The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

March 13, 2015

  Forty five years ago in 1970, the new look of Late Model Modifieds made their debut at Martinsville for the annual Dogwood 500.Fifty two cars were in the pit area for time trials. Pete Keller was the NASCAR official in charge. Many of those in the field had installed abbreviated nerf bars, which extended to the outer edge of tires that stuck out beyond body panels. It was Keller’s command decision to have all nerf bars removed. During the running of the consolation events on Saturday numerous wrecks were caused when competitors ran up over wheels of others. Keller was eventually told to resign or get fired from NASCAR when he was convicted of Income Tax evasion. Among those in the field was Eddie Flemke in a Mustang owned by Bob Garbarino, Ray Hendrick in a Camaro owned by Jack Tant and Clayton Mitchell, Fred DeSarro in a Mustang owned by Joe Brady, Leo Cleary in a Corvair owned by Sonny Koszela and Bugsy Stevens in a Corvair owned by Len Boehler. Ray Hendrick was the top time trialer with Max Berrier second fastest. Rain washed out the 500-lap event, which was rescheduled for early April.

  Forty years ago in 1975, Metrolina Speedway in North Carolina and Fulton Raceway in New York ran head to head with modifieds. At Metrolina extra points were up for grabs. Ray Hendrick took the win and was followed by Jerry Cook, John Bryant and Paul Radford. At Fulton it was Maynard Troyer over Sonney Seamon, Ed Flemke and Sege Fidenza.

  Thirty five years ago in 1980, Waterford opened for the season with an open competition event. Marty Radwick took the win with Tom McCann, second. Rounding out the top ten were Stan Greger, Reggie Ruggiero, Moose Hewitt, Dick Dunn, Jerry Pearl, Roland LaPierre Jr, Gene Bergin and Rick Donnelly. It was also on this date that Joe Brady and Danny Bennett leased the Stafford Speedway for the first annual Racers Flea Market. The event drew thousands and was deemed a rousing success.

  Thirty years ago in 1985, the season opening event at Martinsville was rained out.

  Twenty five years ago in 1990, Riverside Park Speedway opened on Saturday night and a chilled crowd watched Tom Bolles lead all 100 laps of the modified feature. Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggiero and Mike Stefanik.

  Twenty years ago in 1995, the Riverside opener was again a cold one. Chris Kopec took the lead on lap 25 of the 75-lap feature to take top honors in the opening night event. Dan Avery finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggiero, Tom Cravenho and Eric Beers. In Grandnational (Busch Series) action at Darlington, Larry Pearson took the win over Johnny Benson and in Winston (Nextel) Cup action Sterling Marlin took the win over Dale Earnhardt.

  Fifteen years ago in 2000, the only action was at Bristol, Tenn. Sterling Marlin was the Grandnational (Busch Series) winner with Jeff Green finishing second. Mike Stefanik finished 20th after getting collected in an early wreck. In Winston (Nextel) Cup action, Rusty Wallace scored his 50th win. Johnny Benson finished second.

  Ten years ago in 2005, competitors and fans were glad to hear that the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts was installing a new electronic scoreboard which would be in place and would be operational. The Venditti family which has owned and operated the speedway since its inception in 1946 had also embarked on a major construction project which would permit pit access from the third turn of the oval.

 Modified racing can be full of surprises at times. One such surprise occurred when Hillbilly Racing, based in Westfield North Carolina, announced that Ted Christopher would be driving the Hill’s Enterprises No.79 in a Southern Modified Tour event at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC.

The Plainfield Connecticut Planning and Zoning Commission voted 3-2 to defer a decision on a zoning change sought by New England Raceway LLC and Connecticut Yankee Greyhound Racing Inc. to give members time to review a more than 200-page transcript of a public hearing on the matter. The commission would conduct a special meeting to consider the so-called text amendment, which would accommodate plans for a domed auto racetrack, in the Plainfield Town Hall auditorium. Close to 300 people were on hand.

  The Waterford Speedbowl held their annual season preview car show at the Crystal Mall in Waterford. Among the cars on display were the Modifieds of Shawn and Diego Monahan, Dennis Cherette and Rob Janovic, Late Models on display were those of Allen Coates, Larry Goss and Brandon Plemmends along with the Sportsman driven by Roger Perry, the Mini Stock driven by Chris Williams, the Legend Car driven by Jeffrey Paul and the X-Car of Vic Williams. The Speedbowl had announced that following week’s Nationals SK-Modified 150 would carry a purse of $20,000 and would pay $5,000 to win.

