March 6, 2015
Thirty five years ago in 1980,
the season opening Dogwood 500 was on tap. Mike Porter took the
Grandnational win but it was Geoff Bodine who stole the show. Bodine was in
contention to win when he suffered a flat tire on lap 211 of the 250-lap
contest. Pitting under green and losing only one lap, Bodine charged to the
front until his motor blew. Bodine had better luck in the modified half as
he recorded his sixth win. Bodine had his hands full with Richie Evans in
the early going but Evans' run came to a halt on lap 53 as he hit the wall
after suffering a flat tire. Maynard Troyer ended up second and was followed
by Jerry Cook and George Summers.
Fifteen years ago in 2000 Don
Hoenig, owner of the Thompson Speedway won his court case to evict Gordon
"Butch" Davis and Brian LaForte as they were over $100,000 in arrears in
their lease payments. Hoenig also announced that the season opening
Icebreaker scheduled for April 2 was cancelled to a later date.
Ten years ago in 2005, the big news
of the week was the announcement that former Whelen Modified Tour Series
Champion Mike Stefanik would be driving the Joe Brady No. 00 in 2005.
Stefanik would remain committed to the Busch North Series where he drove the
Grizco Racing entry. Stefanik would be forced to miss five Whelen Modified
Tour events including those at Waterford on June 25 and August 27 when the
Busch North Series would be in Holland, NY and at Oxford Plains in Maine.
Stefanik would be at Waterford on July 23 when the Modifieds are in
Scarborough, ME at the Beech Ridge Speedway. Stefanik would also miss
Modified events scheduled at the Seekonk Speedway and the Jennerstown
Speedway in Pennsylvania. Even on a part time basis Stefanik and Brady would
add immense quality and intense competition to the Whelen Modified Tour
In a joint announcement from NASCAR and the Wall Township Speedway in New
Jersey, the Jersey shore oval would once again be under the sanction of
NASCAR. It had previously been announced that New Jerseyís last remaining
asphalt oval would revert back to being an independent oval in 2005.
Extended negotiations between speedway partner Fred Archer with NASCARís Don
Hawk and Ed Cox made it happen. Hawk, by the way, said that NASCAR was still
working to get some television coverage of tour series events for the 2005
It was announced that auto racing facilities in the state of Connecticut
could now allow entire families, regardless of age, to enter their pit
areas. Previously no one under 16 was allowed. With the advent of budget
restraints the Motor Vehicle inspectors that previously over-saw racing in
the state would no longer be in that role.
Mark Martin moved into the lead when Carl Edwards was sidelined by a flat
tire, extending his record for Busch Series victories to 47 at the Las Vegas
Motor Speedway. Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman fought for the lead often
running side by side through the late stages of the Nextel Cup event, but
Johnson managed to take the lead away with 55 laps to go, and hung on for
the win. For Johnson it was his 15th career win. Johnson's newest team mate,
rookie driver Kyle Busch had a great day going too, and followed across the
finish line in second place. Finishing in third place was Kurt Busch, the
top running Ford of the day. Two more Chevy's driven by Jeff Gordon and
Kevin Harvick round out the top five across the finish line. Jimmie Johnson
lost the Nextel Cup points lead and his crew chief was suspended when NASCAR
handed out several penalties for violations at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Johnson's crew chief, Chad Knaus, was suspended for two weeks and fined
$35,000 when the race-winning car failed to meet the minimum height
requirement in the post-race inspection. The crew chiefs for Kyle Busch and
Kevin Harvick also were suspended. Todd Berrier was suspended for four weeks
and fined $25,000 for rigging Harvick's fuel tank to appear full when it
actually wasn't during qualifying. Alan Gustafson was suspended for two
weeks and fined $25,000 because Kyle Busch's runner-up car was too high in
the post-race inspection.
Five years ago in 2010, The Waterford
Speedbowl Management announced its Late Model division would compete on
Goodyear tires in 2010. All competitors would be required to compete on the
designated Goodyear tire compound, beginning with the season opening
Budweiser Blastoff event March 26-28. The Goodyear model D2672 and D2882
tires would be introduced.
In more good news Modified Racing Media Chief John Spence advised that
Jack Bateman, founder and president of the Series had announced, an
agreement had been reached with Bob Valenti Automall.Com as the title
sponsor for the 2010 racing season. Bateman made the disclosure at the
all-new Racers Expo, Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Trade Center,
Marlborough, MA., Saturday, February 27.
The family owned and operated business, based in Mystic, CT., and
Westerly, R.I., specializes in new and pre-owned vehicle sales and service.
The Valenti family has been in the automotive business for over 80 years.
