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NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes - New Hampshire *Whelen Modifieds Set For 50th NHMS Appearance * Lia Looks For Another Marquee Win * 25 Seasons Running: Ruggiero An Early NHMS Star Whelen Modifieds Set For 50th NHMS ...

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes - New Hampshire

*Whelen Modifieds Set For 50th NHMS Appearance
* Lia Looks For Another Marquee Win
* 25 Seasons Running: Ruggiero An Early NHMS Star

Whelen Modifieds Set For 50th NHMS Appearance

Nineteen years ago a phenomenon was born, and this week a milestone will be reached.

The New Hampshire 100 on Saturday, Sept. 19 will be the 50th race for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, a marriage that has produced some of the most exciting racing in motorsports.

The newly-opened 1.058-mile oval brought in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour for the first time on Sept. 2, 1990. Little did anyone know when the decision was made to run the Modifieds there that it would be a match made in heaven.

The track -- then known as New Hampshire International Speedway -- quickly developed a reputation as the "Daytona 500" for the Whelen Modified Tour. The largest and fastest track on the schedule, the long straightaways at NHMS allowed cars to draft, and thus provide multiple lead changes, sometimes on the same lap.

An up-and-coming driver at the time, Mike McLaughlin, became one of the first stars at New Hampshire. In addition to edging Mike Stefanik in the inaugural Whelen Modified Tour race, he also captured the checkered flag in the first NASCAR Camping World Series East race in Loudon on the same day.

Reggie Ruggiero perhaps became the first master of the "Magic Mile" as he won five-straight races there from 1992-94, a feat that has yet to be repeated. A decade later, Ted Christopher captured four checkered flags in a row in 2004-05 and in between the streaks of Ruggiero and Christopher, Tony Hirschman amassed seven victories, which still stands as the all-time lead.

With the pairing of the Modifieds at New Hampshire now in it's 50th edition, the excitement has yet to wane. The New England 100 in June featured a hair-raising last lap dash to the finish line and the June 2008 race was the closest finish in Tour history at .001 seconds.

The New Hampshire 100 is set to go green on Saturday at 12:45 p.m.

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Fast Facts

The Race: New Hampshire 100
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Loudon, N.H.

The Date: Saturday, September 19
The Time: 12:45 p.m. ET

TV Schedule: SPEED, 1 p.m.

The Distance: 100 laps / 105.80 miles
Race Purse: $166,917

2008 Winner: Ted Christopher
2008 Polesitter: Ryan Newman

Event Schedule: Thursday: Practice 1:15-2:45 p.m., Qualifying 4:30 p.m.; Saturday: Final Practice 8:30-8:50 a.m.

*** Lia Looks For Another Marquee Win

Donny Lia can't really put a finger on it himself, but when the bigger events roll around on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule, consider him a contender for the win.

Dating back to his 2007 championship season, Lia has won four of the last six races he has entered at a track that plays host to NASCAR national series races.

"I guess we just like the bigger races, or I just get around those race tracks really good: one of the two," Lia said. "I have a good amount of experience at Loudon and Martinsville, and even at Bristol I had a little more experience than some of the other guys."

The run started with his 2007 title campaign. Lia earned the New England 100 win at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in June and took the Made In America Whelen 300 checkers in September at Martinsville Speedway.

After spending the 2008 season competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Lia is back at it again in the Whelen Modified Tour in 2009. So far this year he has won the first two of four races scheduled at NASCAR national series tracks. He came away with yet another New England 100 triumph in June and then captured the UNOH Perfect Storm 150, the inaugural race for the Modifieds at Bristol Motor Speedway.

While the team thrives at the bigger events on the schedule, it isn't like they work harder to win those than any of the others.

"You want to win every race, whether they're bigger shows or not," Lia said. "As a racer you really don't care, you just want to win. But to win those shows, I guess it's like an added bonus."

As the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to Loudon for the New Hampshire 100 this week, Lia and the Mystic Missile team will look to follow up on their June run when a last-lap tangle between multiple cars resulted in Lia earning the win.

"The June race was definitely a wild one," Lia said. "Hopefully the racing is exciting as it was back in June."

As the 2009 season hits the homestretch, Lia is 72 points behind current leader Ted Christopher in the season standings. If he is to make a serious run at a second championship, another strong run for Lia at one of his favorite tracks would go a long way.

"I've always loved that track, I always seem to be able to get around it pretty good," Lia said. "Bob [Garbarino] and everybody on this Mystic Missile team just gives me a great race car every time we go there and we're always at the front of the field."

***

Raceday Notes

The Race ... The New England 100 will be the 10th of 13 races for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2009 and the second of two stops at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The Procedure ... Starting Positions 1-33 will be set from time trials with an additional five provisional positions rounding out the field.

The Track ... NHMS is a 1.058-mile, slightly-banked asphalt oval. The NWMT, along with the NASCAR Camping World Series East, became the second and third NASCAR series to compete at NHMS when it opened in 1990.