  Carl Edwards scored a one-two punch as he won the Busch Series and Nextel Cup events at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. He was headed toward a Busch win the previous week at Las Vegas before he cut a tire and spun while leading late. He made up for it by going four-wide Saturday in his charge to the front in the final laps. He beat Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson for the Busch Series win. Johnson appeared as if he would hold off Edwards to win the Nextel Cup event. Johnson has almost more career Cup wins (15) than Edwards has series starts (17). Edwards' chances seemed over when his car slid sideways exiting turn 2 with five laps to go. Instead, Edwards kept going. Edwards nipped Johnson after rubbing wheels as they headed for the finish line.

  Five years ago in 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series held their season opening event at the Atlanta Motor Speedway ¼ mile flat track on Friday night. Twenty three Modifieds were on hand for what was supposed to be the first of ten taped delayed televised events.

 Third generation Corey LaJoie, in a car owned by Roger and Sandra Hill, drove like a veteran in his first career NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour start. Using lapped traffic to get by Tim Brown, the 18-year-old driver then held off a furious challenge from Brown over the closing laps to capture the Atlanta 150. The race was the first for the Tour held on the track's flat, quarter-mile front stretch oval. The setup is similar to Bowman Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., where Brown is an eight-time champion in the track's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Modified division.

  He battled back from an early mistake that put him in the back of the field. While battling for the fifth-place position on the backstretch of the tight oval, LaJoie wound up driving into the infield. He was able to keep his momentum, cutting through the grass, and re-enter the track in Turn 4. But the miscue put him near the back of the running order. He slowly picked his way back through, moving past Fleming for the No. 2 spot with 30 to go.

  LaJoie used lapped traffic to take the lead from Brown on Lap 131. Brown took the top spot back with eight to go with a move inside going into Turn 2, but LaJoie again took advantage of lapped traffic a lap later to reclaim the lead. Over the final five laps, Brown was all over LaJoie's bumper but was unable to rattle the rookie. Brown bumped Lajoie coming out of turn 4 and dove inside to try to make a pass. He got halfway up Lajoie's door as they ran wheel to wheel across the line.

  Frank Fleming finished third, followed by David Brigati and Brandon Hire. James Civali, Jason Myers, Zach Brewer, John Smith and Buddy Emory rounded out the top 10. Pre-race favorite Burt Myers finished 17th, six laps down. Andy Seuss was the only northerner in the field. He finished 12th, one lap down.

  Congratulations were in order to Stafford Motor Speedway Late Model competitor Dillon Moltz who was selected to be part of the Richard Petty developmental driver program. The program will select a total of 12 drivers from across the United States to compete in a combine where the winner will receive a one-off race deal to drive an ARCA car in the ARCA Pocono 200 at Pocono Raceway on Saturday, June 5th.

  NASCAR announced that its Modified touring divisions would now award bonus points for its races, starting the previous weekend with the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race at Atlanta Motor Speedway. In order to reward drivers for running up front and to provide a further incentive to race for the lead, NASCAR instituted lap-leader bonus points for the first time to the Whelen Modified and Whelen Southern Modified Tours.

  Five bonus points will be awarded to each driver and car owner whose car officially leads a lap during a race and five additional bonus points will be awarded to the driver and car owner leading the most official laps in an event. This will bring the maximum number of points a driver can earn in a race to 190, with 180 awarded for first place.

  The Waterford Speedbowl management announced that work on a construction project to upgrade the track’s retaining wall has begun. The Speedbowl was one of ten facilities selected in 2010 to receive funds through NASCAR’s Capital Improvement Grant program. The grant, coupled with a matching investment from the Speedbowl, would allow for installation of concrete walls lining the front and back chutes of the track. It replaces the Armco barrier retaining wall currently in place in those areas. This is the first major change to the wall structure since the Armco was installed prior to the start of the 1988 season. That replaced an antiquated wooden beam wall system.

  In some sad news, it was the announced that the Adirondack International Speedway regrets there would not be competition at the track during the 2010 season. The speedway is located in New Bremen, NY which is near Watertown. The speedway was built in 2000. The closure was based on financial difficulties arising from unresolved property tax issues, operational losses, health department requirements, and other pressures facing the local racing industry.

  In other sad news items National Speed-Sport News scribe Gary London sent along word that retired Islip (Long Island) Speedway driver Artie Tappen passed away and Pete Zanardi sent word that Gene Angelillo, a 14-time Northeastern Midget Association owners champion, died after a short illness at l. Angelillo, 74, also had an ARDC championship on a 30-year plus resume that included over 112 victories, 107 of them in NEMA.

