The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

November 24, 2017

  Thirty five years ago, in 1982, in Winston Cup action at Riverside California, Darrell Waltrip took the pole and finished third behind winner Tim Richmond. Third was good enough as Waltrip wrapped up the 1982 Winston Cup division championship, his second in a row. Ronnie Bouchard finished sixth.

  Thirty years ago, in 1987, the Oswego Speedway, the undisputed Super Modified Capitol of the World announced that they had signed a sanction with NASCAR for four Winston Modified Tour events in 1988. A year later, those in power at Oswego would express their feelings that they were not happy with the way NASCAR ran their programs and would not invite them back again.

  Twenty years ago, in 1997, Joe Nemachek scored an emotional victory as he won the BGN 300 at Homestead, Fla., a track that claimed the life of his brother. Randy LaJoie finished second and sewed up his second divisional title. Ted Christopher ran strong in the early going but broke an axle and ended up 34th.

  Fifteen years ago in 2002 The Busch North Series competitors were somewhat in a dither after NASCAR announced that in 2003, their rules would be combined with those of NASCAR’s Winston West division. Busch North series competitors will have to replace their existing 9:1compression motors with 12:1 compression motors. The Winston West competitors will have to replace their existing Winston Cup type chassis with the design presently used by the Busch North Series. Each division will have its own separate race circuit with a grand finale combination event at season’s end. Called NASCAR’s Elite Division, it has been said that The Speed Channel is under contract for four years to present a total of up to 20 events a year of the new combined division. It’s going to involve a lot more travel and increased expense and hopefully NASCAR will increase the minimum purse requirements.

  Ten years ago in 2007, it appeared that NASCAR was leaning toward using” Spec type” motors in the Whelen Modifieds. Spec motors are designed, built and sealed by a NASCAR approved engine builder. Their purpose was to lower the cost and increase the longevity of engines currently in use. A top running, professionally built Tour type engine ranges from $40-55,000. A top running team needs at least three of them. It was NASCAR’s intent to phase the new engines into the Modified series at some point and hopefully the sanctioning body would allow competitors time to use up or sell existing equipment. Gary Danko's Speedway Line Report reported that the No. 2 team of Todd Szegedy had a spec motor installed in one of their cars. Szegedy ran tests at the Concord Motorsports Park with the Spec motor car and a Ford powered car. Weather permitting, additional testing would take place at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday Nov 30 and Saturday, Dec 1. Mike Stefanik was slated to drive one of the cars at the Stafford test session.
  The Wall Township Speedway located on the New Jersey shore officially closed out the 2007 racing season with Turkey Derby XXXIV. Since 1974, the Thanksgiving classic had played out in just about every kind of weather including near blizzard conditions. This year those who jam packed the grandstands got to enjoy near 40 degree temperatures. Twenty six Modifieds were on hand. Southern invader Burt Myers was the top qualifier. A re-draw of the top qualifiers saw Reggie Ruggiero picking the pole starting position and Jimmy Blewett picking the outside pole. James Civali pulled third with Pete Brittain picking fourth. In what should have been an epic battle between the seasoned veteran and the young challenger never developed as Ruggerio and Blewett tangled before one lap was completed which handed the race to Civali. Ruggiero parked it for the day. Blewett was able to rejoin the fray and actually made it up to second spot when the checkered flag flew. Attrition was high as only ten cars were running at the finish. Tony Ferrante finished third with Rowan Pennick and Earl Paules rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Tim Arre, Brian Cramner, Danny Sammons, Billy Pauch JR and Matt Hirschman. Ruggiero was credited with the 27th finishing position. Justin Gumley was the winner of the SKtype 100 lapper.
  In other weekend racing action Bobby Santos, III, won the USAC Sprint Car Grand Prix at the Irwindale Speedway in Calif.! Santos defeated a strong group of west coast and Canadian midget drivers in this annual classic. A Toyota engine similar to the one in NASCAR’s Busch and Craftsman Truck Series powered Bobby’s car. Other reports reveal that Santos' driver development deal with Bill Davis Racing had come to an end. However, the word is that another deep pocket team would sign the local driver to an even better contract in the near future.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway announced their 2008 schedule. The Nutmeg oval, under the management of the Arute family would again showcase the track's SK Modified and Late Model divisions in two extra distance events as well as four Whelen Modified Tour events. Stafford would host a total of 23 racing events, with the 2008 NASCAR season kicking off with the 37th Annual Tech-Net Spring Sizzler presented by CARQUEST April 25-27, and concluding with the 36th annual CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend on September 26-28.

 Five years ago in 2012, In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing Ricky Stenhouse became the sixth driver to win consecutive championships in NASCAR’s Nationwide Series. He finished sixth in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, edging Elliott Sadler for the title. Cato, NY native Regan Smith won the 300-mile race, his first victory in 103 Nationwide starts. He was making his first start since 2007, and he’s going to race for the championship in 2013 for JR Motorsports. This was his debut race with that team, which is co-owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and had not won a race since 2010. Kyle Busch was second, followed by Brendan Gaughan, Sam Hornish Jr. and Austin Dillon. Danica Patrick was 19th in her final Nationwide race before moving to the Sprint Cup Series full time.
  In Sprint Cup racing, Jeff Gordon won the finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, finishing a few car lengths ahead of Clint Bowyer. Brad Keselowski wrapped up the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Championship.

