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Friday April 13, 2007

By Phil Smith                                                         

Forty years ago in 1967, the Grandnationals (Winston Cup) was at North Wilkesboro . Darel Deringer took the win.

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, it was dubbed the Greatest Race in the History of Spring. Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd conceived the idea of a high paying short track sprint of 80 laps called the Spring Sizzler. It was run at the Stafford Speedway and was such a rousing success; track owner Jack Arute bought the rights to the event. Close to 100 cars and 12,000 spectators were on hand for the inaugural event. Eddie Flemke, a Modified legend in his own time, appeared to have victory in hand until the closing stages when his car suffered a broken water pump, forcing him out.


1972 Sizzler winner Fred DeSarro with one of the originators of the Sizzler, Bruce Cohen and car owner Len Boehler.

Fred DeSarro had dogged Flemke most of the way took over the point and went on to record the victory. Denis Giroux finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Leo Cleary, Jerry Cook, Moose Hewitt, Ray Miller, Bob Santos, Bob Potter and Marcell Corivieu.

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, it was dubbed the Greatest Race in the History of Spring. Dick Berggren, Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd conceived the idea of a high paying short track sprint of 80 laps called the Spring Sizzler. It was run at the Stafford Speedway and was such a rousing success; track owner Jack Arute bought the rights to the event. Close to 100 cars and 12,000 spectators were on hand for the inaugural event. Eddie Flemke, a Modified legend in his own time, appeared to have victory in hand until the closing stages when his car suffered a broken water pump, forcing him out. Fred DeSarro had dogged Flemke most of the way took over the point and went on to record the victory. Denis Giroux finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Leo Cleary, Jerry Cook, Moose Hewitt, Ray Miller, Bob Santos, Bob Potter and Marcell Corivieu.

Thirty years ago in 1977, the NASCAR Modifieds were at Hickory , N.C. where Paul Radford took the win over Jerry Cook, Billy Hensley and Harry Gant. In open competition Small Block Modified action at Thompson, twin 25’s was the order of the day. Geoff Bodine in the Dick Armstrong No.1 won the opener over Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Ron Bouchard and Dick Caso. Bouchard won the nightcap after Bodine got collected in a wreck that was triggered by a blown radiator hose on the car driven by Armand Holley. DeSarro finished second to Bouchard. On the same day, Monadnock opened their season with a 100 lapper. Punky Caron ruled the roost as he beat out Ollie Silva and Freddie Schulz for the win.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, the only action was at Wall Stadium where Tom Commerford took the win over Jim Tyler, John Blewett Jr. and Tony Siscone.

Twenty years ago in 1987, Reggie Ruggiero in the Mario Fiore No.44 took top honors in the Spring Sizzler. George Brunnhoelzl finished second and was followed by Jamie Tomaino, Jim Spencer, George Kent and Jan Leaty. Ted Christopher was the 50 lap SK Modified winner. Riverside Park had an overflow crowd of 8100 on Saturday night as Ted Riggot took the win over Spencer, Bob Polverari and Stan Gregger. In Winston Cup action at Bristol , Harry Gant was the pole sitter but at the finish it was Dale Earnhardt who prevailed

Fifteen years ago in 1992, Rick Fuller in the Mario Fiore No.44 won the 200 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford . Mike Stefanik in the Koszela No.15 finished second and was followed by Jeff Fuller, Doug Hevron and Mike McLaughlin. Bob Potter won the 35 lap SK-Modified feature over Steve Chowanski, Richie Gallup and Mike Christopher. Saturday night racing at Riverside Park rained out.

Ten years ago in 1997, Rick Fuller went pole to pole to win the Featherlite Modified Touring Series Ice Breaker at the Thompson Speedway. It was not a cake walk as Fuller almost saw his win trashed when Gomer Taylor pulled out in front of the lead pack during a lap 26 restart. Tony Hirschman, in the Boehler No.3 finished second and was followed by Mike Stefanik, Tom Cravenho, Ed Flemke Jr. and Jamie Tomaino. Jim Broderick with his Mopar powered mount won the SK Modified feature over Bob Potter, Ricky Young, John Anderson and Mike Christopher. In Winston Cup action at Bristol , Jeff Gordon dumped Rusty Wallace on the last lap and went on to take the win. NASCAR parked Geoff Bodine after it was determined that he was too aggressive in getting even with Jim Spencer for an early race incident.

