The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will have a milestone weekend when the 2014 season takes the green flag on Sunday, March 9 at Caraway Speedway.
The Whelen Season Opener 150 will mark the 50th all-time race for the Whelen Southern Modified Tour at the rural Sophia, N.C., oval, and will also launch the 10th season of competition for the tour.
It all began for the Whelen Southern Modified Tour on March 26, 2005 when Caraway play host to the tour’s inaugural event. Nine years and 49 races later, the track and tour have forged quite a history together. No other facility has welcomed the tour more than nine times through the first nine seasons.
This week’s Whelen Season Opener 150 will mark the eighth time in 10 years that the high-banked .455-mile oval has been the site of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour’s opening contest. It has also hosted the finale five times, and traditionally holds a July 4 weekend event among its midseason dates.
Brian Loftin, Junior Miller and L.W. Miller were the kings of Caraway in the first four years of Whelen Southern Modified Tour action as they combined to win 17 of the first 21 events there. The subsequent five seasons have seen George Brunnhoelzl III and Andy Seuss account for 18 victories in the last 26 trips.
The Race: The Whelen Season Opener 150 will drop the green flag on the 10th campaign of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour and will be the 50th running of the tour at Caraway Speedway.
The Procedure: The maximum starting field is 26 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will qualify through two-lap time trials. The remaining three spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (68.25 miles) with a 10-minute break at or near the conclusion of Lap 75. The tire rule is eight: four for qualifying and to begin the race and four for practice and change tires during the race.
The Track: Caraway Speedway is a .455-mile banked asphalt oval located in rural Sophia, N.C. The facility opened in 1966 with a dirt racing surface and was paved in 1972. Caraway, which features NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned events on Saturday nights throughout the racing season, has hosted more NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour events than any other track in the tour’s history.
Race Winners: There have been 12 different winners across the 49 previous Whelen Southern Modified Tour events at Caraway, led by George Brunnhoelzl III with 10.
Pole Winners: Eight different drivers have earned Coors Light Pole Awards at Caraway since the inaugural event in 2005. Burt Myers leads that contingent with 13. George Brunnhoelzl III holds the track qualifying record at 15.648 seconds and 104.678 mph, set on April 21, 2012.
CARAWAY RACE NOTES
Four-Peat Bid Begins for Brunnhoelzl: George Brunnhoelzl III will look to become just the third driver to earn four consecutive championships among current NASCAR-sanctioned touring series. Brunnhoelzl has captured the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour title in each of the three previous seasons, a feat accomplished previously by Jamie Aube (NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, 1988-90), German Quiroga (NASCAR Mexico Toyota Series, 2009-11) and Jim Robinson (NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, 1983-85). With another title in 2014, Brunnhoelzl would join the likes of Ray Elder (K&N West, 1969-72) and Andy Santerre (K&N East, 2002-04) as the only drivers to achieve the four-peat. Four titles in a row were also accomplished by three different drivers in NASCAR touring series that are no longer in competition.
Brunnhoelzl Dominant at Caraway: Brunnhoelzl has won one out of every five races at Caraway in Whelen Southern Modified Tour history. His record 10 triumphs at the track have all come in the last 24 events there dating to mid-2009. Since that first win in 2009, Brunnhoelzl’s run has been so dominant that in the 14 events that he didn’t win, he was runner-up eight times and finished outside the top five only twice.
Seuss Looks to Resume Run: Andy Seuss had a challenging first half of the 2013 season, but he closed with a bang. Seuss won three of the seasons last four races, and two of those triumphs came at Caraway. In fact, Seuss has been the main competition to Brunnhoelzl at the North Carolina oval in recent seasons. In the same five year period from 2009-13 that Brunnhoelzl racked up his 10 wins, Seuss nearly matched him with eight.
Defending Winner Myers Started 2014 Strong: Jason Myers, the defending winner of the Whelen Season Opener 150, started 2014 off strong with a solid run on the short track at Daytona International Speedway. Myers ran a close second to winner Doug Coby in the UNOH Battle At The Beach to be the highest-finishing Whelen Southern Modified Tour competitor in the non-points event.
HOME TRACKS: Wilson Reigning Track Champ
Ryan Wilson took home the Caraway Speedway track championship in 2013 in weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action. Wilson compiled 672 track points to edge Dan Moore by just 14 tallies in the headlining late model stock division even though Moore recorded six victories to Wilson’s two. North Carolina state champion Mack Little III made six starts at Caraway during the season and finished eighth in track points.
LAST TIME OUT: Daytona
The 2014 competition season opened on Feb. 18 on the short track at Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway. Here are some highlights from the non-points UNOH Battle At The Beach combination event between the Whelen Southern Modified and Whelen Modified Tours:
• Doug Coby capitalized on the late-race misfortune of dominant polesitter Ryan Preece to drive to Victory Lane. It was the second big-money, non-points NASCAR modified victory since 2011 for Coby, who represented the northern tour in the event.
• Preece led the first 147 laps from the pole, but a lap-down car made contact with him on Lap 141 that resulted in damage to his left rear wheel.
• Three of the top five and five of the top 10 finishers were Whelen Southern Modified Tour competitors.
NEXT TIME OUT: Southern National
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour will get right back at it next week with the Southern National 150 on Saturday, March 15 at the high-banked Southern National Motorsports Park in rural Lucama, N.C. Burt Myers is the defending winner of the race, and he is the only two-time victor at the track in five previous events. Andy Seuss took the checkered flag in the tour’s last trip to the .4-mile oval last fall.