The Fat Rat Gets Roasted

– FRIDAY, APRIL 11TH, 1980 – PAGE 8 & 34 –

A NIGHT OF ALL NIGHTS… OVER, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN.

Auto racing has given the Ol Nerf many a thrill over the short few years of his involvement with what he feels to be the greatest sport on earth.

001-SeymourYou can add last weekend’s Roast the Rat Night to my long list of thrills which includes the meeting and making of so many friends over the the past few racing seasons; The organizing of a Cardinal 500 bus trip three years ago for the Roger Westbrook Fan Club, being involved in the rebirth of Claremont Speedway last year and then becoming a full time member of the #1 auto racing publication in the Northeast.

002-KolendaMy great honor and thrill has to be that which I received at the Claremont Awards Banquet last November when C.O.D.A. (The Claremont Owners & Drivers Association) gave me an engraved wrist watch and a standing ovation as a memento of my one season in the Northland as a “flatlander”.

Last Friday evening was the culmination of four months work and it was some night for sure.

003-BugsyThere were many dignitaries in attendance including those at the head table such as Modified drivers Richie Evans and Bugs Stevens; Promoters Ed Yarrington of Stafford Speedway, Tom Curley of NASCAR North Molson Tour, Shangri-La Speedway’s Dale Campfield and Dick O’Brien of Oswego Speedway; NEMMA President and Mini Modified star Dan Meservey; Paul Tremaine head of Checkered Flag Announcer telephone service; C.R.A.P. BOSS Charlie Roberts; Modified Car owners Dick Armstrong and Sandy McKinnon; Stock Car Racing Magazine Editor Dr. Dick Berggren; Super Star Jerry Capazzoli; Oxford Plains Speedway Public Relations Director Lou Modestino; Mystery Guest Seymour the Clown, myself and the man everyone was on hand to pay the unusual Dean Martin Roast-style tribute to Val “The Fat Rat” LeSieur, Editor-Publisher of Speedway Scene.

004-CapozzoliFour roasters didn’t make it do to unexpected circumstances including Mike Joy, Executive Producer of Motor Racing Network; Editor-Publisher of that fine racing publication A.S.S., Bruce Cohen; Speedway Scene columnist Kraze Korlacki and Joe Brady, Modified car owner.

005-ModestinoMany of auto racing’s finest were on hand in the audience such as Modified drivers George Summers, Maynard Troyer, John Rosati, Marty Radewick, S.J. Evonsion, and Jim McClure; Late Model stars Tom Rosati and Jeff Fuller; Promoters Dick Williams of Westboro Speedway and Monadnock Raceway; Harvy Tattersall and John Janisaltis of the Waterford Speedbowl and Plainville Stadium’s Joe Tinty; Bill Slater, Racing Director at Thompson Speedway; Oxford Plains Business Manager Tom Elliman; Stafford Public Relations Director John McMullin; Gene DeWitt owner of Evans’ big orange Modified and Mini Modified shoe Jon Bushey.

006-Paul-TremaineOthers in the audience were Waterford’s chief starter Chris Hopkins who also serves as Stafford’s assistant flagger; Claremont Speedway head flagman Dave Kolenda; Dan Pardi of Pardi Films; Monadnock and Dover Downs announcer Dave Sutherland who also works with MRN and popular personality Alfred “Pops” DeSarro.

007-Rat-RoastSpeedway Scene photographers in attendance were Clint Lawton, Bill and Dave Balser, Ray Coffin and Howard Hodge plus writers and columnists Dave Shippee, Bones Bourcier, Toodi Gelinas, Gene Rebello, Steve Cobb and Bonnie Coffin.

It was a super evening from start to finish with John D’Angelo at the controls of the bar for the entire night and then a delicious Prime Rib Roast of Beef AuJus Dinner with all the trimmings superbly catered by Arthur H. Sattler Catering of Westfield.

BonesDr. Dick started the roasting off which was highlighted with the Fat Rat receiving first a live rat from the Big Red Nose and then a ten pound dead one from the Evans bunch.

Those receiving special items during the night were Bourcier (a nose mug), Tremaine (a bald comb), Evans (a boob mug), O’Brien (an unsigned petition from all the regular weekly rear engine Supermodified competitors), and Ed Yarrington (an official 1980 Northeast Modified Rule Book with nothing inside).

009-Pops Rat-RoastThe 1st Annual Speedway Scene Fans Choice Awards were presented for the year of 1979 including Writer [Shippee], Columnist [Gelinas], Freelance Photographer [Lawton], Driver [Evans], Owner [DeWitt], Rookie [Fuller], Promoter [Williams], and Personality [DeSarro].
Three other awards were given at Sunday’s Spring Sizzler at Stafford due to the absence of the individuals at the Roast including Track Photographer [Mike Adaskaveg], Sponsor [M&H Tire and Marvin Rifkin] and Flea Market Promoter [Joe Brady].

012-Richie-Rat-RoastRoast the Rat Night concluded with two hours of dancing to the Sundown Band.

