The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


March 22, 2013

   Forty five years ago in 1968, Bugsy Stevens scored his first of many Martinsville wins as he won the Dogwood 300.

   Forty Years ago in 1973, Paul Radford took the modified win at Martinsville. Richie Evans finished second with Gene Bergin, Ed Flemke and Denis Giroux rounding out the top five.

   Thirty years ago, in 1983, the NASCAR Modifieds had their season opener at Martinsville. Richie Evans started on the pole and ended up winning the event. Greg Sacks started on the outside pole. His run lasted one lap as he lost an engine going into turn three and headed for the pits. It was not a good weekend for Sacks as he received word on Sunday morning that his sister and brother-in-law were involved in a bad accident on Long Island. His brother-in-law perished and his sister was seriously injured. Evans and Tony Hirschman pretty much dominated the event. Hirschman ended up in second spot and was followed by Brett Bodine, Roger Treichler, Bob Fuller and Joe Mammolito. Ray Hendrick, Martinsville’s winningest driver, announced his retirement.

   Twenty five years ago, in 1988, the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour standings indicated that after two events Mike McLaughlin was the point leader. Reggie Ruggerio was in second spot with Satch Worley, Dave Rezendes and Rick Fuller rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth included Jeff Fuller, George Kent, Carl Pasteryak, Tom Bolles and Kerry Malone.

   Twenty years ago in 1993, the Winston Cup contingent was in Atlanta. Morgan Shepherd was a surprise winner when Jeff Gordon pitted for fuel while leading in the late stages of the event. Ernie Irvan finished second with Rusty Wallace, third. Gordon finished fourth. Mark Martin dominated the early stages before breaking a camshaft. A scheduled Busch Grandnational event at Martinsville was cancelled due to rain.

   Fifteen years ago in 1998, Riverside Park opened up the 1998 season with a 200 lap modified event. With 52 cars and 7200 spectators on hand Mike Stefanik took the pole. Stefanik led the early going until getting passed by Chris Kopec on lap 41. Reggie Ruggerio considered by many to be the master at Riverside came from his 25th starting position to take the lead on lap 108. While Ruggerio led, Stefanik was battling with Ted Christopher for second spot. The pot boiled over on lap 187 when Christopher attempted to pass and made contact with Stefanik resulting in both of them spinning. Stefanik was able to restart and finished in third spot behind Ruggerio who took the win and Tony Hirschman, who finished second. In a post race interview Stefanik quipped, “when he (Christopher) falls out of his tree he hits all the branches on the way down”. Dan Avery finished fourth with Ed Flemke Jr., fifth.

   Ten years ago in 2003, the Wall Township Speedway signed with NASCAR for a weekly sanction and Featherlite Modified Tour series event. NASCAR’s elite converged upon the Bristol Raceway for the sanctioning body’s 2000th event. Ryan Newman took the pole with Jeff Gordon on the outside. In the preliminary Busch Series event Kevin Harvick and Tony Raines survived numerous wrecks to finish one-two on the event. Twenty-three of the original 42 starters were running at the finish. The Winston Cup was also plagued with numerous wrecks. Kurt Busch survived to take the win. On March 23, Sammy Packard passed away at the age of 83. Packard, originally from Rhode Island, was the last surviving member of the group that met with Bill France Sr. in 1947 to form NASCAR.

   Five years ago in 2008, the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series began their 2008 season on Saturday, March 22, at the high banked Caraway Speedway in Ashboro, NC. And the Thompson Speedway hosted the first of two open practice sessions, also on Saturday from 12 Noon until 6 PM.

   At Thompson, despite chilling conditions, a good sample of things to come in 2008 were seen. Competitors and fans got to see the new lighting that was installed at the speedway which would provide daylight type conditions once the speedway began its Thursday night Thunder series. Mike Stefanik braved the cold and the wind to give his mount a shakedown along with numerous other competitors.

   In North Carolina, LW Miller scored the victory in the Whelen Southern Modified Tour 150 with a thrilling dash to the checked flag over second-place finisher Ted Christopher. Southerners Brian Loftin and Tim Brown finished third and fourth. Bob Grigas III who races on the True Value Modified Series and the Whelen Northern Modified Tour rounded out the top five. Ronnie Silk, who hails from Norwalk, CT and who drove the Westfield, NC based Hill Enterprises No.79 finished sixth.

