Home Fan Guide Bridgeport Speedway Tickets Race Schedule Bridgeport Speedway Track Information Photos and Video Gallery Image Map 1/4 Mile Home Page 5/8 Mile Home Page Driver Forms Contact Us Media Georgetown Speedway
  Bridgeport Speedway Home  
Bridgeport Speedway Home

Bridgeport Speedway News

Wednesday May 11, 2011
Bridgeport Modifieds
Published in Area Auto Racing News (AARN) May 3, 2011
Written By: Alison Byram

What is modified racing? That has been the question since Bridgeport Speedway (N.J.) announced the discontinuation of the Big Block Modifieds on their 2011 weekly schedule and made the headlining event the “Bridgeport Modifieds.” The Bridgeport Modifieds are crate motors, with option to choose your brand loyalty of Chevrolet or Ford engine, which is unique to other crate divisions.

With an obviously struggling economy, Bridgeport Speedway owner Jay James knew that changes needed to be made for the competitors to continue to afford to race and for the speedway to survive. The implementation of the division requires a four to 10 thousand dollar motor to be purchased that requires minimal maintenance in comparison to a Big Block motor which typically costs about $30,000. On average, the motor’s longevity is incomparable to the Big Block motor, lasting for several years, without rebuilds.

James took a risk; keeping the previous Big Block modified points fund the same amount of money for the Bridgeport Modifieds, with a $10,000 purse for the point’s champion. In addition, the division is paying $1,000 to the weekly winner with less than 30 cars or $1,200 to the winner with greater than 30 cars. The amount of money that is being invested in this series is frankly unheard of in comparison to other weekly crate divisions that pay on average of $300 to the winner. The track is also promoting a family environment with the decrease of spectator admission costs on weeks without a second headlining event.

James has received a great deal of flack in regards to the discontinuation of Big Block modified racing, which has been prominent at the speedway since its conception. Last season’s Big Block modified track champion Wade Hendrickson has been quoted in other articles that participating in a crate division would be taking steps backwards in his career. Last season, Bridgeport Speedway averaged 20 Big Blocks weekly. In two weeks of weekly racing, the Bridgeport Modifieds have had 30 competitors, including previous Big Block drivers, Sportsman participants, and Rookies trying to get their feet wet. Bridgeport offers a Rookie feature event, with the option of the rookie to attempt to qualify for the Bridgeport Modified feature event.

Ryan Watt, who finished third in the final point standings for the 2010 Big Block division at Bridgeport Speedway, has won the first two events of the Bridgeport Modified division in 2011. “I hope this is my championship to lose. We are off to a good start,” said Watt following his second feature win. Similarly to owner Jay James, Watt has received ridicule for continuing to participate in the Bridgeport Modified division instead of parting ways with the track and racing Big Blocks elsewhere like Wade Hendrickson and Richie Pratt. “There is a big difference with the crate car because you do not have the power, but I will race anything. I am a competitor and I adapt well.” Watt who does not represent one division of racing finds himself racing a variety of divisions, including ARDC Midgets and 600 cc Micros. “We are racing for wins and the championship will fall into place. After next week we will be starting in the back and the goal will be to see how far we can advance through the field each week.”

Bridgeport Speedway announced this week of a new handicapping system which will be implemented at the next racing event. Weekly drivers will pill-draw for their starting heat race position and then the top four from each heat race will be handicapped into the feature. This system would mean that the highest point average, if finished in the top four in their qualifying event, will start in the 11th position, with the prior week’s winner starting 12th. “I think the handicapping system is a good idea for the track to draw other cars for people who do not have the opportunity to race weekly, and they will not get penalized, but it is going to be tough for the guys who race weekly starting that far back,” said Watt. Chad James, who also competed in the Big Block division at Bridgeport Speedway in 2010, is one of the few competitors who chose the Ford crate engine. “It is too early to tell if the Ford engine will give an advantage. Right now everyone seems really equal and at this point there is no clear advantage with having a Ford engine.” James is the first to admit, “Crate racing is not Big Block racing by any means. Big Block racing is the ultimate spectacle, but it is like telling a Shorebirds player (a local minor league baseball team) that they aren’t a real baseball player. Crate modified racers are still modified racers; it just happened to be that crate racing was the most logical solution to keep modified racing around. It was not practical anymore to be spending $40,000 on motors, something needed to happen.”
Jordan Watson, who participated in Bridgeport Speedway’s Crate I division in 2007, advanced to the Big Block division at Delaware International Speedway (Del) in 2008 through 2010. With the development of the Bridgeport Modifieds, and the purse that it was paying, “It was too good of a deal to pass up,” says Watson. Watson who had a handful of motor turmoil in his 2010 bid says, “We would not be able to afford a Big Block. With the crate division you can run a couple of years without even getting a motor rebuild, let alone blowing up.”“This has got to be the future of racing. If people would just give it a chance, they will realize that is going to be more exciting with door to door racing. People really need to stop being so critical of the change. Crate racing challenges you as a driver because you do not have the motor to pull you out if you mess up. It is harder to pass and you have to keep the car wound up and maintain your momentum. You have to focus on setting the guys up for a pass and you really do need to be right on for your set-up.”Watson who is known for being a poor pill drawer for position does not like the idea of drawing for your heat starting position. “I am running for points and you make up a lot of your points with heat race finishes. It is easier for guys to make up points if they have a better draw,” said Watson. “It is a great idea for the track though to try to attract invaders who will not be penalized for not being a weekly contender.” “For those who say that crate racing is not “modified racing,” fans still support Big Block veteran Duane Howard who races Small Block spec motors at Grandview and Big Diamond. Does that make him less of a racer? Absolutely not.”

With the amount of money on the line for the feature victory and the long term prospects of the point championship, each driver has a different tactic.
Chad James says, “I am here to win races. You cannot go points racing this early. We are going to go for the win until about five or six races remaining and then depending where we are, go from there.”Watson on the other hand, “We want to make it to the scales every week and the points will fall into place. It is going to be important to finish in the top four in your heat race each week, get the points, and make it to the inversion.”

Travis Hill, last year’s winningest Bridgeport modified contender is “racing to finish and the points will fall into place,” he stated behind the grandstands after his fourth place finish on Saturday night. Hill was one of the first competitors of the Bridgeport modified division to be slapped on the hand as he was called for jumping the start in Saturday night’s feature event while running second to Ryan Watt. Hill and Watson bypassed Watt, as Watt did not get a good start, pushing him back to third. Fortunately for Hill, the officials gave Hill a warning and a complete restart. Frustrated Hill stated, “They can call it a jump, but this is why we spend all this money on carburetors, to try to get the littlest bit of an advantage.”

Only time will tell what the future of modified racing holds, whether that be a wave of crate divisions or the continuation of big block racing. Bridgeport Speedway was the first to make a crate division their headliner, who will be next?