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.
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.
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 Broderick.
Fifteen years ago in 1993, Steve Grissom sewed up
the Busch Grand National title at Hickory, NC. 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. 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
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
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
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
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.
Thatís it for this week from 40 Clark Street, Westerly RI 02891.
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E Mail
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications for over 3
This week are
several vintage racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection,
Bobby Turner Mike
The Chrome Horn
'Looking Back with Phil Smith' Archive