It’s Certainly NOT Race Promoters Misleading..

Mid morning on a rainy Saturday in Owego, New York, Shangri-La Speedway’s beloved and successful speedway promoter Dale Campfield, Robert Echo and myself are in the track office. We’re all about to leave for some lunch. Dale, always a cheery, well spoken gentleman says, “Oh! Hold on a second! I have to change the track answering machine.”

Dale pushes a couple of buttons and starts to speak, “Hello Racing fans! It’s going to be a gorgeous Saturday night of racing here at Shangri-La Speedway! The rain has stopped and the skies are clearing! So bring the family down to Shangri-La Speedway for a great time! Gates open at four pm, racing starts at seven!”

He clicked the machine and played the message back. Once he was assured it recorded perfectly, he set the answering machine in motion and said, “Okay fellas, let’s go get something to eat! I know a great place not far from here.”

This tactic wasn’t the least bit surprising back in the day. Damn near every facility office we had been to had similar practices. Some times it worked, as the rain ceased and track dried. Sometimes the answering machine was changed an hour or two prior to the gates opening as the rain continued to fall.

In the day and age of social media, weather apps and the world wide web at our finger tips, these practices are a thing of auto racing promotions past. The days of no-shows by drivers and teams listed on a series or track roster by way of paid entries, handshake or committing verbally with a promoter however, are still around and will always be a part of auto racing. Anyone who tells you otherwise is leaving out one key element, HISTORY. Not just open Modified show HISTORY.

Every, and I mean EVERY inaugural open Modified event that has started up in the last 10 years has struggled with no-shows. the Seekonk Speedway opens, the SBM125, the Tri Track Series and the latest, Gary Knight’s Modified Touring Series Winchester 200, which was held at Monadnock Speedway.

New events that are off the beaten path of sanctioning bodies and series start off with question marks. Once the teams, drivers and fans see that promoters and management teams are legit the shows grow spines and gather steam. The car counts climb and fan turnouts continue to rise with each season that follows.

The inaugural SBM125 had a car count in the teens and that car count and crowd grew over the following seasons. Seekonk Speedway’s yearly open Modified show, which is now part of the NorthEast Tri Track Open Modified Series, struggled with car counts in the early goings. The inaugural Tri Track Open Modified event at Lee USA Speedway, the Bullring Bash of 2014, had verbal commitments by teams from Long Island and the WMT and none were more disappointed when those teams pulled their no-shows than the series promoters and organizers themselves.

This years inaugural Modified Touring Series event, the Winchester 200, recently held at Monadnock Speedway, had a lesser car count than expected and hoped for. However, the promoters, sponsors and fans appreciated those teams putting their expensive machines on the line to support the event. Additionally, it’s safe to say the teams and drivers who competed were just as grateful for the purse and fan turn out. It’s appreciating the efforts and being positive to those that do support the event which helps the division as a whole.

These promoters work their hind-ends off to put up a great payout and an equally good show for the fans, yet they continue to walk into the same repetitive proverbial one monkey excrement fight at the zoo.

The latest shots started late last season when the NorthEast Race Cars TRI-TRACK Open Modified Series’ organizers were unjustly accused of purposely withholding information from the fans prior to an event at the Nutmeg State’s third mile New London-Waterford Speedbowl’s asphalt oval.. For one single no-show. One.

The accusations were directed at the NorthEast Race Cars Tri Track Open Modified Series organizers and promoters by the same blogger who’s either absolutely terrible with auto racing history or purposely omitting facts of auto racing history to serve his own spiteful agenda.

They were accused of having prior knowledge a certain young talented driver, by the name of Tommy Barrett, Jr., was not showing up for the event. The accuser claimed series organizers and promoters knew a day or so prior to the event that the hot shoe wasn’t coming. So, in the accuser’s eyes, because the promotional team didn’t put out an all points bulletin or sound the alarms in order to inform fans one (a single, uno, unum, yes one..) driver wasn’t going to be in attendance, they falsely threw promoters under the bus by claiming the promoters purposely deceived fans and used misleading and dirty promotional tactics to do so.

These silly accusations towards the NorthEast Race Cars Tri Track Open Modified Series were regurgitated by the same accuser while recently criticizing the advertised roster of the new Modified Touring Series’ big money “Winchester 200”.

In order to make any outrageous claims or accusations such as the aforementioned, the individual slinging said fecal matter would have to be extremely uneducated and oblivious with the inner workings of any series or speedway management and promotions. Thus they would equally have to be terribly lazy in basic fact finding questioning of speedway and series management. To put it mildly the one throwing the stones would have to be poor at paying attention to promotional procedures that have existed since motorsports began.

What about these no-shows? Just as in everyday life, drivers, owners, crew members and their machines experience issues forcing them to change plans. Some avoidable and some unavoidable. These issues and, in some cases, broken promises are guaranteed to happen. It’s a part of the sport. Decades upon decades of history shows that, but then again the same blogger would have to be educated on the history of the sport which as the same short history of the accuser would show, time and time again, they are not.

Rosters for open shows, series and speedways are normally, but not always, based off of pre-paid entries. Everyone involved in the sport is well aware tracks list rosters in their weekly programs, should they have one, and/or on their websites. These rosters are comprised of much the same procedure. A team applies for a license or fills a registration sheet and pays the fee. The teams and drivers are then added to the track or series roster. For some tracks and series it’s a word of mouth type deal. In some cases it’s a cross between paid entries, hand shakes and word of mouth. Usually, where tracks are concerned, as the season rolls along and the occasional newbie shows up to compete, their team and driver are added to the roster.

Everyone involved in the sport is well aware through the years there have been hundreds of scenarios preventing a driver with a paid entry or verbal commitment for an event to no show. In every instance when these scenarios unfolded..

Did the speedways or series promoters make announcements a day or two in advance stating any of these drivers wouldn’t be in attendance? No.

Were these tracks or series promoters expected to announce to the fans, in a short notice press release, of all the rumored or informed no-shows? No.

Were these tracks or series promoters accused of false advertisement? No.

Wouldn’t you think that a blogger who occupies the press box of speedway facilities using the very same procedures for decades would be knowledgeable of this information and refrain from spewing such digital media nonsense?
Yes.

It’s NOT the responsibility of the track, series or promoters in that short of notice..

