RPW Column: The Champ Trail; Gas Prices Rising, Hirschman Victorious In SMART Mods Opener & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The times…they are a changing.

In the last two years the price of gasoline has climbed to almost $4.00 per gallon. Those that are affected the most are those on a fixed income including senior citizens, veterans and those with illness who are on a full disability.

Many of those in the three groups are race fans who, because of no fault of their own, will be unable to afford fuel costs to get back and forth to the races.

As an example those living 60 miles from a track and having a vehicle that gets 20 miles per gallon will spend at least $24 dollars for fuel. Thanks to the miracle of FloRacing that cost can be trimmed to $6 per week or less.  You can watch from the comfort of your home.

In addition to all of NASCAR’s touring divisions FloRacing covers weekly racing at numerous asphalt and dirt ovals. It’s well worth looking into and as a wise man once said, “You can have your cake and eat it too”!

With Florida Speedweeks in the rear view mirror it’s time to look forward to the upcoming asphalt Modified season. On the docket last weekend was the season opening SMART (Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour) at the Florence, South Carolina 4/10 mile speedway on March 5. This tour is comprised of competitors mostly from the Bowman Gray Stadium. Burt Myers is the defending series champion. This event was live streamed by FloRacing.

Under 75deg skies, 23 modifieds took time. Bobby Mesmer was the pole sitter with a time of 17.086sec. Second fastest was Brandon Ward at 17 171 sec and third was invader Matt Hirschman with a time of 17.225 sec.

Because of disorganization and numerous delays the event took forever to get started. Based on a re-draw Mesmer started sixth. In the first 30 laps there was 3 lead changes for the “Jerry Hunt Supercenter” 30 lap stage winner and the #07 Dennis Holden taking the money for winning that stage. Brandon Ward was running second with Matt Hirschman, third. Following the restart on lap 31, Jason Myers spun on lap 34 bringing out a quick caution. The event went green and on lap 50 Hirschman would take the halfway bonus for leading at lap 50. Caleb Heady who was driving the Tommy Baldwin no,7ny was running second with Bobby Labonte, third and Jamie Tomaino, fourth.

On lap 66 Cody Kohler would spin in turn 3 closing the field back up and the pit crews would go to work. Most of the front runners including Hirschman and Heady who changed right rear tires. When the race resumed on lap 67 there would be another caution for a checkup of Brian Loftin which caused the cars of Greg Butcher and Gary Young to tangle and sending Butcher over the bank. Florence has no walls in turn 1 and on the back straightaway.

There would be another caution on lap 69 when Bobby Labonte and Jeremy Gerstner tangled on the back straightway, causing Labonte to spin and Gerstner to get sent over the bank.

In the closing laps Heady would try and make a final charge for the lead but would come home race runner up behind Hirschman who went on to record his 203rd lifetime win. Heady finished second with Brandon Ward, third. Burt Myers was never a factor and finished fourth with Jonathon Brown rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Bobby Labonte, Brian Loftin, Jimmy Wallace, Jason Myers and Bobby Measmer Jr.

The next event for the SMART Modifieds will be on Saturday, March 19 at the Southern National Speedway in North Carolina.

While the asphalt modifieds are quiet this weekend the Short Track Super Series (STSS) dirt modifieds will convene at the Georgetown Speedway in Delaware. STSS Modifieds take center stage on March 12 (Saturday), as the Modifieds race for the largest dirt-track purse in the history of the First State. A purse near $80,000 will be distributed, with a whopping $25,000 reserved for the winner. The entire weekend of racing, along with every STSS race in 2022, will be broadcast LIVE on FloRacing (www.floracing.tv).

The 2022 outdoor events schedule at the North East Motor Sports Museum (922 NH Route 106, Loudon NH, 03307) kicks off with the inaugural New England Racers Reunion: All Eras Race Car Show on Saturday April 16th. Each of the museum’s events are essential fundraisers to help meet financial obligations so we can continue our mission of New England motor racing preservation, education and inspiration.

After a two-year absence, the museums annual race car show returns to the spring. The event has been rebranded as the New England Racers Reunion and now welcomes all eras of race cars to display on Saturday April 16th. The event will feature best appearing awards and unique artifact displays from various mobile auto racing museums from across the region. The event takes place on the same day as the Northeast Classic at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. This will allow race fans to stop by the museum in the morning and then continue on to watch the stock car and modified races in the afternoon on the one-mile NHMS oval.

Riverhead Raceway officials announced late last week the twice postponed 2021 championship awards presentation will take place Sunday afternoon April 3rd at The All-Star of Riverhead. Track owners Connie Partridge and Tom Gatz will present nine track champions with the traditional championship rings and plaques. The top five from the nine classes will also receive plaques, with seven Rookie of the Year drivers to be named.

A big shout-out to NASCAR legend Richard Childress who has pledged to send 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine as soldiers and citizens defend their country from the Russian military. During an appearance on Fox News in Greensboro, NC last Wednesday, Childress said he was moved by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s spirit to defend his country.

“I heard Zelenskyy say he didn’t want out, he needed ammunition,” Childress said. The NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner then called Fred Wagenhals, the CEO of AMMO Inc., about how they could make it happen. Childress told Brian Kilmeade that Wagenhals immediately offered to begin production on ammunition for Ukrainian fighters. Childress said what’s happening in Ukraine should be a wake-up call for Americans and said it underscores the importance of the Second Amendment and the right to bear arms.

“To see people in Ukraine fighting, it’s terrible to see the lives being lost over there,” Childress said. “We have to do all we can, and I felt with AMMO Inc. and myself, we’re doing the right thing and we’re going to get that ammunition as quick as we can to them.” Childress resigned from the National Rifle Assocation’s board of directors in 2019. He said at the time the decision was so he could focus on his businesses. He said he is working with several government agencies on getting the ammunition delivered but said a private courier will be needed to get it to Ukraine quickly.

Ronnie Bouchard was a three time track champion at the Seekonk Speedway when he came to Stafford for the first time in 1972 to race in the inaugural Spring Sizzler. Driving his own no.35 the young gun impressed many with his ability and never give up attitude to race the high groove. Although his day ended in the fence his performance caught the eye of car owner Richard Armstrong who had recently purchased the Jack Tant coupe that had been driven to many wins. At the Pocono Raceway Bouchard started dead last in the consolation for a 200 lapper and in the main event was headed for victory when the engine expired. Bouchard returned to Seekonk where he wrapped up his fourth title but his days at the track they called the cement palace were numbered. A young car owner from the Waterford Speedbowl convinced Bouchard to drive his car at Stafford where he became a consistent winner and eventual track champion.

Read all about it in the all-new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, which is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. The book documents Modified Racing at the Stafford Motor Speedway from 1967 to 1986. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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