The Chrome Horn - Looking Back A Bit with Phil Smith

February 23, 2018

  Forty years ago in 1978 Benny Parsons won the Richmond 400 as 20,000 spectators looked on. Lenny Pond finished second with Cale Yarborough, third. Darrel Waltrip and Dick Brooks rounded out the top five.

  Thirty five years ago in 1983, Bobby Allison won the Richmond 400 Winston Cup event.

  Thirty years ago in 1988, the Winston Cup division of NASCAR was at Richmond and the tire war between Hoosier and Goodyear was on. Hoosier had the tire to beat. Morgan Shepherd took the pole on Hoosiers and Neil Bonnett took the win, also on Hoosiers.

  Twenty five years ago in 1993, Mark Martin won the Busch Grandnational 200. Todd Bodine was involved in a bad crash after he blew a tire and hit the wall. Rusty Wallace rebounded from his wreck at Daytona and dominated the Winston Cup event. Dale Earnhardt finished second.

  Twenty years ago in 1998, Speedway Motorsports exercised an option to buy the 800 acres and buildings that made up the Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, California. In Winston Cup qualifying at Rockingham, Rick Mast was the Busch Pole sitter. Kenny Wallace was second fastest. Tony Stewart was the Busch Grandnational pole sitter. Mike Stefanik made it into the starting field with an owner’s provisional. In the GN 200, Matt Kenseth bumped Tony Stewart on the last lap and went on to take the win by a half car length. Stefanik finished 35th, 11 laps down. Jeff Gordon took the Winston Cup win after he passed Rusty Wallace in the late stages.

  Fifteen years ago in 2003, rain played a role at Rockingham as the wet stuff cancelled qualifying for both the Busch Series and the Winston Cup Series. Saturday’s Busch Series event was also rained out and re-scheduled for Monday. Jamie McMurray led the entire event to take the win over David Green. In Winston Cup action on Monday, Dale Jarrett and Kurt Busch swapped the lead four times during the final 11 laps with Jarrett coming out on top at the finish. On a sad note, Bill Colton Sr., who brought soft walls to Lancaster and Oswego Speedways passed away and Dexter Burnham, noted newspaper man and former Stafford Speedway Public Relations director passed away at the age of 79.

  Ten years ago in 2008 Carl Edwards won the rain-delayed Auto Club 500 in Fontana CA on Monday, charging past NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jimmie Johnson with 13 laps remaining. Johnson, winner of the past two Cup titles, came out of the final pit stop in the lead with 26 laps left. But Edwards surged from third to capture the eighth victory of his career. Jeff Gordon, who dominated Sunday's racing, was third. He was followed by Kyle Busch and Roush's Matt Kenseth, who had won the two previous February races at this track. Another Roush driver, Greg Biffle, won this event in 2005.
  About 25,000 fans, far short of the approximate 120,000 capacity, showed up Monday, with the sun peeking out from high clouds and temperatures moving into the high 60s.
  The drivers spent most of Sunday waiting through rain, track drying and attempts to stop water seeping through seams of the track. The race finally began about 2 1/2 hours late, followed by a rain delay of just more than an hour and then a five-hour wait after a downpour. NASCAR and track officials finally gave up after 11 p.m. and postponed the conclusion until Monday.
  Tony Stewart won the Nationwide Series Stater Bros. 300 at Fontana on Monday afternoon following the Sprint Cup event for his second win of the season. He dominated the race, leading 136 of the 150 laps. The rest of the top 10 were Kyle Busch, Keving Harvick, David Reutimann, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jeff Burton, Clint Bowyer, and Stepen Leicht (who was the only driver in the top 10 who wasn't in the Cup race earlier). The race was slowed by 5 cautions for 19 laps and there were 11 lead changes among 9 drivers.
  Kyle Busch won the Craftsman Truck Series event that was run on Saturday. Don Lia, the defending Whelen Modified Tour Series champion, started 32nd and finished 26th, one lap down.
  In some sad news, Ronnie Ambrosi, 78, of Stafford Springs, passed away on Saturday, (February 16, 2008) at Evergreen Health Care Center in Stafford Springs. Ron retired in 1992 as owner of the food concessions at Stafford Motor Speedway and Ronnies Restaurant where everyone came from far and wide to enjoy ice cream. Prior to the food concessions and the restaurant, Ron was co-promoter along with Clarence Benton of all events that took place at the speedway. He has had a relationship with the speedway for close to 67 years. As co-promoter of the track, which was dirt at the time, Ron had American Motorcycle Association motorcycle races on Sundays. On Thursday evenings he had semi-pro boxing. The ring was placed at the start-finish line of the racetrack. He was a member of the New England Antique Racing Association.
  The International Speedway Corporation received a huge financial shot in the arm as they announced a 10-year, multi-million dollar partnership with the Automobile Club of Southern California ("Auto Club"), the nation's largest member of the AAA federation, to re-name California Speedway as Auto Club Speedway of Southern California. Specific financial terms were not released.

