Tag Archives: Asphalt Modified Racing


–   FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 1980 – PAGE 11   –

new Joysey

Took a trip to New Joysey last week for the Winston 100 at New Eqypt Speedway plus regular shows at East Windsor Speedway and Islip Speedway. A strong threat of rain in the Philadelphia-Trenton area made me change my itinerary from East Windsor to New Evergreen Speedway on Friday and then after hustling from South Jersey to Islip on Long Island, only to find out that Saturday night’s race had been cancelled because of severe afternoon thunder shower, I headed to Wall Stadium so as not to lose a days racing action.

New Egypt promoter, Jim Grbac should be renamed “Charlie Hustle” as he’s everywhere on the quarter mile asphalt facility at once. I watched young Grbac go from the office to the pits to the press box to the track and I’m sure he did this at least a couple dozen times.

During the most serious accident of the night, which eliminated both race leader Jerry Cook and Wayne Anderson, Grbac was right there working along with his clean up crew spreading speedy dry and sweeping up.

The big let down for the evening was that only fifteen Modifieds turned out to run for the hard-working Grbac who posted a $6,200 purse with a thousand to win for the high powered machines, so you can’t blame the promoter for the shortage of cars. Even with the small field of Mods it was still a super race with John Blewett Jr. taking the checkered flag in his “Spirit of 76” Pinto.

Only fourteen cars started the 100 lap feature as Frank Biddle was eliminated during warmups when the automatic transmission in his Gremlin bodied #69 exploded sending several fragments through the floorboard into the rear of his thigh doing severe damage to the muscles and tendons of his right leg. He was removed  to the hospital by ambulance where he will remain for 10 to 14 days and he’ll face some therapy before returning to racing action.

Frank Biddle trying his hand the following year in his Gremlin bodied Modified at Stafford's Spring Sizzler in 1981. Howie Hodge Photo.
Frank Biddle trying his hand the following year in his Gremlin bodied #69 Modified at Stafford’s Spring Sizzler in 1981. Howie Hodge Photo.

I stopped by to see Frank on my way to Islip and found him to be in good spirits even though he was in some pain. He told the Ol’ Nerf that he’s rather be racing than laying flat on his back…. I’m with you Frank!

While at the hospital, I gave Frank a few recent issues of Speedway Scene plus one of those bright orange and white caps carrying the Scene’s logo.

Frank could use your get well cards and letters while recuperating, Address them to Frank Biddle, c/o Freehold Hospital (address omitted).

A little side note on Biddle, is that he qualified a 6 cylinder Street Stock for the forty-car field at last year’s DogLeg 200 Modified race run at Trenton International Speedway. He also won recent Street Stock titles at both New Egypt and Wall before moving up to the Modifieds this year.

Richie Evans won the Open Modified portion of the 2nd Super Star Series event in 1979. Howie Hodge photo 1980.
Richie Evans found himself caught up in a late race incident at New Egypt’s quarter mile oval, but rebounded to finish 5th. Howie Hodge photo 1980.

The Winston 100 at New Egypt brought with it some controversy of sorts with Jerry Cook and Richie Evans somewhat upset about a certain Long Island hot shoe who they felt failed to heed Dutch “Guess Who” Miller’s passing flag.

The Rapid Roman, in speaking of the individual in question, stated, “The guy never races until you start to lap him.”

Evans then added, “If he raced as hard as he does when you try to go around him, he’d win a whole lot more.”

I talked to the accused party and he refused to comment other than he thought he was correct in his driving tactics.

Evans, who finished fifth after leading most of the show, was involved in the crash which eliminated the Cookie Monster and Wayne Anderson on the 87th lap. I’ve never seen Evans as mad as he was when he pulled up to the start-finish line at the conclusion of the event to give flagman Miller a piece of his mind.

In questioning several fans and bystandards about the accident as to who or what caused it, I found the pros and cons to be pretty even as to who was right or wrong. So it’ll all be chalked up to just another racing accident as the show goes on.

* * * * * * * * * *

John Lyons of Hammonton, NJ is being referred to as the Ron Hutter of South Jersey. Lyons puts together his “Lyon Killer Small Blocks” for the Lakewood, NJ duo of Dick Barney and Hoyt Morrison, co-owners of the #14 Pinto built at Eddie Flemke’s Race Works which is driven by red hot Tony Siscone. The car is sponsored by Hagman’s Machine of Wall Township, NJ, builder of the #14’s big blocks, and Welsh Dairy Farms of Lakewood.

Tony Siscone was red hot in Billy "The Whale" Graham's #28 Pinto with a "Lyon Killer Small Block" back in 1980. Cross that with his performance in the dick Barney / Hoyt Morrison #14 and it's no question why they called him Sizzle-Cone". Mayor's Photo.
Tony Siscone was red hot in Billy “The Whale” Graham’s #28 Pinto with a “Lyon Killer Small Block” back in 1980. Cross that with his performance in the Dick Barney / Hoyt Morrison #14 and it’s no question why they called him “Sizzle-Cone”. Mayor’s Photo.

Siscone has won better than twenty-five features with the “Lyon Killer” motors in the different cars he’s driven. He’s off to a super start in 1980 with three wins at Wall and a second at New Egypt with Jim Hagaman’s big block in the car while he has a second and three straight wins in his last four starts at New Evergreen in Billy “The Whale” Graham’s #28 Pinto. Siscone is now being tagged with the nickname Tony Sis-zle-cone.

