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

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Thirty five years ago in 1984, Darrell Waltrip was the pole sitter at Richmond but it was Ricky Rudd coming back from a violent wreck at Daytona to take the win. In victory lane Rudd showed signs of his violent wreck as he still had two black eyes. Ronnie Bouchard was the second fastest qualifier and after running in the lead pack, lost an engine and finished 29th.

Twenty five years ago in 1994,Ward Burton won the 200-mile Grandnational event at Rockingham. Bill Elliott, driving the Junior Johnson No.11 was the Winston Cup winner.

Twenty years ago, in 1999, the cup cars and Grandnationals headed west to Las Vegas. Mark Martin was the BGN pole sitter and Dale Jarrett did likewise in the Winston Cup portion. Jim Spencer took the lead with 25 laps to go and went on to win the Grandnational event. Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second. A fourth turn wreck on the last lap saw Randy LaJoie finish the event on his roof. It was also after the completion of the event that Jeff Fuller was fired and replaced by Kevin Lepage. Mark Martin took the Winston Cup win over Jeff Burton and Rusty Wallace. Jarrett lost an engine.

Fifteen years ago in 2004, the experts’ spoke in a poll conducted by NASCAR as far as who would win the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series title in 2004. Chuck Hossfeld, who was driving for Mystic, Connecticut car owner Bob Garbarino received the most votes as being the most likely to take the 2004 series title. Hossfeld finished second to Todd Szegedy in 2003. John Blewett III who was driving for Curt Chase, from Willimantic, Ct. was also considered to be a top contender. Rounding out the top five of those receiving the most votes were Szegedy, Ted Christopher and Jerry Marquis. Mike Stefanik was expected to make announcement pertaining to his plans for the NASCAR Modified Tour Series but it never came. Rumor had it that he would drive the Bear Motorsports No.14 or the Flamingo Motorsports No.16 that had been driven by Chris Kopec. Stefanik was committed to a full schedule on the Busch North Series and would compete in the Modifieds when his schedule permits. The Stafford Speedway announced that late model competitor Woody Pitkat had added his name to the SK-Modified roster for 2004. Pitkat, who had four late model wins at Stafford in 2003, was also one of the top runners at Thompson. Jim Broderick, who was hobbling around after hip replacements said he was all healed and had a very busy schedule planned for 2004. In what may be his last year, the Brookfield Connecticut driver will be running the full NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series schedule plus will be a regular in the SK-Modified ranks at Stafford. Broderick also plans a few special events at Waterford. Speedway Motorsports announced that they had record revenues and earnings for the fourth quarter and year ending 2003. Compared to 2002, total revenues increased 16% or $11.5 million to $84.6 million. Forth quarter 2003 net income increased 30% or $2.6 million to $11.1 million. Because of the fact that it was leap year NASCAR’s NEXTEL Cup and Busch Racing Series got a weekend off.

Ten years ago in 2009, Thompson Speedway owner Don Hoenig shifted gears again at the northeastern Connecticut oval. In 2008 the Speedway hosted two Thursday night dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series in addition to his traditional dates. For 2009 he announced that he was dropping the June event and replacing it with an open competition non-sanctioned Modified event. After much thought, Hoenig has decided to drop the idea of an open event and has replaced it with the True Value Modified Series and his regular Thursday Night Thunder Series divisions. Founded by Jack Bateman, the True Value Series runs at just about every track in New England.

Word had it that Donnie Lia would be back in the Mystic Missile for 2009. Through no fault of his own, Lia lost his full time truck ride due to the downturn on the economy. Chuck Hossfeld says he would run his own equipment in the New York area. In addition to the possibility of Hossfeld not being on the Whelen Modified Tour Series it looked like Matt Hirschman would also be missing from the line-up as he had not secured a ride as yet.

The Waterford Speedbowl property continued to be a hot topic especially with a foreclosure looming in the near future. As of 2/24, six days remained before the shoreline oval was scheduled to be on the block. Years ago when the Arutes leased the Speedbowl, Ed Yerrington, who was the General Manager stated that the Speedbowl kept Stafford afloat while the track was rebuilding their weekly program after tossing out the Modifieds in favor of the SK Modifieds.

Surprise, surprise! In the never ending soap opera or shall we call it the Eames Gong Show, the master of deceit had done it again and dodged another bullet. When Rocco Arbitell got the word that Terry Eames’ lawyer had got an extension to the scheduled foreclosure and had it moved out to July, he was livid. With the foreclosure in July the earliest date for an auction or sale of the property could be in September or October. In the mean time Eames was continuing to try to sell the property to Ted Parker who he reportedly owed $800,000. Speaking of owing money, Eames owed Shawn Monahan $47,000. In lieu of paying, Eames has made the loan into a partial sale as the real estate transactions in Friday’s New London Day indicated that 1080 Hartford Road LLC (Eames) had conveyed property to Monahan for $47,000. In an other tid bit, it was learned that the reason that all those who had applied for season passes or numbers using their Visa and Mastercards had not received anything is because Eames did not possess a machine to do the transactions. Visa and Mastercard do not give machines to businesses or individuals who have bad or no credit.

The sounds of the open-wheel Modifieds returned to Orange County Speedway in North Carolina for the first time in over 15 years and despite cold weather and snowy conditions the teams in attendance knocked off some very competitive laps in preparation for the March 6 & 7 Frost Bite Modified Winter Nationals” at the Orange County Speedway in Rougemont, NC.

