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

RPW Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Thirty years ago in 1993, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series traveled to Richmond for a 25 lap event which served as a preview of an up-coming event.

Jeff Fuller took the event over Doug Heveron, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggerio and Mike Ewanitsko.

Mark Martin made the Busch Grandnational event at Richmond a no-contest affair as he coasted to an easy win over Joe Nemachek. In Winston Cup action, Davey Allison beat out Rusty Wallace by 4.38 seconds for the win.

Twenty five years ago in 1998, Steve Park, well on his way to becoming a NASCAR Winston Cup superstar suffered a major setback at Atlanta when he crashed during a practice session and suffered a broken leg, collarbone and broken teeth. The actual event, which was run on Monday because of rain, was won by Bobby Labonte.

Twenty years ago in 2003 Ryan Newman was the Winston Cup pole sitter at Atlanta. Bill Elliott was the outside pole sitter. Bobby Labonte took the lead from Jeff Gordon with 11 laps to go in the 325 lap-400 mile contest. Many suffered blown engines on what has become one of NASCAR’s fastest tracks. Less than a full house of fans was observed.

Fifteen years ago in 2008, History was made at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when Kyle Busch finished off a dominating drive in the Sprint Cup event for the first win with his new team and Japanese automaker Toyota. The Japanese automaker became the first foreign winner in stock car racing’s top series since Jaguar in 1954. Tony Stewart crossed the line second in another Toyota to give a 1-2 finish for the popular import.

There was more talk about Goodyear’s tires than Toyota’s landmark win, and no one was more ticked off than the runner-up. Feeling like he had just driven 500 miles on a sheet of ice, Stewart would like to say sayonara to Sprint Cup’s exclusive tire provider. “That was the most pathetic racing tire I’ve ever been on in my professional career,” he said. “Goodyear can’t build a tire that is worth a crap.” Others were a bit more diplomatic, but Stewart’s view was hardly in minority. Busch and third-place finisher Dale Earnhardt Jr. also griped about their rubber. Pole winner Jeff Gordon managed to finish fifth but fretted that every lap might be his lap because of those slip-slidin’ tires.

It was quite a weekend for Busch, who won the Craftsman Truck Series race Friday night and was dominating the Nationwide event on Saturday before a blown tire sent him careening into the wall.

Matt Kenseth was able to shake Kevin Harvick during a green-white-checkered-flag finish to win Saturday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Nicorette 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Kenseth’s Ford finished 0.159-seconds ahead of Harvick’s Chevrolet. Jeff Burton’s Chevrolet was third followed by Carl Edwards’ Ford and Bobby Labonte’s Chevrolet was fifth.

It looked like the Mystic Missile owned Bob Garbarino would be back in competition for another year as it had been announced that Chuck Hossfeld would return as his driver. It had been speculated that Garbarino would retire from racing when it was announced that Donny Lia had secured a full time ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Hossfeld, who drove for Garbarino in the past, had an impressive resume that showed 45 career Modified victories’ including 5 Whelen Modified Tour Series wins.

Reports were circulating that Bobby Santos’ driver development contract had gone stale. Santos, who won the Whelen Modified Tour Series World Series event at Thompson in 2007 was hoping to return to the seat of ‘Ole Blu which is fielded by the Boehler Family on the Modified Tour. It had also been heard that Bob Grigas III, a tour regular last year, would run the tour again plus he would join the Thursday night Sunoco Modified ranks at Thompson along with selected appearances in True Value Modified events.

Speaking of the True Value Series, founder Jack Bateman purchased a new car for 2008 which was built in the Spearpoint Auto Shop in Preston, CT. Jimmy Blewett, who was already committed to a full schedule of Whelen Modified Tour Series racing plus weekly racing at Thompson and Stafford had indicated that he would participate in four to six True Value events in the 2008 season. Ted Christopher had also indicated that he will run a partial True Value schedule.

Thompson Speedway Sunoco Modified Champion Keith Rocco tried his hand at indoor dirt track racing at the Mototown USA track in Windsor, CT. Rocco, in his second start on Mototown’s indoor clay one-quarter-mile oval, came from fourth starting spot to oust early leader Jonathan Routhier along the backstretch on lap eight of their feature. The DL Painting Service No. 6 Chevrolet Camaro driver went on to lead the other 12 laps over heat winner Routhier.

Ten years ago in 2013, The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour Series opened for the season at the Caraway Speedway in Sophia, NC. Caraway. For most of his racing life Jason Myers had played second fiddle to his flamboyant brother Burt. Fortunes reversed in the series opener as Burt ended the night sitting in the infield with a blown engine and Jason found himself in victory lane.

