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Friday October 18, 2013

By Phil Smith

Sixty five years ago this week in 1948, Robert "Red" Byron from Atlanta, Ga. was crowned the first Nascar Modified champion.

Sixty years ago in 1953, Herb Thomas was declared the Winston Cup, then called Grandnational, champion. Lee Petty finished second. Joe Weatherly was the NASCAR Modified Champion.

Fifty five years ago in 1958, Lee Petty won his second Winston Cup championship. Buck Baker was second. Budd Olsen was the NASCAR Modified champion and Ned Jarrett won his second NASCAR Sportsman championship.

Wild Bill Slater closed out the season at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl with a 25 lap win. Joe McNulty was the non-Ford winner.

Fifty years ago in 1963, Joe Weatherly won his second Winston Cup championship. Rene Charland won his second of four NASCAR Sportsman championships and Eddie Crouse won the NASCAR Modified championship.

Forty five years ago in 1968, Thompson Speedway ran their season ender. Bugsy Stevens took the win and was followed by Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Leo Cleary, Bob Santos and Don MacTavish. Stevens sewed up his second of three Nascar Modified championships.

Bob Potter was the Sunday afternoon Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bill Sweet was the Daredevil winner.

David Pearson sewed up his second of three Winston Cup championships as be beat out Bobby Issac and Richard Petty for the title. Pete Hamilton won Rookie of the Year honors in NASCAR’s elite division.

Forty years ago in 1973, Jerry Cook won the season ending modified event at Martinsville. Maynard Troyer finished second and was followed by Ray Hendrick, Denis Giroux and Ronnie Bouchard. Richie Evans finished nineteenth and sewed up his first of many Nascar National Modified Championships. Benny Parsons won the Winston Cup championship and Lenny Pond was the Rookie of the Year. Jack Ingram was the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman Champion.

Thirty five years ago in 1978, The modifieds ran a special event at Kingsport, Tenn. Ronnie Bouchard, driving the Bobby Judkins No.2x took the win over Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and Harry Gant. Gant drove the famous William Mason No.45. The only action in New England was at Waterford where Bugsy Stevens in the Brady Bunch No.41 won a 100 lap open competition event which drew 60 modifieds. Dick Dunn in the Albert Gaudreau No.3 finished second and was followed by Eddie Flemke and Bruce"Gomer"Taylor.

Thirty years ago in 1983, George Kent ran out of gas while leading the Martinsville 250 with only ten laps to go and handed the victory to Jamie Tomaino. Tony Hirshman finished second and was followed by Doug Hewitt, Richie Evans and Brett Bodine. Richie Evans, who won 31 of the 68 events he entered, was crowned the 1983 Nascar Modified champion. Rounding out the top five in points were Bob Park, Jim Spencer, Tom Baldwin and Dick Trayner. Trayners crew chief and chief mechanic was Steve Bird.

Twenty five years ago in 1988, Tom Baldwin won the 250 lapper at Martinsville. Jan Leaty finished second and was followed by Richie Gallup and Jerry Cranmer. Mike McLaughlin was declared the Nascar National Modified Champion.

Twenty years ago in 1993, New Hampshire International was forced to cancel the season ending events for both the Modified Tour and the Busch Grand National North Series. Ricky Fuller was declared the Modified National Champion and Dick McCabe was declared the Busch North Series Champion. In Winston Cup action at Phoenix, Mark Martin took the win with Ernie Irvan, second.

Fifteen years ago, in 1998, Riverside Park closed out the season with a 100 lap modified event and a 75-lap SK event. Ricky Miller took the lead on lap 71 after Reggie Ruggerio lost a drive shaft. Miller went on to take the win and was followed by Chris Wenzel, Jamie Tomaino and David Berghman. Jim Williams won the SK event. Ted Christopher finished second after attempting to pass on the last lap. Carl Pasteryak won the Lee Octoberfest and in Winston Cup action at Rockingham, Jeff Gordon took the win and sewed up his third championship. On November 2, Joe Lewandowski, the promoter and General Manager of Riverside Park announced that he was leaving his position and was taking a position in the marketing department at Nascar headquarters in Daytona Beach.

Ten years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Modified Tour Series finally got to run their final event on Saturday at the Thompson Speedway. A beautiful fall day saw the 5/8-mile oval draw about a ¾ full house. Todd Szegedy survived a near devastating high speed trip through the infield grass, made a remarkable recovery and came back to finish eighth and wrap up the series title in his sophomore year on the Modified tour series. It was a tough day for Szegedy along with title contenders Chuck Hossfeld and John Blewett III. Hossfeld, who started fourth, ran in the top five most of the day, got caught up in a spin after Jimmy Kuhn wrecked. Hossfeld recovered to finish seventh. In the final standings Hossfeld ended up 32 points behind Szegedy. Tony Hirschman dominated the event to take the win over Ed Flemke Jr., Charlie Pasteryak, Ricky Fuller and Mike Stefanik. John Blewett III, who was also a title contender, was extremely upset with the winner after he moved up the racetrack on the back chute and planted him in the wall. Blewett led the event from laps 47-63 after taking it away from Hirschman who led the first 46. Blewett, who started third, ended up in 27th spot. Tire wear was a factor with the outcome. Hirschman must have had a good set as he went the entire distance on his original set. Just about every one else in the lead pack pitted at least once for tires. Jerry Marquis also led the event. Marquis, who ended up fifth in the final standings, led from lap 64 to 84 before suffering a right rear flat. Despite a 19th place finish Marquis ended his season fifth in the final standings. Ted Christopher finished fifth in the standings after recording a 15th in the event. Sixth through tenth in the World Series were Jamie Tomaino, Hossfeld, Szegedy, Carl Pasteryak and Eric Beers. It was good to see Ed Flemke Jr. and the Roger Hill owned North Carolina based team end the season on a high note. Flemke and the Hills suffered horrible luck most of the season with motor problems and confrontations with Ted Christopher. Coming on strong in the final laps, crew chief David Hill felt that if they had a few more laps they had something for Hirschman but it wasn’t meant to be as the second generation driver had to settle for second in the final run down.

NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Bob Polverari was forced to turn over his ride to Joe Czarnecki. Polverari, who was in a wheel chair, suffered a broken hip as a result of a go-kart accident. Czarnecki finished 22nd, one lap down. Reggie Ruggiero who was making his second start of the year clearly got the biggest applause during driver introductions. Ruggiero, who started 16th, suffered a motor problem and dropped out on lap 33, ending his day in 31st spot. Donny Lia, who had previously wrapped up Rookie of the Year honors, was also a victim of engine problems as he also dropped out on lap 33, ending his day in 32nd spot. Doug Coby, who finished 12th, was the highest finishing rookie. Prior to the start of the Featherlite Modified finale the championship contending teams of Don Barker, Curt Chase and Bob Garbarino all shook hands with one another plus the fact there was an awesome display of a low fly-over of three F-111’s.

Bo Gunning and car owner Eddie Partridge ended their season on a high note as Gunning won a hard fought battle in the Sunoco-SK type Modified feature. Gunning ran wheel to wheel with Kerry Malone during the opening laps. With Gunning finally getting out in front Malone settled into second spot. Malone was hit by George Bessette on a lap ten re-start and retired shortly there after. Todd Ceravolo was making a run for a top spot when Ted Christopher caused him to brush the wall. Ceravolo showed his dis-satisfaction with the former National Champion as he gave him a love tap once he got back up to him. Christopher retaliated and slammed Ceravolo on the backstretch under caution and inflicted enough damage for Ceravolo to have to be towed off. On the final re-start Eric Berndt moved into contention but didn’t have quite enough to get by Gunning. Chuck Docherty, Doug Coby and Jim Civali rounded out the top five.

Other World Series winners were Chris Perley in the Supers, Randy Cabral in the NEMA Midgets and Charles Bailey III in the Late Models.

The Featherlite NASCAR Modified Tour Series had finally wrapped up another season. In addition to post-season point fund moneys from NASCAR point fund the top 20 shared in $158,000 in contingency awards including $100,000 from series sponsor Featherlite, $10,000 from Hoosier Tires, $8,000 from Edelbrock, $8,000 from JE Pistons, $8,000 from Moroso Products plus $8,000 each from Union 76, Ohlins and Stef’s products. The last three awards will be paid contingent upon decal verification and actual product usage. Series champion Todd Szegedy would walk away from the awards ceremony with upwards of $31,600 plus his point money.

