The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith


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 Series.

  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 season.

  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 concluded.

  Bateman was joined by Bob Valenti Automall representatives including company Vice President Rob Valenti who eagerly looks forward to the new sponsorship.

  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 road.

  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 the tour.

  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 Motor Speedway.

  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 complete.

  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

SourcePhil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 6, 2015

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