Forty years ago in 1968, Ray Hendrick won the
first ever 500-lap race for the modifieds at Martinsville.
Thompson also ran with Fred DeSarro taking the win.
Thirty years ago in 1978, Fred DeSarro
was laid to rest on November 4. The following day, the Thompson
Speedway hosted a benefit race which saw all proceeds go to
Fredís kids and wife. The pit area was jammed, as was the
grandstand. The competitors raced for nothing and the entire
purse was donated. Bugsy Stevens, who had been a fierce
competitor and close friend, was driving the Joe Brady No.41 and
was driving down the backstretch on the parade lap when a ball
joint broke. Stevens swore that DeSarro had given him a message
and became quite upset. Brady's car was towed off and Stevens
joined chief starter Dick Brooks and his assistant Bob Gelinas
on the starter stand.
In 1968 Fred DeSarro would take
down a win at Thompson Speedway. Ten years later in 1978
Thompson would hold a benefit race agter his death. Fred
pictured here with car owner Len Boehler and then Speedway Scene
writer Bruce Cohen.
Stevens dropped the green and the race was on. The event was
scheduled for 50 laps. Geoff Bodine took an early lead and was
cruising to another win. When Brooksie waved the white flag, Bodine
slowed and as the checker waved the next time around, Bodine turned
into the infield pit area and the rest of the field followed suit.
The Speedway became so quiet that one could hear a pin drop! It was
a fitting tribute to a fallen hero and fellow competitor. Bodine was
credited with the win which happened to be his 55th which set an all
time modified record which still stands today. Richie Evans was
credited with finishing second and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard,
John Rosati, Dick Dunn, Charlie Jarzombek and Bobby Vee. It was a
day, which many of us will never forget.
The 1988 NASCAR Modified Tour
Champion Mike McLaughlin ran the season ender at the Waterford
Speedbowl taking down the 100 lap Modified feature. (Mary
Twenty years ago in 1988, the only action
was twin 100s at Waterford for modifieds and SK type modifieds.
Mike McLaughlin won the
modified portion and Ted Christopher was the SK mod winner.
Following Christopher were Tom Jensen, John Anderson and Jim
Fifteen years ago in 1993, Steve Grissom sewed up the Busch
Grand National title at Hickory, N,C. Hermie Sadler was named
BGN Rookie of the Year.
Ten years ago, in 1998, Jeff Gordon won the Winston Cup event
at Atlanta after waiting through a 6-1/2 hour rain delay. On a
sad note, Dick Moroso passed away after a battle with cancer.
Five years ago in 2003, The Stafford Motor Speedway held its annual
competitors meetings. The DARE Stocks met on Monday, the Late Models
met on Wednesday, November 5 and the SK Modifieds met on Friday. New
rules for 2004 were discussed. Conspicuous by his absence was long
time employee Dan Pardi, who had been released from his position at
Stafford. Pardi had been in the rules and competition end of things
and had been a loyal employee for over 20 years. In Winston Cup
action at Phoenix Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the win over Jimmie
Johnson and Ryan Newman. In Busch Series action at Phoenix Bobby
Hamilton Jr. scored his fourth win of the season.
Last year, 2007, The post season North-South Shootout was supposed
to be the big newsmaker last week but that all changed at high noon
on Friday when it was announced that Speedway Motorsports, Inc. (NYSE:TRK)
had agreed to purchase the New Hampshire International Speedway from
Bob and Gary Bahre for $340 million in cash. O. Bruton Smith,
founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Speedway
Motorsports, Inc, announced the agreement. The acquisition was
expected to close in the first quarter of 2008. To align with other
SMI-owned speedway brands, the track would be renamed New Hampshire
Motor Speedway following completion of the acquisition. The
speedway, which opened in 1990 and hosts two Nextel Cup Series
events each year, is located about one hour north of Boston in
Loudon, N.H. Located on approximately 1,100 acres, the multi-use
complex is the largest sports facility in New England and features a
1.058-mile oval speedway, with chair-back seating for 92,000
spectators, and a 1.6-mile road course. The speedway hosts the only
Nextel Cup Series, Busch Series, and Craftsman Truck Series events
held in the six-state New England region. Smith alluded that he had
offered Bob Bahre the opportunity to remain associated as a
consultant with the track that he built.
Once the announcement went public the rumors of events leaving New
Hampshire for other venues were rampant. According to an
announcement made by NASCAR there would be no changes in scheduled
Nextel Cup dates for 2008. Since itís beginning Loudon has included
the Whelen Modified Tour and the Busch East Series in their race
weekends. It was sincerely hoped that the Whelen Mods and the Busch
East would be included in all future plans of the speedway. Since
the track opened in 1990, the 1.058-mile oval had hosted 48 Busch
East Series events and 46 Whelen Modified Tour races.
In a somewhat related statement by Phil Kurze, Vice President-Motorsports,
Whelen Engineering Company, ď2008 is NOT the last year that the
Whelen Modifieds are part of the NASCAR family of racing divisions.
