RPW Exclusive: Looking Back A Bit; Second Week Of February

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty years ago in 1959, fifty nine starters took the green for the inaugural Daytona 500. As 41,921 spectators looked on, Lee Petty and Johnny Beauchamp crossed the finish line in what appeared to be Beauchamp by a whisker. There was no photo finish camera but Petty was declared the winner, 61 hours later. Bouchamp was put back to second spot with Charlie Griffith, third. The event, which went non stop without a caution, had an average speed of 135.521 mph. For his efforts, Petty received $19,050.

Fifty five years ago in 1964, Richard Petty led all but sixteen of the 200 lap Daytona 500 and finished three miles ahead of Jim Pardue. Paul Goldsmith finished third and was followed by Marvin Paunch and Jim Pascal. Among those in the field were Ralph Earnhardt who finished 19th, 20 laps down and New England modified and cut down driver Nathan”Smokey”Boutwell who finished 20th.There were three cautions for 19 laps. Petty, who averaged 154.334mph collected $33,300 for his efforts as 69,738 spectators looked on. One hundred-mile qualifying race winners were Junior Johnson and Bobby Isaac.

Fifty years ago in 1969, the late model sportsman (Busch Grandnationals) replaced the somewhat modified cars that ran on Saturday. LeeRoy Yarbrough won the event, which saw New England Sportsman and Modified great Don MacTavish lose his life in a violent front stretch crash. Yarbrough came back on Sunday to win the 500 by a car length over Charlie Glotzbach. Donnie Allison finished third and was followed by A.J.Foyt. Yarbroughs average speed was 157.950mph with 101,800 looking on. For his efforts he received $38,950.

Forty five years ago in 1974, the Modifieds were included at Daytona and raced on the road course. Bobby Allison and Tiny Lund finished one-two as they clearly outclassed the field. John Bryant finished third and was followed by Denis Giroux, Geoff Bodine, Jerry Dostie and road racer, Charlie Blanton. The Daytona 500 was shortened to 450 laps because of the then, energy crunch. Even and odd days for getting gas were the norm. Bobby Isaac and Donnie Allison won the twin 125’s which were also shortened to 112.5 miles in length. Richard Petty won his fifth Daytona 500 after Donnie Allison cut down two tires with eleven laps to go. Cale Yarborough ended up second with Ramo Stott, third. A record $300,000 was paid by ABC for broadcast rights and only the second half of the 500 was shown live.

Forty years ago in 1979, Richie Evans dominated the modified World Series at New Smyrna as he won seven of the nine events run. Merv Treichler and Ronnie Bouchard were the only other drivers to break the stranglehold that Evans had on the competition. Evans also won a 200 mile modified event at Daytona. Neil Bonnett finished second and was followed by Harry Gant, Ronnie Bouchard, Joe Thurman and Bob Riley. For the first time, the Daytona 500 was shown live, pole to pole, by CBS. Ken Squire called the action. Richard Petty became a surprise six-time winner after Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison wrecked going for the lead in the closing laps. As Petty took the checkered flag, Yarborough, Allison and Bobby Allison were slugging it out on the infield grass in turn three. When the TV crew realized what was going on they picked up the physical combat as it unfolded. Darrell Waltrip ended up finishing second with A.J.Foyt, third.

Thirty five years ago in 1984, Richie Evans won seven of eight modified events run at New Smyrna. Evans lost a fuel pump on the night he didn’t win. Charlie Jarzombek took the win that night. At Daytona, Cale Yarborough and Bobby Allison won the 125’s.Yarborough went on to win the 500 over Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. Waltrip won the Goodys 300 the day before.

Thirty years ago in 1989, Reggie Ruggiero won six of the nine events at New Smyrna. Mike Ewanitsko won two and Tom Baldwin won the series closing Richie Evans Memorial. Darrell Waltrip was at the top of his game as he won both the Goodys 300 and the Daytona 500.

Twenty five years ago in 1994, Richie Gallup ended up winning four of the eight modified events run at New Smyrna. Tom Baldwin, although winless used consistency to win the series championship. Other winners were Ricky Fuller, Bruce D’Assandro and Ted Christopher who won the series ending Richie Evans memorial. At Daytona, Bob Newton pulled his Hoosier Tires out of the event in the interest of safety, as the tires were not wearing properly. Ernie Irvan and Dale Earnhardt won the 125’s.For the fifth straight year; Dale Earnhardt won the Busch GN Goodys 300 with Dale Jarrett, second. Chad Little the first GN regular finished third. Among the casualties were Mike Stefanik, Doug Hevron and Mike McLaughlin who were collected in a lap five wreck. The 500 saw Sterling Marlin score his first Winston Cup win. Ernie Irvan finished second with Terry Labonte, third.

