Friday March 13, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

Forty years ago, in 1969, the NASCAR Modifieds started their season with the Dogwood 500 at Martinsville. The hot tire was the Firestone Indy-Supersport Steamroller, which was fifteen inches wide. Ray Hendrick, driving the legendary Tant/Mitchell No. 11, established himself as the one to beat as he took the pole for the 500-lap event. Defending Modified Champion Carl Bugsy Stevens in the mighty No.3 of Len Boehler was second fastest. At the drop of the green, the two ran wheel to wheel in a contest to see who was to be supreme. Their race ended on lap 19 when the two came together on the front stretch and crashed into the wall. Fred DeSarro, who was in his own car at the time, assumed the lead on lap 20 and all but dominated the field. DeSarro's hope for a win came to a halt on lap 492 when his battery shorted out and he coasted to the pit. Jerry Cook, who was running second, a lap down, assumed the lead and went on to record his first major victory.

Ray Hendrick won the pole for the 1969 Dogwood 500.

Cale Yarborough was the Grandnational winner at Atlanta.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, it was Carl Bugsy Stevens in the Sonny Koszela Woodchopper Special taking the win in the Dogwood 500 at Martinsville. Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard, Jerry Cook, Eddie Flemke Sr and Bob Santos.

Twenty five years ago, in 1984, the Modifieds were no longer a part of the March racing at Martinsville as car counts and fans had declined. Their event had been moved to April where they served as a preliminary event to the Winston Cup event.

Twenty years ago in 1989, the Modifieds were back in Martinsville. With forty-one cars on hand, Mike Stefanik took the pole with Tony Hirschman, outside. Rob Moroso was the Grand National pole sitter. Hirschman took the lead at the start and held the point until lap 19 when Mike Ewanitsko took command. Ewanitsko never looked back as he went on to win the 200-lap event. Mike McLaughlin finished second and was followed by Stefanik, Rick Fuller, Jan Leaty and Doug Hevron. Reggie Ruggiero, driving for Mario Fiore was one of the pre race favorites but had his engine confiscated when it was deemed illegal by NASCAR. Ruggiero used a back-up engine and ended up finishing 17th, seven laps down. Tommy Ellis was the Grand National winner.

Fifteen years ago, in 1994, the cup cars and Grandnationals were in Atlanta. Loy Allen took the Winston Cup pole with Geoff Bodine on the outside. Shawna Robinson became the first woman to take a pole position as she took the top spot in Grandnational qualifying. Harry Gant took the GN win after Mark Martinís car quit with 40 laps to go. Randy LaJoie was running second until he lost a cylinder in the closing laps and allowed Larry Pearson to sneak into second spot at the finish.

Ten years ago, in 1999, Dave Blaney took the pole for the Busch Series event at Atlanta. There were 12 Winston Cup drivers in the field which meant that 12 Busch Series regulars went home. Mike Skinner led 92 of the 195 lap distance and took the win over Blaney and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Skinner was disqualified after a post race inspection revealed his engine had unapproved cylinder head modifications and the win was awarded to Blaney. Skinner appealed the disqualification the following Wednesday and was awarded the win without any money. Jeff Gordon took the Winston Cup win over Bobby Labonte. It was Gordonís 44th career win on NASCARís senior circuit.

Five years ago in 2004, it appeared that NASCAR had not raised the minimum purse requirements for the Featherlite Modified Tour Series events, as the IceBreaker payout for 2004 was the same as 2003, which was $73,675 with $4800 to win. It was early in 2003 when NASCAR sent CEO George Pyne to calm the waters at Thompson when there was a hint of general revolt among the Modified competitors. Pyne told competitors that he would look into improving purse structures for the division. Evidently good old George was still looking as nothing had changed! NASCAR did announce that the Auto Meter Corporation would be sponsoring the Rookie of the Year awards for their touring series. The Modified Rookie of the Year would receive a $3,000 bonus plus a package of Auto Meter products. NASCAR also announced the addition of five more contingency sponsors for the Featherlite Modified Tour Series. CV Products, Holley, MAC Tools and Mechanix Wear had added over $43,000 in post season awards bringing the total season contingency awards to over $107,000. The 2004 19-race tour had a purse payout of $940,000.

Chuck Hossfeld, who finished second in the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series standings in 2003, had indicated that he would be in competition on a weekly basis at Stafford in 2004 driving for a team sponsored by Wisk and Clorox. Hossfeld joined Doug Coby, Ted Christopher, Ed Flemke Jr. and Jim Broderick who would also be at Stafford on a weekly basis.

Chad Allum, formerly of Norwich, Connecticut and living in Mooresville, North Carolina set the fastest time at the Hickory Motor Speedway during United Sprint Car Series practice. Allumís dad, George, won quite a few races at the Waterford Speedbowl during the 1970ís and was a fabricator at Art Barryís Spear Point Auto in Preston.

In Nextel Cup action at Atlanta Dale Earnhardt Jr. got back on track to take the win over Jeremy Mayfield. Rookie Kasey Kahne finished third.

Last year, 2008, the big news was the announcement of the end of racing at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey. Timothy H. Shinn, Managing Member For The four partners that own the Jersey shore facility made the official announcement. According to Shinn the partners did everything in their power the past six years since 2002, to provide top quality short-track racing and keep the doors to the Speedway open. ďWe have made numerous attempts to create a scenario which would enable us to continue with the Speedway operation, all to no availĒ, he said. Unless someone comes along to buy the facility the 1/3 mile oval that was fashioned after the famed Lonsdale Sports Arena in Rhode Island will fade away to oblivion. The speedway has provided continuous auto racing for 57 years.

Jeff Burton took the Sprint Cup win at Bristol after Kevin Harvick wrecked Tony Stewart with 2 to go. Harvick bumped Stewart, sending both cars sliding and opened a hole for Burton to squeeze through and go on to victory. Stewart, who finished 14th, was livid on his radio after the accident but had calmed down by the time he climbed from his car and took partial responsibility for the contact. Harvick finished 2nd and Clint Bowyer finished 3rd. Dale Jarrett finished 37th in the final start in a points race of his 24-year career. Also at Bristol, Clint Bowyer grabbed the win in the Sharpie Mini 300 when rain moved back into the track just past the halfway mark and the race was called after 171 laps. The race started 2 hours late because of showers at the track earlier in the day. Kasey Kahne, who battled Bowyer hard for the lead prior to the rain, finished second.

This week are several vintage racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection,
Courtesy of and
Click on Photo for Full Size

George Summers

Gene Bergin

George Wagner

Thatís it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.

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