News & Notes: Chemung To Welcome Whelen Modified Tour

For the second year in a row – and just the third time in series history – the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will head to Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome for the Chemung 120 on Saturday, Aug. 29.

Coming off one of the biggest events in the 25-year history of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour last week at Bristol Motor Speedway, the Tour will return to it’s roots – local short-track racing – this week at the .375-mile asphalt oval in New York’s Southern Tier.

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour first went to Chemung in 2001 after the track had been shuttered for more than two decades. Tony Hirschman earned the Coors Light Pole Award and Jerry Marquis the win in the inaugural event. After a seven-year absence, the Tour returned to Chemung in 2008 in an event that saw Tony’s son, Matt Hirschman, dominate. The younger Hirschman captured the pole and one of the two qualifying heats before leading wire-to-wire in the 122-lap main.

While neither Hirschman has plans of racing in the 2009 edition, there will be plenty of competition for the checkered flag on Saturday night. With the season past the halfway point, championship aspirations are starting to take shape for a number of teams in contention.

Ted Christopher, who has held the points lead for 14 of the last 15 races dating back to last year, will take a lead of just 29 points to the ninth date on the schedule. Todd Szegedy, the only driver to record a top 10 in each of the eight races this year, is hot on Christopher’s heels in second and was the runner-up to Matt Hirschman last year at Chemung.

The chase for the championship is far from a two-horse race, however. Ryan Preece has a pair of wins and two other top fives in the last four races and is just 32 points back of Christopher. Donny Lia’s big race performances also have him in contention. The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion won in June at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and was victorious in the inaugural Bristol combination race last week. Lia will enter his first race at Chemung 82 points out of first.

The third trip for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour to Chemung will see action begin on race day with practice at 1 p.m. Time trials will be held at 4:15 p.m. and the twin 25-lap qualifying races are set to commence at 5:30 p.m. The 120-lap main is scheduled to go green at approximately 8 p.m.

The Race Chemung 120
The Place Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome
The Date Saturday, Aug. 29
The Time 8 p.m. ET
The Distance 120 laps / 45 miles
Race Purse $57,365
2008 Winner Matt Hirschman
2008 Polesitter Matt Hirschman
Event Schedule Practice 1 – 2 p.m.; Qualifying 4:15 p.m., Qualifying Heats 5:30 p.m.
Track Contact Bob Stapleton, (607) 857-4843,
NASCAR PR Contact Jason Christley, (386) 547-2469,


Raceday Notes

The Race … The Chemung 120 will be the third and final appearance for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in the state of New York in 2009, and the last of three qualifying-format races.

The Procedure … Two-lap time trials will determine the starting lineup for two 25-lap heat races with fastest odd cars in the first heat and fastest even cars in the second. Starting positions 1-23 will be determined from qualifying heats with the top 12 finishers in the first heat and the top 11 in the second transferring to the main. The remaining five will be filled through the provisional process. The main is 120 laps (45 miles).

The Track … Chemung Speedrome is a .375-mile banked asphalt oval that re-opened in 2000 after sitting dormant for 22 years. The track was originally a quarter-mile dirt oval built in 1951 by the Bodine family.

Race Winners … Chemung has held just two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races since it reopened in 2000. Jerry Marquis won in 2001 and Matt Hirschman captured the 2008 event.

Pole Winners … Both poles at Chemung belong to one family. Father Tony Hirschman earned the 2001 pole and son Matt Hirschman turned the fastest lap in 2008.

25 Seasons Running: Bodine’s Build Chemung

Eli Bodine Sr. and Jr., grandfather and father of NASCAR Modified and eventual Sprint Cup Series stars Geoff and Brett, founded Chemung Speedrome in 1951.

Interest arose in the area for a race track and the elder Bodine found a spot with natural banking on his land along Wyncoop Creek Road in Chemung. The track opened in 1951 as a quarter-mile dirt oval, was later expanded to a third-mile and was paved in 1969. The track continued to be owned and operated by the Bodine family until 1978.

Geoff and Brett both got their starts in auto racing at the family’s track. Geoff began in the Micro Midget division there when he was five years old. Geoff became one of the most successful drivers in Modified history and won a record 55 races in 1978.

Brett began his racing career at Chemung in 1977 in the Hobby Stock division and moved to the Modifieds in 1979. Like his older brother, Brett found a high level of success in the NASCAR Modifieds early in his career.

