For many, the state of Connecticut is Modified country. With local tracks Thompson, Waterford and Stafford all running some sort of Modified division (or even two) and hosting the top Tour-Type Modified touring divisions on a regular basis, that’s a fair label to give the Nutmeg State. But another track and area in the Northeast also has a history of running Tour-Type Modifieds, and for the first time in four years the ground-pounding Modifieds will be returning to the historic Claremont Speedway (NH) in 2015.
In an effort led by racer Gary Knight, the Tour-Type Modifieds will be returning to the 1/3-mile New Hampshire oval for 40-lap features on a bi-weekly basis starting on Friday, June 26. The rules will be similar to those used when the True Value Modifieds (now the Valenti Modified Racing Series) got its start in 2004.
“I reached out to the track approximately five weeks ago and asked them if they’d be interested if I could put together Tour-Type Modifieds to come back on an every other week format,” Knight explained. “The goal was to have a purse that the track could afford to pay and was affordable for the teams so we could get quality cars plus cars that have been sitting around. They gave me the green light on it and now we are at where we’ve chosen our first date.”
Early indications from Modified teams in the area point to a division that is expected to have respectable car counts when the first green flag waves. Knight, who has been working closely with the Claremont Speedway ownership group to put this deal together, believes that fans could realistically see 15-18 cars on the track for their first feature event on June 26. In addition, he said that they had over 60 people show up to the initial meeting to discuss the possibility of bringing this type of car back to the track.
(Valenti Modified Racing Series Race at Claremont in 2010)
“The phone just keeps ringing every day as we get closer because this week is the tire test,” Knight told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We probably have seven or eight cars just in our area. Then we have Star Speedway, which dropped the division over the winter. We will pull cars from there and some cars off from the MRS (Valenti Modified Racing Series) because we’re running Friday nights and that’s not a conflict, so they’re going to run some with the every other week deal.”
Each 40-lap feature will pay $1,000-to-win and $250 to start. Tires will also be affordable, as Knight says that he is serving as the tire provider and plans to make little to no profit.
“When I first went to the race track, I told them that they just had to let me take fuel and tires off the table for them,” Knight explained. “There’s no money to be made on those two things from the race teams. That’s my true feeling about what’s hurting our sport. Promoters forgot how to promote, back gate pays everything.
“I took that off the table so that my teams can go back to the way they used to do it and have their own fuel. They don’t have to worry about paying $12 a gallon. I became the tire dealer. The tire manufacturer doesn’t care what I do with my profit. They only want their profit, so I will sell tires at $119. Two tires a week.”
The series will run the latest version of American Racer tires for Tour-Type Modifieds and will be the first division to do so. The tire they plan on using is the same tire that Knight believes the Race of Champions Asphalt Modified Tour will be going to sooner rather than later.
“We’re the first ones that are going to get to run the tire before the RoC even gets on the tire,” Knight stated. “I’ve even had interest from Pennsylvania from RoC guys wanting to come over because they know they’re going to the tire and I’ve got the tire.
“RoC is on American Racer but they’re on the old American Racer still. The competitor knows that this new generation tire is the one they’re going to be on and I’m the one that’s got it. We’ll be the first people to have the new tire on a Tour-Type Modified.”
With the package that he and the track owners have put together, Knight believes that it will make weekly racing affordable for teams that aren’t able to tour, as well as make it affordable for Tour teams who don’t want to dip into their touring budget.
“The Tour teams can now look at the package and say let’s go out and buy four tires, give it a shot, get a top-five, tires are paid for and every time we go out there we’re just making money,” said Knight. “Your average Tour team on the MRS can look at that and say that it’s not going to touch our touring budget. Not only do I have to look at a guy who can’t afford to run the Tour, but also a guy like Kirk Alexander who is running the Tour and put so much money aside to do that that he doesn’t have to touch that.”
In addition to the bi-weekly racing program, plans are also in the works for a big-money Tour-Type Modified event to be hosted at the track this season. Although there are still a lot of details to be ironed out, Knight said that it will not be a straight up 100-lap feature. His early thoughts are to have Twin 50-lap features with the driver tallying the best overall finish taking home the top prize.
“I don’t like 100-lap Modified shows,” Knight stated. “I think they’re the most boring thing because drivers have gotten too good at knowing how to conserve a right rear tire. So we’re taking that off the table, they’re not going to be able to. By no means will they ever be able to save that right rear tire. They’re going to just race. They’re going to have to go back to a Punky Caron or Richie Evans and get on the wheel and drive the hell out of it.”
Throughout his discussion with Speed51.com powered by JEGS, Knight expressed many times that this project he’s helped put together is not, and will not be a dictatorship. It’s a group effort that involves him, the race track, car owners and drivers. Moving forward, it will continue to be that way and everybody will have a say in what direction the division goes in.
“When I started this, I just reversed the theory in my head,” said Knight. “The guys formed a group and worked their way out of Claremont Speedway to form the True Value Modifieds. Reverse the theory, work your way back in. So I formed a group, key word group. Everybody has a voice and everything we do is a vote. We’ll just kind of work together and not rule as a dictatorship.”
While Knight himself is excited to witness the 600-horsepower ground-pounding Tour-Type Modifieds back at Claremont Speedway, he says that fans in the area are pumped up to witness these type of race cars back on their home track.
“With just the little bit of advertising that I have been able to do, the response is unbelievable. It’s just what I always thought, people want to see Modifieds. Now people that didn’t go to the track will go. There’s something there that they want to see now.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Howie Hodge Photo
-Video Credit: YouTube: TeamBlood03