Friday March 20, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

Twenty-five years ago, in 1984, the Winston Cup cars were at Atlanta. Buddy Baker was the pole sitter. Benny Parsons took the win. Ronnie Bouchard qualified 7th and finished 12th. Doug Hevron qualified 31st and wasn't as lucky as he lost a rear end and finished 30th.

Twenty years ago in 1989, the Modifieds were off as they were making preparations for the upcoming season that would open up a week later in the northeast.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Mike Stefanik was informed that he had been released from the Busch Grandnational-Lux Air ride and on a sad note, Dick McCabes' wife Rosalie passed way. Subsequently, McCabe who was one of the top drivers in the Busch North Series would lose interest in racing and would end a brilliant career.

Ten years ago in 1999, Riverside Park was slated to open the Featherlite Modified season but heavy rain changed their plans. Bob Polverari was the Busch pole sitter. At Darlington, Matt Kenseth was the Grandnational winner. Jeff Burton was the Winston Cup winner.

Five years ago in 2004, after four months of testing the waters by Connecticut developer Gene Arganese, who hoped to build a $400 million speedway in North Stonington on Route 2, it appeared that the initial project had been sunk as Arganese then proposed to move his project from Exit 92 on I-95 to Exit 93. The new proposed site was centered on the north side of I-95 centered on the site of the former J. Romanella Gravel Bank. Ct. Route 49 and an access road that connects Exits 92-93 bound the new site. The new site also posed a potential problem to an underground aquifer. Anyone who lived in the area knew that the water table is only two or three feet below the gravel bank surface and there is no way that the Connecticut DEP would allow a speedway to be built there. North Stonington First Selectman Nicholas Mullane stated that Arganese had not yet addressed the towns concerns about health, Police, safety, utilities noise and the environment.
Saturday’s practice session at the Waterford Speedbowl had to be scratched because of a snowstorm that blanketed the area. A practice session was also scheduled for Saturday at the Thompson Speedway but due to the fact that the speedway was pounded by seven inches of snow officials had no choice and had to scrub the session. NASCAR waived the rule that normally doesn’t allow practice at a speedway one week prior to a scheduled event. NASCAR announced that 18 Grand National division events would be shown on HD Net in 2004.Included in the package would be live telecasts of 15 events. This announcement was a huge shot in the arm to the Busch North Series, as 11 of their events would receive coverage. The Speed Channel would re-air on a taped delayed basis. Among the events covered were BNS at Lee USA on April 25, Thompson on May22, Lime Rock on May 29, Seekonk on June 12, Stafford on June 18, Holland on June 26, Loudon on July 24, Watkins Glen on August 14, Beech Ridge on August 21, Loudon on September 18 and Dover Downs on September 24. NASCAR and HD Net announced their TV event coverage contract is for three years.. In Nextel Cup action at Darlington in South Carolina Jimmie Johnson out ran Bobby Labonte for the win. Greg Biffle was the Busch Series winner.

Last year, 2008, the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series began their 2008 season on Saturday, March 22, at the high banked Caraway Speedway in Ashboro, NC. And the Thompson Speedway hosted the first of two open practice sessions, also on Saturday from 12 Noon until 6 PM.

At Thompson, despite chilling conditions, a good sample of things to come in 2008 was seen. Competitors and fans got to see the new lighting that was installed at the speedway which would provide daylight type conditions once the speedway began its Thursday night Thunder series. Mike Stefanik braved the cold and the wind to give his mount a shakedown along with numerous other competitors.

In North Carolina, LW Miller scored the victory in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150 with a thrilling dash to the checked flag over second-place finisher Ted Christopher. Southerners Brian Loftin and Tim Brown finished third and fourth. Bob Grigas III who races on the True Value Modified Series and the Whelen Northern Modified Tour rounded out the top five. Ronnie Silk, who hails from Norwalk, CT and who now drives the Westfield, NC based Hill Enterprises No.79 finished sixth.
For the first time transponders were used to score and time the race. In the past only races at Loudon and Martinsville used this technology. Restarts were determined by the last completed green flag lap and double file “Cup Style” restarts with the lead lap cars on the outside were used.

The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams had the weekend off to celebrate Easter. It was not all quiet as Scott Wimmer passed Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer with 21 laps to go and held on to win the Nationwide Series' Pepsi 300 on Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway. Wimmer edged Bowyer by 0.578 seconds for his sixth victory in 149 Nationwide Series starts and first since 2003. Carl Edwards was third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Kelly Bires. Bowyer took the series points lead from Kevin Harvick, the fellow Childress Sprint Cup driver who skipped the Nashville race.

Kyle Busch started on the pole and was the class of the field, leading a race-high 125 laps before spinning out with 62 laps left. The Sprint Cup points leader grazed Bowyer, who was passing on the inside, and was forced to pit for repairs. Busch finished 16th. It was the first stand-alone Nationwide race of the year and Wimmer became the first non-Sprint Cup regular to win in the series.

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

That’s 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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