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Friday March 30, 2012

By Phil Smith

Forty five years ago in 1967, the Dogwood 300 was run at Martinsville to open the season. Ray Hendrick in the famous Tant/Mitchell No.11 cleaned house!

Forty years ago in 1972, it was quiet in the northeast as the NASCAR Modifieds were at Hickory, NC. for a 125 lap event. Richie Evans took the win over Geoff Bodine, Gerald Compton, Satch Worley and John Bryant.

Thirty five years ago in 1977, Bugsy Stevens took the Small Block Modified portion of the season opening Ice Breaker at Thompson. Leo Cleary finished second with Ronnie Bouchard, Dick Caso and Ollie Silva rounding out the top five. The event was marred by an accident that took the life of Dave Peterson. This incident was the beginning of a scandal, which led to one of the speedway employees getting put in an embarrassing position when it was discovered that pit sign in sheets were missing, and Petersons name was found added on a sheet where it didn't belong.

Thirty years ago in 1982, after a rain out the previous week, the Modifieds returned to Martinsville for the NASCAR Modified season opener. Forty-seven Modifieds were on hand. Geoff Bodine was the pole sitter but it was Greg Sacks in the Ernie Wilsburg No.5 that ruled the roost. It was the beginning of a storybook season for Sacks and Wilsburg as they would win just about every major race during the course of the season. Richie Evans finished second with Jim Spencer, third. Roger Treichler, Reggie Ruggiero, Jamie Tomaino, Bob Polverari, Doug Hewitt, Doug Hevron and Ralph Brinkley would round out the top ten. Attrition was quite high as only 12 of the original 40 starters were running at the end of 250 laps. Among the dnf's were Tom Druar, Geoff Bodine and Roger Hill who lost engines, Jerry Cook overheated and wrecks eliminated Wayne Anderson, Tom Baldwin, John Blewett Jr and George Summers. Sam Ard won the late model portion of
the Martinsville event.

Twenty five years ago in 1987, Riverside Park Speedway opened for the season with a 100 lapper. Jim Spencer took the win. Mike Stefanik finished second with Tom Bolles, third. At the Thompson Ice Breaker on Sunday, Spencer made it two for two on the weekend as he beat George Summers and Corky Cookman to the stripe. Spencer started fifth and took the lead on lap 60 of the 125-lap event. In victory lane, Spencer, who finished second in 1986, stated, "Charlie taught me how to win this race ". Jarzombek had passed away a week earlier at Martinsville. In SK-Modified action, Richie Gallup took the win over Mike Christopher, Marcel L'Etiole and Ted Christopher. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Dale Earnhardt took the lead and the win on the last lap when Bill Elliott ran out of gas. Earnhardt also won the Busch Grandnational event held on Saturday. Geoff Bodine finished second.

Twenty years ago in 1992, after hitting the wall at Martinsville the previous week, Jeff Fuller was on a mission at the Ice Breaker at Thompson. Fuller took the lead on lap 76 of the 125-lap event and never looked back as he redeemed himself with a hard fought win. Mike McLaughlin, in the Art Barry No.21, had the misfortune of hitting the wall in Saturday practice. The Barry crew worked all night putting a new snout on the car. Starting last, McLaughlin rewarded their efforts as he finished second. Tom Baldwin finished third and was followed by Steve Park, Tom Bolles, Jan Leaty, Tim Connolly, Wayne Anderson and Charlie Pasteryak. Eddie StAngelo was the winner of the SK-Modified event. Bob Potter finished second with Ted Christopher, Ronnie Rocco and Mike Christopher rounding out the top five.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, it was Easter Weekend. The only action was at Hickory where Dick Trickle took the Grandnational win over Randy LaJoie.