  Five years ago in 2013 the big highlight of the weekend was the 54th annual Frank Maratta Auto and Race-A-Rama at the Big E in West Springfield, Ma. Hundreds of custom cars, Motorcycles and Race Cars were on display. Numerous speedways were represented plus many racing related vendors. Among the cars on display was the Valenti Modified Racing Series Championship entry of Art and Kenny Barry of Spearpoint Auto and the beautiful V-One No. 52 of John and Joe Catania. One of the highlights of the weekend was the pit crew competition which was won by the Jeff and Keith Rocco race team.
  A hot topic of conversation was the exit of Frank Sgambato Jr from the Race Management team at the Stafford Speedway and the rumor that Tom Fox would be taking his place.
  Word from Long Island indicated that Ted Christopher would not be a regular competitor at the Riverhead Raceway in 2013. Wayne Anderson, a former five-time Riverhead Raceway NASCAR Modified champion announced that 21-year old Timmy Solomito of Islip would drive his famed Eastport Feeds NASCAR Modified at the ultra-competitive quarter mile oval in 2013. The Anderson/Solomito pairing would start their quest not only for the NASCAR Modified championship at Riverhead but also the New York State title in the Whelen All-American Series on Saturday evening May 4th in Twin 30 main events. Solomito was the defending opening night winner.
  Area Auto Racing News scribe Kevin Rice sent word that The Star Speedway in Epping, NH is very excited to announce a sponsorship donation of $4,400 from Long Island race fan Jim Schaefer that will go directly to the drivers who compete in the third annual SBM 125 Open Modified event at the quarter-mile oval on Saturday, June 15.
  Each of the 24 drivers who qualify for the race will be handed $100 bills by Schaefer once they are officially in the star-studded field. This means that the race would now pay $600 to start and a minimum of $5,125 to win, even before the thousands of dollars in bonuses were added in.
  At the 2012 event, race winner Matt Hirschman pocketed just under $9,000 when including the bonus cash. In fact 22 of the 28 race teams who entered the SBM 125 last June earned additional monies beyond the purse payout for their efforts.
  In NASCAR Nationwide Series racing, Kyle Busch led 142 laps at Phoenix International Raceway on Saturday to end a 24-race Nationwide winless streak.
  In Sprint Cup action, Carl Edwards pulled away on a late restart and snapped a 70-race winless streak on Sunday, the second long drought he's ended at Phoenix. Danica Patrick became the first woman to win a pole and lead green-flag laps during NASCAR's season opener, sending her popularity to a new level.
  But she couldn't stay with the leaders at Phoenix, ending her day with one of the hardest hits of her career. It happened with about 100 laps left, when the right-front tire on Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet went down and slammed her into the wall.

