Tag Archives: Big Red Machine

What’s In A Book

– FRIDAY, JULY 7TH, 1978 –

Since Spring has come and gone and with the Summer upon us, my better half put me to the task of cleaning out the attic, cellar, closets and the trunk of my old Ford.

Somebody wanted to buy the old bird, my car not my wife, and build her into a Modified, but I told him the aero-dynamics of old Betsy couldn’t compete with the sleek bodied Pinto Mods of today. He said it didn’t matter because no one’s going to beat the “Big Red Machine” anyway.

I asked him if he was at Stafford Motor Speedway for the “Ferrara 100” last Friday night when the Dick Armstrong owned Nu-Style Jewelry Pinto driven by What’s his name came up empty…. The “MT” stands for Maynard Troyer who along with his sleek “Big White Machine” put another embarrassing defeat on the Number 1 Racing Team at it’s home track. Two confrontations at Stafford this year and “MT” has won them both.

Like my old writin’ buddy, Phil Smith, said before the annual Ferrara event, “No. 1 will be No. 2 and No. 6 will be No. 1.” Boy! Those Smith’s sure know their stuff.

Now back to the cleaning of the cracks and crevasses in the old homestead.

Down in the cellar I found a couple of boxes of old books among the other things. I brushed off the cobwebs, blew off some of the dust and started to read some of the titles of the dilapidated conglomeration of literature.

I thought some of the titles were made to order in reference to some of our Northeastern racing elite. So we decided to mention them in this weeks column.

The following are the people and the books we think could be used by them in some capacity.

Bob Polverari – “Shake the Dice and Be a Winner” by Jimmy the Greek.
Dick Grote – “He Means Nothing to Me” by Usta B. Ferst.
Reggie Ruggiero – “He’s Not So Tough” by Mario Fiore.
Phil Smith – “What’s In a Shirt” by Didunt Dunet.
Richie Evans – “The Way To Win A National Title” by Jerry Cook.
John Tallini – “Flagging Down Traffic” by U. Whisyacood.
Dale Lee Howdyshell – “Victory Lane – A Racing Drivers Dream” by Richard Petty.
Ron Bouchard – “The Only Way To Be Number One” by Mr. Zero.
Maynard Troyer – “Summers Are Always Green In New England” by I.M. Richnow.
Billy Taylor – “I Should Have Stayed In New York” by Nelson Rockefellow.
Punky Caron – “Running In The Tall Timber” by Paul Bunyon.
Ron Van Neese – “A Right Cross And A Left Hook” by Muhammad Ali.
Seymour the Clown – “I’m Number One” by Seymour the Clown.
Pete Fiandaca – “The Road To Success” by Speedy Gonzalez.
Dick Armstrong – “The Thrill of Victory and The Agony of Defeat” by Wanda Winn.
Toodi Gelinas – “A Fuel For Success – Gatorade” by Darrell Waltrip.
Jerry Cook – “It’s Not Gonna Be Easy” by Richie Evans.

Believe it or not, these books cannot be found in your local library. Some where in a dump in Western Mass is the remains of this once famous collection.

Til next time, “Keep on Trackin”.

ROUND 3: Dropping Some Knowledge

Friday, June 16th, 1978 – NEW ENGLAND SPEEDWAY SCENE


Once upon a time many years ago at the Arena known as Norwood in Eastern Massachusetts was a man who won feature after feature and seemed to be unstoppable.

Bill Slater was one of the best Modified drivers to strap a helmet on (1964). Howie Hodge photo
NEAR Hall of Famer Bill Slater was one of the best Modified drivers to strap a helmet on and one of the division’s greatest friends (1964). Howie Hodge photo

At the now defunct Norwood Arena was a group of fans who were tired of seeing one man dominate racing so much.  What did they do to stop the gentleman in question?  No, they didn’t all run out on the track and lay down in front of the man’s car in question nor did they throw bottles and cans at him either.

What these disgruntled fans did was organize a fan club to show their displeasure with this drivers winning all the time.  They put together the “Slater Haters Fan Club” in honor of Bill Slater, who is now the promoter of “Speed Week” at New Smyna Beach, Florida in February and is also part of the management corps at Thompson Speedway.

Bill Slater was ruling the track at Norwood in the early 1960’s with win after win and in doing so he brought out the worst in the fans or did he.

Mr. Slater is well liked by everyone today and is considered to have one of the finest racing minds around, besides being one of the best modified drivers to ever come out of New England.