Just like the fans, the promoters of not just series, but every short track facility across the country hold out hope. Promoters and fans always hope maybe, just maybe a contending team on their roster might show up to their Saturday event after said team wrecked hard on Friday night. The same hope is held out for a driver who is yet to be cleared by a doctor to compete after being injured during the work week or the past race weekend.

In this case, for the accuser, was it honestly so hard to fathom the promoters were holding out hope that the matters concerning the the potential no-show would be resolved prior to race day and thus would allow the one single driver to compete. It would seem so. But based on the blogger’s history of opinionated write-ups and “news reports” on Open Modified shows, it’s highly doubtful and more so would fall under another smear campaign.

It was just far too tasty a morsel for the mud-slinger to pass up an opportunity to drag out the same horse’s rotted corpse and commencing with another round of swings. It was far too easy leaving out obvious long standing key facts of speedway and series management and promotions that have existed since the sports humble beginnings.

It’s not surprising in the least given it’s just another baseless shot against the same series and open shows by the accuser over the years.

How about this..

A day or two prior to a short track racing event, name the last time you have heard any series or speedway PR camp making an announcement (via short notice press release, website, social media post or even radio for that matter) with a list of those on the advertised rosters who are rumored or known to NOT be competing..

Anyone? Anybody?

That’s right!.. It has hardly EVER happened in the past and for that reason IT SHOULDN’T BE EXPECTED in the future.

In that time frame / short notice, the event staff have a race day to prepare for. It’s called WORK and PREPARATION (Something the accuser has chosen to forget in terms of the sport’s history). In these days of social media leave those late announcements to the media and the teams themselves to inform fans. With a couple days left for the show, it’s NOT the track, series management nor the promoter’s responsibility. Heck, back in the day, you only found out by showing up to the track or hearing prior through the grape-vine or rumors.

How about the basic subject by the blogger that promoters purposely mislead the fans? Why is it these accusations are only focused on the Open Modified event promoters? I think we all know the answer. Otherwise, the fecal-slinger would have to throw a tandem load of accusations towards the Northeast speedways and series who list and advertise 2016 Rosters on their sites and have plenty of weekly no-shows, including some facilities and series he himself attend or cover on site.

  • Valenti Modified Racing Series
  • NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
  • ACT
  • PASS
  • Monadnock Speedway (Winchester, NH)
  • Lee USA Speedway (Lee, NH)
  • Star Speedway (Epping, NH)
  • Riverhead Raceway (Riverhead, Long Island, NY)
  • Stafford Motor Speedway (Stafford Springs, CT)

Prime example: Stafford Motor Speedway’s 2016 SK Modified Roster alone lists over 50 SK Modified entries.

How many of these drivers and teams have shown up each week to compete? Certainly not the 50 plus listed.

Does the speedway make a prior announcement as to the rumored or known no-shows?
Nope.

Does this mean Stafford’s Management and Promotional team are deceiving, being misleading or pulling one over on the fans?
Of course not!

It’s preposterous for a veteran member of the media (and I use that term loosely in this case) to believe it’s the track, series, organizers or promoters responsibility to inform in that short of notice. Thus accusations of any misleading by the open Modified event staff is equally as preposterous.

Oh, but damn those evil dirty pool playing Open Modified show promoters!.. Pffffft! Absolute nonsense!

Misleading?.. It sure seems like it, but not from track, series or event organizers and promoters. Then again, by somewhat using a variation of the line the aforementioned blogger is well known for in his many rantings and comments, why let the simple facts of the long standing history of our sports management and promotional side get in the way of a good smear story, right?

Disregard the fecal-slinging-monkey and his repetitive smear campaign. Celebrate the fact promoters like Jim Schaefer, Dick Williams and staff, the team at Seekonk Speedway and the latest gentleman to throw his hat in the ring, Gary Knight and staff, are working their hind-ends off to put on high-dollar pay-out shows for you, the fans, that they themselves as fans want to see.

Modified fans from all over give their hard earned money to not only attend but support the event with sponsorship and lap money. Businesses sponsor not only the racing events themselves, but awards and laps. The money taken in by most of the open shows go directly to the teams and drivers competing. Other than paying for costs of being part of the racing program almost every darn dollar goes back to those who have shown up to put their expensive equipment and lives on the line to compete.

The open shows are nothing, but POSITIVE for the asphalt Modifieds. These folks should be applauded for sticking their necks out on the line for the Modified racing division’s benefit. What should be praised are the teams that show up to compete, fans that show up to support and enjoy the events, staff and speedways that put on the events and media who show up to cover and report on them.

*Rendered photo published prior in a 1981 Speedway Scene issue by Vin Hilliard.

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Rest In Peace Ron Bouchard

As I sit here soaking in the dreadful news of the passing of Ron Bouchard, great memories fly by in my head. I met him plenty of times as a kid after the races and watched him put on many great performances through the years. But the one memory that I think of is the moment some of us found out Ron was victorious in the 1981 Talladega 500.

Howie Hodge photo.
Howie Hodge photo.

On Sunday, August 2nd, 1981 My father and I along with many were attending a Modified-SuperModified double header at Oswego Speedway. The radio broadcast of the Talladega 500 wasn’t being piped in over the speedway intercom, but the reaction this little kid witnessed, when the results of the race were announced as I stood in the mostly empty grandstands at Oswego Speedway summed up what Ron meant to all of us in the Northeast auto racing community.

As the infield pit area was starting to fill up and teams were in the process of unloading, track announcer, Roy Sova turned on his microphone quite early to make an announcement, “Attention everyone here at Oswego Speedway! Welcome. We just wanted to let everyone who wasn’t listening in on the race taking place in Talladega, Alabama..

..RON BOUCHARD HAS WON THE TALLADEGA 500!..

Hearing the news, one of Richie Evans’ crew members, who was unloading tires, (I believe it may have been Kenny Hartung) tossed one of the Good Years up in the air in reaction with raised arms and clenched fists. Celebrations, applause, arms raised in victory, fists punching the air and folks patting each other on the back could be seen throughout the infield pit area. Screams and howls of approval could be heard from outside the track, in the parking lot, and under the grandstands from those walking inside the gates as well as those working in the concessions.

Howie Hodge photo
Howie Hodge photo

It was such a natural reaction from everyone on the speedway grounds in celebration of the amazing news that one of our very own just won one of the biggest events in NASCAR’s elite series.