Whelen has many years remaining on our contract for this division,
the oldest NASCAR division, and it is going to continue to be part
of NASCAR in the coming years and a very important part of Whelen
Motorsports. Statements relative to its demise are based on
unsubstantiated opinions or attempts to promote other seriesĒ. Kurze
was a loyal and dedicated fan of the Modifieds plus is a man of his
word. Hot on the heels of the Kurze announcement came word from John
White of the Spencer Speedway in New York State that his track would
host a Whelen Modified Tour Series event in 2008.
Many of the top Modified competitors headed south to the Concord
Motorsports Park in Concord, NC for the 5th Annual John Blewett III
Memorial North-South Shootout. Twenty-eight SK type Modifieds and 46
Tour type Modifieds were on hand. The top three SK type qualifiers
were Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and Keith Rocco. Jimmy "Showtime"
Blewett won the pole for the 5th Annual John Blewett Memorial
North-South Shootout at Concord Motorsports Park. Blewett clocked in
a blistering lap of 15.161seconds to best the 46-car field. Blewett
was flying the family colors and number with the red-white-and blue
#76 in honor of his brother, John Blewett III. John, a two-time
North-South Shootout winner, died in a crash at Thompson
International Speedway. Matt Hirschman was second fastest and was
followed by southerner Burt Meyers, Erik Rudolph and True Value
Modified competitor Les Hinkley.
Jimmy Blewett took the SK type win over Ted Christopher, Tom
Farrell, Jeff Malave and Rob Janovic. After a late race tangle with
Blewett, Christopher knifed his way to the front after restarting at
the rear, catching Blewett on the final lap. Pole sitter Woody
Pitkat was sent to the rear of the field after making contact with
Keith Rocco in the early going. Pitkat, who led the early stages of
the SK-type race, was later taken out when he was collected in a
restart jam-up. Sixth through tenth were Joe Lemay, Steven Reed, Don
Fowler, Glen Griswold and Rick Kluth.
Just prior to the start of the Modified portion of the North-South
Shootout John Blewett IV, the son of fallen driver John Blewett III
gave the command to start the engines. As the race was about to get
underway C & C Racing Promotions presented a check to the Blewett
family for $10-thousand that they raised for the family since John's
death in August.
Matt Hirschman made it two in a row in N/S Shootout competition as
he out raced and out foxed some of the best in Modified racing.
Hirschman jumped out to an early lead with young Eric Rudolph on his
tail. Hirschman led until lap 32 when, under caution, he pitted for
his mandatory pit stop. Ryan Preece, of the True Value Series didnít
and assumed the lead. Preece led until shortly after the Ĺ way mark
of the 100 lap feature when he pitted for his mandatory stop and
handed the lead back to Hirschman. From there on it was Hirschman
all the way to the checker. Eric Beers finished second and was
followed by Bobby Santos III, southerner Burt Myers and Don Lia. Lia
had recovered from an early confrontation with James Civali. Sixth
through tenth were Eric Rudolph, Les Hinkley, Dale Quarterly, Woody
Pitkat and Ryan Preece. Pre race favorite Ted Christopher retired
after 58 laps with an overheated engine. Jimmy Blewett who was the
sentimental favorite finished 15th on the lead lap.
In Nextel Cup action at the Texas Motor Speedway Jimmie Johnson came
out on top after a dramatic side-by-side duel with Matt Kenseth,
grabbing his third straight victory and, more important, wresting
the series points lead from Jeff Gordon. The race with Kenseth was
breathtaking at times, with both cars wiggling dangerously as they
came off the corners nearly touching. The entire time Johnson was
well aware a crash would have taken him right out of the
championship battle. Johnson, who began the day nine points behind
Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon, moved out to a 30-point lead
with two races remaining in the Chase for the championship. Gordon,
a four-time champion, led early in the race, but was no factor in
the late going, struggling with handling before managing to squeeze
out a hard-earned seventh-place finish that kept the points battle
close heading to Phoenix.It was Johnson's 32nd career victory and
first on the 1.5-mile Texas oval. He led four times Sunday for a
total of nine laps. Pole-winner Martin Truex Jr. finished third,
followed by Busch, who led a race-high 143 laps but fell from first
to seventh on the final pit stop. Newman finished fifth and Burton
held off Gordon for sixth.
In Busch Series action Kevin Harvick won another race and runaway
points leader Carl Edwards finally wrapped up his first NASCAR Busch
Series championship Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway. Edwards, who
built a lead of more than 800 points in the first half of the
season, stumbled through the second half of the year before putting
away the title with an 11th-place run in the O'Reilly Challenge. He
leads runner-up David Reutimann by an insurmountable 552 points with
two races to go. For Harvick, running a limited Busch schedule this
season after his runaway title in 2006, it was business as usual as
he won for a series-high sixth time in 24 starts in 2007. It was his
32nd career victory, moving past Jack Ingram into second place
behind Mark Martin, who has 47 wins. He beat Kyle Busch to the
finish line by 3.486 seconds, most of the front straightaway on the
1.5-mile oval. Denny Hamlin finished third, followed by Clint Bowyer
and Matt Kenseth. Sixth-place Brad Keselowki was the highest
finishing Busch Series regular.
This week are several vintage
racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection
Thatís it for this week from
40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467