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

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Forty five years ago in 1977, the Modifieds traveled to Martinsville for a 250 lapper. Paul Radford in the Wayne “Speedy” Thomas No.07 took the win. Ray Miller finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Bill Dennis and Joe Thurman. Radford also won the Late Model portion of the Martinsville event.

Forty years ago in 1982, forty five Modifieds were on hand for the Dogwood 500 in Martinsville only to get rained out. In Winston Cup action at Atlanta, Dale Earnhardt was the pole sitter but it was Darrell Waltrip taking the win. Ron Bouchard finished 36th after losing an engine.

Thirty five years ago in 1987, a somewhat lean field of 43 Modifieds was on hand for the Dogwood event at Martinsville. Reggie Ruggiero was the pole sitter. Little did anyone know but this event would be marred by tragedy. Charlie Jarzombek had qualified out of the top 20 but was headed to the front when on lap six, while coming down the front stretch, his throttle stuck. Charlie, a 20 plus year veteran, attempted to spin the car and in doing so, bounced off the inside curb and shot for the wall at full throttle. After going up and over Kerry Malone, Jarzombek made hard contact with the concrete wall. The popular Long Island driver was over six feet tall and the impact was such that his body stretched and his throat area made contact with the steering wheel, causing him to suffer a crushed Adams Apple, which in turn cut off his air. Needless to say, by the time rescue personnel reached him, too much time had passed and the undisputed King of the Long Island Gang was gone. It was a sad day for Modified Racing. After a long red flag period the event resumed. Ruggiero, who had led the early going, took the lead from Mike Stefanik with 24 laps to go and went on to record the win. George Summers finished third and was followed by Tony Hirschman, Jan Leaty, Tom Baldwin and George Kent. Brad Teague was the Busch Grandnational winner with Dale Jarrett, second.

Thirty years ago in 1992, Riverside Park Speedway opened for the season with howling winds and 20-degree temperatures. Stan Gregger took the opening night win over Dan Avery, Jerry Marquis, Bruce D’Assandro and Chris Kopec. It wasn’t much better at Martinsville as it snowed and was freezing cold. The snow quit and the Dogwood event went off as planned. The weather kept the crowd down as only 3500 were on hand to watch favorite son Donald “Satch” Worley take the modified win over Wayne Anderson, Rick Fuller, Doug Hevron and Tom Baldwin. There were 10 cautions. Kenny Wallace was the Busch Grandnational winner. Drag Racer Kenny Bernstein set a new record as he became the first to hit 300 mph in the quarter mile.

Twenty five years ago in 1997, Randy LaJoie used a last lap Earnhardt type pass to beat Jeff Burton out for Busch Grandnational honors at Darlington. Dale Jarrett inched out Ted Musgrave to take the Winston Cup event. On a sad note, sprint car driver Kenny Weld passed away after a bout with cancer.

Twenty years ago in 2002, all the action was in Bristol, Tenn. Jeff Green was the Busch Grandnational winner. Mike Mclaughlin finished second. The action in the pit area, after the event was over, got ugly when Kevin Harvick, who got hit hard and crashed, went after Greg Biffle. For his actions, Harvick was fined $15,000 and put on probation by NASCAR. In Winston Cup action, Jim Spencer got an attitude adjustment after knocking Kurt Busch out of the lead on lap 443 of the 500-lap event. Spencer led only one lap before Busch got him back, sending him to the infield. Busch led the rest of the way for his first ever Winston Cup win.

Fifteen years ago in 2007 New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame inductee Bob Potter of Norwich was named the Grand Marshal Budweiser Modified Nationals. Potter scored over 100 victories and six championships over a four-decade career at the Speedbowl. Potter won his initial Speedbowl feature in 1966, the first of an estimated 150 checkered flags at the Speedbowl, Stafford and Thompson Speedways. The Speedbowl ran their pre-season practice session on Saturday afternoon. There were six or seven True Value Modifieds along with six or seven SK Modifieds. Chris Pasteryak, who was there with a SK also brought his Whelen Modified Tour car for a shakedown run. There was a overall good turnout of the Waterford weekly cars along with NEMA, ARTS and Allison Legacy cars. Work is in progress in the rest room areas as well as in the grandstand.

