RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Second Week Of February

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Fifty five years ago in 1967, Curtis Turner in a Smokey Yunick Chevelle took the pole for the ninth annual Daytona 500.Turner toured the 2-1/2 mile oval at 180.831 mph. Second fastest and taking the outside pole was Richard Petty. Petty went 179.068 mph. A total of 56 cars attempted to qualify.

Fifty years ago in 1972, Bobby Issac in the K & K Dodge took the pole for the Daytona 500.Second fastest was AJ Foyt. Andy Hampton won the ARCA 300 at Daytona. Iggy Katona finished second with Red Farmer, third. Speedweeks in Daytona was the beginning of a big year of change for NASCAR. Bill France Sr, who formed NASCAR, stepped down as President and in his place was Bill Jr, 38 years old at the time. Before he stepped down, France Sr. reorganized the Grandnational (Winston Cup) tour into a 31-event championship program, which eliminated events of less than 250 miles and dirt track events.

Forty five years ago in 1977, the Modifieds were added to the World Series of Asphalt Racing at the New Smyrna Speedway. Fred DeSarro was the opening night winner. Richie Evans finished second in the 25-lap event and was followed by Geoff Bodine, Ronnie Bouchard, Bugsy Stevens, Merv Treichler and George Kent. Geoff Bodine, in the Richard Armstrong No.1 came back to win the next three with Evans the bridesmaid on all three occasions. Donnie Allison was the Daytona 500 pole sitter with a speed of 188.048 mph. AJ Foyt was the outside pole sitter.

Forty years ago in 1982,Benny Parsons was the Daytona 500 pole sitter with a speed of 196.317 mph. Harry Gant was second fastest with a speed of 195.609 mph. Bobby Allison won the Daytona Busch Clash. An all-new Modified team appeared at New Smyrna. Long Islander Greg Sacks teamed up with Ernie Wilsburg and took the Florida oval by storm as they won the first three events. Richie Evans finished second in the opening night event and was followed by Tony Hirschman, Ronnie Bouchard, Gil Hearne and Jamie Tomaino. Nite number two saw Evans again in second spot with Doug Hewitt, Maynard Troyer and Hirschman, following. Evans continued to be the bridesmaid as he recorded another second on Sunday night. Hewitt and Troyer followed with Gail Barber rounding out the top five.

Thirty five years ago in 1987, Bill Elliot was the top dog at Daytona as he took the Daytona 500 pole with a speed of 210.364 mph. Elliott also won the Busch Clash. In World Series action at New Smyrna, Jamie Tomaino was the opening night winner. Jim Spencer finished second and was followed by Tony Jankowiac. Saturday night action rained out. Jim Spencer came back with fire in his eyes as he won the Sunday night event over Reggie Ruggiero and Dave Reszendes. Ruggiero got his night of glory on Monday as he won the 25-lap feature over Tomaino, Spencer and Reszendes. Spencer became the first repeat winner as he took top honors on Tuesday night. Tomaino finished second with Reszendes, third. Bobby Fuller arrived in Florida and wound up fourth in his second night out.

Thirty years ago in 1992, Sterling Marlin was the Daytona 500 pole sitter. Bill Elliott took the outside pole making it an all Junior Johnson front row. Geoff Bodine, in the Bud Moore No.15, won the Busch Clash. In World Series action at New Smyrna, Steve Park in the Joe Brady No.00 went pole to pole to win the opening Friday night event. Ricky Fuller finished second with Tom Baldwin, third. Park made it two in a row as he won again on Saturday night as he again beat out Fuller for the win. Fuller jumped into a back up car after wrecking on the start with Tom Baldwin and Jay Hedgecock. Tom Baldwin jumped out on Sunday night and went on to record his first win. Park finished second and was followed by Tim Arre, Rick Fuller and Bob Park. Ricky Fuller, driving for Mario Fiore, took the top spot on Monday night. Fuller was followed by Park, Richie Gallup and Tony Ferrente Jr. Gary Balough, who had won four late model features in a row, was disqualified for having too much left side weight. Park became the first repeat winner as he won on Tuesday night. Fuller, Baldwin, Gallup and Arre rounded out the top five.

Twenty five years ago in 1997, Jim Hendrickson, a top gun on Long Island and former driver of the Ferrente x3 passed away. Mike Skinner in the Richard Childress No.31 took the Daytona 500 pole with a speed of 189.813 mph. Steve Grissom was second fastest with a speed of 189.813 mph. Jeff Gordon won the Busch Clash, a sleeper of a race with no passing. Tom Baldwin was the opening night winner at New Smyrna, going pole to pole for the win. Tony Stewart, in the Bob Fuller No.17, finished second. Dave Berube, Eric Beers and Mike Christopher rounded out the top five. Baldwin made it two for two as he again went pole to pole as he won the Saturday night event. Stewart again finished second with Tim Arre, Dave Berube and Gary Meyers rounding out the top five. Arre went pole to pole on Sunday night with Fuller second and Stewart, third. Ted Christopher was having a horrible week as he blew three engines in a row. Stewart went pole to pole on Monday night. Baldwin finished second and was followed by Arre, Fuller and Doug French .Rick Fuller got his first win for Joe Brady on Tuesday night. Christopher finally got an engine to stay together and finished second. Stewart finished third and was followed by Baldwin and Tomaino.

Twenty years ago in 2002 Charlie Pasteryak went pole to pole to win the opening Friday night 25-lap event at the New Smyrna Speedway. Ted Christopher finished second with Rob Summers, John Blewett III and Eric Beers rounding out the top five. Daytona 500 qualifying was held on Saturday afternoon with 53 cars on hand. Rookie Jimmie Johnson took the pole with a speed of 185.831 mph. Kevin Harvick was second fastest. Thirty Modifieds went to post on Saturday night at New Smyrna. Ted Christopher survived six cautions and came home the winner over Summers, Pasteryak, JR Bertuccio and Blewett. The Busch Clash for Winston Cup pole qualifiers was held on Sunday afternoon. Tony Stewart took the win in the 70-lap event that went non-stop. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second with Jeff Gordon, third. Rain washed out New Smyrna on Sunday night. In other news, NASCAR announced a television package for their touring series, which included seven events each for the Featherlite Modifieds, and Busch North Series. It was also announced that Knoxville Raceway promoter Ralph Capitani had been selected as the RPM Promoter of the Year. Francis Venditti of the Seekonk Speedway was the New England Regional winner. NASCAR was hit with a $8.5 million lawsuit that was filed by safety equipment manufacturer Bill Simpson who felt that he had been defamed over the way NASCAR handled the Earnhardt seat belt issue.

Fifteen years ago in 2007, the engines started in New Smyrna, Fla. for the 41st annual World Series of Asphalt Racing last Friday night. Clear weather and temperatures in the 70’s greeted both fans and competitors. Twenty-one Tour Type Modifieds and 15 SK Type Modifieds were on hand. In the Tour Type 25 lap feature Eric Beers and Don Lia led the charge at the green. As the field entered turn one Ted Christopher spun, triggering a scramble that collected Jim Storace and Earl Paules. Christopher was able to restart at the tail end of the field. With Beers and Lia still on the point a second start was attempted. Bob Grigas spun in turn one, bringing out the second caution. Another spin made restart No. 3 a bust. Out of desperation Modified Chief Steward made the decision to start the field single file. With one lap on record Bob Holmes brought out the caution after hitting the wall in turn 2. One more caution, on lap 19 for a minor spin slowed the field. At the finish Eric Beers, who went pole to pole was the winner. John Blewett III finished second with Andy Seuss, third. Ted Christopher rebounded from his first lap skirmish to finish fourth. Don Lia rounded out the top five. Jimmy Blewett was the SK Type Modified winner.