The replay of that moment has continued to roll around in my head as I write this..

While Ron’s family, friends, fans, fellow competitors and press (including the NERF himself) that passed before him greeted Ron with open arms in heaven, Ron’s family and friends can take comfort that on this day everyone in the Northeast and those who had the privilege of witnessing his talent behind the wheel and kindness off the track are with them in spirit and share in their loss. The memories he gave us will forever be cherished and never forgotten.

Thank you Ron for all the wonderful memories you have provided us all throughout the years.

The Echo family would like to express our most sincerest thoughts and prayers to Ron Bouchard’s family and friends. We pray for strength for his family and friends in this trying time during the Holiday season.

RIP Ron Bouchard. God Speed.

Speedline-1

-Jared

*Featured image courtesy of Howie Hodge.

A Bunch of Hicks and a Couple of Flatlanders

September-19-1979–  FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 19TH, 1979  –

Well! Long time no see or maybe I should say long time no write as it’s been a couple months since I last penned a NERF’ers Corner.

I found it too tough to write this weekly column while doing the Public Relations and Promotional Director duties at Claremont Speedway. Add to this the announcing chores and the putting together of the speedway’s program, the “Checkered Review“, and you have a pretty full week’s work. Well, guess what? That’s not all I had to do every week. I also held down a full time job as a salesman for Wholesale Sundries Company in Springfield, Mass.

I’ll let you know that I’ve resigned my position with Claremont Speedway as of the last regular season racing date and have also left the Springfield, Mass firm moving into a full time position within auto racing. I won’t get into my new job as you can read that story elsewhere within the pages of SPEEDWAY SCENE.

Taken from the July 13, 1979 Speedway Scene.
Taken from the July 13, 1979 SPEEDWAY SCENE.

What I’ve encountered this past season only happens once in a lifetime and I wish that every person who reads this column could have been part of this experience.

I’ve met and become friends with the people of the North over the last nine months. They refer to us who live below the Northern Massachusetts border as “Flatlanders” and we have a tendency to call them “Hicks” or “Country Folk“, but no matter what you call them they have dedication, desire and above all an undying pride.

Track owner E.L. “Sonny” Fleury turned over the track to the owners and drivers to operate after the 1978 season had been completed. It was at this time that the Claremont Owners & Drivers Association was born. The organization is better known as C.O.D.A., a name that in 1979 has been on the lips of the northeastern racing fans more than any other racing group.

C.O.D.A. then took me aboard as their Public Relations and Promotional Director, plus Track Announcer.

Prior to the 1979 season, I told many people I was going to work at Claremont Speedway in hopes of rekindling interest in the New Hampshire speed plant. Well, the reply I got in most instances was of the negative type. Many stated an owner and driver run speedway wouldn’t work, couldn’t work, can’t work, never had worked in the past; in other words those “Hicks” up in Claremont were idiots to think they could do what nobody else had ever done before. Some people even went so far as to give me their condolences upon hearing of my going to Claremont.

Well! The season has been completed and all of it under the C.O.D.A. banner. 1979 is considered to be the most successful year in many. Eighteen racing dates were cut to sixteen with only two rainouts and the total fan turnout for the season was near the 40,000 mark including the pits making an average turnout per date somewhere around 2,500, a huge increase over the last year. Claremont seats an estimated 4,300 and on July 25th there was a standing room only crowd of better than 4,700 fans for a regular racing program and “Super Demo ’79-Shoot Out No. 3“.

Taken from the August 17th Speedway Scene.
Taken from the August 17th SPEEDWAY SCENE.

All in all, it was a great season at the little speedway located at the end of the Modified world to the north.

There’s a lot of people that should be thanked for volunteering their time in keeping Claremont running each and every week. The list is much too long to print in this column but there are some who definitely have to be given credit. The first would have to be Sonny Fleury who had the confidence to turn the track over to the owners and drivers. One man who stands tall among the others is Dave Kolenda who handled the secretarial duties for C.O.D.A. in 1979 plus the Head Flagman’s job. He did everything from figuring the weekly payoffs to writing letters to running the racing program each week. His average time spent on C.O.D.A. and Claremont Speedway related work each week was between fifty and sixty hours and all of it for no pay. One more person who has to be thanked is Nate Bly who did everything from pulling weeds to painting and cleaning the restrooms which he also did for nothing. Ninety-nine percent of the people who worked at Claremont in ’79 including the Technical Staff, Wreckers, Infield Crew, Scorers, Starters, Photographers, Ticket Sellers and Takers, Rule Committee and C.O.D.A. Officers received no pay. They should all be praised and thanked for their contribution to Claremont Speedway this year.

All of the businesses who sponsored races, special events, bought billboards, furnished pace cars or products should be thanked for giving their total support to C.O.D.A. and Claremont Speedway in 1979.

The fans who turned out to support the track this past year should be thanked, for without them none of this would have worked.

Yes, it has been a great year, a fun year. New friends have been made. There’s a totally different outlook on auto racing at Claremont now.

No one really knows what’ll happen in the future years at Claremont, but we all know it was a “Super ’79” up north.

We did it!!! A bunch of “Hicks” and a couple of “Flatlanders“.

NERF’ers Nibblets . . . . Don’t forget the “Thompson 300” this weekend. Super weekend, super cars, super show, super stars, Don’t miss it. . . . It’s also the weekend for the “New England 300” at Catamount Stadium. A NASCAR North Tour Championship event. . . . New Monadnock Raceway owner Bill Davis is as fine a gentleman as you’d want to meet, but he’s got a tough road to hoe in trying to undo what the former owner did. NASCAR sure hasn’t helped the facility and C.O.D.A. has voted to keep the sixty-mile radius rule for 1980 once again leaving Monadnock in a bad situation. . . . Dave Grantz has a good looking #79 Pinto-bodied Modified for sale. If you’re interested, get a hold of him by calling Westford, Mass. info. . . . Brian Ross has got to be the most humble gentleman in auto racing when it comes to victory or defeat. He’s really good for the sport as he always gives credit where credit is due. . . . Next Weekend is the “CAM-2 Race of Champions” at Pocono International Raceway. Take the beautiful ride through the Pocono Mountains to see the biggie at Pocono. . . . Don’t forget the “Fall Final” at Stafford on September 29th and 30th. Twin events including a 100-lap NASCAR National Championship Modified race and a 100-lap NASCAR North Tour Late Model feature – don’t miss it. . . . October 6th is a special benefit race at Claremont Speedway with all the proceeds going to the Easter Seals program in the area. . . . The “Italian Connection#44 Racing Team had their problems last Sunday. They blew a head gasket and lost a clutch in their hauler on the way to Monadnock and the NERF towed them in with the Fred Felton hauler and then the Reggie Ruggiero got caught up in the wrong place while leading and crashed. No more reverse victory laps Reg. . . . Claremont Late Model Champion Jim Boniface finished third at Monadnock on ten inch tires while winner Jerry Marquis and runner-up Allen Darrah were on 15’s. . . . Allen Whipple and Marty Radewick finished second and third to Ross at Monadnock. Both were in Claremont cars as Gary Caron finished fifth in his 292c.i. coupe. . . . Till next week – “NERF’ers do it at the Speedway!

