The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


March 12, 2010

Thirty years ago in 1980, the season opening Dogwood 500 was on tap. Mike Porter took the Grand National win but it was Geoff Bodine who stole the show. Bodine was in contention to win when he suffered a flat tire on lap 211 of the 250-lap contest. Pitting under green and losing only one lap, Bodine charged to the front until his motor blew. Bodine had better luck in the modified half as he recorded his sixth win. Bodine had his hands full with Richie Evans in the early going but Evans' run came to a halt on lap 53 as he hit the wall after suffering a flat tire. Maynard Troyer ended up second and was followed by Jerry Cook and George Summers.

   Ten years ago in 2000 Don Hoenig, owner of the Thompson Speedway won his court case to evict Gordon "Butch" Davis and Brian LaForte as they were over $100,000 in arrears in their lease payments. Hoenig also announced that the season opening Icebreaker scheduled for April 2 was cancelled to a later date.

   Five years ago in 2005, the big news of the week was the announcement that former Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Mike Stefanik would be driving the Joe Brady No. 00 in 2005. Stefanik would remain committed to the Busch North Series where he drove the Grizco Racing entry. Stefanik would be forced to miss five Whelen Modified Tour events including those at Waterford on June 25 and August 27 when the Busch North Series would be in Holland, NY and at Oxford Plains in Maine. Stefanik would be at Waterford on July 23 when the Modifieds are in Scarborough, ME at the Beech Ridge Speedway. Stefanik would also miss Modified events scheduled at the Seekonk Speedway and the Jennerstown Speedway in Pennsylvania. Even on a part time basis Stefanik and Brady would add immense quality and intense competition to the Whelen Modified Tour Series.

   In a joint announcement from NASCAR and the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey, the Jersey shore oval would once again be under the sanction of NASCAR. It had previously been announced that New Jersey’s last remaining asphalt oval would revert back to being an independent oval in 2005. Extended negotiations between speedway partner Fred Archer with NASCAR’s Don Hawk and Ed Cox made it happen. Hawk, by the way, said that NASCAR was still working to get some television coverage of tour series events for the 2005 season.

   It was announced that auto racing facilities in the state of Connecticut could now allow entire families, regardless of age, to enter their pit areas. Previously no one under 16 was allowed. With the advent of budget restraints the Motor Vehicle inspectors that previously over-saw racing in the state would no longer be in that role.

   Mark Martin moved into the lead when Carl Edwards was sidelined by a flat tire, extending his record for Busch Series victories to 47 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman fought for the lead often running side by side through the late stages of the Nextel Cup event, but Johnson managed to take the lead away with 55 laps to go, and hung on for the win. For Johnson it was his 15th career win. Johnson's newest team mate, rookie driver Kyle Busch had a great day going too, and followed across the finish line in second place. Finishing in third place was Kurt Busch, the top running Ford of the day. Two more Chevy's driven by Jeff Gordon and Kevin Harvick round out the top five across the finish line. Jimmie Johnson lost the Nextel Cup points lead and his crew chief was suspended when NASCAR handed out several penalties for violations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, was suspended for two weeks and fined $35,000 when the race-winning car failed to meet the minimum height requirement in the post-race inspection. The crew chiefs for Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick also were suspended. Todd Berrier was suspended for four weeks and fined $25,000 for rigging Harvick's fuel tank to appear full when it actually wasn't during qualifying. Alan Gustafson was suspended for two weeks and fined $25,000 because Kyle Busch's runner-up car was too high in the post-race inspection.

   Last year, 2009, after a 50 year absence, auto racing returned to the state of Rhode Island. Mike Iles of Medford, N.J., pulled off a huge upset Friday night at the Dunkin Donuts Center by claiming the 20-lap TQ Midget feature race. TQ Midget star Joey Payne of Fairlawn, N.J., finished second, while Ryan Smith of Kunkletown, Pa., was third, Timex Morgan of Rochester, N.Y., was fourth and Matt Roselli of Broadheadsville, Pa., completed the top five spots. Lou Cicconi Jr., a top name on the indoor Midget Car racing circuit, was running in the second spot and pressuring Iles for the lead when a water line broke and sent his car and others into the wall in turn one. Cicconi’s car crashed and collected many other front runners including cars driven by Matt Janisch, multi-time NASCAR Modified champion Mike Stefanik, defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion Ted Christopher, Mike Lichty and Jeff Heotzler.

   Christopher rebounded from his Friday night crash to take the win on Saturday night. Christopher was the only driver in the country to score wins in the first three months of the year. Christopher had a busy 24 hours in Rhode Island. After Friday’s race Christopher had to take his TQ Midget to Seekonk, Mass., where it was repaired at Wayne Darling’s race shop. In his qualifying heat race on Saturday, Christopher barely qualified after a rear radius mount broke. The team went to work and made the respective repair just in time for the main event. Mike Stefanik wasn’t as fortunate as he ended up 21st.

