When the 2016 racing season began, there were many questions as to whether the then upstart Southern Modified Racing Series could make it in what was then a three-series region. In that climate, the series found success for the year and promise for the future. Now the SMRS readies to take on a new role as the sole Tour-type Modified series that tours Southeastern tracks exclusively in 2017.
As always, questions remain with the season poised to roll off at Caraway Speedway (NC) this coming Saturday, but the excitement of a new race season and new climate for Southern Modified racing is all anyone can talk about. This includes defending SMRS champion Burt Myers who has the confidence to back up his eagerness heading to Caraway.
“If you asked me five years ago if I was ready to go back to Caraway I probably would’ve said I wasn’t too excited,” Myers told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. But the last couple of years we found something with the Fury chassis and NASCAR spec engine; the setup we found has been pretty successful the last two years, so we are looking forward to it.”
“The Myrtle Beach race last month put that taste right back in my mouth, where it was just a tease,” Jason Myers said. “By the end of the season we race so much, it’s nice to have a little break, but then after a month I want to go racing.”
The always tough Myers clan has fellow competitors taking steps to get the advantage, including Bobby Measmer, Jr. who has gotten some test time to start off the season.
“We’re ready, we went and tested this past weekend at Caraway, everything went smooth there, really excited to get started,” Measmer stated.
The opening round at Caraway has garnered plenty of big names ready to square off, with Measmer, Burt Myers and Jason Myers going up against fellow Southerners like John Smith, Tim Brown, Brandon Ward, Jeremy Gerstner, Trey Hutchens and Austin Thompson. Even drivers from north of the Mason-Dixon Line are making the trip down like Danny Bohn and Chris Pasteryak.
While the biggest question is how many of these drivers will go for a full-time effort, there is confidence among dedicated full-time drivers that years of competition will carry over to this new premier division.
“It’s Modified racing, there’s always competition down here, a lot of good race teams,” Jason Myers commented. “Last year you had three different sets of competition to race with, SMRS you had different competition, but it was just as good as NASCAR or Bowman Gray. It’s tough.”
“The competition on the SMRS tour was pretty stout. You had John (Smith) and Burt (Myers) win the majority of the races of guys that ran the whole year. It’s a tough little series,” Measmer said. “I don’t know how many guys that ran NASCAR are going to come over and run besides me, but I’m sure it will be solid deal.”
“I’d hate to think there are guys that have cars on jack stands that are not going to come out and race,” Burt Myers commented. “Renee (Hackett) has worked hard to try and come up with a points fund and make it more economical for us at the same time. I can’t speak for everybody else but I’m excited about it.”
While the goal of every driver is to win the series championship, they know the best way to get there is to compete for wins. This has always been the approach that has netted Burt Myers multiple championships over the years, whether it be at Bowman Gray Stadium (NC) or touring the SMRS or NASCAR circuits. The schedule for 2017 has added even more confidence to his effort.
“I think Renee has got a pretty good schedule this year, there’s a handful at Caraway of course, but she’s got some really good tracks, some of my favorite tracks,” Myers said. “I’m excited; we’ll take it one race at a time like we always do. The goal when we leave the shop is to win every race, which leads to a championship.”
Jason Myers also has a knack for winning many races throughout his career, but they have yet to translate into championships. Despite this, he will use the same strategy as his brother and hope that the wins turn into a big trophy at season’s end.
“Our goal from week number one is to go week to week and win as many races as we can,” he said. “The only championship I ever won was the (NASCAR Whelen All-American Series) North Carolina state championship two years ago. I’ve been second or third the last three years in a row at Bowman Gray. We get so close and one bad night ruins it, I don’t know if it’s just luck or if I’m not supposed to win a championship, I don’t know what it is, but we always seem to be real close. If I can just win a bunch of races, the championship is not that big a deal.”
While few drivers have been able to match the Myers brothers in the win column, Bobby Measmer thinks he has a shot to do that on the SMRS. In 2016, he broke through for his first ever Tour-type Modified victory, winning the SMRS event at Concord last May and following that up with a win on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour in its final season. He wants more of the same in 2017, but will still have plenty on his plate as he also puts his hand in full-time competition at Bowman Gray Speedway.
“We won Concord last year, we finished fourth at Hickory both times with SMRS. We had a top five going at Tri-County before we got wrecked. I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out this year. I think we got a shot at winning a few races this year instead of just one.”
Be sure to follow the Southern Modified Racing Series this Saturday from Caraway Speedway and all season long on Speed51.com.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos