Supermodifieds: The World's Fastest Short Track Machines

Layla's Keeper
02-09-2004, 12:11 AM
In the world of motorsports, there are some series that are founded on the idea of having the ultimate specialized machines. For road racing, there's Formula One or the mythical Can-Am. For drag racing, there's Top Fuel or Pro Mod. And for America's short tracks, the ultimate machine is the winged supermodified.

Capable of running a half-mile oval in under 14seconds, these open-wheel monsters average 160mph a lap on the fastest tracks (namely Toledo, Oswego, Mansfield, and Berlin) thanks to methanol burning 800+ horsepower 468ci Chevy big blocks with mechanical fuel injection, running direct drive (no transmissions). The cars have a minimum weight of 1850lbs (with big block) or 1650lbs (with small block) according to the MSA rule book (ISMA doesn't allow small block cars, and the SRL has a different style chassis). The engines are offset to the left to aid handling. In fact, ISMA/MSA supermods have their weights offset 68% to the left.

The chassis rules are incredibly open. Instead of sprint cars, midgets, and Silver Crown cars which use pre-fabricated chassis, supermodifieds are handbuilt with the owner's take on what will provide maximum grip in the corners, and maximum downforce on the straights. Everything from basic torsion bar straight axle setups (like on this classic 1982 Saunier-Graves chassis as driven by Lee Boss)

to wild pullrod all wheel independent setups (like on the Clyde Booth designed #61 shown here)

The key to their aerodynamics, (besides their handcrafted bodywork) is their massive top wings, which are mounted upon air struts, allowing them to pivot at speed. They flatten out at high speeds to lessen drag, and then pop back up at lower speeds to provide maximum downforce. Many times, the wing struts are mounted to the rear suspensions in such a way that as the wing flattens the chassis is raised to allow the underbodies to slip through the air, then slap the tail down to the asphalt under deceleration to maintain grip. At night, this provides a spectacular display of sparks as well as the blue alcohol flame glowing from the headers. It's a spectacle matched only by the turbo era of F1.

The SRL west coast supermodifieds are equally interesting, if a little more limited. They run 75% weight offset, but are hampered by the banning of independent suspensions and the fact that the SRL doesn't allow movable wings. But, they run softer tire compunds and aluminum cylinder heads, thus the speeds are about equal. Davey Hamilton, IRL frontrunner, was the founder of the west coast Supermodified Racing League (SRL) and it's star race is at the Phoenix Copper World Classic.

This is a typical West Cost car.

The three main sanctioning bodies for Supermodifieds are the International Super Modified Association (ISMA: the East Coast heavyweight and home of the fastest supers), the Midwest Supermodified Association (MSA: considered to be a more budget friendly feeder series, but it actually has less stringent rules) and the Supermodified Racing League (SRL: Exclusively West Coast). They're all fairly well run series, averaging car counts between 20 ( a small field) and 40 cars (lots of qualifying heats and a consi). Here's the schedules. Keep in mind, there's no seat at any of these races over $30, and you get a whole night of top-notch racing for that price.

