Penn Can, Shangri-La, New Evergreen and Some Other Things…

– Friday, May 9th, 1980 –

The OL’ NERF took a seven-hundred mile round trip jaunt last weekend to New York’s Southern Tier and into North Central Pennsylvania.

Friday Afternoon I arrived at Penn-Can Speedway just outside the small hill community of Susquehanna, PA., which is only a handful of miles south of the New York state line.

Penn-Can is leased by the Susquehanna County Stock Car Club from track owner L.C. Beaven. The S.C.S.C.C. is an owner and drivers club much like the Claremont Owners and Drivers Association which governs the racing at Claremont [NH] Speedway or the Southern New York Racing Association who heads up the program at the Danbury [CT] Fair Racearena.

Like C.O.D.A. and S.N.Y.R.A. the S.C.S.C.C. handles the operations of their 3/8-mile semi-banked clay oval. They do everything from the maintenance of the facility to running of the races to operation of the food concessions. They determine the payoff for the four-classes that run every Friday night including the Modified Sportsman, Strictly Street Stock, Tiger Division and the new Amateur Pure Stock Class which is a claiming division.

Jim Randall, a New York State Trooper, serves as the Club’s President, while 1979 Strictly Street Stock Champion, Butch Dibble, handles the Vice President’s chores, and John Ames is the Secretary-Treasurer.

The S.C.S.C.C. is struggling to keep Penn-Can operating and if determination is the name of the game, then the club should win their battle, especially if all it’s members pull together.

My arrival at approximately 4pm at Penn-Can was under clear blue skies, but a half hour later the same skies erupted in a half-hour long downpour like I’ve never seen before. The skies then cleared somewhat, but still continued to cast an intermittent drizzle. About 6:30pm the rains stopped and the club sent all the vehicles it could find onto the track to work it in. After an hour of this, a driver’s meeting was held and, it was decided that the track was unrace-able,  so the night’s racing program was cancelled.

Saturday, it was on to Dale Campfield’s Shangri-La Speedway for the “I Love New York ’80”, which included twin 40-lappers for the Supermodifieds and Modifieds.

There were 25 Supers and 42 Mods in the pits at the Owego, NY 1/2-mile asphalt oval. It was a good show with Bob Stelter in his flip-flop winged roadster besting the field of Supers while George Kent made a shambles of the Modified segment.

Bob-StelterCampfield, along with his army of workers and volunteers, have made Shangri-La a beautiful racing facility. They’ve installed red and white canvas across the back of the grandstand to act as a wind breaker. The spectator area is enhanced by a well kept grassy surface and many flowers, while the infield shows the same landscaping complete with a flower garden.

The personable Campfield has brought the the Owego track back from obscurity and the proof of this is he’s drawn two capacity crowds in three starts to date, with the other event not too far from a sellout.

 

After the Shangri-La race I headed south down Interstate 81 for the tiny town of St. Johns, PA, where New Evergreen Speedway is located.

The 1/3-mile oval, one of only three asphalt tracks in Pennsylvania, the others being Pocono International Raceway and Dorney Park Speedway, is operated by Charles Spencer, who rules over race day proceedings from the front seat of his car due to the loss of his left leg.

New Evergreen, in it’s fourth year of operation under Spencer after being closed for several years, runs three divisions, including Modified Sportsman, Late Models and Street Stocks.

The crowd at New Evergreen was great on Sunday afternoon, and the field of cars were excellent with two Troyer Engineering machines among the thirty Mods in attendance, along with Brett Bodine who’s brother won Pocono a couple of years ago. The track has a good looking Late Model class and newly started Street Stock division, which still is in need of some cars.

New Evergreen is a family run facility. Other Spencers in management capacities besides owner Charles are Ed, who’s the Chief Official, Leroy, who handles the Head Starter’s job, Larry, who’s the Handicapper, and Sy, who takes care of the Souvenir Stand.

The racing action was close with Tony Hirschman in his Troyer mount winning the Mod event, while popular Tom Lushi, Jr. took the Late Model feature and the Street Stock race went to Curt Kromis.

The crowd was good enough and the field of Mods including five Wall Stadium cars, was sufficient to warrant a purse increase by management. The winner of the Mod event will pocket $600 starting this week instead of the $400 they were paying for first spot. Racing action moves to Friday nights beginning this week at New Evergreen.

Westboro-Pace-Car-Gerry-HerAt the conclusion of Sunday’s racing program, the Ol’ Nerf headed home and on the way back up Interstate 84, I thought I was entering heaven passing through such places as Greentown, Promised Land and finally Lord’s Valley. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something, huh?

NERF’ERS NIBBLETS…  Bill Alsup, who finished seventh at Ontario [CA] Motor Speedway in the first Indy car event of 1980, is working the bugs out of his new PC-7 Penske/Cosworth machine at Indianapolis [IN] Motor Speedway. The 31-year-old Alsup will be competing for rookie honors if he makes the 33 car Memorial Day “Indy 500 Classic” field…  Send a get well card or letter to Harvey Tattersall, promoter of Waterford Speedbowl, who is recovering from eye surgery at home [address withheld]…  Stan Meserve’s late Model Sportsman carries a sponsor with the name Rice Hill. I wonder if they call it Paddy Wagon?…  Congratulations to Mike Rowe who made it two in a row at Oxford Plains Speedway. he once again beat several of the NASCAR North high dollar cars and a couple of ASA style Late Models. He’s gaining the name of “Rapid Rowe”, as this was his third win in three outings for his Saturday Night Oxford legal car…  Word has it that Jeff Stevens lost his big buck Ray Baker engine in the garage on Saturday preceding Oxford. The motor was in his beautiful #44 Howe chassis Camaro… Perry [NY] Speedway will begin it’s season on Sunday, May 25th, with a regular including Limited Late Model Sportsman, Pure Stocks, Three-Quarter Midgets and Spectator Races. The facility is under the first year promotion of Rick Faulks…  The We-Go Racing Fan Club is looking for new members. The club supports auto racing in various ways, including fan appreciation night at several speedways, by presenting awards to both dirt and asphalt racing people, holding their own summer picnic and an annual winter banquet. The club runs Souvenir Stands at both Shangri-La Speedway and Five Mile Point Speedway. If you want to join, send $1 Initiation Fee plus $5 Yearly Dues to: We-Go Racing Fan Club [address withheld]. This all entitles you to a Membership Card, Club Picnic and discounts on Banquet tickets…  By the way, We-Go Racing Fan Club President, Ann Stevens and husband Don along with a friend, tried to get the Ol’ Nerf lost after the Shangri-La race by taking me for a ride along the “Denny Wheeler Expressway” outside of Owego. For shame, for shame…

