February 27, 2015
Forty years ago in 1975, the
NASCAR Modifieds made their annual spring trek to Martinsville for a 250-lap
event. Bugsy Stevens in the Koszela No.15 took the win over Ronnie Bouchard,
Jerry Cook and Mike Loescher. A horrific fire on the front stretch marred
the day when Brian Ross in the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile was rear ended
by a bumper-less car driven by Melvin Chilton. Chilton's bare frame rail
tore into Ross' fuel cell and ignited the fuel. Flames raged as high as the
grandstand roof but luckily Ross emerged unhurt. To add insult to injury,
when fire crews arrived on the scene, the fixture that was supposed to
dispense the purple-K wouldn't work and the fire had to be extinguished with
water and hand held extinguishers.
Twenty five years ago in 1990, Reggie
Ruggiero started 17th and took the lead from Jamie Tomaino on lap 142 and
went on to win the season opening 200 lapper at Martinsville. Jeff Fuller
finished second and was followed by Jamie Tomaino, George Kent and Jerry
Twenty years ago in 1995, the
Modifieds were silent as the action was in Atlanta. Johnny Benson passed Ken
Schrader with eight laps to go and went on to win the Busch Grandnational
event. Jeff Gordon dominated the Winston Cup event.
Fifteen years ago, in 2000, Mark
Martin was the Busch Grandnational winner at Atlanta after waiting out a
six-hour rain delay. Dale Earnhardt Sr. was the Winston Cup winner after
teammate Mike Skinner lost an engine in the closing laps.
Ten years ago in 2005, the big news
of the week was the announcement that the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series
would be returning to Martinsville, Virginia on Saturday night, September 3.
The event, 250 laps in length, would carry a purse of $110,000. The speedway
would install temporary Musco lighting to illuminate the .525 mile speedway.
Speedway President Clay Campbell stated that the event would be held in
combination with NASCARís newly-formed Southern Modified Tour. Drivers will
earn championship points for their respective divisions. The Martinsville
event will be NASCARís version of the highly popular North Ė South Shootout
that is run as an open competition Modified event at the Concord Motorsports
In the opinion of many the NEAR display at the annual Race-a-Rama was the
highlight of the show. Plenty of drivers from years gone by and the present
were on hand to sign autographs including Bob Polverari, Billy Greco, Jap
Membrino, Ray Miller, Moon Burgess and Bob Potter. It was also announced
that Eddie Flemke Sr, a charter member of NEAR and a member of the Hall of
Fame would be inducted into the New Britain CT. Sports Hall of Fame on March
31. Flemke, who became a Modified Legend in his own time has over 500 wins
to his credit and is responsible for mentoring many including Pete Hamilton,
Richie Evans and Ronnie Bouchard. A hot topic of conversation was the
momentum that the True Value Modified Series is gaining. The True Value
Modifieds are an affordable alternative to the Whelen Modified Tour. Series
leader Jack Bateman says he has 46 teams lined up to compete in 2005. The
TVMS was born when the Modified division was displaced from the Claremont
Speedway in New Hampshire. Since then the series has branched out to other
tracks in the state as well as those in Vermont and now Massachusetts as
they have three dates at the Seekonk Speedway.
It looked like the voting taxpayers in the State of Florida didnít want
to subsidize a proposed NASCAR Auto Racing Hall of Fame in the Daytona Beach
area. The Quinnipac University in Hamden, Ct released results of a poll
taken that showed that voters, by an 81 percent to 16 percent margin,
opposed the possibility of giving $75 million to help Daytona Beach land a
NASCAR Hall of Fame. To add insult to injury, even NASCAR fans didnít like
the idea: They opposed it by a margin of 63 percent to 35 percent. The poll
was taken of 1,007 voters in the state. Known for its exactness and
thoroughness, the Quinnipac poll was selected a "winner" by the New York
Post for the most accurate prediction on the Schumer-D'Amato Senate race in
1998, and results are featured regularly in The New York Times, The
Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, and on national network
Martin Truex, Jr. won the first Busch series race held outside of the
United States by pulling away from the field following the final caution
flag. Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards followed him across the line six
seconds behind; Adrian Fernandez in 10th was the highest finishing Mexican
Five years ago in 2010, with
Speedweeks in Florida and the New Smyrna World Series history most of the
auto racing snow birds had headed back north to await the beginning of the
2010 season at their favorite tracks. For the most part race fans and teams
endured the cold, wind and rain during their stays in the sunshine state.
