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Friday March 16, 2011

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1972, the NASCAR Modifieds and the Late Model Sportsman (Grandnationals) were at Martinsville for the Dogwood 500.Seventy six Modifieds were on hand. Bugsy Stevens, in the Sonny Koszela No.15 took the win over Mike Loescher, Fred DeSarro and Ray Hendrick. Rounding out the top ten were Bernie Miller, Charlie Jarzombek, Richie Evans, Geoff Bodine, Lou Lazzaro and Lew Hennesy. Sonny Hutchins in the Emanual Zervakas No.01 was the Late Model winner with Jimmie Hensley, second.

Thirty five years ago in 1977, the Modifieds traveled to Hickory, N.C. for a 250-lap event. Satch Worley, in the Clarence's Steak House No.26 took the win over Paul Radford, Jerry Cook, Wayne Anderson and Dave Nichols. Geoff Bodine, in the Dick Armstrong No.1 lost an engine while running second on lap 212.Attrician was so high that Bodine still finished 12th.

Thirty years ago in 1982, the Modifieds were quiet as Darrell Waltrip took the pole and eventual win at Bristol in their spring Winston Cup event. Brian Ross and Bob Garbarino, who had been together as a team for almost ten years, went their separate ways. Shortly there after it was announced that Bugsy Stevens would be driving the Mystic Missile for the 1982 season.

Twenty five years ago in 1987, the NASCAR Modifieds began their season at Rougemont, N.C. Mike Stefanik in the Koszela No.15 took the win with Jim Spencer, second. Pole sitter Jan Leaty led the start and he first lap until overhauled by Doug Hevron. Hevron led until lap six and from there on it was Reggie Ruggiero, which is until three laps to go in the 150 lapper when he tangled with Satch Worley. Ruggiero and Worley spun and were able to restart but it was too late as a patient Stefanik took the lead and never looked back. Pre-race favorite Charlie Jarzombek, out with a brand new RE Chassis mod, blew a tire and finished in 15th spot. Following Stefanik and Spencer were Ruggiero, Carl Pasteryak, Kenny Bouchard, Mike McLaughlin and Worley. In Winston Cup action at Atlanta, Ricky Rudd took the win.

Twenty years ago in 1992, all was quiet.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, at Las Vegas, Jeff Green passed Tim Steele with 14 laps to go and went on to record his first Busch Grandnational win. Dick Trickle finished second after Steele faded. In a truck race at Homestead, Fl, John Nemacheck, Joe's brother, suffered severe head injuries after crashing hard on the driver's side. Nemacheck passed away five days later.

Ten years ago in 2002, the Winston Cup and Busch Grandnational divisions of NASCAR were at Darlington. In Winston Cup qualifying Ricky Craven took the pole with Jeff Gordon on the outside. The big news was that Gordonís wife Brooke filed for divorce. Jeff Burton went pole to pole to win the BGN 200. Sterling Marlin started dead last after an engine change and charged his way to victory in the Winston Cup event. Steve Park, in his first race back since suffering head injuries, started fourth and was leading on lap 39 when he slid up into Stacey Compton, triggering a wreck that took out Craven. Tony Stewart also had a close call when he hit the lapped car of Buckshot Jones and then was hit hard by Jim Spencer. Stewart was life starred to a hospital where he was checked out to be ok.

Five years ago in 2007, NASCAR has announced their touring series television package and as usual the Whelen Modified Tour Series got the crumbs or better yet what the cow left behind after she jumped the fence. HDNet would air the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway on August 25, while the SPEED channel would air the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire International Speedway on June 30 and the combination event with the NASCAR Whelen Modifed Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sept. 1.. In addition, SPEED would provide expanded coverage of the NASCAR Grand National Division in 2007, as the network will air 23 races as part of its Racing Across America series, re-airing all 16 of HDNetís live events while originally producing six others. SPEEDís coverage of the division would culminate with live post-season coverage of the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in October.

Itís really too bad that NASCAR didnít do more for the Whelen Modifieds as it had been proven by the Arute family at the Stafford Motor Speedway that produces NASCAR New England that TV coverage pays big dividends for both the competitors and the Speedway. Staffordís weekly car count exceeds 200.

The Stafford Speedway announced that Phil Kurze, Vice President of Motorsports for Whelen Engineering, will serve as the grand marshal for 36th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST on April 27-29, 2007.

Jimmie Johnson passed Tony Stewart three laps from the end Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway and went on to win his second straight race in Nextel Cup competition. Johnson had the car to beat as he led 132 of the first 238 laps. But the only laps he led the rest of the way in the 325-lap event on Atlanta's 1.5-mile oval were the last three. The 25th victory of his Cup career moved Johnson within 28 points of current series leader Mark Martin. Jeff Burton didn't need any last-lap heroics this time. But he did need a little luck as he made it two Busch Series victories in a row Saturday.

Last year, 2011, While we patiently waited for our favorite speedways to open for the season, modified racing action has begun in the south land. The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour began their season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC where George Brunnhoelzl III took advantage of the race leader's misfortune to inherit the lead and drove away in the closing laps to win the Spring Classic 150 at Caraway Speedway. Brunnhoelzl was running third on Lap 120 when Todd Szegedy spun behind the leaders in Turn 2. L.W. Miller and Brian Loftin, who were first and second respectively, got together in Turn 3 as the caution came out. Miller was able to make it to pit road and continue, but Loftin, who won the Coors Light Pole Award in Saturday's qualifying, had to be towed off the track.

That left Brunnhoelzl out front and he pulled away from runner-up Tim Brown to win by 1.903 seconds. It is the seventh career win and fourth at Caraway for Brunnhoelzl, the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion. Thomas Stinson finished a career-high third after qualifying 16th to earn the Coca-Cola Move of the Race Award. Miller came back to finish fourth and James Civali was fifth.

John Smith finished sixth, followed by Jason Myers, Andy Seuss, Todd Szegedy and Austin Pack. Pack won the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award as the highest finisher among six rookies.

Loftin wound up 18th. Defending champion Burt Myers led the first 60 laps but finished 14th after a subsequent penalty for a pit-road tire violation. It was mandated that no tires were to be changed during the event but for some reason Myers' crew did make a tire change. An alert official spotted the infraction and had Myers return to the pit area in order to change back to the set that he started with.

Ted Christopher finished 19th after being eliminated on Lap 102. Christopher had just broken into the top five when he made contact with Andy Seuss.
There were 22 Modifieds on hand.

The Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series' of NASCAR enjoyed a week off. The NASCAR Truck Series raced at Darlington where Kasey Kahne earned himself a NASCAR victory and to him, that's more important than a few days off. The Sprint Cup star led the final 51 laps, held off defending series champion Todd Bodine and brought more success to Kyle Busch Motorsports in winning the Camping World Trucks event.
Ron Hornaday Jr. finished second, and Bodine was third. Series points leader Matt Crafton took fourth and James Buescher finished fifth.

This week are several photos of the great Gene Bergin who passed away one year ago, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Geoff Bodine


Brian Ross


Bugsy Stevens


R
ichie Evans

Mike Loescher

Ray Hendrick

Thatís it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

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

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