RPW Column: Looking Back A Bit: First Week Of February

Column By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – Sixty years ago in 1961, Glenn “Fireball” Roberts was the Daytona 500 pole sitter.

Joe Weatherly was second fastest. Roberts’ speed was 155.709 mph. Sixty one cars attempted to qualify. Among them was Ernie Gahan in a John Koszela car, Long Island Japanese driver George Tet, Pennsylvania modified great, Joe Kelly and Jim Reed.

Fifty five years ago in 1966, Sixty six cars were on hand for Daytona 500 qualifying. Richard Petty took the pole with a speed of 175.165 mph. Dick Hutcherson was second fastest. The only northern driver in the field was Rene Charland.

Fifty years ago in 1971, the field was down but the speeds were up at Daytona 500 qualifying. With 44 cars on hand, AJ Foyt in the Wood Brothers car took the pole with a speed of 182.744mph. .Bobby Issac was second fastest. Among those in the field was defending Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton, Maynard Troyer and Ken Meisenhelder.

Forty five years ago in 1976, Ramo Stott was the surprise Daytona 500 pole sitter. Terry Ryan was second fastest.

Forty years ago in 1981, the World Series at the New Smyrna got the green flag with fifteen Modifieds in the pit area. Taking the opening night win was Richie Evans. George Kent finished second and was followed by Maynard Troyer, Jr. Hanley, John Blewett Jr, Ronnie Bouchard and Doug Hewitt. The second night of competition saw heavy rain wash out the evening’s activities. Speedweek at Daytona shifted into high gear on Sunday as Darrell Waltrip won the Busch Clash and Bobby Allison won the Daytona 500 pole with a speed of 194.624 mph. Geoff Bodine made his first attempt at Daytona as he was entered in a car owned by Dick Bahre, brother of NHIS owner Bob Bahre. Richie Evans made it two for two at New Smyrna on Sunday night as he won out over Kent, Ronnie Bouchard, Hewitt and Merv Treichler.

Thirty five years ago in 1986 Reggie Ruggiero in the Mario Fiore No.44 dusted the field at New Smyrna in opening night action. Jamie Tomaino finished second. Jeff Fuller was the mini-modified winner. Round two on Saturday night saw Ruggerio again in victory lane with Tomaino again the bridesmaid. Kerry Malone finished third with George Kent, fourth. On Sunday at Daytona, Dale Earnhardt was the winner of the Busch Clash and Bill Elliot took the Daytona 500 pole with a speed of 205.039 mph. Geoff Bodine was the outside pole sitter with a speed of 204.545 mph. Also on hand for the 500 qualifying were Ronnie Bouchard, Doug Hevron and Greg Sacks. Ruggerio made it three for three at New Smyrna on Sunday night. Tomaino was again, second.

Thirty years ago in 1991, it was the same car, the 44, but this time it was Rick Fuller at the controls and taking the win on opening night at New Smyrna. Tom Baldwin finished second and was followed by Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Kennedy and Tim Arre. On night number two, Baldwin shifted into high gear and took the win over Ewanitsko, Jeff Fuller and veteran, Andy Romano. At Daytona on Sunday, Dale Earnhardt won the Busch Clash and Davey Allison was the Daytona 500 pole sitter. Baldwin continued his winning ways as he went two for two at New Smyrna. Jeff Fuller finished second with Arre, third.

Twenty five years ago in 1996, Steve Park, driving for Joe Brady was the opening night winner at New Smyrna. Mike Ewanitsko finished second and was followed by Tom Baldwin, Ted Christopher and Rick Fuller. Saturday night at New Smyrna, Fuller took the win after Christopher spun on the last lap. Ewanitsko finished second and was followed by Park, Jamie Tomaino and Bruce Del. At Daytona on Sunday, Dale Earnhardt was the fastest of 49 cars on hand and took the Daytona 500 pole position with a speed of 189.510 mph. Ernie Irvan was second fastest. Dale Jarrett won the Busch Clash and Jeff Purvis won the ARCA 200.Bruce Del was the surprise winner at New Smyrna on Sunday night after a big wreck on the start collected Fuller, Ewanitsko, Tomaino and Baldwin. Ted Christopher finished second and Ewanitsko recovered to finish third. It was also on this weekend that Tom Curley in behalf of ACT filed suit against Oxford Plains Speedway owner Mike Liberty charging fraud and breach of contract.

