The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


November 9, 2012

   Thirty five years ago, in 1977, Geoff Bodine capped a successful season with double wins for the weekend. Chemung ran a 100-lap Open Competition event on Saturday. Following Bodine at the finish were Merv Treichler, George Kent, Maynard Troyer, and Eddie Flemke Sr. Westboro closed out their season with a 50 lapper on Sunday. After an all night ride, Bodine took that one too. Ronnie Bouchard finished second and was followed by George Murray, Bugsy Stevens, Joe Howard and John Rosati.

   Thirty years ago, in 1982, the only action was at Atlanta where Bobby Allison took the 500-mile win over Harry Gant.

   Twenty five years ago, in 1987, the rained out Fall Final at Stafford was run with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win over Jeff Fuller, Brian Ross, Bugsy Stevens, George Brunnhoelzl and Tony Hirschman. For Bugsy Stevens, the day marked the end of his modified career as he stepped out of the Garbarino Mystic Missile for the final time. A NASCAR Modified driver since 1966, Stevens garnered three NASCAR National Modified Championships plus numerous track titles. The SKís also closed out their season with Bob Potter taking the win over Kerry Malone and Ted Christopher. Phil Rondeau was the Late Model winner.

   Twenty years ago, in 1992, the Race of Champions was at the Flemington, New Jersey Fairgrounds. Because of the fact that it was a non-NASCAR sanctioned event the absence of the top NASCAR Modified pilots was evident, with the exception of a few. It was very cold and the crowd was way off but the annual running of the event still drew 54 modifieds. New Jersey runner Lenny Boyd took the win over Mike Ewanitsko, Tony Siscone, Ricky Fuller and Ken Woolley. Long Islander Mark Tooker won the Street Stock event. Tony Sylvester finished second with Jerry Young, third. The Triple A-SK Modifieds were also on the race card. Brian Sisco took the win over Roger Heffler and Ted Christopher

   Fifteen years ago, in 1997, Joe Nemachek scored an emotional victory as he won the BGN 300 at Homestead, Fla., a track, which claimed the life of his brother. Randy LaJoie finished second and sewed up his second divisional title. Ted Christopher ran strong in the early going but broke an axle and ended up 34th.

   Ten years ago in 2002, the Busch North Series capped off their 2002 season on Saturday night with their annual awards banquet. Guest of honor was the 2002 series champion Andy Santerre who took the title by a mere nine points over Matt Kobyluck. Over $360,000 in point funds and special awards were handed out. Judging from what news filtered out it looked like the Busch North Series could very well be running a combined event with NASCARís Winston West division at the end of 2003. The event, which would be run in the south in conjunction with a Winston Cup event could be costly but will give competitors in both divisions needed exposure.
Driver Bo Gunning and car owner Eddie Partridge were officially crowned the 2002 SK-Modified Champions at Staffordís annual banquet. Jim Peterson took top honors in the Late Model division. Gunning and Peterson received gold diamond rings and champions jackets as well as a trophy.

    Five years ago in 2007, it looked like former Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Tony Hirschman had lost his sponsor/car owners as they told him they were retiring from the sport. Hirschman, who was on the Gary Danko radio show, stated that the owners (the Keheleís) got the team together at the Stafford Fall Final and told them they were retiring at seasons end. Hirschman, who had nothing left to prove, could very well retire himself and devote his time to his son Mattís career. The younger Hirschman had recently scored an impressive win in the North/South Shootout.

   In other Whelen Modified Tour news it looked like Series Champion Don Lia would be replacing Terry Cook on the Craftsman Truck series in 2008. If that was the case a strong rumor had Bob Garbarino retiring from the sport. Tour regular Wade Cole scored a victory in Connecticut politics when he was elected First Selectman in the town of Hartland. The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island announced at their annual banquet that they would host the Whelen Modified Tour on Saturday night, August 2. The Stafford Speedway was expected to announce their Tour dates at their annual banquet.

