L.W. Miller eager to get 2008 season started Saturday at Caraway For fans, drivers and teams of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, their off-season misery will turn to bliss about 8 p.m. this Saturday night at Caraway Speedway by the four...
L.W. Miller eager to get 2008 season started Saturday at Caraway
For fans, drivers and teams of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, their off-season misery will turn to bliss about 8 p.m. this Saturday night at Caraway Speedway by the four most famous words in motorsports:
"Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!"
After those words are echoed though the loudspeakers surrounding the famed .455-mile Caraway short track, the field of 26 drivers will start their racing engines to kick off their season in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150.
It will end a four month winter break for the teams as well as many top NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors who are making the trek down south to get their seasons underway.
"I'm real excited because it has seemed like it's been a long off-season," said L.W. Miller, the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion. "I got the chance to do several appearances with NASCAR and Whelen during the off-season because I was the champion, but I'm ready for that to be done and get this season started. We've been busy testing a lot lately. We tested at Caraway a couple of weeks ago and again here last Thursday. We tested down at Kenly (N.C.) this week. We just wanted to make sure that we've got everything in place to go out and defend this championship.
"If we don't have a lot of bad luck, I think we can defend our title. I think we're going to be one of the teams to beat every week and hopefully it'll be like that all season. Baker Motorsports has put another fine race car under me, plus we've got some really good sponsorship in place that will allow us to go out there and chase another championship."
When asked if there were a driver or two whom he expects to contend with for this year's Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship race beginning this Saturday night at Caraway, Miller said he really couldn't narrow it down to that small a list.
"Tim Brown is going to be tough because he's tough every year," Miller said. "Burt Myers is another guy that's going to be tough to beat. I think Brian Loftin might be one driver that is going to be stronger than a lot of people expect. Andy Seuss is another guy to watch out for since he's replaced Junior Miller at Riggs Racing. Frank Fleming is one guy that people better watch out for this year because I know he's going to be tough to beat.
"It's going to be the best Whelen Southern Modified Tour season we've had so far because there are so many different stories to watch for."
Miller is all too familiar to how strong the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour drivers and teams will be Saturday night. Ted Christopher won the inaugural Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Caraway in March 2005 and again in March 2006.
"The guys that are coming down to Caraway are going to be very strong," Miller said. "Guys like Ted Christopher and Matt Hirschman have run with us before, so they're familiar with the track and the competition. They're a threat to win wherever they run.
"Every one of those guys coming down is going to have a chance to win and look to make it hard on us southern guys. But we're looking forward to the challenge."
GROWTH SPURT: Tour enters Year 4 building off successful start
The growth of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, entering only its fourth season of competition, has been nothing short of remarkable and proof that short-track racing is still very much alive and well.
While one might consider any major NASCAR touring series still to be in its infancy after only three short seasons, that's not the case as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour's progressive and explosive growth in that short time has been a remarkable story.
History is expected to be made this Saturday night at the famed Caraway Speedway when the largest amount of cars in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour competition are vying for 26 starting positions in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150. There will also be a number of top Whelen Modified Tour competitors on hand at Caraway to help their southern counterparts kick off the 2008 season.
By the number of early entry blanks already turned in for the 2008 season-opener at Caraway, there will be a record number of teams and as a result, several drivers that will fail to qualify for the 26-car field will be forced to watch from the sidelines.
It's a trend many top NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour veterans expect to see continue into the season with increased interest from many up-coming-drivers as the tour has become a viable outlet in making a name for themselves in the racing world.
"It got to the point last year for the first time where we had full fields of cars and there would be very good cars and drivers that didn't qualify," said L.W. Miller, the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion. "I really have a feeling we're going to be seeing that more this year because the Whelen Southern Modified Tour has grown so much in a very short amount of time. I really think we're going to see 30 cars or more this Saturday night at Caraway."
Miller said while it's tough to send cars home, it's a necessity for the continued growth of the Tour's future.
"It's hard to say it but that's good for our series and shows how far the NASCAR Whelen Southern Whelen Modified Tour has grown," Miller explains. "It's all a credit to NASCAR as well as Whelen for putting their support behind us and making things bigger and better every year.
