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Friday March 2, 2011

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1972, Richard Petty started third and took the Winston Cup win at Richmond.

Thirty five Years ago in 1977, Cale Yarborough won the Winston Cup event at Richmond, VA.

Thirty years ago in 1982, Benny Parsons was the Winston Cup pole sitter at Rockingham. The event was rained out and rescheduled. NASCAR did not have a next clear day policy at the time.

Twenty five years ago in 1987, Davey Allison was the Winston Cup pole sitter at Rockingham. Geoff Bodine was second fastest. The Saturday Busch Grandnational event was cancelled because of heavy rain and not rescheduled. Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the Winston Cup event with Ricky Rudd, second.

Twenty years ago in 1992, Ward Burton won the 200 mile Busch Grandnational event at Rockingham. Bill Elliott in the Junior Johnson No.11 was the Winston Cup winner.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, Mark Martin was the pole sitter for both the Busch Grandnational and Winston Cup events at Rockingham. Martin won the BGN event while Jeff Gordon took advantage of Dale Jarrett's late slip and won the Winston Cup event. On a sad note, George "Moose" Hewitt, a former track champion at Waterford, passed away at the age of 62.

Ten years ago in 2002, Minority shareholders of Speedway Motorsports sued NASCAR for breach of contract and anti-trust matters because the shareholders claimed that NASCAR re-neged on its promise for a second Winston Cup date at the Texas Speedway. The suit has yet to be settled. In Winston Cup action at Rockingham, Ricky Craven was the Busch Pole sitter. Jeff Green took the Busch Grandnational pole. Jason Keller was the Grandnational winner with Greg Biffle, second. Matt Kenseth passed Ricky Craven in the late stages of the Winston Cup event and went on to score the victory. The event finished under caution. Crew Chief Robbie Reiser was fined $30,000 after it was determined that the Kenseth car was ľ inch too low.

Five years ago in 2007, The only action of the weekend was on the west coast. Matt Kenseth took control in the closing laps Saturday night at California Speedway, driving off with his fourth NASCAR Busch Series victory in 12 tries on the 2-mile oval. Casey Mears grabbed second place 12 laps from the end and gave a big effort to try to catch Kenseth, but the Roush Fenway Racing driver wouldn't let Mears get close enough for a serious challenge, driving across the finish line about five lengths ahead. Kenseth made a clean sweep as he won the Nextel Cup event. TV camera angles indicated the event was not a sell out.

The Northeast Racing News carried the announcement that HD Net would extend their coverage of Busch East events to 2007. A while back NASCAR had indicated that there would be extensive television coverage of Tour Series events. With Speedweeks in Florida over and most of the major announcements made it looked like the Modifieds and NASCARís other regional series got the short end of the stick again.

In some sad news, Malcolm R. "Johnny" Thompson, 78, of Pond Drive, formerly of Pendleton Hill Road, North Stonington, died on Monday morning, Feb. 19, 2007 at his home. Johnny, a die hard Ford man, drove at many racetracks throughout his career from the old Kingston Fairgrounds in Rhode Island then at the Waterford Speedbowl, Stafford Speedway and the Thompson Speedway in Connecticut. He achieved his greatest success at the Norwood Arena where he was a Modified Champion. For many years Thompson and the late Leo Hill shared a garage in North Stonington where they fabricated their own cars.

Last year, 2011, it was speculated with fuel prices going through the roof, race fans would be staying close to home. A recent trip from Florida to Rhode Island saw gas prices ranging from $3.09 per gallon to over $4.00. New Jersey had the best deal at $3.09 per gallon on the Turnpike. Local promoters who present a quality produce at a reasonable price would reap the benefits of the race fan sticking close to home.

NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Drivers and Owners were anxiously awaiting word from NASCAR concerning Television coverage of the upcoming season. The Speed Channel and the Versus Channel did an outstanding job with their coverage.

The NASCAR Home Tracks web site says that Bryon Chew, a former competitor in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will trade fenders for nerf bars and compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starting in 2011.

In some sad news it was learned last weekend that Gene Bergin had passed away. Bergin had driven just about every kind of race car from Midgets to Indy Cars and from Modifieds to NASCAR Cup cars. He was also an inducted member of the NEAR Hall of Fame. He was one of the chosen few to record wins at Stafford both on the dirt and on the asphalt.

Berginís career included a couple of significant milestones as his 1967 Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway title came in the trackís first year with an asphalt surface, and his wire-to-wire triumph in the 1971 Stafford 200 also marked the first checkered flag for a Modified with a Pinto-style body. He is credited with 15 feature wins at Stafford from 1964-74, the first two of which came on the old dirt surface.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Phoenix International Raceway Jeff Gordon passed Kyle Busch with eight laps left and stretched his lead from there, ending his winless streak at 66 races. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five in a 312-lap race around PIR's mile oval, the last on the current surface.

Kyle Busch became the first driver in a national NASCAR race to win wire-to-wire in nearly eight years. Busch dominated from the pole early and held off Carl Edwards late, maintaining the lead the entire way in the Nationwide race Saturday to set up the chance for a perfect weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch also won the Truck race.

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


 


 


 


 

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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