Thirty five years ago in 1977,
the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium in New Jersey was a 150-lap open
competition modified event that drew modifieds from all over the
northeast. Local favorite Gil Hearne showed his home court advantage
as he took the top spot. Ronnie Bouchard finished second. Jim
Hendrickson, Tom Baldwin, and Fred Harbach rounded out the top five.
Blistering cold and wind greeted spectators and competitors alike.
Following Harbach were Charlie Jarzombek, Jim Hoffman, Gene Bergin,
John Rosati, Richie Evans, Sonny Seamon, Robert Hendrickson, Ollie
Silva, Geoff Bodine and Maynard Troyer.
Thirty years ago, in 1982, at
the Turkey Derby, Lenny Boyd took the win over Tony Hirshman, John
Rosati, Gil Hearne and Jim Tyler.
Twenty five years ago, in 1987,
Tom Mauser survived to win the Turkey Derby. Reggie Ruggerio
finished second with Tony Siscone, Tony Ferrente Jr. and Tom Baldwin
in hot pursuit. In a surprise announcement, the Stafford Speedway
announced that they would drop the Tour Modifieds completely from
their schedule for the 1988 season. This would prove to be a mistake
as the SK Modifieds had not developed into a big fan draw and the
front gate would suffer.
Twenty years ago, in 1992, local
favorite Eddie Bohn would go pole to pole to win the Turkey Derby.
Tony Siscone finished second and was followed by Jerry Cranmer,
Martin Truex and John Blewett III. Rick Fuller, in the Mario Fiore
44 was the highest finishing New Englander as he crossed the finish
line in ninth spot. The Martinsville Speedway dropped a bomb when
they announced they were dropping the modifieds in favor of raising
their Busch Grandnational purse. Also announced was the fact that
the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine had dropped their NASCAR
sanction and signed up with Tom Curley’s ACT group.
Fifteen years ago, in 1997, the
racing world was shocked with the news that NASCAR President Bill
France Jr. had suffered from a heart attack while in Japan for an
Ten years ago in 2002, The Wall
Township Speedway in southern New Jersey closed out the 2002
Northeast racing season last weekend with the running of Turkey
Derby XXVIIII. The event consisted of twin 150 lap events, one for
tour type modifieds run last Friday and a 150 lap Wall Modified and
SK Type Modified event on Saturday plus support divisions. It was
mighty cold and blustery at the south Jersey shore oval last Friday.
There were 28 tour type modifieds on hand including Ted Christopher
and Jeff Malave. Ken Woolley Jr., a Wall regular won the event that
took on the look of a demolition derby as only six cars were running
at the finish. It was a combination of a cold track and numerous
amounts of liquids dumped on the racing surface that made for less
than ideal racing conditions. Jamie Tomaino, a veteran of the NASCAR
Featherlite Modified Series survived to finish second. Wall Township
Track Champion Jimmy Blewett finished third. Christopher’s day ended
after hitting the wall while running in the top ten and Malave ran
out of gas in the late going while running third. What began as a
great weekend for the new management of the New Jersey oval turned
into a major fiasco, thanks to the weather on Saturday. Wall regular
Harry Reed drew the pole starting position and jumped out to an
early lead with NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour regular John
Blewett III hot on his tail. The field was slowed at lap 39 of the
150-lap finale because of a caution being displayed. A few laps
later rain began to fall. It had been stated prior to the event that
the field would stop for fuel at the half way mark. Much to the
dislike of those on hand, the field circled the 1/3rd mile oval
until they completed 75 laps. All cars pitted to refuel and while a
re-start was being determined the rain intensified and the race was
ultimately deemed official with Reed declared the winner with
Blewett III, second and Friday’s winner Ken Woolley Jr, third.
Rounding out the top ten were Wall regulars Marc Rogers, Curtis
Truex Jr., Track Champion Jimmie Blewett, Frank Polimeda, Kevin
Flockart Dave Michael and Plainville Connecticut’s Ted Christopher.
Making matters worse was the threat of a driver’s boycott over the
race purse. As a gesture of good will, the speedway management gave
all fans that stayed to the bitter end a free guest ticket for any
one event at the Wall Township Speedway during the 2003 season.
