RACIN AROUND TITLETOWN (2003)

by Joe Verdegan

Recently at the Luxemburg Speedway 2003 awards banquet I had the chance to talk with

IMCA modified champion Brian Mullen. He talks about the the past, the present and the

future.

Q. When the 2003 racing season kicked off did you have intentions of securing a Luxemburg

Speedway track championship?

A. Not really. I’d say we got about one-half to three-quarters of the way through the season.

Seeing that I was leading the points at the point I just decided to stick it out and go for the

title. When the season started that wasn’t really our plan with a few of the big shows we planned

on running.

Q. What makes Luxemburg Speedway such a tough, weekly program for IMCA modifieds in

your opinion?

A. The fact that it’s a smaller, shorter track. Also being a Friday night, you tend to get a bulk of

tougher drivers heading into the weekend. Everybody runs there Friday night. On Saturday nights

everybody divies up and some go up to Sturgeon Bay, others Shawano, others head down to

Beaver Dam. By Sunday that tapers off and some guys by then are burnt out and tired of racing

and just decide to stay home. The big shooters come around to race at Luxemburg because it’s

the only place to race around here on a Friday night.

Q. Last season you hit a career milestone with your 100th career IMCA modified win at your

home track Seymour Tri-Oval Raceway. How’d that feel getting the win in your own backyard?

A. It was good. A lot of the people I know were in the stands that night. That’s the track where

I started racing in a street stock years ago. I won my first modified championship there and also

won my 50th career win there, so it was fitting I guess.

Q. Would you like to see Seymour stay with the tri-oval or would you like to see it converted into

a regular oval as is currently planned?

A. Myself, Pete Parker and RM Van Pay and others have had a ton of success on that tri-oval

through the years. I still like ovals. My only concern with that is that it’s done right. We’ve been

fortunate to travel around to several tracks across the United States. There are some tracks that

are circles. There are some big perfect shaped ovals that give you some of the worst, one lane

surfaces you’ll ever see. I think you gotta really look at that. My only concern is that it’s done right.

Just because you make a circle doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to make things better.

Q. The technology of the IMCA modified chassis has evolved tremendously over the past decade.

In your opinion what do you think has been the most significant advancement in that technology?

A. The biggest change there is the suspension types that are being run. Along with that you need

good information on what to do with them. I used to build my own cars and have had a lot of

success that way. But then there comes a point when you get so much technology that you need to

get a hold of the chassis makers at the top. Two heads are better then one. We could probably

still build our own cars. But I think in the long run you’re better off to have someone else you can

call to talk about existing setups and improving on those setups.

Q. Can you name me two or three of the top modified wins in your career that stand out?

A. The win last spring at Cowtown, Texas was a big one. It paid $5,000 and all the big guns

in the country’s modified ranks where there. That one stands out the most. The second biggest

win was at Beaver Dam (Dodge County Fairgrounds) a few years ago. There were 68 modifieds

and I beat Ken Schrader across the line. Then the following year he beat me. Schrader is one

of the most down to earth guys I’ve met. Most of those big time NASCAR guys go fishing or

hunting if they get some time off. In talking with Schrader I really think running these dirt track

shows whether it’s in a modified, a sprint car or a late model are like his vacation. He really

seems to enjoy running the dirt tracks. He’s a super nice guy, really one hundred percent

personable. Dirt racing is his getaway.

Q. Most of your career wins have come with the IMCA sanction. Overall, what are your

thoughts with the Iowa based sanctioning body?

A. It’s a pretty good deal. It keeps cars pretty competitive. We’re all racers. If you asked

ten racers what rule they’d like to change you’d get 10 different answers. If you don’t have

some type of sanctioning body keeping things under control, you wouldn’t have as many

modifieds as you do around here.

