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Friday February 13, 2008

By Phil Smith 

Fifty years ago in 1959, fifty nine starters took the green for the inaugural Daytona 500. As 41,921 spectators looked on, Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp crossed the finish line in what appeared to be Beauchamp by a whisker. There was no photo finish camera but Petty was declared the winner, 61 hours later. Beauchamp was put back to second spot with Charlie Griffith, third. The event, which went non stop without a caution, had an average speed of 135.521 mph. For his efforts, Petty received $19,050.

Forty five years ago in 1964, Richard Petty led all but sixteen of the 200 lap Daytona 500 and finished three miles ahead of Jim Pardue. Paul Goldsmith finished third and was followed by Marvin Paunch and Jim Pascal. Among those in the field were Ralph Earnhardt who finished 19th, 20 laps down and New England modified and cut down driver Nathan "Smokey" Boutwell who finished 20th.There were three cautions for 19 laps. Petty, who averaged 154.334mph collected $33,300 for his efforts as 69,738 spectators looked on. One hundred-mile qualifying race winners were Junior Johnson and Bobby Isaac.
 

Forty years ago in 1969, the late model sportsman (Busch Grandnationals) replaced the somewhat modified cars that ran on Saturday. LeeRoy Yarbrough won the event, which saw New England Sportsman and Modified great Don MacTavish lose his life in a violent front stretch crash. Yarbrough came back on Sunday to win the 500 by a car length over Charlie Glotzbach. Donnie Allison finished third and was followed by A.J.Foyt. Yarbroughs average speed was 157.950mph with 101,800 looking on. For his efforts he received $38,950.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, the Modifieds were included at Daytona and raced on the road course. Bobby Allison and Tiny Lund finished one-two as they clearly outclassed the field. John Bryant finished third and was followed by Denis Giroux, Geoff Bodine, Jerry Dostie and road racer, Charlie Blanton. The Daytona 500 was shortened to 450 laps because of the then, energy crunch. Even and odd days for getting gas were the norm. Bobby Isaac and Donnie Allison won the twin 125's which were also shortened to 112.5 miles in length. Richard Petty won his fifth Daytona 500 after Donnie Allison cut down two tires with eleven laps to go. Cale Yarborough ended up second with Ramo Stott, third. A record $300,000 was paid by ABC for broadcast rights and only the second half of the 500 was shown live.


Promising New Englander Don MacTavish lost his life at Daytona forty years ago.

Thirty years ago in 1979, Richie Evans dominated the modified World Series at New Smyrna as he won seven of the nine events run. Merv Treichler and Ronnie Bouchard were the only other drivers to break the stranglehold that Evans had on the competition. Evans also won a 200 mile modified event at Daytona. Neil Bonnett finished second and was followed by Harry Gant, Ronnie Bouchard, Joe Thurman and Bob Riley. For the first time, the Daytona 500 was shown live, pole to pole, by CBS. Ken Squire called the action. Richard Petty became a surprise six-time winner after Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecked going for the lead in the closing laps. As Petty took the checkered flag, Yarborough, Allison and Bobby Allison were slugging it out on the infield grass in turn three. When the TV crew realized what was going on they picked up the physical combat as it unfolded. Darrell Waltrip ended up finishing second with A.J.Foyt, third.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, Richie Evans won seven of eight modified events run at New Smyrna. Evans lost a fuel pump on the night he didn't win. Charlie Jarzombek took the win that night. At Daytona, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison won the 125's.Yarborough went on to win the 500 over Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip won the Goodys 300 the day before.

