The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

March 25, 2016

  Forty five years ago in 1971, the Modifieds and Busch Grandnationals shared the twin bill at Martinsville. Ray Hendrick was the 250-lap Grand National Late Model winner. The Modified 250 saw on of the biggest wrecks ever as over a dozen cars piled up in turn four in the closing stages. Sneaking thru and taking a surprise win was popular Bernie Miller from Cannestota, N.Y. Jimmy Hensley finished second. Bobby Santos finished third and was followed by Leo Cleary, Jerry Cook and Mike Loescher. Fred DeSarro was the defending national champion and the outside pole sitter. During the opening laps, he and Ray Hendrick banged wheels and DeSarro parked it for the day with front-end problems. Unknown to him at the time, the Martinsville race was to be his last in the Koszela N0.15 as car owner Sonny Koszela was in the process of securing the services of Bugsy Stevens.

  Forty years ago in 1976, the Modifieds were quiet.

  Thirty five years ago in 1981, quiet again.

  Thirty years ago in 1986, Brett Bodine put the Art Barry No.21 in victory lane at Martinsville. Driving one of the last chassis built by the late Richie Evans, Bodine took the lead on lap 188 of the 200 lap event. Jamie Tomaino who led the most laps finished second despite running on worn out tires. Maynard Troyer finished third and was followed by George Kent and Corky Cookman. Bodine, who was in the process of making the move to Grandnational racing in the south was in contention to win the GN 200 and was dumped by Kyle Petty while leading on lap 21.Mike Porter was the eventual winner. Dale Jarrett who was running second on the last lap, ran out of gas, allowing Larry Pearson to slip into second spot at the finish. Fifty-one Modifieds were on hand and seventeen thousand witnessed the event.

  Twenty five years ago in 1991, Riverside Park was scheduled to open but freezing rain ruled. The Featherlite Modified Tour was at Richmond on Sunday, Mike Stefanik, in his family owned No.15 took the win. Doug Hevron finished second and was followed by George Kent, Tom Bolles, Reggie Ruggiero, Tony Hirschman and Tom Baldwin. Announced attendance was 18,000.

   Twenty years ago in 1996, Riverside Park opened with 27 Modifieds and 4795 chilled fans. At race time, the chill factor was below zero but the show went on. Chris Kopec started second and took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 12 and went on to record the 75 lap win. Doug Meservey finished second and was followed by Ruggiero, Ted Riggott, Richard Savory and Dave Berube. At Darlington in Winston Cup action, Dale Jarrett took the lead with fifteen laps to go only to run out of gas with two to go. Jarrett missed his pit and ended up in the Ernie Irvan pit. He got a splash of gas but was penalized a lap by NASCAR for stopping in the wrong pit. Jeff Gordon took the win with Bob Labonte, second. Penske Motorsports went public on the stock market. After opening at 24, the stock jumped to 31-3/4 the first day.

   Fifteen years ago in 2001, the Dutch Inn in Martinsville burned and in Daytona a shake-up was taking place as NASCAR vice-President Tom Deery was relieved of his duties and replaced by Jim Hunter. It was also on this weekend that New York driving legend Kenny Shoemaker passed away at the age of 71. Elliott Sadler got a long overdue win for the Wood Brothers at Bristol. Action on the final lap was hot and heavy as Tony Stewart spun while trying to pass Jeff Gordon. Stewart felt that Gordon had done it on purpose and retaliated against Gordon, spinning him out on pit road. NASCAR fined Stewart $10,000 and put him on probation.

  Ten years ago in 2006 The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season-opener got the green at the Caraway Speedway in North Carolina. The weather in central North Carolina was mighty cold but it didnít stop Ted Christopher as he scored the 250-lap win over Chuck Hossfeld. Christopher drove the Joe Brady No.00 while Hossfeld made his maiden voyage in the Roger Hill No.79. There were 27 NASCAR Modifieds on hand, a record count for Southern Modified Tour events. Christopher took the lead on Lap 20 and never looked back, even though his .219-second margin of victory over Hossfeld was anything but easy for the Plainville, Conn. driver. A late caution allowed Hossfeld to close in on Christopherís bumper for the Lap 148 restart with two circuits remaining. Southern drivers Burt Myers and Junior Miller finished third and fourth with Jamie Tomaino rounding out the top five. Andy Seuss, a regular on the Northern New England True Value Modified Tour Series and recent Modified Champion at New Smyrna, finished 27th after dropping out on lap 97 with handling problems. There were eight caution flags that slowed the field for 48 laps. In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, Bob Finan, the very capable Public Relations director at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island said that Mike Andrews Jr. would pilot the Ed Whelen #36 NASCAR Modified on the tour while Mike Ewanitsko continued to heal broken bones in his foot. Ewanitsko was injured on opening night at the World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. In non-modified news Finan eluded to the fact that Busch East driver Bryan Chewís mom was seriously injured in an accident in upstate New York.

