Fifty years ago in 1958 it was the final event to be run on the old
beach-road course in Daytona Beach. Bill France Sr. had a vision for
a vast super speedway and it would become a reality one-year later
when the 2-1/2 mile high banked Daytona International Speedway would
be completed and run its first event. On the beach it was Paul
Goldsmith taking the poll position for the 49 car-starting field.
Goldsmith toured the 4.1 mile circuit at 140.570 mph. Jim Thompson
was second fastest with Cotton Owens, Eddie Pagen and Lee Petty
making up the top five.
Forty five years ago in 1963, Marvin Panch, the driver of the famous
Wood Brothers No.21 was testing a prototype Maserati when he lost
control and flipped. The car caught fire and had it not been for the
efforts of a group of spectators that included Ernie Gahan, Eddie
Flemke and southern driver Dwane “Tiny” Lund Panch would have burned
up in the fire. The group pulled him from the inferno and saved his
life. From his hospital bed Panch requested that the Wood Brothers
put Lund in his place to drive in the up-coming Daytona 500. The
were 62 cars on hand for time trials and coming out on top was Glen
“Fireball” Roberts who took the pole with a speed of 160.943 mph.
Fred Lorenzen was second fastest.
Forty years ago in 1968, Cale Yarborough was the pole sitter for the
Daytona 500 with a speed of 189.222 mph. Richard Petty was second
fastest. Rounding out the top five were LeeRoy Yarbrough, David
Pearson and Tiny Lund. During the pre-qualifying inspection process
a Chevrolet Chevelle entered by Smokey Yunick came under extreme
close scrutiny. Inspectors had a list of ten items for Yunick to fix
before his car would be allowed to qualify. After removing the gas
tank Yunick got so mad that he jumped in the car and drove off
saying, “you may as well make it eleven”. Yunick drove the car,
without a gas tank, off the speedway grounds and never returned.
Thirty five years ago in 1973, Buddy Baker was the top qualifier for
the Daytona 500 with a speed of 185.622 mph. Pete Hamilton, a former
competitor in New England and New York who is now an inductee in the
NEAR Hall of Fame, took the outside pole. Hamilton is also a former
Daytona 500 winner as he won the NASCAR Classic in 1970 driving a
Petty Team car. Cale Yarborough, CoCo Marlin and Gordon Johncock
rounded out the top five.
Thirty years ago in 1978, the northeast was crippled with a blizzard
that dumped up to six feet of snow in some spots and closed down all
roads including I-95 in Rhode Island for over a week. Among those
affected were Len Boehler and his driver; Fred DeSarro.Boehler was
forced to go from his home in Freetown, MA to Springfield before
heading south. DeSarro, who lived close to exit 2 in RI rode a
snowmobile to Connecticut before joining up with his traveling crew
and heading south. The New Smyrna World Series took the green on
Friday night for a scheduled ten night series. Richie Evans took the
opening night 25 lapper over Geoff Bodine, George Kent, Jerry Cook
and Charlie Jarzombek. Twenty-four Modifieds were on hand for the
opener. Evans made it two for two as he repeated on Saturday night.
Bodine was again second with Jarzombek, third. Bobby Allison and
Ronnie Bouchard rounded out the top five. Bodine finally broke into
the winners circle on Sunday night after Evans dropped out with
engine problems. Jarzombek finished second with Kent, Bouchard and
Fred DeSarro rounding out the top five. Evans regained his winning
form on Monday night as he beat out Jarzombek for the top spot in
the 25-lap feature. George Kent finished third with Bouchard and
Bodine rounding out the top five. Bodine bounced back to take the
Tuesday night feature. Evans slipped to third as Bouchard put the
Bob Judkins 2x in the second spot. Jarzombek finished fourth and
Bugsy Stevens broke into the top five.
Twenty five ears ago in 1983, Greg Sacks; fresh off his dream season
where he won just about everything in site, was the opening night
winner at New Smyrna. Kenny Bouchard led the opening laps with
George Kent taking over on lap 2. Kent led until lap 17 when he lost
an engine. Richie Evans finished second with Reggie Ruggerio, Jamie
Tomaino and Rick Fuller rounding out the top five. Saturday night
racing was canceled because of rain. The rain carried over to Sunday
and forced the Daytona Speedway to re-schedule Daytona 500
qualifying to Monday. Because of wet conditions the Sunday night
event got a late start. Richie Evans took the win over George Kent
and Sacks. Tomaino finished fourth with Bouchard rounding out the
top five. Cale Yarborough set a new record at Daytona on Monday when
he toured the 2-1/2 mile oval at 200.503 MPH. Yarborough was even
faster on his second lap when he flipped in turn four. The record
stood but the pole position was denied because of the fact that he
failed to complete the second lap. Ricky Rudd was the eventual pole
sitter with a speed of 198.864 MPH. Geoff Bodine was second fastest
with a speed of 197.920 MPH. Neil Bonnett won the Busch Clash. Evans
made it two in a row at New Smyrna as he took the win on Monday
night. George Kent ended up second after Reggie Ruggerio lost a tire
on the last lap. Doug Hewitt finished third with Jamie Tomaino and
Tony Hirshman rounding out the top five. Greg Sacks broke out a new
car after he wrecked his primary entry and finished sixth in the
final run-down. The Ernie Wilsberg crew repaired their old car as
Sacks went out and won the Tuesday night feature by a bumper over
Reggie Ruggerio and Richie Evans. Doug Hewitt and Mike Mclaughlin
rounded out the top five.
