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COLUMN: Strange Day Indeed For Whelen Modified Tour At New Hampshire Motor Speedway

Saturday, July 16, 2011

LOUDON, N.H. – We haven't seen a race like this before, not at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour's F.W. Webb 100 went green over the final 88 laps of the event, stretching the field out and giving the event a feel more akin to full-bodied stock cars and not the popular open-wheel Modifieds.

The lead trio of Ryan Newman, Todd Szegedy and Ron Silk finished nearly half a lap ahead of fourth-place Matt Hirschman. Only 10 of the 32 starters finished on the lead lap. There was virtually no bump-drafting in the field, and there was a noticeable absence of side-by-side racing.

And nobody seemed to know what to attribute it to, least of all Sprint Cup Series crew chief Kevin "Bono" Manion – who prepared Newman's winning Modified and got his start at the track in the early 1990s.

"Every race is different. On the Cup side now, these races it seems like it's the closing part of races that's extremely difficult over there in terms of calling the race," Manion said. "I really can't attribute why there were no cautions.

"It was hot out and it was slick, so you thought there would be some cautions. But I'm not sure why there wasn't."

 

That hot, slippery track may have been the culprit. As cars loosened up through the middle stages of the event and drivers lost their handle, they seemed content not to scrap for track position. Instead they were waiting on a pit stop for chassis adjustments and four fresh tires.

Only problem was that the caution period never came to allow for that pit stop – and drivers wrestling with race cars couldn't gain any ground on cars in front of them.

When it was time to go over the final 25-30 laps, well, there was nothing to go with.

"I was still waiting for a caution the whole time," Silk said. "I figured we'd get a green-white-checkered restart at some point, but everyone kind of got strung out I guess, and that kind of eliminates the chance of getting a caution. No one can get together.

"If we had had a couple cautions there, there probably would have been a whole bunch of cautions. I pretty much drove my car as hard as I could from the green flag lap. I didn't have much left at the end."

Nor did anyone else, save perhaps for Newman, who settled into third for a bit before passing Todd Szegedy on Lap 80 and taking the lead from Silk on Lap 84.

"It seemed like the track wasn't much like it was in practice, and we struggled a little bit with that part of it," Newman said. "We were way loose, but we were the tightest of the loose cars."

It certainly made for one of the strangest Whelen Modified Tour races on the Magic Mile in recent memory.

Or ever.

– TB