The much anticipated first event for the Bullring Bash Quarter Mile Challenge is almost here, with Modifieds and Legends Cars getting set to crank up the volume in northern New England this Sunday, June 16 at White Mountain Motorsports Park (NH).
This series, the brainchild of Massachusetts native Josh Vanada, was first announced late in 2018 following the conclusion of his successful tenure as general manger at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT). Now, working with many of the same people he has worked alongside at "The Big T," Vanada and his team are ready to begin the three-event schedule for 2019.
Vanada shared his thoughts about finally getting down to business Monday on Speed51’s Morning Bullring.
“We’re pretty stoked. When I stepped away from full-time racing last October, the team of people I was working with said that we had something special here and we want you to keep going, and I decided that we probably should," Vanada said. "I’ve always loved Modifieds, and when we started running Legends at Thompson, I really fell in love with those cars and the people. So, we decided to do that as well."
While the series has come together in the last year, the idea of bringing Modifieds and Legends back to tracks such as White Mountain and Thunder Road is one that Vanada has had for a long time.
“I’ve been thinking about doing something like this for about ten years, but the right opportunity hadn’t presented itself," he explained. "With me stepping away from full-time racing, I had the time to do this and work on this project. I felt like we had the connections in the industry with the teams, the vendors, and the suppliers. As a group of people, we have a strong base of officials that I felt was up for the project. So, we talked about it and without batting an eye, we decided to go for that.”
White Mountain will also host the second Bullring Bash event on Saturday, August 10, while Vermont’s Thunder Road hosts the final race of 2019 on Sunday, September 1 as a part of the track’s Labor Day Classic.
Legends Cars will be on for 35 laps at each event, while the Modifieds will run for 125 green flag over three segments. The event format for the Modifieds will draw from one of New England’s longest Late Model racing traditions, the Vermont Milk Bowl which is held every fall at Thunder Road.
“For the Modifieds, the format is similar to the Milk Bowl; you have three segments, the first two are 50 laps and the last is 25 laps. The purse is paid on the overall result where you get a points score based on your finishing position in each of the three segments, and the person with the lowest score at the end wins. Think of it if you like golf as a best ball tournament. First segment we’ll line the cars up based on their heat finishes with an invert. Second segment is a complete inversion of the results from the first segment, with a minimum lap time requirement. Final 25-lap segment is set based on the fastest laps turned in the first 50-lap segment.”
There are no championship points to be earned between the three races, each event stands alone with its own purse and bragging rights.
As the season opener draws closer, the roster continues to grow, with the Mod Squad gaining star power along the way.
“We've got some good names. We've got Woody Pitkat, who’s a former champion at Thompson, he’s coming with car owner Stan Mertz. We got Russ Hersey who’s a multi-time champion in New Hampshire formerly in Super Late Models, but he’s found success recently in Modifieds. Josh Cantera is coming up from Maine. Andy Shaw is coming over too. We got some locals, and we’re expecting quite a few entries on the day of the race.”
Even beyond this Sunday’s Bullring Bash debut, there is still much to be done for the series, with Vanada and the staff buckling down for the long haul. Despite the difficulties, Vanada is meeting this dream of a challenge head on, putting his past teachings to good use, many of which came from one of New England’s all-time great promoters, the late Tom Curley who ran both Thunder Road and the American-Canadian Tour for so many years up until his passing in 2017.
“The success we had at Thompson was a lot of fun and as I move on to this next stage that’s entirely my own, I had the privilege of running Thompson like it was my own, but I didn’t own it. Now, this is my own and I get to build it from the ground up. Before Tom Curley died he and I had become friendly with each other in his last couple of years, and I learned a lot from him.”
In the here and now, Vanada and the Bullring Bash are working closely with the staffs of both White Mountain and Thunder Road, which are now under the co-ownership of former racer Cris Michaud and businessman Pat Malone. Vanada has credited Michaud’s advice with how the series is pushing forward, not just into this weekend, but the years to come.
“Now Cris Michaud is maintaining a lot of the good that Tom Curley had and even building on some of that. We talk a lot, and he gives me a lot of good advice. But, it’s pretty special to be able to start something from scratch, build it. We know there are going to be bumps in the road, we’re not perfect. But, we’re going to build and nurture it. Cris and I are committed to this, building something unique; in that area Modified racing really doesn’t come up that far, but there’s a market for it, people are interested in it. Then we can see where we can expand beyond that.”
You can hear more from Josh Vanada on the Bullring Bash Quarter Mile Challenge by listening to replay of the latest episode of the Morning Bullring.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51