Five years ago in 2007, the much
talked about “Spec Engine” for the Whelen Modifieds continued to be
a hot topic. According to Brett Bodine, the Director of Cost
Research at the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord,
NC, the “Spec Engine” can be built by anyone. Parts must be
purchased from Provident Engineering (Gary Nelson) or from Carl
Wagner. According to Bodine a complete engine, ready to install and
run would cost $25,000. “It is not our intent to put anyone out of
business” he said. Bodine, a former Modified Racer and currently
driver of the pace car at NASCAR Cup events added “All parts of the
engine are encrypted which eliminates any altering”. NASCAR has and
will impound engines for spot checks which in turn will keep
everybody honest. Already in use in NASCAR’s Busch East division,
the power plant has proved itself in being competitive and durable.
Joey Logano, who had recently won the Busch East Championship, used
a “Spec Engine” in his Joe Gibbs Racing mount.
A test session was conducted at the Stafford Motor Speedway on
Friday and Saturday. According to photographer Howie Hodge the cars
seemed to be pretty even when they were on the track at the same
time. Time wise, they were real close.
When Mark Arute made the statement “We looked at possibly bringing
another touring modified division to Stafford, but in the end we
decided that there was only one true touring modified division and
that is the Whelen Modified Tour," he stirred up a hornet’s nest. It
had been rumored that the True Value Modified Series might have had
a shot at getting a date at the high profile speedway. Evidently
that rumor could be put to rest as it would probably be a cold day
before Jack Bateman would bring his competitors to Stafford. The
TVMS had become an affordable alternate to running the NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour Series. It had never been Bateman’s intent to displace
NASCAR’s oldest division. Likewise for the New York based Race of
Champions Tour. The TVMS and the ROC Tours do in fact tour, maybe
not to the extent of the NASCAR Tour but they do tour. The TVMS had
conducted events at just about every track in New England including
the Thompson Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl in Connecticut.
Hopefully Arute would retract his statement because one never knows
when these divisions may be needed to fill a necessary void.
Needless to say, he did!
Last year, 2011, the 2011
northeast racing wound up with 37th annual Turkey Derby at the Wall
Stadium in New Jersey which was run in mid 60 degree temperatures.
Local favorite Jimmy Blewett found himself in the right place at the
right time in front of a near capacity crowd as he won both the Tour
Type Modified 150 and the SK type 100. The event drew 25 tour type
Modifieds and 29 SK types.
In the Turkey Derby 150 Modified event Matt Hirschman appeared to
have victory in sight until contact from Les Hinkley, with five laps
to go, took him out of contention and opened the door for Blewett.
Blewett was the first to admit he did not have the best car in the
race. Still, he was able to lead and then stay in contention as Doug
Coby, Matt Hirschman and Rowan Pennink took turns leading the field.
Coby appeared to have the field covered as he opened up a sizable
lead and was on cruise control when his mount overheated. Pennink
was the victim of a mysterious caution that was thrown while he was
leading. Pennink ended up 15th, the last car on the lead lap.
Hirschman ended up 12th. Worn tires played a big part in the
outcome. Anthony Sesley ended up in second spot and was followed by
Steven Reed, Chuck Hossfeldt and Danny Bohn. Twenty four caution
periods slowed the event.
The 100-lapper for the SK/Wall Modified cars saw Blewett’s second
mount run flawlessly from pole to pole. Hirschman and Woody Pitkat
were among his challengers in this one, but Blewett was never
headed. Hirschman ended up second in this accident-plagued event,
with Chas Okerson of Freehold, Pitkat and Howell’s Ken Woolley, Jr.
rounding out the top five. Doug Coby's mount suffered transmission
problems. Despite a relatively good day Pitkat's day turned sour as
he broke down in Greenwich Ct on the way home. Kieth Rocco was never
a factor as he finished 10th, eight laps down.
Following the event local competitors at the Jersey shore oval
received some real good news as promoters Diane and Cliff Krause
announced that they have secured a deal to lease Wall Stadium for at
least the next three years.
Good news for Whelen Modified Teams came via Kevin Rice and the
Lowell (Mass) Sun. Rice reported that the 2012 New Hampshire Motor
Speedway schedule would likely be changed, with the Truck Series
out. The events at NHMS have been among the busiest weekends in all
of racing. To help alleviate scheduling problems, the NASCAR K&N
event in July will no longer be on the schedule either. This
apparently brings an end to Thursday practice and qualifying, making
the event much more appealing for Modified teams, who no longer will
have to arrive on Wednesday for a Saturday race. With the truck
series now off the September schedule, the Modifieds can practice
and qualify on Friday for both weekends, saving them money.
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly
R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail
This week are several
Vintage photos, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size
That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner
Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes