RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: Second Week Of February
Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty five years ago in 1958 it was the final event to be run on the old beach-road course in Daytona Beach. Bill France Sr. had a vision for a vast super speedway and it would become a reality one-year later when the 2-1/2 mile high banked Daytona International Speedway would be completed and run its first event. On the beach it was Paul Goldsmith taking the poll position for the 49 car-starting field. Goldsmith toured the 4.1 mile circuit at 140.570 mph. Jim Thompson was second fastest with Cotton Owens, Eddie Pagen and Lee Petty making up the top five.
Sixty years ago in 1963, Marvin Panch, the driver of the famous Wood Brothers No.21 was testing a prototype Maserati when he lost control and flipped. The car caught fire and had it not been for the efforts of a group of spectators that included Ernie Gahan and southern driver Dwane “Tiny” Lund Panch would have burned up in the fire. The group pulled him from the inferno and saved his life. From his hospital bed Panch requested that the Wood Brothers put Lund in his place to drive in the up-coming Daytona 500. The were 62 cars on hand for time trials and coming out on top was Glen “Fireball” Roberts who took the pole with a speed of 160.943 mph. Fred Lorenzen was second fastest.
Fifty five years ago in 1968, Cale Yarborough was the pole sitter for the Daytona 500 with a speed of 189.222 mph. Richard Petty was second fastest. Rounding out the top five were LeeRoy Yarbrough, David Pearson and Tiny Lund. During the pre-qualifying inspection process a Chevrolet Chevelle entered by Smokey Yunick came under extreme close scrutiny. Inspectors had a list of ten items for Yunick to fix before his car would be allowed to qualify. After removing the gas tank Yunick got so mad that he jumped in the car and drove off saying, “you may as well make it eleven”. Yunick drove the car, without a gas tank, off the speedway grounds and never returned.
Fifty years ago in 1973, Buddy Baker was the top qualifier for the Daytona 500 with a speed of 185.622 mph. Pete Hamilton, a former competitor in New England and New York who is now an inductee in the NEAR Hall of Fame, took the outside pole. Hamilton is also a former Daytona 500 winner as he won the NASCAR Classic in 1970 driving a Petty Team car. Cale Yarborough, CoCo Marlin and Gordon Johncock rounded out the top five.
Forty five years ago in 1978, the New Smyrna World Series took the green on Friday night for a scheduled ten night series. Richie Evans took the opening night 25 lapper over Geoff Bodine, George Kent, Jerry Cook and Charlie Jarzombek. Twenty-four Modifieds were on hand for the opener. Evans made it two for two as he repeated on Saturday night. Bodine was again second with Jarzombek, third. Bobby Allison and Ronnie Bouchard rounded out the top five. Bodine finally broke into the winners circle on Sunday night after Evans dropped out with engine problems. Jarzombek finished second with Kent, Bouchard and Fred DeSarro rounding out the top five. Evans regained his winning form on Monday night as he beat out Jarzombek for the top spot in the 25-lap feature. George Kent finished third with Bouchard and Bodine rounding out the top five. Bodine bounced back to take the Tuesday night feature. Evans slipped to third as Bouchard put the Bob Judkins 2x in the second spot. Jarzombek finished fourth and Bugsy Stevens broke into the top five.
Forty years ago in 1983, Greg Sacks; fresh off his dream season where he won just about everything in site on the northeast Modified circuit, was the opening night winner at New Smyrna. Kenny Bouchard led the opening laps with George Kent taking over on lap 2. Kent led until lap 17 when he lost an engine. Richie Evans finished second with Reggie Ruggerio, Jamie Tomaino and Rick Fuller rounding out the top five. Saturday night racing was canceled because of rain. The rain carried over to Sunday and forced the Daytona Speedway to re-schedule Daytona 500 qualifying to Monday. Because of wet conditions the Sunday night event got a late start. Richie Evans took the win over George Kent and Sacks. Tomaino finished fourth with Bouchard rounding out the top five. Cale Yarborough set a new record at Daytona on Monday when he toured the 2-1/2 mile oval at 200.503 MPH. Yarborough was even faster on his second lap when he flipped in turn four. The record stood but the pole position was denied because of the fact that he failed to complete the second lap. Ricky Rudd was the eventual pole sitter with a speed of 198.864 MPH. Geoff Bodine was second fastest with a speed of 197.920 MPH. Neil Bonnett won the Busch Clash. Evans made it two in a row at New Smyrna as he took the win on Monday night. George Kent ended up second after Reggie Ruggerio lost a tire on the last lap. Doug Hewitt finished third with Jamie Tomaino and Tony Hirshman rounding out the top five. Greg Sacks broke out a new car after he wrecked his primary entry and finished sixth in the final run-down. The Ernie Wilsberg crew repaired their old car as Sacks went out and won the Tuesday night feature by a bumper over Reggie Ruggerio and Richie Evans. Doug Hewitt and Mike Mclaughlin rounded out the top five.