It’had been rumored and said many times over the winter months that the Mystic Missile No.4 would no longer be part of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. All those rumors would be put to rest on April 15 at Thompson when the Missile rolled out on the track with Long Islander Donnie Lia behind the wheel. Jerry Marquis, the former driver of the Mystic Missile would pilot the No.00 of Joe Brady in 2007.

While most of us in the northeast were dodging rain drops or snow on Saturday night the Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series began their 2007 season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. Northern drivers who ventured south were Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT, Bob Grigas of Marshfield, MA, JR Bertuccio of Centerreach, Long Island, Ryan Preece of Kensington, CT, Chuck Hossfeld from Ramsonville, NY, Jamie Tomaino from New Jersey and Matt Hirschman from Northhampton, PA.

The southern contingent ruled as three of the top five including the winner, LW Miller were from south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The highest finishing northerner was Hirschman who finished fourth. Preece finished fifth. Miller, originally from Pennsylvania, resides in Mooresville, NC. Burt Myers and Brian Loftin who finished second and third are also from North Carolina. Ted Christopher, who drove the No.00 of Joe Brady was as high as second at one point. From lap 103 to 119 Christopher and Burt Myers were rubbing nerf bars and trading spots. Christopher’s night ended on lap 119 when he crashed into the front stretch wall. Christopher ended up 18th in the final rundown. Hossfeld, who drove the southern owned Roger Hill entry was parked by NASCAR for being over aggressive. Hossfeld was credited with the 24th finishing position. Jamie Tomaino ended up 25th after his engine quit and Bertuccio ended up 26th after a lap 23 accident.

Carl Edwards held off hard-charging teammate Matt Kenseth in the final dozen laps to win the Busch Series Sharpie Mini 300 Saturday at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. It was a typical crash-filled Bristol race, with 12 cautions for 103 laps and one red-flag stoppage. NASCAR also had a miscue on pit road that confused most of the field and gave Edwards, Kyle Busch and Ryan Newman a second chance. Edwards used that free pit stop to get fresh tires and drive to his first win of the season, beating Kenseth to the line by 0.260 of a second. Busch took the lead with 16 laps to go on a smooth pass around Denny Hamlin in thick traffic and stayed there through a pair of cautions. He had driven away from the competition when the 15th and final caution set up a three-lap overtime sprint to the finish. Busch and teammate Jeff Gordon were running 1-2 on the restart, but Burton jumped past Gordon and quickly pulled onto Busch’s rear bumper. Burton looked low and Busch threw a block, then he went high and Busch blocked that, too. Burton pulled alongside Busch as they closed in on the finish line, but Busch nipped him at the flag for his first Nextel Cup win on a short track. Gordon, the pole-sitter, wound up third but took over the points lead as Mark Martin skipped the event and handed the keys to rookie Regan Smith. Smith finished 25th.

NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow made its debut at Bristol and would be used in 16 races in 2007 as NASCAR phases it in through the 2009 season.

Five years ago in 2012, Area Auto Racing News scribe Kevin Rice reported that the Bristol Motor Speedway hosted a test session for the NASCAR Modifieds. Participants were Champions Ron Silk and George Brunnhoelzl III along with Frank Flemming and Eric Goodale. The primary reason for the test was to experiment with rear end gears and quick change rear ends. NASCAR hopes to reduce the number of blown engines that persisted last year. Preliminary results showed no big change in lap times when higher gears were used.

Speedway Motorsports, Inc., CEO Bruton Smith said that he is moving ahead with plans to return Bristol Motor Speedway to its previous configuration. Speaking on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s The Late Shift with Buddy Baker and Jim Noble, Smith said feedback from fans had been overwhelmingly in favor of changing the legendary speedway’s layout. Smith’s change will take a multi groove track back to single consistently banked track. track.

The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour series was slated to begin at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. Caraway is a .455 mile semi-banked oval. Due to persistent rain showers and a forecast calling for possible severe thunderstorms throughout the weekend, NASCAR and Caraway Speedway postponed the Spring Classic 150 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour race originally scheduled for Sunday, March 25. Twenty six cars were entered for the event.

The Dallas Business Journal reported that Bruton Smith, chief executive of Speedway Motorsports Inc., received $1.97 million in total compensation in 2011, according to a company filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission. Smith was paid a salary of $600,000 and received nonequity incentives of $1.37 million last year. The speedway CEO’s compensation totaled $1.78 million in 2010.

