The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


February 21, 2014

  Fifty five years ago in 1959, fifty nine starters took the green for the inaugural Daytona 500. As 41,921 spectators looked on, Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp crossed the finish line in what appeared to be Beauchamp by a whisker. There was no photo finish camera but Petty was declared the winner, 61 hours later. Beauchamp was put back to second spot with Charlie Griffith, third. The event, which went non stop without a caution, had an average speed of 135.521 mph. For his efforts, Petty received $19,050.

  Fifty years ago in 1964, Richard Petty led all but sixteen of the 200 lap Daytona 500 and finished three miles ahead of Jim Pardue. Paul Goldsmith finished third and was followed by Marvin Paunch and Jim Pascal. Among those in the field were Ralph Earnhardt who finished 19th, 20 laps down and New England modified and cut down driver Nathan "Smokey" Boutwell who finished 20th.There were three cautions for 19 laps. Petty, who averaged 154.334mph collected $33,300 for his efforts as 69,738 spectators looked on. One hundred-mile qualifying race winners were Junior Johnson and Bobby Isaac.

  Forty five years ago in 1969, the late model sportsman (Busch Grandnationals) replaced the somewhat modified cars that ran on Saturday. LeeRoy Yarbrough won the event, which saw New England Sportsman and Modified great Don MacTavish lose his life in a violent front stretch crash. Yarbrough came back on Sunday to win the 500 by a car length over Charlie Glotzbach. Donnie Allison finished third and was followed by A.J.Foyt. Yarbroughs average speed was 157.950mph with 101,800 looking on. For his efforts he received $38,950.

  Forty five years ago in 1974, the Modifieds were included at Daytona and raced on the road course. Bobby Allison and Tiny Lund finished one-two as they clearly outclassed the field. John Bryant finished third and was followed by Denis Giroux, Geoff Bodine, Jerry Dostie and road racer, Charlie Blanton. The Daytona 500 was shortened to 450 laps because of the then, energy crunch. Even and odd days for getting gas were the norm. Bobby Isaac and Donnie Allison won the twin 125's which were also shortened to 112.5 miles in length. Richard Petty won his fifth Daytona 500 after Donnie Allison cut down two tires with eleven laps to go. Cale Yarborough ended up second with Ramo Stott, third. A record $300,000 was paid by ABC for broadcast rights and only the second half of the 500 was shown live.

  Thirty five years ago in 1979, Richie Evans dominated the modified World Series at New Smyrna as he won seven of the nine events run. Merv Treichler and Ronnie Bouchard were the only other drivers to break the stranglehold that Evans had on the competition. Evans also won a 200 mile modified event at Daytona. Neil Bonnett finished second and was followed by Harry Gant, Ronnie Bouchard, Joe Thurman and Bob Riley. For the first time, the Daytona 500 was shown live, pole to pole, by CBS. Ken Squire called the action. Richard Petty became a surprise six-time winner after Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecked going for the lead in the closing laps. As Petty took the checkered flag, Yarborough, Allison and Bobby Allison were slugging it out on the infield grass in turn three. When the TV crew realized what was going on they picked up the physical combat as it unfolded. Darrell Waltrip ended up finishing second with A.J.Foyt, third.

  Thirty years ago in 1984, Richie Evans won seven of eight modified events run at New Smyrna. Evans lost a fuel pump on the night he didn't win. Charlie Jarzombek took the win that night. At Daytona, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison won the 125's.Yarborough went on to win the 500 over Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip won the Goody's 300 the day before.

  Twenty five years ago in 1989, Reggie Ruggiero won six of the nine events at New Smyrna. Mike Ewanitsko won two and Tom Baldwin won the series closing Richie Evans Memorial. Darrell Waltrip was at the top of his game as he won both the Goody's 300 and the Daytona 500.