NERF’ers Nibblets…… Lone Star J.R., Johnny Rutherford collected a cool $318,020 for his “Indy 500” victory. In comparison, that’s $98,260 more than Dale Earnhardt has earned in thirteen NASCAR Grand National events (now Cup). Earnhardt is the current G.N. point and money leader…..  The Atlantic City Speedway in Pleasantville, NJ is all but gone as the only thing remaining at the track located outside of New Jersey’s Casino town is the half mile oval of asphalt. The once popular speedway will be replaced by either a tramway to the nearby casinos or a coplex of condominiums. Losing a speedway is like losing a driver, gone but never forgotten…..  Bill “The Whale” Graham, owner of the #28 Pinto driven by Tony Sis-zle-cone, really loves oysters. The only problem is, everytime he eats them his family expands by one. Hey Whale! Why not try ice cream and dill pickles…..  Rumor has it that someone’s purchased the old Stock Car racetrack at the Acto [NJ] International Raceway. The facility, containing a drag strip, is known for drag racing under the sanction of the National Hot Rod Association. Maybe South Jersey will have a speedway to replace the defunct Atlantic City…..  New Egypt Speedway is planning a season benefit for the Mathany School for Crippled Children in Peapack, NJ. It sounds like a super benefit, so watch for more details in this column and in future Speedway Scene issues…..  Harry Gant continues to roll along in the NASCAR Grand National top ten with an 8th place finish in the Texas 400 mile race which ran without a caution flag over the entire distance. Jack Beebe, owner of Gant’s Race Hill Farm cars, should be commended along with crew chief Bob Johnson and Super Crewman, Stevie Bird and the rest of the Race Hill Farms team on the fantastic job they’ve done in preparing the machines for Gant who’s handled the wheel like a pro…..  If you are a Bugs Stevens fan, don’t forget to join the new look Bugs Stevens Fan Club (address omitted)…..  The DogLeg 200 is only three weeks away, so plan on making the trip to Trenton on June 29th. You can get tickets from promoter Bob O’Rourke in the Long Island, New Jersey area, Mary Toal in upstate New York or from the Ol’ Nerf in New England or wherever you might see me…..  Till next time – Don’t forget to send Frank Biddle a get well card or message.

Need Sponsorship Dollars? Go Get ‘Em!!!


The BIG Picture.. It all starts with Exposure..

After Stafford Motor Speedway’s Spring Sizzler most of us checked out the online racing news sources along with comments on the social pages by friends in the sport involving the happenings from Sizzler weekend.

During my reading I was very pleased to see a post on the social pages by National Speed Sport News with a photo of Bobby Santos III celebrating his Sizzler victory. I “liked” National Speed Sport News a while back as they are an outstanding source for coverage in many of the open wheel happenings around the nation. Publisher and co-owner, Ralph Shaheen is originally a Northeastern boy and knows plenty about Modified racing in the Northeast so when he took the reigns of the publication made famous by Chris Economaki and family it only said big things were to come. The story may have been the actual NASCAR press release, but I shared the it to a related group page for a reason, to give kudos to the publication for recognizing a Northeast Modified tradition and the division.

What soon followed on the post was a case of hardheadedness by one commenter. They questioned why someone would share a post and attempt to push traffic to the National Speed Sport News website that they believed had no interest in making any kind of effort to cover the Modifieds on any level. They followed it up by claiming National Speed Sport News didn’t care enough about the Modifieds to offer them any true coverage of the division. If that were the case they wouldn’t have made an effort to post it. Furthermore, what’s wrong with national exposure? So much for recognizing the big picture.

If a post on any regional division or series by a national publication receives a high number of shares and “likes” that national publication takes notice because the link is hit. It’s called feedback. It’s something that anyone who works or has worked for a website, in social media, or racing publication should be quite familiar with. Those “likes” or feedback via write ins gives props to the publication for that exposure by the fan base regardless of whether it was a NASCAR press release.

It’s not rocket science to recognize when a national publication gives any coverage, regurgitated or not, it’s still coverage and if you have ever been a part of the promotional side of things where sponsorship is sought after and signed, most all coverage is good coverage as far as the almighty dollar is concerned. When it comes from the likes of a national publication that coverage becomes major exposure which reaches many fans that may not be familiar with a particular division. In this case National Speed Sport News took the time to post something about the Whelen Modified Tour and that is a good thing for Northeast asphalt Modified racing no matter which way you slice it or how one tries to spin it.

Coverage on a national level boosts exposure to those that might not yet be exposed to the type of racing. It’s a national publication, one with a high traffic website that reaches millions of online viewers not to mention those subscribing to the printed publication. The way to gain new fans, unfamiliar with a division or series, is through that national exposure. Many fans are business owners or operators and have set aside advertising money just waiting to be put to good use. These are potential sponsors. That’s potential sponsorship dollars that could come to teams in desperate need to not only continue competing, but improve. Sponsorship dollars that could dish out bigger purse money for a division or series that so desperately needs it. Funding or contingencies that can give a great boost for a tour or series.

Who else benefits from it? That’s right, the local news sources; television stations, radio stations, websites and publications that may only cover the regional racing or touring series. They all prosper from the additional exposure. Those new sponsors see the local coverage and dish out advertising dollars to those entities to promote their sponsorship investment and their product. So, contrary to what the closed minded might think, it’s not only the national publication that could land advertising dollars, it’s the locals who cover it as well.

Why have I brought this subject up, you ask? Well, as what some had predicted, National Speed Sport News coverage has taken a dive head first into television.

Less than two months after the Sizzler MAVTV (available on over 50 service providers including; DirectTV, Comcast, & Dish) and National Speed Sport News have come together to bring a bi-weekly two hour block of shows, hosted by Ralph Shaheen. “SPEED SPORT Magazine” which will pretty much be a televised edition of what you commonly see in their publication. The second hour is titled “SPEED SPORT” and will provide coverage of racing events across the nation. Check out the link to the announcement by MAVTV here for information regarding the shows bi-weekly format.

