The Chrome Horn - Looking Back with Phil Smith



Photos Courtesy of Tom Ormsby
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    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.
   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.

   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 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.

   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 decades.

This week are several vintage racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection,
ourtesy of

             Jerry Dostie                                     Jerry Pearl                                George Summers         


  Bobby Turner                                 Mike Allevo                                   Todd Bodine 

The Chrome Horn 'Looking Back with Phil Smith' Archive


Source: Phil Smith/Courtesy of Tom Ormsby and
Posted:  October 31, 2008

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