NERF'ers Corner by Robert Echo

Punky Caron and an Old School Open Modified Show

On this weekend of the Racearama one of the hot topics of 2014 is the new Tri-Track Open Modified Series.  The series is made up of 3 old school open format Modified events; the “Bullring Bash” at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH. (May 11th), the “SBM 125” at Star Speedway in Epping, NH. (June 14th), and “Modified Madness” at Seekonk, MA. (July 23rd).  So I submit this to you my fellow NERFs..

This is an early column that involves an old school open modified show which took place at the famed Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, New Hampshire.   A track ruled by the “Goshen Ghost” Punky Caron.

Beautifully restored and owned by another New Hampshire Modified legend, Ernie Bodreau, Punky's famous ride sits on display for all to admire. Crystal Snape Photo.
Beautifully restored and owned by another New Hampshire Modified legend, Ernie Bodreau, Punky’s famous ride sits on display for all to admire. Jim Snape photo.

For those unfamiliar with Punky Caron please, I beg you to Google the man or sift through the social racing pages.  What you’ll find are many stories, many hard fought races, numerous on track skirmishes, and tons and tons of respect.  Punky was an aggressive driver.  His fellow competitors might say he would race you just a little “harder” than you might race him at times.  But make no mistake, he was not a dirty driver.  He was a damn good one.

To sum up how it was watching Punky at Monadnock in the open shows, with that trademark Wirkkala Brother’s 121 coupe Modified, would be to describe the baddest World Heavyweight Champion boxer defending the crown in his home arena.  What I mean by that is if you wanted to beat that World Heavyweight Champion in his back yard you have to fight the champion’s fight.  This was his track and you best have brought your “A” game.  He’s beaten invaders like Bugsy Stevens, Geoff Bodine, Ron Bouchard, Maynard Troyer, Reggie Ruggeiro, everyone for that matter on that lightning quick high banked oval.

Outside of the car Punky Caron was one of the most approachable and friendly individuals you would meet.  When Punky retired he had sat upon the king’s throne at the place they call “MadDog” with 9 track championships.  In 2011 he was voted into the New England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and very deservedly so.

The race this particular column speaks of has Punky falling one spot short of victory, but it’s to no damn slouch.  Believe you me, I’m betting not too far down the road Punky was yet again the first to fly under Jim Hanks’ checkered flag.


Friday, May 19th, 1978 – NEW ENGLAND SPEEDWAY SCENE


As Cousin Minnie Pearl would say, “How-w-w-de-e-e! I’m so happy to be here.” My sentiments completely as this is the second time out of the pits for this writer with NERF’ers Corner.

We’ve had a couple of questions sent into us over the past week and they will be answered a little later in this column.

Just goes to show you that at least two fans read our words of wisdom last week and all I can say is “Jack Anderson watch out!”

Art Linkletter says that: “Kids say the darndest things” and this same term could relate to some auto racing fans.

A few Sundays ago I attended the Granite State Open at Monadnock Speedway and while watching the afternoon’s events from the stands, I overheard a conversation between a couple of fans behind me. In the next paragraph or two I will try to give you the play by play of the conversation but first let me set the scene for you.

Twenty-four modifieds roll out onto the track for the 100-lap feature coming to a stop in front of the stands so that the drivers can be introduced to the fans.

1977 Monadnock Champion Punky Caron of Goshen (NH) sits on the pole in the new Lindblad chassied Wirkkala Brothers #121 Coupe and along side of him is three-time National NASCAR Modified Champion Bugsy Stevens of Rehoboth (MA) in the Brandy Bunch #41 Pinto. The field is filled mostly with home track favorites such as Bob Karvonen, Dunk Rudolph, Donny Miller, Pete Fiandaca, Donny Ayer, Bruce Batchelder and Red Kimball. The challengers in from other ovals were Ron Bouchard, John Rosati, George Savory, Stan Gregor and Bob Stefanik.

Punky Caron at speed in the Wirkkala Brothers coupe bodies Modified. Crystal Snape Photo.
Punky Caron at speed in the Wirkkala Brothers 121 coupe bodied Modified. Jim Snape photo.

The conversation started this way and we’ll call the two fans in question, “A” and “B”. Here goes……

(A) – “No one will catch Punky today.”
(B) – “Yah! He’s really running. Ran off and left everybody in his heat.”
(A) – “He’ll show all those hot shots from them other tracks.”

The race got underway and on lap twelve Bugsy got underneath Caron to take the lead and eventually the victory.

Hence our conversation continues…..

(B) – “It’s not fair to let all these outsiders come in to take away the trophies and prize money.”
(A) – “It sure ain’t. They never come to a regular show.”
(B) – “Yah! They only come when there’s a big payoff.”

Remember fans, the drivers don’t make the shows open events, the tracks do.

Racing fans pay anywhere from $3 to $6 to see one of these open shows and you would think they’d want to see a high quality show.

The home track drivers love the challenge of beating the best in the business and what better place to do it than in front of your own fans. If the home boy loses to a top shoe like the Bugman, he has nothing to be ashamed of as the biggest names in the business have been beaten by the likes of Stevens many time over. With the high cost of the sport today one has to go where he can shoot for the big purse.

By the way, Caron was the second fastest on the track and he did beat all them other “hot shots”.

Let’s face it fans, we want to see the best show we can for whatever the ticket price and that includes seeing all those hot shots from those other tracks.

So fans do sometimes: “Say the darndest things.” Think about it.

We had a couple of requests for addresses of the “Bugsy Stevens and Richie Evans Fan Clubs.” Anyone having this information, drop us a line.

**I know my father would have wanted to make sure that we don’t forget champion driver Jim Boniface who is battling cancer as hard as he ever did fellow competitors on the track.  Jim has given so many fans great memories and we want to keep he and his family in our thoughts and prayers.  Keep up the battle Jim.  We’re all wearing your colors and cheering you on!

If you would like to contribute to The Jim Boniface Cancer Fund please click here.

3 thoughts on “Punky Caron and an Old School Open Modified Show”

  1. I am 54 years old and grew up with punky . My dad drove #61. Hung out with Ron Bouchard, bodice , punky and the likes. Miss those days

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