In Winston Cup racing at Atlanta, rain put a damper on the racing after 19 laps causing the race to resume on Monday. Jeff Gordon used precision timing of pit stops to put him in a position for the win. Gordon took the lead on lap 289 of the 325-lap event and went on to out run Tony Stewart to the finish. Jimmie Johnson finished third. Greg Biffle won the Busch Series event.

Five years ago in 2008, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series wound its way to the Thompson Speedway as the division finished out their 2008 season at the annul World Series. Forty-one Modifieds were on hand for time trials, which were held on Saturday. Taking the pole was Eric Beers who also broke the track record with a fast time of 18.429. Second fastest was young sensation Ryan Preece in the mighty No. 3 of the Boehler family. Third was championship contender Matt Hirschman with Jimmy Blewett and Chuck Hossfeld rounding out the top five. In the re-draw for the feature start Blewett drew the pole with Mike Stefanik drawing the outside pole. Preece drew third, Hossfeld, fourth and Ted Christopher, fifth. Beers drew sixth. Among those in the field was Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified Champion Keith Rocco who placed the Joe Brady No.00 solidly in the field in 14th spot. Among those who didn’t qualify were Reggie Ruggiero and Billy Pauch Jr. Among those who had problems and had to rely on provisional starting spots were Todd Szegedy, Ed Flemke Jr, Danny Sammonds and Jamie Tomaino.

Ted Christopher went into Sunday’s World Series with a different mindset than normal. Known as a hard charger, go for broke driver he was forced to take a conservative route. With Matt Hirschman breathing down his neck in the point standings the Plainville CT driver didn’t want a wreck ruining his chances. For the first half of the 150 lapper Hirschman and Christopher ran ninth and tenth. Both appeared to be waiting for the other to have problems. By the 100-lap mark the championship contenders were running fifth and sixth. On lap 120, while running third, Hirschman began to slow. Two laps later he was behind the pit wall with engine problems. Once Christopher got the word from Crew Chief Brad Lafountain Christopher put the hammer down and went after the victory. Christopher passed Ron Silk for the lead on lap 134 and was never headed after that. Chuck Hossfeld ended up in second spot and was followed by Silk, Doug Coby and Eric Rudolph. There were 11 cautions for 49 laps and six lead changes among 5 drivers. Hirschman, who re-entered the event 21 laps down on lap 143 ended up in 25th spot. In addition to Hirschman the other hard luck story belonged to Ryan Preece. Preece was running fourth on lap 80 when his right front tire went flat. Preece pitted under green and lost a lap. The determined youngster made a determined bid as he ended up 14th, on the lead lap.

Shortly after the checkered flag dropped Matt Hirschman congratulated the new champ. What he didn’t know was that one of his car owners, Ed Bennett, was waiting in the pits to tell him he was fired from his car. Hirschman had split his driving time between Bennett’s mount and that of Wayne Darling. Hirschman, who had won at Chemung and had finished second at Stafford in Bennett’s car, was driving Darling’s car at Thompson.

Thompson World Series feature activity kicked off on Saturday evening with eight (8) events. Corey Hutchings scored the victory in the Outlaw Late Models; Howard Payne came out of retirement to win in the All Star Race Trucks. Scott Michalski was up to his old tricks winning in the Mini Stocks. Scott Foster bested his brother to take top honors in the Outlaw Strictly Stock. Norm Wrenn, topped the Pro-Four Modifieds and Chris “Moose” Douton won in the Limited Sportsman division.

During pre-race activities on Sunday NASCAR continued their 60 years of racing recognition with 1955 Champion Bill Widenhouse from NC, 1970 Champion Fred DeSarro and 1967 thru 1969 Champion Carl 'Bugsy' Stevens honored.

Keith Rocco put a cap on what was considered a break-out season as he won the the NASCAR 30-lap Whelen All-American Series SK (SUNOCO) Modified feature. Rocco, a second generation racer, won the season ending SK Modified event at the Waterford Speedbowl and finished second in Stafford’s season ender to wrap up the SK Modified championship there. Rocco was the 2007 champion at Thompson. Bert Marvin served up a spirited battle to finish second. Josh Sylvester finished third with Eric Goodale and Brian McCarthy rounding out the top five. Kerry Malone, who had previously wrapped up the track title, finished 19th in the high attrition event.