If you tuned in to their first show then you know they featured coverage of Oswego Speedway’s Richie Evans Memorial Modified event won by “Money” himself, Matt Hirschman, which just took place the week before. Rather peculiar for a national racing publication/website that supposedly doesn’t care to give the division any coverage, wouldn’t you say? Now there’s word they have been contacting other series in the Modified division for video coverage to provide more exposure.

Kudos to National Speed Sport News and any future coverage of our beloved asphalt Modified division that could use the national exposure!

This weeks NERF’ers Corner features something that Robert Echo believed in, helping the teams get the money needed to compete.

When I read the following column I thought for 1980 this little piece by the “Ol’ NERF” had to be a boost to those who knew how to prep and set up they’re cars, but lacked the know how to seek sponsorship.

Many from back in the day will tell you that he offered his assistance for free with no strings attached.  There were times back in the 80’s that Robert Echo would meet an owner or team over lunch, or before an event, or a lengthy phone conversation.  Just to give pointers and help teams continue on by getting those needed extra funds to compete.  He was a strong believer on giving back to the sport he took so much enjoyment from.

I hope you enjoy this latest reopening of the NERF’ers Corner time capsule as much as they did back in the 80’s.

On a sad note, Anne Fiore, mother of legendary Modified car owner and racing personality Mario Fiore, passed away this past Tuesday.  On behalf of NERF’ers everywhere we pass along our thoughts and prayers to the Fiore family and friends.  Best wishes.

Yours in Racing,


– Friday, March 21st, 1980 –


Have you ever figured out what it costs you in dollars and cents to racing week in and week out?

Well!…If you happen to be one of the lucky die hard racing fans then all you have to do is load the loved ones into the family car making sure there’s a full tank of go juice aboard and enough bucks in the ol’ wallet to cover the price of tickets, some snack bar delicacies, a few beers and you’re off to the races.

Then again, if you happen to serve as a driver of some race car, you’ll most likely need all of the above plus you fire suit and helmet.

Now comes the fun part of going racing every week, if you want to call it that, which is that of being the car owner or the man who pump the mainline dollars into the sport of auto racing.

As a car owner, it helps if you own Fort Knox, a bank or a loaded Brink’s truck but if you don’t it still doesn’t matter because you still need a good supply of Uncle Sam’s greenbacks to keep your racing operation on the move.

Unless you hold down two or three jobs, have your wife working, mortgage your house, personal car or whatever else you might find, then you must come up with another means of raising some green stuff to support your race car.

Marty Radewick was just one of the many Robert Echo assisted with getting sponsorship through the years. Howie Hodge photo
Marty Radewick was just one of the many Robert Echo assisted with getting sponsorship through the years. Marty seen here at at speed at Riverside Park Speedway in one of the Tom Thomas Racers. Howie Hodge photo

Let’s face it!… In the last two or three years the number of race cars, especially in the asphalt modified field, has dwindled substantially… and why?… Because of the continuing high cost of building a race car. You can’t afford to build a car at eight to ten thousand dollars, buy motors costing some eight to twelve grand and tires at a hundred and fifty bucks apiece and continue to keep your race car running…. So what do you do then?… You either park your car and let it rust in the rain… or you get your act together, if you love the sport, and go find yourself a sponsor to help with the financial end of your operation.

So now we’ve got down to the brunt of this week’s column… Is there sponsor’s available?… If so!… Where do you find them?…How do you find them?… How do you get a potential sponsor to turn over his hard earned dollars to you especially if he’s never been involved with racing or ever seen a race?

Yes!… There are hundreds of sponsors available out there in the racing land… In fact!… The next time you drive through your home town, take a look at how many businesses are lined up down both sides of the street and they all spend money on advertising whether it be radio, television, in the newspapers or on that sign hung over their store front.

Billions and billions of good ol’ American dollars are spent every year by very big business and very small business and all those in between… So why aren’t you getting some of this advertising money?… You’re in a very highly conscious advertising market.

You might feel there are many businesses out there that aren’t good prospective sponsors… Hogwash!…Every business on every block is a good prospect and while some are better than others, they all are potential sponsors.

If you don’t believe it, take a look around your house and think about all the things you and the family use that come from almost every business imaginable. There’s food, clothing, cigarettes, sundries, pharmaceuticals, appliances, books, furniture, tools, automobile and even the haircut and hairdo you and your better half got recently… So!… Now you can see just how many potential sponsors are waiting for somebody to ask.

I’ve now covered three of the four items in regards to sponsor hunting… The availability!… Where to hunt!… How to find them!… Now I’ll try to give you some idea of how to get money out of a prospective sponsor.

You must first put together a proposal book explaining all the facets of your racing operation and at the same time giving the potential sponsor some insight into the sport of auto racing and what it has to offer them.

List your experience and years in racing as an owner and then do like wise for your driver… List information and statistics on your race car… List the speedway you’ll run on a regular basis and the estimated attendance at same… List all tracks you plan to compete at and there projected attendance figures… List statistics on Northeastern racing including estimated attendance and then do the same for the National racing scene… List any other pertinent information that might be of interest to a prospective sponsor… List your projected racing budget for the coming season… Enclose several photos of your race car in your proposal… Make sure that everything put together in the book is neatly typed and use an appealing report cover, preferably of the imitation leather grain style which can be purchased for under a dollar… Also, make several duplicates of the book off a copy machine using the same type cover. You can leave one of these with the potential sponsor after giving your presentation with the original.

When going out to see a prospective sponsor, make sure you dress appropriately. Wear a suit if your prospect is big business such as a manufacturer, large chain store or any big firm. Dress casually if you’re going to see a small business such as a tavern , service station, the corner shoe store or neighborhood grocery.