1 Sat. 5/1 Star Speedway Epping, NH SITE 1/4 mile 75 laps

2 Sun. 5/2 Seekonk Speedway Seekonk, MA SITE 1/3 mile 75 laps

3 Sat. 5/15 Wall Township Speedway Wall, NJ SITE 1/3 mile 75 laps

4 Sat. 5/29 Oswego Speedway Oswego, NY SITE 5/8 mile 50 laps

5 Fri. 6/18 Toledo Speedway Toledo, OH SITE 1/2 mile 50 laps

6 Fri. 6/19 Sandusky Speedway Sandusky, OH SITE 1/2 mile 75 laps

7 Sat. 6/26 Jennerstown
Speedway Jennerstown,
PA SITE 1/2 mile 50 laps

8 Wed. 7/14 Stafford Motor Speedway Stafford Springs,
CT SITE 1/2 mile 80 laps

9 Fri. 7/16 Oxford Plains Speedway Oxford, ME SITE 3/8 mile 75 laps

10 Fri. 7/23 Sandusky Speedway Sandusky, OH SITE 1/2 mile 40 laps

11 Sat. 7/24 Sandusky Speedway Sandusky, OH SITE 1/2 mile 100 laps

12 Fri. 8/13 Mansfield Motorsports Speedway Mansfield, OH SITE 1/2 mile 40 laps

13 Sat. 8/14 Mansfield Motorsports Speedway Mansfield, OH SITE 1/2 mile 100 laps

14 Fri. 8/20 Lee USA Speedway Lee, NH SITE 3/8 mile 75 laps

15 Sat. 9/4 Oswego Speedway Oswego, NY SITE 5/8 mile 50 laps

16 Sat. 9/11 Star Speedway Epping, NH SITE 1/4 mile 200 laps

17 Sat. 9/25 Seekonk Speedway Seekonk, MA SITE 1/3 mile 75 laps

18 Sat. & Sun.10/16 & 17 Thompson Int'l Speedway Thompson, CT SITE 5/8 mile 50 laps


Lorain County, OH

Sandusky, OH

Mansfield, OH

Baer Field, IN

Lorain County, OH

Sandusky, OH

Auto City, MI

Lorain County, OH

Toledo, OH

Sandusky, OH

Mansfield, OH

Sandusky, OH

Lorain County, OH

April 3rd Tucson Raceway Park Saturday 3/8

May 8th Cajon Speedway Saturday 3/8

June 4th Meridian Speedway Friday 1/4

June 5th Meridian Speedway Saturday 1/4

July 3rd Rocky Mountain Raceways Saturday 3/8

July 4th TBA Sunday

August 6th TBA Friday

September 18 Madera Speedway Saturday 1/3

October 1 Orange Show Speedway Friday 1/4

October 2 Las Vegas Bullring Saturday 3/8

So, there you have it. If you're in the area of any of these tracks, and can spare a weekend, come on out and see 'em fly. These machines are one of my passions, and put on one helluva a show. Trust me, they're worth seeing.

02-09-2004, 01:13 AM
Those short track races are insane. You need some major guts to drive in them.

BTW very nice informative post.

-The Stig-
02-10-2004, 06:13 PM
Go Supermodifieds!

Cool machines.

Layla's Keeper
02-10-2004, 07:13 PM
One important facet I left out of the introductory post was the history of the Supermodified and the most storied and prestigious track they race at; the home of the Supermodified: Oswego Speedway.

Supermodifieds have been a regular division at the big 5/8th's mile Oswego Speedway since the track opened, and the winningest supermod driver at Oswego was the mythical Jim Shampine.

Here's Jim pushing off at the 1969 Oswego Classic in his first "8 Ball". All of Jim's car were painted this same turquoise color with an 8ball for the number. After 1976, this paint scheme received added stars and stripes livery.

In those days, the engines were still centered in the chassis, and most chassis were converted sprint cars,

modified T frames,

or ex-Indy cars.
(believe it or not, but this #99 was the car in which Mario Andretti made his rookie debut in the Indy 500. To be legal for supermodified racing, it was given the rollcage seen here. The driver owner? None other than NASCAR star and designer of the US Olympic Bobsled team's sleds, Geoffrey Bodine)
Front engine Indy cars, too.

It was Jim Shampine's 1969 "wedge car" that started the road towards the modern supermodified. He began mounting the engine far to the left and keeping the driver centered in the car. Still, though, the engine was inside of the frame rails.

However, in 1969, the benefits of this layout were overshadowed by the wild rear-engine cars that were popping up at this time. Like this one built by Steve Newman.
or this Bill Hite built car as driven by Armond Holley.

Still, rear engine cars weren't dominant, and Shampine's wedge (with some changed bodywork) remained competitive (even dominant) throughout the 70's up until 1976. In 1976, Jim Shampine unleashed a masterpiece known simply as "the radical offset car". He mounted the car's engine far to the left, outside of the framerails, and canted it over 45 degrees.

The car was an instant success. Taking maiden wins at Oswego in 1976, several feature wins in 1977, and the unmatched record of eleven straight feature wins in 1978. You can see all eleven of those win stickers on his car in this picture from 1978.

Practically overnight, Jim Shampine had rewritten the rulebook on how fast supermodifieds would be built. Instantly, save for the rear engine holdouts, every car was built to the Shampine template. However, those pesky rear engine cars weren't going to give up without a fight. Men like Bill Hite
Todd Gibson
and Ricky Ott
remained true to the rear engine idea and kept on winning against the new offset cars. It was easily one of the greatest rivalries in motorsports; the radically offset front engine cars versus the wild Indy style rear engine cars.