  Twenty years ago in 1994, Richie Gallup ended up winning four of the eight modified events run at New Smyrna. Tom Baldwin, although winless used consistency to win the series championship. Other winners were Ricky Fuller, Bruce D'Assandro and Ted Christopher who won the series ending Richie Evans memorial. At Daytona, Bob Newton pulled his Hoosier Tires out of the event in the interest of safety, as the tires were not wearing properly. Ernie Irvan and Dale Earnhardt won the 125's.For the fifth straight year; Dale Earnhardt won the Busch GN Goody's 300 with Dale Jarrett, second. Chad Little the first GN regular finished third. Among the casualties were Mike Stefanik, Doug Hevron and Mike McLaughlin who were collected in a lap five wreck. The 500 saw Sterling Marlin score his first Winston Cup win. Ernie Irvan finished second with Terry Labonte, third.

  Fifteen years ago, in 1989, at New Smyrna on Monday night, Ted Christopher made it two in a row George Kent in the Gary Cretty No. 26. Kent switched from Hoosier to Goodyear but still couldn’t catch the Connecticut speedster. JR Bertuccio finished third with Eric Beers, fourth. At Daytona, Ken Schrader was the Busch Grandnational Series top qualifier as he took the pole for the NAPA 300 with a speed of 189.865mph.Randy Lajoie was the outside pole sitter. Tuesday night at New Smyrna belonged to Doug French as he jumped out in front and beat Ted Christopher to the line. Jamie Tomaino finished third. Christopher returned to winning form on Wednesday at New Smyrna as he won his third event of the series over Kent, Beers and Tomaino. At Daytona the big news was that Mike Helton was named as SR. Vice President and CEO of NASCAR and his duties were to oversee the day to day operations of NASCAR. Bill France would still maintain ultimate control as he remained as President of the sanctioning body. At Daytona on Thursday at the 125's, Bobby Labonte passed Jeff Gordon with 12 laps to go to win the first event. Dale Earnhardt won the second 125 over Jeremy Mayfield. During the first lap, Wally Dallenbach took out John Andretti and Jeff Green. Christopher and Tomaino opened up a lead of a half lap at New Smyrna on Thursday night. Christopher maintained the point and recorded his fourth victory. George Kent finished third with Doug French, fourth. On Friday at Daytona, Speedway Motorsports announced that they had sold the Charlotte Motor Speedway name to home improvement giant Lowes for $35million. Lowes had previously been a NASCAR sponsor but was dumped in favor of Home Depot. Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the IROC event held at the 2-1/2 mile speedway.

  Ten years ago in 2004, the action continued at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida on Tuesday night, February 10. The Modifieds had Monday night off. On Tuesday night, Eric Beers took advantage of Ted Christopher and Donnie Lia’s misfortune as he took the win in Round 4 of the World Series. Christopher started on the pole and was looking to be the first repeat winner when Lia made a move under him, which resulted in both ending up in the wall. Lia accepted responsibility for the incident. There had been virtually no passing on the high-banked oval this year as the track had become worn and the temperatures had not been ideal for racing. Buck Catalano, who normally races at the Spencer Speedway in upstate New York, ended up second with Charlie Pasteryak, third. JR Bertuccio and Mike Fitch rounded out the top five. Lia was able to make repairs after the crash and ended up seventh behind John Blewett III who was sixth. Chuck Hossfeld, who was driving for Bob Garbarino on the Modified tour made his first appearance driving his own car and finished 11th. It was also good to see Bo Gunning break into the top ten as he finished 8th. The Modifieds went the 50-lap distance on Wednesday night. Eddie Flemke Jr. and the Hill Enterprises team joined the field and made the most of their effort as they took the win. Flemke, who started third, took the lead on the first lap when John Blewett III drifted up, leaving an opening. It was clear sailing from then on. Blewett, who was then slugging it out with Ted Christopher, lost a radiator hose and triggered a wreck, which ultimately put him out for the night. Christopher applied the pressure to Flemke to the point where his rear bumper looked like it had been through a war but the second generation driver never faltered as he romped home for the win. Christopher settled for second with George Kent, third. Charlie Pasteryak and Chuck Hossfeld rounded out the top five. Flemke stated they never intended to run the whole series, just the last three or four events. On Thursday night Ted Christopher became the first repeat winner in modified competition at New Smyrna. Christopher started on the pole and led the entire 25-lap distance. Buck Catalano finished second with Eric Beers, third. JR Bertuccio and Mike Fitch rounded out the top five. Things got ugly during the early going when Ed Flemke Jr. came together with George Kent. Kent spun out and went after Flemke, eventually planting him into the wall. Flemke ended up in 19th spot while Kent ended up 9th behind Don Lia, Chuck Hossfeld and Bo Gunning. On Friday night it was the Richie Evans Memorial 100. John Blewett III, who had horrible luck in the series, started dead last in the 27-car field and survived numerous restarts and a crash to walk away the winner. A lap nine crash collected eleven cars, including Blewett. Blewett was able to rejoin the field but others weren’t as fortunate.

