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Friday March 9, 2011

By Phil Smith

Twenty five years ago in 1987, Alan Kulwicki took the Winston Cup pole at Richmond but it was Dale Earnhardt who took the win over Geoff Bodine.

Twenty years ago in 1992, Harry Gant came from the back to win the Grandnational event. Bill Elliott won the Winston Cup event by 18 inches over Alan Kulwicki. Jeff Fuller made his Winston Cup debut and finished 14th.

Fifteen years ago in 1997, qualifying for Winston Cup and Busch Grandnational divisions at Richmond was rained out. Both events would be started based on points. Jeff Burton started 41st and dominated most of the Busch GN event that is until the last lap, when Jason Keller wailed him. After taking the lead, Keller went into turn three too hard and while he was trying to regain control, allowed Mark Martin to scoot by and take the win. Jeff Green ended up second after Burton and Keller spun together while in sight of the finish line. Ted Christopher started 40th and ended up 17th, three laps down. In Winston Cup action, Rusty Wallace took the win after almost being wrecked by Jeff Gordon. Dale Jarrett finished second.

Ten years ago in 2002, NASCAR’s elite divisions, the Winston Cup and Busch Grandnationals, were in Las Vegas. Jeff Burton was the BGN winner and Sterling Marlin won the Winston Cup event over Jeremy Mayfield.

Five years ago in 2007 All eyes were on the first annual Speedway Expo at the Better Living Center at the Big “E” in West Springfield, Mass. The show, which replaced RaceaRama featured just about every speedway and series in the northeast along with many top NASCAR stars and personalities. Based on numerous reports Speedway Expo was a rousing success. It was gratifying to see that a large contingent of drivers that were on hand representing the NASCAR Busch East and Whelen Modified Tour Series.

Saturday saw a large turnout of fans for autograph sessions from some of their favorite drivers including eighteen competitors from the NASCAR Busch East Series and Whelen Modified ranks. NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers Clint Bowyer and Kenny Wallace proved popular with the fans seeking their autographs. The dunk tank, which featured NEMA's Mike Scrivani along with officials from Seekonk and Twin State Speedways, was an enjoyable festivity as folks tried their luck for a good cause.

Among those on the prowl was former Connecticut SK Modified Champion Jim Broderick who says his son Jimmy would be in a SK at Waterford in 2007. It also appeared that Mario Fiore and his mighty No.44 would reappear in the form of a True Value Modified. Fiore indicated that he could field a competitive Modified on the True Value circuit for considerably less than it costs to run the NASCAR Whelan Modified Tour Series. Speedways and racing series from every New England state as well as New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were represented. Cars and trucks representing just about any form of motorized competition were on hand.

The highlight of Sunday afternoon was the inaugural Speedy Awards, which were voted on by the fans to recognize drivers, the media, promoters and tracks for their efforts. The winners were: BREAK-OUT RACER OF THE YEAR WINNER: MATT HIRSCHMAN, LONG HAUL AWARD WINNER: BENTLEY WARREN, BEST WEEKLY RACER WINNER: WOODY PITKAT, BEST NORTHEAST TOURING RACER WINNER: CHRIS PERLEY, BEST WEEKLY SHOW WINNER: BEECH RIDGE SPEEDWAY, BEST INDIVIDUAL PERFORMANCE IN AN EVENT WINNER: LARRY BARNETT, BEST INDIVIDUAL PROMOTION WINNER: TD BANKNORTH 250 OXFORD PLAINS SPEEDWAY, BEST SERIES OR TRACK COVERAGE WINNER: NICOHOLAS TETO, RACE FAN OF THE YEAR WINNER: TOM ‘SID’ DiMAGGIO. OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION AWARD Winner: Bill Channell, SOLID LIFTER winner: This non-racer (not a driver, car owner, or crew member) award recognizes lifelong support of a spouse who has played a tremendous role in their spouse’s and family’s racing career. They have supported the decision to be financially involved, understood time away from chores and sometimes family, and then takes a backseat during victory lane photos, interviews, and team-oriented decisions and they have done so for years, in some cases decades. WINNER: LOIS MATCZAK.

It looked like the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts was working hard to keep admission prices at a reasonable level as they had secured major sponsorship for their True Value Modified Series events. The Speedway announced that AAA of Southern New England had signed on as the title sponsor for the True Value Modified Racing Series 100-lap event on Saturday night, June 23 and Airgas Inc., the largest U.S. distributor of industrial, specialty and medical gases, process chemicals, welding, safety and related products, has joined forces with the speedway to present the True Value Modified Racing Series 100 on Saturday night, August 18.

Down on the shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl the new management team of Bill Roth and Jerry Robinson had begun their upgrade program at the Route 85 oval. Roth and Robinson, under the corporate name, The New Waterford Speedbowl, LLC, officially signed their lease Jan. 1, about a month and a half later than they would've liked to, taking over the day-to-day operations at the track from property owner Terry Eames.

The New Hampshire International Speedway (NHIS) announced the addition of the New Hampshire 75 for the United States Auto Club (USAC) Silver Crown Series presented by K&N Engineering on Saturday, September 15. The New Hampshire 75 will be part of an already action packed NASCAR SYLVANIA 300 event weekend. Saturday’s schedule would also feature the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series New Hampshire 200 and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour New Hampshire 100.

Juan Pablo Montoya spun teammate Scott Pruett to take the lead with eight laps left, then held off Denny Hamlin to win the Telcel-Motorola 200 for his first NASCAR Busch Series victory.

Montoya, the Colombian star who jumped from Formula One to NASCAR late last season, recovered from a bad pit stop to aggressively move from 19th to first, taking the lead when he sent Pruett's car spinning on the 72nd lap.
The Nextel Cup cars had the weekend off

Last year, 2011 The snow was just about gone from the Waterford Speedbowl but the Thompson and Stafford Speedways still had ample supplies of the white stuff on the ground. At the New Hampshire International Speedway over 50 inches of the white stuff was on the ground.

NASCAR announced updates for the 2011 NASCAR regional touring series, highlighted by changes to simplify the rookie of the year award. Also announced were two changes to race procedures, the elimination of the post-qualifying redraw for starting position in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, and a cost-saving spec-fuel program for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

In some sad news, Steve May who owned winning Modifieds at the Seekonk Speedway during the mid 70s passed away on Monday, Feb 28. May, who was 63, developed and built the "Mayco Chassis" that carried Fred Astle Sr and Leo Cleary to many wins. May was also a crew chief for the Falconi Brothers when they ran Modifieds.

Brad Keselowski cut a tire on the final lap of Saturday's Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas, and Mark Martin sailed past him for the victory. It was the fourth win in six Nationwide races at Las Vegas for Martin.

The race will most likely be remembered, though, for Danica Patrick's history-making run and not the last-lap dramatics. Patrick placed fourth, the best finish for a woman in a national NASCAR race. The previous best was Sara Christian's fifth at Pittsburgh in 1949.

Carl Edwards was the Sprint Cup winner.

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


Sparky Belmont


Bob Vivari


Tony "Jap" Membrino


Ray Miller

Bill Coon

Billy Boo

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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