In 1979, Jim Shampine unleashed a monster that combined the best ideas of both the rear engine cars and the offset cars. This was the car that led to the banning of rear engine cars at Oswego and at most every other track that ran supermodifieds.

The Shampine rear engine car was ultimately two to three seconds faster than either the offset cars or the rear engine cars. Fearing that the Shampine rear engine car would render all other cars obsolete and would mean only the people who could afford to build cars like it would be able to compete in future years, thus meaning the supermodifieds would be leaving Oswego, rear engine cars were banned. Shampine was outraged, and left Oswego for the remainder of the 1979 season, instead running dirt sprint cars and asphalt modifieds.
In 1980, he brought back out the 1976 radical offset car with new bodywork and led all 200laps of the famous Oswego Classic. He considered it his sweetest victory and was loudly proclaimed the greatest supermodified driver of all time.

Sadly, it would be the last time he won the Oswego Classic. In 1982, Shampine teamed up with chassis guru Clyde Booth and they turned out one more incredible car that Jim was going to use to win one more Oswego Classic.

Unfortunately, he was killed in a racing accident at Oswego in the car. His death, to this day, is considered one of the single greatest losses any motorsport has ever suffered. In 2002, the 20th Anniversary of Jim Shampine's death, ISMA and Oswego Speedway inaugurated the Jim Shampine Memorial, a race in Shampine's name that was instantly given the prestige and honor of the Oswego Classic. The town of Oswego, New York, also in honor of the man whose creativity and brilliant driving epitomized the supermodified, renamed the street leading up to Oswego Speedway "Jim Shampine Drive". To this day, Jim Shampine is known by one simple reverent nickname: Mr. Supermodified.

Some of you may notice that the Oswego cars do not run wings. That's a long-standing tradition at Oswego. Hence the cars have "evolved" slightly differently. Here's a pack of Oswego supers at the 2003 classic.

Hopefully, I'm giving you all a fascinating glimpse into these amazing machines.

02-10-2004, 09:02 PM
And the award for best written and informative post goes to the poster formerly knows as Octagon.

I knew close to nothing about supermodifieds. This is an eye opener. Thanks for taking the time to present this to us.:)

-The Stig-
02-10-2004, 10:26 PM
Yeah, well Jim Shampine's designs have nothing on my ride...

I will own all in Supermodified...

Check it out... I call it the Cardboard Box Supermodified. It runs a .74ml Chevy V8 Mini-Block bored .0006" over . Pumps out a scary 68.7hp. It won the local Supermarket Isle 50 race.

Oh yes it rules.

Layla's Keeper
02-10-2004, 10:47 PM
Such incredible use of lightweight material. And the rigid front suspension, without so much as steering, well you know that'll make for some incredible handling. :iceslolan

Thanks for the kudos Neutrino, but the biggest compliment you can pay me is if this inspires you to attend a nearby Supermodified race. If you've got a spare weekend and a spare $30, drive out to one and see them for yourself.

02-11-2004, 07:01 AM
Yeah I'll go to a supermodified race if there will be one around here. We have a small oval at Rocky Mountain Raceway, maybe they will some some races there.

and i'll pay even more than 30$ if i could just see redneck and his RedneckMobile made out of space age materials and what is seems to be some sort of forward facing, vertically mounted, equal length double wishbone suspension. :biggrin:

-The Stig-
02-13-2004, 07:28 PM
You guys are just jealous of my enginerding skills with MS paint. :loser:

This is a good thread, for all those who don't know what the hell a Supermodified is... they'll know now. Consider this thread... stuck!

03-02-2004, 11:11 AM
FWIW, at least a couple of the tracks mentioned in the schedule run the Supermods as a part of their weekly racing series. Star Speedway runs the Supers weekly (I live close enough to be able to hear when they're on the track), and Lee USA Speedway, though not every week, does have the Supers run there fairly regularly. They are the best paved short track car class you will ever see run, so definitely check them out.

Great post BTW.

Layla's Keeper
03-02-2004, 11:41 PM
I knew Star ran the carbed small block Supers weekly. The MSA, from what I understand, included their small block rule so that Star cars could run with the series.

