Tag Archives: Northeast Asphalt Modifieds

Icebreaker and Being Punk’d.


Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s 40th Annual ICEBREAKER has arrived. Considered the Northeast’s first “superspeedway” at the time of it’s grand opening back in 1940, the Hoenig family’s Thompson Speedway has a rich history with the Modified division.

Defending WMT Champ Ryan Preece (16), seen here battling Justin Bonsignore (51) at Stafford, will look to defend his WMT crown. Mary Hodge photo
Defending WMT Champ Ryan Preece (16), seen here battling Justin Bonsignore (51) at Stafford, will look to defend his WMT crown. Mary Hodge photo

This ICEBREAKER should have been the Modified division’s second event in the Northeast, but Mother Nature had other plans for the Waterford Speedbowl’s BLAST OFF weekend.  A dose of inclement weather crossed with what some believe was an extension of time for repairs at the Waterford Speedbowl delayed the BLAST OFF and Valenti Modified Racing Series season opener.  If the latter rumored reason is even partially true, anyone who maintains a public seating venue right down to a being home owner can relate to well needed repairs.  With that said, kudos to the Speedbowl organizers and best of luck getting the facility race and fan ready when the gates open.

Now it’s the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s turn to take the baton and open the season in grand fashion.  It was recently reported that 27 total Modifieds have officially entered the WMT event.  As a fan those numbers are disappointing.  Seems every season the car counts take a slight dive with less than a handful of teams either folding up shop or scaling back to a limited schedule.  It’s definitely less than expected and hoped for, but times are tough and money is hard to come by these days for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competitors.  The racing on the track is what will tell the tale and hopefully the crowd turnout is big and the race winds up being a barn burner.

2013 Icebreaker winner Mike Stefanik will be in a new ride to defend his Icebreaker title. Howie Hodge photo.
2013 Icebreaker winner Mike Stefanik will be in a new ride to defend his Icebreaker title. Howie Hodge photo.

Doug Coby in his new ride, the Smeriglio #2, will be looking to make it two for two in 2014.  Ryan Preece, who dominated in the Battle at the Beach before an incident with a lapped car in the last few laps ruined his night, has to be the favorite.  Last year Mike Stefanik scored the ICEBREAKER victory in the Our Motorsports #22.  This year he will be with another team as Our and Stefanik parted ways.  Young hot shoe Tommy Barrett Jr. of Valenti Modified Racing Series fame the last two seasons takes over piloting duties for Our and Stefanik will be behind the wheel of Ed Marceau’s Cady’s Tavern Chevy #1.

Tommy Barrett Jr. enters his rookie season on the WMT. Tommy is no slouch behind the wheel and is sure to be competitive right out of the gate. Crystal Snape photo.
Tommy Barrett Jr. enters his rookie season on the WMT. Tommy is no slouch behind the wheel and is sure to be competitive right out of the gate. Crystal Snape photo.

If you can’t make it to the ICEBREAKER you have many resources to choose from in order to get your fill from Thompson.  MyRaceNews will be updating us fans all weekend with stories, photos, and results as the weekend moves forward.  Tune into the ChromeHornLive with Denise DuPont‘s spectacular up to date reporting.  The ICEBREAKER will be shown on Fanschoice.TV.  Live 2pm Eastern on Saturday and Sunday immediately following the NASCAR Cup event.  Fanschoice.TV will have one manned camera for footage which will be located on the roof of the press box.  You could say it’s truly going to be by a fan’s point of view.   You can tune in here and search for the video stream.

Get the Punk Out!

Those that do know me know that I am not a fan of NASCAR’s self proclaimed big 3 divisions or what I refer to as the NNBD (NASCAR’s national broadcast divisions). However this past Sunday, knowing their Cup race was at the half mile short track of Martinsville, a former Modified favorite, I decided to tune in for a while before the IndyCar Grand Prix of St Pete.

Not long into the event, which in my opinion should be shortened by a couple hundred laps, Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch got into a fender bender on the severely cramped pit road. Keselowski was racing off pit road and when Kahne attempted to enter his pit box, Keselowski not only plowed into Kahne, but well after initial contact continued to turn Kahne in order get by. In the process of his carelessness he ran into Busch who was pretty much hugging the outer wall of pit lane.

What happened after was an epic whine-fest crossed with a terrible lack of officiating by the officials of NASCAR’s highest tier division.  Keselowski made an absolute jackass out of himself by pointing a proverbial finger at Kurt Busch.  As his car was being repaired in the garage, he cried into the camera.  Keselowski blamed Busch for everything except his upset stomach from lack of being burped the morning of the race.