  Five years ago in 2011, Kyle Busch sailed off to his fifth consecutive win at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch won both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series races at the Tennessee track and has won the past five NASCAR events there. His dominating win Saturday was the 46th of his career in the second-tier Nationwide Series, which puts him three back from tying Mark Martin's record. But in leading 266 of the 300 laps, he became the first driver in series history to lead more than 10,000 laps.
  Last year, 2015, It looked like Bob Garbarino had put his retirement from racing on hold as Area Auto Racing News announced that he had teamed up with Todd Szegedy for the 2015 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. Szegedy ran a partial season on the Whelen Modified Tour in 2014 after splitting up with the Mike Smeriglio III owned team after the 2013 season. Szegedy had been driving for Smeriglio from the start of the 2006 season and had 10 of his 18 career series victories with the team. Szegedy brings to the Mystic Ct team a rťsumť that includes 18 wins, 10 poles and 115 top 10s in 187 career starts. He won the tour title as a second-year driver in 2003 with the No. 50 team owned by Barker, and was twice the runner-up with Mike Smeriglio III Racing before his departure following the 2013 season.
  Corey LaJoie is filling the seat left vacant by Todd Szegedy. Rob Fuller Motorsports announced that LaJoie, son of Randy LaJoie, would drive the No. 15 15-40 Connection Chevrolet in seven races in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour (NWMT) in 2015.
  The KOMA Unwind Modified Madness Series had their season opener at Hickory Motor Speedway in North Carolina. Burt Myers took the lead with five laps remaining in the 125 lapper, passing Chris Pasteryak for the win. Jason Myers rounded out the top three. Ryan Preece who was the fastest in practice and the pole sitter was never a factor. Zach Brewer finished fourth with Gary Putnam, fifth. Preece ended up in sixth spot. There were twenty cars on hand.
  New London-Waterford Speedbowl owner Bruce Bemer and General Manager Shawn Monahan were pleasantly surprised to hear from a structural engineer that the grandstands at the shoreline oval were generally in good shape. Bemer hoped to have the stands painted before opening day and to have new stands in place by the 2016 season. While the stands are acceptable for this season, the bathrooms, especially the ladies facilities, are not. Those will be a major focus once the weather breaks."I would like to do more than I possibly can do in 45 days," Bemer said.
  But other things have already changed. As was previously announced, the name was changed to differentiate the new ownership and give the facility a fresh start, something that Monahan deemed necessary for a business that "had a cloud over it." Itís actually the original name of the facility before New London was dropped somewhere in the 1980s, according to Monahan.
  Above all, race teams will know that checks will be handed out at the end of the night. "Thatís totally done, there will never be a problem with that with Bruce Bemer here," Monahan said. The previous owner/operator stiffed many competitors of moneys earned while living a high life style. Monahan said he is still owed by the former owners of the track for trophies that he provided last year. He did it, he said, because he did not want the competitors to go without. He also lost money in the foreclosure deal, but money, sometimes, isnít everything. For Monahan, true satisfaction will come when the lights go on in May.
  Word came from Lou Modestino that Francis Venditti, president of Seekonk Speedway, was looking hard at building a one-eighth mile drag strip on the extensive track property. This has been looked at over the 70 years that the track has existed. "I think that we have a good chance of making this expansion happen. I just need to concentrate on it. Iíve been working with some of my neighbors who own the land on other issues. Itís a lot of give-and-take," said Venditti.
  There will be a lot of hearings and permits to obtain before a shovel even turns on this expansion. It will be tricky with some pitfalls. But Venditti indicated heís pretty committed to the project at this point in time.
  On a sad note, Andy Fusco, a longtime attorney and the city of Auburn. NYís assistant corporation counsel, died unexpectedly Thursday morning. He was 62 years old. Beyond his legal achievements, Fusco was known as a sports fan beyond his auto racing interests, and was also a noted music buff and antique car enthusiast. The Auburn man's racing interests were expanded through his weekly columns in Syracuse publication Gater Racing News from 1970 through 1976. He also served as an editor for Virginia magazine "Stock Car Racing" and appeared as a racing personality on WIXT-TV Channel 9.
  This varied background made him the perfect choice as the counselor for the DIRT organization, said DIRT founder and former president Glenn Donnelly. Despite his other duties with the city and his private practice, Fusco remained a presence as counselor and board member for the DIRT Modified Stock Car Museum for more than 20 years.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing in California, Kevin Harvick chased Kurt Busch down the stretch in a battle of the best cars in the Fontana field, Brad Keselowski was buried in 17th place, until the yellow flags started flying. A caution for debris allowed Keselowski to move up to sixth. When a second flag went up, he took four new tires while Harvick and Busch got only two.
  Keselowski roared past Busch on the final lap and held off the streaking Harvick to win at Fontana on Sunday, earning his first NASCAR victory of the season in a wild finish.
  Kevin Harvick won his second race of the season, his first at Auto Club Speedway and the 46th of his career, third-most all-time. Incredibly, Harvick scored his 28th consecutive top 10 in the Xfinity Series, dating to 2013. With two victories and two seconds in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this year to go with two wins and a third in the Xfinity Series, Harvick has recorded seven podium finishes in seven starts in both series combined.

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

Looking Back Archive

Source: Phil Smith / Looking Back A Bit
Posted: March 25, 2016

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