Twenty years ago, in 1989, at New Smyrna on Monday night, Ted Christopher made it two in a row George Kent in the Gary Cretty No.26.Kent switched from Hoosier to Goodyear but still couldn’t catch the Connecticut speedster. JR Bertuccio finished third with Eric Beers, fourth. At Daytona, Ken Schrader was the Busch Grandnational Series top qualifier as he took the pole for the NAPA 300 with a speed of 189.865mph.Randy Lajoie was the outside pole sitter. Tuesday night at New Smyrna belonged to Doug French as he jumped out in front and beat Ted Christopher to the line. Jamie Tomaino finished third. Christopher returned to winning form on Wednesday at New Smyrna as he won his third event of the series over Kent, Beers and Tomaino. At Daytona the big news was that Mike Helton was named as SR. Vice President and CEO of NASCAR and his duties were to oversee the day to day operations of NASCAR. Bill France would still maintain ultimate control as he remained as President of the sanctioning body. At Daytona on Thursday at the 125’s, Bobby Labonte passed Jeff Gordon with 12 laps to go to win the first event. Dale Earnhardt won the second 125 over Jeremy Mayfield. During the first lap, Wally Dallenbach took out John Andretti and Jeff Green. Christopher and Tomaino opened up a lead of a half lap at New Smyrna on Thursday night. Christopher maintained the point and recorded his fourth victory. George Kent finished third with Doug French, fourth. On Friday at Daytona, Speedway Motorsports announced that they had sold the Charlotte Motor Speedway name to home improvement giant Lowes for $35million. Lowes had previously been a NASCAR sponsor but was dumped in favor of Home Depot. Dale Earnhardt Sr. won the IROC event held at the 2-1/2 mile speedway.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, the action continued at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida on Tuesday night, February 10. The Modifieds had Monday night off. On Tuesday night, Eric Beers took advantage of Ted Christopher and Donnie Lia’s misfortune as he took the win in Round 4 of the World Series. Christopher started on the pole and was looking to be the first repeat winner when Lia made a move under him, which resulted in both ending up in the wall. Lia accepted responsibility for the incident. There had been virtually no passing on the high-banked oval this year as the track had become worn and the temperatures had not been ideal for racing. Buck Catalano, who normally races at the Spencer Speedway in upstate New York, ended up second with Charlie Pasteryak, third. JR Bertuccio and Mike Fitch rounded out the top five. Lia was able to make repairs after the crash and ended up seventh behind John Blewett III who was sixth. Chuck Hossfeld, who was driving for Bob Garbarino on the Modified tour made his first appearance driving his own car and finished 11th. It was also good to see Bo Gunning break into the top ten as he finished 8th. The Modifieds went the 50-lap distance on Wednesday night. Eddie Flemke Jr. and the Hill Enterprises team joined the field and made the most of their effort as they took the win. Flemke, who started third, took the lead on the first lap when John Blewett III drifted up, leaving an opening. It was clear sailing from then on. Blewett, who was then slugging it out with Ted Christopher, lost a radiator hose and triggered a wreck, which ultimately put him out for the night. Christopher applied the pressure to Flemke to the point where his rear bumper looked like it had been through a war but the second generation driver never faltered as he romped home for the win. Christopher settled for second with George Kent, third. Charlie Pasteryak and Chuck Hossfeld rounded out the top five. Flemke stated they never intended to run the whole series, just the last three or four events. On Thursday night Ted Christopher became the first repeat winner in modified competition at New Smyrna. Christopher started on the pole and led the entire 25-lap distance. Buck Catalano finished second with Eric Beers, third. JR Bertuccio and Mike Fitch rounded out the top five. Things got ugly during the early going when Ed Flemke Jr. came together with George Kent. Kent spun out and went after Flemke, eventually planting him into the wall. Flemke ended up in 19th spot while Kent ended up 9th behind Don Lia, Chuck Hossfeld and Bo Gunning. On Friday night it was the Richie Evans Memorial 100. John Blewett III, who had horrible luck in the series, started dead last in the 27-car field and survived numerous restarts and a crash to walk away the winner. A lap nine crash collected eleven cars, including Blewett. Blewett was able to rejoin the field but others weren’t as fortunate. The accident was triggered when Charlie Pasteryak and Bo Gunning made contact with Pasteryak getting the worst of the deal as he hit the outside wall. Once the field restarted those not involved in the wreck made pit stops with many putting on fresh rubber. Another late race caution found the same scenario. On the restart, Ed Flemke was attempting to rundown leader Blewett and George Kent. Flemke appeared to be the fastest car but as the laps wore down he appeared to be getting loose. Ted Christopher then put the bumper to him and sent the Hill’s Enterprises No.79 into the inside wall. Flemke was able to re-fire his engine and took off after Christopher while he circled the track under caution. Flemke figured that the track officials should have taken action against Christopher for his overly aggressive driving and seeing as though they didn’t, Flemke plowed Christopher in the rear and then exited the track to the pit area. Once in the pits, Christopher’s crew joined Flemke’s crew for some tea and crumpets! Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. George Kent ended up finishing second to Blewett. Rounding out the top five were Eric Beers, JR Bertuccio and Chuck Hossfeld. Christopher managed to finish tenth. The heavy rains that washed out the racing at Daytona on Saturday also washed out the final night of the World Series at New Smyrna. There will be no make up. Eric Beers was named the modified champion of the series as he beat Ted Christopher by 31 points. Donnie Lia ended up third with JR Bertuccio, fourth and George Kent, fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Charlie Pasteryak, Buck Catalano, Kevin Goodale, John Bush and Chris Young.

