The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will kick off its 2016 this Saturday at Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina. Many of the same faces are expected to battle for the championship with two-time defending champion Andy Seuss leading the charge. We here at Speed51.com powered by JEGS have broken down the upcoming season piece by piece to help prepare race fans for the tour’s 12th season.
The Championship: The last five NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championships have gone to either Andy Seuss or George Brunnhoelzl III. There is no reason to believe that they shouldn’t be there again battling it out for the season title. Last year we learned that you can never count either of them out.
Seuss: Winning three straight titles is a difficult feat in any sport. Andy Seuss has the potential to do exactly that in 2016. This will certainly be a challenging task for Seuss given the strength of the competition, but the New Hampshire native is ready for the challenge.
After lasting only 13 laps in the season opener a year ago he had to come from the rear of the point standings to pull things off. Winning two of the last four races catapulted him to the top for his second title. He enters the season with 21 career NWSMT wins.
GB3: While Seuss dug himself a hole due to early season struggles, George Brunnhoelzl, III dug himself a trench. The four-time NWSMT champion failed to finish two of the first three races one year ago. He fell to as low as 14th in the point standings before winning three of the last six races and missing his fifth title by just a few makers. He has 25 tour wins, but more importantly he has led over 3500 laps in the series.
The Field: The law of averages say that betting against Seuss and Brunnhoelzl would pay off, but last year they gave the rest of the field a few mulligans and still ended up one-two in the standings.
Schedule Overlook: Although there’s one more race on the schedule this season compared to last, there’s still very little room for error during an 11-race season. Mistakes will be hard to overcome and every position will matter for those vying for a championship. The schedule will feature four stops at Caraway Speedway (NC), two at South Boston Speedway (VA), one at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC), one at Bristol Motor Speedway (TN), one at Concord Speedway (NC), one at Charlotte Motor Speedway (NC), and one at East Carolina Speedway (NC),
How High Can the Myers Brothers Fly?: Jason Myers enjoyed his most competitive season yet on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour last year. He finished the season with five top-five runs and 10 top-10 finishes. Myers was just a lucky bounce away from a championship as he finished seven points behind Seuss in the battle for the title. His brother Burt Myers was one point behind him and he could have been the champion again, but a broken tie rod at Caraway in July ended his title run. When you talk about Modified racing in the south, you can’t count the Myers brothers out; they’ll be contenders once again in 2016.
Invaders: You always have to look to the north to see if someone will be coming south to steal wins. Last year Eric Goodale and Ryan Preece took those wins. New Jersey native Danny Bohn was not really an outsider, but the part timer beat the weekly warriors at Bowman Gray for his fourth tour win.
New Faces in New Places: After a season away from racing, Richie Pallai, Jr. landed a ride with Hillbilly Racing during the offseason and looks to add more flavor to the Southern tour. Danny Bohn will also throw his name into the ring as he is expected to race the full 11-race schedule behind the wheel of Luke Fleming’s No. 40.
Credit is Due: A pole and a career-best third-place finish for Bobby Measmer, Jr. in September at South Boston sets up what could be a breakout season for the Concord, North Carolina driver. He had to learn the ropes during his first season behind the wheel of a Tour-Type Modified in 2014, but the team made leaps and bounds in 2015. The same progression could have the No. 74 pulling into victory lane soon.
Return to Glory: JR Bertuccio and Kyle Ebersole are both former winners who will look to return to glory. Ebersole was in the title fight and finished second in points in 2013. Now he’s eying more wins. Bertuccio scored two wins in 2014 and was fourth in points only to have an off year in 2015.
On a Roll: Jeremy Gerstner enters the 2016 on a five-race top 10 streak that got him back to ninth in points at season’s ends. He earned the third most points in the final five races of the season only behind Seuss and GB3.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com