"Bob Valenti Automall.Com has signed on for the new season. We look forward
to working with the Valenti family. They are strong supporters of racing and
have been for many years. We are pleased to have them as part our series,"
Bateman was joined by Bob Valenti Automall representatives including
company Vice President Rob Valenti who eagerly looks forward to the new
The popular Modified Racing Series, featuring open-wheel modified race
cars, would compete in 19 races at speedways throughout the Northeast
including first time appearances at Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Malta, NY.,
Airborne Speedway, Plattsburgh, NY., and Stafford Springs Motor Speedway,
Stafford, CT. In 2009, 15 races were run with 12 different drivers
victorious. Seven of those drivers were first time winners.
Kevin Harvick overcame a pair of horrendous pit stops to win the Nationwide
Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Harvick led 83 of the 200 laps
Saturday, but had to rally after his crew cost him several spots on pit
Danica Patrick finished 36th in her third and final NASCAR race before
she took a four-month hiatus to return to IndyCar racing.
In Sprint Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson reeled in teammate Jeff Gordon at
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the four-time defending champion won for the
second consecutive week. Kevin Harvick finished second for the second
straight week, then showed signs of the swagger that only Harvick can pull
off, and only when he's running well.
Last year, 2014 The NASCAR Whelen
Southern Modified Tour hit a milestone on Sunday when the 2014 season took
the green flag. The Whelen Season Opener 150 at the Caraway Speedway marked
the 50th all-time race for the Whelen Southern Modified Tour at the rural
North Carolina oval, and it also launched the 10th season of competition for
Andy Seuss was fastest in practice, won the Coors Light Pole Award and
led every lap en route to winning the Whelen Season Opener 150 at Caraway
Speedway. He finished 1.465 seconds ahead of runner-up George Brunnhoelzl
III. JR Bertuccio, Burt Myers and Jason Myers rounded out the top five.
Danny Bohn was sixth, followed by Brian Loftin, Luke Fleming, Thomas Stinson
and rookie Joe Ryan Osborne.
There were five cautions for 22 laps. Nineteen cars were on hand.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Dale Earnhardt Jr. gambled on fuel at the
Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but it was Brad Keselowski who hit the jackpot.
Earnhardt tried to stretch his fuel during the final run to the checkered
flag during Sundayís Kobalt 400, but ran out of fuel on the backstretch on
the last lap. That allowed 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad
Keselowski to surge into the lead and complete a weekend sweep at Las Vegas
The run to the finish was set up when the fourth and final caution flag
of the day waved with 47 laps left at the 1.5-mile oval. Keselowski was the
race leader at the time and led most of the field down pit road for fuel
only stops. Meanwhile, Earnhardt was one of three drivers who opted not to
pit. Earnhardt, Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin all stayed on track in an
effort to try and win the race on fuel strategy.
During the restart Keselowski shot through the field, getting up to third
within a lap behind Earnhardt and Edwards. Keselowski, who started second,
slowly began to make up ground on both Earnhardt and Edwards. Keselowski
took second away from Edwards on lap 244 and set his sights on Earnhardt.
Keselowski closed the gap quickly, getting within half a second of Earnhardt
with 10 laps left. Earnhardt was able to stabilize the gap between himself
and Keselowski over the next nine laps, but he still had one more lap to
Unfortunately for Earnhardt, his car sputtered coming out of turn two on
the white flag lap. That allowed Keselowski to take the lead down the
backstretch and pull away to his first Sprint Cup victory of the 2014
season. Despite running out of gas, Earnhardt had enough momentum to get him
to the finish line in second. Earnhardt had not finished worse than second
in the first three Sprint Cup events of the season.
Paul Menard had his best finish of the young season, finishing third.
Polesitter Joey Logano finished fourth, followed by Edwards in fifth. Jimmie
Johnson, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth completed
the top 10.
It was good to hear that the Waterford Speedbowl and the Thompson
Speedway were working together toward a common goal of having universal
technical rules for their racing divisions. The idea of the whole concept is
making it easier and less expensive for competitors to run an extra event
each weekend if they so desire. During the early 1980ís when the SK Modified
division was conceived a Tri-Track Series existed which enabled competitors
to run the same car three times a week. The concept worked then and should
work now. Waterford has a strong SK Modified field while Thompson has a
strong Limited Sportsman field. Evidently the Stafford management is happy
with their present fields of cars.
On a sad note, Bob Finan sent word from Long Island that the Riverhead
Raceway family has been saddened with the passing of famed car owner Carl
Zeh. For all his Islip Speedway and Riverhead Raceway championships with
driver Don Howe, Carl will be remembered as one of the nicest men to ever
grace a pit area.
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.
Looking Back Archive
Smith / Looking Back A Bit