Thirty five years ago in 1988, opening night for the World Series at New Smyrna rained out. Tom Baldwin was the Saturday night winner. Bobby Fuller finished second. Jim Spencer, Reggie Ruggerio and their crews were thrown out and disqualified after a brawl. Ken Schrader was the Daytona 500 pole sitter but the big story was the fact that Tim Richmond was suspended because of the fact that he tested True Positive in a NASCAR mandated drug test. Little did anyone at the time know but Richmond was suffering from AIDS, which would eventually claim his life. Davey Allison was the outside pole qualifier for the Daytona 500 with a speed of 193.311 MPH. Dale Earnhardt won the Busch Clash over Davey and Bobby Allison. Baldwin and Fuller finished one-two again on Sunday night at New Smyrna. After two disappointing nights Reggie Ruggerio put the Mario Fiore No.44 in victory lane. Baldwin settled for second with Tony Jankowiac, third. Ruggerio made it two in a row as he took the victory on Tuesday night. Bruce D’Assandro in a Fiore back up, finished second.
Thirty years ago in 1993, Steve Park, in the Joe Brady No.00 was the opening night winner at New Smyrna. Bruce Del finished second and was followed by Ed Kennedy, Richie Gallup and George Savory. Mike Ewanitsko led the early going until getting hit by Tom Baldwin. The resulting tangle also collected Rick Fuller. Rain prevailed at New Smyrna on Saturday night. On Sunday at the Daytona Speedway 47 cars attempted to qualify for the Daytona 500. Kyle Petty took the pole with a speed of 189.426 MPH. Dale Jarrett was second fastest. Dale Earnhardt won both halves of the Busch Clash. Ricky Fuller avoided a nine-car wreck to take down the win on Sunday night at New Smyrna. Bob Park made his presence known as he finished second. Steve Park finished third. Tuesday night saw rain wash out another night of racing.
Twenty five years ago in 1998 rain washed out opening night at New Smyrna. Mike Ewanitsko served notice of his title intentions as he took the win on Saturday over Jamie Tomaino, Ted Christopher, Eric Beers and George Bock. In Daytona 500 qualifying 55 cars were on hand. Bob Labonte took the pole with a speed of 192.415 MPH. Brother Terry was second fastest at 192.917. Ted Christopher put the Bear Motorsports entry in victory lane on Sunday night. Doug French finished second with Tim Arre, third. Christopher made it two in a row as he went pole to pole on Monday night. Jamie Tomaino finished second with Mike Ewanitsko, third. Christopher continued his winning streak on Tuesday as he again went pole to pole to take another win. Ewanitsko finished second with Jan Leaty, third.
Twenty years ago in 2003, it was learned that John Falconi Jr. had passed away in January as a result of cancer. A pre-speedweeks announcement stated that Winston Cup driver Rick Mast had retired because of carbon monoxide poisoning. Another hot item was the fact that Brett Bodine’s soon to be ex-wife Diane was arrested and extradited to Georgia to face charges of making harassing phone calls to a Hooters girl, she alleged, was having an affair with her husband.
On a sad note, the returning space shuttle blew up over Texas with all people aboard killed.
The New Smyrna World Series opened with 23 cars on hand. Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke Jr. were the class of the field as they finished one-two, a half lap ahead of third place finisher Rob Summers. Doug Meservy and Donnie Lia rounded out the top five. The Busch Clash at Daytona and the World Series went head to head on Saturday night. At New Smyrna, Christopher made it two in a row despite taking a rock through his radiator in the closing laps. George Kent finished second with Tim Arre third. Mike Finch and Flemke rounded out the top five. In the Busch Clash at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt Jr. came from first to last to take the win over Jeff Gordon. Gordon had other things on his mind as his estranged wife served summonses to various car owners for their financial records.
