– FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 28TH, 1979 –
1979 RACE OF “ONE” CHAMPION
The 1979 CAM2 Race of Champions??? Hmmmm! Well, maybe, but personally I think they could rename this year’s event the CAM2 Race of One Champion. Yup! That’s about the way it was as Richie Evans ran away from the field over the last one-third of the 300 mile distance to win the 29th edition of the prestigious event.
Pocono International Raceway, located in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, was the site of the Joe Gerber promoted race. The event is now held annually on the 2-1/2 mile tri-oval asphalt speedway speedway just 3 miles off I-80.
With many of the front runners and several drivers considered to be challengers dropping out for one reason or another, like Ron Bouchard on lap 7; Bugs Stevens lap 31; Jerry Cook and Charlie Jarzombek lap 58; Doug Hewitt lap 67; Geoff Bodine lap 89; John Bryant lap 93; and Greg Sacks lap 110, it didn’t leave too many to put the pressure on the Rapid Roman.
Maynard Troyer came across the finish line second almost a mile behind Evans. Gail Barber was the only other driver on the lead lap finishing some distance behind Troyer.
Rounding out the top ten finishers were Jim Shampine, Satch Worley, and Ken Bouchard, all one lap down; Fred Harbach and Paul Radford both two laps down; George Kent and Dan Jivanelli were both three laps behind.
It was a protest marred event as six drivers filed post race complaints due to a scoring mishap and some mistaken identity. The protesting chauffeurs were Troyer, Barber, Shampine, Worley, Radford and Kent. I waited a considerable length of time for a decision on the protests, but the last word out of one race official was that they’d made a mistake, they were sorry, come back next year. One individual involved stated, “It’s the same old baloney every year.”
I don’t know what this person meant as I haven’t been at any of the previous events, but it sounds like they have a definite problem somewhere. Personally I don’t understand how there could be such a problem with scoring on a track of this length. There’s one scorer per car and since the cars go by the stands approximately once every minute, you’d think there’d be no problem. A person can understand if there’s a scoring mistake on a short track of 5/8th mile or less, but not on a 2-1/2 mile speedway. What’s the old saying? Oh yeah! Someone had better get their s–t together.
Some closing statistics on the ’79 RoC. Evans collected $16,280.00 for his 49th victory of the season. Evans took the pole position with a fast time trial lap of 58.627 seconds for a m.p.h. clocking of 153.512 which was two miles per hour faster than outside pole sitter Troyer. Evans set a new track record completing the 120 laps in 2 hours, 38 minutes and 45 seconds for an average speed of 113.385 m.p.h.. Evans led 83 of 120 laps.
Other stats were 8 caution flags for 45 laps meaning that over one third of the event was run under the yellow. There were 17 lead changes between eight drivers. Those drivers leading the race besides Evans were Cook, Troyer, Bodine, Jarzombek, Bryant, Dave Thomas, and John Blewett Jr.. The estimated attendence was in the vicinity of 27,000.
Dan Mason was awarded best appearing car and Tom Comerford took rookie of the year honors as he was the highest finishing first year RoC driver. He also showed the best progress for the day starting 58th in the 60 car field and finishing 15th for an improvement of 43 spots.
An interesting sidelight to this year’s RoC was that 20 of the 60 Modifieds starting the race were built by Troyer Engineering. An impressive showing for the man from Rochester, New York. Upon mentioning this to Mr. Troyer, he replied, “The fun’s in trying to keep them all running.” We should all have such a big problem, huh!
Several motors went up in smoke during RoC weekend. Approximately 25 to 30 engines would be a close estimate. Averaging them out at around six grand a piece it would come to about $150,000 in powerplants went to the junk pile.
From what I can see, the main reason for so many motors letting go is that most of the people running Modifieds can’t afford to put super high buck engines together that will hold up under the stress of a long track super speedway action.
After talking to many of the competitors and listening to many fans complain, I think the powers that be ought to look at the possibility of moving the annual event back to Trenton International Speedway. It’s the car owners who are really feeling the money crunch in racing and if the race was taken to a shorter track it would be to their advantage. Also the Modified fan would be able to enjoy racing on a track more suited to their liking rather than a speedway so enormous the they can’t tell who’s who on the back straights without binoculars.
I’d like to say that Mr. Gerber along with CAM2 Product Manager Robert Burtner and both their staffs went out of their way to make it an enjoyable weekend even though the weatherman tried his best to wreck everyone’s plans. Personally I’d like to thank Mr. Gerber, Tim Sullivan and Joe Mattioli III for the hospitality extended me as the former Promotional Director for Claremont Speedway and now a similar position with Speedway Scene.
Yes the 1979 RoC is history and the question now being asked is “Will EVANS win six more to break BODINE’S record of 54 wins set last season?” With approximately six to eight races left, it would seem to be an impossibility, but by the 25th of November we ought to know for sure.
EVANS, ROSATI “FALL FINAL” FAVORITES… This weekend is the FALL FINAL at Stafford Motor Speedway with twin 100 lap events scheduled on Sunday for both the Mod Squad and North Tour Late Model Sportsman. Both races are NASCAR sanctioned with the Modified 100 tagged as a National Championship event while the Sportsman will compete for North Tour points.
Saturday will find all cars taking time trials for the first ten starting spots with the remaining machines qualifying through heats.
Richie Evans would have to be considered the strong favorite to win the Mod half after his convincing RoC win last Sunday and Tom Rosati has to be the Sportsman favorite as Stafford was his home track a year ago. In two seasons at the track he only won approximately 25 races, “Rookie of the Year” honors in 1977 and two track titles. He also won the prestigious Oxford 250 this past summer.