Q. If you had the power to change one thing in IMCA what would it be?

A. If I changed anything in IMCA I’d readjust the claim rule, and I’m not saying get rid of it,

either. I understand why they have it. I think it should be some type of an exchange. If a guy

is claiming your motor and he feels the only reason you’re beating him is because of the motor,

well then he shouldn’t have any problem giving you his. (IMCA’s) theory is if all big motors show

up then you’ll need a big motor to make the show. And nobody wants to claim because they

are all big motors and no one wants to give them away. I’ll argue that theory because I really

think the best rule that IMCA has is the tire rule, which really does wipe out any chance of a big

motor dominating anywhere. If a track gets really dry slick and smooth like a lot of them do, the

motor’s out of it. The guy who does well with those track conditions is the one who does his

homework and works harder on his chassis. I always tell guys that a wheelbarrow would be

fast on a tacky track. It may be an over-exaggeration buy that’s how I feel. You get them dry

slick on a crummy, hard tire you really gotta work on your stuff. And in that case the guy

who works harder on his setup generally does end up winning.

Q. Describe what makes the supernationals at Boone, Iowa so special?

A. It may sound corny but most everybody that heads down there wants to get their name on

that shirt that lists all the champions. It’s just a big ego trip that we’re all after to be honest with you.

We all wanna win. We’ve been getting pretty close at it and it’s ticking me off. Last year we were

fast and we had a tire problem there when we clipped some bolts sticking out of a fence.

(Johnny) Logue ended up winning and we were running ahead of him and were actually pulling

away a little bit. Not to say we would have won it or anything. But we were one of the top four

who were pulling away from the pack and we were competitive. The year before we’ve run

second and I’ve run second before. We’ve been knocking on the door down there. We’ll get

there eventually. The only bad thing about that is their engine operation can cost you quite a

few thousand dollars through the auction. But when you run up front competitively it helps

because wheel companies, chassis companies, major-type parts sponsors do notice you

and the product deals help tremendously. I’ve gotten a lot of support through these companies

through running up front down there.

Q. Who do you see locally as the “rising stars” in IMCA modified competition?

A. That’s a tough one. You know when these cars first came about locally it was guys like

myself, Van Pay and Eddie Muenster and a couple of other guys who won a lot. Now there

are a lot more guys who can win on any given night because they’re buying top notch equipment.

I don’t wanna name names and have people think that I don’t think they’re worth mentioning. It’s

a pretty big pack. I mean my brother Scott and Felix (Todd Dart) run real good but if you take a

list of say 40 guys, probably half of those have a shot of winning. You’ve got guys like Benji

LaCrosse who came in and won two features at Luxemburg. He turned some heads. There

are a lot of them, put it that way.

Q. You mentioned your brother Scott. How much information do you share with him?

A. He’ll ask me stuff like just about everybody else. He knows everything I do pretty much.

But he also does stuff on his own, too. No matter how much you can help somebody the point

I like to get across to them is that everybody drives the track differently and everybody also

reads that track differently. I can tell someone what to do to make their car loose of tight or

whatever. But ultimately it’s up to the individual. They don’t necessarily scale their cars the

same way. Just like Mike (Mashl). He and I race together a lot and travel. But there are

times when our setups are pretty different, mainly because driving styles can differ. When

you run a car on different areas you gotta race it different. That all comes with seat time.

You learn that stuff over the years.

Q. What is your plan of attack for 2004 and will you be defending either of your track titles

at Luxemburg or Seymour?

A. We don’t plan on it. We’re probably done with the points, at least this year anyway. We’ve

got a lot of specials we’ve gotta hit and I’ve got a brand new car to boot. Some of these big

money specials around the country have some bigger, heavier tracks on the United States

Modified Touring Series (USMTS). Therefore you’ve gotta step up your motor program.

We’ve been outmotored there in the past. I think we’ve got that taken care of so far. We’ve

stepped up our motor program. I don’t wanna sound arrogant but I’ve run well. But if I’m

going to run with the big guns consistently there’s no better time than now. I don’t want to

wait until I’m sixty. I have the equipment now to run with those guys. I’ve got good

manufacturers support so there’s no better time than now.

Q. Does this mean fans at Luxemburg and Seymour won’t be seeing you as much this

year?

A. I’ll still be there much of the time. We’ve just gotta miss several nights. We’ve got a

$100,000-to-win show in Batesville Arkansas in early May. We might miss the first two

weeks of both Luxemburg and Seymour to get some laps in down there and prepare for

that big one.

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