The newly paved speedway saw elapsed times getting much faster as competitors toured the half-mile oval in the 16-second bracket. Joey Logano made his Tour Type Modified debut in practice. He got into the wall during practice and was not able to take time for qualifying James Civali is driving a second Joe Brady machine renumbered the #80. Mike Andrews is also back in the driver’s seat, driving the Bear Motorsports #14. Ryan Preece has also shown up at the track in the #40. Eric Beers was the fastest in Tour Type Modified time trials for the second night in a row when he blistered the half mile oval in16.526 seconds. John Blewett III was second fastest with Earl Paules, third. The first five tour type cars broke the track record. Twenty-two Tour Type Modifieds were on hand. Donny Lia and Eric Beers led the field down for the start. Just as the field completed the first lap Ryan Preece hit the wall in turn 2 and went along the outside wall for a few yards. Mike Andrews in the Bear Motorsports #14 hit the wall in between turn 3 and 4.Lia led the restart with Beers in tow. On lap five Ted Christopher brought out the caution when he tried to go under Andy Seuss between turns three and four. Both cars hit the wall a ton! As the field went under red both cars were double hooked off the track to the pits. Lia continued to lead Beers on the lap 5 restart. Chuck Hossfeld had moved into third with John Blewett III, fourth with Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top five. Caution No.3 flew on lap 10 for debris on the track. Beers applied the heat to Lia but to no avail. Hossfeld began to fade as the Blewett brothers passed him. Bob Grigas brought out caution No. 4 when he spun in turn four. He drove away. On the restart Butch and Shelly Perry got together as well as Bobby Holmes and James Civali. Once again, with seven laps remaining, the field restarted with Lia on the point followed in single file by Beers. On lap 20 Jimmy Blewett ran out of patience and in a bonsai move shot by Beers. John Blewett followed. At the finish it was Don Lia by four car lengths over Jimmy Blewett, John Blewett III, Eric Beers, Zach Sylvester and Chuck Hossfeld. After two nights it appears that only a chosen few can handle the increased speeds at New Smyrna. Jimmy Blewett made it two for two in the SK Type Modifieds.

The Modifieds had Sunday night off.

The Daytona International Speedway shifted into high gear with the running of the Busch Clash on Saturday night. Stewart nudged Kyle Busch out of the lead with eight laps to go, then calmly drove to his third victory in the all-star event when runner-up David Gilliland never challenged. Busch, who needed a huge save to keep his car off the wall, finished seventh and seemed certain that Stewart made at least slight contact. As Stewart closed in on the finish line, Dale Earnhardt Jr ran into the back of Elliott Sadler to start a four-car pileup far from the leaders that collected defending race winner Denny Hamlin and Greg Biffle. David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd won the top two starting spots Sunday in qualifying for the Daytona 500. Gilliland turned a lap of 186.320 mph to win the pole, and Rudd was right behind at 185.609. Sixty-one cars attempted to qualify.

Ten years ago in 2012, The 46th annual New Smyrna World Series of Short track Racing was scheduled to begin on Friday night. With 13 Tour type Modifieds and four SK type Modifieds ready to go rain moved into the area, forcing speedway officials to cancel the opening night’s racing.

The skies cleared on Saturday allowing the World Series to go on as planned. The Modifieds and SK’s were combined for their 25 lap feature. Seventeen cars went to post. Chuck Hossfeldt led the charge to the green with Daniel Hemric in tow. On lap 8 Ryan Preece hit the wall a ton, inflicting severe right side damage to his family owned mount. Preece blamed Ted Christopher whom he said hit his left front with his right rear. Speedway officials felt that Preece just washed up the track on his own. Hemric took the lead on the restart and held it until the next restart which occurred on lap 17 when James Zacharias spun. On the restart, Christopher took the lead and proceeded to lead the remaining circuits as he recorded his first win of the series. Patrick Emerling finished second and was followed by Hossfeldt, Eric Goodale and Hemric. Don Cranmer was the highest finishing SK type Modified.

Sunday night was an off night for the Modifieds.

Big News for NASCAR’s touring and weekly divisions came out at the Daytona Speedway when NASCAR announced that the Daytona International Speedway will host the inaugural “UNOH Battle At The Beach”. It was also announced that a temporary flat 4/10-mile oval would be built on the backstretch of the Daytona International Speedway. As a comparison, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY is a 4/10 mile oval but is banked.

Congratulations were in order for Keith Rocco who was named as driver for the famous “Ole Blu” owned by the Boehler family. The Mighty No. 3, originated by the late Len Boehler in the early 60’s has carried some of NASCAR Modified’s Greatest drivers to victory. This will mark the 55th consecutive year that Ole Blu has rolled out of the backyard garage in East Freetown, Mass.

During the 2011 season Rocco surpassed 100 feature wins in his career while winning his third Connecticut State Championship successively. Pushing the asphalt “win-bar” higher than any racer since Richie Evans or Geoff Bodine, the Wallingford, Connecticut frontrunner drove to his sixth Track Championship after winning more races (32) than any single driver in the United States.

Two Rhode Island legislators took on the greed of big oil. State Rep. Samuel Azzinaro, a Democrat, and Sen. Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere, a Republican, wanted the General Assembly to pass legislation that would prohibit retailers of essential commodities, like home heating oil, gasoline, food, water and ice, from charging “unconscionably high prices.”