  The accident was triggered when Charlie Pasteryak and Bo Gunning made contact with Pasteryak getting the worst of the deal as he hit the outside wall. Once the field restarted those not involved in the wreck made pit stops with many putting on fresh rubber. Another late race caution found the same scenario. On the restart, Ed Flemke was attempting to rundown leader Blewett and George Kent. Flemke appeared to be the fastest car but as the laps wore down he appeared to be getting loose. Ted Christopher then put the bumper to him and sent the Hill’s Enterprises No.79 into the inside wall. Flemke was able to re-fire his engine and took off after Christopher while he circled the track under caution. Flemke figured that the track officials should have taken action against Christopher for his overly aggressive driving and seeing as though they didn’t, Flemke plowed Christopher in the rear and then exited the track to the pit area. Once in the pits, Christopher’s crew joined Flemke’s crew for some tea and crumpets! Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. George Kent ended up finishing second to Blewett. Rounding out the top five were Eric Beers, JR Bertuccio and Chuck Hossfeld. Christopher managed to finish tenth. The heavy rains that washed out the racing at Daytona on Saturday also washed out the final night of the World Series at New Smyrna. There will be no make up. Eric Beers was named the modified champion of the series as he beat Ted Christopher by 31 points. Donnie Lia ended up third with JR Bertuccio, fourth and George Kent, fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Charlie Pasteryak, Buck Catalano, Kevin Goodale, John Bush and Chris Young.

  At the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday the twin 125 qualifying races for the Daytona 500 were run with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott Sadler scoring the wins. Of the 45 cars that entered the events, 43 of them qualified for the 500. Going home were Kirk Shelmerdine, a former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Andy Hillenburg. In comparison to other years, a 45-car field for the 500 is a light one. The NASCAR Craftsman Trucks ran under the lights at the Daytona International Speedway last Friday night. Carl Edwards won it in a Ford. Toyota, in its first showing, almost stole the show as Travis Kvapil finished second in the once domestic brand series. Heavy rains descended on the Daytona area on Saturday afternoon bringing the Busch Series Hershey’s Kisses 300 to a halt. The event was completed on Monday, February 16 at 11:00 am. An estimated 200,000 were on hand when President George Bush gave the command to start the engines. The only scary wreck occurred when Michael Waltrip took a mean tumble on the backstretch. It seemed like ages until Waltrip emerged unhurt. In a TV interview Waltrip was extremely critical of the track crew, which left him hanging upside down for quite a while. Waltrip finally convinced the rescue workers to roll his car back in the upright position and loa and behold he got out without a problem. Unlike last year when the 500 was stopped because of rain, the event ran the entire posted distance.

  It looked like there would be a break in the Anti-trust suit that had been filed against NASCAR over the awarding of NEXTEL (formerly Winston) Cup dates. It had been strongly rumored that the International Speedway Corporation, which is controlled by the France family that also controls NASCAR, may sell their track in Rockingham, North Carolina to Speedway Motorsports, which owns the Texas track that has been seeking a second date. If Speedway Motorsports ended up owning Rockingham they could move their date to Texas. A similar situation took place when O. Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports and Bob Bahre, owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway, also in North Carolina, and moved their dates. One went to Loudon and one went to Texas. If the deal for Rockingham ever goes through it’s a good bet that the Anti-trust suit will go away. A few months later it happened!

  Five years ago in 2009 after having Sunday off to repair and refresh some of the tour type and SK type Modifieds that were damaged in the first two nights of the World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida a near full field was on hand. Among those on hand for race #3 was Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman. Ted Christopher beat out Newman at Loudon in 2008. Newman redeemed himself at New Smyrna on Monday night. The closing laps saw numerous lead changes between the two and in the end at the checkered flag it was Newman in for the win by inches. Christopher finished second and was followed by Eric Goodale, John Jensen and Jon McKennedy. Jimmy Blewett made it three in a row in SK type Modified competition.

