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

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Fifty years ago in 1972, the NASCAR Modifieds and the Late Model Sportsman (Grandnationals) were at Martinsville for the Dogwood 500.

Seventy six Modifieds were on hand. Bugsy Stevens, in the Sonny Koszela No.15 took the win over Mike Loescher, Fred DeSarro and Ray Hendrick. Rounding out the top ten were Bernie Miller, Charlie Jarzombek, Richie Evans, Geoff Bodine, Lou Lazzaro and Lew Hennesy. Sonny Hutchins in the Emanual Zervakas No.01 was the Late Model winner with Jimmie Hensley, second.

Forty five years ago in 1977, the Modifieds traveled to Hickory, N.C. for a 250-lap event. Satch Worley, in the Clarence’s Steak House No.26 took the win over Paul Radford, Jerry Cook, Wayne Anderson and Dave Nichols. Geoff Bodine, in the Dick Armstrong No.1 lost an engine while running second on lap 212.Attrician was so high that Bodine still finished 12th.

Forty years ago in 1982, the Modifieds were quiet as Darrell Waltrip took the pole and eventual win at Bristol in their spring Winston Cup event. Brian Ross and Bob Garbarino, who had been together as a team for almost ten years, went their separate ways. Shortly there after it was announced that Bugsy Stevens would be driving the Mystic Missile for the 1982 season.

Thirty five years ago in 1987, the NASCAR Modifieds began their season at Rougemont, N.C. Mike Stefanik in the Koszela No.15 took the win with Jim Spencer, second. Pole sitter Jan Leaty led the start and he first lap until overhauled by Doug Hevron. Hevron led until lap six and from there on it was Reggie Ruggiero, which is until three laps to go in the 150 lapper when he tangled with Satch Worley. Ruggiero and Worley spun and were able to restart but it was too late as a patient Stefanik took the lead and never looked back. Pre-race favorite Charlie Jarzombek, out with a brand new RE Chassis mod, blew a tire and finished in 15th spot. Following Stefanik and Spencer were Ruggiero, Carl Pasteryak, Kenny Bouchard, Mike McLaughlin and Worley. In Winston Cup action at Atlanta, Ricky Rudd took the win.

Thirty years ago in 1992, all was quiet.

Twenty five years ago in 1997, at Las Vegas, Jeff Green passed Tim Steele with 14 laps to go and went on to record his first Busch Grandnational win. Dick Trickle finished second after Steele faded. In a truck race at Homestead, Fl, John Nemacheck, Joe’s brother, suffered severe head injuries after crashing hard on the driver’s side. Nemacheck passed away five days later.

Twenty years ago in 2002, the Winston Cup and Busch Grandnational divisions of NASCAR were at Darlington. In Winston Cup qualifying Ricky Craven took the pole with Jeff Gordon on the outside. The big news was that Gordon’s wife Brooke filed for divorce. Jeff Burton went pole to pole to win the BGN 200. Sterling Marlin started dead last after an engine change and charged his way to victory in the Winston Cup event. Steve Park, in his first race back since suffering head injuries, started fourth and was leading on lap 39 when he slid up into Stacey Compton, triggering a wreck that took out Craven. Tony Stewart also had a close call when he hit the lapped car of Buckshot Jones and then was hit hard by Jim Spencer. Stewart was life starred to a hospital where he was checked out to be ok.

Fifteen years ago in 2007, NASCAR has announced their touring series television package and as usual the Whelen Modified Tour Series got the crumbs or better yet what the cow left behind after she jumped the fence. HDNet would air the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway on August 25, while the SPEED channel would air the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire International Speedway on June 30 and the combination event with the NASCAR Whelen Modifed Tour and NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway on Sept. 1.. In addition, SPEED would provide expanded coverage of the NASCAR Grand National Division in 2007, as the network will air 23 races as part of its Racing Across America series, re-airing all 16 of HDNet’s live events while originally producing six others. SPEED’s coverage of the division would culminate with live post-season coverage of the prestigious NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in October.

It’s really too bad that NASCAR didn’t do more for the Whelen Modifieds as it had been proven by the Arute family at the Stafford Motor Speedway that produces NASCAR New England that TV coverage pays big dividends for both the competitors and the Speedway. Stafford’s weekly car count exceeds 200.

The Stafford Speedway announced that Phil Kurze, Vice President of Motorsports for Whelen Engineering, would serve as the grand marshal for 36th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST on April 27-29, 2007.

Jimmie Johnson passed Tony Stewart three laps from the end Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway and went on to win his second straight race in Nextel Cup competition. Johnson had the car to beat as he led 132 of the first 238 laps. But the only laps he led the rest of the way in the 325-lap event on Atlanta’s 1.5-mile oval were the last three. The 25th victory of his Cup career moved Johnson within 28 points of current series leader Mark Martin. Jeff Burton didn’t need any last-lap heroics this time. But he did need a little luck as he made it two Busch Series victories in a row Saturday.

