On Wednesday, it was announced that NASCAR’s two modified divisions – the northern United States-based Whelen Modified Tour and the Whelen Southern Modified Tour – will be consolidated into one series for the 2017 season.
“As NASCAR looks at the schedule for 2017 and beyond, we are looking at a number of options to continue growing the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour,” a release from NASCAR stated. “Our goal is to elevate the marque events on the calendar, strengthening the Modified brand along the East Coast.”
The Southern Modified Tour struggled to provide a decent-sized field in 2016, with none of the ten standalone races exceeding 17 cars and a total average of just 11.7 entries; the largest grid attained was 37 at Bristol as the result of hosting a combination race with the WMT. In comparison, the WMT has averaged 25.2 drivers over 15 standalone events, the most being 32 in April’s race at Stafford Speedway.
With the merger, Burt Myers will be the last Southern Modified Tour champion, clinching his second series title and first since 2010 after leading the points standings for the entire season. Myers won three races, recorded two poles and finished in the top ten in every race in 2016. In the Whelen Modified Tour, three-time champion Doug Coby is looking to win his fourth and third consecutive title; he holds a 20-point lead over Justin Bonsignore entering Sunday’s race at Thompson Speedway.
Though modified racing has existed before NASCAR’s Strictly Stock division (now Sprint Cup Series) was formed, the Whelen Modified Tour was founded in 1985 as the Winston Modified Tour. 20 years later, in 2005, the Southern Modified Tour succeeded the non-NASCAR sanctioned Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour (SMART) as the predominant southern-based modified racing series. Ted Christopher won the series’ first race at Caraway Speedway After 12 years of competition, the series’ final race was held at Charlotte Motor Speedway on October 6; current Xfinity Series driver and 2013 WMT champion Ryan Preece won the event. Four-time champion and 2016 runner-up George Brunnhoelzl III ends the WSMT era as the winningest driver since 2005 with 28 victories. Six different drivers have won the WSMT championship: Brunnhoelzl (4), Myers, Junior Miller and Andy Seuss (2), while Brian Loftin and L. W. Miller have won one apiece.
The 2017 schedule is expected to feature 17–20 races and it is uncertain as to whether or not tracks from the Southern Tour will be included, although Bowman Gray Stadium, a popular track in the southern U.S. racing community, will not be one of them.
Featured image courtesy of NASCAR Home Tracks