Postscript
In 1980 Bob Echo received a phone call about this and teared up. It was an honor he remembered for the rest of his life. (Click photo to view article)
In 1980 Bob Echo received a phone call about this and teared up. It was an honor he remembered for the rest of his life. (Left click the photo to see enlarged version and read the article)

A few things.. 

For one.. The “Hicks” and “Flatlander” thing was a running joke. Before the 1979 season started my father had told Dave and the C.O.D.A. officers about some of the negative comments he’d gotten when he informed folks that he had taken on the position at Claremont Speedway. If I remember correctly, it was Dave Kolenda who answered jokingly, “We had the same reaction when we told everyone we’d hired a Flatlandah!”

Secondly.. My father, who was one heck of a salesman and always put 110% into everything he ever ventured into in life, took on his first speedway promotional position with a dedication his family and friends had never seen before.

For the 1979 Claremont Speedway season, he lived up to every aspect of the phrase, “working his ass off”. From promotional writing to press releases; seeking sponsors to meeting with those sponsors over and over to land the deal; writing advertising spots for radio to doing radio shows; putting together the weekly speedway program to laying out the speedway advertisements for the newspapers and racing publications; designing and ordering trophies to making phone calls to his friends in C.O.D.A.; picking up the trophies and the freshly printed “Checkered Review” on top of it all he worked full time job to put food on the table. He also designed the original C.O.D.A. logo. We made the 120 mile trip every weekend on Friday late afternoon and headed home Sunday afternoon. Where all of the aforementioned hit the proverbial “reset button” and started over each and every week. He never stopped looking for that extra sponsorship dollar right up until the last weekend of the season. The work he put in that year taught my brother and myself more about our father’s work ethic, drive and love for the sport than ever before.

The caption from the "Checkered Review" program the week following Claremont Speedway's 1980 season opener reads, "Big Bad Bob was the Grand Marshal for the opener." Sean Bodreau collection.
The caption from the “Checkered Review” program the week following Claremont Speedway’s 1980 season opener reads, “Big Bad Bob was the Grand Marshal for the opener.” Until yesterday none of his family had seen this photo before. Thank you to Sean Bodreau and his collection.

His family life took a back seat in 1979, but we didn’t mind. It was his rookie venture into speedway promotion and making it a successful one was extremely important to him. It was the happiest we’d ever seen him to that point and that made us all just as happy for him.

When each weekend came, culminating a week-full of hard labor, he wanted his family with him. I can say, and most anyone who was around him in those days will testify, unlike many in his roll who could sometimes be shaking bags of nerves on race day, he was the most relaxed every race night. Although most of his friends and peers at Claremont in 1979 may have never realized it, I believe he was relaxed because those he worked with on the race weekends and he befriended helped him be that way.

Robert Echo enjoyed giving awards out, but never felt comfortable receiving awards or praise. When CODA named him Grand Marshall for a night he couldn't help giving out an award to his good friend, Dave Kolenda.
Robert Echo enjoyed giving awards out, but never felt comfortable receiving awards or praise. When CODA named him Grand Marshall for a night he couldn’t help giving out an award to his good friend, Dave Kolenda.

Dave Kolenda, Ronnie Bodge, the Bodreau family, the Stevens clan, the Bibens gang,  the Albro family, the Labrie family, the Ayer family, the Bly family, the Jarvis family, the Batchelder family, the Girard family, the Caron family, the Whipple family, “he Boniface Gang and the list goes on and on. So many people who he may only have heard of prior to that season or spoken to briefly were now considered friends. By the end of the ’79 season ALL THOSE FRIENDS were the very reason it was such a tough decision to leave when Val offered him the position with Speedway Scene.

When he settled on what he wanted to do he let everyone know and was so relieved to see that the new friends he had made north within the 9 months greeted him with well wishes, praise and many thanks. It was the boost from that praise and those well wishes by his beloved “Hicks” that made one “Flatlander” even more confident heading into yet another new venture at the offices in Northeaston, Mass..

Lastly, Lake Chargoggagoggmanchaoggagoggchaubunaguhgamaugg was where our family camped on Thompson 300 weekend. I remember my brother and I spent all weekend trying to pronounce the name correctly without busting into laughter. We never could and simply settled on what they said the meaning of the name was, “You fish on your side, I’ll fish on my side and nobody fishes in the middle.”

We showed up to the campground on Thursday. Our neighbors at the campgrounds? None other than Punky Caron and family. When we started to get the camper up a hellacious storm with strong winds rolled in and in all the mayhem Punky came to the rescue, running over and jumping into action to helping us set up. Like I mentioned in a previous story, Punky may have been viewed as a hardass behind the wheel, but he was a true blue guy outside of the car, at least that’s how he always was around us.

That was the 300 that Geoff Bodine showed up with the Modified he and Chassis Dynamics had just built for Claremont Speedway competitor, Allen Whipple. A Mustang bodied Modified entry that to no one’s surprise, like every Modified Geoff had raced before, wound up in victory lane that Sunday.

– Jared

When the Shoe Fits, OUCH!

CRAZY FEATURE AT RIVERSIDE PARK SPEEDWAY ENDS WITH RUGGIERO VICTORY

– FRIDAY, JUNE 23RD, 1978 –

Hey NERF’ers! I was going to junk the subject we’ve been on the past few weeks, but I couldn’t do that now after viewing the final lap finish of the Riverside Park Speedway 50 lapper this past Saturday night.