Don’t forget to listen to WTSV AM 1230 or WECM-FM 106 out of Claremont, NH this Saturday at Noon. You’ll get to hear me and show host Dave Kolenda…  Till next time, “Watch for one of Speedway Scene’s Promotional Team Members at your favorite track!”

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Any racing fan growing up in the ’70’s and ’80’s knows the dreadful months of April and May were our enemies as kids, especially if there was an event far from home that required leaving in the morning or early afternoon on Friday. Sometimes our parents gave us the nod allowing us to miss school, while other times we got the dreaded news, “no travel for you!”

This was one of those weekends where I was still able to attend Stafford with friends and Riverside Park with family and friends, but without the NERF. However, on many occasions I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Dale Campfield. The gentleman was every bit the personable individual my father described. He had all the right qualities for a speedway promoter and more so. Dale was always upbeat, said hello with a smile to every fan he ran into. He always showed appreciation to anyone who visited and attended Shangri-La, driver, team, fan, sponsor or media alike. He and the NERF hit it off very easy. Both were great promoters and people persons. Outside of his Shangri-La Speedway Dale Campfield was always willing to help with other racing events and was big supporter of the Racearama when it came to be in 1981. He even penned a column now and again for Speedway Scene.

Ann and Don Stevens.. What do you say about two of the sweetest people one could ever meet. That weekend was the first time the NERF met Ann, Don and members of the We-Go Racing Fan Club, but just like Dale Campfield, it certainly wasn’t the last. We stayed at Ann and Don’s repeatedly when we were in the area. It didn’t matter if we were or were not attending a track they were at on any particular night. If we were around the area we stayed with them. They went so far as to give my father a key to their place should we show up early or late. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

There’s something to be said about Racing Family.

Thanks for reading..

– Jared

Old Man ’78, Gone But Not Forgotten

– Friday, January 5th, 1979 –

Old Man ’78” has now passed from our midst and with it went twelve months filled with many happenings in NERF’ers Land. It was definitely a year of thrills, mysteries, controversies, tragedies and oh yes, some big surprises.

The question that will be running through the heads of many racing fans, drivers, owners and promoters in the Northeast is, “What will 1979 hold for the auto racing world or more exact, for us within the coverage area of this publication?”
 
It’s also time, once again, for “New Year Resolutions” and a little later on in this column we’ll give you our promises for ’79.
But for now, let’s review some of the happenings that made 1978 a very interesting year in Northeast auto racing. We’ll take it item by item as listed in the first paragraph of this conglomeration of illiterature, heh, heh.
 
Thrills
1. The battle between Richie Evans and Jerry Cook for the National NASCAR Modified Championship.
2. The head to head track duels between Geoff Bodine and Maynard Troyer.
3. The miraculous fight for life and recovery shown by the “Big OOllie Silva.
4. Seeing the fantastic support exhibited by competitors and fans at the “Fred DeSarroMemorial Race.
5. Watching the weekly antics of Seymour the Clown at Stafford Motor Speedway, especially his daffynitions of the flags.
Richie Evans
Richie Evans won the NASCAR National Modified Championship over Jerry Cook in 1978. Seen here at speed at Monadnock Speedway in 1978. Mario Fiore collection.
Mysteries
1. Why did the mighty Firestone suddenly go flat in the racing tire industry?
2. What super setup was really hidden under the rear wheel canvas of the “Big Red Machine“?
3. What kind of unearthly problem was built into the beautiful new #711 driven by Bob Polverari?
4. Whatever happened to crowd pleasing Modified chargers John Anderson and Roger Westbrook?
5. Why Riverside Park Speedway and NASCAR continues to let John Tallini handle the track’s flagging duties?
Controversies
1. The Geoff Bodine bumping incidents with Ken Bouchard, George Savory, Bugs Stevens and Richie Evans.
2. The battle between Riverside Park’s NASCAR officials and Fred Felton, over his #11MA Monza known as the “Radical Racer“.
3. Eddie Flemke not running Stafford Motor Speedway after an early season conflict with the track’s NASCAR officials.
4. The refusal to let the Bugs Stevens, Ron Bouchard and Geoff Bodine Fan Clubs sell certain articles at Stafford by Mike Adeskaveg.
5. The “T-Shirt” hassle between Oval Track Design’s Fred Poteto and Riverside Park Speedway concessionaire, Shany Lorenzet.
Marty Radewick
Fred Felton’s Radical Racer Modified were turned away again and again at the Park in 1978. The previous reported issues at Stafford were resolved. Jim Snape photo.
Tragedies
1. The loss of Fred DeSarro, one of New England’s finest Modified chauffeurs and former National NASCAR Modified Champion.
2. The death of probably greatest Modified dirt drivers ever and super car builder Dick Toby Tobias.
3. The Northeast also lost another fine Modified dirt wheel man with the passing of Mike Grbac.
4. Andy Maine wasn’t a driver, but his death left a definite void in auto racing as part of the CFA team.
5. The deaths of Formula One drivers Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, both of Sweeden, within a couple of weeks time was a shocker.
1978 saw the tragic loss of Modified ace, Fred DeSarro. 1976 Howie Hodge photo.
1978 saw the tragic loss of beloved New England Modified ace, Fred DeSarro. 1976 Howie Hodge photo.
 Surprises
1. The No. 1 Racing Team breakup and Geoff Bodine, along with Billy Taylor, joining the Bob JohnsonJack Beebe GN venture.
2. Personable Stan Greger winning the Riverside Park Speedway NASCAR Modified Championship in Billy Simons #9.
3. Geoff Bodine’s complete domination of Modified racing in Dick Armstrong’s Nu Style Jewelry Pinto.
4. Sonny Fleury, owner of Claremont Speedway, turning the track over to the owners and drivers to operate in 1979.
5. Stafford Motor Speedway’s PR man Mike Joy heading South for a similar job at Daytona and John McMullin taking over for him.
Geoff Bodine puts down some practice laps in his Dick Armstrong Nu Style Pinto bodied Modified at Riverside Park Speedway (1978). Mario Fiore photo.
Geoff Bodine and Dick Armstrong’s Nu Style Modified team absolutely dominated in 1978 and then shocked everyone at the end of the season by going their separate ways. Mario Fiore photo.
1978 was definitely a year of many happenings and no one can predict what the new year holds for auto racing, but here’s hoping that the next 360 some days offer us a lot of good Speedway action and a lot less tragedy.
 
