Four races into the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season, Zach Brewer had scored two top-five finishes behind the wheel of the Eddie Harvey-owned Ideal Racing No. 11. He finished second at Hickory and third at South Boston, where he also led a race-high 66 laps. Before that, he competed full-time on the Southern Tour with Ideal Racing, scoring four top-five finishes in 10 races during the 2010 season.
Despite the positive results, the door to victory lane remained sealed shut for Brewer with Ideal Racing, forcing the driver and team to part ways after four races in 2011. Andy Seuss took over the seat in the red No. 11 car and has gone on to record 10 wins since. He also carries the NWSMT point lead into the final two races of the 2014 season.
Brewer, a winner of three NASCAR Goody’s Dash Series races between 1999 and 2002, was left without a solid ride in any type of racecar after parting ways with Ideal Racing. He didn’t leave the racing scene completely, as he was usually found in a Modified pit area helping drivers such as Mike Norman in the years since, but the opportunities to wheel a winning Modified seemed to be fading away.
In 2014 and with the advent of the KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Tour, Brewer got his second shot at Modified success. Partnering with Scott Rigney, Brewer captured the long-awaited Modified victory on the KOMA Tour on July 5 at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway.
While it was a sigh of relief to check a Modified win off the bucket list, there was still some unfinished business for the Winston-Salem, North Carolina driver – a NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory.
Brewer will get another shot at that NASCAR Tour win on October 9 with the same team that gave him his best shot to date to win a NASCAR Modified race, Ideal Racing.
The 34-year-old will team with Ideal to drive the No. 09 Modified in the NWSMT season finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway as a teammate to Seuss in an effort for Brewer to notch that first NASCAR Tour victory.
“I got a little bit of closure winning the KOMA race, with it being a Modified win and something to jot down in my book, but a Tour win is always a goal,” said Brewer, who along with his wife Kimberly became a father to a daughter, Avery, in August. “I feel like it’s something I can accomplish very easily if I can just get all the things to align. I feel like the car, the talent, all that can be done, but there’s so much other stuff that has you’ve got to get to line up. I feel like we can do that.”
Admitting there was some tension between he and team owner Eddie Harvey at the time of their split four races into the 2011 season, Brewer never lost connection with the Ideal Racing team. Growth of that relationship in the years since has parlayed into a second chance at Charlotte.
“We did stay close, but there was some tension there when we split just because there was so much pressure to win and we were so close to it,” added Brewer. “They’ve got a lot of good equipment and I was just helping the team grow. We just never could get over the hump. I feel like they’re over the hump now. They have a lot better personnel now. I didn’t feel I had the manpower like they have now. There’s just more there of better people and stuff to give you that oomph you need.
“Eddie and I have both grown as people and the timing is more right and things are so much better than they were then.”
There have already been discussions about Brewer doing more races with the Ideal team in 2015.
“I’ve been wanting to run some other races before now and just with motors not being ready or cars being wrecked, we just never were able to put it together. We’ve been tossing it around and everything just lined up for us to do Charlotte. We were hoping to maybe do Caraway (this Saturday, October 4), but we’re not going to be completely ready in time.
“We’ll be ready for Charlotte and we may do a partial schedule next year. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes with some Hoosier (tire) stuff with NASCAR and how big the KOMA thing will be next year. There’s talk we may do a few, we may do one or two, we just don’t know yet.”
Ideal Racing’s Andy Seuss enters the final two races of the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season, October 4 at Caraway and October 9 at Charlotte, with a slim nine-point advantage over another former Ideal Racing teammate, George Brunnhoelzl, III. That lead shrunk over recent races to its current single-digit margin.
Adding Brewer in a second Ideal Racing car to the fray at Charlotte could play a role in aiding Seuss’ championship hopes for the team if Brewer is able to help keep points between Seuss and Brunnhoelzl with a strong run.
“Anytime you’re with a multiple-car team, you’ve got to be a team player and be there for the team, but I’m going there for myself,” said Brewer. “I’ve proven in situations like this that I’m going to win. I’m not going to go wreck anybody. Now if I can keep an extra point between Andy and help him win the championship by racing hard, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to win and do the best I can and if I can help Andy along the line, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Brewer finished third in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour’s 2010 season finale at Charlotte, a race that came just five days after his boyhood friend Shane Hmiel was paralyzed in a USAC Silver Crown crash in Indiana.
This time, armed with a new-found confidence and motivation to get his first NASCAR Tour win, Brewer is focused solely on the prize at the end of the Southern Slam 150.
“We ran there in 2010. We didn’t qualify good, but ended up finishing third. That was my first race back after Shane’s accident, so I had a lot on my plate then. I had so much going on that week, it was such a crazy deal. We were just happy to finish out the year with a third.
“I’ve got a lot to build off of and a lot of confidence. Winning Hickory, I just feel like I’m as focused and as smart as I’ve been in a long time in a race car. I’m grateful for the opportunity that Scott Rigney has given me on the KOMA Tour and I couldn’t ask for that to be any better. Just being able to go to a Tour race with one of the mega-teams, you don’t get opportunities like that all the time.
“I definitely want to win a Tour race and Charlotte gives out nice trophies, so why not there?”
– By Matt Kentfield, Speed51.com Executive Director – Twitter: @MattKentfield. Featured photo credit: Charles Ward/NASCAR