If your going after a big dollar sponsor, don’t be afraid to tell them that you’ll paint and letter the car in their company colors or colors of their choice.

I hope the information I’ve given in this column has served a purpose to someone in racing land who’s been trying to figure out how to get a sponsor.

Now!… All you have to do is psyche yourself into a positive frame of mind and go get that sponsor you’ve sorely needed. Why not go after some of those advertising dollars that are available?… You deserve them!… Go get ’em!

You can also raise money through raffles, fund raising dinners and what about community sponsored race car?

The Ol’ Nerf’s spent his lifetime in sales, public relations, promotional work and sponsor hunting of one kind or another.

If you’d like more information, suggestions or just want to discuss how to find a sponsor, give me a call at 413/XXX-XXXX or drop me a line at (address withheld). I’ll be glad to give you what moral support I can.

NERF’ers Nibblets…  Promoter C.J. Richards of Albany-Saratoga Speedway has added Winters Performance and Kendall Oil to the $25,000 Point Fund he’s offering at the Malta track in 1980…  Bob Polverari’s trip to Martinsville,VA. Speedway for the “Dogwood 500” came to an abrupt halt early due to a motor problem. Tough luck for “Rapid Robert’s return to racing especially after qualifying ninth in the field…  After reading the story on Jack Gelgut’s Depot Square Racing Team, what I want to know is what will happen if someone paints out the Depot in the name. Let’s see now, there’s square meals and could be a squa—oops…  It was good to hear one of my friends is out of the hospital after some serious internal problems. Get well wishes are in order for Becky Colt, sister and fan of Claremont Speedway modified driver Dick Stevens…  Thanks for the support of the “Cutter Connection” down Portland, Tennessee way. It’s great to hear from fans as super as Don, Nancy, Karen, Kelly and Father Steven Cutter who reads the Ol’ Nerf’s column faithfully…  Word has it that the grounds are starting to quake and shake up Claremont way. Could it be that Big Foot has come out of hibernation and is on the rampage upon hearing that the CODA track is opening on May 10th with the “Dale’s Radiator -CODA ’80 Opener”!…  Till next week; Roast the Rat” on April 11th, support the “NARAC Fund” and get a friend a “Scene” Subscription!

Open Season!


Next Sunday, May 11th is a holiday for Mothers everywhere. It’s also an asphalt Modified fans holiday. It signifies the beginning of Open Season with the running of THE BULLRING BASH Open Modified race. The event takes place at the 3/8 mile asphalt oval known as Lee USA Speedway located in Lee, New Hampshire. It’s an exciting time for the division and the first race of the crown jewel of asphalt Modified racing that is the Tri-Track Open Modified Series. The BULLRING BASH kicks off the division’s old school tradition of the open format races which draws teams, drivers and fans from every series and speedway that runs tour-type Modifieds. It’s an opportunity to witness a championship caliber event with representatives from all series and tracks.

Tommy Barrett (22) and Ronnie Silk (6) are always ready for a challenge. Howie Hodge photo.
These two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour aces, Tommy Barrett (22) and Ronnie Silk (6), are always ready for an Open Modified challenge. Howie Hodge photo.

The two other events that make up the series are the SBM 125 IV on Saturday, June 14th at Star Speedway in Epping, NH and the MODIFIED MADNESS at the place they call the Cement Palace, Seekonk Speedway in Seekonk, Mass on Wednesday night, July23rd. As if each race purse isn’t enough, the bonus is a point fund at the end of the season.

I had the pleasure of interviewing two of the individuals who were kind enough to take a quick break from running absolutely ragged, gathering sponsorship, contingency and lap money from fans and businesses who wish to be a part of something special. Truly special is exactly what this band of individuals and all contributing truly are.

A 3 Step Program. Step 1: Become a Modified Fan.

It’s that ever popular question where everyone has a unique, yet at the same time, similar answer; How did you become a Modified fan?

Kevin Rice’s recollection is an all too familiar one for many of us. Kevin, an auto racing journalist and creator of what will soon be the 4th Annual SBM Open Modified race, was infected with the racing bug by his parents; “I have been a fan of racing since before birth while going to the races in my mothers stomach. In those early days, Spencer Speedway was my Friday night home first. Watching Bodine, Evans, Troyer, Kent, Cook, Treichler, Seamon, Loescher race weekly how could you not get hooked on racing? As I got older into the teen years I spent most of my Saturday nights at Oswego Speedway. There was no better place for racing in the 1980’s. At age 17, I made my first trip from home in Fulton, NY to Thompson, driving on a frosty morning in a compact car with no working heat and the rest is history. After traveling to New England for racing for many years, I moved there in 1998.”

Richie Evans' 9 NASCAR Modified Championships were also sprinkled with some huge Open Modified wins.  Howie Hodge photo.
Richie Evans’ 9 NASCAR Modified Championship seasons were sprinkled with some huge Open Modified wins and even more “outsider friendly” NASCAR sanctioned events. Howie Hodge photo.

And when did James Schaefer first catch the bug before he metamorphosized into the Long Island Mod Maniac? “I went a few times as a kid back in the late 60s and early 70s, but only to Riverhead (Raceway in Riverhead, NY). Finally around 1980, went to Islip (Speedway in Islip, NY.) for the first time and I was hooked. There was something special about those damn Modifieds! Who were my favorite drivers? It was all Charlie Jarzombek and Junior Ambrose back in the day. When I finally got to Islip, Charlie J was still the man.”

Step 2: Getting Involved..