Twenty years ago in 2001 a record number of modified entries were received for the New Smyrna World Series with 36 on hand for opening night. Jim Willis went pole to pole to win the event over Ted Christopher and Jamie Tomaino. Charlie Pasteryak became a first night victim as he crashed hard as a result of a broken suspension part. In Daytona 500 qualifying on Saturday it was an all Dodge front row. Bill Elliott took the pole with a speed of 183.565 mph. Jerry Nadeau was second fastest but was disqualified because of illegal suspension parts. Stacy Compton was moved up to the outside pole spot. Ted Christopher was the winner of night No.2 at New Smyrna. Friday night winner Jim Willis wrecked hard. George Kent finished second with Eric Beers, third. Tony Stewart was the big winner at Daytona on Sunday as he beat out Dale Earnhardt Sr .to win the Busch Clash. Many Winston Cup car sponsors became enraged when FOX blurred out their sponsor’s logos when they wouldn’t submit to payola. Sunday night at New Smyrna saw Rob Summers put the Bear Motorsports entry in victory lane. Ted Christopher finished second with Junior Hanley, third. Charlie Pasteryak made it back from being wrecked to finish fourth. Monday night at New Smyrna, Summers was leading and hoping to make it two for two when he blew a tire and took a hard shot into the wall. Ted Christopher ended up taking the win and was followed by Jamie Tomaino, Kent and Nevin George. It was announced at Daytona that FOX had backed off from blurring out car sponsors after it was reported that NASCAR put pressure on the network to do so. The Tuesday night event at New Smyrna ran only 16 of the 25 scheduled laps when rain and fog moved in. David Berghman, leading at the time the red was displayed, was awarded the win. Charlie Pasteryak ended up second with Eric Beers, third.

Fifteen years ago in 2006 Speed Weeks in Florida shifted into high gear on Friday night as the Annual World Series at the New Smyrna Beach high banked half-mile Speedway got the green. A good field of Modifieds, 24, was on hand for the opening night 25-lap feature. Upstate New Yorker Chuck Hossfeld, who would be driving the Hills Enterprises No.79 on the Whelen Modified Tour Series, started on the pole and led every lap to take the opening night win. Hossfeld drove a New York based Modified owned by Jerry Graydle Racing. Eric Beers finished second with Kevin Goodale, third. Rounding out the top seven were Rob Summers, John Blewett III, Donnie Lia and Andy Seus. A devastating wreck midway of the event all but ended the comeback attempt of Mike Ewanitsko. Jimmy Blewett, driving for Eddie Partridge, stated that he exited turn two a little too fast and triggered the wreck that also collected Ted Christopher. Christopher was able to return to competition but was never a factor. It was unfortunate that Ewanitsko was injured but Blewett was to be commended for accepting responsibility. It was later learned that Ewanitsko had suffered five broken bones in one of his feet. Rain washed out Saturday night action at New Smyrna. Sunday night was a scheduled night off. Rain washed out the Bud Shootout on Saturday which had to be run on Sunday afternoon. Bobby Gerhardt won the ARCA 200, which was run in the morning. Erin Crocker started 10th and finished 15th. Fifty-eight cars ran for the Daytona 500 pole. Jeff Burton in the Childress No.31 took the pole with a speed of 189.151 mph. Jeff Gordon was the second fastest. Jimmie Johnson was disqualified as his car had an illegal modification; his crew chief was suspended and ejected from the speedway. Rookie Denny Hamlin was the Bud Shootout winner. Dale Earnhardt JR finished second with Tony Stewart, third.

Ten years ago in 2011, The long wait was over as the nights came alive in New Smyrna Florida as the green flag dropped for the 45th ANNUAL WORLD SERIES of ASPHALT STOCK CAR RAC ING at the New Smyrna Speedway The nine night series featured Super Late Models, Limited Late Models, Crate Late Models, NASCAR Tour-Type Modifieds, SK Modifieds, FL/IMCA Type Modifieds, Pro-Trucks, ACT Late Models.

The Modifieds were scheduled to run every night except on Sunday, 2/13. Opening night saw a slim field of Modifieds, 11 and a real slim field of SK Mods, 7. Earl Paules was the opening night 25 lap Modified feature winner. Paules took the lead from Ron Silk following a lap 12 restart. Silk finished second with Chuck Hossfeldt third and Ted Christopher, fourth. Rounding out the top five was Patrick Emerling. Because of the short field, the SK Modified feature was cut back to 15 laps instead of the scheduled 25. Ron Silk took the win with Earl Paules, second.

Night number two, Saturday, saw a new Modified winner in the form of Ted Christopher. Driving the Joe Brady #00 Christopher took the lead in the 25 lap feature on lap 2 and never looked back. Chuck Hossfeldt finished second with Ronnie Silk, third. Andy Petree who was a Championship Crew Chief for the late Dale Earnhardt Sr finished fourth with Earl Paules rounding out the top five. The Modified field continued to be thin as there were only ten on hand. Ron Silk made it two in a row in SK Modified action. The field of SKs continued at seven.

The Modifieds and SK Modifieds did not race on Sunday night at New Smyrna.

Kurt Busch won the exhibition Budweiser Shootout on Saturday night when Denny Hamlin was disqualified for going below the out-of-bounds line at Daytona International Speedway. The first NASCAR race on Daytona’s new pavement created sizzling fast speeds, cars went over 206 mph at one point in the race, and created packs of two cars all around the oval.

Busch skirted around Newman at the top of the track, pulling McMurray with him. Hamlin actually crossed the finish line first, but was black-flagged and fell to 12th.

Instead of a smaller restrictor plate to lower the speeds at Daytona Int’l Speedway, NASCAR officials are taking a different approach by lowering the tolerance level of the pressure relief valve. By taking that approach, the cars will blow water out of the engine at a lower temperature, which will force cars locked in a two-car draft to pull out to get clean air into the inlet on the front grille.

NASCAR officials recognized a problem in Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona when speeds of two cars in a draft exceeded 206 miles per hour. Once those cars began to overheat and had to unlock each other, the closing rate of another two cars locked up was more than 20 miles per hour faster.

Since the advent of radial tires and the car of tomorrow Sprint Cup races have become a big time bore. Sprint Cup racing is nothing more than a glorified IROC race that in many cases is way too long.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. reclaimed the spotlight in Daytona speedweeks, winning pole position for the Daytona 500 with a lap of 186.089 mph in qualifying Sunday. Earnhardt’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jeff Gordon, qualified second. It’s the second straight Daytona 500 front row sweep for Hendrick, who put Mark Martin on the pole and Earnhardt in the No. 2 spot last year.

A little bit of New England racing nostalgia and history came to an end on Feb 10 when the roof that covered the former No. 44 race shop came crashing down. The Mario Fiore owned race team had occupied the premises from 1981 through 2006. It was from this race shop, located across the street from the former Riverside Park in Agawam, Ma that Fiore and his team produced and maintained some of the fastest and best handling Modifieds that ever turned laps.

National Speed Sport News reported that fuel injected engines will make their way into NASCAR competition in 2012. The fuel injection system will replace carburetors in the NASCAR Sprint Cup division. The series has used carburetors since its inception in 1949. NASCAR and its top series teams will test the technology during the 2011 season with the anticipation of the systems being rolled out in 2012.

Fuel injection was used in the NASCAR Modifieds up to and including the 1969 season. Among those who were the most proficient with the use and setup of fuel injection were Jack Tant, Bobby Judkins and the late Len Boehler.

NASCAR officials announced that they had lowered the minimum age for drivers competing in their five regional touring divisions from 16 years old to 15 years old. The change took effect immediately for the K&N Pro Series East and West divisions, the Whelen Modified Tour and Whelen Southern Modified Tour and the Canadian Tire Series.

It marked the second time in four years that NASCAR had lowered the age minimum for its touring divisions. Prior to the 2007 season the minimum age was lowered from 18 to 16. Joe Gibbs Racing took advantage of that change immediately entering Middletown native Joey Logano into competition in the K&N Pro Series East. The then 17-year old went to win the division’s championship, become the youngest driver to win a NASCAR title. Logano was in his third season in the Sprint Cup Series for Joe Gibbs Racing.

In another move, NASCAR announced that it’s Learner’s Permit NASCAR license for Whelen All-American Series competitors would be applicable for all divisions at NASCAR sanctioned tracks. NASCAR introduced the Learner’s Permit license last year, allowing competitors and crew members ages 14 and 15 years old entrance into entry level divisions at NASCAR sanctioned short tracks.

