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Friday 10-28-05

By Phil Smith
 

Thirty five years ago in 1970,the Supers and the Modifieds ran together at the Thompson World Series. Howard Brown in a Super took the win that saw the race get the checkered flag before going the entire posted distance. Fred DeSarro in the Sonny Koszela No.15 had a special Can-Am set up on the engine and when NESMRA officials saw that an "outsider" might win the race, they ended it.

Twenty years ago in 1985, one of the saddest, darkest days of modified racing occurred a Martinsville when champion and most popular driver Richie Evans lost his life in a practice crash. For whatever reason, the orange No.61 hit the wall in turn three and from then on, modified racing, as we knew it would never be the same. In addition to being a fierce competitor, Evans had the best interest of the division at heart and was consulted by promoters and the sanctioning body on a regular basis. Evans had over 500 wins to his credit along with nine national championships. With heavy hearts, the show at Martinsville went on because he would have wanted it to. John Bryant took the win over Bugsy Stevens, Tom Baldwin, George Kent, Doug Hevron, Brian Ross, Tony Hirschman and Jamie Tomaino. It was also during this particular week that NASCAR split with Tom Curley and his NASCAR-North late model touring series. This series would turn into being the ACT tour and NASCAR would form the Busch North Series.

Fifteen years ago in 1990,the Modifieds converged on Martinsville for the season ending event. Tony Hirshman took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 128 of the 200-lap event and went on to record his first win at Martinsville in ten years of trying. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by George Kent, Tom Baldwin, Jamie Tomaino, George Brunnhoelzl, Mike Ewanitsko and Steve Park.

Ten years ago in 1995, one of the best shows ever was a rain out, make up at Thompson that featured the Busch North Series and the Featherlite Modified Tour plus the SK modifieds. It was the best of both worlds and the grandstand was packed to see the best racing that the northeast had to offer. Steve Park took the lead in the mod 150 on lap130 from Wayne Anderson and went on to record the win. Anderson finished second and was followed by Ed Flemke Jr, Ricky Fuller and Bruce Del. Tony Hirschman finished a distant seventh but still managed to win the championship by 3 points over Park. Mike Stefanik took the lead from Martin Truex on lap 130 and took the win in the Busch North 150.Andy Santarre finished second. Bo Gunning started 33rd in the 40 car SK modified field and took the lead with 16 laps to go in the 50 lap feature and recorded an impressive win over Todd Ceravolo, Ted Christopher and Bob Potter. In Winston Cup action at Phoenix, Ricky Rudd took the win.

Five years ago in 2000, Chemung Speedrome in New York and Lee Raceway in New Hampshire were the hot spots. Chemung announced that they would be NASCAR sanctioned in 2001. J.R.Kent took the win over Chris Ross and Pete Britain. At Lee, Rob Summers in the Bear Motorsports entry started third in the 100 lap feature and took the lead on lap six. From there on he was long gone. Dave Berghman finished second and was followed by Carl Pasteryak, Charlie Pasteryak, Ted Christopher and Tucker Reynolds. Dale Jarret was the Winston Cup winner at Rockingham. Jeff Green was the BGN winner.

Last year, 2004, The NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series held their awards banquet in Nashville, Tenn. Drivers and crews from all over the country converged on the music city for what had to be the richest season ending payoff in NASCAR Weekly Racing Series history. Representing the New England region was Champion Richard Wolf who was the titleholder from the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire. Greg Pursley, who raced at the Irwindale Speedway in California was crowned the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Champion. Pursley, won 13 races on his way to the title. Among those taking part in the awards ceremony was Todd Ceravolo who finished fourth in the New England Region. Ceravolo, who was also the 2004 Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified Track Champion said he was impressed by the gala affair that saw over $1.6 million paid out to short track racers from coast to coast.

The Stafford Motor Speedway announced that they had named former Late Model Champion Chuck Zantarski of West Haven as the Assistant Race Director under Race Director Frank Sgambato JR. Zantarski would have a driverís view of the racing which should lead to better policing of the racing in general. A former racer can understand what racers do and why they do it.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at the Atlanta International Raceway in Georgia. In what has to be the greatest rebound in auto racing history Jimmie Johnson scored an emotional win over Mark Martin in the Nextel Cup event. For Johnson it was his third in a row. Driving for Hendrick Motorsports, Johnson entered the race with a heavy heart as the organization he races for suffered a multi tragedy just a week prior when Hendrick family members and employees perished in a plane crash near Martinsville Virginia. Carl Edwards finished third. It was a rough day for Dale Earnhardt Jr. who finished a distant 33rd after a late race bout with the wall. Earnhardt was attempting to pass Edwards and mis calculated when he went to get back in line. Matt Kenseth won the Aarons 312 Busch Grand National event.

Nextel Cup star Jimmy Spencer found himself in hot water when Cornelius, North Carolina police arrested him. Spencer was charged with interfering with police who were trying to serve a warrant on his son, Jonathan, who was accused of pouring paint on two cars on October 6. Spencer was also charged with disorderly conduct. Evidently Morgan-McClure Motorsports didnít appreciate the fact that their driver had been arrested as they released him and hired Mike Wallace to drive their car at Atlanta. Wallace did not qualify for the Atlanta event.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail _ HYPERLINK mailto: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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