Once the Long Island Mod Maniac got involved in the sport his level of enthusiasm, drive, and willingness to give to the Modifieds became easily defined by his nickname. “In 1985, the town of Riverhead was trying to shut the track down. I had my 4th grade students show up to town hall to give speeches to keep it open. Had a petition going around to keep it open too. Met the Brunnhoelzl family and sponsored my first car, the 8x of Eddie Brunnhoelzl. As I got older and had a little more money to spend, I started to travel, and started to help out when I could at different races with different drivers. I will always remember when I asked this woman to sign the petition, and she said, ‘I guess I better! My brother races there!’. Turns out she was the sister of Eddie Brunnhoelzl. So I asked her.. ‘so if someone wanted to sponsor one of these cars…how do you go about it?’ She told me to come in the pits next Saturday. I did and I haven’t stopped writing checks since then!”

He then took it another step further at a “flash” race in 2009 at Riverhead Raceway. “I decided to put up some extra money to the winner. The following year, I decided to hand out extra money to all the teams that participated at the Tour race at Riverhead. It just felt like the Modifieds were always getting screwed on good purses, and I just figured if I could help, why not.

“The idea of helping out the Modifieds seemed to grow each year we did it. More people would come on board, so it just continued to grow. We didn’t have the lap money at Riverhead at first, but it just seemed to make sense to have it, and get more fans involved. Now, we have lap leader money and leading Riverhead regular money to help out the local guys who don’t run the tour on a regular basis. This year , we almost have $9,000 raised to be split among the 2 races. We already have close to 30 people who are putting up $300 to each race team.” His dedication to raising extra cash for Riverhead Raceway Whelen Modified Tour stops for years should make it an easy decision for WMT teams to show their support by throwing their hats in the BULLRING BASH next weekend as well as the other two Tri-Track Series events.

Oswego Speedway's (Oswego, NY) history is not only filled with SuperModified champions, but the best Modified events of the division's past. Howie Hodge photo
Oswego Speedway’s (Oswego, NY) history is not only filled with SuperModified champions, but some of the best Modified events of the division’s past. Howie Hodge photo.

Kevin Rice’s love of racing caused him to take it up a notch early on as a teenager. He began writing and putting together racing programs at the age of 16 when he operated a pedal bike track in the woods of Fulton, NY. “I started a weekly racing program with photos, points etc. I still have a couple of those programs. That was the best thing I have ever done. At one point we had 80 kids racing at that track, and knowing today they carry that experience with them for the rest of their lives is very special. In the early 1990’s I answered an ad to become a writer for the Oswego Speedway Eagle Program. As I gained experience I just got better at it, and I got satisfaction from how my work as a writer helped short track racing.”

His first taste of being a part of the promotional side of things in the auto racing world started at one of the most talked about facilities in the Northeast, the 5/8th mile Steel Palace, Oswego Speedway which used to play host to the Modifieds in an Open format about 6 or so times a year. It biggest Mod event was the 200 lap Bud 200 held on Oswego Classic weekend. “Oswego Speedway asked me to be their representative at the Guaranteed Starter events they used to have and use to promote Classic Weekend. So I took their pace car to Stafford, Shangri-la and other places promoting the Classic Weekend for them. That ended when they dropped the Modifieds from Classic Weekend. I quit.”

History My Friends..
Jerry Cook (38) sometimes passed up NASCAR points races to take a shot at in an Open.  Canadian legend Junior Hanley liked to go open wheel in outsider friendly and Open shows.  Mike Murphy, a Star regular had no problem traveling for the big shows.
Charlie Jarzombek (1) won quite a few Opens in his career.  Jerry Cook (38) sometimes passed up NASCAR points races to take a shot at in an Open.  Canadian legend Junior Hanley (72) liked to go open wheel in outsider friendly and Open shows back in the day.  “Irish” Mike Murphy (M3), a Star regular had no problem traveling for the former big NASCAR sanctioned “outsider friendly” shows.  George Kent (26) also skipped NASCAR point races for Opens. All Howie Hodge photos.

For those unfamiliar with the significance of Modified Open shows I’ll explain just a little the part they played in the division back in the day. Modified Opens were practically jammed into a weekday every other week during the summer. Sometimes a track would take a weekend off from it’s regularly scheduled program just to run an open Modified show. At the end of the season us fans got to enjoy what we all called championship races. These events included some open and some “outsider friendly” races throughout the 70’s, 80’s and even the early 90’s. They drew the big names with big money and it also gave the home track Modified regulars or invaders an opportunity to defend their turf or compete against the very best teams and drivers the division had to offer. In doing so the fans, press and even other speedway’s personnel with their pace cars and wreckers would show up to not only promote their speedway or business, but witness great racing while sometimes lending a hand. It was good for all the facilities. Like bugs to a light and we couldn’t get enough of these championship level races.

They were so important to the division that the likes of Richie Evans, Jerry Cook, George Kent and Jimmy Spencer who were chasing NASCAR National Championship points made agreements to skip points paying races to hit many of these open shows.

Now let’s be honest here. Back in the 70’s and early 80’s no Modified tours existed and tons of tracks ran a regular Modified program with good fields. The much talked about ALL-STAR LEAGUE was pretty much a series of Modified Open shows all over the Northeast and lived up to their title. There were shows being put on everywhere.

Points in the NASCAR National Modified Championship were collected by competing at any NASCAR sanctioned track or event. Some of these points paying events for the Modifieds were held at facilities like Catamount Stadium (formerly in Milton, VT) which was a NASCAR North track. (Where you might see the likes of Jean Paul Cabana, Beaver and Bobby Dragon, Robbie Crouch, Claud LeClerc and Joey “The Kid” Kourafas competing regularly) would have an occasional NASCAR Modified points event that drew non-NASCAR competitors.

