Penn Can, Shangri-La, New Evergreen and Some Other Things…

– Friday, May 9th, 1980 –

The OL’ NERF took a seven-hundred mile round trip jaunt last weekend to New York’s Southern Tier and into North Central Pennsylvania.

Friday Afternoon I arrived at Penn-Can Speedway just outside the small hill community of Susquehanna, PA., which is only a handful of miles south of the New York state line.

Penn-Can is leased by the Susquehanna County Stock Car Club from track owner L.C. Beaven. The S.C.S.C.C. is an owner and drivers club much like the Claremont Owners and Drivers Association which governs the racing at Claremont [NH] Speedway or the Southern New York Racing Association who heads up the program at the Danbury [CT] Fair Racearena.

Like C.O.D.A. and S.N.Y.R.A. the S.C.S.C.C. handles the operations of their 3/8-mile semi-banked clay oval. They do everything from the maintenance of the facility to running of the races to operation of the food concessions. They determine the payoff for the four-classes that run every Friday night including the Modified Sportsman, Strictly Street Stock, Tiger Division and the new Amateur Pure Stock Class which is a claiming division.

Jim Randall, a New York State Trooper, serves as the Club’s President, while 1979 Strictly Street Stock Champion, Butch Dibble, handles the Vice President’s chores, and John Ames is the Secretary-Treasurer.

The S.C.S.C.C. is struggling to keep Penn-Can operating and if determination is the name of the game, then the club should win their battle, especially if all it’s members pull together.

My arrival at approximately 4pm at Penn-Can was under clear blue skies, but a half hour later the same skies erupted in a half-hour long downpour like I’ve never seen before. The skies then cleared somewhat, but still continued to cast an intermittent drizzle. About 6:30pm the rains stopped and the club sent all the vehicles it could find onto the track to work it in. After an hour of this, a driver’s meeting was held and, it was decided that the track was unrace-able,  so the night’s racing program was cancelled.

Saturday, it was on to Dale Campfield’s Shangri-La Speedway for the “I Love New York ’80”, which included twin 40-lappers for the Supermodifieds and Modifieds.

There were 25 Supers and 42 Mods in the pits at the Owego, NY 1/2-mile asphalt oval. It was a good show with Bob Stelter in his flip-flop winged roadster besting the field of Supers while George Kent made a shambles of the Modified segment.

Bob-StelterCampfield, along with his army of workers and volunteers, have made Shangri-La a beautiful racing facility. They’ve installed red and white canvas across the back of the grandstand to act as a wind breaker. The spectator area is enhanced by a well kept grassy surface and many flowers, while the infield shows the same landscaping complete with a flower garden.

The personable Campfield has brought the the Owego track back from obscurity and the proof of this is he’s drawn two capacity crowds in three starts to date, with the other event not too far from a sellout.

After the Shangri-La race I headed south down Interstate 81 for the tiny town of St. Johns, PA, where New Evergreen Speedway is located.

The 1/3-mile oval, one of only three asphalt tracks in Pennsylvania, the others being Pocono International Raceway and Dorney Park Speedway, is operated by Charles Spencer, who rules over race day proceedings from the front seat of his car due to the loss of his left leg.

New Evergreen, in it’s fourth year of operation under Spencer after being closed for several years, runs three divisions, including Modified Sportsman, Late Models and Street Stocks.

The crowd at New Evergreen was great on Sunday afternoon, and the field of cars were excellent with two Troyer Engineering machines among the thirty Mods in attendance, along with Brett Bodine who’s brother won Pocono a couple of years ago. The track has a good looking Late Model class and newly started Street Stock division, which still is in need of some cars.

New Evergreen is a family run facility. Other Spencers in management capacities besides owner Charles are Ed, who’s the Chief Official, Leroy, who handles the Head Starter’s job, Larry, who’s the Handicapper, and Sy, who takes care of the Souvenir Stand.

The racing action was close with Tony Hirschman in his Troyer mount winning the Mod event, while popular Tom Lushi, Jr. took the Late Model feature and the Street Stock race went to Curt Kromis.

The crowd was good enough and the field of Mods including five Wall Stadium cars, was sufficient to warrant a purse increase by management. The winner of the Mod event will pocket $600 starting this week instead of the $400 they were paying for first spot. Racing action moves to Friday nights beginning this week at New Evergreen.

Westboro-Pace-Car-Gerry-HerAt the conclusion of Sunday’s racing program, the Ol’ Nerf headed home and on the way back up Interstate 84, I thought I was entering heaven passing through such places as Greentown, Promised Land and finally Lord’s Valley. Maybe someone was trying to tell me something, huh?