Checkered Chatter… Fans who venture to Stafford in 1979 will treated to the “Spring Sizzler“, the “Mark’s Auto Parts 100“, “Ferrara 100“, “Winston 100“, the “200 at Stafford” and the  Modified – Late Model Doubleheader plus 14 regular season racing events… Ron Bouchard has also stated that he will campaign at Seekonk Speedway in 1979 as it is rumored that D. Anthony Vendetti will up the Modified purse on top by 100 bucks… Ernie Clark has purchased Bob Polverari’s #711 Vega that brought him the 1976 and 1977 Riverside Park titles and will put 1978 RiversideRookie of the YearEd Kennedy behind the wheel… NASCAR Grand National Champion, Cale Yarborough, who collected a single season record of $530,751 for Junior Johnson’s Oldsmobile team, was selected as “Driver of the Year” by the National Motorsports Press AssociationRiverside Park will not only lose a driver or two, they will also lose a faithful Bob Polverari follower as Scott Rodowicz will vacate the Park for greener pastures, Army green that is… Oh yeah! Here’s a resolution I promise ya. Here goes! I do hereby promise not to pick on anyone named Geoff Bodine or Bunky Skawski. I wish Geoff the best of luck as he joins the big boys on the Grand National circuit and Bunky doesn’t have to worry about me any longer as I’ll spend my Saturday nights at Claremont Speedway in 1979. Gee! Ain’t ya’ glad Bunky… Til we meet again, I wish everyone in NERF’ers Land a “Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.”

Cars, Clowns and Congratulations

– FRIDAY, September 1st, 1978 –

The biggest auto racing weekend of the year has arrived in the Northeast and boy has it arrived.

Motor racing fans from throughout New England will be able to enjoy some of the finest and longest races of the year this Labor Day weekend. If you can’t decide where you want to go after reading the following selections of racing programs, then I suggest you put your index finger above this column, close your eyes and drop point of finger on column… There! Problem solved.

Weekend racing is on with the “Riverside 200” at Riverside Park, The “Genesee 200” and “International Classic 200” at Oswego, Stafford hosts the “200 at Stafford”, the “Labor Day 7 in 1 Special” at Thompson, the “Labor Day Classic” at Albany Saratoga, Fonda hosts the “Montomery County Fair Races”, the “New York State Modified Championships” at Syracuse, the “Labor Day 78” at Plattsburg, Rolling Wheels hosts the “R.M. Etrocci Memorial” and Bear Ridge runs it’s “Labor Day Special”.

Just think, if you catch the regular season wrap-ups at Stafford on Friday, the shows at Riverside Park or Oswego on Saturday, Oswego on Sunday and then back to Stafford for Monday, you’ll see 630 laps of main event racing plus nearly 300 laps of qualifying heats. If dat don’t saturate a racing mind, nuttin’ will.

Now on to a little bit about a whole lot of a bunch of everything. If you made any sense out of what I just said then you’ve did better than I’ve done or is that done better than I did? Oh well, who cares.
We understand that if Reggie Ruggeiro wins the Riverside Park Track Championship, instead of celebrating with champagne they’re gonna eat “Reggie Bars.” He’s done a super job this season in the “Italian Connection Car”. The Mario FioreDean Nardi owned #44 Chevette driven by Reggie Ruggeiro is definitely an Italian Connection, tain’t it?..

Geoff Bodine took home the Modified portion of the Cardinal 500 Classic in 1978. Mike Adaskaveg photo / Howie Hodge Collection.
Geoff Bodine’s hot streak at Stafford Motor Speedway in 1978 was nothing short of spectacular. Mike Adaskaveg photo / Howie Hodge Collection.

Congratulations to Geoff Bodine on winning the Stafford Track Championship and the Yankee All Star Series. Whether you like him or not, he’s got his act together and he won both titles going away. Let’s face it, you have to give credit where credit is due, right!..
Conratulations are also in store for Jerry Cook who took the Track Title at New Egypt Speedway and Jerry Marquis who captured the Figure 8 Crown at Riverside Park

It’s good to hear that Ollie Silva is now listed in fair condition and on his way to a full recovery. I know that all NERF’ers wish nothing but the best for the “Big O” and his wife, Susan

Mentioning Stafford Technical Inspector, Bruce Watt, in the same breath with Tech Man at Riverside Park in recent articles on the “Radical Racer” was a definite injustice. No two individuals could be that bad. My apologies, Bruce

To Chuck Jeffries: I won’t release the secret if you if you give me your tape recorder and clip board. You can keep your pen. Yes, CJ, it’s called blackmail…

A hearty NERF’ers well done to all the fan clubs that put their thoughts and hard work into the bringing about of their part of the “Ollie Silva Fund”. The clubs involved are the Bugs Stevens, Geoff Bodine and Ron Bouchard Fan Clubs and with all three being involved, all three should receive credit, not just one…

Full NASCAR rules at Riverside Park next year with a 340 ci bonus. That word was given at the pre-race meeting last week and officials feel this will boost the low turnout of cars this year. There’s a lot of pros and cons on this subject and no one will know the answer until next season…

Seymour the Clown and Geoff Bodine prepare to battle it out at Stafford in 1978. Howie Hodge photo.
Seymour the Clown and Geoff Bodine prepare to battle it out at Stafford in 1978. Howie Hodge photo.