  Eric Goodale and Ted Christopher led the 23 car field down for the start of the night’s 25 lap feature. Before one lap was completed Christopher had taken the lead. Matt Hirschman slowed immediately in what was suspected to be transmission problems. A big wreck on the seventh lap collected Ryan Preece, Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Grigas, III, Jon McKennedy, Jimmy Blewett, Louie Mechalides, Richard Savory and Eric Goodale. Christopher continued to survive several restarts while Goodale slipped a bit, which opened a door for Newman. Newman dogged the defending NASCAR champion until the closing laps when he blew him away with an outside pass on a restart.

  When Jimmy Blewett took the checkered flag in the SK type Modified 15 lapper it was almost 12:30am on Tuesday morning. Frank Ruocco, Jimmy Zacharias and David Cranmer rounded out the top five. Those five were the only drivers who finished the race.

Ted Christopher ended his World Series dry spell on Tuesday night as he won the Tour type Modified 25 lap feature. Jimmy Blewett remained unbeatable in the SK type Modifieds as he went pole to pole to record his fourth feature win in the division.

  Monday night’s winner Ryan Newman started on the pole of the Modified feature with Jimmy Blewett on the outside. Blewett jumped into the lead at the start. Newman faded a bit as Christopher, who started third, moved into the runner-up spot. By the eighth lap Christopher had moved into the lead. Newman continued to fade as Chuck Hossfeld moved into the third position. In what looked to becoming a non-stop event changed quickly as Eric Goodale, Matt Hirschman and Ryan Preece wrecked together in turn four on the 16th lap. Once the cars and debris was cleared the feature went non-stop from there. Blewett had nothing for Christopher and was forced to settle for second. Hossfeld ended up third with Ronnie Silk, fourth. It was the first night of competition for Silk and the Roger Hill Race Team. Jon McKennedy rounded out the top five. Ryan Newman rebounded from a pit stop on lap 16 to finish sixth.

  Following Blewett in the SK type Modified feature were Bobby Grigas, III, Frank Ruocco, David Cranmer and Ron Schultz. The event was cut two laps short when Jimmy Zacharias, Eric Goodale and Wayne Arute were all involved in grinding crash on the front stretch. Arute got the worst of it, hitting the wall head-on. He exited the car uninjured, but his car suffered heavy damage.

  The tour type Modifieds at New Smyrna ran the 50 lap John Blewett III Memorial 50 lapper on Wednesday night. Ronnie Silk, in his second night of competition, took the win over Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale. Jimmy Blewett made it five in a row in SK type Modified competition.

  Early in the evening Louie Mechalides replaced Frank Ruocco in the Bear Motorsports No. 14. Ruocco picked up a ride in the Joe Brady back-up car. Chuck Hossfeld drew the pole starting spot and took the lead at the start. By the second lap Silk had closed on the leader and was applying the heat. Hossfeld got a slight reprieve when Mechalides spun in turn two, bringing out the caution. Shortly after the field restarted Hirschman brought out the caution when he spun on the front stretch, hitting the water barrels that guard pit road. Hirschman was able to drive away and rejoin the field. Hossfeld led until lap 11 when he gave way to a determined Silk. The caution flew again on lap 23 for Shelly Perry who spun on the back stretch and for Steve Witt who hit the wall at the start-finish line. On the restart, Hossfeld, who had been running second, faded. Eric Goodale moved into the runner-up spot. At just about the same time Richard Savory’s engine dumped its innards in a billow of smoke. Following a realignment of the field Silk jumped out to a sizeable lead with Goodale, Ryan Preece, Bob Grigas and Hossfeld in tow.