Azzinaro’s bill, No. H-7409, would prohibit price gouging during statewide emergencies and “market emergencies,” or supply shortages. Unconscionably high prices are defined as those that are grossly higher than the average price of similar commodities sold in a local trade area. Under the bill, violations of the law could result in a fine of up to $1,000 with a maximum penalty of $25,000 per 24-hour period, along with the forfeiture of any profits earned.

The bill was introduced on Feb. 8, and had been referred to the House Committee on Corporations.

At the end of the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup season Kyle Busch could do nothing right. In the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona Int’l Speedway, Busch could do nothing wrong. He wrecked twice but used driving skill to keep the car from hitting anything and was able to continue in the race. By being able to avoid disaster Busch placed himself in position settle the race with three-time and defending Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart.

Heading to the finish line Busch was able to perfectly time the old “Slingshot Pass” to drive ahead of Stewart and win the race by 0.013 seconds — the closest finish in Budweiser Shootout history.

In Daytona 500 qualifying, Carl Edwards won the pole and Greg Biffle was second fastest during Sunday’s single-lap qualification session.

Edwards was the fifth driver to make a qualification attempt and the early draw was beneficial because of better track conditions. He ran a fast lap of 194.738 miles per hour in his Ford Fusion. Roush Fenway teammate Biffle went out soon thereafter and put down a fast lap of 194.087 mph. Biffle claims that gusty wind conditions hampered his qualification attempt.

Forty nine cars attempted to qualify.

Five years ago, 2017, At New Smyrna on Friday night Spencer Davis was the winner of the Super Late Model feature. Rain washed out Saturday’s action and Ronnie Bennett Jr was the NASCAR K&N Series opening 150 lapper held on Sunday night.

Saturday night’s second annual Kickoff to Speedweeks 50-lap Tour-Type Modified event at the Bronson (Fla) Speedway had a surprise finish after the two leaders came together in the closing moments. Ryan Preese and Matt Hirschman were battling for the lead and win when the two came together on lap 45 of the event. New York’s Jimmy Zacharias, in the right place at the right time inherited the lead and went on to take the win. Greg Narducci a veteran Modified crew chief and observer stated that the tangle of the two was the result of hard racing. “Preece was leading coming out of the fourth turn when Hirschman went low to pass”, he said. Hirschman moved up a little and Preece moved down a little and that was that”, he added.

Chris Young Jr finished second with JR Bertuccio, third and Jeremy Gerstner, fourth. Hirshman was able to make the restart after the crash and finished fifth. Preece was credited with an eighth place finish in the ten-car field.

In Speedweek action at the Daytona International Speedway, Joey Logano won the rain delayed Clash when Brad Keselowski and Denny Hamlin collided in Turn 2 on the final lap of Sunday’s rain-delayed Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona International Speedway. Logano was there to seize the moment. Charging to the outside and grabbing the lead near the entry to the backstretch at the 2.5-mile speedway, Logano took the checkered flag 1.121 seconds ahead of runner-up Kyle Busch, who beat third-place finisher Alex Bowman to the stripe by .018 seconds. Danica Patrick dodged the Turn 2 melee to surge from 10th to fourth on the final lap to post her first top-five finish in any Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race, though the result is not official because the Clash is an exhibition event with a limited field. Kevin Harvick, driving a Ford for the first time at NASCAR’s highest level, came home fifth. Daniel Suárez, in his first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series start, finished eighth.

Second generation driver Chase Elliott won the Coors Light pole for the Daytona 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway with a speed of 192.872mph, his 2nd Daytona pole and 3rd career pole. Elliott has never won from the pole. Dale Earnhardt Jr. will start 2nd after running 192.864mph. The front row is locked into those spots. Forty two cars attempted to qualify as a very paltry crowd looked on.

The 2017 season for the unified NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour received another race date. Bill Mullis made the big news announcement Friday: He had purchased Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia, and the historic track will re-open in 2017 to racing.

He announced the .4-mile oval will host the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and newly unified NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour this season. In addition, the track will return to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with its weekly racing program.

Last year, 2021, Thursday, Feb 4 was practice day at the World Series of Asphalt and it was a busy one with one of the largest entry lists the event has seen in several years. In the Tour type Modified pit there were 45 entries including five from the upstate New York Catalano family. Among those turning in some hot laps were Anthony Noscella, Ryan Preece, Chuck Hossfeldt and Doug Coby to name a few. During the day, he announced he will be competing the entire week with Austin Pickens driving the No. 10 on Monday and Tuesday while Coby would jump into the machine the rest of the week. Both drivers spent Thursday’s session getting re-acclimated to the high banks of New Smyrna.