What’s the old saying..? “When the shoe fits, wear it!” Well, in the case of what happened at Riverside the line would go like this. “When the shoe fits, Ouch!”

With the white flag ready to fly for the final lap, the Czarnecki Bros. Vega, driven by defending three-time Park champion Bob Polverari, belched up a motor between turn three and four, sending cars every which way out of the third turn in the fluids dumped on the track. Former three-time champion Bob Stefanik rode the wall sideways almost ending upside down in the Earl Reynold’s Bobcat. Former track champ S.J. Evonsion in the Connally-Hosmer Chevette and Charlie Glazier in the Eddie Oles Vega also exited via the same accident as did 1976 Rookie of the Year, Marty Radewick in the Fred Felton Monza.

The accident brought out John Tallini’s caution flag setting the stage for the final two-lap charge to the checkers.

Reggie Ruggiero on the back stretch during practice at Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass (1978). Mario Fiore photo.
Reggie Ruggiero on the back stretch during practice at Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass (1978). Mario Fiore photo.

Reggie Ruggiero in the Fiore-Nardi Chevette was in the lead followed by Richie Evans in the Gene DeWitt Pinto and guess who was in third? It was none other than our controversial buddy, Geoff Bodine, in the Dick Armstrong Nu-Style Jewelry Pinto.

The restart saw Ruggiero, Evans and Bodine head into turns one and two and on the back stretch the “Bellingham Bullet” got by the “Rapid Roman“. Bodine then moved in on Ruggiero’s bumper to bring about another controversial finish in the life of Geoff Bodine. Going into the third turn Bodine rode to the outside trying to overtake Ruggiero and all of a sudden sparks flew leaving Bodine sitting backwards between turns three and four. Evans and Jerry Cook, in the Hollebrand Trucking Pinto, rode past Bodine for second and third while Bodine straightened it out for fourth spot.

Geoff Bodine and Reggie Ruggiero motor down the front stretch to start the 1978 Riverside 500 at the Park. The packed grandstands at Riverside Park Speedway back then was the place to be on Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore's collection.
Bodine and Ruggiero motor across the start-finish line at the 1978 Riverside 500. Back then the packed stands at Riverside Park Speedway was the place to be on Saturday nights. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore’s collection.

The controversy arises again. Was Bodine rough riding? Did Ruggiero stuff him in the wall trying to stop him?

I always sit near the fourth turn at the Park because that’s where the action seems to be.

Ruggiero was running the groove all night and going into the fourth turn he definitely rode high with Bodine on the outside. Whether by accident or on purpose Ruggiero was in the lead at the time and until he gets a passing flag the track is his. Bodine has stated on a couple of occasions, since all the incidents have happened over the past few weeks, that the man in the lead has the track right-of-way.

Reggie Ruggiero chases Richie Evans at Riverside Park Speedway in a 1978 feature event. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore's collection.
Reggie Ruggiero chases Richie Evans at Riverside Park Speedway in a 1978 feature event. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore’s collection.

Once again asking different drivers and people you get umpteen different views. Ruggiero fans have their opinions, Bodine fans have theirs and all the other fans have a couple hundred more. So who knows? The best answer came from the humorous Evans who was trailing the accident. After being asked what happened, he replied, “I didn’t see anything. Remember I’m the guy who didn’t see Eddie Flemke sitting in the middle of the track at Stafford last night.”

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 puts down some practice laps in his Dick Armstrong Nu Style Pinto bodied Modified at Riverside Park Speedway (1978). Mario Fiore photo.

If the man in the lead has the track right-of-way then why was Bodine so upset after the incident? Why did he turn around after the start-finish line and shake a finger at Ruggiero? Seems as though the shoe was on the other foot at Riverside and someone didn’t like the way it fit.

One of the head NASCAR officials stated, “I’ve never seen Bodine bumping like he did tonight. This kind of action is uncalled for and something is going to have to be done about it.”

He was referring to Bodine riding over Evonsion early in the race, belting Radewick, causing him and Polverari to spin and twice bumping rookie Jim Tourville in the Susies’ Auto Parts Coupe.

Oh well! The controversy continues and I suppose all the Bodine supporters will write in tellin’ us how good Bodine is and how rotten I am and just think, I didn’t even mention those you know, T-shirts..

Reggie Ruggiero in Mario Fiore's sharp New England Uniform Chevette bodied Modified had plenty to smile about back in the late '70's. Enough hardware on the roof to test the roll cage. Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore.
Reggie Ruggiero in Mario Fiore’s sharp New England Uniform Chevette bodied Modified had plenty to smile about back in the late ’70’s. Here they have enough hardware on the roof to stress test the roll cage of the Evans built chassis . Photo courtesy of Mario Fiore.

A couple Polverari fans are looking for the address of the “Maynard Troyer Fan Club“. I wonder if they are jumping ship or do they hope to be a part of the Troyer clan when he invades New England in hopes of halting the “Bodine Express” at Stafford Motor Speedway in a couple of weeks. Anyone who has the address, drop us a line as there must be more fans out there who would like to be part of following the shiny #6 from New York.

The “Bugsy Stevens Fan Club” has their new look T-shirts now on sale at Stafford and Seekonk Speedway. If you’re a Bugsy Stevens fan, make sure you get your new T-shirt and support the Bugman. If you haven’t got your Bugsy Stevens Fan Club membership then send a $3.00 check or money order to: Bugsy Stevens Fan Club, (address withheld), Providence, R.I. 02914. For your $3 you will receive an autographed photo of the Bugman, a membership card, a newsletter and a bumper sticker. The Fan Club always has plenty of pictures of Bugs in the different cars he wheels and will also take special request photos for fans. Now that’s a real fan club.

Send in your fan club news, announcements or photos to NERF’ers Corner, c/o Robert Echo, (address withheld).

NASCAR North Series Nears 400 Grand With Big Molson Bucks

–  FRIDAY, MARCH 14th, 1980 – PAGE 9  –

Nascar-North

Tom “Mr. NASCAR North” Curley has been working feverishly since the close of the 1979 season in hopes of increasing the monetary rewards for the already prosperous NASCAR North Tour.

Curley’s relentless pursuit for hunting down big dollar sponsors for his very popular year-old Late Model Sportsman series has again paid off with the signing of a lucrative multi-year agreement with Molson Breweries of Canada, Ltd.