Seymour the Clown has issued a challenge rematch race with Geoff Bodine. Seymour stated last week, “Geoffrey better watch out because now I got my s#=t together!” We understand that the Mayor of Stafford Motor Speedway is looking for a couple of motorized bar stools. Might I suggest one lap around the mini-track on Pogo Sticks and I’ll furnish them…

A BIG solute to the employees of Monadnock Speedway who donated their paychecks of August 11th to the “Ollie Silva Fund”. The amount of the donation was just over $500. A great gesture by the “High Banks Bunch”…

The Fran LeamyPeter Dupey #34 Vega has picked off a ninth and a second in the last two weeks at Riverside Park with W.J. Grez at the wheel and gang…

I wonder how Riverside Park Figure 8 runner up, Gary Orton feels about losing the title by a scant two points especially when he can look back a few weeks to when a fellow competitor put him in the wall intentionally. He finished eighth instead of second where he was running at the time and the 12 point difference between the two positions cost Orton the Championship…

Seymour atop the front stretch fence at Stafford doing what he did best, entertain. Howie Hodge photo.
Seymour atop the front stretch fence at Stafford doing what he did best, entertain. Howie Hodge photo.

I have to give an “Outstanding Performance Award” this week at Riverside Park to “Seymour the Clown” who did his famous “Climb the Fence and Explanation of the Racing Flags” routine. He got a standing “O” when he Black Flagged starter John Tallini. My “Worst Performance Award” goes to Riverside Park itself for throwing Seymour off the track during that first Red Flag. It’s another case of thinking only of money and not the fans. What else is new…

The “200 at Stafford” Monday has posted approximately $30,000 in awards of which the winner could take home better than $3,500 including contingency money. Top Southern entries are Ray Hendrick, Satch Worley, Paul Radford, Billy Middleton, Johnny Bryant and Bubba Beck. From New York and New Jersey will come Fred Harbach, Charlie Jarzombek, Wayne Anderson, Bob Park, Cliff Tyler, Gary Cretty, Roger Griffith, Maynard Troyer, Richie Evans and Jerry Cook. Don’t miss this biggie…

1978 Tom Rosati Wrapped up his second Limited Sportsman Championship at Stafford. He made the decision to try his hand with Northern Tour Late Models and wound up shocking the Northeast with an epic win at the 1979 Oxford 250. Howie Hodge photo.
1978 Tom Rosati wrapped up his second Limited Sportsman title at Stafford. He made the decision to try his hand with Northern Tour Late Models the next season and earned an epic win at the 1979 Oxford 250 at 19 years old. Howie Hodge photo.

Congrats to Tom Rosati for wrapping up his second straight Limited Sportsman title. Rosati who will campaign exclusively on the Northern NASCAR circuit next season, has sold his car to Dick Armstrong.  Ricky Armstrong will wheel the new #1 entry of the Nu-Style Jewelry Racing Team… The Stafford Banquet has been set for January 13th at the Sheraton Sturbridge on US Route 20 in Sturbridge, Mass. While the Riverside Park Banquet will be held on November 18th at the Chez Josef in Agawam, Mass…. NASCAR Executive Vice President Lin Kuchler has resigned to take the position of Executive Director of the American Motorcyclist Association. Replacing Kuchler is Bill Gazeway, who has been NASCAR’s Winston Grand National Competition Director and Bob Smith, NASCAR’s Marketing Manager.  Winston Grand National Technical Director, Ray Hill will assume Gazeway’s former duties…. The “Rapid Roman” is now leading the “Cookie Monster” by 132 points in the chase for the NASCAR National Championship.  Richie Evans now has 3,036 to Jerry Cook’s 2,904. Cook picked up 16 points on the current leader last week…. Modified and Late Model Sportsman drivers went into the stands for charity at the NASCAR National Championship race at Monadnock Speedway on August 20th and using their helmets collected well over $1,250 from a capacity crowd. That’s what puts auto racing drivers and fans among the greatest people in the world…. The “Radical Racer”, owned by Fred Felton and driven by

Driver Marty Radewick and Fred Felton's Radical Racer Modified. Jim Snape photo.
Driver Marty Radewick and Fred Felton’s 11 Mass Radical Racer Modified woes with NASCAR officials was resolved with both sides communicating and working together. Jim Snape photo.

Marty Radewick, returned to Stafford two weeks ago with one change.  They widened the roll bar hoops at the roof of the car about 6 to 8 inches.  On the right side of the car only, while the car’s width remains the same at all other points. Felton stated, “We gave a little and NASCAR gave a little.” Felton also told me that Bruce Watt had been very understanding and helpful during the “Radical Racer” conflict…. The racing world is always saddened when tragedy strikes the sport. 42 year old C.H. Whorton of Tulsa, Oklahoma was killed a couple of weeks ago at the Tulsa Speedway when he backed his Modified onto the track after a spinout and was t-boned by another car. Our deepest sympathy to the family, relatives, and friends of C.H. Whorton.

Maynard Troyer was on a hot streak in 1978. Howie Hodge photo.
Maynard Troyer and his famous #6 Modified were not the only ones on a hot streak in 1978.  Howie Hodge photo.

Geoff Bodine has won 46 races so far this season to lead the Nations Modified drivers, but there are some other big winners in the Northeast. Maynard Troyer has collected 37 wins, Richie Evans has 30 wins to his credit and Punky Caron has entered victory lane 19 times. You put this bunch together and you could call them auto racing’s Fearsome Foursome…. Fred Felton told me recently that he is really happy with the job that Marty Radewick has been doing in his car. He stated, “Marty drives like a man with 20 years experience instead of only a few years.” Radewick retired the Claremont Top Ten Drivers Trophy last Saturday by winning it twice in a row for the 11 Mass Racing Team. Felton’s car won last years races with Kirby Montieth at the wheel. It’s only the first time since the trophy was instituted nine years ago that a car has won back to back…. Have you seen all those Booker TWhat It Is – tee shirts?  Well, with Riverside Park going full NASCAR next year, we won’t have to worry about anyone runnin’ those Fat Motors will we?…. To Becky Coit of the #6 Racing Team; I think your poem on Ollie Silva was just super and you only confirm what I said earlier in this column about racing people…. It’s beginning to look like old times at Yarrington’s Yard. August 11th saw 51 Modifieds at Stafford and the following week there were 45. Last week’s total was 35, but weather seems to hold down the number of cars as Bugsy Stevens and Bobby Vee were among the missing.

To all of the people who don’t like what I write in NERF’ers Corner, all I have to say is don’t read it and you won’t get your ulcers in an uproar. If you continue to read this column, then as the Fonz would say; A-y-y-y-e-e-e, Sit On It!…. Until next week remember; “NERF’ers Do It Trackside.

BRING ON A REAL FLAGMAN

– Friday, July 14th, 1978 –

In the “Oval Dustings” section of NESS on June 28th was a letter from Diane Scott of East Lyme, Conn. which was in agreement with Dick Armstrong’s article of a week earlier.

Now here’s the shocker of this week’s “NERF’ers Corner.” I’m not going to rap this letter, but instead would like to commend her on a letter well written. One line in the letter; “Where the hell are this starter’s glasses?” gave us the initiative for this weeks column.
The line fits one flag waver to a “T”, that being the flagman of Riverside Park Speedway. This man is about as far from being a flagman as I’ve seen in New England or anywhere else for that matter. He never drops the green flag in the same place twice and seems to use the yellow flag when he needs a break.
In the next few paragraphs I will try to illustrate the problems of flags at Riverside.

A few weeks ago Mr. Flagman saw rookie Jim Tourville spin three times during the qualifying heats and the consi, but no yellow flag was thrown. After his third spin he was black flagged. A week later, young veteran Bruce D’Allesandro looped it three times but low and behold no black flag. When questioned on this, his reply was; “They were different circumstances.” Maybe so, but down on the track a spin out is just that, a spin out.

Bob Polverari (Czarnecki Bros. #20) and Stan Greger (Simons Excavating #9) Battle at Riverside Park in 1978. Photo Courtesy of Speedway Scene.
Bob Polverari (Czarnecki Bros. #20) and Stan Greger (Simons Excavating #9) Battle at Riverside Park in 1978. Photo Courtesy of Speedway Scene.

Last season with a few races to go and on a restart, there was a rookie in the front row outside with Roger Westbrook outside second row. Coming out of the fourth turn the green flag flew, but a change of heart by Mr. Flagman, for whatever reason, saw him drop the yellow almost simultaneously causing the rookie to lock up the brakes and with no where to go Westbrook was pushed into the wall. His Vega was so badly bent up that it ended up the season for the talented driver who was running 8th in points in only his second year at the wheel of a Modified. You could blame the rookie, but I think everyone involved and in attendance laid blame on poor flagmanship by Mr. Flagman.

In a recent 100 lapper, Tourville not running at speed with the leaders, was being given the passing flag while he was passing an even slower car. Two of the leaders rolled up up on his bumper with one whalloping the wall demolishing the right front half of the car. Tourville was black flagged for causing the accident. Evidently, a slower car isn’t allowed to pass. I’ve heard several drivers say they’ve been given the passing flag for three laps before anyone passed them. If Tourville was to get the black flag then why wasn’t Gig Smith given the same flag for putting Billy Knight into the wall a few weeks ago? Knight’s car was so badly damaged that he has yet to return to action as of this column.

Why doesn’t the yellow flag fly for lesser known drivers when they spin, yet it always seems to fall for the big names so they won’t be lapped by the field?

Why does one NASCAR official state that he’s never seen a certain big name rough ride as he has seen, but Mr. Flagman sees nothing?
Why are the big names allowed to run dumping fluids all over the track while the little guy gets the black flag fora small puff of smoke?
“Why”? Because Mr. Flagman needs more than glasses to cure his problem.

If you ever get a chance to visit the pits at the Park watch and see which drivers Mr. Flagman hangs around before and after the races. It sure isn’t the little guy.

Drivers have been complaining about Mr. Flagman since he came to Riverside some three years ago, but to no avail. One popular big name refuses to return to the Park in his own car because of Mr. Flagman.

When will NASCAR wake up and put someone on the flagstand that knows what he’s doing? I’m no flagman and I don’t pretend to be, but Mr. Flagman gets paid for the job he’s doing. What job? The fans are not blind and have booed Mr. Flagman on many occasions. NASCAR had better hurry up before there’s a $250,000 pileup or someone gets killed.

The drivers should get a yellow flag when they come out of the pits for getting on the speedway with Mr. Flagman on the flagstand.
The Flagman should get the black flag so the Park can get a flagman like Frank Sgambato who knows what he’s doing.

Till next week; “Keep on Trackin'”

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The NERF was just one of many columnists and media types that were heavily critical of certain chief starters back in the day. Over the decades, most all were written about certain incidents particular writers felt were wrong, biased or unjust.

One of the NERF’s examples was the repeated “rookie” move of immediately dropping the yellow after throwing the green. That has always been a huge “no-no”. That type of action by a flagman wrecks a ton of machinery. 

