Twenty five years ago, in 1983, Greg Sacks rebounded from a blown
engine at Martinsville as he won the New England season opening
IceBreaker at Thompson. Sacks took the lead from Richie Evans with
three laps to go in the 83-lap contest. George Kent finished second
as Evans faded to third at the checker. Ray Miller and John Rosati
rounded out the top five. Evans, who started on the pole, was forced
to pit after suffering a flat left rear tire on the second lap.
Sacks, who started on the outside pole, led until lap 46 when Evans
re-took the lead. Evans clearly had the fastest car but his hard
charge to the front took its toll on his tires. Cale Yarborough was
the Winston Cup winner in Atlanta.
Twenty years ago, in 1988, Riverside Park opened their season with a
100 lapper, which was won by Reggie Ruggerio. Mike Stefanik in the
Jack Koszela 15 finished second with Stan Greger, third. Rounding
out the top five were Long Island invader Tom Baldwin and Marty
Fifteen years ago in 1993, Riverside Park opened the season to a
packed house of 8675 spectators. Famed car owner Bob Judkins
suffered a heart attack and was unable to watch as Jerry Marquis
took the win over Bruce D’Assandro, Chris Kopec and Mike Stefanik.
In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Dale Earnhardt won out over
Mark Martin. Robert Pressley won the Busch Grandnational event. The
racing world was saddened when news spread that defending Winston
Cup Champion Alan Kulwicki was killed in a plane crash on April 1
while heading to Bristol Tennessee.
Ten years ago in 1998, Riverside Park had the traditional New
England opener. Reggie Ruggiero started 25th as a provisional.
Working the Park like only Reggie could, Ruggiero marched his way to
the front and took the lead from Cris Kopec on lap 108 and never
looked back as he romped to victory. Pole sitter Mike Stefanik led
the first 40 laps before giving way to Kopec. Stefanik, who ended up
third behind Ruggerio and Tony Hirschman, was running in second spot
on lap 187 of the 200-lap contest when Ted Christopher slid up,
causing both to spin. Christopher lost a drive shaft and was done
for the day. Dan Avery and Ed Flemke Jr. rounded out the top five.
In Winston Cup action at Bristol Rusty Wallace dominated until
running over debris and hitting the wall. Jeff Gordon inherited the
lead and eventual win. Elliott Sadler was the Busch Grandnational
winner. On a sad note, Tim Flock who was a pioneer in the sport back
in the 50’s died after a long battle with cancer.
Five years ago in 2003 In Busch Grandnational action at the Texas
Motor Speedway NASCAR pulled one of its biggest officiating blunders
when they penalized Brian Vickers for passing before the starting
line on a re-start. Joe Nemachek took the win. Videotape clearly
showed that Vickers did not pass before the line. NASCAR held their
ground, as the word from the Big Red Trailer was that he “Intended
to Pass”. In SMART action at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina,
Jay Hedgecock took the win. Ryan Newman won the Winston Cup event
that was run at the Texas track.
Last year, 2007, The Southern New England countryside came alive
with the sound of engines roaring as the Waterford Speedbowl opened
for their 57th season. The shoreline oval opened under new
management on Saturday and Sunday. A new and rejuvenated look plus
an entirely different attitude on the part of all new management
greeted fans and competitors. The Speedbowl had been the scene of a
“Big Dig” as a huge septic cement tank has been installed. As Pete
Zanardi stated, “Our cup no longer overflowith”. Thanks to the hard
work of the new management the tracks rest rooms have been put back
in working order. No longer would hip boots be required in order to
enter the rest rooms. Thousands of dollars were spent in the
grandstand area which showed a lot of progress.
Sunny skies greeted competitors and fans at the Speedbowl on
Saturday for Bud Nationals qualifying. Outside invaders Jimmy
Blewett, Matt Hirschman and Kenny Horton blew away the Waterford
regulars in SK Modified time trials as they took the top spots.
Blewett toured the 1/3 mile oval in 14.233 seconds. Waterford
regulars Tommy Fox and Shawn Monahan rounded out the top five. Among
those who failed to make the cut for the top 20 was six time track
champion David Gada who was forced to run in the Last Chance 25 lap
consolation event. Thirty one SK Modifieds were on hand to qualify
for the 28 starting spots. Jeff Paul won the Last Chance event.
Tyler Chadwick finished second with Dennis Gada, nursing a sick
engine, finishing third.
The more things change at the Speedbowl the more things stay the
same. Jeff Pearl ended up having the biggest day of his career as he
won the SK Modified portion of the Bud Nationals on Sunday. The new
management shows hope and promise for the shoreline oval but a
general house cleaning of those in charge of the on track action was
sorely needed. Confusion and indecision by track officials dragged
out the many caution periods. Case in point, Jimmy Blewett was put
to the rear for an accident that involved Frank Ruocco and Doug Coby.
They were running second and third when they tangled first in turn
two and then in turn three where they spun. Blewett, who was running
fourth at the time avoided the spinning cars and went low to take
over second. Needless to say, the track made a bad call when they
said he was involved and had to go to the rear with 11 laps
remaining in the 150 lap feature. In plain English, Blewett and his
car owner Eddie Partridge were royally screwed by the Speedbowl race
officials. Funny thing though, with only four laps remaining local
runner Shawn Monahan deliberately turned Tyler Chadwick, another
local runner into the first turn fence. Nothing was said or done
about this incident. Track racing director Steve Harraka made the
final call in the Blewett incident and turned a blind eye in the
The SK Modified 150 took the green at 4:02pm and finished up at
5:30. Jimmy Blewett took the lead at the start with Kenny Horton and
Frank Ruocco in tow. By lap 25 Blewett began having handling
problems in the turns and on lap 30 gave way to Ruocco. Blewett
began backing up as Don Fowler shot into the second spot. Rob
Summers passed both Ruocco and Fowler on lap 46. Just shy of half
way with Summers leading Fowler and Horton, Blewett was hit and spun
in the third turn by Rob Janovic. Blewett pitted with a flat left
rear and returned with an all new set of tires for the run to the
finish. By lap 125 Blewett had worked his way back to the top five.
It was actually lap 136 when Ruocco and Coby tangled. Between the
Blewett fiasco and the Monahan dumping incident the race was settled
in a three lap sprint which saw Jeff Pearl running wheel to wheel
with Matt Hirschman with Pearl winning by inches. Summers ended up
third with Frank Ruocco, fourth and Shawn Monahan, fifth. Sixth
through tenth were Wendell Dailey, Dave Sazarulo, Tyler Chadwick,
Jay Miller and Doug Coby. Blewett ended up 15th. Other winners were
Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Models), Billy Gertsch Jr. (Sportsman), Joe
Godbout III (Mini Stocks) and Lou Ciccone (NEMA Midgets).
Andy Seuss scored his first career NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified
Tour victory in breathtaking fashion on Sunday afternoon in the
Whelen 150 at Music City Motorplex. Seuss had to do it in overtime
due to a late caution that set the stage for a green-white-checkered
finish. On the final restart, the Hampstead, N.H. native was looking
to hold off the second-place car of Tim Brown. However Brown would
not get up to speed and dropped back through the pack while L.W.
Miller moved up to the runner-up position where he ultimately
Jimmie Johnson withstood Jeff Gordon’s 53-lap challenge that
included plenty of banging Sunday and held him off by a bumper for
his third NASCAR Nextel Cup win in six races, the latest in
Martinsville. Michael Waltrip continued his streak of not qualifying
as he missed the field for the fifth consecutive time.
Remember the Gremlins. This
week here are several vintage racing photos of the Gremlins courtesy
That’s it for this week from
40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467