Increased team participation, revamped bonus awards, added live pit stops and the longest race in the history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour are just a few of the intriguing changes on tap for the upcoming 2018 season.
The new additions will have both drivers and fans itching for teams to unload at Myrtle Beach Speedway for the season-opener.
On the award front, the traditional “Whelen Winner of the Race” program will return for 2018, but instead of paying $500 to the winner of each race, the honor has been increased and will award $3,500 to each driver that scores a victory.
This will help bump the winner’s purse up, and will push not all, but a majority of the races to a purse of over $10,000 for the driver that pulls into Victory Lane.
Live pit stops are also going to be a major part of the inaugural Full Throttle Weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, which is scheduled for Sept. 21-22, and will include a 250-lap race for the Whelen Modified Tour, along with events for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the NASCAR Pinty’s Series.
“This event at New Hampshire is going to be a marquee event for the Whelen Modified Tour,” Wilson said. “This is going to put the series up on a pedestal at arguably one of our most competitive race tracks.”
The 250-lap main event in September will see one break somewhere in the middle, but other than that, teams will have to complete live pit stops. In July, when the series visits NHMS for the annual 100-lap event, there will no halfway break, allowing teams to complete live pit stops.
Live pit stops are going to be expanded to additional venues for the 2018 season.
“It’s a big deal for the teams to go over the wall and make a pit stop. Not only is it a big part of modified racing, but it’s a big part of the sport. For them to be able to do that again on this stage, it’s going to be important for them, and the fans.”
Although some tracks may have specific guidelines, most of the races will include teams jumping over the wall to complete a stop as quickly as possible in order to keep their driver in contention for the win.
“At Oswego last year, we did a halfway break for the teams to pit, and the fans expressed to us that they would like to see the live pit stop instead, so we are going to bring it back there as well,” said Wilson.
The 2018 schedule includes 16-races spanning across eight different states and nine different race tracks.
The series will return to Connecticut for the annual Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and NAPA Spring Sizzler at Stafford Motor Speedway in April.
“It’s extremely important to have these annual events,” Wilson said. “If you look at the series, those events are the cornerstones. If you go back to the inception, you see these events there, and we want to continue that.”
Modified teams will visit Seekonk Speedway for the only stop in Massachusetts in June, and will also return to Langley Speedway in Virginia. Other tracks that will hold events include the quarter-mile Riverhead on Long Island in New York, Oswego, and Bristol Motor Speedway, which will come as part of a combination night with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Looking at the competition level that is getting set to hit the track, Wilson believes this could be one of the best years of racing yet.
“The Whelen Modified Tour is very healthy, you have a lot of depth, there are teams that are capable of stepping up and not only winning a race, but winning the championship. We have seen it come down to the wire, where we see that several teams have a chance to win the championship going into the last race,” Wilson said.
“As long as I have been in this role, during the offseason, your teams always manage to raise the bar and we see it at the track. It’s always exciting to get to the first race and see everyone unload and look at everything the teams have done during the offseason. These teams aspire to be sitting at the head table in Charlotte at the end of the year – and 2018 isn’t going to be any different.”
For Wilson, who is entering his sixth season in the position as Director of the Whelen Modified Tour, this year has a different feeling.
“Every year I’m excited to get the season going, but I really do have a great feeling about this year,” Wilson said. “I think I have the best job in NASCAR being the Director of the Whelen Modified Tour and it’s an honor to have this position. Our teams are ready to go, and I’m ready to go.”
The season gets underway at Myrtle Beach on March 17 with the running of the Safety Kleen 150.
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