A fifth-place finish last night on the infield quarter-mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway gave Andy Seuss the 2014 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship.
Seuss, a two-time runner-up in the Southern Mods standings, has finally broken through on the strength of three wins and 12 Top-5s in 14 races this year.
“All I would talk about leading up to this race was ‘We need a solid race, we need a solid race’ – didn’t even talk about the points,” said Seuss, who needed a finish of 12th or better to clinch.
“The team gave me an amazing car capable of much better than a fifth-place finish, but in the end, we were trying to protect ourselves. I can’t thank them enough.
“To say it was a dream is the truth. I didn’t really think it was a goal or attainable, but I’ve got a bunch of crazy people pushing for me, behind me, that help me when I think it’s not possible. It’s pretty amazing.”
Four-time and reigning champion George Brunnhoelzl III was dethroned in the process despite finishing third behind race winner Burt Myers and J.R. Bertuccio.
Considering Brunnhoelzl’s dominance in the Southern Mods, Seuss said it was critical to have a good start to 2014. He did just that by winning the season opener, seizing the championship lead in the third race, and going from there.
“We had a great end of last year and in the off-season, we gained even more and we knew we had to come out winning,” Seuss said. “We did. We had a perfect day at Caraway (N.C.) in the season opener and led every lap. Another great day at South Boston (Va.) early on, and that just kind of set the tone.
“The second half of the season was actually not what we’re used to as far as wins – we usually come on a little stronger. Maybe it was the points situation. But we knew we had to come out of the gates swinging and this team was up for the task and did a great job.”
Seuss will be honored for his accomplishment with the rest of NASCAR’s touring division champions at a Dec. 12 ceremony in Charlotte.
As for the outcome of Thursday’s race, Myers held off Brunnhoelzl in a green-white-checkered finish to earn the win in the Southern Slam 150.
The two had battled for the lead shortly after Lap 80 before Myers took and held control until the G-W-C. Bertuccio peeled second off Brunnhoelzl on the final lap.
Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.
“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a press release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”
But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.
After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.
Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”
The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.
And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.
It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.
“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”
Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.
The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.
“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”
And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.
“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.