At the Daytona International Speedway on Thursday the twin 125 qualifying races for the Daytona 500 were run with Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Elliott Sadler scoring the wins. Of the 45 cars that entered the events, 43 of them qualified for the 500. Going home were Kirk Shelmerdine, a former crew chief for Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Andy Hillenburg. In comparison to other years, a 45-car field for the 500 is a light one. The NASCAR Craftsman Trucks ran under the lights at the Daytona International Speedway last Friday night. Carl Edwards won it in a Ford. Toyota, in its first showing, almost stole the show as Travis Kvapil finished second in the once domestic brand series. Heavy rains descended on the Daytona area on Saturday afternoon bringing the Busch Series Hershey’s Kisses 300 to a halt. The event was completed on Monday, February 16 at 11:00 am. An estimated 200,000 were on hand when President George Bush gave the command to start the engines. The only scary wreck occurred when Michael Waltrip took a mean tumble on the backstretch. It seemed like ages until Waltrip emerged unhurt. In a TV interview Waltrip was extremely critical of the track crew, which left him hanging upside down for quite a while. Waltrip finally convinced the rescue workers to roll his car back in the upright position and loa and behold he got out without a problem. Unlike last year when the 500 was stopped because of rain, the event ran the entire posted distance.

It looked like there would be a break in the Anti-trust suit that had been filed against NASCAR over the awarding of NEXTEL (formerly Winston) Cup dates. It had been strongly rumored that the International Speedway Corporation, which is controlled by the France family that also controls NASCAR, may sell their track in Rockingham, North Carolina to Speedway Motorsports, which owns the Texas track that has been seeking a second date. If Speedway Motorsports ended up owning Rockingham they could move their date to Texas. A similar situation took place when O. Bruton Smith, CEO of Speedway Motorsports and Bob Bahre, owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire bought the North Wilkesboro Speedway, also in North Carolina, and moved their dates. One went to Loudon and one went to Texas. If the deal for Rockingham ever goes through it’s a good bet that the Anti-trust suit will go away. A few months later it happened!

Ten years ago in 2009 after having Sunday off to repair and refresh some of the tour type and SK type Modifieds that were damaged in the first two nights of the World Series at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida a near full field was on hand. Among those on hand for race #3 was Sprint Cup star Ryan Newman. Ted Christopher beat out Newman at Loudon in 2008. Newman redeemed himself at New Smyrna on Monday night. The closing laps saw numerous lead changes between the two and in the end at the checkered flag it was Newman in for the win by inches. Christopher finished second and was followed by Eric Goodale, John Jensen and Jon McKennedy. Jimmy Blewett made it three in a row in SK type Modified competition

Eric Goodale and Ted Christopher led the 23 car field down for the start of the night’s 25 lap feature. Before one lap was completed Christopher had taken the lead. Matt Hirschman slowed immediately in what was suspected to be transmission problems. A big wreck on the seventh lap collected Ryan Preece, Chuck Hossfeld, Bobby Grigas, III, Jon McKennedy, Jimmy Blewett, Louie Mechalides, Richard Savory and Eric Goodale. Christopher continued to survive several restarts while Goodale slipped a bit, which opened a door for Newman. Newman dogged the defending NASCAR champion until the closing laps when he blew him away with an outside pass on a restart.

When Jimmy Blewett took the checkered flag in the SK type Modified 15 lapper it was almost 12:30am on Tuesday morning. Frank Ruocco, Jimmy Zacharis and David Cranmer rounded out the top five. Those five were the only drivers who finished the race.

Ted Christopher ended his World Series dry spell on Tuesday night as he won the Tour type Modified 25 lap feature. Jimmy Blewett remained unbeatable in the SK type Modifieds as he went pole to pole to record his fourth feature win in the division.

Monday night’s winner Ryan Newman started on the pole of the Modified feature with Jimmy Blewett on the outside. Blewett jumped into the lead at the start. Newman faded a bit as Christopher, who started third, moved into the runner-up spot. By the eighth lap Christopher had moved into the lead. Newman continued to fade as Chuck Hossfeld moved into the third position. In what looked to becoming a non-stop event changed quickly as Eric Goodale, Matt Hirschman and Ryan Preece wrecked together in turn four on the 16th lap. Once the cars and debris was cleared the feature went non-stop from there. Blewett had nothing for Christopher and was forced to settle for second. Hossfeld ended up third with Ronnie Silk, fourth. It was the first night of competition for Silk and the Roger Hill Race Team. Jon McKennedy rounded out the top five. Ryan Newman rebounded from a pit stop on lap 16 to finish sixth.

Following Blewett in the SK type Modified feature were Bobby Grigas, III, Frank Ruocco, David Cranmer and Ron Schultz. The event was cut two laps short when Jimmy Zacharias, Eric Goodale and Wayne Arute were all involved in grinding crash on the front stretch. Arute got the worst of it, hitting the wall head-on. He exited the car uninjured, but his car suffered heavy damage.

The tour type Modifieds at New Smyrna ran the 50 lap John Blewett III Memorial 50 lapper on Wednesday night. Ronnie Silk, in his second night of competition, took the win over Ted Christopher, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale. Jimmy Blewett made it five in a row in SK type Modified competition.

