When the asphalt Modifieds make their return to Western New York over the next few weeks, Cheektowaga’s Karl Hehr again will be among the starters.
Hehr is set to compete in four area stops for the Modified division in the immediate future. He will compete in the Race of Champions Modified Tour event Friday evening at the Spencer Speedway in Williamson as well as the ROC special at Holland Motorsports Complex on July 6.
In between, he will be behind the wheel Saturday at Elegant Builders Raceway Park for the “Mr. Modified 100”, the first race in the Lancaster track’s three-race Hoosier Modified Series. In addition, the Modifieds make a fourth stop at the track when the Race of Champion s competes there in September’s US Open.
“I just enjoy racing in the Modifieds,” said Hehr. “There’s nothing like racing asphalt Modifieds because the speed of the cars and the level of competition is top-notch. I like those cars.”
For many years, Modifieds were the headline division at the Lancaster, but when car counts began to drop there as well as at other tracks throughout the Northeast, mostly due to high expense, the division was in danger of disappearing.
Now the Modifieds run mostly in traveling series or limited special events such as the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the Race of Champions and Hoosier series. A quality field is expected Saturday at Elegant Builders Park, including top rookies Andy Jankowiak and Mike Fiebelkorn Jr., who are past area Sportsman/NASCAR Pro Modified champions.
“I think the four-race Modified schedule at Lancaster is a good deal for me,” said Hehr. “Sure I’d like to see a few more Modified races scheduled there but they are doing all they can do. They have to schedule their races around the other tracks and tours and that gets tough especially when you think about the fact that this coming Saturday is a rescheduled make-up show from when the original Hoosier opener in May was rained out.”
Is it worth investing in a Modified for just a few select races?
Hehr says it depends on one’s situation.
“If you already have the existing equipment like I do, then running a limited schedule is no big deal along with running the traveling series,” he said. “On the other hand, if I was thinking about getting into the Modifieds for the first time and having to invest in all the equipment, that would now be a difficult decision for me to make. I honestly think I would find something else to do. But I appreciate that Lancaster is sticking with the class, and when you add it to other traveling series shows around like Holland, it is fine. Plus I’m getting older and can run only so many races anyway.”
While some may think that a great deal of additional expense is created when a team is going to three very different tracks such as Spencer, Elegant Builders and Holland, Hehr says that is not necessarily the case.
“The biggest thing is that the tracks run different tire brands because Lancaster runs the Hoosier brand while the ROC runs American Racer. But you know what, you’ve got to buy tires for the car wherever you go anyway. So the tire bill is not really driven up or down all that much just because you are traveling to different tracks and getting different brand tires. All tires cost money no matter what brand.”
Besides his own Modified racing, Hehr is a crew member for the Hoddick Racing Team’s winged Sprint Cars. The team, owned by Lancaster’s Trey Hoddick, features a two-car attack with Trey’s son, Todd Hoddick, and defending Patriot Sprint Group American Series champion Scott Kreutter handling the driving.
Hehr is enjoying the Sprint Car crew experience.
“I am a crew guy,” said Hehr. “It was fun helping Todd with his racing the last few years, and it was great to win the Patriot championship with Scott last year. Even though I’ve been known as a Modified racer all these years, the truth is that I love to work on all kinds of race cars and have helped out other teams in the past. I like working on race cars no matter what kind, whether I‘m driving the car or not.”
Hehr’s Modified crew consists of Mike Scott, Jake Jankowiak, Mark Buckley and Dave Hoffman with assistance from Airport Collision and Gor-Den.
The racing has been very competitive at Ransomville Speedway in 2013 with only Sportsman driver James Michael Friesen, Fireball racer Jim Stone and 4-Banger competitor Jose Torres managing multiple wins at the Niagara County dirt oval.
Stone and Torres have three feature victories apiece while Friesen has a pair of triumphs.
Scoring single feature race wins in the Modifieds have been Erick Rudolph, Pete Bicknell, Todd Burley, Scott Kerwin and Chad Brachmann. Those sporting one win apiece in the Sportsman ranks are Don Spatorico, Allan Wills and Brett Martin. In Street division, Alex Morris, Pat Dell, Jason Meyer, Jesse Johnston, Jaren Israel and Sean Letts have been winners.
The only Fireball winner other than Stone has been Chris Leone. Brett Senek, Mike Kramarz and Austin Susice are one-time winners in the 4-Bangers.
The New York State Big 10 Super Stock Series makes its first visit to Holland on Saturday evening. After two events in 2013, Mike Ramos (111 points) leads Mitchell Wright (96) and Joe Mancuso (94) in the points race.