Doug Pace / Correspondent
Northwest Modified racing has a new series director, Richard Mucciaccio, whose objective is to grow the open-wheel show well past its 25th season of racing.
One goal for the new year will be keeping fans informed of the series results, drivers, points chase and the excitement that East Coast modified race fans have come to expect on a weekly basis, according to Mucciaccio, whose roots go back to the Eastern hot spots that are hollowed ground for modified racing including tracks in New York and Connecticut.
The series tries out its new approach this weekend as it begins its season at Stateline Speedway on Saturday.
A recent addition for 2009 is the series Web site, which will be key to future growth, Mucciaccio said.
“Thanks to Kodiak Web Racing, we’ve got our Web site going and with the transponder systems the two tracks are using (Stateline Speedway and Spokane County Raceway, home to the Modifieds 2009 season), we want to get those lap times, points the system can help calculate and so much more to the general public.”
One highlight to the Web site will be in-car videos that will be uploaded during the season, he explained.
“When we have it up there, you’ll be able to take a ride inside a modified from your computer and see what the driver is seeing and be able to look out there on those front tires as the crowd goes by.”
Unlike late model or other forms of racing with fenders, modified racers have nothing over the front wheel, creating close racing excitement lap after lap.
“We see the video opportunity as a way to be innovative and showcase open-wheel racing and the differences between (modifieds) and, say, a late model,” Mucciaccio said. “It’s a whole different ballgame when you look out there and see those front wheels and someone right next to them as you’re racing so close.”
Over the years the Northwest Modifieds have gone through fluctuating car counts. With a focused approach to the racer and fans, Mucciaccio hopes to return the series to car counts of 30-35 and some of the regions biggest open-wheel names in the events.
“We’re looking forward to this season,” he said. “There are a lot of cars sitting idle out there and one of our goals is to get back to a positive spirit within the group and put on a great show for the fans.”
One driver whom everyone will be following on and off the track will be two-time series champion Tim Sawyer, who will be out to make it three straight championships – something that hasn’t been done in Northwest Modified series history.
To get there, Sawyer will have to overcome the challenges of Blaine Sneva, Zig Grunert, Chris Ochs and, after a long layoff, Ochs’ father, Greg.
Getting the elder Ochs back to the track is proof that Mucciaccio’s direction for the series is taking hold.
“We want to make this fun, be able to communicate what is going on in the series and see growth,” he said.
Another opportunity for improvements may come next season if Mucciaccio is able to merge his series with the Wenatchee Valley Super Oval class that started a few years ago.
“This could be one of the biggest classes around once we can get back to having large car counts,” he said. “My main goal is to get the Wenatchee group and the Northwest Modifieds together in one series with one common rules package in order to reach that goal of large fields to offer the promoters and their fans.
“I’m confident we can get this done and am grateful to have several of the promoters behind me as we go forward. This year we’re pulling back to just running (in the Inland Empire) but are hopeful of getting back across the region as soon as 2010, if things go right.”
To learn more about the Northwest Modifieds racing series log onto www.northwestmodifieds.com