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Friday February 26, 2010
 

By Phil Smith

Twenty five years ago in 1985, the cup cars of NASCAR were at Richmond, Va. Darrell Waltrip was the Busch Pole sitter. Dale Earnhardt Sr took the win with Geoff Bodine, second.

Fifteen years ago in 1995, Kenny Wallace was the Grandnational (Busch Racing Series) winner at Richmond. In Winston (NEXTEL) cup racing Jeff Gordon was the Busch Pole sitter and Terry Labonte was the winner.

Ten years ago in 2000, the action was in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hank Parker was the pole sitter for the Busch Series event and Ricky Rudd was the NEXTEL Cup pole sitter. Mark Martin was the apparent Busch Series winner when Jack Sprague spun him with four laps to go. Jeff Burton got lucky as he went low, avoided the wreck and went on to take the win. Burton made it two for two as he also won the NEXTEL Cup event. Burton had just taken the lead from Mark Martin when the rains came. The event never restarted and Burton was declared the winner. In other news, Thompson Speedway owner Don Hoenig was in the process of having Butch Davis evicted from the speedway when he ran into a snag. The presiding judge had been a lawyer for Hoenig in a past case.

Last year, 2009, Thompson Speedway owner Don Hoenig shifted gears again at the northeastern Connecticut oval. In 2008 the Speedway hosted two Thursday night dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series in addition to his traditional dates. For 2009 he announced that he was dropping the June event and replacing it with an open competition non sanctioned Modified event. After much thought, Hoenig decided to drop the idea of an open event and replaced it with the True Value Modified Series and his regular Thursday Night Thunder Series divisions. The True Value Modified Series had become a legitimate alternative for those who could not afford the travel and associated expenses of racing on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. Founded by Jack Bateman, the True Value Series ran at just about every track in New England. Notably absent from the True Value Series Schedule was the Stafford Motor Speedway.

The Waterford Speedbowl property continued to be a hot topic especially with a foreclosure looming. As of 2/24, six days remained before the shoreline oval was scheduled to be on the block. It was a known fact that Rocky Arbitell was a big race fan. Chances are he would buy the note from himself and will own the Waterford Speedbowl, lock, stock and barrel for $750,000. If he hired the right professional people to run and promote the track it could be put back on a profitable basis. Years ago when the Arutes leased the Speedbowl, Ed Yerrington, who was the General Manager stated that the Speedbowl kept Stafford afloat while the track was rebuilding their weekly program after tossing out the Modifieds in favor of the SK Modifieds.

When the Waterford Speedbowl gates open for the 59th consecutive season on March 28-29 for the 13th annual Modified Nationals, Budweiser and Levine Distributing would once again sponsor the 150-lap thriller. Boasting $20,000 in prize money, the event was the first of its kind for the SK Modifieds. The $5,000 winnerís share is the most lucrative in the region and historically attracts a banner field of competitors vying for bragging rights and the big payday.

The sounds of the open-wheel Modifieds returned to Orange County Speedway in North Carolina for the first time in over 15 years and despite cold weather and snowy conditions the teams in attendance knocked off some very competitive laps in preparation for the March 6 & 7 Frost Bite Modified Winter NationalsĒ at the Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC.

Temperatures in the low 40ís and blowing snow did little to dampen the spirits of those on hand for the test and lap times were about a second a lap quicker than the regular OCS divisions. Ronnie Silk in the Hillbilly Racing #79 was the quickest of the group with laps in the 13:40 second range. Jay Foley wasnít far behind in his Foley Machine Chevy with laps in the 13:60 bracket and Jason Myers in the Tranthem/Moorefield, Myers Racing Ford turned laps in the 13:80ís. Silk and Foley tested the softer M-20 and M-30 combination and Myers ran the set-up with the harder M-45 compound on the right rear. ďThe OCS track record for the Modifieds was 12:92 when we ran here lastí, said Gary Myers, owner of the Jason Myers ride. The track is located on NC Hwy 57 half-way between Hillsborough and Roxboro, NC.

Kyle Busch did something Saturday that no NASCAR driver had done in the sanctioning bodyís top divisions, won twice in the same day. Busch added a dominating NASCAR Nationwide Series victory under the lights to a similar Camping World Truck Series win earlier in the day at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Busch led 95 of 100 laps in winning the truck race on the 2-mile oval, then was in front for 143 of 150 for his 22nd Nationwide victory. Kevin Harvick was second and Middletown native Joey Logano, Busch's Gibbs Racing teammate, was third. Carl Edwards beat Busch out of the pits on the last stops by the leaders Saturday night, but Busch took the lead on the restart 16 laps from the end and pulled away. Despite leads of up to 11 seconds at times, it came down to the restart on lap 135 after Edwards beat Busch out of the pits by the length of his hood.

In Sprint Cup action, Matt Kenseth went the distance this week as he won the Auto Club 500 on Sunday. Kenseth, who won a rain-shortened Daytona 500 a week ago to open the Sprint Cup season, had to endure four short rain delays in the season's second race. But with the help of his pit crew, which several times got the No. 17 Ford off pit road first, Kenseth became the first driver since 1997 to win the season's first two points races. The last driver to start with two victories was Jeff Gordon, who fought furiously to deny Kenseth but settled for second. Middletown native Joey Logano finished 26th. Gordon, trying to snap the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races, passed Kenseth for the lead on lap 196 but lost the race off pit road on a caution 12 laps later and couldn't catch Kenseth.

Gordon got almost to Kenseth's rear bumper on lap 232, but Kenseth held on for his 18th career victory. Kyle Busch, who made NASCAR history by winning both the truck and Nationwide races on Saturday, came up short of a weekend sweep, finishing third.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos of some of the drivers of Hall of Fame car owner
Billy Simons # 9, courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size


Dick Caso



Ernie Gahan


Gene Bergin


Ray Miller

Ronnie Wyckoff

Charlie Webster

Thatís 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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