The evening was made successful by many businesses, speedways and individuals who donated many prizes and items including Taylor Rental of Wilbraham who supplied the program plus napkins and table linen; R.J. Reynolds Tabacco [Winston]; Troyer Engineering; Korlacki Speed Equipment; Central Chevrolet; Firestone Store / Westfield; Marty’s Speed Equipment; Nicora Auto Parts; Depot Square Racing Team; Pioneer Valley Auto Parts; Bouv Enterprises; Deb’s Speed Parts; R.J.S. Racing Team; Linda Clark; DIRT of New York; Bilodeau Florist and McDonald’s Restaurant.

011-Val-Rat-RoastSpeedway Contributers were Stafford, Catamount, Thunder Road, Claremont, Lee, Albany-Saratoga, Shangri-La, Westboro, Monadnock, Oxford Plains, Beech Ridge, Lebanon Valley, Wall, Thompson, Islip, Waterford, Brewerton, Lincoln County and Riverside (NH).

010-Val-Rat-RoastI’d like to thank several people who helped me in leading up to and during the Roast the Rat Night especially my wife Bonnie, my two sons Shane and Jared, my good friends D’Angelo and Martin Nunez, Anne LeSieur, Kolenda, Greek Cultural Center Executive Director Jim Shena and the man who was good enough to take all the ribbing, Val.

To all the people who were great enough to say thanks after the evening was over, I say thanks to you all as you are the ones who made it such a great night.

What made Roast the Rat Night such a thrill for me was when the evening was entirely over and we were heading out the door, the man who really counted, Val LeSieur said,….. “Thanks Bob!”

The night will be long remembered by the Fat Rat I’m sure as it will by the Ol Nerf.

008-Rat-RoastThe night was all for a dream of Val LeSeiur’s, the Northeast Auto Racing Accident & Casualty Fund. Several people and speedways donated directly to the NARAC FUND including Claremont Speedway [$100], Linda DeSarro [$100], Riverside [NH] Speedway [$50], Dan Meservey [$20], Mario Fiore [$20], George and Peg Summers [$10] and Al Marriott [$10].

Bugs-n-J-RosatiNow that the Roast the Rat Night is history, we are already working on Roast #2 set for Saturday, March 7th, 1981 during the “Northeast Oval Track Racearama” at the Civic Center in Springfield, Mass.
If you missed this year’s program you missed a night of super fun and we hope you’ll be a part of next year’s roast.

Till next time, “Don’t forget to catch Speedway Scene’s Promotional Team at your favorite track where you can get a super subscription special!”

SPEEDWAY SCENE FAN’S CHOICE AWARDS       HONOR TEN

Springfield, MA – Richie Evans, Gene DeWitt, Dick Williams, Dave Shippee, Toodi Gelinas, Clint Lawton, Alfred “Pops” DeSarro, Jeff Fuller, Mike Adaskaveg, and the M&H Tire Co. were all winners at the “First Annual Speedway Scene Roast” held last weekend at the Greek Cultural Center in Springfield, Mass.

Award-winnersAll were recipients of beautiful clocks for being voted tops in their field by the readers of Speedway Scene. Some 200,000 votes were cast in the three month long contest which ended on March 15th.

Evans won the “Driver of the Year Award” by a landslide in the voting with Geoff Bodine and Jack Johnson a distant second and third.

DeWitt far outclassed the rest of the field in the voting for “Owner of the Year” with Chassis Dynamics second and John Scott third.

The “Promoter of the Year Award” went to Williams with Tom Curley finishing second and Ed Yerrington was a close third.

Shippee took “Writer of the Year” honors for his article entitled “Winston Cup Assault: Bodine, Johnson & Beebe Go For It All.” while Robert Echo finished as runner up for his article, “Will The Real Promoter of the Year.. Please Stand Up.”

The “Columnist of the Year Award” went to Gelinas who pens “Getting the Gab” each week. The balloting was close in this category with Bones Bourcier who writes “Modified Madness” and the “NERF’ers Corner” writer finishing second and third respectively.

Lawton won the “Freelance Photographer of the Year Award” over A. Cor Kaptein, Howard Hodge and Paul Bonneau.

dadThe “Personality of the Year Award” went to DeSarro in some close balloting over Williams, Ken Squire, Val LeSieur and Seymour the Clown.
Fuller was a runaway winner in the voting for “Rookie of the Year” with Wes Rosner and Phil Gerbode second and third.

The final two awards were presented at Stafford Motor Speedway’s SPRING SIZZLER on Sunday as they were unable to attend the “Roast”.
Adaskaveg collected the “Track Photographer of the Year Award” in some close voting over Lawton, Bert Gould and Bill Balser.

The “Sponsor of the Year Award” went to Marvin Rifkin’s M&H Tire Co, over Busch Beer, vermont Mack, Winston and Ferrara Auto Parts.

A special “Flea Market Promoter of the Year Award” went to Joe Brady for his March 23rd extravaganza at Stafford, but many were wondering why there was an outhouse figure on top of the trophy.

SPEEDWAY SCENE Promotional Director Robert Echo stated, “The voting response was great and we’ll do it all again next year.