In other World Series events run on Sunday Chris Perley continued to be the dominant force in the International Supermodified Association taking down a strong victory at the World Series. Randy Cabral worked his magic taking his third straight Northeastern Midget Association feature victory. Derek Ramstrom turned in a dominating performance in the Pro Stocks; and Rick Gentes was victorious in the Late Models to conclude the race season at Thompson.

Congratulations went out to two-time NASCAR Featherlite Modified champion car owner Art Barry of Preston who was part of the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame Class of 2009. Among his many accomplishments were back-to-back NASCAR Whelen National Modified championships (2001-02 with driver Mike Stefanik) top the resume of Barry, 73. In 56 years of competition, Barry, who started racing at the Waterford Speedbowl, has won on 26 tracks from Maine to the Carolinas. His major wins included two Thompson 300 wins, two Stafford Springs Motor Speedway Spring Sizzler wins, two wins at Martinsville, VA and two at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the National Open at Lancaster. Barry’s SPAFCO race chassis brand is one of the top of chassis in Modified racing. In addition to Stefanik his many drivers included Jerry Dostie, Bobby Santos, Leo Cleary, Bob Potter, Jeff Fuller plus his son, Kenny. In the beginning Barry was a typical back yard racer as he fabricated his own chassis and built his own motors. In 1970 Barry’s racing career and working career almost came to an end when he suffered two crushed legs while directing a backing fire truck at the Preston City Fire house. Sheer determination and a lot of help from his friends helped Barry resume a normal life and a return to racing.

Barry joined fellow Nutmegger John Fitch, a one-time International road racer and founder of Lime Rock Park. The list also included drivers Bobby Dragon and Paul Richardson, promoters Bob Bahre, Jim McConnell and Tom Curley and car owner/ builder Rollie Lindblad.

Jimmie Johnson led 339 laps as he dominated the NASCAR Sprint Cup event at Martinsville Speedway, and the two-time defending Sprint Cup champion padded his lead in his bid for a record-tying third straight championship with four races remaining. Only Cale Yarborough, from 1976-78, had won three straight championships in stock car racing's premier series, and Johnson is looking more and more as if he'll be the second. Johnson's sixth victory of the year extended his points lead from 69 to 149, and while his closest challengers vowed that the Chase race isn't over, the plaudits keep coming, too. Dale Earnhardt Jr was second, followed by Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon, giving Hendrick three of the top four spots. Denny Hamlin was fifth and Casey Mears, the fourth Hendrick driver, was sixth.

Last year, 2012, The Valenti Modified Racing Series closed out their season last weekend at the Lee USA Speedway in New Hampshire as part of their Octoberfest. The event drew 31 Modifieds.

Capping off a run from the rear twice, Tommy Barrett took no prisoners in the season ending 100 lapper. Barrett, who was supposed to start fourth, was forced to start in the rear as he pitted before the start. Barrett pitted again on lap 46 before his final charge to the front which paid off on lap 86 when he took the lead on lap 86 from Jon McKennedy. By the time Barrett streaked under the checkered flag McKennedy had faded to fourth but had garnered enough points to secure the 2012 Championship for himself and car owner Art Barry. Les Hinkley finished second with Rowan Pennink, third. Andy Seuss finished fifth. Chris Pasteryak led the early going until he pitted on lap 46. Louie Mechalides inherited the lead until giving way to McKennedy on lap 78. Sixth thru tenth were Norm Wrenn, Dwight Jarvis, Joe Doucette, Mechaledes and Max Zachem.

Congratulations went out to Keith Rocco who had been named the 2012 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award winner in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Rocco, from Wallingford, Conn., recorded five top-10 finishes in eight starts during the season. He posted an average finish of 13th with a best result of third place in the Spring Sizzler at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on April 29. Rocco missed six events, nearly half of the 14-race schedule, due to an injury suffered in practice for a NASCAR Whelen All-American Series race at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway in July. He ranked ninth in the overall points standings after six races prior to the injury.

