Five races have been completed on what has been an eventful start to the 2021 SMART Modified Tour season.
Along with producing talented grids and close racing, every event has featured a different winner.
Amidst the parity is a close battle for the championship with ten-time Bowman Gray Stadium champion Burt Myers holding a two-point advantage over his brother Jason Myers, while John Smith sits in third three points behind the lead.
As a former champion of the original SMART Modified Tour that ran from 1989-2004, Burt said that the revived version has excelled in providing an excellent on-track product and keeping interest in southern Modified racing strong.
“Everybody involved with the management of the SMART Tour has done an outstanding job with formats, race procedures, promotions and the tracks that we’re going to,” Burt said. “When you see the car and fan counts that we’ve had, I think everything speaks for itself.”
Although he currently leads the SMART Modified Tour standings, Burt has not been among the five drivers to visit victory lane so far this year.
Smith is the only championship contender that has won in 2021 after holding off James Civali in a chaotic race at Franklin County Speedway on May 8. The win was Smith’s first in the SMART Modified Tour since Summerville Speedway in 2003 back during the series’ original run.
Fellow Modified veterans in Gary Putnam and Matt Hirschman have also taken home checkered flags this year while rookie Caleb Heady, who is transitioning from Legends cars, won his first career Modified race at Florence Motor Speedway.
Rounding out the list of winners on the 2021 SMART Modified Tour season is 2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece, who took a break from his full-time Cup Series duties to dominate the third race of the season at South Boston Speedway.
Preece is not the only driver with Cup Series experience that SMART Modified Tour regulars have had to deal with this year, as 2000 Cup Series champion Bobby Labonte has recorded three Top 10s piloting a car for Team 25.
Labonte skipped the most recent SMART Modified Tour race at Caraway Speedway due to commitments with the Superstar Racing Experience but is expected to remain with the series through their final eight races.
Burt admitted that competing against drivers like Labonte, Preece and others has made racing in the SMART Modified Tour a challenging yet rewarding experience.
“When you can get those kinds of guys to race, you’re doing something right as a series,” Burt said. “I want to measure myself against some of the best and I love racing against the outsiders. They really help everyone else step up their game.”
Once Bowman Gray’s season wraps up in August, Burt plans to be focused on what he believes will be an intense fight for the first SMART Modified Tour championship since 2004, as no title was awarded during the COVID-19-stricken 2020 season.
Burt is confident that he can shake off some recent bad luck and pick up his first win will come during the second half of the season, which he knows will be imperative if he wishes to break away from the others in championship contention.
“We’re really putting in a lot of effort to try and become that champion,” Burt said. “It’s not just because we go to win but also the history involved. My family was part of the original SMART series and I got to be a part of it too. It means a lot to me personally to just be a contender for the championship.”
Burt will try to hold his slim points lead over Jason and the rest of his competition when the SMART Modified Tour visits Dillon Motor Speedway on Aug. 28.