Advertisements

A Night In The Valley and Nothing But The Truth..

RELOADED by Jared Echo

One Night In The Valley..

Last Wednesday myself and a good friend of mine hopped on the interstate, which led to another interstate, and another.. -sigh- and another.. 16 hours later we arrived at our destination to spend some time with another good friend in Connecticut. The next day the three of us made the hundred mile trip Northwest to take in the Mr. Dirt USA big block Modified event at Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, NY.. We grabbed $30 pit passes and watched the night’s proceedings from the pit area or what many refer to as “The Hornet’s Nest”. It was great to be back in familiar surroundings from days gone by.

Walking through the pits and soaking in the environment, the scents and the scenery I looking up at the stands in turn 1.  Many a night spent at “The Valley” with my family and many with just my father..  That’s when it dawned on me..

Back in the early 70’s our family resided in East Greenbush, NY. Sometime during the summer of ’74 my family attended our very first auto race. We all piled into the family car and traveled about 15 miles down the road to Lebanon Valley Speedway and Dragway in West Lebanon, New York. Sometime during that evening’s events that high banked dirt oval instantly hooked us and made all of us auto racing fans. At that moment in the pit area, looking up at that section of grandstands, I realized this year makes 40 years that I have been an auto racing fan and how right it was to be at the very facility which sparked this awesome addiction. Pretty cool..

The Brett Hearn Haters Club were out in full force last Thursday night and probably all let out a huge moan with a few choice profanities when the Sussex, N.J. veteran hot shoe broke the track record. The familiar #20 set a blistering lap of 19.33 seconds during the group time trial session. Love him or hate him, Brett “The Jet” has always been one heck of a talented driver through the years.

Prior to the Mr. Dirt USA event speedway officials and management brought some of the youth onto the front stretch to draw for starting spots for drivers by way of seat cushions. There were plenty of laughs drawn from the grandstands and those grouped up on the front stretch as the gentleman manning the microphone asked each child questions prior to picking for their driver. It was enjoyable kind-hearted fun that was well received by all. Kudos to the Valley’s treatment towards the young fans as after all that is what it’s all about.

Andy Bachetti (34) and Donnie Corellis (57) await tech. Chad Frey photo.
Andy Bachetti (34) and Donnie Corellis (57) await tech for Mr. Dirt USA. Chad Frey photo.

During the re-draw the club of Hearn haters exploded with a roar of approval when the child helping Hearn selected the 10th spot.  At the drop of the green Mr. Dirt was dominated early by Andy Bachetti of Great Barrington, Mass. in the #34. Bachetti shot out to a half-straightaway lead, but a caution flag put the kibosh to the distance he put between himself and second place runner Kolby Schroeder out of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. in the black and blue #98.

Once the field bunched up Hearn went to work and by lap 28 or 29 had taken the lead from Bachetti and never really challenged again. Hearn, as my father used to say, “was on rails”. So much so that we could clearly hear him letting off the throttle three quarters of the way down the backstretch as the #20 would set back down closer to the racing surface. Midway through turn 3 we could hear his foot hit the throttle briefly as if to set the car up for turn four and then back on the throttle again, flat footing it in four and continuing all the way down the front stretch.

JR Heffner's Modified goes through tech at Lebanon Valley Speedway. Chad Frey photo.
JR Heffner’s Modified goes through tech at Lebanon Valley Speedway. Chad Frey photo.

There was plenty of great racing action going on throughout the field during the 100 lap feature. Two great battles that stood out involved “The Doctor” Danny Johnson, who earlier had ran away with his heat race piloting his Modified with his visor wide open. Johnson, in a very familiar orange #27J, battled with the #1 of Canadian driver Stewart Friesen early in the show then with the #99L of Larry Wight in the later stages. Wight put on a show as he seemed to be the only driver to hang up top in turns three and four consistently, lifting that left front way off the surface and powering to the inside of Johnson as they ran down the front stretch.

When the checkers fell Hearn had his haters furious by nabbing the $17,500.00.  Bachetti tried every line to gain some steam on the #20, but the distance between first and second ended the same as it was the last 25 circuits or so.  Bachetti wasn’t the only other driver showing power. Donnie Corellis finished a strong third.  Corellis put on fine performance going winning some tight battles, one coming on a restart. (Read the race report here)

One observation after Mr. Dirt USA.. There were many comments on the social pages and forums regarding folks being “glad they didn’t show” up for the Mr. Dirt USA event because of Hearn’s dominance. According to the driver’s website, as of Thursday, August 21, Hearn entered 49 events, started 46 of them, won 15 with 30 top fives and 39 top ten’s. So what gives with this “dominant” tag?

My question to those folks; “Why not show up to support your driver?” Go ahead and boo anyone you like for that matter because that just comes with the territory, besides you the fan are paying to attend and that’s your right. Disregarding all the conspiracy theories some have voiced regarding Lebanon Valley, Albany Saratoga and Brett Hearn, what about the drivers you do support?  What if one of them beat Hearn at the Mr. Dirt event?  Would you commence to kicking yourself in the hind end for not attending?

