Will a Cost-Lowering Option “Change” The NWMT As We Know it- Forever???

Right now its just a “feeling”, or a “vibe” if you will. But after walking through the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour pit area after qualifying at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Friday I saw faces that told me words I wouldn’t want to hear.

The “Spec” engine that seems to work well on the K&N Pro Series could bring drastic change to NASCAR’s oldest division, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

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Bryon Chew made the switch to this “Spec” motor after testing at NHMS with a built engine in June. He was fourth fastest in Friday practice.

NASCAR, through Robert Yates Racing Engines has re-introduced this motor to us this weekend in a big way.  The cars driven by Ron Silk and Bryon Chew both have them. Both seem pretty happy with the results so far.

So why could introducing a less expensive motor (depending on who you ask) into a division faced with economic hardships in a poor economy be a bad thing?

Because the teams who are the backbone of the tour don’t want it.

They enjoy the challenge of tuning an engine that might give them that extra tenth of a second that leads them to a memorable victory, or a NASCAR Championship. They liked things the way they were.

They don’t want to all have the same engines. They don’t want change. They don’t want to be forced into selling their current motors, or straight rear ends for that matter. A big part of this sport of Modified racing is the challenge to succeed in a competitive environment, both on and off the track.

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Crew Chief Tom Grasso made front end adjustments to the Ron Silk driven car following Friday’s practice session that helped them earn the pole for today’s race with a “Spec” motor.

So if today the expected happens, and Ron Silk dominates and wins the most prestigious event on the WMT…what next? Do these teams all go out and buy “Spec” motors? Probably not. Do non-tour drivers such as a Steve Masse, Max Zachem, Tommy Barrett or Kyle Ebersole buy one and start running the tour? Not likely.

Or do veterans with several racing years left, such as Les Hinckley, Matt Hirschman, Chris Pasteryak or Erick Rudolph buy the “Spec” and start running the tour because of affordability. Even less likely.

I understand that NASCAR is trying to come up with something to make it more affordable to run the WMT, but when and if that happens, who will be there to drive and work on these unique cars to make this a success story in the end?

I could be wrong. Maybe the current teams will make the switch. Maybe NASCAR will adjust the rules perfectly so that the “Spec” engine produces an equal playing field with the “built” motors, like the co-owner of the “Spec” program from North Carolina told me Wednesday in an extensive interview for an upcoming Area Auto Racing news article.

But the “vibe” I am  getting right now is spelled… T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

This isn’t the K&N Series. It’s not a pass through for the wealthy on the way to hopes of bigger and better things. This is, for the most part, a dedicated group of people who want to have fun racing in the division they grew up with, on the big stage that NASCAR can provide.

What happens today is so much more than who wins this race. It’s about how NASCAR adjusts the rules moving forward, and who will be winning in the years to come, at a crucial time in Modified racing. I sure do hope this tour rolls on, because without it life would never be the same for me, but there is reason for concern. I just hope those concerns prove to be only that.

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8 comments
  1. Watching Observer said:

    So there’s whining because a reliable lower cost option that is good is available to teams? Oh no, the world is ending? Wait, the person who wrote this story is also a race promoter looking to attract Modified teams to the race he puts on and makes money doing? Doesn’t that take a little credibility away from the opinion offered here? A bunch of teams are whining because they’re not running the spec motor and they think they might get beat by it, so they get a puppet to do their whining for them? The guy that wrote the story puts on a race and is trying to get these same teams he’s writing about to show up for his race so he can make more money off it. Credibility goes a long way and its hard to believe there’s credibility when a race promoter/PR person is writing stories for teams and trying to pass it off as objective, unbiased journalism.

  2. Matt said:

    Very accurate story of the current situation the division faces. I don’t get the biased part from the above comment. Also promotion of an open show at a quarter mile short track where motor means nothing has little to do with a current hot topic within the division. Keep up the good work Kevin!