Does this look like a guy who was bothered by the Slater Haters Fan Club? Not a chance (1967). Howie Hodge photo.
Does this look like a guy who was bothered by the Slater Haters Fan Club? Not a chance (1967). Howie Hodge photo.

The fan club that was organized in protest of Slater’s victory skein didn’t seem to hurt the driver or anyone else, so what’s the big deal about having a club against a driver.

It seems as though we have a lot of skeptical racing fans out there or should I say Geoff Bodine fans who fear their heart throb is losing his appeal. It’ll never happen, so don’t worry about it.  No matter where the Dick Armstrong Nu-Style Jewelry #1 Pinto goes, the stands will be full of racing fans. Some will want to see Geoff win and some will be there in hopes of seeing him lose. Some will cheer and some will boo.  Some will wear Bodine T-Shirts, some will wear the shirts of other drivers and some may wear “I Hate Bodine” T-Shirts. Big deal!

I don’t know what’s so revolting about the idea that was given me at Stafford, but one thing is for sure the idea wasn’t the first of it’s kind.

Bodine is one of the finest drivers around with probably the best equipment money can buy and those two factors will over ride any obstacle he could or will encounter.  It’s all part of the battle for victory lane.

Bill Slater's V8 was his trademark. Well that and his great personality. We all miss you Bill (1965). Howie Hodge photo.
“Wild” Bill Slater is famous for his success in the Vitari-Bombacci V8. Bill was equally famous for his personality. We all miss you Bill (1965). Howie Hodge photo.

To the people who would like to know my favorite driver, well, I don’t really have a true favorite.  I like all who keep the feelings of their fellow competitors in mind along with their equipment.

All I can say is, to the gentleman who wrote to me this week, It’s good to know you are reading my column, thanks.  Oh yes!  I did interview the other drivers after the original incident and since it happened, but what did that prove.  If you show four people a 30 second film clip, wait one hour and then when the people are separated ask them what they saw.  You’ll most likely get three to four different stories.

By the way!  Bodine ran two races I saw this past weekend at Stafford and Riverside Park Speedway.  He ran both races flawlessly leading seventy of the eighty laps involved in entering Victory Lane twice.

I’m still not a Geoff Bodine fan as I’ve always liked the underdog.  I will say this;  I want to see him beat on the track while he’s running and a victory in any other manner would not be a victory in the hearts of any racing fan. Right!!!

Next week RELOADED is back with “OPEN SEASON”.

Geoff Bodine and the Big Red Machine: ROUND 1

Drivers have their fair share of not so great days, even the very best of them.  I speak of the face-palm tantrum moments of playing park-and-go with a tow truck on the track after being black flagged or foolishly spinning someone out well after a race is over.  Another form comes outside of the car in front of the fans with an interview or an altercation.  The better you are on the track the brighter the spotlight that’s cast upon you.  Enter one Geoff Bodine.  The driver of the Dick Armstrong owned Nu Style Racing red Pinto bodied Modified during the mid to late ’70’s.  Geoff’s unbelievable talent behind the wheel got overshadowed on occasion by an uncanny ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong time.  Some of his most notable racing feuds with  fellow competitors are well documented (Bones Bourcier’s RICHIE and BUGSY” books) and every once in a while it would happen outside of the car and make the papers.

The NERF had an additional reason for starting his anti-Bodine campaign and it all started when Geoff and his Big Red Machine decided to compete regularly at Riverside Park Speedway in 1977.

Geoff Bodine in Dick Armstrong's Big Red Machine speeds down the backstretch at Riverside Park Speedway, in Agawam (MA) 1977. Mario Fiore Photo.
Geoff Bodine in Dick Armstrong’s Big Red Machine speeds down the backstretch at Riverside Park Speedway, in Agawam (MA) 1977. Mario Fiore Photo.

Back in the mid to late 70’s Riverside Park Speedway featured Modifieds and Figure Eights.  After intermission the Modifieds would roll out of the pit gates, run over the scales in the infield in turns three and four, and park in their respective positions on the front stretch.  The drivers would then get out of their Mods and start signing autographs for the mobs of fans at the fence.  On this night in ’77, my older brother Shane was in that mob hoping to get an autograph from his new favorite driver, Geoff Bodine.

After waiting his turn, Shane started to pass the driver his new WINSTON Racing hat through the fence.  Geoff looked up at my brother with a distasteful expression and blurted out; “Sorry, but I don’t sign autographs for older kids.  Go bug someone else.”