Another example of the same flagman at the same facility is one evening in 1980 “Mr. Flagman” threw the green flag on 12 rows of Modifieds and as the field went through turns one and two, this flagman turned his back on the track and made numerous failed attempts to light a cigarette. During his failed attempts he glanced over his shoulder once and went back to flicking his lighter repeatedly in cupped hands. As the field headed out of turn four and flew past the flagstand, this guy still had his back to the track trying like mad to light his smoke. People in the stands were throwing up their hands at him while watching it all go down.

Being a former chief starter or “flagman”, as the NERF always referred to it, during my time in the profession, I was two short steps from being classified as a chain smoker. However, I NEVER had a smoke in my hand on the flagstand or lit one up in between races, let alone turned my back on the track to light one up under red, yellow or green flag conditions. I always waited until after practice or during intermission after the heats to partake in my terrible habit. A flagman’s job is the safety of all on the speedway grounds as soon as those cars fired up and began rolling out of the pit gate. To do anything of the sort, especially after observing the position during my young years and being trained by one of New England’s greatest flagmen, Jim Hanks, it would have been great disrespect the one who tutored me and equally cheating the very definition of the position.

In those days you didn’t have a Race Director in your ear barking out orders like the micro-managing, chatterbox, choreographers some are today. Back then the majority of a Race Director’s job was to move the show along.  When the racing was going on however, they were an “extra set of eyes” helping the flagman out just as the Pit Stewart and Assistant Flagman. The chief starter was considered the highest ranking official when those race machines took to the speedway. EVERYONE’S SAFETY on the speedway grounds was the chief starter’s responsibility.

The NERF was spot on in this particular write up.

– Jared

340 OUT, FULL NASCAR IN

– Friday, September 15th, 1978 –

Next season will tell the story at Riverside Park Speedway as the track ventures into the land of bigger motors. The Park has never allowed engines larger than 340 cubic inches in 30 some years the Agawam oval has been in operation.

Riverside has been under the sanction of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) for the past three years after a long association with Harvey Tattersall and United Stock Car Racing Club. During the three year period with NASCAR the number of Modifieds signing into the pits each week has declined very drastically.

Reggie Ruggiero chases Richie Evans at Riverside Park Speedway in a 1978 feature event. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore's collection.
Reggie Ruggiero chases Richie Evans at Riverside Park Speedway in a 1978 feature event. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore’s collection.

NASCAR officials feel that Riverside’s 340 CI motor limit has been somewhat of a factor in the short turnout of cars while many Modified owners think the rising cost in auto racing is the main culprit. Both feelings are a definite factor in the shortage of cars. Many owners of the 340 powered Modifieds feel they’re not competitive when venturing out to other tracks.

Just a few seasons ago you could find upwards of 50 Modifieds on pit road fighting it out for the 20 or 24 car starting fields while over the past eight weeks the number of cars at Riverside hasn’t reached 30. The first leg of the “Triple Crown”, a 100 lapper, saw only 26 Modifieds sign in and only 22 took the green flag in what was supposed to be a 24 car starting field.

The Park is not the only track having a problem with a shortage of Modifieds. The recent NASCAR National Championship race held at Monadnock Speedway had only 23 cars sign in with only 22 starting instead of the 24 that were advertised and that same track has fielded as few as 14 cars for a couple of their regular Friday night shows. Stafford Motor Speedway has had as few as 31 Modifieds sign in trying for 26 car starting spots on a couple of occasions. Claremont Speedway has started as few as 17 Modifieds and only eight cars showed to run the feature at Hudson Speedway on August 27th, a “Thompson 300” qualifier. Also, the Danbury Fair Racearena which generally has between 40 and 50 Mods in the pits each week under a closed sanction, has of late had as few as 32 cars sign in. So, as you can see, it’s not only Riverside that has felt the crunch with small turnouts of Modifieds.

A few of the Stafford regulars should now be entering the Park scene or will they? Remember, only two Modified tracks run on Friday nights, Stafford and Monadnock, and the turnout of cars at these two tracks has been less than impressive at times this year. Add to this the fact that there are eight ovals drawing Modifieds on Saturday nights in New England and there’s a good chance that going full NASCAR rules at Riverside may not have been the answer. There will be several Park regulars heading for other tracks such as Plainville Stadium, Westboro Speedway and Claremont.

Geoff Bodine and Reggie Ruggiero motor down the front stretch to start the 1978 Riverside 500 at the Park. The packed grandstands at Riverside Park Speedway back then was the place to be on Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore's collection.
Geoff Bodine and Reggie Ruggiero motor down the front stretch to start the 1978 Riverside 500 at the Park. The packed grandstands at Riverside Park Speedway back then was the place to be on Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore’s collection.

Several long time Riverside competitors will head elsewhere to run because they feel they’ve supported Riverside for a lot of years and now have been cast aside like so much garbage. One owner spoke of meetings that were held by many of his fellow owners with the approval of Riverside’s NASCAR Racing Director, Ralph Ouderkirk. The meetings covered the 340 motor, a need for a gear rule and also some kind of tire regulation. A ballot passed out in the pits at the Park during August showed that 70% were in favor of the 340 and the gear and tire items saw 80% vote in favor of both. The owner in question stated, “Why the hell did waste our time holding meetings to try and lower the cost of racing when NASCAR and the Park were going to do what they wanted anyway?” He also added, “One owner came to Agawam all the way from West Haven on a week night and for what?

The main cause for the shortage of Modifieds in New England is money. Racing has become very expensive over the last few years and during that time many cars have been parked. In the past five years tire costs have risen and some racing parts have doubled in price.

Two cars that won’t return for 1979 are the Czarnecki Brothers #20 Vega driven by Bob Polverari and Earl Reynolds #71 Bobcat wheeled by Bob Stefanik. Both car owners cite money as the main reason they won’t return next season.

Polverari also wheels his own #711 Vega at Stafford, and Jack Gelgut, owner of the #65 Pinto that runs at numerous tracks, both feel it’s almost impossible to lower the cost of racing.

Bobby Stefanik and car owner Earl Reynolds won plenty in 1977 & '78 and Riverside Park in their Richie Evans Chassis, Bobcat bodied Modified. Howie Hodge photo.
Bobby Stefanik and car owner Earl Reynolds won plenty in at Riverside Park in their Richie Evans Chassis, Bobcat bodied Modified. But the team folded at the the end of the ’78 season. Howie Hodge photo.

Polverari stated, “Auto racing today is an expensive sport just like yachting.” He also added, “If you can’t afford a Modified any longer and want to stay in racing then you best think about dropping to a lower more economical class.

Gelgut said, “A head rule would lower cost a great deal, but then how are you going to police it without tearing the heads off of every car in the pits each and every week?

Everyone knows there are rules, such as the 340 CI motor limit that aren’t being policed or enforced now.

It seems as though the 340 engine has been one of the biggest expenses for its car owner. The number of 340’s blown this season by Riverside competitors, but not necessarily at the Park, is in excess of twenty five. If you average that out at a conservative $4,000 per engine, that’s a cool $100,000 in scrap metal. One driver-owner, Don Desrocher, has exploded four this season at the Park. The entire season’s purse at Riverside doesn’t reach the hundred thou mark and many feel that if Riverside would boost its payoff it could help to alleviate some of the cost.

If you average out a Saturday night crowd at Riverside Park at around 4,000 fans and then estimate a $2 per head average it would come to $8,000 and now let’s figure that an average of $1 is spent per fan at the beer stand and snack bars, you would then have a total of $12,000 spent by Park enthusiasts for a regular 50 lap show. Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. The Riverside payoff for a 50 lap show is $4,900 and then add on a $1,500 sanction fee paid to NASCAR for that weeks show plus let’s figure $1,000 for employees that night and you will have a grand total of $7,400 paid out. Subtract the latter from the former and you will have an approximate profit of $4,500. Not bad for a nights work and please remember that all figures are estimated. Do you think an extra thousand or two could be thrown into the purse?

One owner told us that NASCAR is definitely structured towards the man who has a lot of money to spend on building his car and maintaining his equipment.

A survey, taken on August 26th, involving 100 Riverside fans showed they were in favor of the full NASCAR rules by a vote of 73-27.

So 1979 will show whether Riverside is right in the decision, whether NASCAR is good for Riverside, and whether the fans choice is right.

Till next week; “NERFers Abide, the Big 55!”

It’s Certainly Not Race Promoters Misleading..

Mid morning on a rainy Saturday in Owego, New York, Shangri-La Speedway’s beloved and successful speedway promoter Dale Campfield, Robert Echo and myself are in the track office. We’re all about to leave for some lunch. Dale, always a cheery, well spoken gentleman says, “Oh! Hold on a second! I have to change the track answering machine.”

Dale pushes a couple of buttons and starts to speak, “Hello Racing fans! It’s going to be a gorgeous Saturday night of racing here at Shangri-La Speedway! The rain has stopped and the skies are clearing! So bring the family down to Shangri-La Speedway for a great time! Gates open at four pm, racing starts at seven!”

He clicked the machine and played the message back. Once he was assured it recorded perfectly, he set the answering machine in motion and said, “Okay fellas, let’s go get something to eat! I know a great place not far from here.”

This tactic wasn’t the least bit surprising back in the day. Damn near every facility office we had been to had similar practices. Some times it worked, as the rain ceased and track dried. Sometimes the answering machine was changed an hour or two prior to the gates opening as the rain continued to fall.

In the day and age of social media, weather apps and the world wide web at our finger tips, these practices are a thing of auto racing promotions past. The days of no-shows by drivers and teams listed on a series or track roster by way of paid entries, handshake or committing verbally with a promoter however, are still around and will always be a part of auto racing. Anyone who tells you otherwise is leaving out one key element.. HISTORY. and not just open Modified show HISTORY.

Every, and I mean every inaugural open Modified event that has started up in the last 10 years has struggled with no-shows. the Seekonk Speedway opens, the SBM125, the Tri Track Series and now Gary Knight and staff’s Modified Touring Series Winchester 200 which was held at Monadnock Speedway. New events that are off the beaten path of sanctions and series start off with question marks. Once the teams, drivers and fans see that promoters and management teams are legit the shows grow spines and gather steam, the car counts climb, and fan turnouts continue to rise with each season that follows.

The inaugural SBM125 had a car count in the teens and grew in car count and crowd over the following seasons. Seekonk Speedway’s yearly open Modified show, which is now part of the NorthEast Tri Track Open Modified Series, struggled with car count in the early goings. The inaugural Tri Track Open Modified event at Lee USA Speedway, the Bullring Bash of 2014, had verbal commitments by teams and none were more disappointed from the no-shows than the series promoters and organizers. This years inaugural Modified Touring Series event, the Winchester 200, recently held at Monadnock Speedway, had a lesser car count than expected and hoped for. However, the promoters, sponsors and fans appreciated those teams putting their expensive machines on the line to support the event. Additionally, it’s safe to say the teams and drivers who competed were just as grateful. It’s appreciating the efforts and being positive to those that do support the event which helps the division.

These promoters work their hind-ends off to put up a great payout and an equally good show for the fans, yet they continue to walk into the same repetitive proverbial one monkey excrement fight at the zoo.

The latest shots started late last season when the NorthEast Race Cars TRI-TRACK Open Modified Series’ organizers were unjustly accused of purposely withholding information from the fans prior to an event at the Nutmeg State’s third mile New London-Waterford Speedbowl’s asphalt oval.. For one single no-show. One.

The accusations claimed the NorthEast Race Cars Tri Track Open Modified Series organizers and promoters had prior knowledge a certain young talented driver, by the name of Tommy Barrett, Jr., was not showing up for the event. The claims were series organizers and promoters knew a day or so prior to the event that the hot shoe wasn’t coming. In the accuser’s eyes, because the promotional team didn’t put out an all points bulletin and sound the alarms in order to inform fans one (a single, uno, unum, yes one..) driver wasn’t going to be in attendance, the finger-pointer thinks the promoters deceived fans and used misleading and dirty promotional tactics to do so..