NERF’ERS NIBBLETS…  Bill Alsup, who finished seventh at Ontario [CA] Motor Speedway in the first Indy car event of 1980, is working the bugs out of his new PC-7 Penske/Cosworth machine at Indianapolis [IN] Motor Speedway. The 31-year-old Alsup will be competing for rookie honors if he makes the 33 car Memorial Day “Indy 500 Classic” field…  Send a get well card or letter to Harvey Tattersall, promoter of Waterford Speedbowl, who is recovering from eye surgery at home [address withheld]…  Stan Meserve’s late Model Sportsman carries a sponsor with the name Rice Hill. I wonder if they call it Paddy Wagon?…  Congratulations to Mike Rowe who made it two in a row at Oxford Plains Speedway. he once again beat several of the NASCAR North high dollar cars and a couple of ASA style Late Models. He’s gaining the name of “Rapid Rowe”, as this was his third win in three outings for his Saturday Night Oxford legal car…  Word has it that Jeff Stevens lost his big buck Ray Baker engine in the garage on Saturday preceding Oxford. The motor was in his beautiful #44 Howe chassis Camaro… Perry [NY] Speedway will begin it’s season on Sunday, May 25th, with a regular including Limited Late Model Sportsman, Pure Stocks, Three-Quarter Midgets and Spectator Races. The facility is under the first year promotion of Rick Faulks…  The We-Go Racing Fan Club is looking for new members. The club supports auto racing in various ways, including fan appreciation night at several speedways, by presenting awards to both dirt and asphalt racing people, holding their own summer picnic and an annual winter banquet. The club runs Souvenir Stands at both Shangri-La Speedway and Five Mile Point Speedway. If you want to join, send $1 Initiation Fee plus $5 Yearly Dues to: We-Go Racing Fan Club [address withheld]. This all entitles you to a Membership Card, Club Picnic and discounts on Banquet tickets…  By the way, We-Go Racing Fan Club President, Ann Stevens and husband Don along with a friend, tried to get the Ol’ Nerf lost after the Shangri-La race by taking me for a ride along the “Denny Wheeler Expressway” outside of Owego. For shame, for shame…

Don’t forget to listen to WTSV AM 1230 or WECM-FM 106 out of Claremont, NH this Saturday at Noon. You’ll get to hear me and show host Dave Kolenda…  Till next time, “Watch for one of Speedway Scene’s Promotional Team Members at your favorite track!”

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Postscript

Any racing fan growing up in the ’70’s and ’80’s knows the dreadful months of April and May were our enemies as kids, especially if there was an event far from home that required leaving in the morning or early afternoon on Friday. Sometimes our parents gave us the nod allowing us to miss school, while other times we got the dreaded news, “no travel for you!”

This was one of those weekends where I was still able to attend Stafford with friends and Riverside Park with family and friends, but without the NERF. However, on many occasions I had the opportunity to meet and spend time with Dale Campfield. The gentleman was every bit the personable individual my father described. He had all the right qualities for a speedway promoter and more so. Dale was always upbeat, said hello with a smile to every fan he ran into. He always showed appreciation to anyone who visited and attended Shangri-La, driver, team, fan, sponsor or media alike. He and the NERF hit it off very easy. Both were great promoters and people persons. Outside of his Shangri-La Speedway Dale Campfield was always willing to help with other racing events and was big supporter of the Racearama when it came to be in 1981. He even penned a column now and again for Speedway Scene.

Ann and Don Stevens.. What do you say about two of the sweetest people one could ever meet. That weekend was the first time the NERF met Ann, Don and members of the We-Go Racing Fan Club, but just like Dale Campfield, it certainly wasn’t the last. We stayed at Ann and Don’s repeatedly when we were in the area. It didn’t matter if we were or were not attending a track they were at on any particular night. If we were around the area we stayed with them. They went so far as to give my father a key to their place should we show up early or late. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

There’s something to be said about Racing Family.

Thanks for reading..

– Jared

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Old Man ’78, Gone But Not Forgotten

– Friday, January 5th, 1979 –

Old Man ’78” has now passed from our midst and with it went twelve months filled with many happenings in NERF’ers Land. It was definitely a year of thrills, mysteries, controversies, tragedies and oh yes, some big surprises.

The question that will be running through the heads of many racing fans, drivers, owners and promoters in the Northeast is, “What will 1979 hold for the auto racing world or more exact, for us within the coverage area of this publication?”
 
It’s also time, once again, for “New Year Resolutions” and a little later on in this column we’ll give you our promises for ’79.
But for now, let’s review some of the happenings that made 1978 a very interesting year in Northeast auto racing. We’ll take it item by item as listed in the first paragraph of this conglomeration of illiterature, heh, heh.
 