When Tommy Corellis, Kenny Tremont, C.D. Coville, A.J. Slideways or Jack Johnson were dominating many showed up with the hopes they would witness them getting beaten on the track. The same goes for their asphalt counterparts like Richie Evans, Geoff Bodine, Bugsy Stevens, Charlie Jarzombek or Greg Sacks. Not attending to support your driver only hurts that driver and more so the track that driver supports and competes at. Where’s the loyalty to your favorite? As a racing fan, it just seems awful shallow to avoid attending and supporting your driver because you think you know who’ll win. But hey, that’s just my opinion.

Nothing But The Truth..

It seems the last two weeks have been saturated with the happenings of an Empire State Sprint Car event held at Canadaigua Speedway in New York. Personally speaking, I wiped away the pathetic opinions of some uneducated-casual fans who were making asinine statements and comments towards or about Tony Stewart. However, the uneducated media’s headlines were a depressing sign of the times in this day and age.

These writers who were either blindly assigned the story or looking to grab some attention for the almighty ‘clicks’ and ‘hits’ and ran with only what they knew (which wasn’t much) or believed (which only proved their unintelligence) was nothing short of disgraceful. They reported without looking at the facts or the past history and failed to do their HOMEWORK. Why? Because THEY DON’T CARE ABOUT THE SPORT! They only cared about grabbing attention with unjustified slanderous headlines and fill their digital trash with the utmost uneducated adolescent verbiage.

One story claimed it was a NASCAR race, another sad excuse suggested the government needed to get involved. If the factual subject didn’t surround the loss of life these reports would be the equivalent to the Sunday paper funny pages.

I do have to give props to Dave Moody (“Tragedy Highlights Media At Its Worst“) and Nick Teto (“Clarion Call: A Word to the Wise“) for voicing opinions with some damn fine pieces about this very subject.

I guess the correct word that best describes what the uneducated media would be irresponsibility. My view? The following is just part of what I wrote immediately after finding out about the unfortunate tragedy..

6:30am Sunday morning I took my first sip of coffee and settled into the recliner to enjoy a beautiful beginning to the day. That mood changed as soon as I read the news and then the pathetic and down right disgraceful comments and headlines that followed regarding young Kevin Ward Jr and veteran ace Tony Stewart.

For as long as there has been auto racing there has been confrontation. That confrontation comes in many forms. In-car, out-of-car, and a little cross of both. Last night a young driver lost his head, as we’ve all seen take place from the highest form of the sport to the young fundamental divisions.

Unlike a few who chose to write something immediately with their emotions being fueled by the same adrenaline that pushed Kevin Ward Jr. from the cockpit to the race track on foot. I chose to soak it in to a degree, merely posting for my friends to see and let it settle while the comments and headlines continued to prove, the more some folks talk the more they show their cards as to their level of education in the sport.

Saturday night August 9th at Canadaigua Speedway in Canadaigua, New York a young driver lost his temper and ran to the moving car of a veteran driver. That young driver lost his life by getting “too close”, plain and simple.. And if you don’t believe that, well I don’t know what to say to you other than when looking at any racing incident YOU MUST LOOK AT IT THROUGH UNBIASED EYES and COMMON SENSE. Although these out-of-car to in-car confrontations have occurred multiple times every weekend throughout the decades, we veterans of the sport (fans, crews, drivers, officials, media; FANS), tend not to worry because “these guys are professionals”.. and then this.. A terrible graphic tragedy happens.

As I spoke about uneducated and casual kool-aid fans in my last column “Know What You Are Getting Into”, so should go a common sense that takes hold before making completely biased and unjust comments about a loss of life. This is even more so for the exploiting, grandstanding media, that only seems to pay attention when our sport experiences severe injury and or tragedy.

The uneducated media grabbed this unfortunate incident and proverbially picked up the banner and sped off sprinting through the streets screaming; “look at this!”. The majority did so with nonfactual and damn near made up representations of what really took place. Some of those clearly knew nothing other than the incident involved NASCAR Cup Champion Tony Stewart. They took an approach that was simply based off of their colleagues headlines rather than DO THEIR HOMEWORK. Some went so far as to go into detail that this accident involved fenders in their write up. Fenders? Sprint cars don’t have fenders.  Sure, why be factual when you can grab hits by grandstanding a tragic happening in a sport you know absolutely nothing about!

These media types followed up this sprint car tragedy with reports that were nothing short of careless, classless and disrespectful. Sick fictitious versions sprinkled with bull droppings. It proved to us veteran fans in the know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, how truly oblivious the mainstream media are, not only to the situation, but our sport. The fact is, THEY DON’T KNOW. “Tony Stewart KILLS driver..” IS NOT WHAT HAPPENED! Oh, but it works for great headlines, grabs readers or viewers.. These people are not fans of the sport, but merely leaches.. Scum suckers.. A school of Plecostomuses latched on to the side of the auto racing fish tank, only bothering to make a move or effort when shit happens. It’s the only time the sport is recognized or serves a purpose in their pathetic and shallow world.