Twenty years ago in 1989, Reggie Ruggiero won six of the nine events at New Smyrna. Mike Ewanitsko won two and Tom Baldwin won the series closing Richie Evans Memorial. Darrell Waltrip was at the top of his game as he won both the Goodys 300 and the Daytona 500.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Richie Gallup ended up winning four of the eight modified events run at New Smyrna. Tom Baldwin, although winless used consistency to win the series championship. Other winners were Ricky Fuller, Bruce D'Assandro and Ted Christopher who won the series ending Richie Evans memorial. At Daytona, Bob Newton pulled his Hoosier Tires out of the event in the interest of safety, as the tires were not wearing properly. Ernie Irvan and Dale Earnhardt won the 125's.For the fifth straight year; Dale Earnhardt won the Busch GN Goodys 300 with Dale Jarrett, second. Chad Little the first GN regular finished third. Among the casualties were Mike Stefanik, Doug Hevron and Mike McLaughlin who were collected in a lap five wreck. The 500 saw Sterling Marlin score his first Winston Cup win. Ernie Irvan finished second with Terry Labonte, third.

Ten years ago, in 1989, at New Smyrna on Monday night, Ted Christopher made it two in a row George Kent in the Gary Cretty No.26.Kent switched from Hoosier to Goodyear but still couldn’t catch the Connecticut speedster. JR Bertuccio finished third with Eric Beers, fourth.   At Daytona, Ken Schrader was the Busch Grandnational Series top qualifier as he took the pole for the NAPA 300 with a speed of 189.865mph.Randy Lajoie was the outside pole sitter. Tuesday night at New Smyrna belonged to Doug French as he jumped out in front and beat Ted Christopher to the line. Jamie Tomaino finished third. Christopher returned to winning form on Wednesday at New Smyrna as he won his third event of the series over Kent, Beers and Tomaino. At Daytona the big news was that Mike Helton was named as SR. Vice President and CEO of NASCAR and his duties were to oversee the day to day operations of NASCAR. Bill France would still maintain ultimate control as he remained as President of the sanctioning body. At Daytona on Thursday at the 125's, Bobby Labonte passed Jeff Gordon with 12 laps to go to win the first event. Dale Earnhardt won the second 125 over Jeremy Mayfield. During the first lap, Wally Dallenbach took out John Andretti and Jeff Green. Christopher and Tomaino opened up a lead of a half lap at New Smyrna on Thursday night. Christopher maintained the point and recorded his fourth victory. George Kent finished third with Doug French, fourth. On Friday at Daytona, Speedway Motorsports announced that they had sold the Charlotte Motor Speedway name to home improvement giant Lowes for $35million. Lowes had previously been a NASCAR sponsor but was dumped in favor of Home Depot. Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the IROC event held at the 2-1/2 mile speedway.

Five years ago in 2004, the action continued at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida on Tuesday night, February 10. The Modifieds had Monday night off. On Tuesday night, Eric Beers took advantage of Ted Christopher and Donnie Lia’s misfortune as he took the win in Round 4 of the World Series. Christopher started on the pole and was looking to be the first repeat winner when Lia made a move under him, which resulted in both ending up in the wall. Lia accepted responsibility for the incident. There had been virtually no passing on the high-banked oval this year as the track had become worn and the temperatures had not been ideal for racing. Buck Catalano, who normally races at the Spencer Speedway in upstate New York, ended up second with Charlie Pasteryak, third. JR Bertuccio and Mike Fitch rounded out the top five. Lia was able to make repairs after the crash and ended up seventh behind John Blewett III who was sixth. Chuck Hossfeld, who was driving for Bob Garbarino on the Modified tour made his first appearance driving his own car and finished 11th. It was also good to see Bo Gunning break into the top ten as he finished 8th. The Modifieds went the 50-lap distance on Wednesday night. Eddie Flemke Jr. and the Hill Enterprises team joined the field and made the most of their effort as they took the win. Flemke, who started third, took the lead on the first lap when John Blewett III drifted up, leaving an opening. It was clear sailing from then on. Blewett, who was then slugging it out with Ted Christopher, lost a radiator hose and triggered a wreck, which ultimately put him out for the night. Christopher applied the pressure to Flemke to the point where his rear bumper looked like it had been through a war but the second generation driver never faltered as he romped home for the win. Christopher settled for second with George Kent, third. Charlie Pasteryak and Chuck Hossfeld rounded out the top five.