Up until that moment my family attended the Park with an equal amount of interest each Saturday evening.  After that night the trips were less a family member.  The negative response wiped out my brother’s interest of attending the Park for quite some time and his new favorite driver became his last.  On a scale of 1 to 10 my father’s anger reading was nothing short of severely pissed off.

Obviously many years have passed since then and as I stated earlier, every driver sees their fair share of not so good days, but at that moment in 1978 and being as it was his son, it was taken personally.

The next week Robert Echo began setting aside space in every article he submitted to the local paper and that space focussed on Geoff Bodine.  When he left that local publication and started writing NERF’ers Corner, it only took one nasty incident at Stafford Speedway for that space to creep back into his column.  So, to quote Apollo Creed in ROCKY III; “Ding.. Ding..”


Friday, May 26th, 1978 – NEW ENGLAND SPEEDWAY SCENE


Hello once again from Fan Club Headquarters here in NERF’ers Land. I’m sitting here at my rickety old wooden desk, that must have been left over from the days of President Washington, typin’ my column for all you NERF’s. In fact I think ol’ George used this desk to cross the Delaware in. It’s not really a bad old desk as there are only a couple of minor things wrong with it. The top drawer on the right side has never been open cause I ain’t gotta key and when you pullout the drawer on the bottom left, the right front leg falls off. Oh yes, I call my desk “Sexy” because the top has more bumps in it than Raquel Welch or Charo.

Well back to fan club news.

One New England fan club is presently planning their second trip to the “Cardinal 500” in Martinsville, VA in late October. Details have not been completed and the fan club’s president has asked that the club not be named at this time. When full details are set, we will pass them on to you.

I know there must be several fan clubs out there with some news for all the NERF’s in the Northeast. It could be you who might want to add some new members to support your favorite driver or you could need information on how to start a fan club. Drop us a line and we’ll put your news in this column or we’d be glad to help you organize a club for support of your favorite track gladiator.

Do you remember the old “I hate Elvis” clubs when the late Elvis Presley hit the scene in the 1950’s. Well after last Friday nights 30 lap Modified feature at Stafford Motor Speedway, there may be a new ”I hate” club and with all the tee shirts around with ones favorite driver scrolled across the front with a picture of his car, the new shirts would read “I Hate Bodine” with a big “X” across the picture of Bodine’s Pinto.

The Sherwood Industries No. 12 Vega Modified of Ken Bouchard get some attention in the Stafford Motor Speedway pit area in Stafford Springs (CT). Howie Hodge Photo.
The Sherwood Industries No. 12 Vega Modified of Ken Bouchard gets some attention in the Stafford Motor Speedway pit area in Stafford Springs (CT). Howie Hodge Photo.

Bellingham’s (Ma.) Geoff Bodine and Ken Bouchard of Fitchburg (Ma.) are the only ones who really know what happened on the 25th lap restart with the possible exception of Ken’s brother Ron and Rehobeth’s (Ma.) Bugsy Stevens who lined up behind Bodine and Ken Bouchard.

With Bodine in the number one spot and Ken Bouchard on the outside, the two touched wheels sending the latter for a wild ride into the fourth turn wall. He then rolled back down across the track through traffic where he collided with Plainfield (Ct.) Dick Traynor.

A confrontation between Ron Bouchard and Bodine was thwarted by starter Frank Sgambato and several drivers sitting out the action in the infield.

It was twenty minutes before they removed the badly shaken Ken from his modified and he was later taken to the hospital for examination and release.

I don’t know who or what really caused the accident as there are many versions of the accident, but I do know Ron stirred the crowd up to a frenzy by going after Bodine and rightfully so as he was disturbed over his brother being hurt.

A couple of things cost Bodine a lot of his faithful fans. One was when he climbed from his car after the accident and raised his arms in what everyone in attendance thought was a gesture of victory. This brought a loud booing from the stands. Bodine also later remarked to fans in a “Victory Lane” interview with Pete Falconi; “If these people were real racing fans, they would understand.” Again the boos rose loud and strong from the spectators. The statement was a bad mistake. The people that attend Stafford week after week would have to be considered good dedicated racing fans and without them there would be no payday for winners like Bodine.

Just wonderin’ who’ll be the first to dawn an “I Hate Bodine” shirt or who’ll be the first to start a club under the same name.

NERF’ers Corner by Robert Echo DISCLAIMER