Every unfortunate time true fans of the sport hear about a fatality, regardless if it takes place overseas, across the borders or on our own soil, it hits home and causes us all to pray for all parties effected and then reflect.. I’ll tell you one thing, my friends, as a former chief starter and track official this on-track incident hit rather close to home and caused some heavy reflection..

My good friend John Agor (#61) was always good for a dirt shower every race night. 1993 Roberge photo.
Jahn Agor, one of the friends who I attended the Mr Dirt USA race with was always good for a dirt shower every race night. 1993 Sugar Hill Speedway – Roberge photo.

The many times being on the track during warm ups pointing to the area of the speedway to “run in” and pack the wet surface.. As close as we all were.. Always a few drivers who would get close and as they just passed down low, would gun it within inches of me, coating my backside with clay or dirt, a common tactic by driver friends and smart-asses showing their cards.. Sure it’s funny, yet dangerous.., but there’s a trust there..

The countless times doing the crossover down on the front stretch as these 20 to 30 drivers in their machines came within less than a foot of hitting me, but there’s a trust there… If a loss of balance or clip of arm or flag by the speeding race machines by myself would’ve meant serious consequences.., but there’s trust.. A miss judgment of acceleration, turn of the wheel or contact with another race machine.., but there’s trust.

Running down off the flag stand in anger to get within inches and put that rolled up flag in the driver’s face as a warning, to show the driver the black flag and point to the pits or to point at that driver then my rear, a gesture well understood as “rear of the field”, but in the heat of the moment.. Even if we’re not on friendly terms.. There’s a trust there.

I viewed the grotesque footage of the terrible incident, and once was enough. That’s when I thought back to the thousands of times the aforementioned actions took place and immediately was overcome with emotion giving me the overwhelming desire to wake my wife & daughter up from their sleep and hug them tight.

We all hear the stories of days gone by involving a driver out of their wrecked machine and stopping, running along side, or jumping through the window.. That heat of the moment.. That temporary hatred fueled by that competitive temperament and rush of adrenalin.. That stupid act, but.. There’s trust there.

There’s countless stories of the drivers giving a fellow driver “the business” by getting into the strapped in driver’s face, throwing objects or jumping on a competitor’s car in the heat of the moment.. What if the other driver still strapped in accidentally hit the accelerator or had it in gear?.. What if he was still in motion and couldn’t stop?.. What if the driver on foot lost his balance?.. Pretty easy to get sucked under any open wheel machine, but even with all the anger there’s still a trust there. It’s an odd trust that only our sport has, but believe me, it’s there. NO DRIVER WOULD INTENTIONALLY TRY AND TAKE THE LIFE OF ANOTHER DRIVER, OFFICIAL, SAFETY CREW MEMBER, CREW MEMBER, MEDIA MEMBER, OR FAN. ESPECIALLY A RACER LIKE TONY STEWART.

Please, lets not confuse this incident with what’s filled the social pages and racing news pages regarding the “chase the ace”, demo derby scenarios between a number of Modified drivers at Bowman Gray Stadium. Yes it’s pathetic and makes us veteran fans do a damn near choreographed “face-palm”.. Yes, it’s inexcusable and highly dangerous, not to mention childish tantrums with high dollar machines.. These guys have no disregard for the safety of the officials and track crews, however policing, or lack there of, by the management of that facility is where the responsibility lies. If they don’t gather their senses and stop it, there will be a death.. Sure it hasn’t happened yet, but neither has an out of cockpit driver on moving vehicle death occurred in many, many moons.. That is until now..

And let’s also not associate or categorize this in the same context as a driver vs. driver confrontation in competition. That’s different as the factors of in car protection and trust in equipment comes into play with the offending driver knowing full well they are securely and safely strapped into their machines ..

When a driver steps out onto a “running surface”, just as an official or track crew does on any given race evening, those behind the wheel click into “pedestrian awareness” as all of us do driving on village streets or in subdivisions. However many factors have to be taken into consideration and the view from the cockpit of a sprint car is one of them.

The easiest way to solve this issue is now what many speedways and series are doing across the country as you read this. A universal rule simply involving; “UNLESS THERE IS FIRE, THE DRIVER IS TO REMAIN STRAPPED INTO THEIR MACHINE UNTIL SAFETY CREW REACHES THE VEHICLE OR IT IS A MINIMUM 2 WEEK SUSPENSION.”

Those less familiar with the sport are probably questioning; “Why hasn’t that rule been in place from the get go?”

Well, for one, our sport’s safety standards advance as much as the seasons progress. When there’s a hard wreck or injury to the driver, a fan, crew member, official, etc.. we advance in safety. Lastly, something anyone in all walks of life can relate to.. Sometimes the obvious solution is never the first  nor the second answer any of us arrive upon until it’s too late.

Now since then Tony Stewart has decided to step away from behind the wheel and that is his choice and his way to deal with this matter. Only Tony knows what he needs to do to get through this painful time.  As a fan of racing in general, I pray for the family of Kevin Ward Jr. for strength to make it through this terrible loss. Equally, I pray for Tony Stewart and his family and friends for strength to recover and help him deal with what he is going through.  I hope he gets back behind the wheel soon as the sport of auto racing is less without Stewart. Although Ward Jr has been tragically lost, Tony Stewart is still very much alive and a gifted driving talent filled with a unique passion for the sport.  He’s a racer’s racer.

