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Friday February 8, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos at bottom of Page for Full Size                                

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, finished second.

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 Speedway
Friday February 15th for Florida's First Modified Reunion. For more information
and a complete roster of drivers log onto www.modifiedreunion.homestead.com 


Billy Harman

Joe Trudeau

Ray Miller


Leo Cleary

Ron Bouchard

Tom Ormsby


Bob Krollage

Ronnie Wyckoff

Jerry Dostie

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.

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

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