Early in the evening Louie Mechalides replaced Frank Ruocco in the Bear Motorsports No. 14. Ruocco picked up a ride in the Joe Brady back-up car. Chuck Hossfeld drew the pole starting spot and took the lead at the start. By the second lap Silk had closed on the leader and was applying the heat. Hossfeld got a slight reprieve when Mechalides spun in turn two, bringing out the caution. Shortly after the field restarted Hirschman brought out the caution when he spun on the front stretch, hitting the water barrels that guard pit road. Hirschman was able to drive away and rejoin the field. Hossfeld led until lap 11 when he gave way to a determined Silk. The caution flew again on lap 23 for Shelly Perry who spun on the back stretch and for Steve Witt who hit the wall at the start-finish line. On the restart, Hossfeld, who had been running second, faded. Eric Goodale moved into the runner-up spot. At just about the same time Richard Savory’s engine dumped its innards in a billow of smoke. Following a realignment of the field Silk jumped out to a sizeable lead with Goodale, Ryan Preece, Bob Grigas and Hossfeld in tow.

On lap 46, Ryan Preece had a run on Eric Goodale for second place on the backstretch. Preece pulled out and Goodale threw a block on him. The pair made contact and Goodale went spinning down low. Preece made it to the end of the straightway when his right rear tire went down. He then slid up into Chuck Hossfeld, who impacted the outside wall in turn three. Preece drove away and pitted for a new tire. Goodale also drove away and pitted. Hossfeld was hauled off by a wrecker. On the restart Silk led Grigas, Christopher, Ruocco and Hirschman. Grigas got a little over excited as he went high on the track and gave way to Christopher. In the end, Christopher had nothing for Silk. Christopher settled for second with Hirschman, third. Jimmy Blewett and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five. Grigas ended up in sixth spot and Preece in eighth.

Finishing behind Blewett in the Wednesday night SK type event was Frank Ruocco, Brad Van Hooten, Tommy Farrell and Jimmy Zacharias.

In tour type Modified action on Thursday night Ted Christopher scored his second victory of the series. Jimmy Blewett continued to dominate in the SK types as he made it six in a row. Despite the fact that usually by Thursday there had been thousands of race fans in the Daytona-New Smyrna area the crowds were down to say the least. At New Smyrna the grandstands were less than half full and at Daytona where usually the Sprint Cup Duals are near a sell out there were considerable empty seats observed.

In the Modified 25 lapper, Christopher started from the pole and jumped out to an early lead at the start over Chuck Hossfeld, Matt Hirschman, Jimmy Blewett and Bobby Grigas, III. The first caution of the race fell on lap 3 when Frank Ruocco, driving the Joe Brady back-up, hit the second turn wall near the beginning of the backstretch. Christopher led the restart and was followed by Hossfeld, Ronnie Silk, Blewett, Grigas and Hirschman who had faded since the start. Silk, who was looking to make it two in a row, took over the runner-up spot on lap 10 after getting by Hossfeld on the low side. The caution flew again on lap 14, this time for John Jensen who had come to a stop on the front stretch. Once the field went back to green Silk turned up the heat on the backside of the leader. On lap 17 Silk took the lead in a somewhat rough way. Christopher returned the favor on lap 22 as he re-took the lead. Grigas followed as Silk slipped to third. Christopher held on for the win and was followed by Grigas, Silk, Hirschman, Hossfeld, Blewett, Eric Goodale, Rob Fuller, Jon McKennedy and Kevin Goodale.

In SK type competition Blewett took the lead from Frank Ruocco on lap 3 and that’s the name of that tune!

The Richie Evans Memorial 100 was the main attraction at New Smyrna on Friday night. Each year the New Smyrna Speedway honors the fallen Champion and icon to the sport of open wheeled Modified Racing. The RE 100 was the most exciting event of the week and kept the near capacity crowd on its feet for most of the event. Ted Christopher was the eventual winner after trading the lead close to ten times with Ronnie Silk. Temperatures were in the high 50’s-low 60’s at race time.

Jimmy Blewett took the lead on the start with Silk on his rear bumper. Silk passed Blewett for the lead on lap 3. The first caution of the evening flew on lap 11 for Shelly Perry who spun in turn 4. The restart was aborted when Vinnie Annarummo spun by himself. Annarummo was driving the Joe Brady back-up.

A strange thing happened on lap 11. Danny Marcello arrived at the track and was allowed to join the event. That was a dumb move by who ever made that decision as he could have wrecked half the field with an untested car. Marcello was black flagged for not getting up to speed. A big logjam took place on the restart. Several cars got together on the front stretch as the green flag came out. Those involved include Kevin Goodale, Chuck Hossfeld, JR Bertuccio, Rob Fuller, Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Jon McKennedy and Ryan Preece. The field returned to green flag conditions. All continued except Blewett as his car was sidelined with rear end problems. The caution flew again on lap 28. Butch Perry spun. Among those who pitted were Christopher, Chuck Hossfeld and Ryan Preece. Silk continued to lead as the field went back to green. At the halfway point, it was Silk, Bobby Grigas, Eric Goodale, Hirschman, Andy Seuss, John Jensen, Kevin Goodale, JR Bertuccio, Ted Christopher and Peter Jarvis. Butch Perry spun again on lap 53. Silk and most of the front runners pitted. Eric Goodale inherited the lead on the restart. With 13 cars left running Jensen pulled Goodale on the restart. Christopher stormed his way to the front and on lap 60 took the lead. Grigas and Silk came with him into second and third as Jensen dropped to fourth. At lap 67 the racing was at a fever pitch. Silk made bonsai move on the low side of Christopher to take the lead. Not one to take it sitting down, Christopher rose to the occasion on lap 69 to retake the top spot. At lap 77, Silk passed Christopher again for the lead. Christopher tried a crossover move to retake the lead, but it didn’t work. The caution flew again on lap 79 for the Perry’s who wrecked each other. Silk and Christopher served up a see-saw battle for the lead. Christopher took the lead for the final time on lap 96. Following Christopher at the finish was Silk, Grigas, Hirschman, Kevin Goodale and Chuck Hossfeld.