Ten years ago in 2002, NASCAR’s Winston Cup and Busch Grandnationals were idle because of the Easter weekend. The Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey opened under new management. Frank Polimedia went pole to pole to win the opener. John Blewett III finished second with Dave Michael, third. Jimmy Blewett and Harry Reed rounded out the top five. The southern modified series SMART had a scheduled event at Caraway in North Carolina, which was rained out

Five years ago in 2007, The Southern New England countryside came alive with the sound of engines roaring as the Waterford Speedbowl opened for their 57th season. The shoreline oval opened under new management on Saturday and Sunday. A new and rejuvenated look plus an entirely different attitude on the part of all new management greeted fans and competitors. The Speedbowl had been the scene of a “Big Dig” as a huge septic cement tank has been installed. As Pete Zanardi stated, “Our cup no longer overflowith”. Thanks to the hard work of the new management the tracks rest rooms have been put back in working order. No longer would hip boots be required in order to enter the rest rooms. Thousands of dollars were spent in the grandstand area which showed a lot of progress.

Sunny skies greeted competitors and fans at the Speedbowl on Saturday for Bud Nationals qualifying. Outside invaders Jimmy Blewett, Matt Hirschman and Kenny Horton blew away the Waterford regulars in SK Modified time trials as they took the top spots. Blewett toured the 1/3 mile oval in 14.233 seconds. Waterford regulars Tommy Fox and Shawn Monahan rounded out the top five. Among those who failed to make the cut for the top 20 was six time track champion David Gada who was forced to run in the Last Chance 25 lap consolation event. Thirty one SK Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the 28 starting spots. Jeff Paul won the Last Chance event. Tyler Chadwick finished second with Dennis Gada, nursing a sick engine, finishing third.

The more things change at the Speedbowl the more things stay the same. Jeff Pearl ended up having the biggest day of his career as he won the SK Modified portion of the Bud Nationals on Sunday. The new management shows hope and promise for the shoreline oval but a general house cleaning of those in charge of the on track action is sorely needed. Confusion and indecision by track officials dragged out the many caution periods. Case in point, Jimmy Blewett was put to the rear for an accident that involved Frank Ruocco and Doug Coby. They were running second and third when they tangled first in turn two and then in turn three where they spun. Blewett, who was running fourth at the time avoided the spinning cars and went low to take over second. Needless to say, the track made a bad call when they said he was involved and had to go to the rear with 11 laps remaining in the 150 lap feature. In plain English, Blewett and his car owner Eddie Partridge were royally screwed by the Speedbowl race officials. Funny thing though, with only four laps remaining local runner Shawn Monahan deliberately turned Tyler Chadwick, another local runner into the first turn fence. Nothing was said or done about this incident. Track racing director Steve Harraka made the final call in the Blewett incident and turned a blind eye in the Monahan incident.

The SK Modified 150 took the green at 4:02pm and finished up at 5:30. Jimmy Blewett took the lead at the start with Kenny Horton and Frank Ruocco in tow. By lap 25 Blewett began having handling problems in the turns and on lap 30 gave way to Ruocco. Blewett began backing up as Don Fowler shot into the second spot. Rob Summers passed both Ruocco and Fowler on lap 46. Just shy of half way with Summers leading Fowler and Horton, Blewett was hit and spun in the third turn by Rob Janovic. Blewett pitted with a flat left rear and returned with an all new set of tires for the run to the finish. By lap 125 Blewett had worked his way back to the top five It was actually lap 136 when Ruocco and Coby tangled. Between the Blewett fiasco and the Monahan dumping incident the race was settled in a three lap sprint which saw Jeff Pearl running wheel to wheel with Matt Hirschman with Pearl winning by inches. Summers ended up third with Frank Ruocco, fourth and Shawn Monahan, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Wendell Dailey, Dave Sazarulo, Tyler Chadwick, Jay Miller and Doug Coby. Blewett ended up 15th. Other winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Models), Billy Gertsch Jr. (Sportsman), Joe Godbout III (Mini Stocks) and Lou Ciccone (NEMA Midgets).