Lee probably has a schedule very similar to Oswego. Oswego has the Supers as an almost weekly class.

08-17-2004, 02:09 AM
it dosn't compare to the V8

Layla's Keeper
08-17-2004, 03:07 AM
You're right, these are hyper-specialized open-wheel oval track cars that race in the American midwest/northeast, parts of Eastern Canada, and on the southwest American coast.

V8 Supercars are a production based saloon series that race on road courses in Australia, occasionally New Zealand (Pukekohee - and I probably mispelled that on top of everything - is in New Zealand, right?) and are based on cars built and sold exclusively in the Australian market.

I don't see anything to compare about these two groups of cars. So please kindly try not to postwhore.

09-12-2004, 08:10 AM
Great post on the supers. As a kid I had the opportunity to meet Jim Shampine and he was an extremely nice guy and fan friendly, which made him all the more popular. I was at Oswego Speedway about two weeks after he was killed and the mood was very somber. It was a blow that is still being felt in Oswego today. As an FYI, Shampine was as good on dirt as he was on asphalt.

Before his death, Jim Shampine had a protege who also dominated Oswego for the two or three years he raced there. His name is Doug Heveron. He raced at Oswego from about 1979 to 1982. During that time he racked up an incredible 33 wins, including 2 classic victories and 2 track championships in a row. He then left Oswego to pursue a career in NASCAR, but was not as successful. He is currently running ashalt sprint cars in Florida. He has returned to Oswego for the Classic in the past two years, but has been plagued with lesser equipment.

The reigning designer at Oswego is Clyde Booth. The number 61 is an amazing vehicle which set the track qualifying record at 16.4 this year. That is a winged supermodified speed, without the wing! The car is quite impressive and the only thing that prevented this car from repeating at the Classic was a faulty ignition.

Another fabricator of note at Oswego is Joe Hawksby, Jr. who put together a car similar to Booth's 61, but on a much smaller budget. Even though Joe is only in his early 20's he is still considered a great car builder in the super ranks.

If ever you have a chance to check out Oswego, especially the Classic or the "Mr. Supermodified" race, it is an experience. The track is under new ownership and hopefully a rebirth

Layla's Keeper
09-12-2004, 03:02 PM
Welcome to AF Creotone, glad to have another fan of the Offset Outlaws on the board.

That Clyde Booth car is ungodly fast. Dang thing swept Sandusky this year (as an Ohio guy, I wanted either Timmy J or one of the Shullicks to win :p ) and Mike Ordway is definitely the driver for the car. Remember what a slouch it was with Pat Abold behind the wheel?

Been a while since I've seen Hawksby run, his cars were always great looking and certainly handled well (no motor, though). It's too bad so many of the Oswego guys are staying home this year, supers are finally on the rebound with new cars being built and new drivers coming in. Someone at ISMA needs to start a tow money fund or something. Get those Oswego boys down to Toledo, Mansfield, and Sandusky.

09-12-2004, 06:39 PM
Yes, the Booth car is fast. I misquoted the qualifying time, it was only 16.642. Hope you can forgive me. As for the Hawksby car, it is almost as fast as Booth's car with Hawksby at the wheel. While he can build cars, I have not been overly impressed with his driving prowess. He was able to pull 17.00 in the last feature race as Oswego. Had the feature wrapped up until he bent a panhard bar brushing turn four and almost wadded it up in one. Even with the bent panhard bar he was able to turn 18's. If someone who really drove got in the car, it could turn 16's easy. Not to mention it is a more colorful car than Booth's.

I heard one of the Holbrook cars actually turned a sub-17 lap in a practice, but did not see it. Holbrook's cars are built by Mike Muldoon. His cars are ok, but the design is starting to show its age.

As for Ordway. You are right, he definitely was made for the car. He has owned the $10,000.00 to win "Mr. Supermodified" race up at Oswego the past two years. He would have destroyed the Classic field if he did not have electrical problems.

However, I have heard that Hawksby is going to be building more cars and is definitely building one for Greg Furlong. Be interesting to see how Ordway does when his car is not the fastest anymore.

As for Oswego guys not traveling, I cannot help you there. I think the cost of racing is starting to catch up with them. I have a friend who had a car up there and had Joe Gosek driving for him. It was nice to see him get some wins this year, but he claims he is selling due to cost.