Jimmy Blewett made it seven in a row in the SK type Modifieds. Kevin Goodale was second, Tom Ferrall, Jimmy Zacharias, and Rob Schultz rounded out the top five.

Saturday night was pretty much a lame duck session for the Modifieds and the SK types. Ted Christopher had already sewed up the tour type Modified Championship and Jimmy Blewett, the SK types.

With only 17 tour type Modifieds left for the final night Ted Christopher made it three in a row and four for the week in World Series competition at the New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. Christopher’s main competition Ronnie Silk was on his way home to Connecticut as the Roger Hill Race Team headed for North Carolina. Jimmy Blewett completed a perfect week of SK type Modified racing as he went eight for eight.

Matt Hirschman and Bobby Grigas brought the field down for the start. Christopher started fifth. Once on the backstretch the front runners went three wide. Grigas, who had a tire getting soft and JR Bertuccio made contact. Both hit the wall a ton and in the process collected Jimmy Blewett, Hirschman, Kevin Goodale and Darwin Green. Bertuccio took out his frustrations on Grigas with a barrage of foul language, punches and kicks aimed at Grigas even though the culprit was a leaking tire! Eric Goodale led the restart with Christopher, second. By lap 5 Andy Seuss had moved into second spot after starting in seventh spot. Seuss was able to get close but was unable to make a move on Christopher. At the finish, Christopher took the win. Eric Goodale beat Seuss by a whisker for the runner up spot. Seuss settled for third. Jon McKennedy and Hirschman rounded out the top five.

In NASCAR action at the Daytona International Speedway Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch were the winners of the Thursday Gatorade Dual 150 mile Daytona 500 qualifying races. Gordon, ended the longest winless drought of his career by winning the first duel. Busch also made an overdue return to Victory Lane, where he was a frequent visitor in 2008 before tailing off when the championship was on the line. Busch won eight races and led the Cup standings most of the season, but started to falter in August and fell apart when the Chase for the championship began.

Tony Stewart held off a last-lap challenge from Kyle Busch to win the Nationwide race Saturday at Daytona International Speedway. Stewart passed 23 cars in 11 laps to get back into contention after pitting with 30 laps to go in the 120-lap Camping World 300, then hung onto the lead as Busch, Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer fought for position. Brad Keselowski led several times and appeared to be one of the cars to beat, but he banged off the wall on lap 108. Two laps later, his right rear tire blew, bringing out the last of six caution flags and setting up the dash to the finish. Edwards led at that point, but Stewart, with help from Chevy driver Bowyer, pushed past into the lead after the restart on lap 114.As the laps wound down, Stewart seemed to be a sitting duck, especially after Busch, who won 10 Nationwide races last year, moved into second place three laps from the end. On the final trip around the 2.5-mile oval, Busch moved up to Stewart’s rear bumper and gave him a nudge. Stewart’s car wobbled and drifted high as Busch’s Toyota moved nearly alongside. But, somehow, Stewart stayed just ahead of Busch. Then Edwards and defending series champion Bowyer went to the outside to pass Busch.

Matt Kenseth drove from the back of the field to take the Daytona 500 lead minutes before the sky opened up, handing the former series champion his first victory in NASCAR’s version of the Super Bowl.

Coming off one of the worst seasons of his career, Kenseth’s bad luck followed him into Daytona International Speedway. He wrecked his primary car, had to go to a backup and started Sunday’s race in last place. But As Rain Closed In On The Season-Opening Event, The Field Turned It Up A Notch, anticipating the race would not go the distance. Kenseth used a huge push from Kevin Harvick to pass Elliott Sadler with 54 laps to go. Caution came out moments later for an accident started by Paul Menard, and the rain that had been threatening all day finally arrived. NASCAR stopped the race two laps later, and the cars were called to pit road. Some drivers climbed from their cars to await NASCAR’s decision on whether to restart the race, but Kenseth sat patiently inside his parked Ford on pit road. When NASCAR declared it over, the 2003 Cup champion tearfully climbed from his car to celebrate his victory, which snapped a 36-race winless streak. It was also the first Daytona 500 win for team owner Jack Roush. Kevin Harvick, who used a push from Kenseth to win the 500 in 2007, finished second. AJ Allmendinger, who had to race his way into the field in one of Thursday’s qualifiers, finished third. Clint Bowyer was fourth and Sadler was fifth, devastated he lost the lead moments before the rain stopped the race.