The 27-year-old was able to compete in the season’s final two Whelen Modified Tour races to secure Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. In his eight total starts he also captured Sunoco Rookie of the Race honors on five occasions. Seven of his eight appearances came in the Boehler Racing Enterprises No. 3 “Ole Blue” Chevrolet. In spite of the injury, Rocco was also able to finish as the national runner-up in Whelen All-American Series competition for the third time in the last four seasons. The one year Rocco wasn’t the runner-up, 2010, he captured the national title. Rocco will be recognized for his Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award at the NASCAR Night of Champions Awards on Saturday, Dec. 8 at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

It looked like the NASCAR Whelen drivers and owners will have to dig a little deeper next year in order to modify their seats to satisfy the new rules. The projected cost will run between $500 and $1500.

After competing in 575 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races over 27 seasons, Geoff Bodine called it a career. Bodine, who hasn’t run full-time since 1999, had run part-time since his injury in the then NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Daytona opener in 2000. Although he had a sponsor willing to back him for the 2012 season if an opportunity arose to run with a team in any of NASCAR’s three series, no deal panned out for the veteran. Bodine, 63, ran select races in 2011 for Tommy Baldwin Racing. In his four starts in 2011, Bodine finished with a best of 30th at the season finale Homestead-Miami Speedway. At that time, Bodine didn’t feel that would be his last start in NASCAR, but he now is saying he will retire from the sport due to a number of factors.

“If you race long enough in racing, you will hit your head,” said Bodine, who has suffered from concussions in racing, “I’ve been in that position several times. I’ve seemed to bounce back from them with very little side effects. [People] might say ‘well, you’re okay,’ but the problem with that is I don’t know what might happen tomorrow when I wake up. I pray every night that I do wake up and I do know who I am. All of my concussions could have some effect on my life.”

Bodine’s accomplishments on the track include 18 career Cup wins with one Daytona 500 victory in 1986, 190 career top-10 finishes, an IROC championship in 1987, a career best 3rd in points in 1990, and being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was also very proficient in his days behind a NASCAR Modified. His best year was 1978 when he drove the Richard Armstrong No.1 to 55 wins. His on-track performance and career stats speak for themselves and may be able to position him as a viable candidate as a future NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee.

Pro All Stars Series promoter Tom Mayberry purchased Maine’s Oxford Plains Speedway. Mayberry, a former racer, has found a great deal of success as Owner and President of the Pro All Stars Series (PASS). PASS was founded in 2001 and had since grown to be the nation’s premier sanctioning body for asphalt short track racing. PASS currently sanctions a variety of stock car divisions throughout North America.

Hot on the heels of the news that the Speed Channel was going out of existence was the news that with two full seasons left on their current television contract, NASCAR and FOX Sports Media Group (FSMG) announced an extensive new eight-year, multi-platform media rights agreement that ensures FSMG’s broadcast of NASCAR racing through 2022. Under terms of the new agreement, FSMG also significantly increases its digital rights to include “TV Everywhere” live race streaming of its portion of the season for the first time ever beginning in 2013.

Wells Fargo estimates International Speedway could receive an incremental $830M of gross revenue from the new eight year contract between FOX Sports Media Group and Nascar.

In an unrelated matter, Speedway Motorsports declared a quarterly cash dividend on October 18 of 15 cents per share of common stock. The quarterly dividend will be payable on December 10, 2012, to shareholders of record at the close of business on November 16, 2012.

In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing at the Kansas Speedway, Ricky Stenhouse grabbed the lead when leader Kyle Busch ran out of fuel exiting the fourth turn during a green-white-checkered finish and held off Austin Dillon to take his sixth victory of the season and eighth of his career, driving for Roush Fenway Racing.

Stenhouse had contact with Joey Logano early in the race and ended up losing two laps in the process. But he battled back all day and was in the right place to snag victory from the jaws of defeat.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Matt Kenseth’s Ford was the fastest car left running Sunday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. On a day where crashes were common and right-front tires couldn’t seem to stay together, Kenseth maneuvered his way to the front during the Hollywood Casino 400 to score his third Sprint Cup victory of the year.

Kenseth ended up leading a race-high 77 laps and finished .495-second ahead of second-place Martin Truex, Jr. The victory was the 24th of Kenseth’s career in 468 series starts.

This week are several vintage racing photos from the collection of the late Danny Pardi, courtesy of, SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size


John Bergenty


Stub Fadden


John Falconi


Jeff Fuller

Lou Funk, Jr.

Hank Stevens

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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