Geoff and Brett both went on to have distinguished NASCAR Sprint Cup Series careers and younger brother Todd is currently a full-time competitor in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

The Bodine family closed their Chemung track in 1978 and it sat dormant for more than two decades. The property was bought in 1985 by Bob Stapleton and John White, who started to rebuild the facility in 1997. A sister track to Spencer Speedway in Williamson, N.Y. – owned by White – Chemung reopened as a .375-mile banked asphalt oval in 2000. Chemung runs its NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program weekly on Saturday nights and is the home track of defending NWAAS New York State Champion Tony Hanbury.

Tour Tidbits: Lia Earns Another Big Win

Lia Earns Historic Bristol Win … The historic inaugural trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours was captured by Donny Lia. Lia now has won four of the last six races held at national series tracks. He won the June races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2007 and 2009, the combination race at Martinsville Speedway in 2007 and now the combo race at Bristol. In those two races in which he did not win – the September New Hampshire races in 2007 and 2008 – he finished third and fourth (in Rob Summers’ car), respectively.

NWMT Strong in Combo Races … The NASCAR Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours have competed in combination races at Martinsville since 2005. This year a second combo event was added to the schedule at Bristol, but the storyline remained the same: the North still rules. Eight of the top 10 cars to cross the line on Wednesday were teams from the NWMT. Last year at Martinsville, it was nine of 10 after Burt Myers – who took the checkered flag – was disqualified. The NWSMT’s highest finisher in the five all-time combo races is L.W. Miller’s third-place effort in 2007.

Title Chase Remains Tight … The 2009 season has all the makings for another down-to-the-wire title chase. Last year it took until the last race of the season to decide whether Ted Christopher or Matt Hirschman would hold the trophy, and with the current season past its halfway point, Christopher once again has a fight on his hands as Todd Szegedy is just 29 points back and Ryan Preece is in third, 32 tallies out.

Unhappy Returns … Bristol marked the return for former full-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors Matt Hirschman and James Civali. Hirschman was filling in for Kevin Goodale while Civali was driving as a teammate to Ron Silk. Unfortunately for both, they were caught up in an accident on just the second lap of the race.

Unlucky Streak for Silk, Stefanik … Bristol also turned out to be a disappointing trip for Ron Silk and Mike Stefanik. Engine problems for both resulted in their third-straight DNFs, which have dropped them to 12th and 11th in the standings, respectively.

Change in the No. 79 … Announced by the team on Monday, the No. 79 of Hillbilly Racing will have a new driver in the seat for the rest of the season. Ron Silk had been behind the wheel since the beginning of 2008, but will be replaced by James Civali, who made his first start of 2009 last week at Bristol Motor Speedway as a teammate to Silk.

Home Tracks: Saturdays At The Speedrome

Chemung Speedrome is the place to be on Saturday nights during the summer as the .375-mile banked oval runs its weekly NASCAR Whelen All-American Series program.

Chemung has seven total divisions that compete throughout the year, headed by the NASCAR Weekly Modifieds. While Tony Hanbury has multiple track titles at Chemung in recent seasons, JR Kent has been the class of the field in 2009.

Kent had six wins and 14 top fives in 15 starts through action on Aug. 15 and had a substantial 131-point lead on Charlie Sharpsteen in the division’s season standings.

Hanbury, who is second in the division with three wins, was fifth in points at 575.

As of racing through Aug. 15, here are the other Chemung division leaders:

Super Stocks: Jeff Goodwin

Four Cylinders: Gene Purvis

Legends: Matt Priscott

Bandoleros: Andrew Bickford

Juniors: Dayton Cote

Mod Lites: Zach Curren

Up Next: Budweiser 150 At Thompson

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway will make a second attempt to run the Budweiser 150 presented by New England Dodge Dealers on Thursday, Sept. 3.

The race was originally scheduled to run on Aug. 13, but rain on race day called off the action. The second of three races at Thompson in 2009 will now be the 10th race of the year for the Tour following this week’s event at Chemung (N.Y.) Speedrome.

The Budweiser 150 will be the 108th all-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Thompson. Now in its 25th season, the Tour has held more races at Thompson than at any other track. Stafford is second on the list with 93, including this week’s event.

Ted Christopher was the show in the season’s first race at Thompson – the Icebreaker – on April 5. The defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion earned both the Coors Light Pole Award and a trip to Victory Lane in the event. He also won last year’s season finale at Thompson to bring in a two-race win streak at the .625-mile oval.

Ron Silk, who has recorded all three of his NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins at Thompson, will look to reach Victory Lane for the first time in 2009. He is the defending champion of the Budweiser 150 and finished sixth in the first race of 2009.

Sources: Jason Cunningham/NASCAR WMT PR