The racing at New Smyrna could have been better but the somewhat short
fields didnít help. Ted Christopher was off his game a bit as many thought
he would clean house in Fla. Keith Rocco had a chance to prove himself but
he blew it when he went after Ron Silk. Rocco has a lot of raw talent but he
needed to tone it down a bit.
A big disappointment was the fact that Burt Myers didnít come to New
Smyrna to trade paint with the northern boys. Myers has become somewhat of a
racing personality because of his part in the Mad House reality show on the
Had occasion to speak to Bob Garbarino who stated that he was surprised
to hear from Donny Lia that he was going with the trucks. In the mean time,
he said, no deals with any one had been made. It could very well mean that
the Mystic Missile has taken its final lap.
Lou Modestino reported that the recession has hit the Daytona Beach area
hard with several businesses closed up, and there were lots of half-priced
tickets for the big events at Daytona International Speedway. He also stated
that there were a lot of room vacancies, even though the room rates at the
major hotels had dropped prices, some as much as two-thirds.
Between the weather and the ailing economy, things were way off from a
few years ago in the Daytona Beach area.
Kyle Busch barely overtook Greg Biffle out of the final turn in a
green-white-checker finish to win by 0.051 seconds in the NASCAR Nationwide
race at Fontana, California on Saturday, with Brad Keselowski right behind
It was a heartbreaking loss for polesitter Joey Logano, who led 130 laps
and was up front when the final caution came out. Busch's Joe Gibbs Racing
teammate finished fifth.
Danica Patrick was 31st in her second Nationwide race, three laps off the
pace and ahead of six other cars that were still running at the end.
In Sprint Cup action Jimmie Johnson held of Kevin Harvick to take the win
at Fontana. Johnson scored his 48th career victory, which came at the same
track where he got his first one eight years previous. He led eight times
for 101 laps to win for the fifth time in 15 starts at California, including
the last three fall races there. Harvick finished 1.523 seconds behind
Johnson, with teammate Jeff Burton in third. Clint Bowyer was eighth,
putting all three Childress drivers in the top 11 for the second straight
Last year, 2014 based on his
performance and skill at the Modified Battle at the Beach Doug Coby
definitely had a leg up on the competition as the Modifieds closed in on
their season opener at Thompson on April 6. Car owner Mike Smeriglio and
crew chief Phil Moran had two complete cars with motors ready to go. Coby
was cool as a cucumber as he survived a last lap Jason Myers punt as he
closed in on his Daytona victory. With the absence of Mike Stefanik and Ted
Christopher only Jamie Tomaino remains from the "Old Guard". It has been
said that Tomaino will be relocating to North Carolina once his New Jersey
home is sold. Jason Bonsignore is also one to watch. A young member of the
Long Island Gang, Bonsignore is now equipped with a SPAFCO chassis and is
hot to trot for a Whelen Modified Tour Series win and title. They will get
plenty of competition from Donnie Lia and Ron Silk. Tommy Barrett went to
New Smyrna and Daytona with a potentially winning car and a proven winning
crew chief. He showed flashes of speed but in the end didnít produce. His
luck wasnít the greatest so its too early to pass judgment.
It had been reported that this yearís Battle at the Beach had a lot
better attendance this year than last. AREA AUTO RACING NEWS reported that
the backstretch grandstands at the Daytona Speedway will not come down until
2015. After that options for the race location include the Daytona infield
road course, a yet to be built track on the Daytona front chute, New Smyrna
or none at all.
Kevin Harvick charged to the front early and dominated the rest of the
way Sunday for his second straight Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix
International Raceway. Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished
second, pole sitter Brad Keselowski was third and Penske Racing teammate
Joey Logano fourth. Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five on a warm and
partly cloudy day.
Kyle Busch took an early lead and was still out front when the Nationwide
Series race was halted with 32 laps left in the 200-mile race around
Phoenix's odd-shaped mile oval. After a delay of more than two hours, the
race was called, giving Busch his series-record 64th Nationwide victory.
Busch led 155 laps for his 10th overall victory, seven in Nationwide, at
PIR and the fourth straight Nationwide win for Joe Gibbs Racing at the
track. It also was the fourth straight win at PIR for Busch's crew chief
Adam Stevens, who was at the helm when Joey Logano won for JGR in the 2012
fall race. Kevin Harvick finished second and pole sitter Brad Keselowski was
third, followed by Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth.
Thatís about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, 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.
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