It was a gift of sort for Jason, who, with five laps to go was running behind former Bowman-Gray Stadium champion Tim Brown. Brown’s car slowed with an apparent fuel problem, setting up a free for all restart between Myers and George Brunnhoelzl, III. With the event exted three laps to accommodate a green-white-checkered finish Brunnhoelzl slipped up as they drag raced down the front stretch, which allowed Myers to get away en route to his third career victory in his 97th start. Brunnhoelzl, the defending tour champion, settled for second while Kyle Ebersole rallied from two laps down to finish third. Ted Christopher and Andy Seuss were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Twenty Modifieds took the green.

In Nationwide Series racing at Bristol Kyle Larson stalked Kyle Busch over the closing laps around Bristol Motor Speedway waiting to make a move. It came as they closed in on the finish line, and Larson made a last-gasp push on the high side that fell just short as Busch held on for his second win of the season.

But in chasing the win the right way, the 20-year-old Larson cleaned up some of the criticism that had followed him from Daytona last month after spinning C.E. Falk III on the final lap of the “Battle at the Beach” late model race.

In Sprint Cup action, Casey Kahne and Brad Keselowski staged a spectacular battle for the lead, only for a caution to put them side-by-side for a restart with 39 laps to go. Keselowski had an issue, he either spun his tires or the Hamlin-Logano feud disrupted his start, and Kahne sailed away for his first career victory at Bristol.

Five years ago in 2018, The 2018 Whelen Modified Tour Series opener in Myrtle Beach, SC drew a whopping 27 entries. Jon McKennedy scored a surprise upset win in the opening round of the 2018 Whelen Modified Tour Series. McKennedy, who also won the opening round of the New Smyrna World Series, out ran Jimmy Blewett to the finish in the 150 lap event. Driving the Tommy Baldwin 7ny McKennedy started in the second spot. McKennedy took the lead from Chase Dowling on lap 138. Matt Hirschman finished third with Dowling, fourth. Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Dave Sapienza, Eric Goodale, Calvin Carroll, Craig Lutz and Rob Summers. Twenty of the 27 starters finished on the lead lap. Defending race winner Timmy Solomito started fifth and finished 12th while defending series champion Doug Coby started ninth and finished 14th.

After starting from the outside pole, McKennedy quickly backed up through the field, trying to save his tires for the final stages on the tricky half-mile surface known for eating at Hoosier rubber. Following a pit stop for fresh tires during the final caution, McKennedy charged through the field and found himself staring down the back bumper of 20-year-old Chase Dowling in the final laps.

It appeared that the Whelen Modified Touring series’ favorite turtle Melissa Fifield had done nothing to improve her performance as a driver over the winter as she continued to be a bottom feeder turning laps at a slow pace. She was nine laps down at the finish.

On the way home from winning the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season opener at Myrtle Beach Speedway (SC), McKennedy and the Tommy Baldwin team made the trip to the Caraway Speedway in Sophia, North Carolina for the Southern Modified Racing Series 2018 kickoff. The result was the same, as McKennedy dominated the 99-lap feature. Jeremy Gerstner finished second with Burt Myers, third. Tim Brown and Brian Loftin rounded out the top five in the eight car field.

NASCAR and Anheuser-Busch announced a multi-year agreement that welcomes the global brand back as an Official Partner and designates Busch Beer as the “Official Beer of NASCAR®.” The new partnership builds upon Busch’s industry-wide presence and includes sponsorship of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series™ Busch Pole Award, rewarding the driver with the fastest qualifying time each week.

In other NASCAR related sponsor news, After 17 seasons of sponsoring Hendrick Motorsports and seven-time Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, Lowe’s Companies will not return to the team in 2019. The company has been Johnson’s only primary sponsor since he debuted in the Cup Series in 2001.

Martin Truex won NASCAR Monster Energy cup series event at the Auto Club 400 for his first victory of the 2018 season. Truex, who won eight races in 2017, led 125 of the 200 laps en route to the victory. Truex also became the first driver to ever win after winning the pole and sweeping every stage of the race.

Joey Logano won Saturday’s NASCAR Xfinity Series Roseanne 300 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA. Ryan Preece finished ninth.

Last year, 2022, The NASCAR Cup Series visited the Phoenix Raceway on Sunday afternoon. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe had to hold off the field on not one, but two late-race restarts on the one-mile desert oval, including the final restart with three laps remaining to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series win in the Ruoff Mortgage 500.

Chevrolet drivers Chastain and Tyler Reddick took Briscoe three-wide on the final restart – all fueled by the motivation of that first win, but Briscoe’s Ford was able to drive away leaving them to settle runner-up between themselves. Chastain’s runner-up finish is his second consecutive top-three finish for the Trackhouse Racing organization. Richard Childress Racing’s Reddick placed third followed by pole-sitter, Team Penske’s Ryan Blaney and 23XI Racing’s Kurt Busch.

Noah Gragson led a race-high 114 of 200 laps to clinch his first win of the NASCAR Xfinity Series season at Phoenix Raceway on Saturday afternoon.

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