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Friday March 21, 2008

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

 
Forty years ago in 1968, Bugsy Stevens scored his first of many Martinsville wins as he won the Dogwood 300.

Thirty-five Years ago in 1973, Paul Radford took the modified win at Martinsville. Richie Evans finished second with Gene Bergin, Ed Flemke and Denis Giroux rounding out the top five.

Twenty-five years ago, in 1983, the NASCAR Modifieds had their season opener at Martinsville. Richie Evans started on the pole and ended up winning the event. Greg Sacks started on the outside pole. His run lasted one lap as he lost an engine going into turn three and headed for the pits. It was not a good weekend for Sacks as he received word on Sunday morning that his sister and brother-in-law were involved in a bad accident on Long Island. His brother-in-law perished and his sister was seriously injured. Evans and Tony Hirschman pretty much dominated the event. Hirschman ended up in second spot and was followed by Brett Bodine, Roger Treichler, Bob Fuller and Joe Mamolito. Ray Hendrick, Martinsville’s winningest driver, announced his retirement.

Twenty years ago, in 1988, the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour standings indicated that after two events Mike McLaughlin was the point leader. Reggie Ruggerio was in second spot with Satch Worley, Dave Reszendes and Rick Fuller rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Jeff Fuller, George Kent, Carl Pasteryak, Tom Bolles and Kerry Malone.

Fifteen years ago in 1993, the Winston Cup contingent was in Atlanta. Morgan Shepherd was a surprise winner when Jeff Gordon pitted for fuel while leading in the late stages of the event. Ernie Irvan finished second with Rusty Wallace, third. Gordon finished fourth. Mark Martin dominated the early stages before breaking a camshaft. A scheduled Busch Grandnational event at Martinsville was cancelled due to rain.

Ten years ago in 1998, Riverside Park opened up the 1998 season with a 200 lap modified event. With 52 cars and 7200 spectators on hand Mike Stefanik took the pole. Stefanik led the early going until getting passed by Chris Kopec on lap 41. Reggie Ruggerio considered by many to be the master at Riverside came from his 25th starting position to take the lead on lap 108. While Ruggerio led, Stefanik was battling with Ted Christopher for second spot. The pot boiled over on lap 187 when Christopher attempted to pass and made contact with Stefanik resulting in both of them spinning. Stefanik was able to restart and finished in third spot behind Ruggerio who took the win and Tony Hirschman, who finished second. In a post race interview Stefanik quipped, “when he (Christopher) falls out of his tree he hits all the branches on the way down”. Dan Avery finished fourth with Ed Flemke Jr., fifth.

Five years ago in 2003, the Wall Township Speedway signed with NASCAR for a weekly sanction and Featherlite Modified Tour series event. NASCAR’s elite converged upon the Bristol Raceway for the sanctioning body’s 2000th event. Ryan Newman took the pole with Jeff Gordon on the outside. In the preliminary Busch Series event Kevin Harvick and Tony Raines survived numerous wrecks to finish one-two on the event. Twenty-three of the original 42 starters were running at the finish. The Winston Cup was also plagued with numerous wrecks. Kurt Busch survived to take the win. On March 23, Sammy Packard passed away at the age of 83. Packard, originally from Rhode Island, was the last surviving member of the group that met with Bill France Sr. in 1947 to form NASCAR.

Last year, 2007, New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame inductee Bob Potter of Norwich was named the Grand Marshal Budweiser Modified Nationals. Potter scored over 100 victories and six championships over a four-decade career at the Speedbowl. Potter won his initial Speedbowl feature in 1966, the first of an estimated 150 checkered flags at the Speedbowl, Stafford and Thompson Speedways. The Speedbowl ran their pre-season practice session on Saturday afternoon. There were six or seven True Value Modifieds along with six or seven SK Modifieds. Chris Pasteryak, who was there with a SK also brought his Whelen Modified Tour car for a shakedown run. There was a overall good turnout of the Waterford weekly cars along with NEMA, ARTS and Allison Legacy cars. Work is in progress in the rest room areas as well as in the grandstand.

It’had been rumored and said many times over the winter months that the Mystic Missile No.4 would no longer be part of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. All those rumors would be put to rest on April 15 at Thompson when the Missile rolled out on the track with Long Islander Donnie Lia behind the wheel. Jerry Marquis, the former driver of the Mystic Missile would pilot the No.00 of Joe Brady in 2007.

While most of us in the northeast were dodging rain drops or snow on Saturday night the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series began their 2007 season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. Northern drivers who ventured south were Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT, Bob Grigas of Marshfield, MA, JR Bertuccio of Centerreach, Long Island, Ryan Preece of Kensington, CT, Chuck Hossfeld from Ramsonville, NY, Jamie Tomaino from New Jersey and Matt Hirschman from Northampton, PA.

The southern contingent ruled as three of the top five including the winner, LW Miller were from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The highest finishing northerner was Hirschman who finished fourth. Preece finished fifth. Miller, originally from Pennsylvania, resides in Mooresville, NC. Burt Myers and Brian Loftin who finished second and third are also from North Carolina. Ted Christopher, who drove the No.00 of Joe Brady was as high as second at one point. From lap 103 to 119 Christopher and Burt Myers were rubbing nerf bars and trading spots. Christopher’s night ended on lap 119 when he crashed into the front stretch wall. Christopher ended up 18th in the final rundown. Hossfeld, who drove the southern owned Roger Hill entry was parked by NASCAR for being over aggressive. Hossfeld was credited with the 24th finishing position. Jamie Tomaino ended up 25th after his engine quit and Bertuccio ended up 26th after a lap 23 accident.

Carl Edwards held off hard-charging teammate Matt Kenseth in the final dozen laps to win the Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300 Saturday at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. It was a typical crash-filled Bristol race, with 12 cautions for 103 laps and one red-flag stoppage. NASCAR also had a miscue on pit road that confused most of the field and gave Edwards, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman a second chance. Edwards used that free pit stop to get fresh tires and drive to his first win of the season, beating Kenseth to the line by 0.260 of a second. Busch took the lead with 16 laps to go on a smooth pass around Denny Hamlin in thick traffic and stayed there through a pair of cautions. He had driven away from the competition when the 15th and final caution set up a three-lap overtime sprint to the finish. Busch and teammate Jeff Gordon were running 1-2 on the restart, but Burton jumped past Gordon and quickly pulled onto Busch's rear bumper. Burton looked low and Busch threw a block, then he went high and Busch blocked that, too. Burton pulled alongside Busch as they closed in on the finish line, but Busch nipped him at the flag for his first Nextel Cup win on a short track. Gordon, the pole-sitter, wound up third but took over the points lead as Mark Martin skipped the event and handed the keys to rookie Regan Smith. Smith finished 25th.
NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow made its debut at Bristol and would be used in 16 races in 2007 as NASCAR phases it in through the 2009 season.

This week here are several vintage racing photos of Hall of Famer Bob Potter courtesy of vintagemodifieds.com


                                                                                   
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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