Last year’s twenty-seven race tour paid out in excess of $270,000 including $40,000 point fund, but with increased monies from Molson, this season’s total series dollars has already topped the $370,000 mark for the twenty-six events scheduled so far. A point fund of $65,000 is included in the total money posted to date.

Beaver-DragonThe 1980 point fund will be paid over a newly created three-leg program much like the one operated within the Grand National ranks. The first two-legs, ending in June and August respectively, will each pay a total of $10,000 in point fund monies while the final leg will pay the remaining $45,000 for the overall point standings with the champion picking up a cool ten grand.

The final schedule is expected to reach at least thirty events which would put the posted awards over $400,000 with the point fund over $70,000. Several companies, other than Molson, have already pumped many dollars into the series including Champion Spark Plug, McCreary Tires, the STP Corp and Bell Helmets. Some thirty-eight companies have been contacted by Curley in hopes of increasing the rewards for the Tour including the likes of Hurst, Castrol and Hawaiian Tropics.

Curley has got STP of Canada back into racing, after a seven-year absence, to take over the Canadian Challenge Series sponsored by Molson last season. The $3,000 put up by STP will go to the top Canadian finishers on the Tour.

With Molson being the big dollar sponsor of the series for the next few years, the NASCAR North Tour will now become known as the NASCAR North Molson Circuit.

McCreary will once again furnish the official tire for the series and the North Tour’s success with a tire rule in ’79 has caused both Hickory [NC] Speedway and Old Dominion Speedway in Manassas, VA to adopt a track tire rule.

NASCAR North competitors will be happy about one thing disclosed by Curley, in a recent discussion with the Ol’ Nerf, that being a twenty percent purse increase over last year which will definitely benefit the guys finishing from fifth on back.

Beaver Dragon along with his brother Bobby were two of the toughest competitors on Tom Curley's NASCAR North Tour. Howie Hodge photo.
Beaver Dragon along with his brother Bobby were two of the toughest competitors on Tom Curley’s NASCAR North Tour. Howie Hodge photo from 1979.

With the purse increase comes word that several cars are either being built of purchased for the upcoming season including a new Emanuel Zervakis machine for last year’s NASCAR North Tour Champion, Beaver Dragon, which was originally destined for Darrell Waltrip. 1977 Nascar North Rookie of the Year, Mike Barry will also pilot a new Zervakis car while popular Pete Silva has purchased a complete Banjo Mathews set up including car, motors and hauler. Top runner Robbie Crouch is building two cars for himself which will feature some new Late Model innovations.

Jean Paul Cabana will once again return to the Late Model wars in the car which was driven last year by Tom Rosati. Sophomore driver Tim Dykeman has purchased last year’s Wood Brothers short track Grand National machine driven by Neil Bonnet while Phil Gerbode has obtained the car campaigned by Butch Lindley in ’79.

Hector LeClair, last year’s Tour runner up, has had his 1979 car completely reworked by Howe Chassis in hopes of an all out assault on the series crown in ’80.

So, even before the second year of operation, the Curley run Tour has become the highest paying single division stock car series in the Northeast and Southern Canada.

Curley is in the same class as the National Dirt Racing Association’s Robert Smawley, Ted Johnson of the World of Outlaws and D.I.R.T. of Central New York’s Glenn Donnelly.

There are some people in the Northeast who dislike the way Curley and NASCAR North operates, but there are also individuals I’ve talked to who do not like Smawley, or Donnelly as I’m sure there are people who don’t especially care for Johnson. A couple of years ago I didn’t like Geoff Bodine, but you can’t shoot down the fact that he was successful nor can you knock the success of Curley, Smawley, Johnson or Donnelly because after all, success is the name of the game, isn’t it?

NERF’ers Nibblets *** I Wonder Where the Yellow Went?” was the heading over this column a couple of weeks ago with the ensuing story relating to the finishing of races under the yellow flag by NASCAR. Well I’m sure this writer’s blasting of that practice had nothing to do with it, but USAC has just announced that all of their sanctioned Stock Car events will now finish under the green starting with this past weekend’s “Texas 250” at the Texas World Speedway in College Station. The new rule is aimed at giving the race fan a guaranteed green flag finish. All USAC Stock Car races will finish under green flag conditions, with races on speedways of at least 1.5 miles in length requiring at least the final two laps completed under green and races on shorter tracks requiring at least the final three laps under green. This will end the disappointing single-file yellow flag finishes which in the past have often ruined fantastic races. Hats off to USAC for their move in alleviating this problem and now if NASCAR would only get off its duff and follow suit…..

Polverari-New-CarStopped over to see the new Bob Polverari Chevette bodied No. 711 Modified and it is one beautiful lookin’ machine which will definitely put it in the runnin’ for best appearing Modified at Martinsville [VA] Speedway this weekend. The car carries Polverari’s usual white paint job and Dave Bendtson of Springfield, Mass. has done some fantastic pin striping and lettering work on the machine while almost everything that isn’t painted or lettered has been chromed by West Springfield’s Jim Steup. If the new 711 runs as good as it looks, then competitors of the three-time Riverside Park Speedway champion had better watch out…..

Bob Polverari's 1980 Chevette bodied Modified was a new Chassis Dynamics built Mod and was most definitely a looker. Pictured here at Stafford Motor Speedway. Peter Montano photo.
Bob Polverari’s 1980 Chevette bodied Modified was a new Chassis Dynamics built Mod and was most definitely a looker. Pictured here at Stafford Motor Speedway. Peter Montano photo.

While on the subject of Polverari, I forgot to mention his early January deer hunting trip. Word has it that this was a very successful one a he was spotted several times in the West Springfield area, in his Cadillac Eldorado, with Donner or Blitzen or was it Rudolph strung across the hood of the car. Seems as though this is the first time the deer hunter, or is that dear hunter, has returned with anything other than nothing at all. I understand he’s so happy about his success that next year he’s goin’ huntin’ for John Darveau’s dancing elephants. How about it Dear Hunter?…..

