Drivers yearning to get things started
By Thomas Zuck, FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW
With a little luck, the BRP Modified Tour for Big Blocks will open its 2011 season tonight at Lernerville Speedway. It might take more than luck because the weather has decimated the start of the local racing season.
"It would just be nice to get some laps on the new car," said Jeremiah Shingledecker, Lernerville's 2009 V-8 Modified champion. "That's really what we want to do. This car is a 2011 Bicknell and the old one was a 2010, so there is some stuff we have to work on. We can't really complain about the old car because it won a lot of races."
It did not win the 2010 BRP Modified Tour. That distinction belongs to Rex King Sr. Dave Murdick finished second and Shingledecker was third. Murdick won Lernerville's BRP race last May, and Chad Homan won the race during last year's season-ending Steel City Stampede.
"The motor in this thing is one we broke out about halfway through last season, and it's a great motor," Shingledecker said. "We are hoping to get a few wins under our belt and make a run at the BRP championship."
The BRP Tour began in 1998. Locally, there are a lot of special events for Sprint Cars and Late Models, as well as the national and regional touring events.
The BRP Tour will follow the Lernerville race with events at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway, Tri-City Speedway, Mercer Raceway Park. In Ohio: Expo and Sharon Speedways, and West Virginia Motor Speedway. There are 14 races scheduled in 2011.
"The BRP is definitely a good thing," Shingledecker said. "It's not a lot of extra money every night, but the point fund at the end of the year is nice. It's also nice to do a little traveling around."
Drivers are looking to collect from the point fund. For winning the 2010 championship, King's share of the point fund was worth $5,350 in cash and prizes. Since 2000, the point fund has been at least $20,000 each season.
Kevin Bolland is one of the region's most successful V-8 Modified drivers, and he is hoping to get his share of the point fund.
"I think the big thing is the end of the year with the point fund," said Bolland, a three-time Lernerville champion. "We have never won the BRP championship. But we had three (second-place finishes) in a row. For a while, we were not even chasing the tour because there were some things we did not agree with. Now, they have some new management, so we are going to give it a run." Bolland would like to do more traveling, but there are budget constraints that limit how effective a driver can be at different tracks. "In Western Pa., this is all we have as extra for Modifieds and these cars are expensive to run, so every little bit helps," Bolland said. "The travel really doesn't bother us. We love those bigger shows, but our budget really doesn't allow us to do as much as we'd like. We don't have two cars, so that makes it hard to go run a big show and then come back and run a point race."
The slow start to the season hasn't been fun, but Bolland is not allowing that to impact his preparation for the race.
"It's just racing to us," Bolland said. "You set up all winter long to get ready for that first night and if you get rained out, it doesn't matter because you are still ready. Then, you just try to get better prepared."
The delays have not bothered Bolland. But drivers such as Phil Evans is anxious to get started.
"It's difficult to go out there when you are just trying to learn the car, especially with a bunch of guys like in a BRP race," Evans said. "Once you get the car right, it should not be too hard each week. But until we get it to where I am comfortable, we have a lot of work to do.
"I am a little rusty from last year and this is a whole new car. Everything is different. It's a new Bicknell. I planned on running last year but things didn't work out. It's a 2010, so we are starting fresh. We've only had one night on it. I am just going to run Lernerville until I get it figured out and get comfortable in the car."