Oswego’s Modified events were all open shows that awarded a Modified title at the end of the season and events like the ICEBREAKER, SPRING SIZZLER, THOMPSON 300, and the RACE of CHAMPIONS were outsider friendly for competitors of non-NASCAR sanctioned facilities. Oswego’s Bud 200, Thompson’s 300 and the Race of Champions all had guaranteed starter races at most facilities around the Northeast that ran Modifieds with or without sanction.

What would be an Open show back in the day without the ultimate invader, Maynard Troyer and his beautiful machines. Howie Hodge photo.
What would an Open show be back in the day without the ultimate invader, Maynard Troyer and his beautiful machines? Howie Hodge photo.

Once the tours started to gain momentum most tracks running a weekly Modified division started to drop the division or go to an alternative Modified class. So in these modern times of three Northeast Modified tours and a small number of facilities running weekly what is now referred to as tour-type Modifieds, any thoughts of saturating the weekdays and off weekends with Open Modified shows would be unrealistic. Teams are competing for titles and with the extreme high costs of racing any damage could be a season killer for some teams. It’s a sign of the times, but that doesn’t mean there’s no room for a few big money open Modified shows. It only means the few that are out there is all that can be afforded to a division mostly made up of tours.

Kevin added some interesting insight and thoughts on asphalt Open Modified events. “The Open show was so popular back in the day but it is a LOT of work. I think that is the primary reason why you don’t see them much anymore. Maybe an even bigger factor though is cost. No matter what you do the tire bill is going to be a deterrent. Take last July at Seekonk for example. The racing that night was spectacular, but it was on life support because of car count issues. But now with this Tri-Track deal you will see a resurrection of that event for sure. If these were dirt track races for a $45,000 purse you would see 50 cars or more. Generally dirt teams can run the same tires more than once. It’s an unfortunate part of pavement racing. Open shows offer fans something different in these days of points and the same starting lineups week after week. To me there is nothing in the world more exciting than a field of 24 Modifieds that has six from the WMT, six from the VMRS, six from the RoC , three locals and three outlaw invaders. There is nothing better, and the fan reactions I have gotten all point to that.”

James Schaefer or Mr. Mod Maniac, same guy, shared his view on having Open shows for the asphalt Modified division and the teams that compete; “Remember, two of these races already exist. I’m putting up the extra money at Seekonk ( $7,030) and Star ($6,400) so that they become $1,000 to start shows. Who knows how long these shows will continue? Seekonk’s car count was low last year. And Star, unfortunately lost Kevin Rice to the south. So, the extra money is to let teams know, the fans want these races to continue! Hopefully, the support of race teams and fans will prove that we really do want these races. We were hoping to have a 3rd race just to try something different and make a series out of it! I’ve sponsored a lot of drivers over the last 5 years and I’d like to think I can count on those guys to support this series, knowing my involvement, and also because of the large amount of money we are willing to lay out to make this possible. Obviously, if it’s not supported, we’d be foolish to ever do this again. Word of mouth, says that these are going to attract a good number of cars and be a success. Hopefully, I am right.”

Their feelings of additional open shows for the future?

Reggie Ruggiero in Mario Fiore's 44 always looked forward to the Open shows.  When they first showed with their famous Chevette the were a team to be reckoned with. Howie Hodge photo.
Mario Fiore’s 44 and team always looked forward to the Open shows. Showing up with their famous Evans built Chevette they were a team to be reckoned with. Howie Hodge photo.

James; “There’s not much room on the schedule for many new shows. I doubt you will see much change overall. The 3 main tours will continue to do what they do. I wish the rules would allow for teams to go easily from one touring series to the next. For example, it is a crime that Dwight Jarvis can’t easily show up for a Monadnock show. But I can dream. It’s not going to happen. Even, with the Tri Track, many teams won’t support it because of the rule package. Some teams think they are at a disadvantage with the rules. Rules are not my area – so I can’t really say. But others tell me, when you race at a short track.. no matter where you come from, it should be a fairly even playing field.”

Kevin; “I think having too many of these Open shows would be a big mistake. Just like anything else, the more you do it, the less impact it has. Too many races could run the Open show into the ground completely, and if it didn’t, then it would just become another tour. We already have enough tours. We don’t need another one. My hope is that Open shows create new Modified fans, who then would want to go see these drivers on the tours. That would be a win-win for everybody involved.

Those last two sentences are exactly why one Northeast Modified tour, The Valenti Modified Racing Series gave it’s support for the Tri-Track Open Modified Series and all open shows in general. These opens not only are great opportunities to pit the very best of all tour-type teams in a championship event, but in turn further promotes the series’ and tracks in which tour type Modifieds compete. VMRS understands the big picture and potential of such events. It is every sense of the word a win-win for all involved and promotes those series and facilities who run the tour-type Modifieds.

The SBM Open Modified Event.
A flyer from a 1979 Star Speedway Open that featured Supers and Modifieds.  It also was a rare Super appearance by Richie Evans who did double duty.  Evans won the Modified portion.  Cynthia Tebbetts collection. (Click to enlarge)
A flyer from a 1979 Star Speedway Open that featured Supers and Modifieds. It also was a rare Super appearance by Richie Evans who did double duty. Evans won the Modified portion. Cynthia Tebbetts collection. (Left click photo to enlarge)

In recent years Kevin Rice has built a fantastic 125 lap tour-type Modified all star race that has grown into one of the most talked about events in the division. The SBM 125 is going into it’s 4th year of existence. The high banked quarter mile of Star Speedway is where the event calls home and it’s somewhat fitting as in the past, Star was the scene of some memorable open Modified shows. The uniqueness of the event were the lap sponsors, contingencies, and awards are all funds from not only the organizers themselves, but

businesses, fans, teams, and drivers. The Grand Marshals are not placed there by sponsors. They are true legends of the sport chosen for their true contribution and hard work within the Modified division. The last two years it was legendary former Modified team owner Mario Fiore giving the command and last year it was legendary racing photographer Howie Hodge. Both were very humbled by the honor and equally deserving of it as well.

