Grove City, PA — January 26, 2009 — By Lou Long, BRP Modified Tour PR
The Modified Tour, Inc. closed out the 2008 season and welcomed in the 2009 Tour during its annual awards ceremony held Saturday, January 24 at Big Daddy’s Speed Center in Grove City, PA. An unexpectedly large crowd was on hand to share the camaraderie, honor drivers and hear the latest news.
“This is great,” said Mod Tour President Ray Baselj. “It shows the level of support and interest in Big-Block Modified racing in the region. We are proud of what we have accomplished in the past, but we are looking forward to the continued growth and success of the division, in general, and the Mod Tour, in particular.” “With the help of everyone in this room tonight, and with the additional help of our friends and supporters who could not be here with us, we will have a bigger and better 2009,” he enthused.
Of course, the spotlight shined on three-time Mod Tour Champion, Brian Swartzlander. Brian picked up three wins on his way to the title. Brian’s outstanding performance at the bullring, Tyler County (WV) Speedway, was among the most memorable drives in a year marked with exciting races. Brian started 23rd and quickly moved through the field. But it required a bold high-side maneuver coming off turn four for him to assume command on lap 24. The season started and ended with upset wins by Gary Smoker and Lonnie Riggs, each of whom drove their 358-powered cars to victories at Tri-City (PA) Speedway and Sharon (OH) Speedway, respectively. Other victories went to Jeremiah Shingledecker at Eriez (PA) Speedway) and Russell King at Mercer (PA) Raceway Park.
Swartzlander picked up a cool $4,000 in cash and prizes for his participation in the seven-race series in 2008. In addition, he earned a guaranteed starting position in the Super Bowl of modified racing, the Rite Aid 200, held at the New York State Fairgrounds. “Winning the Mod Tour point championship put us in a good position to take on the best in the business,” Swartzlander said in a late-season interview. “Having that guaranteed starting spot takes off a lot of pressure because it means that we can go up there and concentrate on the race set-ups and not have to worry about a qualifying package just to make the show,” he added.
As it turned out, Swartzlander would not have needed the guaranteed spot, as he made the field on his own. Swartzlander proudly carried the colors of the BRP/Hoosier Tire Modified Tour to a 39th-place finish on the Moody Mile. His maiden voyage run was interrupted and then cut short by a problem with his brakes. Nonetheless, he showed that he could run be competitive on the DIRTcar home court, and he is looking forward to this September’s DIRTcar/Mod Tour challenge at Lernerville (PA) Speedway.
Finishing behind Swartzlander in Mod Tour points was Jeremiah Shingledecker. The quiet driver spoke loudly on the track, though, taking a marathon win at Eriez on Labor Day weekend. Jeremiah, who received $2,500 in cash and prizes, had his new livery on display at the award ceremonies, as his trusty car was outfitted in new colors for the 2009 campaign. His car was used for a chassis seminar presented by Randy Williamson of leading Mod Tour sponsor, Bicknell Racing Products, earlier in the day.
Third spot in the point standings went to Rex King, Jr. as ‘Cooter’ showed marked improvement on the Mod Tour circuit. He was involved in a spirited duel throughout the Mountaineer 40 at Tyler County and posted a season-best finish of second place there. Cooter received $1,500 for his efforts.
Kevin Hoffman and Dave Murdick tied for fourth place in Mod Tour points. Positions six through ten went to Del Rougeux, Jr., Joe Crawford, Tom Mattocks, Skip Moore and J.R. McGinley. Each of those drivers were presented with cash and prizes of $1,000 or more.
Making up the Top-20 were the ageless veteran Carl Murdick, Steve Feder, Ron Eperthener, Steve Barr, Mike Turner, Brian Sadler, Gary Smoker, Kevin Bolland, Brad Rapp and Rick Hall.
Special achievement awards were presented to Mod Tour ’08 Rookie of the Year Brian Sadler and Hard Charger J.R. McGinley.
Recognition was also given to two former Mod Tour Officials, Ed Sanner and Eddie Sanner, both of whom are taking leave from the series. This father and son duo worked tirelessly and provided invaluable guidance to the Mod Tour for over a decade. They will be missed in 2009 and the Board of Directors thanks them and wishes them well. Hopefully, their future endeavors will include many Mod Tour races!
Ray Baselj thanked the many drivers who competed with the Mod Tour in 2008. Over 70 drivers entered at least one race, and 16 racers had perfect attendance. Average car count per event went up by seven each race held in 2008; such statistics are hard for any touring series to match.
After thanking the Mod Tour’s 2008 sponsors, Baselj announced that most of them have already confirmed their participation in 2009. In fact, Randy Williamson (Bicknell Racing Products) and Russ Bradford (Bazell Oil/Sunoco Race Fuels) promised life-long support to the Mod Tour. Baselj said that negotiations are still underway with other series sponsors and that Mod Tour has secured several new product sponsors for 2009. Announcements of additions to the roster of Mod Tour sponsors for 2009 will be forthcoming.
Baselj also presented the tentative 2009 Mod Tour schedule. Currently, Mod Tour races will be held: March 28, Mercer (PA) Raceway Park; May 24, Tri-City (PA) Speedway; May 29, Lernerville (PA) Speedway; July 5, Tri-City (PA) Speedway; July 25, Tyler County (WV) Speedway; August 15, Mercer (PA) Raceway Park; September 4, Tri-City (PA) Speedway; September 18, Lernerville (PA) Speedway (with the Advance Auto Parts Super DIRTcar Series); September 19, Sharon (OH) Speedway.
He added that negotiations are still in progress for other dates, including return appearances at former Mod Tour stops Eriez (PA) Speedway, Central PA Speedway, Little Valley (NY) Speedway and Eldora (OH) Speedway. New tracks still considering Mod Tour events for 2009 include Limaland (OH) Speedway and Hagerstown (MD) Speedway.
Please visit www.modifiedtourinc.com on the internet for all of the latest information regarding the 2009 BRP/Hoosier Race Tires Modified Tour.
Modified Tour, Inc. would like to thank the following 2008 series sponsors: Bicknell Racing Products, Hoosier Race Tire, Sunoco Race Fuel, Bilstein Shocks, Ray’s Racing Collectibles, Approved Toilet Rental, Lowry Auto Body, Lake Erie Speed Specialties, Hall’s Safety Equipment, Engles Trucking, Big Daddy’s Speed Center, Priest Enterprises, King Brothers Feed and Supply, Oyler Action Photos, Finishline Fabrication, Wilkinson Awards, McCool’s Signs and Graphics, Hands on Concepts, Waldo’s Towing, Jim’s Supermarket, Pennewell Sandblasting and Painting, and Wedge Motorsports.
The Modified Tour, Inc. racing series is a non-profit organization established to give the V-8 Modifieds in the Western Pennsylvania area the opportunity to compete for higher purses and for a seasonal point fund. Started in 1998 by Tim Engles, Lon and Pam Baker, and Randy Myers, the Modified Tour has had great success at bringing the local cars together at the area racetracks.