SMT: Asheboro V preview

NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour News & Notes - Caraway * Smith Looks To Earn Respect And Wins * Caraway Has History Of Notable Champions * Official Spotlight On Flagman Jeff Bunton Smith Out To Prove Good Guys Sometimes ...

NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour News & Notes - Caraway
* Smith Looks To Earn Respect And Wins
* Caraway Has History Of Notable Champions
* Official Spotlight On Flagman Jeff Bunton

Smith Out To Prove Good Guys Sometimes Finish First

The old saying goes that nice guys always seem to finish last. That's not exactly the case for NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver John Smith.

Smith (No. 25 Tutterow Surveying/Rick's Home Repair Chevrolet) is easily one of the most respected figures in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour garage area -- both on and off the track. The 33-year-old Mount Airy, N.C., native isn't afraid to rub fenders with the best of the best if the situation arises, but Smith prefers to race his fellow competitors with respect.

"I just try to race everybody as clean and fair as possible because that's the way I was brought up to race," Smith said. "In the Whelen Southern Modified Tour everybody pretty much treats everybody with respect and that's the way it should be. We race and we race hard so a little bit of rubbing should be expected. We might beat and bang a little bit but when it comes down to it, we all know we're a really tight-knot community.

"If anybody in the pits needs anything from me, they know they can come to me even if we had a run-in the week before. That's what it's all about when it comes down to it. That's what is so cool about the Whelen Southern Modified Tour -- everybody is willing to help each other."

Smith drives for longtime team owner Grady Tutterow who helped him get started racing in the Modified division in 2000 at the legendary Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Smith says one of the aspects that makes racing on the Whelen Southern Modified Tour most important to him is the laidback atmosphere that he is able to enjoy with his family, friends and Tutterow. Smith will be gunning for his first career Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory on Saturday night in the Whelen 150 at the Asheboro, N.C., short track.

Smith is well aware that it will not be an easy task. Smith also said he can tell a major difference in the level of professionalism since NASCAR took over sanction of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour in 2005.

"I think it's a whole lot better than it was," Smith said. "It's just so more organized and all the races seem to run a whole lot smoother than the way it used to be. The rules and regulations are a lot better and I think all the cars are about as equal as you could ask for. Nowadays if you get beat, you just get beat. You're not getting beat by somebody that's bending the rules. This Tour is still fairly young but the car counts are getting better and better every week. I like being able to travel to different race tracks.

"Last weekend at Lanier I took my whole family down the day before the race and we got to spend a couple of days together doing things like shopping and swimming. We just had a big time being able to do things like that because it makes it so much more enjoyable."

Smith is the first to admit that being able to have his family being involved in his hobby and passion for racing is something that means a lot.

"It wouldn't be as fun if I had to do it by myself," Smith said. "It's like when we're working at the shop at night. My wife, Cindy, brings all of the guys on the crew supper and drinks so that's neat to me. My mother cleans the trailer out every week so she has a job to do, too. Everybody in my family has their own little job to do when it comes to my racing."

Smith came painfully close to scoring his first Tour victory last August at Bowman Gray, leading on the last lap until a bump from behind sent him spinning.

"We were real close to pulling that race at Bowman Gray off last year but Burt Myers got into me on the last lap," Smith said. "Stuff like that just makes us even hungrier because we have shown we are capable of winning one of these races. It's amazing how much better we've got since we started on the Southern Modified Tour . I've come close to winning at Caraway before but had a tire go flat on me. If we can keep our stuff together we can win a race pretty soon."

Smith laughs when asked about his nickname of being the 'Mount Airy Bullet,' a name that was tagged on him in reference to 'The Andy Griffith Show.'

"There was a guy that was announcing over the public address system several years ago at Bowman Gray that came up with that name for me," Smith said. "My wife told me about it and I just laughed because he called me that when I was qualifying and I couldn't hear it. I guess when you get stuck with something it just stays with you. I guess I could be called worse."

For now, the focus of Smith is on Saturday night's 150-lapper at Caraway.

"We've kind of evaluated our situation a little bit so we're looking forward to getting back to Caraway and see how we stack up," Smith said. "We don't have all our ducks in a row just yet but I can tell they're starting to line up a little better. We have to get our program better at Caraway because half our races are at that track. If you want to finish in the top three or four in the points, you better know how to get around Caraway. It's that important to be good at Caraway. We're not where we need to be just yet, but we're working on it."

***

The Race: Whelen Southern Modified 150
The Place: Caraway Speedway, Asheboro, N.C.