Opening night, on Friday was a little on the cool side, saw Ryan Moore going pole to pole in the Super Late Model feature. Ryan’s dad Kelly finished 11th. Other opening night winners were Jett Nolan on the Pro Lites, Travis Eddy in the Florida Modifieds, Mathew Green in the Sportsman and Dustin Higdon in the Bombers.

New Hampshire Super Late Model competitor Derek Griffith scored a win on Saturday in a program that got a late start because of rain. Jett Nolan made it two in a row in the Pro Late Models as did Travis Eddy in the Florida Mods. Bryan Kruczek was victorious in the Sportsman division and Matt Jarrett was the E-Mod winner.

The 50-lap Sportsman race came down to a late-race shootout between New Hampshire driver Bryan Kruczek and local favorite Matthew Green. For the second night in a row, the two made contact racing for the win, with Kruczek initially prevailing at the end of Saturday’s race.

Crews from both teams voiced their displeasure with each other on the front stretch after the race and in the technical inspection area, where it would get physical. Both drivers were disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct, giving the win to Wayne Smith. Multiple sources confirmed that a track official at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway passed away early Sunday morning following Saturday night events at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing.

Reporter Matt Weaver of Autoweek and Short Track Scene posted on Twitter that an official track source confirmed to him that track official Rusty Crews died overnight. Crews had attempted to quell the situation. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office has indicated that there is an ongoing investigation into what led to his death. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office said there is currently no evidence of “a direct link between Crews’ death and any specific actions of anyone involved in the altercation.” They added, following the fight and with the with the crowd dispersed and parties separated, witnesses said Crews sat down and began having a medical episode. A witness started performing CPR on Crews before an EMS crew arrived, took over CPR and transported Crews to the hospital.

Sunday night’s action at New Smyrna saw Sammy Smith take the Super Late Model feature, Conner Jones, the Pro Late Models, Tim Moore, the Florida Mods and Carsten Digiantonasso the 602s.

In some big news for weekly racing fans at the Stafford Motor Speedway the Arute family which operates the track and FloRacing are proud to announce a groundbreaking partnership to bring live racing from Stafford Speedway to the FloRacing platform. New for the 2021 season, all Stafford Speedway weekly events will be streamed live on FloRacing making Stafford the first asphalt track on the nationally recognized platform.

All Stafford Speedway events excluding the NASCAR Modified Tour and SRX Series will be broadcast live exclusively on FloRacing for the 2021 season beginning with the NAPA Auto Parts Opening Day Saturday, April 24th and running weekly through NAPA Auto Parts Championship Night on Friday, October 1st. The Stafford Speedway productions team will continue to produce the weekly broadcast streamed on FloRacing.

FloRacing gives our fans the ultimate in live streaming access for just $150 per year.” Based on the fact that the Stafford schedule consists of 25 events the cost of viewing each event is only $6.00 which has to be the best deal in auto racing.

In addition to broadcasting the 2021 Stafford Speedway season, FloRacing has posted $40,000 in bonus money which will be distributed to the Stafford Speedway weekly competitors. The FloRacing bonus will be awarded to each of the top-10 finishers across all 5 of Stafford Speedway’s weekly divisions on specified nights. Each division will have 4 events in which the FloRacing bonus will be awarded. The $40,000 bonus nearly doubles the payout teams received from StaffordSpeedway.tv in 2020.

NASCAR officials announced at just about the same time during the annual NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series promoters meeting that the sanctioning body is re-introducing regional championships to its weekly racing format. Champions will be crowned in four regions: Southeast, Northeast, Midwest and West.

Each Division I regional champion will receive a $15,000 prize for their achievement, with a total of $35,000 being paid out to the top-10 drivers in each region. A driver’s 14 best finishes within their respective regions will count towards regional championships. The NASCAR Advance Auto Parts Weekly Series previously crowned regional champions from 1982 to 2004.

In some sad news Rick Summers passed away on Thursday, February 4. Rick had been fighting Parkinsons disease when he contacted pneumonia which ultimately caused him to pass. Rick, who drove Modifieds and Late Models in his younger days, operated Summers Trucking with his mom Peggy after his father legendary driver George Summers passed away. Rick is survived by his wife Natalie, his mom, Peggy, his brother George Jr and sisters Mary and Kathy.

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