Five years ago in 2014, The second annual Battle at the Beach for the NASCAR Modifieds was considerably better than the first one despite the fact that the dominant car didn’t win. Doug Coby took advantage of Ryan Preece’s misfortune to take the win and the $20,000 that went with it. Preece, who led the first 147 laps from the pole, hit the lapped car of David Sapienza with eight laps to go. Sapienza, a lapped car, was low in turn one when Preece approached. Evidently his spotter failed to inform him of the car in the low groove or Preece just mis-judged his pass as his left rear tire made contact with Sapienza’s car. The contact badly bent the left-rear wheel on Preece’s No. 16 and when the race resumed with three laps to go he couldn’t hold the bottom groove, allowing Coby to sneak from third to the lead. Coby led the final three circuits on the temporary three-eighths-mile track located on the backstretch at the superspeedway in his first race in the No. 2 modified.

Jason Myers put the bumper in typical Bowman Gray style as Coby was exiting the fourth turn on the final lap, but Coby held on. Myers finished second with Luke Fleming, Preece and Burt Myers rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Tommy Barrett, Jr. Cody Ware, Ron Silk, Eric Goodale and JR Bertuccio. Donny Lia, who ran second and third for 121 laps when he spun out and eventually finished 11th, the apparent victim of worn tires. Patrick Emmerling who was second on the final restart got shuffled to 12th in the final rundown.

Thirteen of the original 26 starters finished on the lead lap. There were eight cautions for 44 laps. As far as the race itself was concerned the reconfigured track provided better racing. The International Speedway Corporation which owns the Daytona Speedway is in the process of tearing down the backstretch grandstand which means that next year the Battle at the Beach may move to New Smyrna or cease to exist.

With Daytona in the record book the Modifieds returned to New Smyrna on Wednesday night, seventeen cars went to post for the John Blewett III Memorial 76 lapper. Ron Silk took the lead from pole sitter Tommy Barrett on lap three and went on to record his third win of the week. Ryan Preece finished second with Barrett, third. Eric Goodale and Matt Hirschman rounded out the top five.

The Living Legends of Auto Racing held their 20th annual awards banquet last Wednesday night at the Shores Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach Shores. Northern Legends Bugsy Stevens, Don LaJoie, Geoff Bodine, Jim Reed and Ken Squire were honored.

At New Smyrna on Thursday night the Modified field grew to 18, Justin Bonsignore, driving a brand new SPAFCO car crew chiefed by Kenny Barry cleaned house in the 35 lap Tour type Modified feature. Bonsignore started on the outside pole and took the lead from pole sitter Matt Hirschman following a restart on lap five. Bonsignore left little doubt that his new car was running to perfection as he opened up a 10 car lengths lead by lap 30 of the 35 lap main, Hirschman hung on to finish second only to be disqualified after the post race inspection indicated he has over the allowable left side weight. Ron Silk was moved up into second and Ryan Preece into third. Tommy Barrett ended up fourth with Patrick Emerling, fifth.

Bonsignore, on a roll from his Thursday night victory, came back on Friday night to win the series ending Richie Evans Memorial 100 lap tour type Modified event at the New Smyrna Speedway. Bonsignore started 14th in the rain delayed event that didn’t take the green until 20 minutes to eleven. The young charger from Long Island took the lead with two laps to go from Ron Silk. It was close to 11:30pm when Bonsignore took the checkered flag. With his third place finish, Silk wrapped up the series championship.

Silk led the charge at the start, which saw 19 cars go to post. Eric Goodale was the pole sitter. Silk led until lap 86 when it appeared he slowed because of worn tires. Goodale, waiting in the wings, took the point. Meanwhile Bonsignore had methodically worked his way to the front and on lap 98 passed for the lead and eventual win. Goodale hung on for second. Chuck Hossfeldt finished fourth and Doug Coby came all the way from 19th to round out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Rob Fuller, Spencer Davis, Ryan Preece Matt Hirschman and Al Emmarino. It was another disappointing night for Tommy Barrett who was forced to retire early with power steering problems.

Justin Bonsignore can now head north with his head held high as he has won one of Modified Racings Most Prestigious events, the Richie Evans 100. A true Modified racer, he came from the back to take the win. Good Job!

Congratulations to Ron Silk and car owner Eddie Partridge on their World Series Tour type Modified championship.

Matt Kenseth defeated Kevin Harvick by .022 of a seconds in a three-wide finish that also included Kasey Kahne in an impressive finish to Thursday night’s first Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying race for the s Daytona 500. Harvick’s Chevrolet, however, failed post-race technical inspection when NASCAR officials found the track bar exceeded the maximum split (3-inches of adjustment). That meant his finishing position from Thursday was disallowed and he would have to make it into the field through qualification times posted in the previous week’s time trials or the car owner points that belonged to Ryan Newman last year when he was the driver at Stewart-Haas Racing.

Denny Hamlin gave Joe Gibbs Racing a sweep of both Budweiser Duels, driving his Toyota to victory in the second 150-mile qualifying race Thursday night for Sunday’s 56th Daytona 500.

Hamlin was first to the checkered flag in a race that finished with a massive crash behind him that saw six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion and two-time Daytona 500 winner Jimmie Johnson run out of gas before being clipped by Jamie McMurray. That led to a big multi-car crash that saw Clint Bowyer’s car flip completely over before landing on all four wheels. Also, two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip’s Toyota ran into the opening of the pit wall.