Ten years ago in 2012, Just when you were thinking of taking in a lot of racing in the coming season, the AAA says the average price of regular gas had topped $4 a gallon in Connecticut, and a state lawmaker is calling for a cap on the state’s gross receipts tax on wholesale gas.

The motor club says the average price hit $4.006 a gallon, up from $3.998. Connecticut was now tied with New York with the fifth-highest average price in the country. AAA says Hawaii tops the list at $4.46 a gallon, followed by California at $4.36, Alaska at $4.23 and Illinois at $4.11. The national average price was $3.83 a gallon.

Get well wishes to Modified Car owner Joe Brady who underwent quadruple by-pass surgery.

Elliot Sadler picked up his second NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season when his crew chief left him out on the track on old tires during the final caution at Bristol Motor Speedway. The call put Sadler in the lead on the final restart, with 28 laps remaining, and he easily held off Kasey Kahne and Brad Keselowski.

No one had anything for Brad Keselowski in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Food City 500 Sunday afternoon at Bristol Motor Speedway. Keselowski led 231 of the 500 laps of the .533-mile concrete track, including the final 111 circuits. It was Keselowski’s second straight victory at Bristol and his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series triumph in 93 starts.

Driving Roger Penske’s Miller Lite Dodge, Keselowski held off the repeated challenges of Roush Fenway Racing Ford driver Matt Kenseth, taking the checkered flag .714 seconds ahead of Kenseth in a race run before one of the smallest crowds in recent Bristol history. Martin Truex Jr., Clint Bowyer and Brian Vickers completed the top five.

Five years ago in 2017, The 52nd Annual Season Opener and the 2017 debut of the Southern Modified Racing Series (SMRS) scheduled for Sunday at Caraway Speedway was postponed and would have to wait another week. “Rain, possible snow showers and a high temperature of 41” was not a forecast fit for racing, and is the reason for the events to be pushed back until next Sunday, March 19.

With the SMRS Modifieds being pushed back a week to this Sunday a serious dilemma has presented itself among competitors and fans as they would have to scramble from Myrtle Beach in South Carolina to Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina. The overnight trip is approximately 177 miles which should take 3hrs and 30 minutes.

It had been rumored for quite a while that the New Hampshire Motor Speedway would lose one of their NASCAR Cup weekends. Rumor became fact when Las Vegas Motor Speedway representatives made it official that the track will add a second Monster Energy Cup event to their schedule for the 2018 season. That event would come from New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway will see its September Cup weekend shift to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Speedway Motorsports Inc. owns both New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway. SMI purchased New Hampshire Motor Speedway from track founder Bob Bahre in November 2007.

NASCAR has announced the 20 nominees for the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018, as well as the five nominees for the Landmark Award for Outstanding Contributions to NASCAR. Each name made an indelible mark on the sport, whether from behind the wheel or atop a pit box … or even from inside a broadcast booth. After long careers that have helped shape NASCAR, all are now one step closer to its highest honor, induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

The 20 nominees for induction were Mike Stefanik, winner of record-tying nine NASCAR championships, Davey Allison, won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier (now Monster Energy NASCAR Cup) series, including the 1992 Daytona 500, Buddy Baker, won 19 times in NASCAR’s premier series, including the Daytona 500 and Southern 500, Red Byron, first NASCAR premier series champion, in 1949, Ray Evernham, three-time NASCAR premier series championship crew chief, Red Farmer, three-time Late Model Sportsman champion; 1956 Modified champion, Ray Fox, legendary engine builder, crew chief and car owner, Joe Gibbs, combined for nine car owner championships in premier and XFINITY series, Ron Hornaday Jr., four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion,Harry Hyde, 1970 NASCAR premier series championship crew chief, Alan Kulwicki, 1992 NASCAR premier series champion, Bobby Labonte, won a championship in both the premier series and XFINITY Series, Hershel McGriff, 1986 NASCAR west series champion, Roger Penske, combined for four car owner championships in premier and XFINITY series, Larry Phillips, only five-time NASCAR weekly series national champion, Jack Roush, five-time car owner champion in NASCAR’s three national series, Ricky Rudd, won 23 times in NASCAR’s premier series, including the 1997 Brickyard 400, Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner/namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence, Waddell Wilson, won three NASCAR premier series championships as an engine builder and Robert Yates, won NASCAR premier series championship as both an engine builder and owner

The five nominees for the Landmark Award, were as follows, Jim France, worked closely with father and NASCAR founder Bill France Sr.; current chairman of International Speedway Corporation, Janet Guthrie, the first female to compete in a NASCAR premier series superspeedway race, Alvin Hawkins, NASCAR’s first flagman; established NASCAR racing at Bowman Gray Stadium with Bill France Sr., Ralph Seagraves, formed groundbreaking Winston-NASCAR partnership as executive with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company and Ken Squier, legendary radio and television broadcaster; inaugural winner / namesake of Squier-Hall Award for NASCAR Media Excellence.

From the list of 20 NASCAR Hall of Fame nominees, five inductees will be elected by the NASCAR Hall of Fame Voting Panel, which includes a nationwide fan vote on NASCAR.com. Voting Day for the 2018 class will be Wednesday, May 24.

