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 Friday March 10, 2006

By Phil Smith
 
Thirty years ago in 1976, the Modifieds paid a visit to the Hickory Speedway in North Carolina. Richie Evans took the win over Ray Hendrick, Satch Worley, Billy Hensley, Billy Middleton and Paul Radford.
 
Twenty five years ago in 1981, Harry Gant tendered his resignation from the Jack Beebe Race Hill Farms Winston Cup effort. In his place was New England Modified hot shoe, Ronnie Bouchard.
 
Fifteen years ago in 1991, the modified tour opened the season at Martinsville. Thirty four cars were on hand but the spectator count was down. During practice, Bob Park broke his shoulder after being involved in a wreck. Jeff Fuller took the 200 lap win over Carl Pasteryak, Tom Baldwin and Rick Fuller.
 
Ten years ago in 1996, the only racing was at Homestead, Fla. Dave Reszendes in a truck owned by Geoff Bodine won the truck race after a bumping incident with Jack Sprague on the last lap. Bobby Labonte was the Busch Grandnational winner.
 
Five years ago in 2001, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series opened for the season at South Boston, Va. with a 200 lap event. Mike Ewanitsko, with a brand new team took the pole. The event was slowed by many wrecks as 64 laps were run under caution. Jerry Marquis, in the Mario Fiore No.44 took the lead with six laps to go and went on to take the win. Mike Stefanik, in the Art Barry No.21, finished second with Ted Christopher, Tom Cravenho and Ted Riggott rounding out the top five. In Winston Cup action at Atlanta, Dale Jarrett was the pole sitter but it was Kevin Harvick who stole the show as he took the win by inches over Jeff Gordon. Harvick drove the Richard Childress No.29 which had formerly been the black No.3 driven by Dale Earnhardt Sr. Joe Nemacheck was the Busch Grandnational winner.
 
Last year, 2005 the big news of the week was the announcement that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series would be returning to Martinsville, Virginia on Saturday night, September 3. The event, 250 laps in length, would carry a purse of $110,000. The speedway would install temporary Musco lighting to illuminate the .525 mile speedway. Speedway President Clay Campbell stated that the event would be held in combination with NASCARís newly-formed Southern Modified Tour. Drivers will earn championship points for their respective divisions. The Martinsville event will be NASCARís version of the highly popular North Ė South Shootout that is run as an open competition Modified event at the Concord Motorsports Park.
 
In the opinion of many the NEAR display at the annual Race-a-Rama was the highlight of the show. Plenty of drivers from years gone by and the present were on hand to sign autographs including Bob Polverari, Billy Greco, Jap Membrino, Ray Miller, Moon Burgess and Bob Potter. It was also announced that Eddie Flemke Sr, a charter member of NEAR and a member of the Hall of Fame would be inducted into the New Britain CT. Sports Hall of Fame on March 31. Flemke, who became a Modified Legend in his own time had over 500 wins to his credit and is responsible for mentoring many including Pete Hamilton, Richie Evans and Ronnie Bouchard.

A hot topic of conversation was the momentum that the True Value Modified Series is gaining. The True Value Modifieds are an affordable alternative to the Whelen Modified Tour. Series leader Jack Bateman says he has 46 teams lined up to compete in 2005. The TVMS was born when the Modified division was displaced from the Claremont Speedway in New Hampshire. Since then the series has branched out to other tracks in the state as well as those in Vermont and now Massachusetts as they have three dates at the Seekonk Speedway.
 
It looked like the voting taxpayers in the State of Florida didnít want to subsidize a proposed NASCAR Auto Racing Hall of Fame in the Daytona Beach area. The Quinnipac University in Hamden, Ct released results of a poll taken that showed that voters, by an 81 percent to 16 percent margin, opposed the possibility of giving $75 million to help Daytona Beach land a NASCAR Hall of Fame. To add insult to injury, even NASCAR fans didnít like the idea: They opposed it by a margin of 63 percent to 35 percent. The poll was taken of 1,007 voters in the state. Known for its exactness and thoroughness, the Quinnipac poll was selected a "winner" by the New York Post for the most accurate prediction on the Schumer-D'Amato Senate race in 1998, and results are featured regularly in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and on national network news broadcasts.
 
Martin Truex, Jr. won the first Busch series race held outside of the United States by pulling away from the field following the final caution flag. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards followed him across the line six seconds behind; Adrian Fernandez in 10th was the highest finishing Mexican national.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail _ HYPERLINK mailto: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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