Friday March 6, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

Twenty five years ago in 1984, the Winston Cup visited Rockingham. Harry Gant was the pole sitter. Bobby Allison took the win. Ronnie Bouchard qualified 12th and finished 21st after losing an engine. Geoff Bodine had a better day. He qualified 13th and finished sixth.

Twenty years ago, in 1989, Rusty Wallace was the Rockingham winner.

Fifteen years ago, in 1994, the Winston Cup and Grandnational divisions were in Richmond. In Grandnational action, David Green was the pole sitter. Joe Nemachek took the win over Kenny Wallace and Hermie Sadler. Randy LaJoie suffered his third wreck in a row as he got collected in oil dumped by Mike Wallace and ended up in the wall.

Ten years ago, in 1999, the International Speedway Corporation teamed up with developer Donald Trump to explore possibilities of building a speedway in the New York City metro area.

Five years ago in 2004, It was announced that former NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series Champion Mike Stefanik would be driving the Flamingo Motorsports No.16 when his schedule permits. Stefanik was committed to a full schedule on the Busch North Series. Robbie Summers would be the driver of choice when Stefanik is unavailable. Chris Kopec, who had driven the Flamingo Motorsports entry for the previous sixteen years, was injured at Thompson in 2003 during the running of the season ending World Series. He had not recovered completely from his injuries and felt that it was in the best interest of his family and business that he not race in 2004. It has also been learned that Tom Cravenho of Raynham, Mass. would be driving for Long Island car owner Eddie Partridge on the Modified Tour Series. Bo Gunning would continue to drive the Partridge SK-Modified at Thompson and at a few selected events at Waterford. Dick Houlihan, one of the top dogs at Seekonk, was announced to be driving a former Joe Brady car on the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series for 2004.Connecticut developer Gene Arganese, who hoped to build a speedway in North Stonington, Connecticut, had offered to pay the town $4.5 million for a public safety complex the town intended to build on Route 2. He had also offered $30,000 in scholarships to North Stonington public school students. First Selectman Nicholas Mullane said the $4.5 million offer sounded like a bribe. Arganese also ran into a stone wall with the school department when they rejected his offer because it would violate the Board of Education’s policy on advertising. Despite not having the approval of local officials and not having a commitment from NASCAR, a web site was opened for the proposed North Stonington, Connecticut Speedway. The proposed track would be called the New England Raceway and in addition to promoting auto racing, hoped to stage concerts, trade shows expositions and swap meets. The speedway began soliciting monetary memberships that range from $1500 to $10,000 which would give patrons pre-show ticketing and seating arrangements, VIP parking, celebrity cocktail privileges and put in a pool for backstage and pit access. The latest twist seemed to indicate that if Arganese did get to build the speedway it would be domed which would make it a year round facility. North Stonington is a farming town and the big attraction there every summer is their annual fair. In Nextel Cup action at Las Vegas Matt Kenseth made it two in a row. Pole sitter Kasey Kahne finished second. Kevin Harvick, who was in the top five until the final moments when he ran out of gas, giving the win to Kenseth.

Last year, 2008, History was made at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when Kyle Busch finished off a dominating drive in the Sprint Cup event for the first win with his new team and Japanese automaker Toyota. The Japanese automaker became the first foreign winner in stock car racing’s top series since Jaguar in 1954. Tony Stewart crossed the line second in another Toyota to give a 1-2 finish for the popular import.

There was more talk about Goodyear’s tires than Toyota’s landmark win, and no one was more ticked off than the runner-up. Feeling like he had just driven 500 miles on a sheet of ice, Stewart would like to say sayonara to Sprint Cup’s exclusive tire provider. “That was the most pathetic racing tire I’ve ever been on in my professional career,” he said. “Goodyear can’t build a tire that is worth a crap.” Others were a bit more diplomatic, but Stewart’s view was hardly in minority. Busch and third-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. also griped about their rubber. Pole winner Jeff Gordon managed to finish fifth but fretted that every lap might be his lap because of those slip-slidin’ tires.

It was quite a weekend for Busch, who won the Craftsman Truck Series race Friday night and was dominating the Nationwide event on Saturday before a blown tire sent him careening into the wall.

Matt Kenseth was able to shake Kevin Harvick during a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kenseth’s Ford finished 0.159-seconds ahead of Harvick’s Chevrolet. Jeff Burton’s Chevrolet was third followed by Carl Edwards’ Ford and Bobby Labonte’s Chevrolet was fifth.

It looked like the Mystic Missile owned Bob Garbarino would be back in competition for another year as it has been announced that Chuck Hossfeld would return as his driver. It had been speculated that Garbarino would retire from racing when it was announced that Donny Lia had secured a full time ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Hossfeld, who drove for Garbarino in the past, had an impressive resume that showed 45 career Modified victories’ including 5 Whelen Modified Tour Series wins.

Reports were circulating that Bobby Santos’ driver development contract had gone stale. Santos, who won the Whelen Modified Tour Series World Series event at Thompson in 2007 was hoping to return to the seat of ‘Ole Blu which is fielded by the Boehler Family on the Modified Tour. It had also been heard that Bob Grigas III, a tour regular last year, would run the tour again plus he would join the Thursday night Sunoco Modified ranks at Thompson along with selected appearances in True Value Modified events.

Speaking of the True Value Series, founder Jack Bateman purchased a new car for 2008 which was built in the Spearpoint Auto Shop in Preston, CT. Jimmy Blewett, who was already committed to a full schedule of Whelen Modified Tour Series racing plus weekly racing at Thompson and Stafford had indicated that he would participate in four to six True Value events in the 2008 season. Ted Christopher had also indicated that he will run a partial True Value schedule.

Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified Champion Keith Rocco tried his hand at indoor dirt track racing at the MototownUSA track in Windsor, CT. Rocco, in his second start on Mototown’s indoor clay one-quarter-mile oval, came from fourth starting spot to oust early leader Jonathan Routhier along the backstretch on lap eight of their feature. The DL Painting Service No. 6 Chevrolet Camaro driver went on to lead the other 12 laps over heat winner Routhier.

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

Bob Walker

Bobby Bard, Jr.

John Bergenty

Dave Gallo

Jack Lecuyer

Marty Radwick

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.

Web Design Copyright © 2002-2009 & - All Rights Reserved
Opinions expressed in The Looking Back Column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of and the contents are the sole responsibility of the author.
For permission to reproduce any part of Looking Back contact Phil Smith @
 Looking Back is Copyright © 2002-2009 Phil Smith