  On lap 46, Ryan Preece had a run on Eric Goodale for second place on the backstretch. Preece pulled out and Goodale threw a block on him. The pair made contact and Goodale went spinning down low. Preece made it to the end of the straightway when his right rear tire went down. He then slid up into Chuck Hossfeld, who impacted the outside wall in turn three. Preece drove away and pitted for a new tire. Goodale also drove away and pitted. Hossfeld was hauled off by a wrecker. On the restart Silk led Grigas, Christopher, Ruocco and Hirschman. Grigas got a little over excited as he went high on the track and gave way to Christopher. In the end, Christopher had nothing for Silk. Christopher settled for second with Hirschman, third. Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five. Grigas ended up in sixth spot and Preece in eighth.

  Finishing behind Blewett in the Wednesday night SK type event was Frank Ruocco, Brad Van Houten, Tommy Farrell and Jimmy Zacharias.
In tour type Modified action on Thursday night Ted Christopher scored his second victory of the series. Jimmy Blewett continued to dominate in the SK types as he made it six in a row. Despite the fact that usually by Thursday there had been thousands of race fans in the Daytona-New Smyrna area the crowds were down to say the least. At New Smyrna the grandstands were less than half full and at Daytona where usually the Sprint Cup Duals are near a sell out there were considerable empty seats observed.

  In the Modified 25 lapper, Christopher started from the pole and jumped out to an early lead at the start over Chuck Hossfeld, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Bobby Grigas, III. The first caution of the race fell on lap 3 when Frank Ruocco, driving the Joe Brady back-up, hit the second turn wall near the beginning of the backstretch. Christopher led the restart and was followed by Hossfeld, Ronnie Silk, Blewett, Grigas and Hirschman who had faded since the start. Silk, who was looking to make it two in a row, took over the runner-up spot on lap 10 after getting by Hossfeld on the low side. The caution flew again on lap 14, this time for John Jensen who had come to a stop on the front stretch. Once the field went back to green Silk turned up the heat on the backside of the leader. On lap 17 Silk took the lead in a somewhat rough way. Christopher returned the favor on lap 22 as he re-took the lead. Grigas followed as Silk slipped to third. Christopher held on for the win and was followed by Grigas, Silk, Hirschman, Hossfeld, Blewett, Eric Goodale, Rob Fuller, Jon McKennedy and Kevin Goodale.
In SK type competition Blewett took the lead from Frank Ruocco on lap 3 and that’s the name of that tune!

  The Richie Evans Memorial 100 was the main attraction at New Smyrna on Friday night. Each year the New Smyrna Speedway honors the fallen Champion and icon to the sport of open wheeled Modified Racing. The RE 100 was the most exciting event of the week and kept the near capacity crowd on its feet for most of the event. Ted Christopher was the eventual winner after trading the lead close to ten times with Ronnie Silk. Temperatures were in the high 50’s-low 60’s at race time.

  Jimmy Blewett took the lead on the start with Silk on his rear bumper. Silk passed Blewett for the lead on lap 3. The first caution of the evening flew on lap 11 for Shelly Perry who spun in turn 4. The restart was aborted when Vinnie Annarummo spun by himself. Annarummo was driving the Joe Brady back-up.

  A strange thing happened on lap 11. Danny Marcello arrived at the track and was allowed to join the event. That was a dumb move by who ever made that decision as he could have wrecked half the field with an untested car. Marcello was black flagged for not getting up to speed. A big logjam took place on the restart. Several cars got together on the front stretch as the green flag came out. Those involved include Kevin Goodale, Chuck Hossfeld, JR Bertuccio, Rob Fuller, Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Jon McKennedy and Ryan Preece. The field returned to green flag conditions. All continued except Blewett as his car was sidelined with rear end problems. The caution flew again on lap 28. Butch Perry spun. Among those who pitted were Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld and Ryan Preece. Silk continued to lead as the field went back to green. At the halfway point, it was Silk, Bobby Grigas, Eric Goodale, Hirschman, Andy Seuss, John Jensen, Kevin Goodale, JR Bertuccio, Ted Christopher and Peter Jarvis. Butch Perry spun again on lap 53. Silk and most of the front runners pitted. Eric Goodale inherited the lead on the restart. With 13 cars left running Jensen pulled Goodale on the restart. Christopher stormed his way to the front and on lap 60 took the lead. Grigas and Silk came with him into second and third as Jensen dropped to fourth. At lap 67 the racing was at a fever pitch. Silk made bonsai move on the low side of Christopher to take the lead. Not one to take it sitting down, Christopher rose to the occasion on lap 69 to retake the top spot. At lap 77, Silk passed Christopher again for the lead. Christopher tried a crossover move to retake the lead, but it didn't work. The caution flew again on lap 79 for the Perry’s who wrecked each other. Silk and Christopher served up a see-saw battle for the lead. Christopher took the lead for the final time on lap 96. Following Christopher at the finish was Silk, Grigas, Hirschman, Kevin Goodale and Chuck Hossfeld.