The big news in NASCAR land was the fact that RJ Reynolds indicated that they were thinking about ending their Winston sponsorship of NASCAR’s premier division. Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday afternoon and round three of the World Series at New Smyrna on Sunday night was rained out. Daytona 500 qualifying was re-scheduled to Monday. Jeff Green took the pole with Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the outside pole. The Modifieds had Monday night off.
Fifteen years ago in 2008, after a long winter’s wait the 2008 racing season began on Friday night with the 42nd Annual version of the World Series of auto racing at the New Smyrna Speedway. It was also the beginning of the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season. The Budweiser Shootout and Daytona 500 pole qualifying started their season at the Daytona International Speedway.
At New Smyrna for the Friday night opener there were 17 SK type Modifieds and 17 Tour type Modifieds on hand. Jimmy Blewett scored a one-two punch as he was the top qualifier in both divisions. The only casualty during qualifying was Long Islander JR Bertuccio hitting the wall and doing extensive damage to the Connecticut based Bear Motorsports Tour type entry.
In the Tour type Modified 25 lapper Blewett started on the pole and held off Chuck Hossfeld for the first 18 laps when it appeared that Blewett’s motor developed a skip and began losing power. Hossfeld, in a move on the low side, took the lead and never looked back. As Blewett continued to fade Bob Grigas III moved into the second spot. The top two ran nose to tail the balance of the event. Ted Christopher, Andy Seuss and Eric Beers rounded out the top five. Blewett managed to hang on and finish eighth. Immediately following the Modified feature Blewett’s crew discovered that the fuel pump had malfunctioned.
In the Friday night SK type Modified feature there was no touching Jimmy Blewett as romped to a convincing win over Kenny Horton. It was more of a race for second place as Horton and Josh Sylvester slugged it out for the runner-up spot. The two ended up getting together with Sylvester coming up short as he spun out of contention. He was able to rebound as he ended up 11th in the final rundown. David Cranmer finished third and was followed by Billy Anderson and Glen Griswold.
At the Daytona Int. Speedway on Friday night emotions ran high after an on track practice wreck which involved Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch. Actually there were two wrecks that seriously damaged four race cars which resulted in the teams of Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kurt Busch going to back-up cars for the Bud Shootout. The team of 2007 winner Tony Stewart elected to repair his damaged mount.
The first wreck was triggered by Clint Bowyer, who wrecked the Dodge of Ryan Newman, also collected the Chevys of Johnson and Gordon plus others. While that wreck was much more dramatic on track, the two-car incident involving Stewart and Busch triggered on-track retaliation from Busch and landed both combatants in the NASCAR office for a reprimand.
Busch hit Stewart’s Toyota three times while both were en route to the pits following the accident on the backstretch. Once both cars got to the garage, NASCAR ordered Busch and Stewart to the Sprint Cup office for a discussion. Neither driver would comment as to what transpired inside the meeting with NASCAR officials.
Jimmy Blewett went two for two on Saturday night at New Smyrna as he won both Tour type and SK type Modified events. In Tour type Modified action Chuck Hossfeld turned the first sub-17 second lap during qualifying. For comparison purposes the New Smyrna Speedway is a half mile oval as is the Stafford Motor Speedway. New Smyrna is high banked, Stafford is semi-banked. Fast time for a Modified at Stafford is in the mid to low 18’s. Bob Grigas III was the second fastest with Ted Christopher, third. In the draw for starting positions Blewett, who was fifth fastest, drew the pole. In SK type qualifying Blewett was the fastest. Kenny Horton and Glen Griswold rounded out the top three.
Blewett went pole to pole, putting his fuel pump problems behind him, to take the Tour type 25 lap Modified win. Ted Christopher finished second after a spirited battle with Charlie Pasteryak. Pasteryak later faded and finished 14th. Chuck Hossfeld ended up third. Eric Beers and Kevin Goodale rounded out the top five. There were 18 Tour type Modifieds on hand. In SK type action Kevin Goodale started on the pole but Blewett was on a mission as he put him away in short order as he recorded his second feature win of the night. Blewett’s only pressure came in the early stages of the 20 lapper from Josh Sylvester. Glen Griswold moved into second in the late stages as Sylvester slipped to third. Billy Anderson and Goodale rounded out the top five. There were 18 SK type Modifieds on hand.
The Tour type Modifieds and the SK type Modifieds were off on Sunday night.
In Bud Shootout action at the Daytona Int Speedway Dale Earnhardt took the win with a dominating run Saturday night in his new Hendrick Motorsports ride, powering past Tony Stewart with two laps to go and holding on for his first win against Cup drivers since early 2006.