New England Mini Modified Association president Dan Meservey told Ol’ Nerf recently that as many as forty cars are expected for Thompson Speedway’s ICEBREAKER ’80 on March 29th and 30th including the cars of 1979 Pocono champion Randy Snyder of Bryan, OH; Florida Speed Week’s champ Bob Flagg of Toledo, Ohio; Livonia, Michigan’s Dick Meyers, Bob Hackle of Albany, NY and Joe Santiago from Brentwood, L.I. plus the usual line-up of NEMMA stars such as Meservey, Darrell Smith, Rick Hussex, Randy Slack, Jim Marceline, Pete Schluter and Billy Smith. Don’t miss this great turnout of Mini-Mods…..

Auto racing recently suffered another sad day as former Grand National star Lee Roy Yarbrough, a fourteen-time winner on the tour, was committed to a mental institution in Florida after a Jacksonville judge found him incompetent to stand trial for the murder of his mother last month. The 43-year-old ex-driver had his best year in G.N. racing in 1969 when he won seven super-speedway events including the Daytona 500…..

Da Champ, Rene Charland is still lookin’ fer his Olympic hat which was stolen off his head at New Smyrna [FLA] Speedway during Speed Week’s while he was perched precariously upon the throne. Ya might say he got caught with his pants down. Tsk, tsk…..

Till next time, “Catch you later and don’t forget, Roast the Rat Night’ to benefit the NARAC Fund.

RIP Denis Taney, Thunder Road Lock Up and More

– FRIDAY, JUNE 27TH, 1980 –

It’s on a sad note that I have to tell you of the death of a dirt Modified driver at the Canandaigua [NY] Speedway last Saturday night. Denis Taney, driver of the 11T Modified died of either a heart attack at the wheel or a broken neck suffered when he hit a concrete retaining wall after colliding with another car.

It’s not really how Taney died that matters, it is the fact that we’ve lost one of our own and the Racing World is always saddened by such a loss. We at Speedway Scene would like to extend our condolences to the family, friends and fans of Phelps, NY’s Denis Taney.

*     *     *     *     *

Congratulations to Bill Alsup of Woodstock, VT, who recorded his best finish ever in Indy Champ Car competition with a fourth place in the ‘True Value Hardware 500′ at Pocono International Raceway last Sunday.

Winning the race was Bobby Unser with “Lone Star J.R.Johnny Rutherford and Tom Sneva finishing second and third respectively.

Alsup, driving the Alsup Racing Team owned, Polaroid Time Zero sponsored Penske/Cosworth PC-7 proved he can race in the big leagues as he bested such well knowns as Pancho Carter, Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Danny Ongias and Al Unser.

Rounding out the top ten behind Alsup were Vern Schuppan, Carter, Sheldon Kinser, Howdy Holmes, Larry Cannon and Lee Kunzman.

It was a super weekend for Alsup and his crew and they should all get a pat on the back for a job well done by New England’s only Indy Car team.

*     *     *     *     *

The judicial system has once again shown its worth. They let rapists and drug pushers off with light sentences, killers get shorter terms, if any, and a speedway gets closed putting people out of work.

The Vermont Supreme Court ruled in favor of Tom Kalimaris, who all but destroyed the credibility of Thunder Road International Speedbowl along with the track itself, in halting action of the Barre, VT oval.

In June of 1980, the Vermont Supreme Court put the padlocks on Thunder Road. Thankfully it didn't last long. Howie Hodge Photo.
In June of 1980, the Vermont Supreme Court put the padlocks on Thunder Road. Thankfully it didn’t last long. Howie Hodge Photo.

The track was well on its way back under the guidence of Ken Squire, who had foreclosed on the property last year, NASCAR North director Tom Curley and the many officials, fans and friends who’d worked so hard and now it’s all been silenced by one swing of the gavel.

There’ll be no further racing at the ‘Widow Maker‘ until matters can be resolved.

Let’s hope the people in power come to their senses. Maybe if you’re an interested fan, you can drop them a line to let them know how you feel in no uncertain terms.

*     *     *     *     *

Harry Gant, driver of the Race Hill Farms Grand National cars, continues to ride in 8th place in the Winston Cup Point Standings entering the July 4th ‘Firecracker 400′ at Daytona International Speedway.

Dale Earnhardt is the point leader by a scant 13 points over Richard Petty, 2,387 to 2,374. Rounding out the top ten are Cale Yarborough – 2,349, Darrell Waltrip – 2,244, Benny Parsons – 2,194, Bobby Allison – 2,164, rookie Jody Ridley – 2,058, Gant – 1,940, Terry Labonte – 1,918, and Richard Childress – 1,912.

*     *     *     *     *

The $55,625, including contingency money, posted by the Oxford Plains Speedway for the July 13th ‘Oxford 250‘ is the best short track payoff for the Late Model Sportsman in the country so far as I am aware.

Martinsville [VA] Speedway’sCardinal 500‘ is generally known as the best paying short track show for Late Models, but Oxford now rules the roost. This years ‘Oxford 250‘ offers better than $250 more per mile than the Late Model half of the ‘Cardinal 500‘ event.

The ‘Oxford 250‘ winner will pick up a check for $10,000 plus, which should draw the best in the U.S. when you consider it’s been tagged a NASCAR National Championship event.

Till next time; ‘See ya at the Dog Leg!

Boycott The Olympics, Not Thompson… And Let’s Go Racing!

–   FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 1980   –

Boycott

HoenigRacing Action at Thompson Speedway was once again at a stand still last Sunday as the impasse continues between track owner Don Hoenig and the New England Drivers & Owners Club.

The popular Connecticut 5/8th-mile asphalt oval was closed on June 1st when NEDOC members boycotted the Olympic Challenge Series Silver 100.

Who was hurt most by this boycott?… Not the owners or drivers, as they probably made more money by leaving their cars home!… Not Don Hoenig, as he doesn’t really have to open the speedway since he has another business located adjacent to the track, which I’m sure would pay the taxes on all property so he could leave the racing complex idle!… The racing fan is the who that got hurt by the boycott!

The 3,000 or so fans who turned out at Thompson on June 1st to see the 100-lap race were the ones who got hurt by NEDOC’s action against the track.

How many gallons of $1.15 per gallon or better, gas was used to get to Thompson and back home by those fans who attended the event on what is now known as Boycott Sunday. Add to this the travel time that was wasted by those same 3,000 or so fans, plus the general disappointment by all who didn’t get to see the Silver 100.

The original negotiations included NEDOC’s wanting a purse increase and free admittance for both the owner and driver of all Modifieds.