   For the first time transponders were used to score and time the race. In the past only races at Loudon and Martinsville used this technology. Restarts were determined by the last completed green flag lap and double file “Cup Style” restarts with the lead lap cars on the outside were used.

   The NASCAR Sprint Cup teams had the weekend off to celebrate Easter. It was not all quiet as Scott Wimmer passed Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer with 21 laps to go and held on to win the Nationwide Series' Pepsi 300 on Saturday at Nashville Superspeedway. Wimmer edged Bowyer by 0.578 seconds for his sixth victory in 149 Nationwide Series starts and first since 2003. Carl Edwards was third, followed by Brad Keselowski and Kelly Bires. Bowyer took the series points lead from Kevin Harvick, the fellow Childress Sprint Cup driver who skipped the Nashville race.

   Kyle Busch started on the pole and was the class of the field, leading a race-high 125 laps before spinning out with 62 laps left. The Sprint Cup points leader grazed Bowyer, who was passing on the inside, and was forced to pit for repairs. Busch finished 16th. It was the first stand-alone Nationwide race of the year and Wimmer became the first non-Sprint Cup regular to win in the series.

   Last year, 2012, Snow, rain and a dismal forecast forced the Thompson International Speedway management to postpone Saturday's open practice session for 24 hours. Among those taking advantage of the early season practice session on Sunday were Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors Todd Szegedy, Ryan Preece, Ron Yuhas, Bryon Chew, Eric Beers, Donny Lia, Patrick Emerling, Richie Pallai, Jr, Rob Fuller and Eric Berndt.

   The Waterford Speedbowl, one of the nations oldest and most historic racing venues in the country, opened its gates for the 62nd consecutive season-opener with the annual Budweiser Blastoff Weekend. In addition to the shoreline ovals usual bill of fare the NEMA Midgets and the Valenti Modified Racing Series on the racing card. Competitors waited out the rain finally getting on the track to practice shortly after three PM. There were 25 SK Modifieds and 28 Valenti Modified Racing Series Modifieds on hand.

   First on tap for Sunday's main events were the SK Modifieds who ran a 62 lap feature. Tom Abele, Jr brought the field down for the green. His lead was short lived as Todd Ceravolo stormed to the lead after a restart. Ceravolo, with his future son-in-law Keith Rocco hot on his tail, led until lap 14 when he gave way to the defending track champion. Rocco ran the rest of the 62 lap distance without faltering as he captured his first win of 2012. It was his 37th career win at the Connecticut shoreline oval.

   Ceravolo had a lock on the runner-up spot until less than five laps to go when he was passed by Rob Janovic. Janovic ended up in second and was followed by Ceravolo, Jeff Pearl and Doug Coby.

   Jon McKennedy jumped out from his outside pole starting spot and led all 100 laps to record the win in the season opener for the Valenti Modified Racing Series. McKennedy drove a car owned by Preston CTs Art Barry. Rowan Pennink finished second with Norm Wrenn, third. Even though McKennedy went pole to pole the event was far from boring. Pennink came from deep in the field twice in the event and Wrenn, who came from a 26th starting spot, overcame going a lap down at one point.

   Rounding out the top five were Mike Holdredge and Dave Etheridge. Sixth through tenth were Charlie Pasteryak, Tommy Barrett, Doug Coby, Les Hinkley and Chris Pasteryak.

   In other opening weekend action at Waterford, Keith Rocco doubled up, taking down the win in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model division event. Charles Beal of Ledyard was a first time Street Stock winner and Ken Cassidy Jr. of Lisbon won the Mini Stock feature. Another first time winner found victory lane in the NEMA Midget feature, as Louisville, KY driver John Zych was victorious.

   The Speedbowl also ran numerous feature races on Saturday. Picking up wins included Paul French of Andover, who won the evening’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified race, Ryan Bigelow of East Hampton who found Victory Lane in the NEMA Light touring series race, and Corey Coates of Ledyard who won in the visiting New England Truck Series. In INEX racing, Dave Garbo Jr. of Stonington claimed the win in the opening day Legends Cars feature and Jacob Urch in the afternoon’s Bandolero race. Other winners included Jon Porter of Canterbury in Super X-Cars, Chris Garside of Waterford in X-Cars and James Logan of Dighton, MA in the New England Four Cylinder Pro Stock tour event.