The other side of the flyer. This very same Star Open saw the likes of Geoff Bodine (99NH) and Satch Worley(66NH) compete in Lee Allard's team cars. Cynthia Tebbetts collection (Click to Enlarge).
The other side of the flyer. This very same Star Open saw the likes of Geoff Bodine (99NH) and Satch Worley(66NH) compete in Lee Allard’s team cars. Cynthia Tebbetts collection (Left click photo to enlarge)

However, the SBM Open Modified race’s beginnings arose from some not so wonderful circumstances, but none the less, it got Kevin interested in being involved again; “It was rekindled when Bobby MacArthur took over Star Speedway. I helped him try to get the Modified Open Show format going. I sponsored the first open show myself for $3,000 out of pocket. From there he got big ideas and drove himself into debt. It was very difficult for me after he ran out of money and didn’t pay the teams.”

From those misfortunes the SBM race was born because although he wasn’t responsible he took it upon himself to make things right; “That is how the SBM got started. SBM I was run to raise money for the teams who didn’t get paid. It was a struggle. We had only 16 cars, but made a little money and gave it to those teams who were owed money by the previous owner. Teams were skeptical to support it, which was unfortunate.

“I thought it would end there, but in the process something magical was happening. The race was incredible and so many people asked me to give it another chance. Year two- SBM II we had 28 cars and a larger purse, but still not the crowd I had hoped for.

After thinking about it for a couple of months. I became determined to conquer the challenge of making something of this event. SBM III was hundreds of hours of very hard work in the making. It paid off. We had 32 of the best. I would say the most talented field of drivers anywhere all year.

After SBM III, which still didn’t have the overflow crowd I wanted. I was done. Too much work and I was getting set to move to North Carolina. But Jim Schaefer wouldn’t let this race die. Now I’m jumping in because this event means so much to me. I have a couple of things in the works and if they come to fruition I think we’ll pack the place, which is my ultimate dream, to see a packed house for a Modified race at Star Speedway.”

Geoff Bodine poses next to his Lee Allard 99NH Modified at Trenton Speedway in 1979. Howie Hodge photo.
Modified legend and 1986 Daytona 500 winner Geoff Bodine poses next to Lee Allard’s 99NH Modified at Trenton Speedway in 1979. Howie Hodge photo.

When I asked Kevin what it meant being in the same journalist /publication group who were also race organizers or promoters at one time or another; “I don’t consider myself to be in the group of the promoters you speak of at all. I was just very motivated to help the race teams who were screwed out of promised point fund money and the only way I could think of getting them paid was to hold a profitable event on their behalf. I had no plans for an SBM II, especially after only 16 teams showed up for the first one.”

Ah yes, but many of his predecessors also experienced rough goings in their first attempts and just like Kevin, those predecessors didn’t give up either and moved forward.

Nay Sayers and Critics..

Yes it’s true. There are a few out there who have unjustly thrown criticism, accusations and even gone so far as to avoid mentioning the series altogether.

For some reason the concept of a racing journalist dipping into the promotional side of the sport was questioned on ethics in his chosen profession for starters. An accusation that falls flat on it’s face if you know anything about the history of auto racing in the Northeast and quite frankly everywhere.

Journalists and publications being involved, through organizing or promoting racing events are as much a part of our beloved Modified history as our past great Modified champions who define the division itself. To name a few, Dick O’Brien formerly of Oswego Speedway, Speedway Scene, National Parts Peddler, Russ Conway formerly of NESMRA, Star Speedway, Hudson Speedway and Lee USA Speedway, as well as editor of many publications and television reporter, Dr. Dick Berggren, was a co-founder of Stafford’s SPRING SIZZER. All were/are writers/publications that promoted, managed or organized racing events. Most of those mentioned wrote about and pushed their events through their write ups in the paper they wrote for or within their pages. Do you think they were ever challenged over ethics in journalism?

Writing about an event a journalist or publication may be involved in is no different than those writing for websites throwing in mentions of their advertisers in articles to give their advertisers a push. It’s far more ethical than a site purposely tricking users such as posting what appears to be an article on a social media page, only for the reader to click and find it isn’t an article at all. A deceptive move by the one posting the link in hopes the reader will sift through pages for the article in a pathetic effort to boost their site’s views and hits.

We’ll not bother with the tactics of those who report on Modifieds and clearly cover the Northeast’s touring series, yet for some odd reason or another refuse or avoid covering these Modified Opens, because excuses are like, well you know. However, just for amusement, let’s tackle the other accusation of profiting from these events. Some have gone so far as to accuse Kevin Rice of profiting off the SBM races. These accusations are equally as laughable as those which challenged his ethics in journalism for being involved in the promotional side. More often than not, these baseless accusations are a sad attempt to grab the attention of anyone listening to their jeering and steer them away from attending or competing.

Satch Worley sits takes a seat on the front left of his Lee Allard 66NH at Trenton Speedway in 1979.  If you look to the right I believe the gentleman standing by Satch is the always classy Booker T Jones. Howie Hodge photo.
Satch Worley sits on the front left of his Lee Allard 66NH at Trenton Speedway in 1979. If you look to the right I believe the gentleman standing by Satch is the always classy Booker T Jones. Howie Hodge photo.