Martin Truex Jr. and Brad Keselowski had a fine duel for most of Sunday’s Kobalt 400, with Truex topping a fading Keselowski at the end for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series victory.

But local boy Kyle Busch provided the fury immediately afterward when he approached Joey Logano near the pit. Busch slid out after battling with Logano at the end and finished 22nd. A fuming Busch squeezed out of his No. 18 Toyota and approached Logano. Logano backed away, and one of his many crew members on the spot stepped between them to confront Busch.

They tangled, and Busch, not known for being magnanimous, left the melee with a bloody cut on his forehead.

Joey Logano dominated the final stage of Saturday’s 200-lap Xfinity series race despite multiple caution periods that kept bringing the field back up to the bumper of his No. 12 Ford Mustang.

Last year, 2021, In some good news for Connecticut track operators and fans Governor Ned Lamont announced on March 4 that in the coming days he plans to revise some requirements that were implemented in Connecticut in the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly when it comes to those relating to capacity levels and travel restrictions. Beginning Friday, April 2, 2021 outdoor amusement parks can open and outdoor event venues can increase to a 50% capacity, capped at 10,000 people. Connecticut has four race tracks including the Stafford Motor Speedway, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, the Thompson Motorsports Speedway and the Lime Rock Park Road Course Speedway.

NASCAR announced that longtime Tour tech director Rick McCaughey announced his retirement at the end of the 2020 season. Moving into his spot will be Dave Farrell, who’s been working with Modifieds for over a decade. A native of upstate New York, Farrell has been working racing tech for decades, from USAC to Legends cars. He jumped over to Modified racing in 2009. Now, he’s the Whelen Modified Tour tech director.

The American-Canadian Tour (ACT) and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) have announced the schedule of events and ticketing information for the 47th Icebreaker at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on April 10 and 11. The 10-division card is highlighted by the $10,000-to-win Icebreaker 125 for the Thompson Outlaw Open Modified Series plus other top local and regional classes.

In a shift from previous years, all 10 of the divisions competing on Icebreaker weekend will have a “one-day” format. Six divisions have their qualifying and features on Saturday, April 10 with the Icebreaker 125 and remaining divisions set for Sunday, April 11. While teams may attend the Friday Test N’ Tune and other practice opportunities during the weekend, they can also practice, qualify, and race in a single day if they choose.

The Stafford Motor Speedway has announced the schedule and pricing for the 49th annual Sizzler weekend. Saturday’s Opening Day program on April 24 consists of feature events and qualifying events for Granite State Pro Stock Series 75 laps, SK Modified 40 laps, Late Model 30 laps, Limited Late Model 20 laps and Street Stock 20 laps. General adult admission for Saturday only is $35. Children 6-14 is $25 and kids under six will be admitted free. Sunday’s Spring Sizzler program consists of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour 150 laps, SK Modified 40 laps. SK Light Modified 20 laps and Vintage Modified 20 laps. General adult admission for Sunday only is $40, kids 6-14 $30 and kids under 6 are free.

Racing website RaceDayCt announced that Bryan Narducci had split with his car owner Todd Owen and had signed on to drive for Billy “Bear” Callicchio. Driving for Owen, Narducci had five SK Light Modified victories at Stafford and three at Thompson in 2018 on the way to the NASCAR All-American Series Division III national championship. The success continued in 2019 with Narducci winning eight of the 19 SK Light Modified events at Stafford and seven of the 10 SK Light Modified events at Thompson that season. All good things come to an end as the 2020 ended up a big disappointment for both. This happens quite often in all levels of auto racing. In most cases both parties end up bettering themselves.

Kyle Larson powered to his first victory of the NASCAR Cup Series season, pulling away during the final green-flag stretch at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Larson became the fourth different winner in four Cup Series races this season, leading a race-high 103 of the 267 laps in the Pennzoil 400. Ryan Preece finished 15th.

The Seekonk Speedway was saddened to hear of the passing of Wall of Fame member, Deke Astle. As part of a career that lasted over two decades, Astle was the “Little Man with a Big Cigar” and was victorious over 25 times at Seekonk. In addition to dozens of races won at Lakeville and Westboro Speedway’s, Astle won the Class A Seekonk title in 1966, and continued racing through the late 1980s, where his career ended in the Pro Stock division.

It was also learned last week that former Maine car builder and driver Bobby Turner had passed away. Bobby was the pole sitter in the original Spring Sizzler at Stafford in 1972.

Since 1970 the Arute family has owned and controlled the Stafford Motor Speedway for 51 going on 52 years. Through it all two of Jack Sr’s sons have seen and done it all. Jackie, oldest of the seven siblings was first in charge of public relations, then the chief announcer and the promoter and general manager before seeking his fortune in radio and television broadcasting. Jackie is still involved with the speedway when his busy schedule permits. Mark Arute, the present day promoter and general manager was the original score board operator and was in charge of repairs and maintenance.

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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