Thrills
1. The battle between Richie Evans and Jerry Cook for the National NASCAR Modified Championship.
2. The head to head track duels between Geoff Bodine and Maynard Troyer.
3. The miraculous fight for life and recovery shown by the “Big OOllie Silva.
4. Seeing the fantastic support exhibited by competitors and fans at the “Fred DeSarroMemorial Race.
5. Watching the weekly antics of Seymour the Clown at Stafford Motor Speedway, especially his daffynitions of the flags.
Richie Evans
Richie Evans won the NASCAR National Modified Championship over Jerry Cook in 1978. Seen here at speed at Monadnock Speedway in 1978. Mario Fiore collection.
Mysteries
1. Why did the mighty Firestone suddenly go flat in the racing tire industry?
2. What super setup was really hidden under the rear wheel canvas of the “Big Red Machine“?
3. What kind of unearthly problem was built into the beautiful new #711 driven by Bob Polverari?
4. Whatever happened to crowd pleasing Modified chargers John Anderson and Roger Westbrook?
5. Why Riverside Park Speedway and NASCAR continues to let John Tallini handle the track’s flagging duties?
Controversies
1. The Geoff Bodine bumping incidents with Ken Bouchard, George Savory, Bugs Stevens and Richie Evans.
2. The battle between Riverside Park’s NASCAR officials and Fred Felton, over his #11MA Monza known as the “Radical Racer“.
3. Eddie Flemke not running Stafford Motor Speedway after an early season conflict with the track’s NASCAR officials.
4. The refusal to let the Bugs Stevens, Ron Bouchard and Geoff Bodine Fan Clubs sell certain articles at Stafford by Mike Adeskaveg.
5. The “T-Shirt” hassle between Oval Track Design’s Fred Poteto and Riverside Park Speedway concessionaire, Shany Lorenzet.
Marty Radewick
Fred Felton’s Radical Racer Modified were turned away again and again at the Park in 1978. The previous reported issues at Stafford were resolved. Jim Snape photo.
Tragedies
1. The loss of Fred DeSarro, one of New England’s finest Modified chauffeurs and former National NASCAR Modified Champion.
2. The death of probably greatest Modified dirt drivers ever and super car builder Dick Toby Tobias.
3. The Northeast also lost another fine Modified dirt wheel man with the passing of Mike Grbac.
4. Andy Maine wasn’t a driver, but his death left a definite void in auto racing as part of the CFA team.
5. The deaths of Formula One drivers Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, both of Sweeden, within a couple of weeks time was a shocker.
1978 saw the tragic loss of Modified ace, Fred DeSarro. 1976 Howie Hodge photo.
1978 saw the tragic loss of beloved New England Modified ace, Fred DeSarro. 1976 Howie Hodge photo.
 Surprises
1. The No. 1 Racing Team breakup and Geoff Bodine, along with Billy Taylor, joining the Bob JohnsonJack Beebe GN venture.
2. Personable Stan Greger winning the Riverside Park Speedway NASCAR Modified Championship in Billy Simons #9.
3. Geoff Bodine’s complete domination of Modified racing in Dick Armstrong’s Nu Style Jewelry Pinto.
4. Sonny Fleury, owner of Claremont Speedway, turning the track over to the owners and drivers to operate in 1979.
5. Stafford Motor Speedway’s PR man Mike Joy heading South for a similar job at Daytona and John McMullin taking over for him.
Geoff Bodine puts down some practice laps in his Dick Armstrong Nu Style Pinto bodied Modified at Riverside Park Speedway (1978). Mario Fiore photo.
Geoff Bodine and Dick Armstrong’s Nu Style Modified team absolutely dominated in 1978 and then shocked everyone at the end of the season by going their separate ways. Mario Fiore photo.
1978 was definitely a year of many happenings and no one can predict what the new year holds for auto racing, but here’s hoping that the next 360 some days offer us a lot of good Speedway action and a lot less tragedy.
 
Checkered Chatter… Fans who venture to Stafford in 1979 will treated to the “Spring Sizzler“, the “Mark’s Auto Parts 100“, “Ferrara 100“, “Winston 100“, the “200 at Stafford” and the  Modified – Late Model Doubleheader plus 14 regular season racing events… Ron Bouchard has also stated that he will campaign at Seekonk Speedway in 1979 as it is rumored that D. Anthony Vendetti will up the Modified purse on top by 100 bucks… Ernie Clark has purchased Bob Polverari’s #711 Vega that brought him the 1976 and 1977 Riverside Park titles and will put 1978 RiversideRookie of the YearEd Kennedy behind the wheel… NASCAR Grand National Champion, Cale Yarborough, who collected a single season record of $530,751 for Junior Johnson’s Oldsmobile team, was selected as “Driver of the Year” by the National Motorsports Press AssociationRiverside Park will not only lose a driver or two, they will also lose a faithful Bob Polverari follower as Scott Rodowicz will vacate the Park for greener pastures, Army green that is… Oh yeah! Here’s a resolution I promise ya. Here goes! I do hereby promise not to pick on anyone named Geoff Bodine or Bunky Skawski. I wish Geoff the best of luck as he joins the big boys on the Grand National circuit and Bunky doesn’t have to worry about me any longer as I’ll spend my Saturday nights at Claremont Speedway in 1979. Gee! Ain’t ya’ glad Bunky… Til we meet again, I wish everyone in NERF’ers Land a “Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.”