   Lou Modestino, who has been the Brockton, MA Enterprise's Motorsports Writer for over four decades, announced that Ted Hebert, owner of Teddy Bear Pools and Spas of Chicopee, Mass., has agreed to become an associate sponsor of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at the Monadnock Speedway on Saturday night, May 12.

   Following an idea created by Modified race fan Jim Schaefer at his home track, the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, the Monadnock NASCAR WMT event purse would be bolstered $5,000 by Teddy Bear Pools, the #1 Dealer of Pools and Spas in all of Massachusetts. All competing drivers who sport a provided Teddy Bear Pools sticker on their cars will be eligible to compete for the added bonus money.

   The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series started their season with a lot of heat both on and off the track, the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. A restart shortly after the halfway break set up a battle at the front of the field, one that left Andy Seuss' car both out of contention and destroyed. Contact with L.W. Miller's machine as the two tried to make advances on eventual winner George Brunnhoelzl III, left both crews fuming with one another and plenty of hot tempers on a warm spring night. Seuss drove all the way from 12th on the starting grid to challenge for the lead before Lap 100.

   Brunnhoelzl was on the inside of the front row, with Seuss to his outside and Miller behind them in third as the field raced through Turns 1 and 2 on the Lap 95 restart. Contact sent sparks flying, and Seuss' car hit the outside wall hard with the right front.

   Brunnhoelzl went on to take the win. Jason Myers eased by Miller with two laps to go and ended up second. Miller finished third. Rounding out the top five were Brandon Ward and John Smith.

   Congratulations went out to Tom Fox, a 30 plus year veteran of weekly short track racing, who had joined the Stafford Motor Speedway staff as Director of Racing Operations and Competition. Fox’s duties during the season would entail working alongside Frank Sgambato Jr in the Race Control booth during races and oversee post-race technical inspection in the CBYD Inspection Zone. Fox joined the SMS staff for the final 4 races of the 2011 season as an observer to better prepare him for his 2012 duties.

   As a former racer Fox knew quite well some of the frustrations and hard work that a competitor must go through in order to get his car to the track and in the competition with others on the track. It should be a good fit.

   NASCAR has announced the 2012 race season programming for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour on the SPEED Channel. As in the past, the Whelen Modifieds once again got what the cow left behind after jumping over the fence.
The case of Jeremy Mayfield vs. NASCAR may finally be over. A three-judge panel of 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled on the side of U.S. District Judge Graham Mullen in his previous dismissal of the Mayfield’s complaint against NASCAR.

   Mayfield was suspended by NASCAR in May of 2009 after failing a random drug test and later sued NASCAR and its Chairman Brian France for defamation, unfair and deceptive trade practices and breach of contract. Mullen ruled that Mayfield had signed documents waiving his right to sue and tossed the case out of court despite Mayfield’s arguments that over-the-counter medications led to his positive test.
For the fourth time Kevin Harvick started on the pole for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and for the fourth time, he went to victory lane in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.

   Harvick started on the pole and led 248 of the 250 laps of the .525-mile race track in beating his Richard Childress Racing teammate Ty Dillon to the checkered flag by three car lengths as the Chevrolet teammates swept the top two spots.

   In Sprint Cup racing, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson dominated Sunday’s Goody’s Fast Relief 500 at Martinsville Speedway, but neither brought team owner Rick Hendrick his 200th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory.

   Instead Ryan Newman celebrated his first victory of the season and the fourth for Stewart-Haas Racing. Newman lost a lap after a pit-lane speeding penalty early in the race and was in position to take advantage when all heck broke loose at the end of the race.

   Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson were racing side by side for the lead when David Reutimann stopped on the track with two laps remaining, setting up the green-white-checkered finish. They were the only two drivers not to pit during the yellow flag and when the green flag waved, Clint Bowyer riding on fresh tires powered his Toyota three wide into the first turn pushing Gordon and Johnson high on the track with Johnson and Bowyer spinning and Ryan Newman shooting to the lead as the yellow flag waved again.

   On the second attempt at a green-white-checkered finish, Newman and A.J. Allmendinger battled side by side for a lap before Newman gained control and carried his Outback Steakhouse Chevrolet to a .537-second victory over Allmendinger in a race that ran 515 laps of the .525-mile asphalt oval. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished third.

   That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.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
Courtesy of & Dave Dyke's

Click on Photo for Full Sized

Carl "Bugs" Stevens                                           Leo Cleary                                                   Fred Borden     

Gary Reddick                                              Hank Stevens                                               Paul Radford   

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 22, 2013

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