One year after seeing an apparent victory end in one of the worst crashes in Daytona history, Regan Smith was finally able to see the checkered flag at Daytona Int’l Speedway. Smith used the high-line to nip Brad Keselowski by a fender and win Saturday’s DRIVE4COPD 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona Int’l Speedway.

Brad Keselowski lost the race by the narrowest of margins. Trevor Bayne was third in a Ford followed by Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota drivers Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler.

In the weekend final Daytona 500, Dale Earnhardt JR led 54 of the 200 laps in beating Denny Hamlin (who had no radio much of the night), Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon, defending race and series champion Jimmie Johnson, Matt Kenseth, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Greg Biffle, rookie pole-winner Austin Dillon, and Casey Mears. Several late-race cautions kept the field bunched and set up the week’s fourth spectacular Cup finish.

The 56th annual 500 began on time, then went under the red flag for rain after just 38 laps. Competitors and fans sat around for almost 6 hours, 22 minutes as the long-expected weather moved through the area. The race finally began again at 8:34 and ended at 11:45PM.

Congratulations to Geoff Bodine, Bob Cuneo and the USA Bob Sled team on winning the bronze medal in the two man event at the Olympics on Monday, 2/17 and the four man team event on Sunday

Last year, 2018, Modified racing at New Smyrna began on Monday, Feb 12. Thirty one Modifieds, the best field of cars since 1993 were on hand. Ryan Preece led the charge as the opening night 50 lapper took the green. Preece appeared to be headed to victory when a broken suspension part in the cars rear end on lap 43 forced him to pit and ultimately drop out. Jon McKennedy, driving the Tommy Baldwin No.7 was running second and assumed the lead and went on to lead the remaining seven laps and scored the win. Kyle Ebersol finished second with Chuck Hossfeldt, third. Matt Hirschman and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top five.

Among those who failed to finish in addition to Preece was Timmy Solomito who retired when his car developed a smoking rear end.

Ryan Preece got his just do on Tuesday night as he came out on top after a spirited duel with Matt Hirschman. Preece took the lead from Hirschman between turns three and four on lap 13, leading from lap 14 to the checkered flag on lap 35. Hirschman finished second with Jimmy Blewett, third. Patrick Emerling finished fourth with Timmy Solomito rounding out the top five. For Solomito it was a redemption of sort as he recovered from an opening night setback. Opening night winner Jon McKennedy saw his chances of having a successful week of racing disappear as he was collected in a lap three wreck. McKennedy had come to a stop when he was rear-ended. The resulting impact bent the rear clip of the Tommy Baldwin owned machine thus putting him and the car out for the rest of the week. Also collected in the wreck was Ron Silk and Kyle Trayner.

Night No.3, Wednesday saw the running of the John Blewett III Memorial 76-lapper. Just prior to the start Jimmy Blewett withdrew because of motor problems. AS the fog attempted to close in, Timmy Solomito led the 28 car starting field at the start with Ron Silk in tow. Ryan Preece started fourth and took up the chase. By lap 12 he had put the Eddie Partridge mount into the second spot. Preece glued himself to Solomito’s bumper and eventually took the lead when Solomito spun his tires on a restart on lap 33. Meanwhile, Matt Hirschman, who started seventh had worked his way quietly into fourth spot by lap 44. Also breaking into the top five was Craig Lutz. Following a caution on lap 54 when Silk hit the wall, Patrick Emerling took the lead on the restart when Preece spun his tires. Emerling was obviously blocking when the caution flew for Kyle Ebersol on lap 59. Preece re-took the lead on the restart with Hirschman hot on his bumper. Preece’s tires were shot as he faded fast. At the checkered flag on lap 76 Hirschman scored a convincing win over Patrick Emerling. Craig Lutz came on strong in the closing laps and finished third ahead of Preece and Tommy Catalano. Solomito finished sixth with Danny Bohn, seventh.

Night No.4 at the New Smyrna Speedway featured 35 laps for the Modifieds with 26 cars going to post. Patrick Emerling got his just due as he won the Modified main event over Craig Lutz. Emerling, who set the fastest time earlier in the evening started eighth on the field. Ron Silk led the early going until passed by Lutz on lap 12. Lutz had a real strong run going until his handling dropped off as he gave way to Emerling in turn four on lap 29. Emerling, who was coached by former Whelen Modified Tour front runner Jan Leaty went on to score his first ever win at the Florida oval. Lutz hung on for second with Silk third. Matt Hirschman and Eric Goodale rounded out the top five.

Night No.5, Friday,saw the running of the Richie Evans/Ted Christopher 100. Ryan Preece won the battle but it was Matt Hirshman who won the war (Series Championship). Preece executed a “slide-up” move during a restart after a controlled caution on lap 64 to take the lead from Hirschman. Preece led the rest of the 100 lap distance. Hirschman finished second with Timmy Solomito, third. Ron Silk and Jimmy Blewett rounded out the top five.

