On the heels of two major announcements, officials and competitors of the Valenti Modified Racing Series came together at Stafford Motor Speedway’s (CT) banquet hall Sunday afternoon to address the upcoming 2016 season. In addition to discussing rules and race procedures, one of the biggest takeaways from the meeting involved the series’ desire to “stay unique.”
A call for “uniqueness” for the series was discussed during the meeting, first with series founder and owner Jack Bateman announcing that the Twin 50’s concept that had been used at Lee USA Speedway (NH) and Beech Ridge Motor Speedway (ME) last season will return, but with an important modification. After confusion was expressed from fans last year to the segment-style format, Twin 50 events will be counted as separate points paying races, with half the event purse being payed separately in each race.
Twin 50 events are expected to be run at both events at Lee once again, along with the June race at Oxford Plains Speedway (ME), one of the three races at Monadnock Speedway (NH), and possibly the event at Beech Ridge in September pending scheduling approval from the track.
Another unique suggestion from race teams was that of staging “cone races” at various events during the season where the entire field of drivers would get lane choice on a restart. The series will be exploring the idea, with possible implementation during one race for experimentation. Bateman believes that this idea may be one that will give the series the uniqueness it needs in the future.
“I think all those ideas are good, it gives our brand a little uniqueness,” said Bateman. “It gives us an opportunity to put some excitement in the fans and the racers themselves.”
The meeting served as the first opportunity for race director Wayne “Muffy” Wildermuth to openly address the teams and drivers since being appointed to the position last Tuesday.
Wildermuth is a familiar face amongst competitors in the Northeast, having served a number of drivers over the years as one the best eyes above in the spotter’s stand. He is the fifth race director to be named in the past three years by Bateman, who filled the role at the end of the 2015 season.
“I’m not here to change the world and I’m not here to deal with anything in the past,”Wildermuth told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “The MRS officials are a really good group of guys, they need a little direction. Jack has done the best he can do, but he’s one person. He needs more people that can help with that direction. I’m just hoping I can add to that.”
Wildermuth had been asked once before by Bateman to fill the role prior to 2015, but had committed to a spotting schedule for the season. This time around, he’s ready to take on the role.
“I go to all these races anyway, so to me it’s no different than the last five or six years,” he said. “I plan my life around racing. I have all the time; I can go to all the races and devote to it on days that aren’t race days. Time constraints are not an issue.”
Bateman is confident that all this time spent with teams and drivers will be just what the series needs going forward.
“I think it’s going to be great, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with him and it seems like we’re on the same page,” Bateman said. “He’s got a lot of experience, he is very knowledgeable and has a lot of common sense.”
For Wildermuth, his time spent from the competitor’s standpoint has left him very open to input from teams and competitors.
“We like to hear from the competitors because sometimes you get stuck in a tunnel vision of ‘this has to get done’ instead of what needs to get done from their standpoint,” Wildermuth explained. “We need to get to our end, but we need to make it fair for those guys and the only one that can tell us what they need is them because we don’t know what they need. We encourage all input because we are all in this together.”
During the meeting Sunday afternoon, it was announced that there would be no major rule changes in store for both cars and engines for 2016. Bateman reiterated a ban on spec motors that ruled the roost in NASCAR competition much of the last season.
Most discussion during the meeting dealt with race procedures, the first of which was the pushing of “quick yellows” for single car non-contact spins in order to maintain race flow. Teams will not be guaranteed courtesy laps in those instances. Drivers will be instructed on how many courtesy laps there will be, if any, on the radios.
Wildermuth also hopes to improve on track spotting amongst series officials to identify potential hazards on track, but mostly to determine which cars have or have not been involved in any accident. Cars that stop to avoid a wreck and do not become directly involved will be allowed to maintain their positions prior to the yellow flag.
Restart order will be determined by the last scored lap, with specifics of a completed lap being announced at each specific event. Aborted restarts will be treated as a regular restart with no lazy greens. The caution flag will be displayed once the lead cars have cleared turn two.
Despite the different options being looked at by the series and the increase of Tour-Type Modifed races from a schedule increase from NASCAR, the Tri-Track Open Modifieds, plus the rise of the new Modified Touring Series, it has been a pretty typical off season for Bateman and the teams.
“We haven’t made a lot of changes, we’re very happy to have a new track onboard, Speedway 51 up in Groveton (NH), other than that I think things are status quo. Again, we’re looking to try some things going forward, gain more interest, but other than that things are good.”
The 16-event schedule for the 13th season Modified Racing Series leads off with the Spring Dash 100 on Saturday, April 30th at Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @Connor51CT