By Joe Buckles
TERRE HAUTE — Veteran short track racer Kenny Carmichael will be among the first to acknowledge that the UMP modifieds suffer from a lack of identity at the Terre Haute Action Track.
He will also quickly attest that the open-wheel machines will more than likely present the most competitive racing seen at the local half-mile clay oval this season when they appear here Friday night.
That’s when Carmichael and the UMP contingent will get the only opportunity of the year to display their talents and competitiveness at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
“If they have the race track as well prepared for the modifieds as they have had for the sprint cars there’s a good chance you will see three to four wide racing,” forecasts Carmichael.
“You will see a whole lot closer racing than the sprints. Just as good if not better racing than the sprints,” predicts the North Terre Haute racer.
Carmichael concedes the mods could be a hard sale for the local promoters. The closed cockpit cars have been the subject of much unfair criticism in the past.
Serving as the support act for previous events here, the mods have often been shortchanged by promoters who have cut their track time short or canceled it all together. This despite the drivers’ and crews’ loyalty to the track and fans, and the fact that the modifieds have presented some excellent racing over the years.
As a driver who has had his share of success in both the sprints and mods, Carmichael is well qualified to speak on the caliber of racing offered by the modifieds.
Many misconceptions exist about the mods such as being easier to drive and more affordable to race than their more recognized sprint counterparts.
He’s quick to dispel such thoughts on both fronts.
As a three-time sprint car track champion, Carmichael says the mods can be a handful to drive on any given night.
“They are by nature an ill-handling race car because of the horsepower to tire size ratio. You’re on the edge the whole time you’re in one. It’s more seat-of-the pants racing than in a sprint car,” offered the well-respected racer.
“Sprint cars are designed to go in circles. Modifieds you have to make go in a circle. They are overpowered for what you’re running with. That’s the challenge of running the modifieds,” he explained.
Carmichael is expected to drive one of two cars entered by local owner Albert Gardner. He says running the modifieds can make one an all-around better race car driver.
He cites area USAC racer Shane Cottle, who has sharpened his skills as a racer after time spent in the modifieds.
“Shane started out in the sprints then went to the modifieds,” Cottle said. “He’s back in the sprints and is a better sprint car driver today because of the time he spent in mods.”
A winner of over 25 modified features Carmichael says the underrated mods are designed for closer racing.
“The mods are open wheel but you will see plenty of wheel banging. That’s something that you don’t want to do in a sprint car,” he added.
The cost factors to go modified racing is much the same as it is for the sprints. If you want to field a competitive modified expect to shell out $10,000 to $15,000 for an engine and nearly the same for a rolling chassis.
One advantage for potential modified car owners is that the mods have a uniform set of rules that make them eligible to race at almost any race track in the country.
Friday’s card is the final stop on the Wolfpack Challenge circuit, a series that has produced eight different winners in the nine races run thus far.
Series founder Tim Wolfe says fans can expect to see some of the most competitive racing of the season at THAT.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you don’t see three and four abreast racing. The racing is that competitive these days. It ought to be a great show,” offered Wolfe.
n Indy bound — Officials at Action City Dragway USA have announced the traveling roster that will compete in the Summit ET Bracket Racing Series Division 3 runoffs at O’Reilly Raceway Park this weekend.
Super Pro Team members include Jake Orman, Lance Stillwell, Tommy Smith, Bob Prose, Tony Virgillio, Jeff Joslin, Dustin Brenton, Cory Brenton, Justin Lourash, Mike Lourash, Paul Thompson and Steven Thompson.
Pro class will be represented by Thad Mann, Ron Seals, Rick Seals, Gary Arola, Mike Tewell, Rob Robinson, Gary Hoggatt, Ron (Tony) Price, Earl Gordon and Troy Mann.
In Sportsman, Jeff Lathrop, Chad Eaton, Bill Hamstra, Rusty Spencer, Jeff Vaughn, Dave Vaughn, Tony Virgillio, Adam Price and Bill Lewis will carry the local colors.
Brad Miles will compete in Super Pro Motorcycle and Austin Tewell and Zack Gosnell in the High School Division.
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com.