The event was not without its share of drama. Shortly after the 25-car field lined up for the parade lap Eric Goodales’ car developed electrical problems and had to be pushed to the pit area. After numerous tries the car couldn’t be fixed and the race started without him. On lap 6 Austin Pickins appeared to have a stuck throttle, which resulted in a crash that collected Patrick Emerling. Emerlings crew led by Jan Leaty managed to make repairs, which allowed him to continue. During a caution on lap 10 Jeremy Kirchner took a swing at Kyle Trayner who was still in his car. Kirchner also attempted to kick Trayner. Track Steward Ricky Brooks took control of the situation as he picked him up with his ATV and transported him to the start-finish line where he ordered the still irritated Kirchner to exit the track area and sit in the grandstand. Kirchner did what he was told and sat sputtering the rest of the evening! A tip of the hat to Brooks for his response to what could have become a violent situation.

Harrison Burton topped the 100-lap super late model feature that concluded the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing Saturday night at New Smyrna Speedway. Burton posted the fastest time in qualifying, but a six invert forced him to start sixth. He quickly worked his way back to the front, driving under both Stephen Nasse and Steve Wallace on lap 25 to take the lead. Once out front Burton was never challenged again as he rolled to a comfortable 4.305-second victory over Nasse. Tyler Ankrum, Derek Kraus and Steven Wallace completed the top-five.

Racefans attending events at the Daytona International Speedway got hit with a $30 parking fee which went to $60 for last Sunday’s Daytona 500. No wonder there were many empty seats at events during the week!

Ryan Blaney held off Team Penske teammate Joey Logano to win Thursday night’s first 150-mile qualifying race in the Can-Am Duel at Daytona International Speedway.

In the second Duel, Chase Elliott grabbed the lead on Lap 27 of 60 and held it the rest of the way, beating Kevin Harvick to the finish line by .081 seconds. Erik Jones survived an early spin to run third, followed by Clint Bowyer and Kyle Busch.

Blaney finished the first Duel .207 seconds ahead of fast-closing Logano in the race that set the order of the inside row for Sunday’s Daytona 500.

In Saturday action at Daytona it took five overtime attempts before Tyler Reddick gave fans at Daytona Int’l Speedway for Saturday’s 37th NASCAR Xfinity Series PowerShares QQQ 300 a thrilling photo finish. The finish was so close, in fact, that NASCAR’s timing and scoring system was initially unable to show a margin of victory.

The photo at the start/finish line showed the bumper of Reddick’s Chevrolet was just a few inches ahead of Elliott Sadler’s Chevrolet. NASCAR later announced that the official margin of victory was .000, the closest finish in NASCAR history.

In the Daytona 500, history repeated itself on Sunday as Austin Dillon drove the No. 3 to victory in the 60th Daytona 500 on a day when Dale Earnhardt’s 1998 victory was celebrated. The move to win the race by Dillon, who won the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway last May, was Earnhardt-like by the 27-year-old Dillon. He made a last-lap pass in turn three after putting the bumper to then race-leader Aric Almirola, which led to Almirola crashing.

NASCAR officials didn’t call for the caution flag and Dillon’s Chevrolet led rookie driver Darrell Wallace Jr. and 2016 Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin across the finish line to win by .260-of-a-second. By not taking any action against Dillon NASCAR sent a strong message that it is ok to take the leader of the race out when going for a win. Guaranteed, that decision will come back to haunt the sanctioning body in the future.

In some good news word has been received that 12 Whelen Modified Tour Series events will be televised by the NBC Sports Net this coming year. Like last year, TV coverage is a big shot in the arm to competitors who are seeking corporate sponsorship.

The New London-Waterford Speedbowl announced some big news in the way of format changes and purse increases.

During the 2017 season, SK Modified driver Keith Rocco and Sportsman driver Chris Meyer each won back-to-back features at the New London Waterford Speedbowl on two occasions. And each driver also enjoyed three race winning streaks.

In 2018, however, back-to-back victories may be more difficult to come by. A new Speedbowl handicapping rule going into effect in 2018 stipulates that the winner of a feature must start the next week’s race behind all the handicapped cars. In most cases, that means starting 10th, or farther back.

Speedbowl racing director Chris Forster said that new procedure was implemented with both the drivers and the fans in mind. “This will increase the competition level,” Forster said. “If a driver wants to win two in a row, he will have to earn it. This raises the bar for everyone.”

“And the fans will be see great side-by-side racing because they’ll see the previous week’s winner doing everything he can to get to the front.”

Rocco, who won nine of 15 SK races last year, said the new rule doesn’t affect him that much. “Ninety percent of the time, we start in the back after we win a race anyway,” Rocco said. “The only time we wouldn’t would be if we had two DNFs and then win a race. Our handicap could put us near the front the following week. But that’s not going to happen anymore. That’s a rule that will affect everybody.”

The handicap system will also go back to using money won over the last three races to determine starting position, not the point system that’s been used the past few years.

“This makes it a lot easier for drivers and fans to understand.” Forester said. Forster also announced an increase in purses. SK Modified winners will receive $1,300. The Sportsman winning purse will double to $400. The MiniStock winner will earn $250. SK Lights will race for $350 to win – along with a purse increase to the LM and truck divisions. It’s been a long time coming said Forster.

“That’s great,” Rocco said. “The price of tires goes up. Fuel goes up. It’s nice the purse is going up.”

On a sad note, Norm Holden, a front runner and former champion at the Seekonk Speedway passed away.

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