SMT: Brian Loftin - Martinsville spotlight

LOFTIN HOPING TO ONCE AGAIN BE BEST IN NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR CLASS AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2006) -- Brian Loftin was the best in class last year as far as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified ...

LOFTIN HOPING TO ONCE AGAIN BE BEST IN NASCAR WHELEN SOUTHERN MODIFIED TOUR CLASS AT MARTINSVILLE SPEEDWAY

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 29, 2006) -- Brian Loftin was the best in class last year as far as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour drivers in the Made in America Whelen 300 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. The only problem for Loftin, though, was 11 of the northern-based NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers finished ahead of him.

In fact, Loftin, of Lexington, N.C., was only one of four Whelen Southern Modified Tour drivers -- including Jay Foley, Junior Miller and Tim Brown -- that finished on the lead lap. Jay Hedgecock was the only Southern Modified Tour driver to lead a lap -- and just one lap at that -- in a race that was thoroughly dominated by drivers from north of the Mason-Dixon line.

"I really wasn't happy with our race car last year at Martinsville and I know a lot of the Southern Modified Tour drivers weren't happy with how they ran either," Loftin said. "Jay Hedgecock and I ran in the top-five for a while. Going back to Martinsville this year I really think the southern guys are going to be a lot more competitive."

Loftin is once again looking to be best among his peers at Martinsville, starting in Friday night qualifying. As of Aug. 28, there are 58 teams trying to make their way into the 43-car field for Saturday night's race. As was the case one year ago, this weekend's activities will be a companion event between the New England-based NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as well as the southern teams like Loftin who compete in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.

In the combination format, drivers are credited with an official placement relative to the other drivers in their "home" series. For Loftin, last year's 12th-place overall finish earned him a first-place finish, on paper, and maximum points towards the Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship standings.

"I absolutely love being able to race against the 'best of the best' at a track like Martinsville," Loftin says. "Any true racer wants to race against the 'best of the best' and that's what happens when you bring all the modified drivers together for one race. If you win at Martinsville, you know you've beaten the best modified drivers there are. I know for a fact that we're coming with all our best equipment because Martinsville is a huge race for everybody."

The rich racing tradition at Martinsville Speedway is almost built on nearly 60 years of competition as the southern Virginia track hosted its first race --a Modified event -- on Sept. 7, 1947. The importance of that tradition through the years is something that's not lost on Loftin, who says he's been coming to the .526-mile track watching both Modified and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series races since he was a youngster.

"I'll never forget coming to watch the Modified races here at Martinsville since I was a little kid," Loftin says. "I don't know why but I've always seemed to like Modified racing at Martinsville and I watched a lot of my heroes do battle at that place. I grew up a Modified fan and those that used to race there are still my heroes. If you want to watch a good Modified race there's not a better track to go to than Martinsville because there is so much history behind it.

"To be able to finally be able to get the chance to race at Martinsville for the first time like I did last year with guys I consider to be stars like Tony Hirschman was awesome because I can remember watching him win races when I was a kid. I'll never forget that night. It's just an awesome race, that's all you can say about watching the Modifieds at Martinsville Speedway."

So what would it mean to Loftin to not only be best in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour class once again and but also his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour counterparts?

"[To win the race] would be huge," said Loftin. "That would by far be the greatest thing to ever happen to me in racing. Just being able to have the chance to race against a lot of those drivers is an honor -- to beat them and win at Martinsville would be huge. It'd also mean a lot to the Whelen Southern Modified Tour fans because I know they want us to do good just as much as we do."

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Junior Miller