Andy Seuss scored his first career NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour victory in breathtaking fashion on Sunday afternoon in the Whelen 150 at Music City Motorplex. Seuss had to do it in overtime due to a late caution that set the stage for a green-white-checkered finish. On the final restart, the Hampstead, N.H. native was looking to hold off the second-place car of Tim Brown. However Brown would not get up to speed and dropped back through the pack while L.W. Miller moved up to the runner-up position where he ultimately finished.

Jimmie Johnson withstood Jeff Gordon’s 53-lap challenge that included plenty of banging Sunday and held him off by a bumper for his third NASCAR Nextel Cup win in six races, the latest in Martinsville. Michael Waltrip continued his streak of not qualifying as he missed the field for the fifth consecutive time.

Last year, 2011, Kevin Rice reported that four VMRS teams were at Thompson on Saturday for the first of two Saturday practice sessions which wouldlead up to the Ice Breaker. Les Hinckley, Chris Pasteryak, Steve Masse and Tim Jordan were shaking down their mounts in preparation for the season opener at the Waterford Speedbowl.

Rice also noted that Whelen Modified Tour Series drivers including Matt Hirschman in the legendary Ole Blu of the Boehler family were on hand to get in a few shakedown runs. In addition to Hirschman, other tour drivers included Todd Szegedy, Bobby Santos III, Ronnie Silk, Glen Tyler, Tom Rogers, Kevin Goodale, Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Woody Pitkat, Wade Cole, Justin Bonsignore, Doug Coby, Eric Goodale, Ron Yuhas, Rob Fuller and Bryon Chew.

Richie Pallai, Jr. was on hand with his new advisor and mentor Bob Potter. Potter is a multi-time winner at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson who has a wealth of driving experience and set-ups. Rick Gentes has thrown his hat in the ring for Rookie of the Year honors as he joins the Tour in 2011. Modified Tour competitors will not be allowed to practice at Thompson this week.

In the Sunoco Modified (SK type) ranks Ryan Preece started out the year on the wrong foot as he apparently had a throttle stick and ultimately did alot of damage when he crashed into the turn one concrete wall.

Due to persistent rain overnight and a weather forecast calling for a cold rain throughout the weekend, NASCAR and Caraway Speedway postponed the Caraway 150 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race originally scheduled Saturday night.

Matt Kobyluck, winner of 16 career races NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and the 2008 series champion, announced that he would not be competing in the 2011 racing season. Kobyluck’s longtime sponsor, Mohegan Sun Resort & Casino, announced the 2010 season would be their last on Kobyluck’s #40 cars. Kobyluck owns and operates a sand and gravel operation in southeastern Connecticut.

National Speed Sport News published its last issue. After more than 76 years, the publication, which was first published as National Auto Racing News on Aug. 16, 1934, printed its last issue, dated March 23, 2011.

Through the years National Speed Sport News was the industry leader in covering motorsports, much of it thanks to Chris Economaki, 90, who sold the first issue of NSSN at Ho-Ho-Kus Speedway in New Jersey, and began writing for the publication soon after that and became editor in 1950.

Economaki saw the publication through its glory days, launching a career on television and taking his newspaper into thousands of homes across America. In a time when there was no Internet and very little racing was on television or radio, National Speed Sport News thrived.

NASCAR's top divisions were on the West coast. It was another dismal crowd at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., Sunday afternoon. Despite a shift from the second race of the season to the fifth, more than half the seats at the two-mile superspeedway were empty for Sunday’s Auto Club 400. Interestingly, the race came down to a battle between California natives with Bakersfield’s Kevin Harvick edging El Cajon’s Jimmie Johnson. Harvick passed Johnson on the final turn at Auto Club Speedway to win after trailing the entire race.Kyle Busch had the dominant car most of the day and led a race-high 151 laps, including off a restart with nine laps left. Johnson, a five-time winner at Fontana, had the late burst, chasing down Busch for the lead with two laps left.

Kyle Busch came out of the pits in the lead after taking two tires on a late stop, then held off Edwards and Harvick to win his third straight Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday.

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


Charlie Jarzombek


Goober Scheidel


Hop Harrington


Ollie Silva

Pete Hamilton

Richie Evans

That’s 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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