Twenty years ago in 1988, opening night for the World Series at New
Smyrna rained out. Tom Baldwin was the Saturday night winner. Bobby
Fuller finished second. Jim Spencer, Reggie Ruggerio and their crews
were thrown out and disqualified after a brawl. Ken Schrader was the
Daytona 500 pole sitter but the big story was the fact that Tim
Richmond was suspended because of the fact that he tested True
Positive in a NASCAR mandated drug test. Little did anyone at the
time know but Richmond was suffering from AIDS, which would
eventually claim his life. Davey Allison was the outside pole
qualifier for the Daytona 500 with a speed of 193.311 MPH. Dale
Earnhardt won the Busch Clash over Davey and Bobby Allison. Baldwin
and Fuller finished one-two again on Sunday night at New Smyrna.
After two disappointing nights Reggie Ruggerio put the Mario Fiore
No.44 in victory lane. Baldwin settled for second with Tony
Jankowiac, third. Ruggerio made it two in a row as he took the
victory on Tuesday night. Bruce D'Assandro in a Fiore back up,
Fifteen years ago in 1993, Steve Park, in the Joe Brady No.00 was
the opening night winner at New Smyrna. Bruce Del finished second
and was followed by Ed Kennedy, Richie Gallup and George Savory.
Mike Ewanitsko led the early going until getting hit by Tom Baldwin.
The resulting tangle also collected Rick Fuller. Rain prevailed at
New Smyrna on Saturday night. On Sunday at the Daytona Speedway 47
cars attempted to qualify for the Daytona 500. Kyle Petty took the
pole with a speed of 189.426 MPH. Dale Jarrett was second fastest.
Dale Earnhardt won both halves of the Busch Clash. Ricky Fuller
avoided a nine-car wreck to take down the win on Sunday night at New
Smyrna. Bob Park made his presence known as he finished second.
Steve Park finished third. Tuesday night saw rain wash out another
night of racing.
Ten years ago in 1998 rain washed out opening night at New Smyrna.
Mike Ewanitsko served notice of his title intentions as he took the
win on Saturday over Jamie Tomaino, Ted Christopher, Eric Beers and
George Bock. In Daytona 500 qualifying 55 cars were on hand. Bob
Labonte took the pole with a speed of 192.415 MPH. Brother Terry was
second fastest at 192.917. Ted Christopher put the Bear Motorsports
entry in victory lane on Sunday night. Doug French finished second
with Tim Arre, third. Christopher made it two in a row as he went
pole to pole on Monday night. Jamie Tomaino finished second with
Mike Ewanitsko, third. Christopher continued his winning streak on
Tuesday as he again went pole to pole to take another win. Ewanitsko
finished second with Jan Leaty, third.
Five years ago in 2003, it was learned that John Falconi Jr. had
passed away in January as a result of cancer. A pre-speedweeks
announcement stated that Winston Cup driver Rick Mast had retired
because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Another hot item was the fact
that Brett Bodine’s wife Diane was arrested and extradited to
Georgia to face charges of making harassing phone calls to a Hooters
girl she alleged was having an affair with her husband.
On a sad note, the returning space shuttle blew up over Texas with
all people aboard killed.
The New Smyrna World Series opened with 23 cars on hand. Ted
Christopher and Ed Flemke Jr. were the class of the field as they
finished one-two, a half lap ahead of third place finisher Rob
Summers. Doug Meservy and Donnie Lia rounded out the top five. The
Busch Clash at Daytona and the World Series went head to head on
Saturday night. At New Smyrna, Christopher made it two in a row
despite taking a rock through his radiator in the closing laps.
George Kent finished second with Tim Arre third. Mike Finch and
Flemke rounded out the top five. In the Busch Clash at Daytona, Dale
Earnhardt Jr. came from first to last to take the win over Jeff
Gordon. Gordon had other things on his mind as his estranged wife
served summonses to various car owners for their financial records.