These accusations towards the NorthEast Race Cars Tri Track Open Modified Series resurfaced yet again while criticizing the advertised roster of the new Modified Touring Series’ big money Winchester 200.

In order to make any outrageous claims or accusations such as the aforementioned, those slinging said fecal matter would have to be extremely uneducated and oblivious with the inner workings of a series or speedway management and promotions. For that matter they would equally have to be terribly lazy in basic fact finding questioning of speedway and series management and just as poor as paying attention to promotional procedures that have existed since motorsports began.

What about these no-shows? Just as in everyday life, drivers, owners, crew members and their machines experience issues forcing them to change plans. Some avoidable and some unavoidable. These issues and, in some cases, broken promises are guaranteed to happen.

Rosters for open shows, series and speedways are normally, but not always, based off of pre-paid entries. Tracks list rosters in their weekly programs, should they have one, and on their websites. These rosters are comprised of much the same procedure. A team applies for a license or fills a registration sheet and pays the fee. The teams and drivers are then added to the track or series roster. For some tracks and series it’s a word of mouth type deal. Some cases it’s a cross between paid entries, hand shakes and word of mouth. Usually, where tracks are concerned, as the season rolls along and the occasional newbie shows up to compete, their team and driver are added to the roster.

Through the years there have been hundreds of scenarios that have prevented a driver with a paid entry or verbal commitment for an event to not attend. Did the speedways or series promoters make announcements a day or two in advance that any of the drivers wouldn’t be in attendance? No. Were these tracks and promoters expected to announce to the fans, in a short notice press release, of all the rumored or informed no-shows? No. Were they accused of false advertisement? No.

Just like the fans the promoters of not just series, but every short track facility across the country, it’s holding out hope. The same hope held out by promoters and fans that maybe, just maybe a contending team on their roster might show up to their Saturday event after wrecking hard on Friday night. The same hope held out for a driver who is yet to be cleared by a doctor to compete after being injured during the work week or the past race weekend. In this case, is it honestly so hard to fathom that the promoters were holding out hope that the matters concerning the the potential no-show would be resolved prior to race day and thus would allow the one single driver to compete?

However it was far too tasty a morsel to pass up the opportunity of dragging out the same horse’s rotted corpse and commence with another round of swings while leaving out obvious long standing key facts of speedway and series management and promotions that have existed since the sports humble beginnings. Not surprising in the least given it’s just another baseless shot against the same series and open shows the accuser has had a well known history of issues with over the years.

With a day or two prior to a racing event, name the last time you have heard any series or speedway PR camp making an announcement (via short notice press release, website or social media post or even radio) with a list of those on the advertised rosters who are rumored or known to NOT be competing.. Anyone? Anybody? That’s right! It has hardly ever happened in the past and shouldn’t be expected in the future. In that time frame and short notice, the event staff have a race day to prepare for. It’s called W-O-R-K, WORK and PREPARATION. In these days of social media leave that to, well, the media and the teams themselves. Back in the day, you only found out by showing up to the track or prior through the grape-vine.

How about the basic subject of the accusations that promoters purposely misleading fans?

Why is it these accusations are only focused on the open Modified event promoters? I think we all know the answer. Otherwise, they would have to spew a tandem load of accusations towards the Northeast speedways and series who list and advertise 2016 Rosters on their sites and have plenty of weekly no-shows, including some facilities and series they themselves attend and cover.

  • Valenti Modified Racing Series
  • NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
  • ACT
  • PASS
  • Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, NH)
  • Lee USA Speedway (Lee, NH)
  • Star Speedway (Epping, NH)
  • Riverhead Raceway (Riverhead, Long Island, NY)
  • Stafford Motor Speedway (Stafford Springs, CT)

Stafford Motor Speedway’s 2016 SK Modified Roster alone lists over 50 SK Modified entries. How many of these drivers and teams have shown up weekly to compete? Certainly not the 50 plus listed. Does the speedway make a prior announcement as to the rumored or known no-shows? Does this mean Stafford’s Management and Promotional team are deceiving, being misleading or pulling one over on the fans? Of course not! That’s preposterous and thus so are the accusations of any misleading by the open Modified event staff.

Oh, but damn those evil dirty pool playing Open Modified show promoters!

Misleading? It sure seems like it, but not from track, series or event organizers and promoters. Then again, why let the simple facts of the long standing history of our sports management and promotional side get in the way of a good story, right?

Fans, enjoy the fact promoters like Jim Schaefer, Dick Williams and staff, the team at Seekonk Speedway and the latest gentleman to throw his hat in the ring, Gary Knight and staff, are working their hind-ends off to put on high-dollar pay-out shows for you, the fans, that they themselves as fans want to see.

Modified fans from all over give their hard earned money to not only attend but support the event with sponsorship and lap money. Businesses sponsor not only the racing events themselves, but awards and laps. The money taken in by most of the open shows go directly to the teams and drivers competing. Other than paying for costs of being part of the racing program almost every darn dollar goes back to those who have shown up to put their expensive equipment and lives on the line to compete.

The open shows are nothing, but POSITIVE for the asphalt Modifieds. These folks should be applauded for sticking their necks out on the line for the Modified racing division’s benefit. What should be praised are the teams that show up to compete, fans that show up to support and enjoy the events, staff and speedways that put on the events and media who show up to cover and report on them.

Best of luck to all competitors, teams, officials and fans for a safe and exciting Ron Bouchard Tribute Race at the NorthEast Race Cars Tri Track Open Modified 100 lap series opening event at the fast high-banks of Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire this Saturday night, June 11th.

*Rendered photo published prior in a 1981 Speedway Scene issue by Vin Hilliard.

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