Many have mixed feelings about lowering age limits. Some kids are responsible enough to handle it while some are not.

It was announced that Ford Motor Co. has sued Ferrari in Detroit federal court, saying the sports car maker has violated its trademark over the pickup truck name F-150.

The suit is based on Ferrari’s naming of its new Formula 1 racing car the “F150,” and its creation of the website http://www.ferrarif150.com. Dearborn-based Ford says in Wednesday’s filing that its trademark is being harmed, and the suit asks a judge to block Ferrari from using the trademark in the U.S. Ford also seeks unspecified damages from Ferrari.

Ferrari’s website says the “F150” marks the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

Five years ago in 2016, The flatlands of coastal and central Florida came alive with the sound of racing engines this past weekend. The New Smyrna World Series got the green on Friday night and the first green flag dropped at the Daytona International Speedway on Saturday night.

Modified racing at New Smyrna wasn’t scheduled to begin until Monday. A preliminary event was run at the Bronson Speedway in Florida. Ryan Preece led from pole to pole to take the event that paid $2,000 to win and only drew five cars. Jeremy Gerstner finished second with Ron Silk, Dalton Baldwin and J.R. Bertuccio rounding out the top five.

Denny Hamlin scored his third career Sprint Unlimited victory in a crazy, crash-filled run before an estimated 35,000 fans Saturday night at the Daytona International Speedway.

Chase Elliott driving the #24 formerly driven by Jeff Gordon, won the pole for the Daytona 500 Sprint Cup Series race at Daytona International Speedway with a speed of 196.314mph, his first career pole and he is the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner. Matt Kenseth will start 2nd, running 194.036mph. The front row is locked into those spots. The rest of the top12: #88-Dale Earnhardt Jr., #18-Kyle Busch, #17-Ricky Stenhouse Jr., #48-Jimmy Johnson, #21-Dave Blaney, #3-Auston Dillon, #19-Carl Edwards, #11-Denny Hamlin, #41-Kurt Busch and #22-Joey Logano.

Sunday night’s NASCAR K&N Series 150 ended up being a rolling demolition derby and a scoring fiasco that saw the event go one two many laps at the finish. In the closing moments, Spencer Davis crashed hard, and Ronnie Bassett took the checkered flag, but it was Todd Gilliland who was declared the victor.

In a statement, NASCAR said, “As tonight’s race neared the conclusion of the advertised distance, there was a delay in the appropriate flags being displayed to the field. As a result, the race continued for an additional lap beyond the scheduled 150 laps, during which a wreck occurred involving the cars at the front of the field. “Per the NASCAR K&N Pro Series rule book Section 10-2.11.B, the official results reverted the running order at the conclusion of lap 150, the advertised distance. NASCAR will review the circumstances surrounding the finish and take steps to avoiding a reoccurrence.” Unofficial results had Ryan Preece finishing 7th after starting 21st.

The Tour type Modifieds, 14 of them, converged on the half mile central Florida speedway on Monday night. Needless to say the weather had other ideas as the entire program of feature events was rained out.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup Racing it’s all about money, big money! NASCAR announced its new charter system on Tuesday, February 9. The new system, which NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France announced at the Charlotte (N.C.) Convention Center, is a nine-year plan that gives charters to 36 Sprint Cup teams and establishes greater, unprecedented lines of communication between car owners and the sanctioning body. The agreement also established a Team Owner Council, which gives teams more input into Sprint Cup-related decisions concerning competition, revenue and ownership. It also gives car owners a greater interest in digital operations.

In addition to changes within the ownership package, Sprint Cup fields would be reduced from 43 cars to 40 beginning with the Daytona 500 on Feb. 21. The lowered car count gives four non-chartered teams a spot in each field, but the number of charters, France added, would not change. In order for a non-chartered team to obtain a charter, they must buy it from an existing team either in a permanent sale or a once-in-five years, full-season transfer.

The system is designed to increase the long-term market value of teams, and provide them with a guaranteed spot in the field and an opportunity to plan farther ahead. They’ll also have a larger say in how they receive money from television contracts and the title sponsor’s point fund.

Last year, 2020 The World Series at New Smyrna got the green on Friday, Feb 6. Tour type Modified Racing at New Smyrna would begin on Monday night, Feb 10.