The big news in NASCAR land was the fact that RJ Reynolds indicated
that they were thinking about ending their Winston sponsorship of
NASCAR’s premier division. Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday
afternoon and round three of the World Series at New Smyrna on
Sunday night was rained out. Daytona 500 qualifying was re-scheduled
to Monday. Jeff Green took the pole with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the
outside pole. The Modifieds had Monday night off.
Last year, 2007, the engines started in New Smyrna, Fla. for the
41st annual World Series of Asphalt Racing last Friday night. Clear
weather and temperatures in the 70’s greeted both fans and
competitors. Twenty-one Tour Type Modifieds and 15 SK Type Modifieds
were on hand. In the Tour Type 25 lap feature Eric Beers and Don Lia
led the charge at the green. As the field entered turn one Ted
Christopher spun, triggering a scramble that collected Jim Storace
and Earl Paules. Christopher was able to restart at the tail end of
the field. With Beers and Lia still on the point a second start was
attempted. Bob Grigas spun in turn one, bringing out the second
caution. Another spin made restart No. 3 a bust. Out of desperation
Modified Chief Steward made the decision to start the field single
file. With one lap on record Bob Holmes brought out the caution
after hitting the wall in turn 2. One more caution, on lap 19 for a
minor spin slowed the field. At the finish Eric Beers, who went pole
to pole was the winner. John Blewett III finished second with Andy
Seuss, third. Ted Christopher rebounded from his first lap skirmish
to finish fourth. Don Lia rounded out the top five. Jimmy Blewett
was the SK Type Modified winner.
The newly paved speedway saw elapsed times getting much faster as
competitors toured the half-mile oval in the 16-second bracket. Joey
Logano made his Tour Type Modified debut in practice. He got into
the wall during practice and was not able to take time for
qualifying James Civali is driving a second Joe Brady machine
renumbered the #80. Mike Andrews is also back in the driver’s seat,
driving the Bear Motorsports #14. Ryan Preece has also shown up at
the track in the #40. Eric Beers was the fastest in Tour Type
Modified time trials for the second night in a row when he blistered
the half mile oval in16.526 seconds. John Blewett III was second
fastest with Earl Paules, third. The first five tour type cars broke
the track record. Twenty-two Tour Type Modifieds were on hand. Donny
Lia and Eric Beers led the field down for the start. Just as the
field completed the first lap Ryan Preece hit the wall in turn 2 and
went along the outside wall for a few yards. Mike Andrews in the
Bear Motorsports #14 hit the wall in between turn 3 and 4.Lia led
the restart with Beers in tow. On lap five Ted Christopher brought
out the caution when he tried to go under Andy Seuss between turns
three and four. Both cars hit the wall a ton! As the field went
under red both cars were double hooked off the track to the pits.
Lia continued to lead Beers on the lap 5 restart. Chuck Hossfeld had
moved into third with John Blewett III, fourth with Jimmy Blewett
rounding out the top five. Caution No.3 flew on lap 10 for debris on
the track. Beers applied the heat to Lia but to no avail. Hossfeld
began to fade as the Blewett brothers passed him. Bob Grigas brought
out caution No. 4 when he spun in turn four. He drove away. On the
restart Butch and Shelly Perry got together as well as Bobby Holmes
and James Civali. Once again, with seven laps remaining, the field
restarted with Lia on the point followed in single file by Beers. On
lap 20 Jimmy Blewett ran out of patience and in a bonsai move shot
by Beers. John Blewett followed. At the finish it was Don Lia by
four car lengths over Jimmy Blewett, John Blewett III, Eric Beers,
Zach Sylvester and Chuck Hossfeld. After two nights it appears that
only a chosen few can handle the increased speeds at New Smyrna.
Jimmy Blewett made it two for two in the SK Type Modifieds.
The Modifieds had Sunday night off.
The Daytona International Speedway shifted into high gear with the
running of the Busch Clash on Saturday night. Stewart nudged Kyle
Busch out of the lead with eight laps to go, then calmly drove to
his third victory in the all-star event when runner-up David
Gilliland never challenged. Busch, who needed a huge save to keep
his car off the wall, finished seventh and seemed certain that
Stewart made at least slight contact. As Stewart closed in on the
finish line, Dale Earnhardt Jr ran into the back of Elliott Sadler
to start a four-car pileup far from the leaders that collected
defending race winner Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle. David Gilliland
and Ricky Rudd won the top two starting spots Sunday in qualifying
for the Daytona 500. Gilliland turned a lap of 186.320 mph to win
the pole, and Rudd was right behind at 185.609. Sixty-one cars
attempted to qualify.
This week here are some
vintage racing photos from vintagemodifieds.com
These former drivers and over 60 more are expected at New Smyrna
Friday February 15th for Florida's First Modified Reunion. For more
and a complete roster of drivers log onto
That’s it for this week from
40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.