Story By: CHRIS LEONE / BULLRING BASH – ATTLEBORO, MA – The debut of the Bullring Bash Quarter Mile Challenge may be more than four months away, but it is already at the forefront of many racing minds here in the Northeast.
The trio of all-star events at White Mountain Motorsports Park and Thunder Road Speedbowl is the latest opportunity for the stars of Modified racing to shine and continue the division’s storied tradition.
While the Bullring Bash may be the newest stage for asphalt Modifieds, it already owes much to those who came before it. The Modifieds have been a mainstay of North American auto racing for more than eight decades. In fact, they were the first division NASCAR ever officially sanctioned, meaning the class is the forefather of everything from Daytona Speedweeks to weekly racing in Southern New England.
“Modifieds are the pride and joy of Southern New England where I grew up,” Bullring Bash founder Josh Vanada said. “Their look is unmistakable, and there is nothing quite like the rumble when an engine starts. With the Bullring Bash, we are committed to promoting everything that is good about these badass race cars. We look forward to offering racers unique race formats and strong payouts beginning on June 16 at White Mountain Motorsports Park.”
The history of modified racing goes back to the 1930s when those hungry for competition would race against each other on makeshift backwoods tracks throughout the country. Some of these drivers initially raced cars that were “stock” as they rolled off the assembly line. But bootleggers and other daredevils would make engine and suspension modifications to their vehicles in search of more speed. This gave rise to a class of race cars called “Modified stock cars”, which was eventually shortened to “Modifieds”.
Modified racing took off post-World War II in respond to a drastically increased demand for both cars and thrilling pastimes. The division soon became so popular that, when NASCAR was founded in 1948, they chose the Modifieds for their first season of operation. The first NASCAR-sanctioned event was at the famed Daytona Beach Road Course on February 15, 1948, kicking off both the NASCAR Modified division and the mid-February Daytona racing tradition that has grown into modern-day Speedweeks.
Red Byron won that event and 11 more on a 52-event calendar en route to the inaugural NASCAR National Modified Championship. While the Grand National (née Strictly Stock) division created in 1949 would soon become NASCAR’s top division, the Northeast and Southeast U.S. remained hotbeds for Modified racing. NASCAR continued to sanction the National Modified Championship until 1985 when it was replaced with what is now the Whelen Modified Tour.
Of course, the division has grown far beyond the walls of NASCAR. While racers ran the same Modified on both dirt and paved tracks for many years, the late 1960s and early 1970s saw a split into separate asphalt Modifieds and dirt Modifieds. Different sub-divisions have been created, including the SK Modifieds, Sportsman Modifieds, and Pro-4 Modifieds. Numerous other national and regional sanctioning bodies have sprung up. And the cars themselves have grown beyond their “Modified stock car” roots into purpose-built racing machines.
But the one constant is that some of the most recognizable racers in North America have come from the Modified ranks. Drivers such as Richie Evans, Mike Stefanik, Jerry Cook, Bugs Stevens, and Ted Christopher became household names almost entirely for their Modified exploits. Others such as Bobby Allison, Geoffrey Bodine, and Jimmy Spencer used their Modified success as a springboard to make it all the way to the highest levels of stock car racing.
Today, the Modifieds continue to produce big names in Northeast racing. Doug Coby, Justin Bonsignore, Woody Pitkat, and Keith Rocco are known throughout the region for their achievements in touring and weekly Modified racing. Many Southern New England tracks feature a Modified division as their top-level weekly class. Most of those tracks also have a NASCAR sanction so their drivers earn points towards the Whelen All-American Series state and national championships.
If one finds themselves at Daytona Speedweeks this year, they’ll find plenty of Modified events to choose from such the DIRTcar UMP Modifieds, Northeastern-style Tour-type Modifieds, and the local Florida Modifieds, all continuing the tradition started back in 1948. They might even see Ryan Preece, who cut his teeth in Northeast Modifieds and is competing full-time this year in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
The Bullring Bash is proud to become part of such a rich racing heritage. With three open single-day events, a unique format, strong purses, and a rules package that allows more teams to compete and contend, it aims to carry on the tradition while writing a new chapter in Modified history.
The Bullring Bash Quarter Mile Challenge will have additional announcements regarding registered teams, sponsors, officials, and much more in the coming weeks.