LOUDON, N.H. – Though we're smack in the middle of the "new" era of NASCAR, with round two of the Chase for the Sprint Cup taking place here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, there's a bit of history being celebrated.
Tommy Baldwin Racing has a pair of tribute cars at the track this weekend – a Richie Evans tribute car driven by Dave Blaney and an "Ol' Blue" ride for former Whelen Modified Tour regular Steve Park.
Baldwin, whose father Tom Baldwin Sr. was killed in a crash during a Modified Tour event at Thompson International Speedway in 2004. But Tommy Baldwin Jr., Sprint Cup Series crew chief and owner, has remained a big supporter of the division over the years.
"It's good that it brings awareness to the Modifieds," Baldwin said of the tributes at NHMS this weekend. "They certainly need that shot in the arm."
Richie Evans was selected to the NASCAR Hall of Fame this spring, and he will be formally inducted with this year's class over the winter. Like Baldwin Sr., Evans lost his life during a race event at Martinsville Speedway.
"Richie used to show up at our home track, and he was never the fastest car, but he always knew how the car was going to feel," Baldwin said. "I remember 13 or 14 years old, and I thought I knew a lot about racing back then. My dad was leading and (Evans) was coming up to lap Richie around lap 100. It was a 200 lap race, and I remember telling my dad to take it easy and save the tires and all that. He so (focused) on lapping him, but 30 laps after that, Richie was coming around to pass us for the lead and 30 laps after that, he was coming around to lap us.
"That's how smart Richie was. He taught a lot of us how to race and how to look at those things – not just look at speed, but look at the whole thing."
Evans won nine career NASCAR Modified championships, including a stretch of eight in a row from 1978-1985. He was named the greatest Modified driver of all time in 2003. From Connecticut short tracks to Daytona International Speedway, Evans won more than 475 feature races.
Park has 16 career Whelen Modified Tour victories, including 12 wins across the 1995 and 1996 seasons when he finished second in the standings.
"Having a chance to sit in that orange 61 car, it's a big thrill for me," Park said.
Park will drive a tribute to the Len Boehler-owned No. 3 "Ol' Blue" Modifieds this weekend.
Both Evans and Boehler are being honored in the Modified New Hampshire 100 on Saturday, too. 2010 series champion Bobby Santos' No. 4 Mystic Missile has a Richie Evans paint scheme, while the current Ol' Blue also has a more antiquated look to it.