Temperatures in the low 40’s and blowing snow did little to dampen the spirits of those on hand for the test and lap times were about a second a lap quicker than the regular OCS divisions. Ronnie Silk in the Hillbilly Racing #79 was the quickest of the group with laps in the 13:40 second range. Jay Foley wasn’t far behind in his Foley Machine Chevy with laps in the 13:60 bracket and Jason Myers in the Tranthem/Moorefield, Myers Racing Ford turned laps in the 13:80’s. Silk and Foley tested the softer M-20 and M-30 combination and Myers ran the set-up with the harder M-45 compound on the right rear. “The OCS track record for the Modifieds was 12:92 when we ran here last’, said Gary Myers, owner of the Jason Myers ride. The track is located on NC Hwy 57 half-way between Hillsborough and Roxboro, NC.

Kyle Busch did something Saturday that no NASCAR driver had done in the sanctioning body’s top divisions, won twice in the same day. Busch added a dominating NASCAR Nationwide Series victory under the lights to a similar Camping World Truck Series win earlier in the day at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Busch led 95 of 100 laps in winning the truck race on the 2-mile oval, then was in front for 143 of 150 for his 22nd Nationwide victory. Kevin Harvick was second and Middletown native Joey Logano, Busch’s Gibbs Racing teammate, was third. Carl Edwards beat Busch out of the pits on the last stops by the leaders Saturday night, but Busch took the lead on the restart 16 laps from the end and pulled away. Despite leads of up to 11 seconds at times, it came down to the restart on lap 135 after Edwards beat Busch out of the pits by the length of his hood.

In Sprint Cup action, Matt Kenseth went the distance this weekas he won the Auto Club 500 on Sunday. Kenseth, who won a rain-shortened Daytona 500 a week ago to open the Sprint Cup season, had to endure four short rain delays in the season’s second race. But with the help of his pit crew, which several times got the No. 17 Ford off pit road first, Kenseth became the first driver since 1997 to win the season’s first two points races. The last driver to start with two victories was Jeff Gordon, who fought furiously to deny Kenseth but settled for second. Middletown native Joey Logano finished 26th. Gordon, trying to snap the longest winless streak of his career at 42 races, passed Kenseth for the lead on lap 196 but lost the race off pit road on a caution 12 laps later and couldn’t catch Kenseth.

Gordon got almost to Kenseth’s rear bumper on lap 232, but Kenseth held on for his 18th career victory. Kyle Busch, who made NASCAR history by winning both the truck and Nationwide races on Saturday, came up short of a weekend sweep, finishing third.

Five years ago in 2014, based on his performance and skill at the Modified Battle at the Beach Doug Coby definitely had a leg up on the competition as the Modifieds closed in on their season opener at Thompson on April 6. Car owner Mike Smeriglio and crew chief Phil Moran had two complete cars with motors ready to go. Coby was cool as a cucumber as he survived a last lap Jason Myers punt as he closed in on his Daytona victory. With the absence of Mike Stefanik and Ted Christopher only Jamie Tomaino remains from the “Old Guard”. It has been said that Tomaino will be relocating to North Carolina once his New Jersey home is sold. Jason Bonsignore is also one to watch. A young member of the Long Island Gang, Bonsignore is now equipped with a SPAFCO chassis and is hot to trot for a Whelen Modified Tour Series win and title. They will get plenty of competition from Donnie Lia and Ron Silk. Tommy Barrett went to New Smyrna and Daytona with a potentially winning car and a proven winning crew chief. He showed flashes of speed but in the end didn’t produce. His luck wasn’t the greatest so its too early to pass judgement.

It had been reported that this year’s Battle at the Beach had a lot better attendance this year than last. AREA AUTO RACING NEWS reported that the backstretch grandstands at the Daytona Speedway will not come down until 2015. After that options for the race location include the Daytona infield road course, a yet to be built track on the Daytona front chute, New Smyrna or none at all.

Kevin Harvick charged to the front early and dominated the rest of the way Sunday for his second straight Sprint Cup victory at Phoenix International Raceway. Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished second, pole sitter Brad Keselowski was third and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano fourth. Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five on a warm and partly cloudy day.

Kyle Busch took an early lead and was still out front when the Nationwide Series race was halted with 32 laps left in the 200-mile race around Phoenix’s odd-shaped mile oval. After a delay of more than two hours, the race was called, giving Busch his series-record 64th Nationwide victory.

Busch led 155 laps for his 10th overall victory, seven in Nationwide, at PIR and the fourth straight Nationwide win for Joe Gibbs Racing at the track. It also was the fourth straight win at PIR for Busch’s crew chief Adam Stevens, who was at the helm when Joey Logano won for JGR in the 2012 fall race. Kevin Harvick finished second and pole sitter Brad Keselowski was third, followed by Kyle Larson and Matt Kenseth.

Last year, 2018 at Atlanta, Kevin Harvick dominated the 1.5-mile quad-oval on Sunday in his No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford, staying out front for 181 of 325 laps, despite morning rains that delayed the scheduled start of the race by two and a half hours and threatened to wash out the entire day. The 2014 Cup Series champion powered away from Keselowski on the last restart of the race with 21 to go and drove out to a 2.690-second victory – his 38th in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and second at Atlanta.

Once the green flag finally waved, however, it was no contest. Harvick started third but found the lead for the first time by lap 21, winning the first stage with ease and only losing the second stage to Brad Keselowski after spinning his tires on a late restart.

Though Denny Hamlin tried to use pit strategy to steal the race out of Harvick’s grasp by using a two-stop gambit against Harvick’s three-stop plan on a 120-lap green flag run in the second half, Harvick never faltered and ultimately passed Hamlin for the final time with 35 laps to go after completing his final pit stop.

From there, not even a caution with 28 laps left when Trevor Bayne blew a motor on the backstretch could stop Harvick from racing into Atlanta’s victory lane for the first time since his inaugural Cup victory in 2001. Harvick also won the Xfinity series race at Atlanta.