  Jimmy Blewett made it seven in a row in the SK type Modifieds. Kevin Goodale was second, Tom Ferrell, Jimmy Zacharias, and Rob Schultz rounded out the top five.

  Saturday night was pretty much a lame duck session for the Modifieds and the SK types. Ted Christopher had already sewed up the tour type Modified Championship and Jimmy Blewett, the SK types.

  With only 17 tour type Modifieds left for the final night Ted Christopher made it three in a row and four for the week in World Series competition at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Christopher’s main competition Ronnie Silk was on his way home to Connecticut as the Roger Hill Race Team headed for North Carolina. Jimmy Blewett completed a perfect week of SK type Modified racing as he went eight for eight.

  Matt Hirschman and Bobby Grigas brought the field down for the start. Christopher started fifth. Once on the backstretch the front runners went three wide. Grigas, who had a tire getting soft and JR Bertuccio made contact. Both hit the wall a ton and in the process collected Jimmy Blewett, Hirschman, Kevin Goodale and Darwin Green. Bertuccio took out his frustrations on Grigas with a barrage of foul language, punches and kicks aimed at Grigas even though the culprit was a leaking tire! Eric Goodale led the restart with Christopher, second. By lap 5 Andy Seuss had moved into second spot after starting in seventh spot. Seuss was able to get close but was unable to make a move on Christopher. At the finish, Christopher took the win. Eric Goodale beat Seuss by a whisker for the runner up spot. Seuss settled for third. Jon McKennedy and Hirschman rounded out the top five.

  In NASCAR action at the Daytona International Speedway Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were the winners of the Thursday Gatorade Dual 150 mile Daytona 500 qualifying races. Gordon, ended the longest winless drought of his career by winning the first duel. Busch also made an overdue return to Victory Lane, where he was a frequent visitor in 2008 before tailing off when the championship was on the line. Busch won eight races and led the Cup standings most of the season, but started to falter in August and fell apart when the Chase for the championship began.

  Tony Stewart held off a last-lap challenge from Kyle Busch to win the Nationwide race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Stewart passed 23 cars in 11 laps to get back into contention after pitting with 30 laps to go in the 120-lap Camping World 300, then hung onto the lead as Busch, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer fought for position. Brad Keselowski led several times and appeared to be one of the cars to beat, but he banged off the wall on lap 108. Two laps later, his right rear tire blew, bringing out the last of six caution flags and setting up the dash to the finish. Edwards led at that point, but Stewart, with help from Chevy driver Bowyer, pushed past into the lead after the restart on lap 114.As the laps wound down, Stewart seemed to be a sitting duck, especially after Busch, who won 10 Nationwide races last year, moved into second place three laps from the end. On the final trip around the 2.5-mile oval, Busch moved up to Stewart's rear bumper and gave him a nudge. Stewart's car wobbled and drifted high as Busch's Toyota moved nearly alongside. But, somehow, Stewart stayed just ahead of Busch. Then Edwards and defending series champion Bowyer went to the outside to pass Busch.

  Matt Kenseth drove from the back of the field to take the Daytona 500 lead minutes before the sky opened up, handing the former series champion his first victory in NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.

  Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, Kenseth’s bad luck followed him into Daytona International Speedway. He wrecked his primary car, had to go to a backup and started Sunday’s race in last place. But As Rain Closed In On The Season-Opening Event, The Field Turned It Up A Notch, anticipating the race would not go the distance. Kenseth used a huge push from Kevin Harvick to pass Elliott Sadler with 54 laps to go. Caution came out moments later for an accident started by Paul Menard, and the rain that had been threatening all day finally arrived. NASCAR stopped the race two laps later, and the cars were called to pit road. Some drivers climbed from their cars to await NASCAR’s decision on whether to restart the race, but Kenseth sat patiently inside his parked Ford on pit road. When NASCAR declared it over, the 2003 Cup champion tearfully climbed from his car to celebrate his victory, which snapped a 36-race winless streak. It was also the first Daytona 500 win for team owner Jack Roush. Kevin Harvick, who used a push from Kenseth to win the 500 in 2007, finished second. AJ Allmendinger, who had to race his way into the field in one of Thursday’s qualifiers, finished third. Clint Bowyer was fourth and Sadler was fifth, devastated he lost the lead moments before the rain stopped the race.

  Last year, 2013, The much touted Battle of the Beach at the Daytona International Speedway should have ended in a brawl following the checkered flag. Maybe it did behind the scenes but the live cameras were quickly diverted from any post race interviews or activities. What started out as a good idea turned into a typical NASCAR charade.

  Kyle Larson, the defending NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Champion, who is considered one of NASCAR's next "Golden Boys" literally put the bumper to race leader C.E.Falk as they ran one-two to the checkered flag. Coming off the fourth turn on the final lap Larson executed a one -two punch as he first hit him on the inside followed by the shot that finished him off. Larson took his No. 98 Chevrolet Late Model to Victory Lane with a crumpled front nose after winning the inaugural Whelen All-American Series feature at the Speedway. Larson appeared somewhat arrogant as he exited his car and stood on the roof where he was roundly booed by those in the grandstand. He told the Daytona News Journal " "I don't get booed very often, It's kind of cool."

  NASCAR control did not do themselves any favors in the credibility department as they allowed the finish to stand. It's too bad because the race it self was pretty decent up to the final moment when Larsen ruined it and NASCAR let it slide.

  The first annual "Battle at the Beach" for the Whelen Modifieds saw another "bump and run" affect the outcome. Pole sitter Todd Szegedy led the first 126 laps of the temporary four-tenths-mile, but dropped out with a broken suspension on lap 127. Mike Stefanik inherited the lead and held off the challenges of Kyle Larson until he missed a shift on a restart with four laps to go, collecting Woody Pitkat in the process, setting the stage for Park’s last-lap victory. Steve Park, a former Modified tour driver, had worked his way from a 26th starting spot in Szegedy's team car. On the final restart, a green-white checker on lap 149, Park slipped under Eric Goodale for second spot. Stefanik took the white flag in the lead and while he was exiting turn to was deliberately spun by Park who went on to take the win. Goodale ended up finishing second with Boehler team cars driven by Ted Christopher and Doug Coby, third and fourth. Patrick Emerling finished fifth..
A very dejected Mike Stefanik finished 13th, one lap down. In a post race interview the multi time series champion was livid, almost spitting nails when he spoke. Park tried to suggest that Goodale had drilled him, forcing him into the back of Stefanik. A blind man could see that it was not the case, it was an out and out dump job.

  The event produced 17 caution periods and should strongly be reconsidered before scheduling it for next year.

  Evidently based on the "Battle of the Beach" brand of officiating NASCAR feels that it is ok to take out the leader without fear of penalty. NASCAR showed that it has no respect for it's competitors. If for nothing else, one who takes out the leader should be placed at the tail end of the lead lap at the finish, not rewarded with a trophy and a big check.

  Canadian Cameron Hayley won the K&N series race.

  Modified racing returned to New Smyrna on Wednesday night with the John Blewett III Memorial 76 lapper. Woody Pitkat made it two for three at the Samsula, Fla oval as he put the Hillbilly Racing 79 in victory lane. Fourteen cars went to post. Among the missing was Ted Christopher and the Joe Brady 00. For reasons not given, Brady elected to load up and go home. Matt Hirschman also headed home to seek medical attention for a broken wrist and Brandon Ward called it a week because of motor issues.

