NASCAR NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour News & Notes - Caraway Kuiken Jr. looking to make Southern Modified Tour impact Brian Pack Memorial Ride A Success Kuiken Quickly Becoming A Whelen Southern Modified Threat Most high school...
NASCAR NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour News & Notes - Caraway
Kuiken Jr. looking to make Southern Modified Tour impact
Brian Pack Memorial Ride A Success
Kuiken Quickly Becoming A Whelen Southern Modified Threat
Most high school teenagers may spend their weekends hanging out with peers at the local mall, bowling alley, or movie theatres. Rich Kuiken Jr. is far from the average high school student when it comes to his plans for the weekends.
Kuiken, a 17 year-old high school senior, has a somewhat different way of spending his weekends. He is a full-time competitor in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. It is NASCAR's most powerful form of motorsports that takes place in the 600-plus horsepower open-wheel division along with much the same rules as the popular northern-based NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.
The duo of Rich Kuiken Sr. and his young son has seen the NASCAR family atmosphere come into play in a much more significant way than both thought was possible after a brief rough stint in 2007 on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Kuiken is now the driver of the No. 98 Flowmasters Testing & Balancing Chevrolet on the NASCAR Southern Modified Tour.
Part of that newfound communication process has arisen from the Kuiken family packing up the family hauler on the weekends to make the long 10-hour drive south, where Kuiken currently maintains a four-point cushion over second-place Buddy Emory (No. 2 RCS Construction Chevrolet) in the Sunoco Rookie-of-the-Year standings.
"So far its seems like everybody has raced me a lot cleaner on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and treated me fair and just been nicer to me than anywhere else I've ever raced at," Kuiken Jr. said. "One of the neatest parts about this Tour is how much all the other drivers and teams are willing to help a young guy like me. It's kind of a family atmosphere because even though those guys want to beat me, they want to do it by beating me on the track through good, hard racing.
"If I need help all I've got to do is ask somebody for advice and that's really a neat part of being involved with the Southern Modified Tour."
Last year Kuiken attempted to make three starts on the northern-based NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour but never made a race after problems in the heat races. It was at the urging of close family friend and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour veteran Jamie Tomanio for Kuiken Jr. to look at what the Southern Modified Tour had to offer.
"Jamie told me plain and simple that I had a better chance to make races on the Southern Modified Tour than getting caught up in wrecks during qualifying races and really not getting the experience and seat time over the course of a 150-lap race," Kuiken Jr. said. "When you really sit down and think about it's kind of a tradeoff having to buy fuel and that expense because we do travel so far to each of these races as opposed to having to pay more money to fix a demolished race car every weekend like I did when I tried to make those three events last season."
Kuiken Jr. and his family-owned team have been one of the best stories of the season: watching a young and eager driver trying to prosper on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. The young Kuiken has been especially focused on learning the racing ropes and getting seat time behind the wheel and trying not to get in the way of the veterans of the Tour who have been more than willing to offer their advice if needed.
"After my second Whelen Southern Modified Tour race last season, (defending champion) L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities Pontiac) came over and gave me a few pointers because I really wasn't sure what I was doing," Kuiken Jr. said. "L.W. just told me little simple things like 'if you're not that fast and you see the leaders coming up from behind, go to the inside and get out of their way.' He told me that if it's not your night, just get as much seat time as possible.
"L.W. also told me that the shoe is probably going on the other foot one day when I have a better car than he does and he'll get out of my way. I'll never forget that conversation and I've tried to use all the advice that people like that have given me because stuff like that can't help but to make me a better driver."
While Kuiken Jr. admits that while personally growing by leaps and bounds the last year, he still has made some mistakes along the way.
"At the second race at Caraway this year, I had a racing accident with Jay Foley (No. 01 Leonard Logging Chevrolet) going into the first turn," Kuiken Jr. said. "I was on the inside of him and probably got in a little too hot and Jay came down on me. I thought Jay would have given me a little more room so I stuck the nose of my car in there and ended up spinning us both out.
"The following week the very first thing I wanted to do was to walk up to him and personally tell Jay how sorry I was for putting us in that situation. He was fine with that and I think it meant a little something to him by going up and apologize when a lot of other people might not have done the same thing.
"At Lanier a couple of races ago I got into Scott Rigney (No. 49 Scott's Custom Cabinets Pontiac) a little bit and the first thing I did when I got out of the car afterwards was to walk down to his pits and tell him I was sorry and just made a mistake. Scott said that by me coming to him, it meant a lot to him. Instead of just blowing it off, it really let him know that it bothered me. He said it took a lot for me to do that and it really helped to calm down some hard feelings."
Kuiken Jr. is coming off the best NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour finish of his career as he was credited with a fifth-place finish. It's those efforts like last Saturday at Martinsville that convince Kuiken Jr. to continue to push ahead as he sees more good times in his horizon than the struggles from the past.
"I've actually working on getting Top 10 finishes with the more experience that I've gained," Kuiken Jr. said. "Once I start knocking out more Top 10 finishes, then we can look ahead of getting a consistent top-five car. If we can ever get a consistent run of top-fives going then a win shouldn't be too far behind that."
So what would it mean for Kuiken Jr. to finally breakthrough and score his first NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory?
"It would be unreal to get a win in the Southern Modified Tour and to see my name written in the record books along with guys that are used to winning like L.W. Miller, Junior Miller and all those great guys," Kuiken Jr. said. "I'd say it would be a pretty emotional time for me and my family. Dad and I spend a lot of time together working on our race car every week getting it ready to go racing.
