)

1-lap qualifying record: 99.938 mph (Jerry Marquis, March 2001)

Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (Thompson, Conn.)

1-lap qualifying record: 18.237 seconds, 123.376 mph (Bobby Santos III, April 2011)

Stafford Motor Speedway (Stafford, Conn.)

1-lap qualifying record: 17.721 seconds, 101.574 mph (Chase Dowling, April 2018)

Wall Stadium Speedway (Wall Township, N.J.)

1-lap qualifying record: 99.510 mph (Reggie Ruggiero, August 2004)

Seekonk Speedway (Seekonk, Mass.)

1-lap qualifying record: 102.121 mph (Jerry Marquis, May 2000)

Riverhead Raceway (Riverhead, N.Y.)

1-lap qualifying record: 11.546 seconds, 77.949 mph (Chuck Steuer, June 2000)

New Hampshire Motor Speedway (Loudon, N.H.)

1-lap qualifying record: 28.693 seconds, 132.743 mph (Mike Ewanitsko, July 2001)

Oswego Speedway (Oswego, N.Y.)

1-lap qualifying record: 17.557 seconds, 128.154 mph (Matt Hirschman, August 2018)

Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is one of two tracks on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour circuit that has played host to at least one race each year in the history of the series. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)