The season was great this year, but I hope they do something to keep the track alive and well. Only time with tell if the new owners can bring back the track's prestige.

10-13-2004, 08:50 PM
What a great series of posts!

Nice to see supers getting a little attention, they deserve it.
Layla's Keeper... the depth of information you provided is fantastic. I have been going to Oswego for as long as I can remember and have been hooked on the supers since I was a little kid. My favorite back then was the white Purdy deuce driven by Ronnie Lux and then Bentley Warren.

My interest is such that I have a website full of images of supermodifieds. It's sole purpose is to share some of the history at Oswego and some of the other tracks in my area.

please visit:

There also is a section devoted to Jim Shampine... I feel I must mention that the #89 super pictured earlier was not the car that Jim was driving when he was fatally injured. He had timed in third fastest with that car and I am convinced he would have won had he not died the on the Saturday evening before the Classic at tha wheel of a pavement modified. The Booth/Shampine machine did not start the Classic that Sunday, rather, the third slot was left vacant. As pre-arranged, winner Doug Heveron and the rest of the field filed quietly into the pits after 199 laps of the 200 lap race and the checkers came down on an empty track with the announcer declaring Jim Shampine as the 1982 Oswego Classic champion...
I was there and I can tell you I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.

Anyway, long live Supermodifieds!
offset sketch (by Jake)

03-25-2007, 11:32 AM
isma mods are insane i make a point of seeing them every year at seekonk

05-10-2007, 07:54 AM
Does this work?

05-10-2007, 08:53 AM
Sorry guys, posted a long response, and it never made it to the thread. Trying again here.
Great thread on the supers. They are the baddest, fastest, closest open wheel racers on the planet, period. And great to see such kind words for Jimmy Shampine.
I was lucky enough to be involved in two supers in the late 70's--Jerry Buskey's #60, and Arnold Lovine's ex-Andretti/Bodine # 99 rear-engine car, the latter which I never got to run due to the rear-engine ban in the supers.
I remember in early April 1978, when Jimmy rented Fulton Speedway to test his radical offset, and get Doug Heveron's feet wet in his old wedge (which Heveron had purchased), he invited us down to Fulton to give the #60 it's first hot laps even before it had paint. Jimmy wound up spending considerable time with us (along with Steve Gioia Sr.), foregoing his own testing and development, troubleshooting the 60 because it refused to fire up---even though we had it running in our shop the previous night. He and Gioia helped us to determine that a Hillborn in-line injection pill kept turning sideways, preventing methanol from flowing.
When I heard of Jim's death down in Jersey, I couldn't believe it. It just didn't seem possible, and it took my legs away. The sport had lost a top-shelf man, a truly great competitor, and it's best ambassador in one swift moment.
I can say without hesitation, that Jim's radical offset, with no changes except new tires, would still be competitive today, some 21 years later. That's how GOOD that car was. When he unveiled the radical offset, it changed the face of this class overnite, but Jim was never one to rest on his laurels. With the radical offset at it's peak, dominating, and with many more races yet to win, Jimmy built his masterpiece rear-engined beast. From the first lap it turned, the rear-engine car made the most dominant supermodified car ever built obsolete. It left the field scratching their heads in a combination of awe, respect, and in a "what the hell do we do NOW?" funk.
Without question, had Jimmy been allowed to fully develop the rear-engine car, we would have seen that car, IN 1980, turn today's ISMA lap times WITHOUT EVEN HAVING TO RUN A WING. This machine was in another realm, completely.
When Warren Coniam drove this car in the 79 Classic, I witnessed the most incredible example of out-classing the competition that I have ever seen. He could pass multiple cars at will anywhere on the track, and simply devoured the field after going at least a lap down for pitting under green. Inside, outside, passing one, two, or three--it just didn't matter. And Jimmy--always pulling for others, cheering Coniam on from the Turn 1 inside wall, is a picture forever in my memory. If not for an oil tank failure and resulting black flag, he would have won, and lapped the field easily.
In closing, I can honestly say that the supermodified division as a whole has suffered both financially and creatively, as a result of Jim's passing. The supermodified division lost a true genius. He has left a hole in the sport that will never be filled again. Peace be with you, Jim.

Rob Reilly

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