Fifty three NASCAR Sprint Cup cars lined up last Sunday for Daytona 500 pole and outside pole position qualifying. When all was said and done defending series champion Jimmy Johnson was the fastest of the fast as he locked himself into a front row starting spot for what is known as the Great American Race. Michael Waltrip who sat on the sidelines and watched last years event locked up the outside pole starting spot in his Toyota powered car.
NASCAR announced that former driver Chad Little had been named the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour director. Little had been an official with NASCAR since 2005, most recently as advisor to the NASCAR Mexico Series. Former tour director Ed Cox would handle special projects with the NASCAR competition division. NASCAR also announced that Whelen Modified Tour Series Champion Don Lia had secured a ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for 2008 with TRG Motorsports. Lia would drive the No. 71 Chevrolet Silverado for Kevin Buckler and TRG Motorsports. Lia was not eligible to drive in the season-opening Chevy Silverado 250 in Daytona since required rookie testing at the track had already passed. Mike Bliss would be in the truck at Daytona. Lia would make his debut for TRG Motorsports at California Speedway in the San Bernardino 200 on Feb. 23, and was scheduled to run the remainder of the season. With that being said it looked like Bob Garbarino would retire as a Whelen Modified Tour Series car owner. Garbarino had previously stated that his plans for 2008 would be based on those of his driver. Needless to say, Garbarino changed his mind at the urging of his wife and reunited with Chuck Hossfeld for the 2008 season.
Colechester CT native Phil Moran was named Car Chief of the No.22 Caterpiller Bill Davis Racing Toyota driven by Dave Blaney on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit. Moran cut his racing teeth and honed his skills as a race car mechanic and fabricator as he worked with Spearpoint Auto, Pasteryak Racing, Jerry Pearl Racing and Todd Szegedy Racing. Moran followed a long line of New England drivers, mechanics and fabricators who have made it to NASCAR’s senior circuit. Tom Baldwin JR is the Crew Chief. Baldwin is a product of the Modified circuit on Long Island.
Ten years ago in 2013, The World Series officially opened on Friday night for round one of the six night Modified portion of the series. NASCAR Race Director/Chief Steward Ricky Brooks confiscated three carburetors when modified cars went through tech. He agreed to give them back at the end of the series. The issue was a butterfly valve. Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman and Earl Paules are the drivers that has their carbs confiscated. Twelve cars went to post for the opening night 35 lapper. Woody Pitkat and Hillbilly Racing served notice that they intend to go for the series title. Pitkat started third and took the lead from Patrick Emerling after a lap six restart. Pitkat never looked back and the Hill family mount never faltered as he went on to record the win. Emerling finished second with Matt Hirschman, Chuck Hossfeld and Earl Paules rounding out the top five. Sixth through eighth was Mike Stefanik, Eric Goodale and Ted Christopher.
Night No. 2, Saturday 2/16, saw 11 cars go to post for the 35 lap Modified feature at New Smyrna. On the start, pole sitter JR Bertuccio attempted to pinch Woody Pitkat but to no avail as Pitkat took the lead. Bertuccio bumped his way past Pitkat on lap five to take the lead but not for long as Chuck Hossfeldt was on a mission. Hossfeldt, who started fifth, moved into the lead on lap six. Bertuccio tried in vain to regain the top spot but eventually faded, giving way to Matt Hirschman and Pitkat. Ted Christopher came alive midway in the event but that effort was short lived as he too, faded, because of loss of power. In the final ten laps Hossfeldt and Hirschman ran side by side with Hossfeldt coming out on top at the finish. Hirschman finished a strong second with Patrick Emerling, third. Pitkat and Christopher rounded out the top five.
The Modifieds took Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night off from New Smyrna in order to concentrate on the First Annual Battle at the Beach at the Daytona International Speedway.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing Kevin Harvick won the debut race of NASCAR’s new Generation-6 car. Harvick dominated Saturday night’s exhibition Sprint Unlimited, winning the kickoff to Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway for the third time in five years. But no one has a firm grasp on what the season-opening Daytona 500 will look like in NASCAR’s brand new car. The non-points race only had 19 cars at the start, and the field was whittled down to 12 after an early accident.
Harvick threw a block on Biffle and Tony Stewart, Joey Logano couldn’t get to the leaders and Matt Kenseth, who might have had the strongest car, faded late as Harvick rolled to the win. He led 40 of the 75 laps.
