The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

March 4, 2016


  Five years ago in 2011, it was speculated with fuel prices going through the roof, race fans would be staying close to home. A recent trip from Florida to Rhode Island saw gas prices ranging from $3.09 per gallon to over $4.00. New Jersey had the best deal at $3.09 per gallon on the Turnpike. Local promoters who present a quality produce at a reasonable price would reap the benefits of the race fan sticking close to home

  NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Drivers and Owners were anxiously awaiting word from NASCAR concerning Television coverage of the upcoming season. The Speed Channel and the Versus Channel did an outstanding job with their coverage.

  The NASCAR Home Tracks web site says that Bryon Chew, a former competitor in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East, will trade fenders for nerf bars and compete full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starting in 2011.

  In some sad news it was learned last weekend that Gene Bergin had passed away. Bergin had driven just about every kind of race car from Midgets to Indy Cars and from Modifieds to NASCAR Cup cars. He was also an inducted member of the NEAR Hall of Fame. He was one of the chosen few to record wins at Stafford both on the dirt and on the asphalt.
  Berginís career included a couple of significant milestones as his 1967 Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway title came in the trackís first year with an asphalt surface, and his wire-to-wire triumph in the 1971 Stafford 200 also marked the first checkered flag for a Modified with a Pinto-style body. He is credited with 15 feature wins at Stafford from 1964-74, the first two of which came on the old dirt surface.

  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Phoenix International Raceway Jeff Gordon passed Kyle Busch with eight laps left and stretched his lead from there, ending his winless streak at 66 races. Jimmie Johnson, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman rounded out the top five in a 312-lap race around PIR's mile oval, the last on the current surface.
Kyle Busch became the first driver in a national NASCAR race to win wire-to-wire in nearly eight years. Busch dominated from the pole early and held off Carl Edwards late, maintaining the lead the entire way in the Nationwide race Saturday to set up the chance for a perfect weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Busch also won the Truck race.

  Last year, 2015, The wheels of change had shifted into high gear at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as NASCAR and the new track management of owner Bruce Bemer and General Manager Shawn Monahan announced that the shoreline oval would be under the NASCAR banner in 2015. The announcement also included a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on Saturday, May 30. The addition of the Mr. Rooter 161 on May 30 would give the tour 15 points events in 2015.
  The Speedbowl added a key member to their weekly staff. Terryville, Connecticut native Rich Keator had been named chief starter for the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, and will be returning to the flagstand at the three-eighths mile oval for the first time since the 2012 season.
  Keator took some time away from the track over the past two seasons by working with the Valenti Modified Racing Series as their chief starter, and was also part of the staff on the Granite State Pro Stock Series.

  In other Speedbowl news, it was announced that the trackís Wacky Wednesday program would be moving to Thursday nights for 2015. The Wacky Wednesday program is a low-cost alternative to the traditional NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Saturday night racing show. The events offer lower cost tickets and divisions that prove much lower in participation costs for customers. The X-Cars, Super X-Cars and Legends primarily fill out the shows for the track. Monahan said working with Thompson Speedway was a big reason for the change. Thompson Speedway will host five Wednesday night summer shows in 2015. Thompson had previously run primarily Thursday shows. He also indicated that last yearís rule book will remain in effect for 2015.
  It was good to hear that Sidís Vault Productions would be returning to the shoreline oval in 2015. Up until mid season last year Tom DiMaggio and his able crew video taped many of the events at the Route 85 oval and made many non-speedbowl fans aware of the great competition there and he did it all at no cost to the former owner. Production ceased in mid-season after a dispute with the former owner.

  Thanks to the efforts of New London-Waterford Speedbowl Street Stock competitor Bill McNeil competitors who raced at the shoreline oval were recognized for their 2014 efforts at the Groton Inn & Suites in Groton, CT. Among those who received championship honors were Keith Rocco in the SK Modifieds and Late Models, Josh Galvin in the Street Stocks, Garrett Denton in the Mini Stocks, Corey Barry in the SK Lites and Mike Christopher Jr in the Legends.
  Had it not been for the efforts of McNeil competitors at the Waterford oval would have gone unnoticed.

  The Valenti Modified Racing Series officially announced on their Facebook page that the series will open for the 2015 racing season schedule at the Monadnock Speedway on April 18. They will also visit Monadnock on July 4 and August 22. Races will be held at Stafford Motor Speedway, Airborne Speedway, Seekonk Speedway, Lee USA Speedway, Devilís Bowl Speedway, Beech Ridge Motor Speedway, Oxford Plains Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The series will also visit the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on August 8.

  The Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park and Mr. Rooter Plumbing franchisee, Vin Beedle, announced that the Connecticut-based company will be the entitlement sponsor of the 125-lap NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) slated for Wednesday night, June 10. Beedle and his company are long-time supporters of auto racing in New England, sponsoring the Mr. Rooter New England Truck Series, as well as fielding a truck in the division in 2015. The drivers of the Truck will include NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Champions, and Thompsonís own Sunoco Modified driver, Keith Rocco, as well as Limited Sportsman - and SK Modified - driver Ed Puleo.

  The Syracuse-Post Standard reported that a Watertown, NY jury decided a parking lot crash that ended the racing career of DIRT modified legend "Barefoot" Bob McCreadie was worth nearly $1.7 million in damages. But the jurors found McCreadie 15 percent responsible for the crash, reducing the award by that percentage, according to Syracuse lawyer Sidney Cominsky.
  Cominsky said the state Supreme Court jury deliberated about three hours before awarding McCreadie the damages for a crash that occurred May 31, 2006, in the parking lot of the Medical Arts Building in Watertown where McCreadie was heading to pick up some prescriptions. According to Cominsky, McCreadie was riding his Harley-Davidson motorcycle down a designated driving lane in the parking lot when a vehicle operated by Dawn Millett of Watertown, an employee of an adjacent insurance company, cut diagonally across the lot, ran into McCreadie and knocked his motorcycle over onto him.
  McCreadie suffered a fractured femur, two broken ribs and a chip fracture of the lumbar spine, the lawyer said. Cominsky said McCreadie has been unable to return to his racing career where he was once the winningest DIRT track racer in America.

  Austin Dillon appeared headed to an easy victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway until four fresh tires helped Ryan Blaney chase him down.
Blaney charged to Dillon's back bumper and stalked him around the track for the final four laps Saturday, but a bobble ruined his momentum and allowed Dillon to wrap up the Xfinity Series win. Dillon led 183 of the 200 laps. Regan Smith finished third and was followed by Denny Hamlin, who was subbing for teammate Busch, and defending series champion Chase Elliott.

  Kevin Harvick pulled off an overdue victory in Las Vegas, grabbing his first Sprint Cup win of the season. It came in just the third race of the season. Harvick led 142 of the 267 laps, and he beat Martin Truex Jr. to the finish. He did it while battling a vibration that developed after his final pit stop.

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.


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Source: Phil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 4, 2016

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