Flemke stated they never intended to run the whole series, just the last three or four events. On Thursday night Ted Christopher became the first repeat winner in modified competition at New Smyrna. Christopher started on the pole and led the entire 25-lap distance. Buck Catalano finished second with Eric Beers, third. JR Bertuccio and Mike Fitch rounded out the top five. Things got ugly during the early going when Ed Flemke Jr. came together with George Kent. Kent spun out and went after Flemke, eventually planting him into the wall. Flemke ended up in 19th spot while Kent ended up 9th behind Don Lia, Chuck Hossfeld and Bo Gunning. On Friday night it was the Richie Evans Memorial 100. John Blewett III, who had horrible luck in the series, started dead last in the 27-car field and survived numerous restarts and a crash to walk away the winner. A lap nine crash collected eleven cars, including Blewett. Blewett was able to rejoin the field but others weren’t as fortunate. The accident was triggered when Charlie Pasteryak and Bo Gunning made contact with Pasteryak getting the worst of the deal as he hit the outside wall. Once the field restarted those not involved in the wreck made pit stops with many putting on fresh rubber. Another late race caution found the same scenario. On the restart, Ed Flemke was attempting to rundown leader Blewett and George Kent. Flemke appeared to be the fastest car but as the laps wore down he appeared to be getting loose. Ted Christopher then put the bumper to him and sent the Hill’s Enterprises No.79 into the inside wall. Flemke was able to re-fire his engine and took off after Christopher while he circled the track under caution. Flemke figured that the track officials should have taken action against Christopher for his overly aggressive driving and seeing as though they didn’t, Flemke plowed Christopher in the rear and then exited the track to the pit area.

Once in the pits, Christopher’s crew joined Flemke’s crew for some tea and crumpets! Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. George Kent ended up finishing second to Blewett. Rounding out the top five were Eric Beers, JR Bertuccio and Chuck Hossfeld. Christopher managed to finish tenth. The heavy rains that washed out the racing at Daytona on Saturday also washed out the final night of the World Series at New Smyrna. There would be no make up. Eric Beers was named the modified champion of the series as he beat Ted Christopher by 31 points. Donnie Lia ended up third with JR Bertuccio, fourth and George Kent, fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Charlie Pasteryak, Buck Catalano, Kevin Goodale, John Bush and Chris Young.

At the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday the twin 125 qualifying races for the Daytona 500 were run with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott Sadler scoring the wins. Of the 45 cars that entered the events, 43 of them qualified for the 500. Going home were Kirk Shelmerdine, a former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Andy Hillenburg. In comparison to other years, a 45-car field for the 500 was a light one. The NASCAR Craftsman Trucks ran under the lights at the Daytona International Speedway Friday night. Carl Edwards won it in a Ford. Toyota, in its first showing, almost stole the show as Travis Kvapil finished second in the once domestic brand series. Heavy rains descended on the Daytona area on Saturday afternoon bringing the Busch Series Hershey’s Kisses 300 to a halt. The event was completed on Monday, February 16 at 11:00 am. An estimated 200,000 were on hand when President George Bush gave the command to start the engines. The only scary wreck occurred when Michael Waltrip took a mean tumble on the backstretch. It seemed like ages until Waltrip emerged unhurt. In a TV interview Waltrip was extremely critical of the track crew, which left him hanging upside down for quite a while. Waltrip finally convinced the rescue workers to roll his car back in the upright position and loa and behold he got out without a problem. Unlike the previous year when the 500 was stopped because of rain, the event ran the entire posted distance.

It looked like there would be a break in the Anti-trust suit that had been filed against NASCAR over the awarding of NEXTEL (formerly Winston) Cup dates. It had been strongly rumored that the International Speedway Corporation, which is controlled by the France family that also controls NASCAR, may sell their track in Rockingham, North Carolina to Speedway Motorsports, which owns the Texas track that has been seeking a second date. If Speedway Motorsports ended up owning Rockingham they could move their date to Texas. A similar situation took place when O. Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports and Bob Bahre, owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway, also in North Carolina, and moved their dates. One went to Loudon and one went to Texas. If the deal for Rockingham ever goes through it’s a good bet that the Anti-trust suit will go away. A few months later it happened!