   Promoter Len Sammons said he was happy with the racing and the turnout. About 3,500 people attended on Friday, which was about half the capacity. Sammons had been running TQ Midget indoor racing in January in Atlantic City since 2003 and this was his first move to expand out of the Garden State. He plans to make indoor racing in Rhode Island an annual event.

   A sparse field of 20 Modifieds was on hand for the Frostbite Modified Nationals at the Orange County Speedway in North Carolina. Ronnie Silk in the Roger Hill No.79 was the top qualifier. Second fastest was Matt Hirschman. Charlie Pasteryak, George Brunnhoelzl III and Burt Myers rounded out the top five. Few details were available except for the fact that Hirschman passed Silk in the closing moments to take the win. Silk settled for the runner-up spot and was followed by Charlie Pasteryak, Brunnhoelzl III, JR Bertuccio and Jay Foley.

   Spencer Speedway, a weekly racing venue in upstate New York took a bold step which should have been followed by others. As we all know, the overall economy in this country was on a down slide which has put many out of work and many others being forced to take pay cuts in order to keep their jobs. That being said, Spencer promoter John White reduced regular admission prices from $12 adult admission to $10. Senior citizen admission was reduced to $8.00 from $10. It was White’s feeling that his move would attract families on limited entertainment budgets. Spencer Speedway is located west of Syracuse, near Rochester. Waterford Speedbowl Race Director Tom Fox indicated that the shoreline oval would implement aggressive pricing strategies to make it easier for fans and families to take in the races. Former Stafford and Waterford promoter Ed Yerrington often said, “Every empty seat is lost money”. Even if you let fans in for free promoters will still make money as most will spend on food and drink. Fox also indicated that he would be driving a Late Model owned by Scott Gregory in Thursday Night Thunder competition at the Thompson Speedway.

   The Wilkes Journal Patriot, a newspaper in North Carolina, reported that former NASCAR driver Dean Combs was charged with making moonshine. Charges were filed in connection with a large liquor still found near the North Wilkesboro Speedway on Speedway Road. The illegal distilling plant was so large it had to be blown up by authorities. Carl Dean Combs 57, of Speedway Road, North Wilkesboro [NC], was charged with manufacturing non-tax paid liquor, as well as one count each of possessing, possessing ingredients to manufacture and possessing equipment to manufacture non-tax paid liquor, said N.C. Alcohol Law Enforcement (ALE) Agent Shon Tally. Tally said Combs was at his nearby residence when he and other ALE agents found the still in the back of a gray shop building behind a go-cart track, near the North Wilkesboro Speedway. Combs made 24 Sprint Cup starts from 1981-1984 with a best finish of 8th at Atlanta in Nov 1983. He also was a five-time champion in NASCAR's now-defunct Goody's Dash Series and was a crew chief for car owner Junior Johnson.

   Kurt Busch led more laps in one afternoon than he did all of 2008 (164). Not even a couple of heavy scrapes with the wall and a late caution that knocked him out of the lead could deny the victory. He blew by Carl Edwards on the restart and beat Jeff Gordon to the line for a 0.332-second victory that really wasn't that close. With four laps to go, Robby Gordon shredded a tire to bring out the final caution flag of the race. Edwards gambled as all the leaders ducked into the pits, changing only two tires so he got back on the track first. Busch and Jeff Gordon both went with four new tires, coming out second and third behind Edwards. But the leader had no chance of holding off Busch on the two-lap finish, watching him blow by on the backstretch and cruise to his 19th career victory. Gordon also got by Edwards, who settled for third.
There were huge sections of empty seats along the front stretch of the track that is south of Atlanta, which was no more than two-thirds filled on a warm, sunny day. Without a doubt, the economy was taking its toll on NASCAR's fan base.

   Kyle Busch won his second straight NASCAR truck race, holding off Kevin Harvick on the final lap at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Even though he struggled on restarts after losing both second and third gear in his Toyota, Busch surged past Todd Bodine on the back straightaway with five laps to go and held on the rest of the way to win the American Commercial Lines 200.

That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, R.I.02891.
Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail,smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com.

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 old West Haven, Ct. Speedway,
courtesy of
SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.

         Bobby Black                                              Jim Cash                                            Charlie Centenaro


      Tony Dadio                                             Charlie Glazier                                        Bernie Palmer

All photos courtesy of Tom Ormsby and VintageModifieds.com

Looking Back Archive


SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 12, 2010

©2010 GeeLaw Motorsports/Wolf Pack Ventures, Inc.