  Last year, 2017, The World Series at New Smyrna shifted into high gear with the running of the first of five Tour type Modified events, a 50 lapper on the fast high banked ½ mile oval. A healthy field of 24 cars went to post with up-state New Yorker Amy Catalano on the pole and Jim Zacharias on the outside pole. At the drop of the green, Catalano faded quickly as Zacharias took the lead with JR Bertuccio in tow. Bertuccio took the lead from Zacharias on a lap-34 restart after riding him high. He then had to hold off Ryan Preece for a few laps and then a late charge from Matt Hirschman as well. Bertuccio beat Hirschman to the checkered flag by 0.237 seconds to take the victory. Preece finished third with Jon McKennedy and Ron Silk rounding out the top five.
  In previous years the New Smyrna management was considering abandoning the Modifieds for the lack of participation. The biggest problem was the officiating, as tech inspectors often looked the other way when cheating occurred. As a result the fields of cars dwindled. A change in the Modified officials and stricter and fair enforcement of the rules has resulted in better fields of cars, which will allow the Modifieds to compete at the Florida track for many years to come. This yer’s World Series drew the largest field of cars in 17 years.
  Round two of the Modified portion of the World Series was a 30 lapper on Tuesday night. Newcomer Tyler Ryptkema, from up-state New York, broke a rear end and transmission on opening night but was able to make repairs and came back with a vengeance as he led pole to pole in the non-stop event to score a convincing win over Jimmy Zacharias. Jon McKennedy finished third with Ryan Preece and Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top five. Round one winner JR Bertuccio had a solid third place finish up until the last corner of the last lap when he spun after making contact with Preece.
  Bertuccio, who ended up 16th, lost his temper upon entering the pit area and ended up in a confrontation with his dad and then with Preece. Bertuccio made a mistake and couldn’t live up to the fact that he “blew it”. Ron Silk finished sixth and was followed by Chuck Hossfeldt, Matt Hirschman, Timmy Solomito and Tommy Catalano.
  Heavy rain in central Florida washed out action at New Smyrna. The Modified John Blewett III Memorial that had been scheduled for Wednesday night was rescheduled for Thursday.
  The skies cleared on Thursday night for the running of the John Blewett III Memorial. In what was a highly competitive event with a lot of passing, Ryan Preece scored a hard fought win over Matt Hirschman and Ron Silk. Twenty six cars went to post. Justin Bonsignore who started 19th was the show of the night as he fought his way to fourth at the finish. Jimmy Blewett, who started on the pole, rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Timmy Solomito, Richie Pallai Jr, Chuck Hossfeldt, JR Bertuccio and Calvin Caroll.
  Preece and Jon McKennedy were tied for the point lead going into the event. McKennedy spun on the last lap and ended up 13th.
  Matt Hirschman saved the best for last as he scored a convincing win in the Richie Evans Memorial 100 on Friday night at New Smyrna. Hirschman used his inside position on a restart with 13 laps remaining and was able to get by the leader from a majority of the race, Ron Silk, coming out of turn two. Despite the win, Hirschman never broke a smile as he credited his dad, former Mod tour champion Tony Hirschman, for doing a great job in building and setting up the car. Silk ended up second. Jon McKennedy, Ryan Preece and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top five. Timmy Solomito, Chuck Hossfeld, Spencer Davis, JR Bertuccio and Richie Pallai Jr. made up the top ten.
  Ryan Preece claimed his third straight World Series title in the Modified division. Preece edged Hirschman by just a mere one point in the final points tally.
  Former driver John Jarush made an interesting observation, “The truck race Friday was a wreckfest and boring till I saw the Xfinity 4 hour race marathon ! NASCAR wants to make it more exciting ? Maybe during red flags have Brian France in the infield on a horse, like Joe Tinty on Sugarfoot at Plainville. Add to that put him in a clown suit and that would sum up the state of NASCAR, run by a clown (with no disrespect to clowns ) It`s been proven again and again, the first generation starts a business, the second builds it up and the third runs it into the ground !!! “
Congratulations to Josh Vanada, Thompson Motorsports Park Speedway GM who received the RPM Eastern Region Auto Racing Promoter of the Year Award.
  Chase Elliott, who was already locked into the pole position for the 59th Daytona 500 after qualifying in time trials, won Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel Race No. 1.The 21-year-old Elliott, the son of two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott, became the youngest winner of a Daytona 500 qualifying race. Previously it was Jeff Gordon, who won a qualifying race in 1993 that was the youngest winner.
  Elliott’s No. 24 NAPA Chevrolet finished .156 of a second ahead of Jamie McMurray’s Chevrolet. It was the second-year driver’s first win in a Cup car.
  Denny Hamlin drove from worst to first as the Joe Gibbs Racing driver overcame a penalty on his pit stop to pick up the victory in Thursday night’s Can-Am Duel No. 2 at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Hamlin’s Toyota passed race-leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. heading to the white flag. Earnhardt’s Chevrolet was in front for 53 laps in the 60-lap race.
  Rookie Kaz Grala, a high school Senior from Boston, Massachusetts attending Worcester Academy, won the NASCAR Truck Series season opener Friday night, getting through a massive wreck on the final lap at Daytona International Speedway.
  The 18-year-old Grala who has raced at the Seekonk Speedway and at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl became the youngest winner in a NASCAR national series at Daytona. He was lucky to even make it to the checkered flag. Two-time series champion Matt Crafton was leading the 100-lap race when he got turned sideways and went for a wild ride that included several spins and a harrowing flip. Crafton's No. 88 Toyota landed on all four tires, and he was able to walk away unscathed.
  Grala managed to escape the carnage, and considering it was his first victory in 10 starts in the series, he had no idea what to do next.
  Only 13 of 32 trucks finished on the lead lap, but even that doesn't properly explain the all the damage done in a little more than two hours. NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. posted a picture on his Twitter page of two sailors shoveling money into a furnace with the caption "quick recap of tonight's action." More than half the field was involved in accidents, fairly routine at Daytona. Seventeen trucks were involved in a huge wreck on the second lap, knocking out a number of contenders. Austin Wayne Self was second.
  Ryan Reed jumped to the lead on the final green-white-checkered restart and held off a final corner challenge from charging Kasey Kahne to collect his second XFINITY Series victory and his second at Daytona Int’l Speedway. He won the same race in 2015.

  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: February 23, 2018

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