Last year, 2008, at New Smyrna it was back to business for the Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds on Monday night. The new week brought in some new competition including the Tom Baldwin Sr Tribute car that would be driven by Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch. Other new arrivals included James Civali, Buck Catalano, Ronnie Silk and Barry Callavini.

In the Tour type Modified 25 lap feature Ryan Preese, who is the grandson of legendary car owner Bob Judkins, took advantage of the eight-car qualifying inversion by starting on the Pole Position of the Tour-Type Modified race and led pole to pole to score his first Tour-Type Modified victory.  Kevin Goodale finished second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Grigas and Ted Christopher.

The SK type Modified feature saw a surprise winner in the form of Eric Goodale. Goodale, who had been running in third spot, took advantage of a tangle between leaders Kenny Horton and Jimmy Blewett. Both drivers went into turn four nose to tail with Horton leading Blewett on the final lap. Blewett attempted to rattle Horton with a blast from his chrome horn. The blast was a little too much as Horton spun and Blewett hit the wall. Horton attempted to roll across the track to the finish line as Goodale spun to avoid being collected in the wreck. Goodale’s car suffered slight damage as he hit the wall after taking the win. Blewett took full blame for the incident. Horton managed to finish second with Josh Sylvester, third. Billy Anderson and Brad VanHouton rounded out the top five. Blewett ended up 11th in the final rundown.

Heavy rain and a bad forecast forced the New Smyrna Speedway to cancel Tuesday night’s racing program.

On Wednesday night at New Smyrna Kenny Horton redeemed himself from earlier misfortunes and defeats as he won the SK Type Modified feature over Josh Sylvester. It was a great victory for Horton but the night belonged to Jimmy Blewett who won the 50 lap feature that was run in memory of his late brother John Blewett III. In the 50 lap John Blewett III Memorial Jimmy Blewett started on the pole and led every lap to score the win over Ted Christopher. Christopher recovered from a spin with Chuck Hossfeld on lap 8 and passed Ron Silk for the second spot on a lap 20 restart. At the finish Silk faded to fourth as Bob Grigas took over the third finishing spot. Hossfeld rounded out the top five. 

Horton stated that he was taking the rest of the week off in order to spend some quality time with his family. Jimmy Blewett finished third in the SK type event and was followed by Glen Griswold, Eric Goodale and Billy Anderson. Nineteen cars started the SK type race and 23 started the Tour type Modified race.

For the second time within a week Jimmy Blewett scored a clean sweep at New Smyrna as he won both the Tour type and SK type Modified features on Thursday night. In the Tour type feature Blewett took the lead from Chuck Hossfeld on lap four and pulled away from the field, running uncontested for the rest of the 25 lap distance. Hossfeld finished second with Ted Christopher, third. Eric Beers and Ryan Preece rounded out the top five. In the SK type feature Blewett took a lot of heat from Josh Sylvester but in the end was able to prevail. Sylvester finished second and was followed by Glen Griswold Brad Vanhouten and Butch Perry.

In Thursday action at the Daytona Int. Speedway Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the first 150 mile qualifier for his second victory of Speedweeks, and Denny Hamlin captured the second in his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, passing teammate Tony Stewart on the first overtime lap, giving the manufacturer its first victory in Sprint Cup racing. Earnhardt’s Thursday's victory came after he moved to the rear of the starting field after changing an engine. Reed Sorenson was second in his Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, Ryan Newman third in his Penske Racing Dodge, Casey Mears fourth in his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy and Carl Edwards fifth in his Roush Fenway Racing Ford.

