In the, uh, "immortal" words of UFC ring announcer Bruce Buffer, "We Are LIVE!!"

Warm and sunny early spring afternoon here at Thompson International Speedway, where the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour is set to kick off the 2011 season at the place where the Tour's seasons traditionally begin and end. Practice and qualifying are on the docket today, with the Icebreaker 150 set for Sunday afternoon at approximately 3 p.m.

Ted Christopher, of course, is here. He's posted 11 career victories at Thompson, including taking the checkered flag in an astonishing seven of the last nine WMT races contested at the .625-mile oval.

Mike Stefanik, who has more wins than anybody in Tour history, has eight career poles at Thompson to lead all active drivers. Christopher has six.

Oh, and lest we forget reigning WMT champ Bobby Santos – who grew up racing weekly at Thompson in a Modified and won both the pole and the race here a year ago.

But despite Christopher's impressive resume at Thompson, he's facing adversity this weekend. Check out Shawn Courchesne's story from Friday's Hartford Courant.

Check back later for qualifying results and a photo gallery, folks. (Oh, and tell your friends and family about The Granite Stripe Blog).

– TB