A competitor lost his life in a racing incident. As part of the auto racing community we can only mourn, reflect, improve standards, and always remember… Those in our sport who have lost their lives at the track are never forgotten, but remembered and honored when others walk away in the future from similar incidents and those avoided.

God bless our awesome sport and all who make up it’s community. Safe travels to all of you, where ever you may be competing or taking in the races this week.

Next week NERF’ers Corner by Robert Echo returns with.. The Rat Roast..

Know What You Are Getting Into…

RELOADED by Jared Echo

I didn’t think I’d be back with another RELOADED until a week or so after the big money, $17,500 to win Mr. DIRT USA event at Lebanon Valley Speedway, but after what transpired this past week I felt there was a need and it’s not what you’re thinking either.

The conspiracy and corruption issue in the NASCAR Whelen All American Series National Championship was already covered so I’ll point you all in the right direction in case you missed it.. “Corruption or Confusion?” by Langly Austin and “Kieth Rocco Reacts to Greenville Controversy” by Andy Marquis over at Race22.com as well as “Keith Rocco Hot Over NWAAS Point Drama at Greenville”  by Matt Kentfield and Brandon Paul at Speed51.com were three absolutely outstanding investigative reports that covered the whole subject solidly.  They all did their homework and got the interviews this past Monday, August 4th.  Very informative and MUST READS.

This week’s subject is about last week’s republishing of a May 1980 NERF’ers Corner column titled “NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream” as it definitely had a reaction amongst readers.

Some compared Robert Echo’s column “NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream” to what is still going on today.  Others enjoyed the history, educational side of the 34 year old column.  Then came a few emails from those who failed to read the bold print that it was a column from 34 years ago.  Yet these folks took the time to type lengthy emails?  Not being familiar whatsoever that sadly Charlie Jarzombek is no longer with us or that Maynard Troyer and Bob Polverari both climbed from behind the wheel for the final time many moons ago is excusable for the new generations of fans.  So benefit of the doubt..

What concerned me was the empty and baseless anger these folks had towards what they believed was a new column that bashed today’s NASCAR.  In my opinion it’s a reaction by uneducated, kool-aid drinking NASCAR fans who neglected to read the two lines in bold that bordered the logo of a racing publication that has long since ceased operations.  It not only had me laughing, but brought me back to a similar situation that arose when Indianapolis Motor Speedway built a road course and opened it’s doors for the first time to Formula One.

Formula One 2006 US Grand Prix at Indy. Jared Echo photo.
Formula One United States Grand Prix at Indy. Personal photo collection.

In 2000 myself along with my better half, four friends, and 250,000 fans sat in the grand stands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway awaiting the inaugural Formula One United States Grand Prix.  The skies had been steadily opening up with showers all morning.  Behind us a group of fans were talking about the weather and how, “..it would suck if these guys traveled from Europe only to get rained out.”

My fellow English speaking fans and those foreign fans around us, who understood English were completely aware that the Formula One show moves on rain or shine, started chuckling under our breath.

“When is the rain date anyway? Tomorrow maybe?” The second gentleman asks.

“Don’t know.” The first answers

“Does it say on the ticket?” The third inquires as he stands up and reaches in his pocket.

“Nope. Nothing.” The second says, while looking at his ticket through his transparent, outta’ sight, ticket holding necklace. (Oh yes, it most certainly did state it on the stub)

“What about the program?” The first asks the fourth, “I thought you picked one up?”

“I didn’t buy one. I’ll go get one and see.” The fourth said and he and the second proceeded down the steps.

A slight sighing chuckle drew up from our section again. The first turns to a young Italian fan to their right, who appeared to be sitting next to his father or uncle.  These were the two whom took their seats not 20 minutes before, opened one of their coolers and passed a beer down the entire row until the cooler was empty and instantly gained friends, “What happens if it rains? When’s the rain date?”

The young Italian looks at the native fan and starts to grin wide as if Mr. First is kidding; “They race in thees’. It is good when they race in thees. Good racing when it rains!”

Mr. First looks over at his buddy and says laughing; “He said they race in this shit. No way in hell.”

The Fifth in the group, whom until now remained silent, rejects the Italian fans words and proceeded to not only disagree, but belittle the foreign gentleman as if the foreign fan didn’t speak English and made a horse’s behind out of himself in the process; “No, no, that’s not right at all. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He can’t even speak English good.”

With that our little group looked around each other and my wife mouths with a smile, “’Speak English good?’ Did he just say that?”

The friends, Mr. Second and Forth come back up without a program. “Hey, we asked around. They do race in the rain! What the hell?”

Mr First and Third both reply in unison, pointing at the kind Italian fan; “That’s what he said!”

The Italian looks back with a scowl then looks over at us, smiles, rolls his eyes, and raises his beer to us.  We raise ours back with smiles included. 

