When Robert Echo caught wind of team owner Fred Felton and driver Marty Radewick being singled out by a group of tech inspectors he refused to stand by and watch. Much like his colleagues back then who filled the pages of auto racing news papers, Robert Echo didn’t just report the news nor did he step over to bypass the real issues for fear of rocking the boat. He wasn’t afraid of the heat. He welcomed it.
After this story published in New England Speedway Scene, Robert Echo’s press credentials were suspended by the sanctioning body. Did this stop him? No. It had the exact opposite effect on his writing. His reaction to the suspension of his press credentials; “They want to take my press pass, fine by me. They can have them. I’m a fan. I have no problems paying to get in every week like my fellow racing fans. It won’t stop me from writing. It won’t stop me from sticking up for what’s right. Anyone who allows something like this to effect the way they write is just working for their press pass.”
Robert Echo had the stones to stick his neck out for what was right in the sport he loved and never thought twice about the consequences that might follow. He cared about the fans, the teams and the speedways. So rather than stand by the wayside and watch a team get “railroaded”, as he put it, he chose to fight for their cause by investigating the issues surrounding them.
Friday, July 28th, 1978 – SPEEDWAY SCENE
Somebody told me recently that we should change the name of this column to “Controversy Corner” and so in keeping with the weekly trend of this little corner in NESS, here we go again!
Can you tell me what Fred Felton, Marty Radewick, railroading and NASCAR (National Association fro Stock Car Auto Racing) have in common?
Well, car owner Felton and driver Radewick are being railroaded out of two Southern New England speedways by a couple NASCAR technical inspectors.
Frank “Bunky” Skawski of Riverside Park Speedway and Bruce Watt of Stafford Motor Speedway have joined forces to keep Radewick, Felton and the No. 11M Monza bodied Modified, which has become known as the “Radical Racer”, out of those two tracks.
Neither inspector has been able to give a straight answer as to why the car will not be allowed to compete at the two facilities except that they feel the car’s roll cage is too narrow therefor making it a supermodified. They will also tell you that it is probably the most well-constructed and safetest race car to enter the pits at either track.
Doesn’t make much sense does it?
The funniest thing, if there is one, about the whole situation is that no where in the NASCAR Rule Book does it say how wide the the roll cage has to be. It sates the size and thickness of the material that can be used in the construction of the cage. It also states that there has to be at least four bars on each side of the car plus additional bracing added at specified areas in the roll cage. The Felton built Modified has all of these required bars and then some. (See photo inserts)
In a telephone conversation with Skawski on July 20th, I was told that it states in the rule book that the roll bars can be no farther than 4 inches from the body at any point. I replied that I’d read the complete Modified section of the rule book plus the roll bar paragraph in each of the other seven divisions included in the book. Mr. Skawski then told me that if I wanted to take a ride to his house he would be glad to show me the 4 inch rule.
I took the 10 mile trip to the Skawski residence where he told me he had the page marked so he could show me. He tried to pass off the four bars on each side of the car as the 4 inch rule. I pointed this out and he replied it was somewhere in the book which he would show me. As of this time I have still not been shown the rule.
Ralph Ouderkirk, racing director at Riverside Park Speedway, said the roll bars must follow the configuration of the car’s body, but again it doesn’t state this in the rule book. Ouderkirk then added we should look at the picture in the back of the rule book. All fine and dandy, except that Felton didn’t build a Grand National car, as pictured in the rear of the book. He built a Modified by the NASCAR Rule Book or to the way it reads.
Early in the season, Mr. Skawski gave Felton a check list of 4 things he had to correct and a period of three weeks to do them in. They were completed in the specified time. Later Ouderkirk added a couple of things he wanted done and they too were finished by the next racing program. The car then ran for a couple of weeks after that at the Park up until the time they had problems with their 340 ci engine. For three or four weeks they went north to run Claremont Speedway with a 356 ci mill, which is legal at Riverside.
Upon returning to the Park on July 15th, they were told not to unload the care by Mr. Skawaski because they wouldn’t be allowed to run with a Supermodified roll cage. It was at this time they found out that the NASCAR people at Stafford had contacted Skawaski and told him that since Radewick wasn’t allowed to run at Stafford he shouldn’t be allowed to run at the Agawam, Mass. Oval. It’s nice to know Stafford now runs the racing program at Riverside Park.
An irate Radewick, the 24 year old Riverside Park Speedway Rookie of the Year, stated; “They are insulting my intelligence. I wouldn’t get in the car if I thought it was unsafe.”
Felton added this comment; “My conscience wouldn’t allow me to put anyone in the car if I thought there was the slightest chance he should be hurt because of the construction of it.”
Two Modified car builders, including Richie Evans, stated they felt the car was as safe as any Modified they’d seen at either speedway.
In my phone conversation with Mr. Skawski, he first stated he didn’t give Felton a check list and moments later admitted he had. He also said that none of the other drivers and owners were jealous of the car, but later referred to thirty Riverside Park Car owners that were on his back about the “Radical Racer”. When I brought up that there were many rules in the NASCAR Rule Book that were not being adhered to, he stated he didn’t give a damn about them and he still wasn’t going to let Radewick run at the Park.
Ouderkirk, in a phone conversation on July 20th, told Radewick that Skawaski had told him that if everything on the checklist was completed he could run. In a return call Skawski moments after the Ouderkirk conversation, Skawski denied ever saying such a thing.
Sounds like a whole lot of double talk and run around being handed out by what are supposed to be qualified NASCAR officials.
To add to all of this, Skawski told me that both Riverside and Stafford had a serious shortage of Modifieds, but that he wished Felton would take his car and run somewhere else.
Watt stated; “I’m afraid that others, in seeing the Felton car, will take the role cage to extremes.” he’s most likely right, but why should they penalize Felton and Radewick now? Change the rule over the coming winter and state that the roll cage can be no narrower than so many inches. That would keep this problem from arising again.
It’s not right that two tech inspectors can bend the rules in their favor just because. “They don’t like the car” is no reason. It is not right because there are rules in black and white in the NASCAR Rule Book that are not being enforced at either track.
How would you like to spend 15,000 hard earned dollars to build a Modified to the way the NASCAR Rule Book reads only to find out that you can’t run it because some guy working for NASCAR, who thinks he’s a genius, doesn’t like the car. By the way, the Modified section in the NASCAR Rule Book is only nine (9) pages long in a book that measures 4” x 9”. “Ya gotta be kiddin’!” How can you build anything as complex as the Modified today with only nine pages of rules, regulations and specifications to go by in a book that leans almost entirely towards the Grand National division?
There will probably be more on this in weeks to come, but in the meantime what we’d like to know is this; “Has NASCAR gone into the railroad business?”
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Next week comes a new RELOADED. Until then, take care everyone!