Five years ago in 2002 the Thompson Speedway took center stage with the running of the annual Ice Breaker. The opening NASCAR Modified Tour Series event drew 50 Modifieds and 9500 spectators. Jerry Marquis took the lead from Todd Szegedy on lap 113 of the 150-lap event and went on to take the win over Rob Summers, Chris Kopec, Rick Fuller and Tony Hirschman. SK Modified winners were Ted Christopher and Chuck Docherty. At Wall Township on Saturday night Jimmy Blewett took the win over Dave Michael and Mark Rivers.

Last year, 2006 Diego Monahan became the first driver to win in all four NASCAR Waterford Speedbowl divisions – Mini Stock, Sportsman, Late Model and SK Modifieds on Saturday night. Monahan passed his brother Shawn with only three laps to go and held on to win Saturday night’s SK-Modified feature. Monahan followed his brother, the only other leader, for 27 laps before making the outside move. Chris Pasteryak finished third and was followed by Don Fowler and Ron Yuhas Jr. Rookie sensation Jeffrey Paul finished sixth. Other Saturday night winners at the shoreline oval were Late Models: Joe Perry, Sportsmen: Dwayne Dorr and Mini Stocks: Richard Brooks.The True Value Modified Series had their season opener at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester , NH also on Saturday. There were 33 Modifieds on hand. Kirk Alexander took the win over Andy Seuss, Dwight Jarvis, Ed Dachenhausen and Rob Goodenough.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series was off but their southern counterparts were on the prowl at the Caraway Speedway in Ashboro , NC . Junior Miller took the win over L. W. Miller, Tim Brown, Ted Christopher, Brian Crammer and Gene Pack. Christopher, in the Brady Bunch entry led the first 98 laps of the 156 lap feature and was forced to back off when a tire was losing air. Christopher managed to tough it out as he finished with only seven pounds of air in his right front. Chuck Hossfeld found himself planted in the wall on the 13th lap when he attempted to pass Michael Clifton on the outside.

Mike Stefanik sat in an all too familiar spot, in the Whelen Modified Tour Series point lead. Stefanik, who won the season opening IceBreaker at the Thompson Speedway on April 9 wasn’t sitting on his laurels as he knew there was some stiff competition headed his way from Chuck Hossfeld, Reggie Ruggiero, Ted Christopher and Tony Hirschman who followed Stefanik at Thompson. Among those looking to get back into the swing of things was Jerry Marquis. A former series champion, Marquis was out front and cruising in the lead with Bob Garbarino’s Mystic Missile when, on lap 47, his throttle stuck wide open, slamming him into Thompson’s unforgiving concrete wall. Thanks to all the NASCAR mandated safety devices plus the new design Troyer shock absorbing chassis snout and the Kirkey seat Marquis emerged from the wreck unhurt. The car and all its running gear was destroyed. Marquis felt like someone worked him over with a baseball bat but is expected to be back in top form in time for the Sizzler. Garbarino has a spare mount ready to go.

In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, it appeared that Whelen was unhappy over the fact that only 14 races made up the 2006 tour. NASCAR turned up the heat to appease the series sponsor as they signed Jennerstown and Holland Speedways plus they are working on a yet to be named 17th date.

Jennerstown PA Speedway promoter Larry Mattingly stated that NASCAR approached him about reconsidering running a Whelen Modified Tour Series event in 2006 after he wouldn’t spring for a reported $65,000 purse. After some negotiation a deal was made and a date was set. Mattingly feels that selling a Modified race outside of New England is difficult to say the least. A $40,000 purse is more realistic as Mattingly states that no one is standing in line to get a date. To make it cost effective for competitors NASCAR needs to find a way to make up the $25,000 the promoters can’t afford to pay. The events at Jennerstown and Holland NY will be 100 laps rather than the normal 150 laps. The competitor will use less fuel and tires for somewhat of a savings. The travel costs are the same. The purse is reduced. Mattingly added that Jennerstown holds 8,000. Fan recognition is a big factor in drawing crowds, especially outside of New England . Had NASCAR been more aggressive in the past in getting the Modifieds on television maybe that wouldn’t be an issue now. Don Hawk stated that the 2007 -2011 television package with the Speed Channel will contain 25 dates per year for touring series events. Hopefully some of these will find their way to the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Hawk has been sincere in his efforts so far. In a somewhat related matter NASCAR is currently in discussion with Dodge to extend their sponsorship contract for the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series.

Weekly racing competitors at the Stafford Motor Speedway got a big shot in the arm when it was announced that NESN, New England 's most watched sports network, announced the addition of NASCAR New England to the network's summer programming line-up. NASCAR New England, hosted from Stafford Motor Speedway, is the only NASCAR authorized regional television program in New England .

Kevin Harvick won the Busch Series race in Nashville while the Nextel Cup competitors had the weekend off.

That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.
 

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