The rain picked up and the Unprepared-Uneducated Five started to mumble, grumble, and moan.

At this time a deep, gravely southern voice, coming from under a beat up cowboy hat littered with pins of every track on Formula One’s schedule and then some (also wisely dressed in rain gear), cries out loud, “Yeah baby! Let it rain! I love it when it rains! Best racing when it’s raining! Yeah! We’re going to see some real racing today boys! Woo-Hoo!”

The section lets out a giant roar of laughter that was littered with a few moans by the remaining folks in our section who just realized these million dollar machines could care less if it’s raining, because as the saying goes “that’s how they roll”.

Scuderia Ferrari, Michael and Rubens race into turn 1 at the USGP and Indy.
Scuderia Ferrari, Michael and Rubens race into turn 1 at the USGP and Indy.  A “still” from personal video collection.

The lights went out, the race went on, and Michael Schumacher ran away and hid from the field in his Scuderia Ferrari.

On the way home, my friend, my wife and myself were laughing about Mr. First through Fifth and how they each purchased $85 dollar tickets, drove 300 plus miles and bought a weekend’s worth of hotel stay all the while being oblivious that Formula One ran rain or shine. It was a joyful, hysterical, joke filled ride home to say the least.

Once my wife and I settled in at home we flicked around the local channels and came upon the stations out of Terre Haute, Indiana and Indianapolis. The reports came across involving fans who were extremely upset with giving away their tickets as they headed out of the speedway grounds during the down pour 2 hours prior to race time.

One reporter was doing interviews at the airport. An infuriated gentleman with a group behind him had a meltdown, “This is an outrage! I purchased $150 tickets on the front stretch for my friends and myself.  It started pouring out and we left and gave away our tickets at the gates.  It was raining for heaven’s sake!  Any delay would have caused us to miss our return flight home.  We didn’t know they actually ran in the rain. Who does that?  –(Formula One pal. It says so on the ticket..)–  They should have informed us in advance that they race in the rain.  It’s absolutely ridiculous!  We were ripped off!”

Another woman and her family were caught outside the gates, “We gave our tickets away when it started to dump out and headed to the car. We had the local radio station on as we were driving away and the announcer said cars were lining up on the speedway and they were getting ready to start the race in this crap. So we came back and went to the gates and tried to get back in, but the speedway staff wouldn’t let us back in –(No common sense. “No tickey. No laundry”)-.  $500.00 ON TICKETS AND GOT SCREWED!”

Each interview that followed was similar and when it came back to the on the spot reporters they too were appalled by Formula One and Indianapolis Motor Speedway running the race in the rain..

What’s my point?  As I’m sure Formula One, IMS, and the city of Indianapolis were very appreciative to both loyal and new fans coming to watch the race, as am I for those who read my late father’s columns and the RELOADED’s that I have written, it’s still about education and paying attention.  In the case of last weeks column, it’s paying attention to the bold print before just skimming through and unjustly taking offense and looking silly.

At IMS it was knowing what to expect when attending a sporting event.  Neither these fans nor the local television reporters bothered to educate themselves prior to blowing gobs of money on tickets, travel and lodging nor reporting accurately on the entire situation.  I was angered at the news reports and equally on the verge of tears from laughing so hard as well.  Really.  The mere thought of fans blowing hundreds to thousands on a sporting event without any knowledge of the simplest rules about the division was sad yet made my stomach hurt and eyes water from hysterical laughter. To top it off they cried to the heavens on the air waves how wronged they were, blaming the speedway and Formula One for their own shortcomings and lack of doing their homework!  Sound familiar?

As for those who angrily emailed about the 34 year old Robert Echo column “NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream“, well like those angry F1 fans back in 2000, what’s left to say except KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GETTING INTO.

Next week is another 33 to 36 year old NERF’ers Corner column.  I’ll be back with another RELOADED in two weeks time with hopefully much to report on the Mr DIRT USA event at Lebanon Valley and other happenings around the sport.  Until then, enjoy the racing wherever you may roam and safe travels!  Keep on Trackin’!

NASCAR Changes Rules In Mid-Stream

– FRIDAY, MAY 23RD, 1980 –

NASCAR CHANGES RULES IN MID-STREAM

The “Decade of the 80’s” was supposed to bring about some changes that would better the sport of auto racing for both the competitor and fan.

Some changes have helped the sport already, including USAC’s decision to finish all their stock car events under the green flag. Some tracks enacted their own tire rule while yet other facilities have shortened the distance of their regular races and cut down on the number of extra distance events.

Fans have been treated to the prettiest looking and finest field of asphalt Modifieds ever assembled with all the Troyer, Bo-Dyn, Evans, Nu-Style, Lindblad, Flemke, R.G.M., plus various other brands and home-made cars being built.

Taking the Northeast, which consists of New York, Long Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and all of New England, there have been 54 Modified races on asphalt with 35 different winners and 139 drivers have placed in the top five in those 54 events. What more could a fan ask for as far as competitive racing?