Also included the filing: proposals to elect Marcus Smith and Tom Smith to the company’s board; to approve of a revised stock plan; to reapprove the company’s incentive compensation plan; and to finalize selection of Pricewaterhouse-Coopers as principal accounting firm for 2012.

Joey Logano won the Nationwide Series race at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA Saturday, holding off Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Brad Keselowski in an entertaining finish to Joe Gibbs Racing’s eighth consecutive Nationwide win at the track. After starting from the pole, Logano reclaimed the lead after a restart with 12 laps to go before staying in front of a tight pack.

Tony Stewart got his second NASCAR victory of the season Sunday when rain shortened the race at Auto Club Speedway by 71 laps. Stewart’s Chevrolet passed Kyle Busch 44 laps before the race was stopped when the looming rain clouds finally halted a race run entirely on green flags to that point. The race was called off after a short delay, giving Stewart his 46th career win and his second at Fontana. Busch finished second, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. added to his strong start to the season in third.

Last year, 2017, Former Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified champion Todd Ceravolo had his motor home stocked and loaded in anticipation of taking in the southern Modified tour series event at Concord, NC. A bad forecast changed his mind and he stayed home. Good choice! Due to the forecast for rain throughout the day on Saturday, Concord Speedway postponed the Southern Sizzler 150 originally scheduled to begin at approximately 6 p.m. The race for the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour then slated for Saturday, April 2.

Eighteen Modifieds were entered including the Brady Bunch entry with Ted Christopher and Rowan Pennink in the Ole Blu entry of the Boehler family.

Ryan Preece continued on his learning curve in NASCAR’s top tier of racing. Preece finished 25th in Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300 Xfinity Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California after coming back from a lap-10 incident in which his left rear tire blew, sending him into a spin and causing the race’s first caution flag. The next Xfinity race is April 8 at Texas Motor Speedway. NASCAR’s top divisions take this weekend off to observe Easter.

A tip of the hat to Jeff Rocco who was making a strong political statement with the endorsement of Donald Trump for president shown on his Late Model that he will run at Thompson this year.

Kyle Busch looked like he was on his way to his fourth-straight NASCAR XFINITY Series victory Saturday afternoon at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California when he took the white flag with a comfortable lead, but everything went away by the time the checkered flag waved. Austin Dillon charged from more than 10 seconds behind Busch and passed him coming out of turn four to take the victory in Saturday’s TreatMyClot.com 300, but that is only part of the story.

By the time Busch took the white flag the gap to second was less than three seconds, but it looked as if Busch was still going to win comfortably. That all changed when Busch suddenly blew a left-front tire entering turn one and his Toyota bounced off the outside wall.

Daniel Suarez blew by Busch out of turn two, but almost as soon as he took the lead he ran out of gas and slowed down the backstretch. Flat tire and all, Busch kept his foot in the gas and retook the lead down the backstretch as Suarez slowed to a crawl. Busch continued to limp his Toyota through turns three and four with the checkered flag in sight, but Austin Dillon suddenly made his presence known. More than 10 seconds back only a few laps prior, Dillon charged around the outside of Busch coming out of turn four. Busch tried to block Dillon’s run, but Dillon squeezed by on the outside to take the victory. The victory continued a great weekend for Dillon, who on Friday earned his second-career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series pole for Sunday’s event at Auto Club Speedway.

It was appropriate that Jimmie Johnson had the Superman logo on the hood of his Chevrolet Sunday afternoon as the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion came from third during an overtime restart to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Auto Club 400. Finally with two laps left Kyle Busch, who had driven his way up to second during the final run, blew a tire in turns three and four and hit the wall. NASCAR called for the caution flag, setting up an overtime restart. Harvick stuck with the high side in turns three and four while Johnson again went low. That decision paid off for Johnson, who rocketed out of turn four ahead of Harvick to take the lead as the white flag waved. Johnson then clicked off his fastest lap of the race as he pulled away from Harvick to score his second victory of the year.

The triumph was Johnson’s 77th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series triumph, which moved him into sole possession of seventh place on the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory list over seven-time series champion Dale Earnhardt.

