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   The Chrome Horn - News



by Walt Stubbs

A few of you are probably wondering where this column has been lately. Some have asked me why I haven’t been to a race or written a column the past couple of years. ( I did attend the Turkey Derby at Wall Stadium last November but hadn’t been to a race before that since Bristol in 2009) I really didn’t have one particular answer. Many factors had led me astray, if you will, from the smell of racing fuel and burnt rubber. As someone who has followed racing, and modified racing in particular, since the early 1970’s, much has gone on in the racing circles, many good and many bad. Some of these have factored into my “hiatus.” To be honest, not one particular thing has stopped me from going to the races. Things just change in life, and with it more responsibilities. Your priorities also change. I guess the days of traveling five hours up to New Hampshire, then driving back the same day and then writing a column before heading to work are gone. While it may have worked when you were in your 20’s or 30’s, it doesn’t bring the same adrenaline when you are in your mid 40’s. Of course, dealing with traffic and the ridiculous gas prices also doesn’t help. Another change has been the racing, and the drivers in particular. There seems to be no respect on the track today for the drivers and equipment. While there might have been a few wrecks twenty or thirty years ago, and a few might have been intentional or payback, today it seems like there are more wrecks, and there not necessarily pay back, but unnecessary altogether.

So, with all this negativity, what could bring me back to a race for the first time in eight months? Well, the criteria wouldn’t be hard. Only two things really. One, the track would have to be close to home and second, someone would just have to ask. Actually, not just ask but would have to be intriguing enough for me to go. Well, it doesn’t get any closer for me then Wall Stadium, my home track if you will, and a track that got me into racing in the first place. Friend and photographer Fran Lawlor called me last week telling me that Wall was hosting a past champions night. “A Salute to the Champions” the official title. That was intriguing to me, getting to see some of the drivers I grew up watching on the high banks and getting to kibitz with them a little on the old days and how things have changed since then.

So, this past Saturday, there I was signing in at the sign in booth, like I’ve done many times in the past 25 years. While the sign in booth looked the same, the rest of the track surroundings has undergone an overhaul. Under the direction of new promoter Cliff Krause, the track has made a concerted effort to get back fans into the track. Many promotions have been done hoping to bring in families to take in the action. A new speaker system, racing flags around the grounds, and newly painted grandstands were noticeable. It’s been hard work I’m sure for Krause and his staff. Honoring the Past Champions appeared to be another great promotional idea, bringing in the past champions at the track from all the divisions that have raced on the high banks. 56 drivers in all participated in the festivities, but the one driver everybody was talking about was the one who was not in attendance. That would be Gil Hearne, probably the most noted champion of all at the historic track. The all time winner in victories and eight time track champion. Word around the track was that Hearne and his son Jason were not happy from the week before, when Hearne was disqualified after thinking he had won his first Wall Modified feature victory. Officials disqualified Jason Hearne for having a straight rear in the car versus having a “quick change” rear. Of course, I had no idea of any of that as I made my way over to the tented area where all the past champions had gathered signing autographs and greeting the fans. As a fan of Hearne growing up, and having had the opportunity to cover him at Wall in the 1980’s while he battled the likes of Tony Siscone, Jamie Tomaino and John Blewett JR among others, it kind of took the wind out of my sails with him not being there. More importantly, I’m sure it upset many of Hearne’s fans that he wasn’t there, especially considering the fact that he had been at the track for much of the year, helping out Jason. Needless to say, I wanted to get Hearne’s version on what happened so I had the opportunity to talk to him Sunday night. As usual, he was cordial and the talk last about 45 minutes, talking on all types of subjects ranging for his respect of Ted Christopher as a driver to his memorabilia. Only the first five minutes concentrated on his absence at Wall, with him apologizing to his fans but not getting into specifics. “I can’t apologize enough to the fans for me not being there,” said Hearne. “The only thing I can say is that if you had a front row seat to all that has gone on, you still would not understand all of it. Or if you put all the stories of my career together it still wouldn’t even make one page of this story. Again, I can’t apologize enough.” As a fan of both Hearne and Wall, I hope for the sake of the sport that things can eventually work out. Racing at Wall will be better for it.

While Hearne was not in attendance, many old faces were on hand, including Bob Rossell, Harold Dauncey, Brian Scisco, Doug French and Tony Siscone. It was Siscone’s second visit to Wall since he last raced there at the end of the 1992 season. His last visit was almost two years ago when he came to see Ray Evernham’s last race in a modified. In speaking to Siscone during his last visit, you got the impression he didn’t come back for fear of getting the itch to get back in a modified. Now 62 and looking the same except for maybe an additional grey hair (Jealous), Siscone sat in the stands with his family watching the action, and of course, catching up with old friends.

Once the ceremony of the past champions was completed, attention turned to the actual racing. And I have to be honest, the racing was the best I had seen at Wall in quite some time, no matter what the division. Whether it was the street stocks, the legends or the modified main, the racing was relatively clean with the cautions being far and few between for once. (The second sportsmen race was the exception) Concerning the modified feature, I have to be honest, I was hoping that one of the old timers, be it Jamie Tomaino or Tim Arre, would win. Nothing against Anthony Sesely or Chas Okerson but on a night honoring past champions, seeing Tomaino and Arre, veterans of Wall for many years, win would have been the appropriate call. Speaking of both, it’s hard to believe that neither driver ever won a championship at Wall though both have claimed many feature wins. Unfortunately, despite Tomaino starting on the poll with Arre third, it wasn’t to be as Tomaino got together with Arre on lap 22 in turn four trying to get the lead. Arre was not too happy with Tomaino and made a motion to Tomaino after restarting his mount. Sesely wound up taking the win, getting by Okerson on the ensuing restart.

WALL LEFT OVERS: Some have asked if you will see me around at any more races this year, and to be honest, I have no idea. I’m sure the Derby will be tempting. As for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, we will just have to see. As Bill Brice said to me, “It just isn’t fun anymore like it used to be.” And he’s right in some ways. I will say that returning to Wall did get my heart thumping again so who knows. And Finally this Week’s Quote of The Week comes from spotter Tim Riggelman, when told that Mike Ewanitsko was running at Riverhead on the same night as the past champions were being honored at Wall, “Is Riverhead having a past champions night as well?"

All views and news can reach me at 2 Constitution Court Unit 501 Hoboken, N.J. 07030…...

Source: Walter Stubbs
Posted: July 11, 2011

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