Friday February 20, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

Twenty years ago in 1989, Richmond was still the second stop for the Winston Cup and Busch Grandnationals. Needless to say, the entire weekend was cancelled as snow blanketed the area.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Harry Gant came from the rear to win the Grandnational event at Richmond. New England competitor, Jeff Barry, started 31st and finished 26.In Winston Cup action; Bill Elliott won by 18 inches over Alan Kulwicki. Jeff Fuller made his debut and finished 29th after losing a water pump.

Ten years ago, in 1999, pole qualifying for both the Winston Cup and Busch Grandnationals at Rockingham rained out. Points and postmarks determined the starting lineups. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was given the pole position for the BGN event and Ricky Rudd, the pole position for the Winston Cup event.

Five years ago in 2004, NASCAR honored The Waterford Speedbowl as having the Best Effort in Public Relations by a NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series track. Responsible for the public relations effort at the Speedbowl was Pete Zanardi, a former Sportswriter for the Hartford Times and a noted and highly respected Auto Racing writer. The Speedbowl announced that Doug Coby, a NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series regular and graduate of Staffordís SK-Modified ranks would be a regular at the shoreline oval in 2004.NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series race teams were putting the finishing touches on their equipment in order to be ready for the tour opener at Thompson on April 4.

Harry Gant (Photo by Ted Van Pelt)

Michael Boehler, co-owner of Boehler Racing Enterprises said that the teamís racecars were re-done and were fully prepared for the up-coming season. Crew Chief Peter Caron and Chief Mechanic Jimmy Fournier were busy all winter getting the cars ready for Jerry Marquis who would once again be behind the wheel of the legendary Ole Blu. Boehler and Marquis feel that they have a legitimate shot at the series title. Boehler Racing has been involved in Modified Racing since the early 1960ís. Founded by Lenny Boehler, BRE cars have won six NASCAR National Modified Championships. Many of the BRE crew, including Fournier and Jim Pascale, have been with the car over 30 years. Another bit of news has Reggie Ruggiero teaming up with the New Jersey based team of Dick Barney for a run at the Featherlite title in 2004. Ruggiero returned to the tour late in 2003 after an extended time off period. The NEXTEL Cup and Busch Racing Series were at Rockingham, North Carolina. Rumors were circulating that Rockingham, owned by the International Speedway Corporation, could be sold to Speedway Motorsports who in turn would move the NEXTEL date to Texas. Matt Kenseth started 23rd and just nipped rookie Kasey Kahne at the finish line. Jamie McMurray finished third. The top nine finishers had two laps on the field at the finish. Jamie McMurray won the Busch Series event, his fourth in a row at the North Carolina track. Martin Truex Jr. finished second.

Last year, 2008, Carl Edwards won the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 in Fontana CA on Monday, charging past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson with 13 laps remaining. Johnson, winner of the past two Cup titles, came out of the final pit stop in the lead with 26 laps left. But Edwards surged from third to capture the eighth victory of his career. Jeff Gordon, who dominated Sunday's racing, was third. He was followed by Kyle Busch and Roush's Matt Kenseth, who had won the two previous February races at this track. Another Roush driver, Greg Biffle, won this event in 2005.

About 25,000 fans, far short of the approximate 120,000 capacity, showed up Monday, with the sun peeking out from high clouds and temperatures moving into the high 60s.

The drivers spent most of Sunday waiting through rain, track drying and attempts to stop water seeping through seams of the track. The race finally began about 2 1/2 hours late, followed by a rain delay of just more than an hour and then a five-hour wait after a downpour. NASCAR and track officials finally gave up after 11 p.m. and postponed the conclusion until Monday.

Tony Stewart won the Nationwide Series Stater Bros. 300 at Fontana on Monday afternoon following the Sprint Cup event for his second win of the season. He dominated the race, leading 136 of the 150 laps. The rest of the top 10 were Kyle Busch, Keving Harvick, David Reutimann, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, and Stepen Leicht (who was the only driver in the top 10 who wasn't in the Cup race earlier). The race was slowed by 5 cautions for 19 laps and there were 11 lead changes among 9 drivers.

Kyle Busch won the Craftsman Truck Series event that was run on Saturday. Don Lia, the defending Whelen Modified Tour Series champion, started 32nd and finished 26th, one lap down.

In some sad news, Ronnie Ambrosi, 78, of Stafford Springs, passed away on Saturday, (February 16, 2008) at Evergreen Health Care Center in Stafford Springs. Ron retired in 1992 as owner of the food concessions at Stafford Motor Speedway and Ronnies Restaurant where everyone came from far and wide to enjoy ice cream. Prior to the food concessions and the restaurant, Ron was co-promoter along with Clarence Benton of all events that took place at the speedway. He has had a relationship with the speedway for close to 67 years. As co-promoter of the track, which was dirt at the time, Ron had American Motorcycle Association motorcycle races on Sundays. On Thursday evenings he had semi-pro boxing. The ring was placed at the start-finish line of the racetrack. He was a member of the New England Antique Racing Association.

The International Speedway Corporation received a huge financial shot in the arm as they announced a 10-year, multi-million dollar partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California ("Auto Club"), the nation's largest member of the AAA federation, to re-name California Speedway as Auto Club Speedway of Southern California. Specific financial terms were not released.

This week are several vintage racing photos from Riverside Park Speedway,
Courtesy of SpeedwayExpo will be holding a Riverside
Park Speedway Reunion February 27th thru March 1st. Form more information


Rene Charland

George Lombardo

Lou Carangelo

Ed Flemke, Jr.

Don Spazano

S.J. Evonsion

Thatís it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is:

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

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