"If my mom and brother don't go to one of the races that pretty much leaves it up to dad and I even though we do have a couple of real good guys that help us out. Dad and I have got to spend a lot of time together through our racing and it's been a lot of fun and something I'll be able to look back on one day and say that was a pretty cool time in my life."
The elder Kuiken certainly agrees with the assessment of his son, who plans on attending UNC-Charlotte following high school and hopes to pursue a Mechanical Engineering Degree.
"Rich is doing a great job and he has been learning quite a bit in a short amount of time," Kuiken Sr. said. "Part of what I'm trying to do is get Rich to understand what the car is doing. He can tear a car apart and put it back together already because he has tried to learn so much about all the different aspects. Ryan does basically all his own work when it comes to things like the set-ups. Plus Jamie Tomaino being a mentor to Rich's career has been a huge help. One of the neatest parts of Rich getting ahead of the learning curve has been how much all the other Southern Modified drivers and teams have been willing to step in and help him out. That sense of people helping out those in their own community has really been incredible."
Kuiken Sr. admits he can't help but be proud of the efforts of his young son, as well as the fact that Kuiken Jr. knows and is aware that his racing career will eventually be based on how much time and effort he cares to invest.
"Rich isn't the kind of driver who just shows up with his helmet to race somebody else's car," Kuiken Sr. said. "If Rich doesn't work on that car he knows he's not going racing. I don't mind helping him anyway that I can if I see he's working that hard to pursue one of his goals. Racing is what Rich wants to do with his life. He wants to go to college and get an engineering degree so if it doesn't work out for him as a driver he'll have the knowledge to possibly go work for a team in the North Carolina area."
The Race: Caraway 150
The Place: Caraway (N.C.) Speedway
The Date: September 20
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .455-mile paved oval
Race Purse: $25,920
2007 Winner: Brian Loftin
2007 Pole: Brian Loftin
Schedule: Saturday: Practice 4-4:45 p.m., Time Trials 6:30 p.m.
News & Notes
The race: This event is the 10th of 11 races on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule. It is the fifth of six races in 2008 at Caraway (N.C.) Speedway.
The procedure: The starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 24 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining two spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 150 laps (68.25 miles).
Past Caraway winners: Saturday night's Whelen Southern Modified Tour race will be the 22nd event at the .455-mile Caraway Speedway. L.W. Miller and Brian Loftin share a spot atop of the winner's list with six wins each. Junior Miller sits third overall with five Caraway wins.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour point leader Ted Christopher won the very first Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory at Caraway in 2005 and backed that up with another season-opening win in 2006.
Burt Myers has one victory at Caraway, as does the most recent Caraway winner, Tim Brown, who ended an 18-year winless streak at the famed .455-mile track on Sept. 6.
Top Caraway qualifiers: Burt Myers leads with eight Coors Light Pole Awards, including two of the last three races at Caraway in 2008.
Brian Loftin has three Coors Light Pole Awards earned at Caraway while Tim Brown has been the fastest qualifier on two occasions.
Brian Pack Memorial Ride Is Deemed A Large Success
It was in remembrance of late NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver Brian
Pack last Saturday morning that a charity motorcycle ride was held in his honor.
More than 40 different motorcycles got the morning kicked off at Curley's Harley-Davidson in Greensboro, N.C. before heading to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway prior to the start of the Whelen Made in America 300.
The fundraiser was for the 34 year-old Walkertown, N.C., native who lost his life on Sept. 20 as a result of a tragic motorcycle accident. The fundraiser was put on through a joint effort between the Southern Modified Racing Ladies Auxiliary as well as the Ladies Auxiliary at Bowman Gray Stadium.
The staff at Martinsville Speedway also stepped in to help the cause by giving riders a five dollar discount.
Funds were raised through registration for the motorcycle ride, sponsor donations, t-shirt sales, a 50/50 drawing, collections jars. Those who wish to contribute are still encouraged to do so by contacting either the Southern Modified Racing Ladies Auxiliary or the Ladies Auxiliary at Bowman Gray Stadium.
Though final financial figures from the motorcycle ride is ongoing and not yet determined, those responsible for organizing the fundraiser said that enough money has been raised to establish the Brian Pack Memorial at Forsyth Technical College in Winston-Salem, N.C.
Whelen Made in America 300 -- Martinsville Post-Race Notes
Championship Race: Brian Loftin (No. 23 L&R Transmissions/QMF Solutions Chevrolet) heads into the final two races -- both events at Caraway Speedway -- of the 2008 season holding a 45-point lead over Tim Brown (No. 83 Hayes Jewelers Chevrolet) in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship standings.
Defending Tour champion L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities Pontiac) is third in the standings, 47 points in arrears of Loftin.
Loftin moves into three-way tie as most victorious driver: By being credited with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour win last Saturday at Martinsville, Brian Loftin tied Junior Miller and L.W. Miller as the winningest driver in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour competition with 10 wins each.
Burt Myers has five victories to his credit his most recent win coming Sept 13 at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, N.C.
Featherlite Most Improved: Loftin pocketed an extra $200 bonus at Martinsville for collecting the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award for advancing the most number of positions from their previous race with his first-place finish. Electrical problems had relegated Loftin to 15th in the previous race at Southern National Raceway Park.
POWERade Power Move Of The Race: Rookie Rich Kuiken Jr. (No. 98 Flowmasters Testing & Balancing Chevrolet) started 14th but finished fifth to earn the POWERade Power Move of the Race Award.
Rookie of the Race: Kuiken Jr. also was given Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors which helped him pull out to a four-point lead over Buddy Emory while Rigney is only six points behind Kuiken Jr. with two races remaining.