Modified racing is expensive as is Grand National (*Now Cup), late Model Sportsman (*Now Nationwide), Indy Car, Formula One, SuperModified and any other dozen or so divisions. Most car owners have come to the conclusion that this is a high buck class of racing machine and if one can’t afford it, then either he gets out or he drops down a division that meets his pocket book. This doesn’t mean that Modified owners are happy high cost or they wouldn’t mind seeing costs lowered considerably.

About 90 percent of the Mod owners feel that tires are the biggest culprit in high cost while they know the second most expensive item is motors.

The season is only five or six weeks old and everything seems to be running on an even keel with a decent field of cars showing at most speedways… So… What happens?… NASCAR lowers the boom!

Let’s look at what the word NASCAR means, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing. The key word in this large sanctioning body’s name is a three letter preposition… The word FOR!… This means the large racing conglomerate is in the business of helping the sport… Or are they?… A technical Bulletin sent out by NASCAR, dated April 25th, stated that four things would have to be changed by May 7th. Those items listed were: 1) Weight, meaning pounds per cubic inch for the big blocks. 2) Rearend tread width and location of left rear wheel. 3) Engine location. 4) Hoods.

The time period alloted gave car owners exactly twelve days to make these changes to once again be legal, and if you consider a couple of days in the mail, the time was even less.

After car owners exploded about the time alloted and why?… The deadline was extended to June 1st… Big deal! Why make these changes at all at this time?… Why add more expense to an already costly product?… Why try to disrupt the division when things seem to be running fairly smooth?

I wish someone would show me how NASCAR is helping the Modified division by making these changes at this time.

Why would they want someone to bolt 200 or so pounds of lead onto their car at a cost of about $200, when that same piece of lead or pieces thereof could become a missile flying off the car if it was involved in an accident running a hundred M.P.H.. I wonder how a fellow driver or yourself, for that matter, would feel if hit by this bolted on lead? Well the driver or yourself probably wouldn’t have to worry about it as we’d most likely be paying our respects. This is the feeling of myself and Shangri-La Speedway promoter, Dale Campfield, who has mostly big blocks running his facility.

Maynard Troyer, Charlie Jarzombek and Bob Polverari voiced their opinions regarding the early season rule changes NASCAR was instituting in 1980. The opinions mirrored what most racing Mods under the banner were saying. Howie Hodge photos.
Maynard Troyer, Charlie Jarzombek and Bob Polverari voiced their opinions regarding the early season rule changes by NASCAR for the Modifieds in 1980. The opinions mirrored what most racing Modifieds under the banner were saying. Howie Hodge photos.

I personally feel that the other three things in the Technical Bulletin are totally unnecessary at this point in time.

Maynard Troyer feels that the changes now are both harsh and unneeded. The rules, as Troyer states, “Is directed at a few guys who run up front and what it does is puts the little guy, who’s been running somewhat competitively right out of the ballgame.” He then said what everyone has been saying right along, “No matter what they do, the same guys are going to win.”

Campfield, who had yet to receive a copy of the Technical Bulletin as of May 12th, and Spencer Speedway promoter, Del Spencer, are both asking why they weren’t questioned before this action was taken… I agree… It is Campfield’s contention that Spencer and himself have done more NASCAR in New York in the last couple of years than anyone else, so why weren’t they asked.

Charlie Jarzombek, former Islip Speedway champion and top runner, feels the changes at this time are too costly and hurts the little guy more than they slow down the front running few the rule seems directed at.

Bob Polverari, who’s returned to Modified racing after a year off, stated, “You don’t make these changes during the season, instead do them after the racing year is over and before the next one begins.” He had some other things to say about NASCAR which were unprintable, but I was in total agreement with him in his reference to the group.

All the people questioned are in agreement on one thing, which is that the Modifieds need a representative in the Northeast that lives in the Northeast. They feel the people in Daytona who are at weekly Grand National events and half of the Late Model races, but are seldom seen in the Northeast for a Modified show, should finad a Northeast representative for the division or just leave the Modifieds alone before they destroy the class.

The one person who most are in total agreement would be the best individual for the job is Islip promoter, Bob O’Rourke. They feel he knows the division as well as anyone if not better. He loves the Mods and is considered fair in making decisions… Good choice!

Troyer stated, “You can’t rule over the Modifieds from behind a desk in Daytona when you know nothing about the division.” He then added, “Most guys get into this division because they want to use their inventive ideas. That’s why they’re called Modifieds.”

So listen up NASCAR, before you ruin a super class of racing, get someone up here who knows what the hell is going on. You can help the division, but not the way you’re leading it.

Most of the people own offset cars or big blocks that I’ve talked to, have stated that they’ll either park their cars or run non-NASCAR sanctioned tracks.

Can Stafford Motor Speedway, Riverside Park, Thompson, New Egypt, Shangri-La, Spencer or Islip afford to lose cars when track like Westboro, Monadnock, Waterford, Claremont, Star, Plainville, Lancaster and Wall are waiting in the wings to gobble up the evicted machines.

Wake up NASCAR!… Before it’s too late or you might be on the outside looking into the Northeast.

Until next time, “See you at your favorite Speedway!”