  Last year, 2016, The reality of the combination of the Northern and Southern Whelen Modified Tour venues was starting to settle in and it looked like a possible bad decision by NASCAR to do this. NASCAR could not get it thru their heads that most modified teams are made up by volunteers who actually work for a living and can not just drop everything to go racing up and down the east coast. Chances are Bob Garbarino will run a few races in the northeast with a yet to be named driver. Same thing goes for Mark Sypher who fields the Modified for Donnie Lia and it appears that Bobby Santos will not have a full time ride. In 2016 there were 16 owners and drivers that ran the entire northern circuit of 17 events. With at least three dropping off that leaves 13 that maybe will run all races in 2017. There were four who ran 16 races, with a possible loss of one, the Lutz racing team, that leaves just three. Those from the south rarely come north to race so that will lead to some very paltry fields of cars.
  The Stafford Motor Speedway management welcomed a guest list of nearly 500 people consisting of teams, drivers, sponsors, and employees this past Friday night, November 18 at Maneely’s in South Windsor to officially honor Rowan Pennink, Tom Fearn, Tony Membrino, Jr., Duane Provost, Johnny Walker, and Noah Korner as the 2016 Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champions.
  With Stafford Motor Speedway broadcasters Matt Buckler and John Gates serving as the Masters of Ceremony, the 47th annual Stafford Motor Speedway NASCAR Champions Awards Ceremony not only honored the six track champions, they also recognized the top-15 points finishers from the SK Modified®, Late Model, SK Light, Limited Late Model, DARE Stock, and U.S. Legend Cars divisions. Special awards that were presented during the evening’s festivities were Most Popular Driver Awards, NAPA Auto Parts Parts Rookie of the Year, R.A.D. Automachine Rookie of the Year, and the UNOH Youth Achievement Award.
  In the SK Modified division, Pennink was the fifth driver, joining Jerry Pearl ’84-’85, Mike Christopher ’89-’90, Bob Potter ’91-’92 and ’94-95, and Ted Christopher ’00-’01 to have won back to back championships but a three-peat has yet to be accomplished. For the season, the #99 team posted a division leading 6 wins, 11 top-5 and 15 top-10 finishes for an average finish of 4.9.
  The winners of the Most Popular Driver Awards were Woody Pitkat in the SK Modified® division, Tom Fearn in the Late Model division, Daniel Wesson from the SK Light division, Bryan Narducci from the Limited Late Model division, Alexandra Fearn in the DARE Stock division, and Teddy Hodgdon in the U.S. Legend Cars division. The UNOH Youth Achievement award was won by SK Light Modified driver Daniel Wesson.
Matt Hirschman left the cold confines of Pennsylvania to spend the weekend in Myrtle Beach in South Carolina. He brought his race car with him and ended up with a win in the modified portion of a double header run at the Myrtle Beach Speedway. Hirschman spun with 30 laps to go and had to pit to change a flat right rear tire. He charged back through the field and closed in on a battle between Jimmy Zacharias and Daren Scherer with two laps to go. Hirschman went three wide and passed them both and checked out en route to victory.
  After the race, Hirschman said the tire change made no difference. “The right rear had nothing to do with it,” Hirschman said. “I just got my fresh right rear and immediately started getting a flat so, believe it or not, I’m sure most people are going to think that was the difference, but it wasn’t at all. It was purely just playing the game right and moving at the right time. I didn’t need that tire. I just put a new one on.”
  “Unfortunately, we didn’t get our money’s worth out of that one but this spare was good enough,” Hirschman continued. “I just had to wait it out, hope for a caution, didn’t look like we were getting one, so made a run for it. Regardless of what everybody’s going to say, I know it made it interesting. That’s what putting on a show is all about.”
  Scherer held off Zacharias for a runner-up finish, a finish he took in stride after issues in previous Myrtle Beach races. Zacharias had dominated in the closing stages of the race after having to start at the rear of the field. He had a seemingly insurmountable lead with 30 laps to go when the caution came out one final time in the race. Jon Kay finished fourth while Burt Myers finished fifth. Sixth thru tenth were Bobby Measmer, Jason Myers, Chris Pasteryak, Andy Seuss and Zach Brewer.
  In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, It would have been easy to count Jimmie Johnson out at the start of Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He was forced to start at the rear of the field because NASCAR officials discovered an unapproved modification to the A-post on his No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet. That didn’t matter as Johnson raced into the top-10 after the first pit stop. Still, it would have been easy to again count out Johnson midway through the Ford EcoBoost 400 at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.
  Of the four championship contenders, Johnson struggled the most during the evening. He was constantly looking for speed, struggling to keep up with rivals Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano. Somehow, through all the adversity that Johnson faced on Sunday, he found a way to not only win his seventh Sprint Cup Series championship, but to also win the Ford EcoBoost 400, his 80th NASCAR Sprint Cup Series triumph.
  Daniel Suarez made history Saturday evening at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Suarez, of Mexico, became the first international driver to win a NASCAR championship with a dominant victory in the Ford Ecoboost 300 that concluded the NASCAR XFINITY Series season.
  The 24-year-old Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota driver and former NASCAR Mexico Series competitor led 133 of the 200 laps of the 1.5-mile oval, but had to pass fellow championship contender Elliott Sadler for the lead on a restart with only three laps remaining.

  That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail,

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: November 24, 2017

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