Hoenig increased the purse and offered a compromise on letting in both owners and drivers plus three crew members per Modified at a reduced pit admission.

NEDOC accepted the purse increase, but turned down Hoenig’s reduced pit admission plan, bringing about the boycott.

A six hour meeting on Thursday night, June 5th, between officials of both Thompson and NEDOC failed to resolve anything, leaving Hoenig no alternative but to leave the padlock on the speedway gates.

Let’s get serious now!… We all know Mr. Hoenig is making money, but isn’t that what it’s all about? How many of you fans who were at Thompson for the Silver 100 are in business not to make money?

The NEDOC organization has silenced Thompson and for what?… Well, between what Hoenig has offered and what NEDOC wants, it amounts to about $15 per Modified. It doesn’t make much sense to me to strike for a measly fifteen or so bucks per event when the same people involved in the boycott will go out and buy anywhere from one to four tires to run that same race. The cost of a tire is between $130 to $150, depending on where you buy them. These same car owners will spend anywhere from $7,000 to $12,000 for an engine… Why not boycott the tire makers, performance parts manufacturers and motor builders?

I’m not really in favor of the people who put on the show paying their way in, but I’m not in favor of the competitors closing a speedway.

The adage being used is that pro basketball, baseball and football don’t pay to play, but those same people are contracted to one team and if they don’t show up, they’re fired. We all know that racing competitors are here one week, and there next week. Also, what about the competitors who file pre-race entries, which give the promoter the right to advertise their being at his track, only to have them fail to show? This leaves the promoter in an awkward position, trying to explain to the irate racing fan that it’s not his fault. Ask Shangri-La Speedway promoter Dale Campfield what he feels about this practice and he’ll let you know in no uncertain terms.

Getting back to Thompson, how much more is Mr. Hoenig supposed to take before he says, “To hell with it!” First, his speedway is raked over the coals in what is now known as the biggest track safety scandal in racing history. Secondly, Thompson hosted a benefit  for the late Fred DeSarro, only to have many racing media and fans accuse Hoenig and associates of not turning over all the money to Fred’s wife, Linda, as Big T officials stated they did. Thirdly, Hoenig adopts a stock head rule to help lower cost for competitors, which brings about a lack of cars and fans, forcing him to go back to open competition rules, and now the boycott.

Hoenig could do what Wall Stadium promoter, Mrs. Jennie Nicol did recently when drivers and owners hit her track with a strike. She ran lower division cars, drawing smaller crowds, but still made money as her payoffs were much less than the posted purse she paid the Modified Sportsman and Modern Stocks. Hoenig could run the NEMMA Mini-Modifieds, NEMA Midgets and he could also use the speedway area to enlarge his golf course, plus there are a number of other things the track could be used for.

Come on NEDOC!… Is this strike necessary?… Is this just a show of power since NEDOC has been laughed at for so long as a do nothing organization?

I’ve talked with some of NEDOC’s low buck runners and they’re not really in favor of all that’s happening as they just want to go racing. One member-owner stated, “We’re not making money now, we’re never going to make money, so why hassle Thompson over fifteen bucks or so and take the chance of forcing Hoenig to close the gates for good.”

Another member-owner stated, “We don’t need another speedway closed in New England, and if the Club continues to hound Hoenig, he’s going to do just that.”

We don’t need to lose Thompson Speedway over a few bucks as we already have two or three other tracks in serious trouble. Everytime we lose another racing facility, we lose fans and cars. This is going to destroy racing in the long run.

By the time you read this column, Thompson may be back in operation and I surely hope so.

So NEDOC!… Boycott the Olympics and not racing!”… We want to see Thompson operating, not closed.

NERF’ers NibbletsHarry Gant finished 9th in last weekend’s Warner Hodgdon 400 at Riverside, California. He now rides eighth in NASCAR Grand National points…

Unfortunately Maxwell House was not Peter Fiandaca's sponsor, but the coffee can air cleaner was indeed a nice touch and still a conversation piece for the ages. The Travelin' Man shown here waving to the fans after a Sportsman win at Stafford in 1981. Howie Hodge photo.
Unfortunately Maxwell House was not Peter Fiandaca’s sponsor, but the coffee can air cleaner was indeed a nice touch and is just a part of the Fitchburg Flyer’s legend. The Travelin’ Man shown here waving to the fans after a Sportsman win at Stafford in 1981. Howie Hodge photo.

Has Pete Fiandaca picked up Maxwell House as a big buck sponsor for his Skid Row Express Late Model? Why else would he have a Maxwell House coffee can on the hood of the #135?…  If ya’ travel down to New Evergreen Speedway some Friday night, ya’ can watch the Two-Tony Show with plenty of Gusto. That’s Tony Siscone and Tony Hirschman and Gus Lewis. Great racin’!… Hey Chuck Jeffries! Please return our people!… Big show this Friday at Lincoln County. It’s the Down East Open for NASCAR type Late Models paying $1,000 to win. It’s Lincoln’s Grand Opening and will include a full card of racing…. For readers in the Claremont, New Hampshire area, dirt runner Dick Skillen ran the Winston 500 Grand National race at Talladega, finishing 28th in D.K. Ulrick’s Buick… While at Oswego Speedway a few weeks ago, the Ol’ Nerf was invited up to the Ivory Tower by Linda O’Brien, wife of promoter Dick O’Brien. Speedway Scene’s Fat Rat nicknamed the announcer and scorer’s booth because of it being filled with all the Caruso’s, owners of Oswego Speedway, and O’Briens. Linda told me that I’m one of the select few. Wow! But oh, those 52 steps to the Ivory Tower… It was sad to hear of the death of Freeport Speedway promoter, Don Campi. He’d climed into a Freeport Late Model recently under the name of Tony Basil and had started racing under his own name the Saturday night prior to his death. My sympathy to his family, friends, and fans… My heart felt sympathy also goes out to Fred Rosner and family on the recent loss of Rick, 23.

Fred is a well known car builder in Agawam, Mass and another son, Wes, recently injured in an industrial accident, is an up and coming late model driver.

NASCAR North runner, Pete Silva, finished 5th in the Winston 200 at Hickory (N.C.) Speedway last weekend… Till next time, “Don’t forget Bob O’Rourke’s Dog Leg 200 at Trenton on Sunday, June 29th!”

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