Race Winners ... There have been 15 different winners in 49 all-time races at NHMS, led by Tony Hirschman's seven victories, which is one more than Reggie Ruggiero and Mike Stefanik. Donny Lia captured the New England 100 in June for his second career win at NHMS.

Pole Winners ... There have been 20 different pole winners at New Hampshire, led by Ted Christopher and Jan Leaty with seven apiece. Mike Ewanitsko holds the qualifying record at 28.693 seconds (132.743 mph), set in 2001. Doug Coby earned the New England 100 pole in June.

***

25 Seasons Running: Ruggiero's NHMS Success

As the 25th season of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is celebrated in 2009, events and individuals who have carried the series from its historic first season in 1985 to the present day will be recognized. Highlighted in the following paragraphs is Reggie Ruggiero's winning streak in the early days of Modified racing at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

By the time the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour held its first event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 1990, Reggie Ruggiero was already an established star on the circuit. "The Reg" had mastered a number of tracks, but success at the Loudon mile wasn't instant. He finished fifth in the second race there in 1991 and the fourth NWMT event at NHMS saw Ruggiero come across the line third.

Ruggiero already had 23 career victories at 11 different tracks in his bag when he went to Loudon for the fifth all-time race at the 1.058-mile oval on July 11, 1992. On that date, Ruggiero began a streak of five-straight wins and became the first master of the "Magic Mile."

Following that first New Hampshire win, Ruggiero returned to Victory Lane there on Sept. 20, 1992, May 2, 1993, July 10, 1993 and April 17, 1994. He tacked on another NHMS win on Sept. 13, 1987 for a total of six, which is tied for second all-time at the track with Mike Stefanik.

All told, Ruggiero has 44 career victories, the second-most in Whelen Modified Tour history, and for that five-race stretch he was the most dominant competitor in Loudon.

***

Tour Tidbits

Solid Debut for Rocco ... NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national runner-up Keith Rocco answered the call he had waited for, and made the most of his first shot. The Connecticut Modified racer was tabbed to replace Jimmy Blewett in the No. 12 for the remainder of the year and registered a fifth-place finish at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in his first time in the ride on Sept. 3. Rocco had one previous NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start -- also at Thompson -- when he finished 19th in the 2008 season finale.

Berndt Continues Recent Success ... Part-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitor Eric Berndt turned in another solid effort last time out at Thompson. Berndt earned his first Coors Light Pole Award at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on Aug. 7 and followed that by leading the first laps of his career at Thompson and registered a career-best seventh-place finish.

Consistency Keeps Title Chase Close ... With just four races remaining to determine the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion, there is little give among the contenders. Ted Christopher has maintained the lead following eight of nine races this year and is 34 points ahead of Todd Szegedy. Christopher has failed to finish in the top 10 just once this year while Szegedy is the only driver not to have at least one slip-up as he has been in the top 10 in each of the nine races. Third-place Donny Lia has seven top 10s and only one bad outing, which consequently has him 72 points back. An example of just how tight things are: Ryan Preece entered Thompson just 32 points out of the lead, but finished 18th and is now 97 points back, a significant uphill climb considering the competition.

Mike Christopher Returns to Tour ... This week's New Hampshire 100 will feature not one, but two Christophers. Mike Christopher, twin brother of defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Ted Christopher, will attempt to make his first start since Sept. 15, 2007, also at New Hampshire. Mike has 66 career starts and his best finish came at Loudon in 2004 when he finished second to his brother Ted.

More TV for Tour ... Following the success of the recent SPEED broadcast of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's race at Bristol Motor Speedway, the auto racing network has decided to do the same with this week's New Hampshire 100 in Loudon, N.H. The race will now go green at 12:45 p.m. and the broadcast will begin on a 15-minute delay at 1 p.m.

Chemung 120 Cancelled ... Recently announced by NASCAR and Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome, the Chemung 120 has been cancelled from the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule. The event was scheduled for Aug. 29 but was rained out, and there was no suitable make-up date.

***

Up Next: Martinsville

As the 2009 season comes closer to crowning a champion, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will head to historic Martinsville (Va.) Speedway for the fifth edition of the Made In America Whelen 300 on Sept. 27.

With the establishment of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2005 came the advent of this annual combination race between the two Tours. The race winner has come from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in each of the first four events as Ted Christopher (2005), Jimmy Blewett (2006), Donny Lia (2007) and Ryan Preece (2008) have earned the grandfather clock trophy.

This year's Made In America Whelen 300 will feature a couple of changes designed to enhance the event as a whole. The NASCAR Whelen Modified-Southern Modified Tour combo race has been scaled back to 200 laps from 300 in recent seasons and a 100-lap Limited Sportsman race has been added that will run under the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Rule Book.

This year's edition will mark the second combo race of 2009 following Lia's triumph at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway in August.

Action will begin for the Modifieds at Martinsville on Saturday, Sept. 26 with practice and qualifying. Sunday's race is scheduled to go green at 1:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Ryan Newman , Mike McLaughlin , Ted Christopher , Donny Lia , Ryan Preece , Doug Coby