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Friday March 7, 2008

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

Fifteen years ago in 1993, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series traveled to Richmond for a 25-lap event, which served as a preview of an up-coming event. Jeff Fuller took the event over Doug Hevron, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero and Mike Ewanitsko. Mark Martin made the Busch Grandnational event at Richmond a no-contest affair as he coasted to an easy win over Joe Nemachek. In Winston Cup action, Davey Allison beat out Rusty Wallace by 4.38 seconds for the win.

Ten years ago in 1998, Steve Park, well on his way to becoming a NASCAR Winston Cup superstar suffered a major setback at Atlanta when he crashed during a practice session and suffered a broken leg, collarbone and broken teeth. Bobby Labonte won the actual event, which was run on Monday because of rain.

Five years ago in 2003 Ryan Newman was the Winston Cup pole sitter at Atlanta. Bill Elliott was the outside pole sitter. Bobby Labonte took the lead from Jeff Gordon with 11 laps to go in the 325 lap-400 mile contest. Many suffered blown engines on what has become one of NASCARís fastest tracks. Less than a full house of fans was observed.

Last year, 2007, the big news of the week was the joining forces of Zach Sylvester and Curt Chase for a run for the Whelen Modified Tour Series title. Sylvester, who calls Hebron, CT home and Chase who is from Mansfield are almost neighbors.

Veteran photographer Howard Hodge reported that Wild Bill Slater had successfully undergone open-heart surgery. Hodge stated that the 1965 Race of Champions winner was operated on at the St Francis Hospital on Friday, Mar 9. He added that he had a couple months of recovery time ahead of him, but was handling it well. Slater, originally from Danielson, CT became one of the first New England Superstars of Auto Racing. Numerous feature wins and track titles topped by a Race of Champions win at Langhorne, PA made him a true icon of the sport. It was Slater who convinced Jack Arute to first lease, then buy the Stafford Motor Speedway in 1970-71.

Jimmie Johnson beat teammate Jeff Gordon to win his third straight Nextel Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson received a pit-road penalty and a slight bounce off the wall, but otherwise had few problems navigating around the track that was under intense scrutiny all weekend because of changes owner Bruton Smith made to the 1.5-mile speedway. The changes included an increase in the banking from 12 degrees to 20, and a curved pit lane unlike anything the drivers had seen before. Because the new surface produced such fast speeds, Goodyear had to bring a very hard left-side tire that was capable of withstanding the loads. There were nine cautions, most of them products of the new configuration and tough tire. David Ragan spun on the opening lap, and Casey Mears, Robby Gordon and Ward Burton were in a three-car accident 10 laps in. Joe Nemechek and Dave Blaney wrecked eight laps after that.

Johnson led 89 of the 267 laps en route to the win, but it came at Gordon's expense. Gordon led 111 laps, but thought he had a flat left-rear tire following a late round of pit stops and gave up the lead to Jeff Burton with 32 laps to go. Johnson got by both of them five laps later and held on after a final restart with 11 to go. Jeff Burton won the Busch Series event that was a wreckfest.

This week here are several vintage racing photos of "Wild Bill" Slater courtesy of vintagemodifieds.com


       Eastern States Expo Fairgrounds 1959                             A 1960's first class operation                                            Norwood Arena
                                                                


Thatís 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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