In the last week or so, I've learned more than I ever dreamed I'd know about the wacky, wonderful race cars called Superspeedway Modifieds. My interest was sparked when I saw Dodo Brockman behind the wheel of his 1977 Mustang II Superspeedway Modified at the Vintage Racer Group's annual Turkey Bowl race at Summit Point Motorsports Park, in late November. What I learned makes me want to add a bit to what I said in my report on the race. It's also an excuse to show different versions of my photos of Dodo's 'Stang. Instead of black and white, here it is in living color.
Dodo Brockman flying down the main straightaway at Summit Point track, in his Superspeedway Modified Mustang II, during the Turkey Bowl, 28 November 2009. (All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2009. Click directly on any of the photos to see larger versions.)
The Superspeedway Modifieds have a curious history. Modifieds -- non-Superspeedway Modifieds, that is -- have a long been a part of the Nascar family. They've been a popular division with sportsman (non-professional) racers, for decades, and have a strong fan base in the Northeast and South. They race on short oval tracks (under a mile in length) and put on a hell of a show.
In the mid-1970s, Nascar decided to give Modified drivers a chance to race at Daytona International Speedway, its most prestigious race track and one of its longest and fastest.
Dodo Brockman and his Superspeedway Modified Mustang II, at Summit Point Motorsports Park, 30 November 2009.
Nascar understood that cars designed to run on short tracks would be a dangerous handful on the high banking of a superspeedway like Daytona, so from 1974 to 1976, the Modifieds raced on the track's combined oval/road course, in an effort to keep speeds down.
In 1977, the sanctioning body rewrote the rule book and unleashed the Superspeedway Modified -- that is, Modifieds designed specifically to go fast on Daytona's high-banked oval. The result was cars like Dodo's Mustang -- light, absurdly overpowered, with swoopy aerodynamics. Eventually, they ran faster than the cars in the premier Winston Cup series, something that Nascar could not tolerate. In 1980, the legendary Modified driver Richie Evans qualified at 196 mph, which was then a record for any kind of race car and the end of the line for the Superspeedway Modifieds. Nascar canceled the series. You could say that speed killed the Superspeedway Modifieds, and you wouldn't be wrong.
But you'd only be half right.
Yep, that's still Dodo Brockman in his Superspeedway Modified Mustang II, at Summit Point Motorsports Park, 30 November 2009.
The biggest problem for the Superspeedway Modified division wasn't the quickness of Evans and others -- such as Harry Gant, Darrell Waltrip, and John Anderson -- who ran at the front of the pack. It was the slowness of the guys in the middle and at the back. The fields were wildly uneven, and many of the cars simply weren't competitive.
The fields were also small. Modified drivers spent virtually all of their racing lives on short tracks and most couldn't justify spending the big bucks necessary to keep up with the Richies, Harrys, and Darrells of the world.
It seemed like a great idea, in the beginning, but the series just wasn't meant to be.
Dodo Brockman's car is one of only three Superspeedway Modifieds known to survive, and it's the only one still being raced. It was built in 1977 and raced at Daytona and Pocono Raceway (another superspeedway), among other tracks. It gathered dust in the back of a speed shop until 1996, when Dodo bought it. He had it restored and has fun racing it on ovals and road courses up and down the East Coast and in Canada. It looks just like it did in its glory days.