  3. DDore said:

    Watching observer might want to actually talk to some people before he puts out statements such as “race promoter looking to attract Modified teams to the race he puts on and makes money doing” . Kevin Rice has been promoting modified racing in general, from small tracks such as Star to the tour races VMRS and Whelan because of his love of the sport. If you think for one moment you could promote and put on that race without the dedication he has towards the teams of all modified racing let me know. It is a year long process to get that race on…and the one fact you are missing …he doesn’t make any money at it. There is a whole lot more going into that race and money put out of his own pocket to self promote it, sell the laps, advertise it ect. Every dime he raises goes to the race teams…and that along with the purse Star Speedway and the Webber family put up make it a race to not miss….You might wonder why he does it and you could ask him yourself and he would shake his head and tell you…he doesn’t know why other than for the love of the sport of modified racing.

  4. It’s clearly obvious that you are the one with an agenda Watching Observer, and you have to hide behind a fake name besides. You are clueless in many ways. This is a Blog, not a newspaper story. Blogs are designed to state opinions, and encouraged. And to say that it has anything to do with attracting Modified teams to a race that as of now doesn’t even exist is ludicrous. How does something that could drive teams away from racing help a race that I might or might not be a part of? And I invite you to see my bank account because I have SPENT thousands of dollars of my own money on Modified racing, with far below a ZERO return. Maybe you should talk to the teams about what is really going on, since you obviously have no clue. And by the way the “objective, unbiased” story will be in the next Area Auto Racing News. I encourage you to get a copy, and subscribe so you at least have some idea of what is going on in the racing world. Were you at the race yesterday or hiding behind a screen again? The race clearly verified this article, and NASCAR will consider changes to level the playing field, which is all that myself, race teams and fans want.

  5. jake said:

    it sucks for guys with big motors but we run an sst mod an theres no way we could afford a $40,000 tour motor the spec motor is more in reach.

  6. Jake if the Spec is used to bring new teams into the Modifieds than it is definitely a good thing. The problem that the current teams have with it is that the current rules package would force them to buy one if they want to win at Loudon. As long as NASCAR adjusts the rules to make it equal, such as maybe giving them a bigger plate to run with, then this can work. Teams fear that the rules will not be made equal, thus forcing them to buy one if they want to win.

  7. shawn said:

    Silk has easily been one the cars to beat at loudon since Sept 09, its not like he was a chump before the spec motor, can u say 2011 wmt champion ! Bryon chew has stepped up his program since the off season, bought new race cars, done alot of testing, give some credit where its due here. Everyone has the same motors now, Hutter, tony’s and Bruneau are the majority of the builders and are following the same rules and are building the same power and that has been proven by NASCAR after dyno testing. The difference will be 50,000 dollar engines versus 28,000 dollar engines, the engine builders now are way over priced and over the years have been pricing them selves right out of the tour. How does a 18,000 dollar freshen up with old parts from hutter sound ? Not very cost effective to me ! This happened when the k&n series was going through this 5 years ago and now that series is as good or better than ever. Maybe NASCAR knows what there doing, sometimes change isn’t bad !

  8. observer said:

    K&N kids and nephews division Ihear if you cook a spec motor once its junk and they only last about 3-4 races before power diminishes. Wheres the value there!!! How much do you think it cost 66 car to win at loudon add Brad and that 50.000 plus motor WOW If nascar rams this spec down everybodys throat I say get rid of the tire rule .Does anybody here remember the story lines from the 80′s at all the major races every team had there own theory remember the 44 car with that RR covered it kept everybody at bay remember you could use 3 different compounds for TT . I say let nascar get rid of some of there tire jockey and officials and save money that way. But let the teams buy a extra set or two per race and use them during the race weekend how ever they choose 2000 a week more with a spec motor would put all the drama back into the big picture. my point again a couple of extra tires a race can easily be budgeted rather than a big motor in anybodys budget plus you can stop and bolt on rubber without asking LOL and make your car better for the finish make sure and tell chad to read stuff like this.

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