The whole point of running any show, or running any facility, being in business is to make a profit. If they make money, what would be the downfall? Creating more big dollar Open races? Increased purses for those events? Both of which everybody involved; fans, series, teams, drivers, organizers and facilities all prosper. Who could possibly think negative towards any successful Modified event where everyone leaving the parking lot have smiles ear to ear because of what they just witnessed. What teams would not be happy leaving with a good wad of cash in their pockets? What could be so terrible about that? What’s so bad about making money? However, these recent open shows by like The BULLRING BASH at Lee, the SBM IV at Star and MODIFIED MADNESS at Seekonk, as far as James, Kevin and the Racing Guys, are another story in terms of where profits go.

Step 3: Making Profits?

Kevin Rice made it clear regarding the earning of any profits from the SBM races. “Money? How much did I lose you mean? Year one I probably lost another three grand in all. Funny to look back on it that was more than the teams got from event proceeds. I could have just given out a three grand point fund and saved myself a few hundred hours of hard work.

“Year two I was reimbursed for most of the expenses for promotional materials and such, but I put a bunch of my own money into the purse so I guess that would be considered a pretty significant loss, although it was my choice to do so.”

For 2013 the SBM III race drew a great car count with all three Northeast asphalt Modified Tours being well represented along with competitors from a few remaining tracks running tour type Modifieds regularly. “For SBM III last season I worked so hard and did so much that I really couldn’t tell you how the final numbers came out, but Bob Webber Sr., was very thankful and gave me more than I had asked him for. Honestly though, I have no idea if factoring in every expense and the money I put into the race myself was more or less than what I got in return, but I would guess that it was pretty close to even.

“We added $19,621 to the payoff through my efforts, so that was very rewarding, although we fell $379 short of the ultimate goal of an all-time record purse at Star of $45,000. That record was from an ISMA race when Russ Conway was promoter there, so it was quite a few years ago. I would probably go berserk if we made it to $45,000 this year with a packed house.”

When I asked James Schaefer about profits, laughing, he answered; “I make no money from this.. I take a lot of money out of my pocket.. The Tri Track is probably costing me $15,000 this year. Riverhead, on the other hand, may cost me only $3,000. It would have cost me nothing, except I made this promise to make the June race a $1,000 to start feature. I get no money back from doing this except for the possibility of the Lee race. If that show takes in any profit, any money I receive will go back into other races. We might even just raise the payout for the May 11 show on the spot. I am NOT doing this for profit.”

"Big Money" Matt Hirshaman is considered KIng of the Opens. Here victorious in the SBM III. Howie Hodge photo.
“Big Money” Matt Hirschman is considered KIng of the Opens. Shown here victorious in last year’s SBM III. Howie Hodge photo.

“Kevin Rice got me involved with some stuff at the SBM over the last few years. Now, with the Tri Track Modified Open Series, I recently retired, so I have more time on my hands. Dick Williams, one of the Racing Guys (along with Wayne Coats, Steve Main, Fred Perry, Butch Perry, and Charlie McGowan), had this idea of promoting a 3 race series with big money on the bottom, hence the $1,000 to start idea. I only met him last year at Seekonk, but he’s become a good friend who I talk to on the phone almost every day.” The Long Island Mod Maniac explained.  And that my fellow fans is how next week’s, Sunday, May 11th BULLRING BASH at Lee USA Speedway’s 3/8th mile semi-banked asphalt oval in Lee, NH came to be.

James’ response to trying his hand at the promotional side of a touring series is not only great material, but just as much a tribute to the kind of individual he is; “NO! There are days when I think even what I’m attempting this year will be a disaster and have no support. I’d have to take up drinking. I don’t think I can handle the large number of races that a series has. We have 3 races on this Tri Track and technically they are each independently run. What I do works because I have a lot of friends who love the Modifieds and are willing to fork over their money to make this a success. Without them, this wouldn’t even be happening. I’ve tried to get people to come on board as sponsors but it’s not easy. Thankfully, Applebees, Panera Bread and Red Roof Inn are helping out at Riverhead. But mostly you get rejected if you try to get corporate sponsors. And on the Tri Track, Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists, and Sunoco have come on board.”

“I’d love to see the LEE race be a huge success, with 40 Modifieds, and 4000 fans in the stands.” he said; “And the Racing Guys and Long Island Mod Maniac don’t lose their shirts. It would show us that people really want to see creative ideas in racing, and they want to see their Modifieds run for good money”

Matt Hirshman has got to be the favorite for the BULLRING BASH next Sunday at Lee USA Speedway.  Howie Hodge photo.
Matt Hirschman has got to be the favorite for the BULLRING BASH next Sunday at Lee USA Speedway. Howie Hodge photo.

So what’s the future hold for the Tri-Track Open beyond 2014? James laughed; “Future? Just get me through this year! Some teams have asked for a guaranteed spot, but unfortunately,this year, it’s gonna be race to get in. I will never forget going to my first Turkey Derby, and watching Charlie Jarzombek NOT qualify. It sucked for me as a fan and him of course, but I will never forget that. I’d hate to see Ryan Preece or Matty Hirschman show up for a race like this and not qualify, but I think having a large number of cars will make it very interesting.”

These guys, as all of us, are fans first. They are in it for all the right reasons and unlike some in the past who have made good money off of Open Shows, the money taken in from these events for which they gather get’s poured back into the sport. The payoff for their efforts is a great field and packed house at every event. Considering the purse, contingencies and awards, I’d say the Tri-Track Open Modified Series events will live up to the old school opens of great seasons past. In turn the teams and drivers who compete in these events will join the likes of the old school Modified warriors who align our hall of fames and championship walls at speedways across the Northeast and down the east coast. Is there anything better? I doubt it.

Until next week, with a very special NERF’ers Corner by Robert Echo, safe travels and enjoy the racing where ever you may go.