The last 30 years of Whelen Modified Tour action at Martinsville have provided short-track fans with all-time classics. Leading up to the Modified return to the track, here are selected some of the biggest and most important races in Martinsville history since 1990.
1992: Four for Fuller
En route to the Tour championship that year, late-race heroics in the Hanes 150 on April 25 got Jeff Fuller his fourth win at Martinsville. Fuller led only five laps on the way to victory over Mike Stefanik — who had led 123 laps — and Jan Leaty. Satch Worley, who won a month earlier at Martinsville, finished fourth.
Fuller added to his wins in 1989, 1990 and 1991.
2000: The Reg vs. TC
In the midst of a tight championship battle between Reggie Ruggiero and Jerry Marquis, fireworks changed the course of the Goody’s Body Pain 200 in the closing laps. First Jerry Marquis spun himself trying to pass Ruggiero for third, erasing Christopher’s sizable lead and setting up a late-race dash to the checkers. Then, with 10 to go, Ruggiero made contact with Christopher going for the lead.
Christopher went into the wall, while Ruggiero went on to the win.
Marquis would finish second in the penultimate race of the year, and clinch his championship at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway by a 36-point margin over Ruggiero.
Between 1989-2001, Jeff Fuller (four wins), Mike Ewanitsko (four wins), Mike Stefanik (four wins) and Reggie Ruggiero (three wins) dominated, with Satch Worley and Tony Hirschman Jr.
Then along came a 28-year-old from Dushore, Pennsylvania: LW Miller.
Miller, who had four career top 10s in 69 previous career starts, qualified seventh and led the final 50 laps en route to his first — and only career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. Miller’s win began a streak of eight different winners in eight Tour races at the track.
Miller went on to win the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship and is currently Director of Motorsports for JR Motorsports.
After a three-year absence from Martinsville, the Tour returned to the track under the lights for the first time on Labor Day weekend. It was Christopher who beat fellow Modified legend Mike Stefanik on a Saturday night to take his only win at Martinsville.
Christopher started on the pole and led 164 laps in the Made In American Whelen 300. It was the first of three straight tour wins in 2005 for Christopher.
John Blewett III, Eric Beers and Doug Coby rounded out the top 5. Brian Loftin was the highest finishing driver of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, in its first year.
It appeared as if Burt Myers had picked up his first Whelen Modified Tour win when he crossed the finish line ahead of 17-year-old Ryan Preece in the Made In American Whelen 300, and make the North Carolina veteran the first Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver to win the combination event.
However, post-race inspection, however, would lead to a disqualification for Myers, and hand Preece his first victory on the Tour. Preece was driving the famed No. 3 ‘ole Blue.’ Preece joined Bugs Stevens in delivering a Martinsville win to Boehler Racing.
Matt Hirschman was credited with second, followed by Ruggiero, Christopher and Todd Szegedy.
Preece has gone on to win the2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title and finish tour runner-up four other times en route to his current ride in the the NASCAR Cup Series.
The win in the 2010 Made In America Whelen 300 was special for Bobby Santos III in a number of ways.
It was Santos’ third win in the first four races of the season, along with a runner-up finish, as he drove to his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in his first full season driving for longtime Modified car owner Bob Garbarino. Santos joined Satch Worley (1992) and Donny Lia (2007) in winning at Martinsville for Garbarino.
To top it all off, Santos’ grandfather, Bobby Santos Jr., won the Cardinal Classic 250 NASCAR Modified Division event on Oct. 16, 1972.
Then 22-year-old rookie Justin Bonsignore finished second, followed by Szegedy, Stefanik and Myers.