You can find them at every short track around the country, drivers who work full-time jobs, then work on their race cars in their spare time. Most of the drivers in the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour do just that. This week, they’ll be preparing their cars to race on the frontstretch quarter-mile at Charlotte Motor Speedway as part of Bank of America 500 Race Week in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 on Oct. 13.
George Brunnhoelzl III is a third-generation racer dominating the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour this season. He’s no stranger to racing while holding a full-time job.
“Racing is getting really expensive and it’s harder to find sponsors, so it’s to the point now that I think a lot of guys are doing it solely as a hobby, where before they might have been able to work on their race cars full time and prepare them during the week,” Brunnhoelzl said. “Now everybody pretty much has a full-time job and then works on the cars at night and during the weekends, just as a hobby.”
A modified car is the oldest type of car used in NASCAR. The cars weigh only 2,645 pounds including the driver's weight, while a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series car weighs 3,450 pounds without the driver. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified car is powered by a V8 engine producing 625 horsepower and can reach a top speed of 150 mph. The modifieds have a unique open-wheel design and use the largest tire of any NASCAR touring series with a tread width of 83.75 inches due to the extra wide right-side tires.
Brunnhoelzl hails from West Babylon, N.Y., but now resides in Mooresville, N.C. He started racing at the age of 12, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
He and teammate Andy Seuss, also from the northeast, have dominated the series in 2011. Brunnhoelzl has won four of the 12 events so far, while Seuss has racked up three wins.
“Both the 09 and the 11 teams have had a really good year and put us both first and second in points with seven wins between the two teams from Ideal Racing,” said Brunnhoelzl.
If things go his way, Brunnhoelzl could clinch the 2011 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the second-to-last event of the season. He’s never raced on the quarter-mile at the famed superspeedway, but he’s not worried.
“As far as the championship and the points go, I try not to even concern myself with it and just try and go out and win each race,” Brunnhoelzl said. “If we win most of them or have good finishes in all of them, we don’t have to worry about the points.”
The modifieds will take to the track during Bojangles’ Pole Night, after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series qualifying session to decide the lineup for the Bank of America 500.
“It’s cool to be in the environment and at the race track at the same time as those guys,” said Brunnhoelzl. “Hopefully it catches their eye and they watch it, but we’re hoping some eyes look at it and experience a good race.”
The Brunnhoelzl name might be enough to catch some eyes. Brunnhoelzl’s father, George Jr., is the innovator of the one-pump jack used in many professional racing series.
On Bojangles’ Pole Night on Thursday night, Oct. 13, fans can meet the stars of the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour during an autograph session at 7:30 p.m. on the frontstretch concourse near Gate 5A before they race in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 at 9:10 p.m. All drivers participating in the race, including Brunnhoelzl, Burt Myers and Seuss, will greet fans during the autograph session.