"It shows how strong the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour has become when you have top names from the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour that want to come to Caraway and race against us like they are this Saturday night.
"There's a reason those guys want to come down -- the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour is good racing."
The numbers behind the growth of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour are impressive. In its inaugural season in 2005, the car count for a 12-race schedule averaged out to be about 17 cars per race.
In 2007, there was an average of almost 22 cars for each event that year in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour competition, with a season-high of 30 cars last year for the season-opener at Caraway.
"The growth of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in just three seasons has been great," said Mark Suddreth, director of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. "The car counts keep going up every year and there are more and more fans in the grandstands every week.
"The clean and hard racing that these teams deliver, along with the long-term commitment from Whelen and NASCAR will help guarantee the continued growth of the Tour.
"I've been with this Tour since the beginning and it's really neat to look back to where we started from in 2005 and we where we are now."
During the offseason, NASCAR and series sponsor Whelen Engineering of Connecticut announced the extension of the sponsorship agreement to 2016 -- providing a solid future for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour to continue its growth.
News & Notes
The race: This event is the 1st of 12 races on the 2008 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour schedule. It is the first of six races in 2008 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C..
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).
Caraway Qualifiers: Burt Myers won the pole for last year's season-opening Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150 when he circled the .455-mile Caraway track at a speed of 103.723 mph.
Brian Loftin may well be the hottest driver when it comes to Caraway, as he won not only the last two poles last fall, but went on to win both races.
IN A NAME: 'Miller' last name seems to be key at Caraway
There have been 17 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races at Caraway Speedway since 2005.
If there has been a common theme at the end of each Caraway race, it would have to be that somebody with the last name of Miller has been standing in Victory Lane.
While Miller has been the name of the winner of 10 of those races, it's actually two different people -- L.W. Miller and Junior Miller.
Though not related, reigning NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified champion L.W. Miller and two-time champion Junior Miller do share a common bond of being at the front at Caraway when the checkered flag is in sight.
In fact, the Miller duo had combined to win eight straight NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour races at Caraway until Brian Loftin reeled off two straight Caraway victories at the end of the 2007 season to snap the 'Miller streak.'
The first of Loftin's victories at Caraway last September ended a five-race winning streak at Caraway for L.W. Miller.
Long Road leads Seuss south to Riggs Racing
After making the biggest driver announcement in NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour history in the offseason, driver Andy Seuss and Riggs Racing knew it was time to get down to business with Saturday night's Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150 looming large on their horizon.
Seuss and his family recently started looking for a van to make the long commutes to the Whelen Southern Modified Tour races from their home in Hampstead, N.H.
"We found a van on e-Bay that was relatively close to the Riggs' shop," said Seuss, "so we stopped and picked it up while we were down there a couple of weeks ago to get my seats fitted into their race cars."
However, after spending a couple of hours in Martinsville (Va.) at the Riggs Racing shop, things took a turn for worse on their return home to New Hampshire.
"The van we bought ended up having transmission trouble and we had to pull over for the night near the Delaware state line," Seuss said. "We called the guys in New Hampshire to come down with an open trailer to tow the van home."
Racers tend to make the best of bad situations and this episode would be no different.
The Seuss' van would not fit onto the open trailer due to the fenders being welded on, so they towed the trailer around to find a shop that would cut them off so they could get the van home.
Once they were back in New Hampshire, Seuss called team owner Jeff Riggs to let him know he was home safely and the teasing began.
"I had called Jeff and the guys to tell them about the trouble we had on the ride home and the guys at the shop all thought it was pretty funny," Seuss said with a laugh.
"Hopefully that will be the last of my troubles for a little while."
For now the Seuss-Riggs duo hope there is smooth sailing on the track as they ready for this weekend's season-opener and the battle for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship.
"The communication is great and it feels like we've been together for a long time already," Seuss said. "Hopefully my travel troubles are behind me so I can just worry about winning races now."
The Race: Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150
The Place: Caraway (N.C.) Speedway
The Date: March 22
The Time: 8 p.m.
Track Layout: .455-mile paved
Race Purse: $25,375
2007 Winner: L.W. Miller
2007 Pole: Burt Myers
Schedule: Saturday: Practice 4-4:30 p.m., Qualifying 6:30 p.m.