NERF'ers Corner by Robert Echo

A MISSED COLUMN AND A SAD WEEK

– FRIDAY, OCTOBER 19TH, 1979 –

A MISSED COLUMN AND A SAD WEEK

Yes, I did pen a NERF’ers CORNER last week…. No, I won’t hold the U.S. Postal Authorities responsible for the column not getting to the SPEEDWAY SCENE on time.

I will instead blame a fella who we all know or have heard of for sure. I’m talkin’ about the guy who’s credited with finding out the world was round or discovering America or whatever. Yes, it’s all Columbus’ fault.

If they hadn’t of given Ole Mr. C. his own day, a week ago last Monday, the post offices wouldn’t have been closed and the NERF’s words of wisdom might have made the SCENE.

Last week’s column covered my trip to Super Dirt Week at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse and I won’t rehash the happenings as they were well covered in JoAnn and Don Davies’ “New York Modified” column.

I would like to state that the event was just what the name implied, Super, despite all the rain and mud. I’d also like to congratulate Jumpin’ Jack Johnson for his win, the biggest of his career. He collected a cool $23,380 and a thousand dollar diamond gold ring.

This past week was one of mechanical breakdowns with the Ol’ NERF mobile. I’d like to thank NEMMA (New England Mini Modified Association) President Dan Meservey for getting the Ol’ Van goin’ at Lebanon Valley Speedway last Saturday evenin’. It would have been a cold night in the vehicle if it hadn’t have been for Dan and one of his friends.

Frank "Stroker" Smith's #311
Frank “Stroker” Smith’s famous #311, piloted by Bruce Batchelder in 1979 sits in the pit area  at Claremont Speedway in Claremont, NH.  Jim Snape photo.

This week was one filled with sorrow also as a close and dear friend of many at Claremont Speedway and a gentleman who I met just this year passed away.

Rather than write a story about the man, I figured I’d pay tribute to the gentleman by penning a poem and dedicating it to him and his family.

“THE OWNER, THE MAN”

He waited through every winter for Spring to appear;
   ‘Cause it dropped the green flag on a new racin’ year.
For 29 long years it was always this way;
   As he couldn’t seem to wait for opening day.
He started on dirt many years back;
   Racin’ almost every Northeastern racetrack.
New England dirt titles he won by the score;
   And no other owner ever won more.
Some who drove for him you might just know;
   There was Winot, Bosworth and Rabideau.
The latest to wheel the No. 311 for this feller;
   Is a guy by the name of Bruce Batchelder.
When area dirt died and blacktop made the scene;
   This ol’ gent built an asphalt Modified machine.
An on went this man with so much class;
   As he always built cars that would go very fast.
Second in points at Claremont in seventy-nine;
   Plus three wins to make his last season so fine.
He was always there when a competitor would seek;
   To help him get runnin’ for racin’ that week.
That’s the way he was, this grand ol’ man;
   Who lived and loved racin’ as much as his land.
The checkered flag hasn’t fallen on his racin’ fun;
   As he’s now gone at the age of seventy-one.
And even the many eyes are filled with a tear;
   He’ll be racin’ in heaven for many a year.
We’ll always remember this owner was no myth;
   For he was the one, the only FRANK “STROKER” SMITH.
God Bless You “STROKER”, you were a man among men;
   As a husband, a father, an owner, a friend.

I remember the last time I saw Frank Smith. It was Labor Day Weekend, September 2nd to be exact.

He was standing in victory lane with his No. 311 Vega, built by his close friend Jack Bateman, and with him were driver Bruce Batchelder, his son Russel, the rest of his crew, flagman Dave Kolenda, and Rusty Fowler, yours truly plus several photographers and friends.

They’d just scored one of the biggest wins of “Stroker’s” career. He collected three trophies for the day as he won the Burger King Whopper Classic, the CAM2 Race of Champions Qualifier and the Triple Crown Series. You’d of thought that Frank was a kid getting his first bicycle. This win or wins, whatever, put a sparkle in his eyes that we’ll always remember.

He was still going strong at a victory celebration at close to midnight after his weekend wins.

Two weeks later he awaited the arrival of his car, driver, son and crew until the wee hours of the morning to find out how they did at the Thompson 300. A second in the Non-Qualifiers race and a chance to start in the prestigious event had been his reward.

It’s ironic he left us just two days after the final racing event at Claremont Speedway.

Yes! Frank Smith was a dedicated racing man as is ascertained by his 29 seasons as an owner and he certainly lived his life to the utmost being involved in Northeastern auto racing for all those years.

What’s the old adage? “Gone, but not forgotten.” Well it definitely holds truth for all of us when it pertains to “Stroker”!

NERF’ers Nibblets… As I began this part of the column last week, I’ll try again only this time it’ll be a belated Happy Birthday greeting to my close friend and fellow writer, Toodi Gelinas… Hey Jaws! Da King’s climbin’ in yer back pocket! That’s right! Richard Petty is now only 17 points behind Darrell Waltrip in the chase for the Grand National title with three events to go… Wow! Ed Kennedy! “Rookie of the Year”, two seasons in a row? First Riverside Park and now Monadnock. Maybe if ya run somewhere else next year, ya might make it three in a row. Do you, the fan, know what constitutes a Rookie? I do, but evidently some speedways don’t. Anyway Ed, congratulations. It’s not your fault… Belated Happy Birthday greetings to Lenny and Steven Newcomb and Faith Stevens, all this past week… After reading one writer’s column last week, I must tell him that you can’t sit astride the fence because it’s liable to collapse and leave you with a splinter in your you-know-what. In stealing your line, I’d have to say, you should get your facts straight… I have two $15 tickets for the Cardinal 500 in Martinsville at the start/finish line for October 28th. You can get them for $10 apiece. If interested, call me before the 24th… Hey David Kolenda! DIRT of Central New York Flagman Bob Watson, considered by many to be one of the top Flaggers in the country, hangs his leg over the side of the Starters Stand. His reason, to get closer to the action. Score one for the Polish Powered Flagman, huh Dave? Right!… The Ty-Rods Auto Club will hold their 6th Annual Automotive Swap Meet at Stafford Motor Speedway on Sunday, October 21st. You’ll find Street Rod, Antique, Stock Car, and Drag Racing cars and parts… I wanta thank Ken Bingham, Sue and Darlene for all their help and hospitality at Super Dirt Week. Thanks again guys!… Anyone having any old gasoline powered toy race cars can contact Corky Stockham. He’ll pay you $$$ for them… When Smokey Snellbaker was asked what he thought of Lincoln Speedway after winning that track’s guaranteed starting spot in the Super Nationals he replied, “I don’t like it.” That’s telling it like it is!… In the Super Dirt Week Boo Boo Department, C.D. Coville was eliminated in an early race accident while running under caution. No! He didn’t crash with another car or by himself. One of the Fire Safety Trucks ran into Coville head on leaving C.D. Just a bit upset. What I should say is, he was a whole lot upset about the incident and rightly so… Till next time.. “Keep On Trackin’!”

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