   It was announced that Preston, Connecticut Modified car owner and builder Art Barry would join a select group when he would be inducted into the New York State Stock Car Association's Hall of Fame on January 19, 2008. Barry's five-decade career as a NASCAR modified owner and fabricator had seen him build scores of asphalt cars for himself and others. He first came to the forefront of the New York racing scene at the Albany-Saratoga, Airborne Park and Utica-Rome Speedways with a winning coupe driven by Bobby Santos, grandfather of current NASCAR up and comer Bobby Santos 3rd. Since that time, his own cars had been wheeled by such notables as Leo Cleary, Bob Potter, Eddie Flemke, Brett Bodine, George Summers, Jeff Fuller, Greg Sacks, his son, Ken and Mike Stefanik, with whom he won the NASCAR national championship in 2000 and 2001. A tireless worker, Barry is also known for helping others perfect their car's handling, whether or not they were customers of his Spearpoint Auto fabrication business. Prior to teaming up with Santos at the Norwood Arena in Massachusetts Barry fielded a Modified for Chapin, CTís Joe Trudeau.

   Joining Barry as inductees would be drivers Buzzie Reutimann, "Barefoot Bob" McCreadie, who has an amazing 507 documented feature wins at some 54 speedways from Canada to Australia, Maynard Troyer and the late Les Deuel, a sportswriter, who covered the local racing scene for both the Albany Times-Union and the racing trade papers.

   The newest NYSSCA Hall of Fame members would be inducted at the association's annual awards banquet, set for Saturday, January 19th at the Polish Community Center on Washington Avenue Extension in Albany, NY.

   For the 2008 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season, Stafford Motor Speedway announced they would institute a tire rule for its SK Modified and SK Light Modified divisions. The tire rule would limit the number of tires that teams would be able to purchase each week and use during the course of the 2008 season. SK Modified teams would be allowed to purchase 2 tires each week at the track, while SK Light teams would be allowed to purchase one tire each week at the track. The Waterford Speedbowl management was looking at similar rules. This type of tire rule is not new; in fact it was first used in 1978 when Dick Williams leased the Waterford Speedbowl from the late Harvey Tattersall.

   Connecticut native Joe Lewandoski, who at one time managed the now closed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass., resigned after three years as general manager at the Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania. Lewandoski resigned less than two weeks after saying he planned to return for the 2008 season. In that time, he discovered he needed a new challenge in his racing career.

   Kyle Busch's run of bad luck officially ended Saturday at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch followed his Friday night Truck Series win with a victory Saturday in the Busch Series, giving him a chance today in the Nextel Cup event to become the first driver to sweep all three of NASCAR's national series at the same track on the same But Kenseth, who had no power steering, had nothing for Busch on the restart and he jumped out to a lead of about six car-lengths and coasted toward his fourth Busch Series win of the year. It was the final Busch Series race of Busch's career at Hendrick. He's leaving the team at the end of the season as it makes room for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Busch isn't scheduled to race next weekend in the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

   Jimmie Johnson took command of the Nextel Cup championship Sunday, winning at Phoenix International Raceway to open a daunting lead over his teammate in the race to the title. It was his 10th win of the season, most since Jeff Gordon won 13 in 1998 and barring a collapse in next week's finale, Johnson will become the first driver to win consecutive championships since Gordon did it in 1997 and 1998. Gordon was off all day. He had a tire rub after making contact with Kevin Harvick, and finished a disappointing 10th. Greg Biffle finished second and Matt Kenseth, his Roush Fenway Racing teammate, was third. Tony Stewart was fourth and was followed by Ryan Newman, Harvick, and Martin Truex Jr. Kyle Busch, who was trying to become the first driver to win three of NASCAR's national races at the same track on the same weekend, finished eighth

   Last year, 2011 The annual North-South Shootout takes center stage this past weekend. Previously run in Concord, NC, the event was been relocated to the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. There were 27 Tour type Modifieds and a somewhat slim field of 13 SK type Modifieds on hand. Rain blanketed the entire state of North Carolina on Friday which forced event officials to condense the event into one day.

   It was announced that qualifying heats would be eliminated in order to expedite the running the event in a timely fashion. Southern racer Burt Myers was the top time setter among the Tour types and Zane Zeiner was the pole sitter for the SK types.