But several big names were knocked out a mere 15 laps into the race. Stewart was running second when he cut across the front of Marcos Ambrose, making slight contact that turned Stewart sideways and required a save to keep from crashing. Traffic stacked up behind him, triggering a chain-reaction, nine-car crash that wiped out seven cars. Taken out were defending race winner Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin from Joe Gibbs Racing, Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson from Hendrick Motorsports, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch.
Greg Biffle finished second and Logano was third in his Penske Racing debut. Stewart was fourth and Kenseth fifth in his Joe Gibbs Racing debut.
In Daytona 500 qualifying, Danica Patrick made NASCAR history, becoming the first female driver to win a pole at NASCAR’s top level – the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. During qualifying for the sport’s marquee event, Patrick turned a lap of 196.434 mph (45.817 seconds), giving her the first starting position for the Daytona 500. It was the fastest Daytona 500 pole-winning speed since 1990.
Forty five cars attempted to qualify.
Five years ago in 2018, Central Florida came alive with the sound of racing engines this past weekend as the green flag flew for Modified racing at the Bronson Speedway on Saturday night. Ryan Preece started his speed week with a bang as the throttle stuck on his TS Haulers mount causing hard contact with the wall and a trip out of the track. Preece was not hurt but his mount suffered a bent frame. Twelve cars were on hand.
Matt Hirschman more than made up for last year’s tangle with Ryan Preece as he scored a convincing win in the 50 lap Modified Speedweek opener. Hirschman took the lead from Craig Lutz with ten to go. Lutz finished second with Patrick Emerling, third. Ronnie Williams and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five.
The Daytona International Speedway hosted ARCA Series qualifying on Fri, Feb 9. Natalie Decker was the pole sitter. New Englander Andy Seuss in the Robert Our entry was 25th. The Monster Energy Cup cars entered the garages. There were 40 entries for the Daytona 500. Michael Self won the multi-wreck ARCA 200. Andy Seuss finished 19th.
Brad Keselowski won the Advance Auto Parts Clash at Daytona on Sunday. Joey Logano finished second. Alex Bowman won the pole for the Daytona 500.
In some good news for those who couldn’t make it to Florida Fanschoice.tv live broadcasted New Smyrna events.
The New London (CT) Day reported that Waterford CT town officials agreed to review the town’s 25-year-old noise ordinance after residents debated noise produced at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, with neighbors claiming the race cars’ rumbling is a health hazard while Speedbowl supporters argued the complaints are overly exaggerated.
Last year, 2022, The all-different Busch Clash was held on Sunday night, Feb 6 in Los Angeles on a flat quarter mile track inside the coliseum. It was anticipated to being a slam-bang affair but overall it was a close hard fought event. It was a hit with the fans as the main grandstands on both sides of the makeshift track were well populated.
Kyle Busch started on the pole with Tyler Reddick on the outside. At the half way break Busch continued to lead with Joey Logano, second. Logano gave Kyle Busch a bump and dove low to take the lead but it was after the lap 75 halfway break so Busch retained the lead at half way.
The entire program took a dive during the break as NASCAR brought in a non-entertaining and boring rapper to scream at the crowd. Big Mistake!
Following the restart after the break, Logano got the lead on Lap 116, moments before Kyle Larson retaliated against Justin Haley for earlier contact that was not of Haley’s doing. Larson steered toward the bottom of the track, knocking Haley’s Chevrolet into the concrete Jersey barrier on the front stretch.
Logano had control of the race for the restart on Lap 117 and held the top spot to the finish, with Busch frustrated in pursuit on the quarter-mile track.
Austin Dillon passed Larson to finish third, and Erik Jones ran fourth after overtaking the reigning Cup Series champion in the closing laps. Larson held fifth, as William Byron, Cole Custer, Christopher Bell, AJ Allmendinger and Kevin Harvick completed the top 10.
NASCAR has an option for two more years of competition at the coliseum. Chances are, based on the success of the event, it will return next year but without the awful rap music!
Third generation driver Jacob Perry of Pawcatuck, Ct drove full-time on the Modified Racing Series last year for team owner Jack Bateman, finishing second in the series standing with three victories. He will continue in that role with Bateman for 2022.
Perry, who recently raced in the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, will also add to his schedule by teaming up with his second cousin Norm Perry to launch an effort to run selected Tri-Track Open Modified events and Open Modified events at Stafford Speedway.