Modified racing in the Sunshine State began on Saturday night at the 1/3 mile Bronson Speedway. Billed as The Kickofff to Speedweek, the event drew a light field of only six cars. Matt Hirschman kicked off a busy week in Florida by securing a $2,000 check. The Tour-type Modified driver from Northampton, Pennsylvania started from the pole and led all 50 laps to win the Kickoff to Speedweeks race.

Due to the unfortunate circumstances involving a lower than expected car count, officials elected to forego qualifying and have the six drivers in attendance draw for their starting position. Hirschman had luck on his side as he drew the No. 1 starting spot, and he never looked back from there. Jimmy Blewett improved on his third-place finish from one year ago by starting and finishing second. Blewett gave up the second spot early in the race to a charging Jeremy Gerstner, but he was able to take back the position later in the race. Gerstner fended off a late challenge from J.R. Bertuccio to claim the final podium spot, while Adam LaCicero completed the top five. New Hampshire driver Brian Robie suffered an engine failure that brought his Speedweeks to an unfortunate close.

In addition to his victory check, Hirschman was given four free tries, 10 gallons of racing fuel and a guaranteed fifth-place starting spot in the upcoming Richie Evans Memorial at New Smyrna Speedway. Additionally, Hirschman has the chance to claim a $1,000 bonus as the highest finisher in the Richie Evans Memorial that also competed in the race at Bronson.

The full moon was evident and cast its spell on both Daytona and New Smyrna Speedways on Saturday and Sunday. In Saturday action at the Daytona International Speedway Michael Self won the ARCA 200 with Halie Deegan, second. Andy Seuss started on the outside pole and finished 29th. Eleven of the 33 starters were running on the lead lap at the finish. Numerous spins and wrecks slowed the event.

The cool nights at New Smyrna plus the full moon contributed to numerous wrecks during the first three nights of racing. It all came to a head on Sunday when the entire Super Late Model field, save four, was destroyed in a high speed demolition derby. Brad May was the surprise winner after the leader was punted on the final lap.

At Daytona for the running of the Busch Clash it was another high speed destruction derby. Erik Jones won Sunday’s race that left a multi-million dollar trail of destruction and masked the fact the Clash is a made-for-TV exhibition race. Only 18 cars were entered and only six were on track when the checkered flag flew at the end of a third overtime with four on the lead lap.

Jones crossed the finish line in a Toyota with a crumpled hood after a huge push from Joe Gibbs Racing teammate and defending Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin. Hamlin was a lap down after a blown tire on the previous overtime attempt caused him to crash half the cars remaining on track, but he had enough speed to give Jones a push along the outside and give Gibbs yet another win.

In Daytona 500 qualifying, Ricky Stenhouse turned a fast lap at 194.582 mph to claim the pole, edging Alex Bowman for the top spot. Bowman reached 194.363 mph around the 2 1/2-mile superspeedway to lock down a front-row spot for the third consecutive year. Forty three cars attempted to run for the pole.

NASCAR announced several leadership promotions across the breadth of its business. Ben Kennedy has been promoted Vice President, Racing Development; John Martin has been promoted to Vice President, Media and Event Technology; Patrick Rogers has been promoted to Vice President, Marketing Services; and Chris Schwartz has been promoted to Vice President, Media Properties.

Kennedy is the son of Lisa France Kennedy and the grandson of NASCAR founder William France.

In 1967 the Stafford Motor Speedway was paved. The NASCAR Modifieds were the headline division. For 20 years thru 1986 Stafford would host and provide competition from the best in the busines from throughout New England, New York State, Long Island and from the south. Names like Eddie Flemke, Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro, Reggie Ruggerio, Ray Miller, Richie Evans, Maynard Troyer, Geoff Bodine, Charlie Jarzobeck, Greg Sacks, Wayne Anderson, Jamie Tomaino, Satch Worley and Ray Hendrick would be in the line-up and would record victories.

The all new book, The Modified Years At Stafford, by the Grace of God and 600 hp, is gaining interest and has become a must have in race fans and competitors library. Race by Race, Year by Year, it’s all there. Read all about it! Books are now available on Amazon.com and Coastal 181 (877-907-8181 toll free) and are available thru Stafford’s web site in their store. Order yours now. Makes a great gift!

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