Stewart was second in the second race, Earnhardt's teammate Jeff Gordon third, Kasey Kahne fourth in his Gillett Evernham Dodge and Mark Martin fifth in Earnhardt's former Chevy ride at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

At New Smyrna on Friday night it was the Richie Evans Memorial for the Tour type Modifieds taking center stage. Eric Beers used a lightning fast pit stop to put him in position to win the prestigious event. A caution on lap 65 of the 100 lap event shuffled the field with most of the front runners pitting including then race leader Ted Christopher. Kevin Goodale elected not to pit and inherited the lead when the field restarted. Goodale’s strategy almost paid off when, with eight laps left, he spun, handing the lead to Beers. Beers then held off Jimmy Blewett to take the win. Goodale recovered to finish 13th. Bob Grigas III finished third and was followed by Ronnie Silk, JR Bertuccio and Chuck Hossfeld. Rounding out the top ten were James Civali, Jon McKennedy, Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennick. There were 19 cars in the field.

In SK type Modified action the field was trimmed to 15 cars. Jimmy Blewett in his Eddie Partridge owned mount had been the class of the field and on Friday night made it four out of six in World Series competition. Josh Sylvester, for the third time, finished second. Glen Griswold, Billy Anderson and Shelly Perry followed.

Todd Bodine held off a late push from Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson to win the season-opening NASCAR Craftsman truck race at the Daytona International Speedway on Friday night and picked up his first victory at the Florida Super Speedway. The 2006 Craftsman Truck Series champion passed Erik Darnell coming off pit road with about 13 laps to go, and then stayed out front the rest of the way to claim the Chevy Silverado 250.

Jimmy Blewett finished out his tour of duty at the New Smyrna Speedway World Series with dual championships, the Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds. For his week under the stars in Florida Blewett scored 3 Tour type wins and 5 SK type wins. Congratulations are in order for the New Jersey driver as well as his owners, Eddie Partridge Racing and Grasso Bros. Racing.

In the final night of racing, Saturday, there were sparse fields of cars in both divisions. Ten Tour type Modifieds and 13 SK type Modifieds were on hand. Ted Christopher, who had been shut out of victory lane at New Smyrna since 2006 somewhat redeemed himself as he took the checkered flag in the series ending 25 lapper for the Tour Type Modifieds. Jon McKennedy drew the pole starting position and led the event for the first 17 laps before being passed by Christopher. Christopher no sooner had gotten by when McKennedy and Andy Seuss tangled and wrecked hard! Christopher, although winless up to that point was in contention for the series championship. Blewett finished a conservative fifth and was able to sew up the title despite Christopher’s win. Eric Beers finished second and was followed by Chuck Hossfeld and Bob Grigas.

The SK type Modifieds were supposed to go 50 laps but because of a short field had their distance shortened to 30. Jimmy Blewett started on the outside pole and before one lap was completed blew away pole sitter Shelly Perry for the lead and eventual win. Glen Griswold ended up second and was followed by Eric Goodale, Butch Perry and Jim Zacharrias. Shelly Perry faded to finish in 11th spot.

Ryan Newman snapped an 81-race winless streak Sunday, using a huge push from teammate Kurt Busch to give car owner Roger Penske his first Daytona 500 victory. Penske, the most successful owner in open-wheel history with 14 wins in the prestigious Indianapolis 500, now has a victory in NASCAR's showcase event. In a green-white-checker finish Newman pulled away for his first win since New Hampshire in September 2005, while pre race favorite Tony Stewart had to settle for third. Kurt Busch finished second.

The Sprint Cup, the Nationwise Series and the Craftsman Truck Series head for Fontana CA this weekend. Don Lia, the 2007 Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion will make his maiden voyage in the TRG Motorsports Chevy Truck this Saturday.

The Hartford Courant reported on Feb 12 that Griswold, CT commercial developer Gregory Mackin had signed an agreement with Terry Eames to buy the Waterford Speedbowl property. Evidently the Courant jumped the gun as property owner Eames stated there had been discussions with several parties interested in buying the Speedbowl and one of them was associated with Jerry Robinson. In Eames’ own words. “There has been no agreement signed with anyone regarding the track changing hands. Nor have any deposits been taken toward such a sale”. The property was a go as far as being a race track in 2008 but beyond that, was still in question.

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-mail is 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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