Last year, 2021, Sunday, March 14. saw the rebirth of the SMART Modified Tour at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. The series started back in 1989 when the drivers gathered before a race at the now-closed Myrtle Beach Speedway during a rain delay and they came to an agreement kind of like a driver’s council and formed what’s now the Southern Modified Auto Racing Tour or SMART for short.

Thirty four Modifieds were on hand for the opener. Matt Hirschman picked up where he left off in Florida as he went on to score the 99 lap win. Hirschman qualified on the pole and started sixth on the redraw. Following Hirschman at the finish was Burt Myers and John Smith. Chuck Hossfeldt and Caleb Heady rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Jeff Fultz, Jared Fryer, Tom Buzze, Bobby Labonte and Jon Kieven. All were on the lead lap.

Hirschman elected to conserve his equipment during the opening 30-lap stage at Caraway while Jason Myers passed Labonte and took the field to the competition caution. Jeremy Gerstner took control of the race on the ensuing restart but would soon give way to Hirschman, who led the next 30 laps until a caution from a Jon Kieven spin brought him, Labonte and several others to pit road.

Jeff Fultz, who had stopped earlier in the race for fresh tires, led the race briefly before Tim Brown took over on Lap 77. A slow leak on Brown’s right rear allowed Burt Myers to rapid close in and take the lead with ten laps to go. Burt was forced to overcome a trailing arm issue earlier in the race, but had now found himself in the top spot late in the event. A string of late-race cautions meant Burt had to hold off both Hirschman and Labonte on old tires to claim the win. Once Hirschman dispatched Labonte on the final restart, he spent the next three laps working on Myers’ back bumper. A bad exit from Myers in Turn 2 on the final lap gave Hirschman the opportunity he needed to muscle Myers out of the way to win the SMART Modified Tour opener, all while Myers narrowly held on for the second position.

With many differing strategies going on between his competitors, Hirschman thought that pitting for tires late in the race would have eliminated any chance he had of a win. He considers himself fortunate that the final laps played out in his favor and that he was able to drive his #60 Modified into victory lane with minimal damage.

In NASCAR Cup action, Martin Truex Jr. led 64 laps, including the final 25, to win Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway – his first career victory in 31 Cup starts at the track. Joey Logano, Denny Hamlin, Brad Keselowski and reigning Cup champion Chase Elliott completed the top five finishers. Ryan Preece finished 26th, one lap down.

Kyle Souza advised that Chris Pasteryak and his family have figured that traveling all over the country chasing the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series is not cost effective. After a few years of traveling outside of New England and competing with his Modified, veteran racer Chris Pasteryak is primed to return home to full-time racing with the Tri Track Open Modified Series presented by All Phases Renovations this season. The Lisbon, Connecticut, driver will compete in his family-owned No. 75, returning in hopes of winning and contending for the championship. Pasteryak’s season will also include the six Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park Outlaw Open Modified Series events and the four Stafford Motor Speedway Open Modified Series races, making up a busy schedule.

Even though the four Stafford Opens are not part of the Tri-Track Series they are coupled with the series. The Call Before You Dig 811 Modified Challenge, has created a new points partnership between Tri Track and Stafford. As part of the partnership, the new points series will pay the champion $8,110. Drivers must finish inside the top-10 in the Stafford Open Modified or Tri Track Open Modified Series feature events to score points. The race winner will receive 10 points, with each subsequent position earning one less point, with the 10th place driver grabbing one point. The driver with the highest point total from the combination of 10 events will receive the $8,110 bonus.

Word came from Bob Finan that a four race series honoring the late Ted Christopher at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island would keep a set of points separate to the weekly track championship points with the series champion earning the Ted Christopher Cup. With Covid-19 delaying and streamlining the 2020 season the four race Crown Jewel Series was put on hold but track management recently announced the race for the Ted Christopher Cup would be a major part of the 2021 schedule.

On a sad note, internet racing news website RaceDayCt reported that Salvatore “Sully” Tinio, the owner of the local race team Tinio Motorsports, has passed away. He was 72 years old. Under his ownership, Tinio Motorsports grew from a Late Model team competing at Thompson Speedway to a winning organization on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

May 31, 1968 Bugsy Stevens in the mighty No.3 of Len Boehler took the win in the 75 lap Nutmeg Classic Memorial Day weekend special event over Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Fred Harbach and Tommy Borget. Stevens passed Eddie Flemke on lap 57. Flemke had led the event since lap 13.

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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