   Despite running on a cool, damp night the event drew a pretty decent crowd. Woody Pitkat, who races weekly at Thompson and Stafford, took the lead on the start and went on to lead the entire 50 lap distance of the SK type event. Ryan Preece and Keith Rocco, also Thompson and Stafford regulars, followed Pitkat at the finish. Matt Hirschman and Earl Paules rounded out the top five.

   The Tour type Shootout went 125 laps and when all was said and done, Matt Hirschman sat in victory lane. Burt Myers took the lead at the start and paced the field until Andy Seuss passed him in traffic on lap 33. Myers developed severe handling problems as he faded after losing the lead. Seuss led until lap 53 when most of the field pitted under caution that was thrown for debris on the track. Jason Myers, who did not pit assumed the lead. By lap 60 Hirschman had taken the lead as Myers' tires had gone away. In a sprint to the finish, Hirschman was able to out run runner-up Seuss. George Brunnhoelzl III, Burt Myers and Zane Zeiner rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Jimmy Blewett, Chris Pasteryak, Kyle Ebersole, Jason Myers and Patrick Emerling. Among the missing was Ted Christopher, who was seen walking around the Flea Market with his hand bandaged up, at the Thompson Speedway.

   Tim McCreadie completed a sweep of the Lowes Foods World Finals Presented by Tomís Snacks, Coca-Cola and Natureís Own at The Dirt Track at Charlotte while Matt Sheppard captured his second straight Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modified championship.

   NASCAR's Big Three went to Fort Worth Texas. Kevin Harvick won the NASCAR Truck Series race Friday night after his championship-contending truck driven by Ron Hornaday Jr. was knocked out of the race by a retaliating Kyle Busch. Trevor Bayne earned his first career NASCAR Nationwide victory after he passed dominating teammate Carl Edwards following a tremendous restart with seven laps remaining Saturday at Texas. Tony Stewart raced to his second consecutive victory, and won for the fourth time in eight NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup races, finishing just ahead of points leader Carl Edwards in the so-called "Texas Title Fight" that fully lived up to its billing on Sunday.
NASCAR finally got tough with Kyle Busch who continued to have anger management problems with those whom he races with. The often volatile Busch was suspended from driving in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide races at Texas after he deliberately wrecked championship contender Ron Hornaday Jr. during a caution in the Truck Series on Friday night. In the past Busch, who has a history of road rage on the track, has been fined and put on probation for his actions. Evidently, as most of us knew, he didn't get the message. Fines and probations mean nothing to those who compete in NASCAR's top divisions. Sponsors or car owners pay the fines and it's business as usual. It's good that NASCAR finally acted because the worse thing you can do to a driver is to tell him he can't race! Hopefully now he has gotten that message.

   With the exception of the Thanksgiving weekend Turkey Derby at the Wall Stadium in New Jersey the 2011 racing season in the northeast is over. The undisputed overall feature winner is Keith Rocco with 32 wins to his credit. Twenty eight of these came in the SK Modifieds. Second overall in feature wins is dirt tracker Matt Sheppard with 21 victories. Ted Christopher had one of his rare "off years" as he only had 12 wins on the season. Worth mentioning is the fact that dirt tracker Brett Hearne had 12 victories and at the same time brought his lifetime total to 800.

   Former NASCAR driver Jeremy Mayfield, barred from the association since 2009 for a failed drug test, was arrested at his western North Carolina home and charged with possession of methamphetamine, and police said he might face more charges. Mayfield was arrested Tuesday night, Nov 1 and charged possessing 1.5 grams of meth. The former Sprint Cup driver was suspended from NASCAR in May 2009 after failing a random drug test. Mayfield denied he was using an illegal drug, but NASCAR said he tested positive for methamphetamines.

   Thatís about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.

This week are several vintage racing photos
Courtesy of & Dave Dyke's

Click on Photo for Full Sized

Johnny Coy                                                   Joe Csiki                                                   Ed Clothier

     Dutch Schaefer                                              George Rice                                                  Len Thral         

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: November 9, 2012

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