One of the more competitive divisions throughout past Florida Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing has been a class that doesn’t even resemble “stock car” in their vocabulary. The Florida / IMCA-Type Modifieds were added to the World Series in 1999 and have proven to be a popular division based on the competitive nature of the division as well as the distances traveled by the some of the teams year in and year out.
Two drivers have dominated the World Series titles during the past 14 Speedweeks. Jerry Symons and Tank Tucker, two stand outs in the Modifieds world in the Sunshine State, have been the two drivers everyone guns for when they make the trek down to Florida in February. Between the two veterans, they have accumulated nine of the 14 Speedweeks titles.
Symons will come into the 47th edition of the World Series as the five-time and defending series champion, having won his titles in 2012, 2003, 2002, 2001 and he was the Inaugural Series Champion in that first year in 1999. Tucker has four championships under his belt, having enjoyed those accolades in 2011, 2010, 2008 and 2006.
So what makes Symons and Tucker so tough to compete against in February?
“I know that we have two cars ready to go and we’re going after that World Series Championship again,” said the 47-year-old Symons. “We’re expecting to do well and we definitely want to win it all. This is our biggest time of the year and it’s really cool to have all these Northern guys come down and race with us. We don’t normally have any kind of competition other than each other otherwise.”
Tucker was very up front about what he expects for the 2013 version of the World Series.
“I’m looking forward to beating Jerry this year, he got us last Speedweeks,” the 46-year-old Tucker said. “Both of our cars are ready to go and we’re going through them one last time make sure we’re 100-percent prepared. They’ve got some fast guys from up north that come down to race with us, but we have the upper hand on them running here regularly.”
Because both drivers have battled each other for so long, this year’s World Series events give them another chance to see which man will stand on top of the division at the end of Smyrna Speedweeks.
“We’ve had our ups and downs for sure,” said Symons of racing with Tucker. “We used to race out of the same shop for Wayne Graham and yeah we got together every once in a while, but I feel we respect each other and we certainly hate having to fix our stuff now that we both own our own equipment.”
“I have all the respect in the world for Jerry and all that he has accomplished over the years,” said Tucker. “But I still want to beat him. He’s a hard-nosed competitor and yeah we’ve had some differences in the past, but there’s no one I’d rather be competing with for another World Series title than that red #66.”
With the scheduled day off on Tuesday, February 19th for the Battle at the Beach at near-by Daytona International Speedway, the Florida-IMCA-Type Modifieds will only have five nights to decide the 2013 World Series Champion.
“It does take one night from us, so we’re only running five shows during Speedweeks, but it does give us a night off to go over the cars and get ready for the 75-Lap finale the following night,” said Symons. “Hopefully we’ll be in good enough shape and not tear up too much stuff the first four nights and be able to go after the big win that Wednesday night and bring home another title.”
“The day off is refreshing that’s for sure,” said Tucker. “It definitely gives the whole team a little time off for some rest and relaxation. Of course if something happens to one of the cars, we’ll spend that day making sure it’s right. If we’re all set and ready to roll for the Championship race, we’ll put Rich Clouser in our other car and let him wheel it around.”
Although primarily known for his Modified accomplishments, Symons is no stranger to other forms of short track racing either as he was a stout competitor in the old FASCAR Goodyear Challenge Series for what was Limited Late Models at the time from 2002-2003 and again from 2007-2008. He was the 2002 series champion with three feature wins and nine top 10 showings in 11 starts that year.
From 2001-2003, Symons enjoyed enormous amounts of success in the old FASCAR Pro Modified Tour. He won three straight series Championships during that three-year span with nine Feature Wins in 24 starts over that time period. In what was a busy 2003 racing season, he not only competed in the Goodyear Challenge Series and Pro Modifieds Tour, but he also made select appearances in the Florida Sunbelt Super Late Models Series during that season’s Governors Cup at New Smyrna.
Tucker ‘s success has all come in the Modified racing world. The New Smyrna Beach, Florida native was a regular competitor in the FASCAR Pro Modifieds Tour from 2001-2003 right along-side Symons and recorded top-10 points finishes in each of those seasons with a high of a fourth place showing during the 2001 campaign. Tucker nowadays stays close to home competing at New Smyrna as well as Orlando Speedworld in Orlando, Florida.
When the expected invasion of travelers from the north converge onto New Smyrna Speedway for the 47th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing to compete in the Florida / IMCA-Type Modifieds division, there will be two drivers standing in their way who will look to keep the Speedweeks crown home in Florida. With nine World Series titles between them, it’s easy to think that Jerry Symons and Tank Tucker will once again battle not only with each other, but for Florida pride as well.
Jerry Symons is a five time Speedweeks champ. (Jim DuPont Photo for Speed51.com)