  The Modifieds ran the entire distance with one caution for a minor spin by Danny Watts. Despite starting on the pole it was not a cakewalk for Pitkat. Ron Silk raced into the lead on the tenth lap and it wasn't until lap 32 when Pitkat took it back. Chuck Hossfeld came alive to take the lead on lap 53 but in the closing laps it was Pitkat who prevailed as he retook the lead on lap 65 and romped to the win. Hossfeld hung on for second with Andy Seuss, third. Patrick Emerling and Jimmy Zacharias rounded out the top five. Hossfeld was later disqualified when it was determined that his car had an illegal gear in the rear end.

  On Thursday night at New Smyrna, Woody Pitkat continued on a roll as he wracked up another win, coming from a fourth place start.
Thirteen cars went o post for the 35 lap feature. Earl Paules took the lead on the start with Chuck Hossfeld and Andy Seuss in tow. Paules continued to lead until giving way to Seuss on lap 25. Paules wasn't about to roll over and play dead as he banged wheels with Seuss on lap 26. Before another lap was completed Paules found himself in the wall with his right front wheel hanging off the car. Seuss led the restart with Pitkat on his bumper. With five to go Pitkat shot into the top spot where he remained to the finish. Seuss faded to third as Hossfeld moved into second at the checker. Jimmy Zacharias finished fourth with Eric Goodale, fifth.

  Friday was a big day at the New Smyrna Speedway. In addition to hosting the annual Richie Evans Memorial 100 lap Modified event the speedway hosted the Annual Modified Reunion on the speedway grounds. Car owners, drivers, fans and officials from many past decades of racing were on hand to mingle and enjoy the numerous picnics. The place was packed.

  Woody Pitkat had been the dominator all week at New Smyrna but it was Ron Silk who rose to the occasion to score the victory in the Richie Evans 100. Silk started fourth and was never a factor until the late stages after his competition used up their tires. A pit stop on lap 65 set the stage for the run to the checker. Restarting eighth, Silk picked them off on by one. On lap 83 he made a bottom shot on Chuck Hossfeld for the lead and went on to take the win from there. Hossfeld applied a lot of pressure but to no avail as Silk took the checkered flag. Hossfeld finished second with Pitkat, third. Burt Myers and Jimmy Zacharias rounded out the top five.

  The New Smyrna Speedway closed out the World Series on Saturday night. Chuck Hossfeld won the battle but it was Woody Pitkat who won the war. Pitkat wrapped up the World Series Modified title with a solid second place finish on the final night of competition. Nine cars took the green on the final night of competition. Patrick Emerling took the lead from pole sitter Pitkat on the start. Hossfeld took the lead on lap 4 and that's all she wrote. Pitkat held on for second with Andy Seuss, third. Emerling and Jimmy Zacharias rounded out the top five.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing Kevin Harvick remained perfect through Speedweeks on Thursday by winning the first of two 150-mile Budweiser Duel qualifying races. Kyle Busch, won the second duel.

  The Camping World Truck Series took center stage on Friday night. Johnny Sauter was taken out on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway last year. This year, another late wreck helped him get to Victory Lane. Sauter caught a break when defending series champion James Buescher crashed on the final lap of the Trucks Series opener, bringing out a caution that prevented veteran Kyle Busch from making a last-lap move on the leader. Instead, Sauter cruised to victory.

  In Nationwide Series Racing at Daytona Tony Stewart drove through wrecked cars and debris to win for the 19th time at Daytona and seventh time in the last nine season-opening Nationwide races at the Florida track.

  Kyle Larson, who crashed his way to victory in the late Model portion of the "Battle at the Beach", found himself involved in a last lap crash that sent his car sailing into the fence that separates the track from the seats, and large chunks of his car landed in the grandstands. The car itself had its entire front end sheared off, with a piece of burning engine wedged through a gaping hole in the fence.

  At least 33 fans were injured after a tire and large pieces of debris flew into the stands. The crash began as the field approached the checkered flag and leader Regan Smith attempted to block Brad Keselowski to preserve the win.

  Danica Patrick made history out front at the Daytona 500, only to see five-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson reclaim his spot at the top in the end. Johnson won his second Daytona 500 with a late push on Sunday, grabbing the spotlight from Patrick as she faded on the final lap. Dale Earnhardt Jr. settled for second as Hendrick drivers went 1-2 in the new Chevrolet SS. Mark Martin was third in a Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota.

   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.

Looking Back Archive

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: February 21, 2014

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