Going into the FALL FINAL, Evans leads the NASCAR Modified National Championship Point Standings once again over Jerry Cook. Beaver Dragon leads the NASCAR North Tour Point Race over Hector LeClair, Gardiner Leavitt and Rosati. Andy Isbister is the current North leading candidate for the “Shearer Chevrolet” Rookie Crown.
NERF’ers NIBBLETS…….. I understand that Stafford Promoter Ed Yarrington was seen around 3 a.m. Sunday at the Pocono start-finish line doing an “Un-Rain Dance” in hopes of halting the rain at the RoC. The reason is, the RoC raindate would have put Big Ed’s FALL FINAL head to head with the Pocono event. Ya’ know what? Ed’s dance worked……. Word has it that Monadnock Speedway Head Flagman Jim Hanks will be handling the same duties for the NASCAR North Tour Late Models next year……. I understand that C.O.D.A. (Claremont Owners & Drivers Association) Officials would like to thank Ernie Hastings for all the advertising he gave them with his “20M C.O.D.A. Outlaw tee shirts”. Gee Ernie! Ya’ can’t win for losin’, tsk, tsk……. Speaking of Claremont Speedway, they’ll be running the Modified Sportsmans with the small block Modifieds come next season paying special bonus money to the 292 cid cars. They’ll also upgrade the Late Models somewhat and will be adding a pure Street Stock class as a third division……. Monadnock Speedway will run Modifieds, Late Models and a six cylinder class. The only thing not certain is on which day they’ll be running, but rumor has it that Thursday night could be it……. Birthday wishes go out to Nanci Newcomb on September 27th. Hey Puddles, how’s it feel to be “Sweet 16” and never been kissed? I bet……. Up and coming events for the next couple of weeks. The “Schaefer Super Dirt Week” is on tap starting Wednesday and running through Sunday at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. Seekonk Speedway hosts the “Eastern Fall Classic” on Sunday, October 7th. October 13th and 14th is the World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway……. Until next time, remember, All good NERFers will be at the FALL FINAL…….
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As Robert Echo mentions, the 1979 CAM2 Race of Champions was the first RoC he and I had ever attended. My father “double dipped” by representing his previous position at Claremont Speedway and his new one with Speedway Scene. Prior to arriving for the 1979 RoC, the biggest field we had ever witnessed was at the Thompson 300.
Back in those days the starting fields for the Thompson 300 and Race of Champions were similar in size. Visually Thompson’s 300 field covered a third of the 5/8th mile track giving it the appearance of a 24 car field at a bullring like the old 1/4 mile oval of Riverside Park Speedway. The CAM2 Race of Champions on the big 2-1/2 mile tri oval looked much less cramped, but every bit as impressive.
Peter Montano’s photograph at the beginning of this republished time piece captures the huge field of 60 Modifieds stretched out on the final pace lap. It also captures the strength of the division, and strength of the fan base. Oh, and what about that crowd? 27,000 strong!
Like many that weekend we camped in the parking lot behind the grand stands in our pop-up camper along with thousands of Modified fans from up and down the east coast. Many of the campers weren’t lined up as you might see nowadays they were in circles of 5 to 7, like the wagons of early settlers camped out from a long days ride. Within our circle were a group from New England; a few folks from New York; one from New Jersey and another two from the Carolinas.
Richie’s dominance that weekend in September of ’79 became crystal clear during Saturday’s time trials. Evans was released from the pit lane as the current Modified on track at speed, who’s driver and number escapes me, took the white flag and headed into his second lap. Richie, on that warm up lap, fresh out of pit lane caught and passed that very Modified between the tunnel turn and the entry to the corner on the backside of the speedway. For a moment arms of fans were extended pointing at the two Modifieds. It was the type of reaction one might see these days on TV where “witnesses” reenact a sighting of a UFO or Bigfoot, in awe of what just happened. At that moment, barring mechanical issues or heaven forbid an accident during the race itself, Richie had thrown down the gauntlet and put everyone on notice that the 1979 CAM2 Race of Champions was HIS RACE TO LOSE.
The only drivers that appeared to have something for Richie in the early goings were Geoff Bodine in a Chassis Dynamics Mustang bodied Modified that he built for New Hampshire hotshoe Allan Whipple and Maynard Troyer in yet another of his gorgeous Pinto bodied Modifieds. Bodine dropped out with mechanical issues and Troyer faded in the last third of the event finishing second. Richie Evans was not just fast that day, he was as many would say, ON RAILS. (Results can be found here on Speed51’s The Third Turn. A fantastic stat site that any fan will enjoy)
Coincidentally, Robert Echo’s call for moving the CAM2 Race of Champions to a more favorable, downsized, engine and owner friendly track came true. In 1980 the Gerber family moved the venue from the 2-1/2 mile Pocono tri-oval to the 3/4 mile Pocono oval that surrounded the pit area. The facility remained home to the RoC for many more years.
The 1980 edition of the CAM2 Race of Champions? Well, 2-1/2 mile tri-oval or 3/4 mile oval didn’t matter. Although the 1980 RoC was more of a contest, Richie wound up at the same place at the end of the 1980 RoC, VICTORY LANE. (Results for the 1980 RoC can be found here)
I’d like to extend my sincerest thanks to Peter Montano for allowing me to publish his photos from the 1979 Race of Champions with this 35 year old column. Peter used to have an online racing site called “PETE’S RACING SITE”. The site was filled with fantastic photos from the late 70’s and throughout the 80’s and 90’s featuring our beloved Modifieds. It was the “go-to” site to relive and get updates on the looks of your favorite Modified driver’s entry through many seasons. Although the site is no longer up Peter was very kind to permit me to post the photos. So very much appreciated sir!
*09/16/15 – Photo captions edited / reworded.