Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SPORTS>>Price tag taking toll on E-Mods

Leader sportswriter

The price wars in local racing never seem to end.

It started more than a decade ago when super late models began to disappear because of the enormous cost to run them.

Open-wheel modifieds then became the top dogs of the local dirt-track circuits around the country, as street stocks also began to suffer lower car counts.

The streets were running on average of $200 to $400 for first place in a class where competitors could easily spend in excess of $15,000 for a competitive engine, not to mention thehigh-end aftermarket suspension and chassis components.

Sanctioning from IMCA helped curb the cost of running modifieds in the local area initially, but as more and more tracks dropped the sanctioning because of disagreements by competitors over the engine-claim rule, the newer “outlaw” style rules allowed for more and more spending to gain an advantage.

That led a group of budget-minded racers and tracks to begin running economy modifieds, or E-mods. The E-mods started out using outdated modified chassis with cheaper tires and more stock engines, and gave drivers a chance to run in an open-wheel division without the cost of a full-blown modified.

But as the class has grown, so has the cost. So much so that the lap times between the outlaw mods and front-running E-mods are very similar, which has caused local modified enthusiasts to call for limited sport mods with an IMCA sanctioning.

There are essentially two versions of limited modifieds. The Northern Limited Sport Modifieds are similar to the current economy modified, only with a stricter engine specification, and the Southern Limited Sport Modified is an open-wheel racecar, which is built from a stock chassis.

The southern sport mod is by far the most cost efficient, and judging from Joey Simmons’ performance at Beebe Speedway on Friday, just as competitive. Simmons led from flag-to-flag over E-mod regular Robert Woodard, but was disqualified for being underweight.

“The sport mod is not much different; it’s on a hobby frame,” Beebe Speedway track promoter Harold Mahoney said. “It’s pretty much all stock suspension, but they have to weigh the same as our E-mods if they’re going to run here, because they have the same motor rules and all that.”

Mahoney was put in a difficult position Friday when Woodard’s team vehemently protested Simmons’ car, which was well under the required weight of 2,500 pounds with driver. The rules state drivers can receive one courtesy night, but also note that is allowed in the case of “minor infractions.”

“I’ve watched them run; they’re fast cars,” Mahoney said. “But everything stays on the ground and hooked up. We’re going to try and start running some of them. (E-mods) are basically a second-hand modified, is what they are. Just a little bit smaller motor, but they’re running pretty good times.

“It’s a cheaper-built car. I’ve watched them run at Monticello, and they had about 30 of them, so everybody likes them.”

It remains to be seen if the sport mods will be used in addition to or as a replacement for E-mods, which can run with the outlaw mods using a few changes to the engine and chassis.