The Date: Saturday, Sept. 6
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Track Layout: .455-mile paved ova;
Race Purse: $25,920

2007 Winner: Burt Myers
2007 Pole: L.W. Miller

Schedule: Saturday: Practice 4-4:45 p.m., Time Trials 6:30 p.m.

***

News & Notes

The race: This event is the seventh of 11 races on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Southern Tour schedule. It is the fourth of sixth races in 2007 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).

The Track: Caraway Speedway was built in 1966 and remained a dirt track until 1972 when it became a NASCAR-sanctioned track. The .455-mile asphalt oval has been owned and operated by Russell and Valastra Hackett since 1977.

Caraway Leaders: There have been 20 Whelen Southern Modified races at Caraway Speedway since the Asheboro, N.C., short track started hosting the Tour on March 25, 1965.

Brian Loftin (No. 23 L&R Transmission/QMF Solution Chevrolet) and L.W. Miller (No. 36 John Baker Plumbing & Utilities Pontiac) share the honors of having the most victories at the .455-mile track with six wins apiece.

Loftin has won four of the last five races at Caraway. Miller has scored six victories in an eight-race span between 2006-08.

Pole Winners: Burt Myers (No. 1 Moorefield Trantham Ford) leads all Whelen Southern Modified drivers with seven Coors Light Pole Awards at Caraway.

Brian Loftin holds the track record at a speed of 103.783 mph, which was claimed on Sept. 22, 2007.

***

NASCAR Official Spotlight: Flagman Jeff Bunton

NAME: Jeff Bunton
HOMETOWN: Graham, N.C.
MARITAL STATUS: Single
CHILDREN: None
BIRTH DATE: Feb. 20, 1987
OCCUPATION: Service Advisor at Dick Shirley Chevrolet in Burlington, N.C.
RACE DAY DUTIES: Chief Flagman & Technical Inspector
HOBBIES: Softball and spending time with girlfriend, Stephanie

QUOTES: "It's something I always wanted to do since I was real young. My dad used to take me to our local short track at Orange County (N.C.) Speedway and the first thing I noticed was the flagman and how it looked like it would be a really cool job. When I was 15 years old the folks at Orange County put me in the flag stand and I was the youngest person to ever be able to do that. Eventually I got a job with Ace (N.C.) Speedway, which is my local track, and I tried to move up the ladder ever since. When the Whelen Southern Modified Tour came to Ace for the first time, I was hooked on this type of racing. It's a dream come true and I really look forward to the future because this series is growing by leaps and bounds every race. I know a lot of people might think this series is a stepping stone to the bigger leagues of NASCAR, but my heart is with the Whelen Southern Modified Tour and local short-track racing."

***

Benson Latest In Line Of Notable Late Model Champions

When Randy Benson clinched the Late Model Stock division championship at Caraway Speedway, he became the seventh driver to win multiple track titles on the historic .455-mile oval.

Benson successfully defended his 2007 championship on the strength of eight wins in 16 starts. He easily outdistanced Pete Stewart and rookie Ryan Wilson in the points race.

Steve Loftin and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Dennis Setzer hold the track record with three Late Model championships apiece. Setzer won his three all in a row, from 1988 to 1990. Loftin won back-to-back titles in 1989-99 and then his third in 2002.

The year before Setzer won his title, future NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte edged him for the track championship.

Future NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Mike Skinner collected the 1993 track title at Caraway, and Justin Labonte -- son of two-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Terry Labonte and nephew to Bobby -- added another trophy to the family mantle with the championship in 2003.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race Saturday will be accompanied by a 75-lap Late Model Stock race and a 60-lap Sportsman race. Roy Hunter has won five of the 10 Sportsman features and holds a 490-462 points lead over Ricky Frazier.

In addition, Caraway played host to three NASCAR Nationwide Series races between 1982 and '83.

Dale Earnhardt and Jack Ingram won series races at Caraway, while Butch Lindley held off Ingram to win in 1983. Another legend, Sam Ard, won the pole for all three events.

***

Your Vote Counts

Less than two months remain to determine who will be the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Most Popular Driver. Fans can vote once a day for their favorite Modified drivers from now until October 19 by visiting nascarhometracks.com. Results of the balloting will be announced at the postseason banquet.

-credit: nascar

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Labonte , Terry Labonte , Mike Skinner , Dennis Setzer , Justin Labonte , L.W. Miller , Burt Myers , John Baker