  Kurt Busch won the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway for the second year in a row, beating Matt Kenseth to the line by nearly half a second in the Kobalt Tools 500. Juan Pablo Montoya was third, followed by Kasey Kahne and Paul Menard.

  Last year, 2014, the powers that be at Waterford would have to do some scrambling if the speedbowl was to open on schedule. Back in January a Judge set an October 18 foreclosure auction date for the Connecticut shoreline oval. The ruling gave track owner Terry Eames some extra time to find funding to continue as owner of the track or find a buyer. The judge also ruled that the track management complies with state and town officials who have mandated that the grandstands be repaired. A re-construction project of the under pinnings of the grandstands was begun in 2013 and was not completed leaving large sections uninhabitable and covered over with tarps and danger tape. The extreme hard winter has all but halted any work that had been planned.

  The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour visited the Southern National Motorsports Park in North Carolina last Saturday. George Brunnhoelzl, III recorded the fastest time and earns his 22nd career pole award on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour. Brunnhoelzl was the top dog of the 18 cars on hand at the 4/10 mile oval. Kyle Ebersole was second fastest with JR Bertuccio, third.

  A new face appeared in victory as J.R. Bertuccio earned his first trip to Victory Lane the hard way. The 32-year-old from Long Island, N.Y., had to hold off four-time NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion George Brunnhoelzl III on a green-white-checkered finish to win Saturday's Southern National 150. The win came in Bertuccio's 28th career start. He had three previous top fives with his best finish coming at Caraway Speedway with a third-place run in the 2014 season opener. Bertuccio took the lead from Brunnhoelzl III, who started from the pole, on lap 11 and held on for the remainder of the evening. He survived five restarts, including the final one which set up the green-white-checkered finish.

  While Bertuccio held on to the top spot for the better part of the evening, the second through fifth-place spots remained an open game for a handful of drivers. On the final restart, Kyle Ebersole managed to slip past Brunnhoelzl to take second, forcing the defending tour champion to settle for a third-place finish. An unfortunate turn of events for Brunnhoelzl III, who seemed on his way to seriously challenge Bertuccio for the lead. A green-white-checkered finish extended the race to 155 laps. Overall, there were five cautions for a total of 20 laps. Andy Seuss and Jason Myers crossed the line fourth and fifth respectively. They were followed by Luke Fleming, Gary Putnam, rookies Joe Ryan Osborne and Spencer Davis, and Bryan Dauzat to round out the top 10.

  The Stafford Motor Speedway clubhouse was the scene of a tire seminar presented by Hoosier Racing Tire and spokesperson Irish Saunders. Topics included Tire management, performance tips, tire sizing, tire break-in, how tires are made, quality control and explaining making tires repeat. A packed house was on hand.

  Big news for race fans. The Sid's View webisode series which had done a fantastic job of video recording the racing programs at the Waterford Speedbowl will be expanded in 2014 to include the 7 oval track events scheduled at Thompson Speedway.

  In another big announcement, racing fans received access to a lot more content this past Wednesday in the form of, a live streaming platform that will broadcast races under the NASCAR Home Tracks, IMSA and AMA banner. will be the official home for AMA Pro Road Racing and AMA Pro Flat Track events in 2014. The site also will provide coverage of selected IMSA and NASCAR’s touring and weekly series events.

  It means access to broadcasts for select live events from the K&N Pro Series, Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen Southern Modified Tour banner. will also become the home for numerous off-track NASCAR events, including the championship banquets for the NASCAR All-American Series and the various NASCAR regional and touring series.

  Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway had a little bit of everything. Rain delays, bizarre crashes, tire problems and a mystery caution flag with three laps left followed by even more rain allowed Carl Edwards to score his first victory of the 2014 season.

  Edwards had a comfortable lead of more than two seconds with just three laps left when suddenly several caution lights around the track came on. While NASCAR was trying to fix the problem that caused the caution lights to come on, Mother Nature made her third and final visit to Bristol for the day. With rain now pouring down and the track lost, NASCAR officials opted to wave the checkered flag and declare Edwards the race winner. Ricky Stenhouse was able to get around Almirola’s Richard Petty Motorsports Ford in the closing laps to finish second, giving Roush Fenway Racing a sweep of the first two positions.

  It was later revealed by NASCAR officials that the actual cause of the final caution flag was an error by the flagman. He had evidently leaned on the manual override switch in the flagstand, causing the caution lights to come on.

  Kyle Busch held off Kyle Larson during a late-race restart before pulling away to his seventh NASCAR Nationwide Series win.

  That’s 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

Source: Phil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 13, 2015

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