Sixty 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.
Fifty five 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,
Eddie Flemke and southern driver Dwayne “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 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.
Forty five 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 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.
Thirty five 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 Ruggiero, 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 Ruggiero lost a tire on the
last lap. Doug Hewitt finished third with Jamie Tomaino and Tony Hirschman
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 Ruggiero and Richie Evans. Doug Hewitt
and Mike Mclaughlin rounded out the top five
Thirty 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
Ruggiero 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 Ruggiero put the Mario
Fiore No.44 in victory lane. Baldwin settled for second with Tony Jankowiak,
third. Ruggiero made it two in a row as he took the victory on Tuesday
night. Bruce D'Assandro in a Fiore back up, finished second.
Twenty five 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 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.
Fifteen 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.
Ten 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
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
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
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.
Five 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 Hossfeld was on a mission. Hossfeld, 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 Hossfeld
and Hirschman ran side by side with Hossfeld 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
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.
Last year, 2017, the northeast was
being pounded with snow which gave competitors the excuse to leave early for
speedweeks in Florida. The Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina presented
the 2nd annual IceBreaker on February 11. The 2nd annual IceBreaker was the
speedway’s first race of the 2017 season. Drivers of the NASCAR Whelen
All-American Series, as well as Modifieds, Chargers, Mini Stocks and Vintage
cars were on hand. Modified competitors looking to get a leg up on the
season looked at the event as somewhat of a practice session for the March
beginning of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series.
A mere 13 cars went to post for the Modified 50 lapper. As they all found
out, Myrtle Beach has an extremely abrasive surface, which eats tires and
ruins competition. Doug Coby was the eventual winner. Coby was the pole
sitter and immediately dropped back after leading only two laps. Jim
Zacharias led from lap 3 to lap 9 before giving way to Jason Myers. After
riding around but staying in striking distance Coby made his move and took
the lead on lap 46. Myers had nothing for the defending Modified champion as
he settled for second. Matt Hirschman finished third and was followed by
Ryan Preece, Ron Silk and Zacharias. Rounding out the top ten were Kyle
Ebersol, Rich Pallai Jr, Woody Pitkat and Jimmy Blewett.
Hopefully the speedway would see some serious work before the Whelen
Modified Tour Series opener in March. Anything over 25 laps at the worn
track will be a waste of time.
NASCAR officials George Silberman and Jimmy Wilson met behind closed
doors with select competitors of the Whelen Modified Tour Series at the
Holiday Inn at the TF Green Airport in Warwick, RI. As usual, NASCAR
officials talked a lot but in reality said little. Prize money was not
discussed but NASCAR alluded to the fact that money for “Southern” races
would be similar to those paid at Thompson. The weight difference between
built and spec engines was been eliminated. It was said that there would be
a pool of money put aside for southern competitors who come north to race.
The pool, $2000, would be split among those who choose to travel. Northern
competitors who travel south would probably get what the cow left behind
when she jumped the fence!
In somewhat of a surprise, NASCAR announced that “Group Qualifying would
be introduced in 2017 starting as early as the first Friday night tour event
at the Stafford Motor Speedway.
In a somewhat related matter, driver Max Zachem stated that the Thompson
Speedway had reached a three-year agreement to host the NASCAR K&N East
On a sad note, word came of the passing of co-founder of the New England
Supermodified Racing Association Ken Smith who died over the weekend.
Together with partners Russ Conway and Charlie Elliot, Ken promoted over
1000 races in a career that started June 1965 leading to all three being
inducted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
Looking Back Archive
Smith / Looking Back A Bit