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Friday March 23, 2011

By Phil Smith

Thirty five years ago in 1977, the Modifieds traveled to Martinsville for a 250 lapper. Paul Radford in the Wayne "Speedy" Thomas No.07 took the win. Ray Miller finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Bill Dennis and Joe Thurman. Radford also won the Late Model portion of the Martinsville event.

Thirty years ago in 1982, forty five Modifieds were on hand for the Dogwood 500 in Martinsville only to get rained out. In Winston Cup action at Atlanta, Dale Earnhardt was the pole sitter but it was Darrell Waltrip taking the win. Ron Bouchard finished 36th after losing an engine.

Twenty five years ago in 1987, a somewhat lean field of 43 Modifieds was on hand for the Dogwood event at Martinsville. Reggie Ruggiero was the pole sitter. Little did anyone know but this event would be marred by tragedy. Charlie Jarzombek had qualified out of the top 20 but was headed to the front when on lap six, while coming down the front stretch, his throttle stuck. Charlie, a 20 plus year veteran, attempted to spin the car and in doing so, bounced off the inside curb and shot for the wall at full throttle. After going up and over Kerry Malone, Jarzombek made hard contact with the concrete wall. The popular Long Island driver was over six feet tall and the impact was such that his body stretched and his throat area made contact with the steering wheel, causing him to suffer a crushed Adams Apple, which in turn cut off his air. Needless to say, by the time rescue personnel reached him, too much time had passed and the undisputed King of the Long Island Gang was gone. It was a sad day for Modified Racing. After a long red flag period the event resumed. Ruggiero, who had led the early going, took the lead from Mike Stefanik with 24 laps to go and went on to record the win. George Summers finished third and was followed by Tony Hirschman, Jan Leaty, Tom Baldwin and George Kent. Brad Teague was the Busch Grandnational winner with Dale Jarrett, second.

Twenty years ago in 1992, Riverside Park Speedway opened for the season with howling winds and 20-degree temperatures. Stan Greger took the opening night win over Dan Avery, Jerry Marquis, Bruce D'Assandro and Chris Kopec. It wasn't much better at Martinsville as it snowed and was freezing cold. The snow quit and the Dogwood event went off as planned. The weather kept the crowd down as only 3500 were on hand to watch favorite son Donald "Satch" Worley take the modified win over Wayne Anderson, Rick Fuller, Doug Hevron and Tom Baldwin. There were 10 cautions. Kenny Wallace was the Busch Grandnational winner. Drag Racer Kenny Bernstein set a new record as he became the first to hit 300 mph in the quarter mile.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, Randy LaJoie used a last lap Earnhardt type pass to beat Jeff Burton out for Busch Grandnational honors at Darlington. Dale Jarrett inched out Ted Musgrave to take the Winston Cup event. On a sad note, sprint car driver Kenny Weld passed away after a bout with cancer.

Ten years ago in 2002, all the action was in Bristol, Tenn. Jeff Green was the Busch Grandnational winner. Mike Mclaughlin finished second. The action in the pit area, after the event was over, got ugly when Kevin Harvick, who got hit hard and crashed, went after Greg Biffle. For his actions, Harvick was fined $15,000 and put on probation by NASCAR. In Winston Cup action, Jim Spencer got an attitude adjustment after knocking Kurt Busch out of the lead on lap 443 of the 500-lap event. Spencer led only one lap before Busch got him back, sending him to the infield. Busch led the rest of the way for his first ever Winston Cup win.

Five years ago in 2007 New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame inductee Bob Potter of Norwich was named the Grand Marshal Budweiser Modified Nationals. Potter scored over 100 victories and six championships over a four-decade career at the Speedbowl. Potter won his initial Speedbowl feature in 1966, the first of an estimated 150 checkered flags at the Speedbowl, Stafford and Thompson Speedways. The Speedbowl ran their pre-season practice session on Saturday afternoon. There were six or seven True Value Modifieds along with six or seven SK Modifieds. Chris Pasteryak, who was there with a SK also brought his Whelen Modified Tour car for a shakedown run. There was a overall good turnout of the Waterford weekly cars along with NEMA, ARTS and Allison Legacy cars. Work is in progress in the rest room areas as well as in the grandstand.

Ití had been rumored and said many times over the winter months that the Mystic Missile No.4 would no longer be part of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. All those rumors would be put to rest on April 15 at Thompson when the Missile rolled out on the track with Long Islander Donnie Lia behind the wheel. Jerry Marquis, the former driver of the Mystic Missile would pilot the No.00 of Joe Brady in 2007.

While most of us in the northeast were dodging rain drops or snow on Saturday night the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series began their 2007 season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. Northern drivers who ventured south were Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT, Bob Grigas of Marshfield, MA, JR Bertuccio of Centerreach, Long Island, Ryan Preece of Kensington, CT, Chuck Hossfeld from Ramsonville, NY, Jamie Tomaino from New Jersey and Matt Hirschman from Northhampton, PA.

The southern contingent ruled as three of the top five including the winner, LW Miller were from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The highest finishing northerner was Hirschman who finished fourth. Preece finished fifth. Miller, originally from Pennsylvania, resides in Mooresville, NC. Burt Myers and Brian Loftin who finished second and third are also from North Carolina. Ted Christopher, who drove the No.00 of Joe Brady was as high as second at one point. From lap 103 to 119 Christopher and Burt Myers were rubbing nerf bars and trading spots. Christopherís night ended on lap 119 when he crashed into the front stretch wall. Christopher ended up 18th in the final rundown. Hossfeld, who drove the southern owned Roger Hill entry was parked by NASCAR for being over aggressive. Hossfeld was credited with the 24th finishing position. Jamie Tomaino ended up 25th after his engine quit and Bertuccio ended up 26th after a lap 23 accident.

Carl Edwards held off hard-charging teammate Matt Kenseth in the final dozen laps to win the Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300 Saturday at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. It was a typical crash-filled Bristol race, with 12 cautions for 103 laps and one red-flag stoppage. NASCAR also had a miscue on pit road that confused most of the field and gave Edwards, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman a second chance. Edwards used that free pit stop to get fresh tires and drive to his first win of the season, beating Kenseth to the line by 0.260 of a second. Busch took the lead with 16 laps to go on a smooth pass around Denny Hamlin in thick traffic and stayed there through a pair of cautions. He had driven away from the competition when the 15th and final caution set up a three-lap overtime sprint to the finish. Busch and teammate Jeff Gordon were running 1-2 on the restart, but Burton jumped past Gordon and quickly pulled onto Busch's rear bumper. Burton looked low and Busch threw a block, then he went high and Busch blocked that, too. Burton pulled alongside Busch as they closed in on the finish line, but Busch nipped him at the flag for his first Nextel Cup win on a short track. Gordon, the pole-sitter, wound up third but took over the points lead as Mark Martin skipped the event and handed the keys to rookie Regan Smith. Smith finished 25th.

NASCARís Car of Tomorrow made its debut at Bristol and would be used in 16 races in 2007 as NASCAR phases it in through the 2009 season.

Last year, 2011, Kyle Busch sailed off to his fifth consecutive win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch won both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at the Tennessee track and has won the past five NASCAR events there. His dominating win Saturday was the 46th of his career in the second-tier Nationwide Series, which puts him three back from tying Mark Martin's record. But in leading 266 of the 300 laps, he became the first driver in series history to lead more than 10,000 laps.

This week are several photos, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Charlie Jarzombek


Billy Greco


Bob Potter


Stan Greger

Ray Miller

Reggie Ruggiero

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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