Once Keselowski’s car was repaired and he was back on track his actions became the stuff usually seen and dealt with quickly on the short track level.  However, series officials turned a blind eye towards it.  Keselowski, 30 plus laps down, proceeded to drive around waiting for Busch to arrive on his rear bumper and then Keselowski, being the fine former champion he is proceeded to flip Busch off as he break checked and blocked Busch over a period of laps.  Once Busch attempted to make a pass, the kid made every attempt to wreck Kurt Busch.  At one point, while Busch was inside, Keselowski turned into him driving Busch down to the bottom as they flew down the back stretch.

Busch, while celebrating in victory lane, called the incident for what it was, an accident that happened on a congested and tight pit road.  Keselowski continued to whine and cry making a complete fool of himself.  Busch referred to the actions of Keselowski as “Punk-ass”.  I couldn’t agree more.  With NASCAR Cup officials allowing Keselowski to continue after the altercation, completing 469 laps, I’d add that NASCAR’s lack of dealing with the on track actions of Keselowski as being “Punk-ass” as well.

The control truck for Fox was all over it with cameras going back and forth to the 2 car just in case the kid ran into someone else.  Can’t miss that great television footage, right?  Why that’s good stuff for ratings!  I’m sure it is, but it’s terrible for the sport.  That’s not racing.  It’s interesting that the sanctioning body boasts to the heavens how safety aware they are yet turn a cheek to this kind of trash on the track because it’s a rating booster.  This just reminded me why I don’t normally watch NASCAR Sports Entertainment.

If you’re a fan of the Big 3, that’s fine by me.  I for one am waiting for the wake up call that returns NASCAR’s top division to the legit sport it once was, but as long as the ratings rule the decisions made in the booth and penthouse offices of the sanctioning body, I won’t hold my breath.

Checkered Chatter…

Young Modified pilot Cole Powell will be missing the Icebreaker.  Matters of family first have pushed the racing into the back seat.  Cole posted a very heartfelt update on his website which can be seen here.  Our thoughts and prayers of support go out to the Powell family in this trying time…  The F1 race in Malaysia was, to put it mildly, a snooze fest.  Sometimes real racing is boring though.  This weekend finds F1 in the land of sand with the Bahrain Grand Prix going under the lights…  Many facilities have opening night this weekend at some point.  Let’s all hope for a safe weekend enjoyed by all competitors, track officials and fans…  How can anyone claim to be a fan of the Modifieds and part of the media in the Northeast yet NOT cover the Tri-Track Open Modified Series?  Anyone?  Anybody?  Yeah, me either.  Can’t be that the Tri-Track organizers are lacking with getting the word out because James Scheafer, the Long Island Mod Maniac, has been spreading the gospel along with the Tri-Track Open Modified Series site.  We need more folks on the promotional side of asphalt Modified racing like James and The Racing Guys.

That’s all for this week my friends.  Next week brings another classic NERF’ers Corner by Robert Echo.



A recently formed group that calls themselves RIVERSIDE NATION has apparently purchased Riverside Park from its current owners of the amusement park.  Effective as of yesterday afternoon, RIVERSIDE NATION took over ownership and has immediately begun to dismantle the roller coaster and rework all surrounding area for which Riverside Park Speedway used to occupy.  Plans are to rebuild the speedway as the way she stood prior to being torn down after the 1999 auto racing season.

RIVERSIDE NATION, an organization which was recently formed by four friends (and I do mean RECENTLY) all began with a chain of events immediately following the Riverside Park Speedway Reunion. Upon leaving the Springfield Civic Center, on the night of the Springfield Falcons game,  the four that make up RIVERSIDE NATION stopped by a local gas station.  They purchased a Super-Mega-Mega-Jackpot Lottery Ticket while en route to the Riverside Park Speedway Reunion After-Party.  The foursome found out the next day that their ticket landed them 711 million dollars!

The RIVERSIDE NATION Board members are currently choosing to remain nameless so we’ll refer to the four as Robert, Scott, El Jay, and Fiorio.  They were kind enough to sit down for a brief interview concerning this very exciting endeavor.

[Robert] remembered the ticket in his pocket the next morning and heard the lottery numbers during breakfast; “I could not freaking believe it!  I flicked from channel to channel on the television to make sure we had the winning numbers.  Heck, I felt like I already won the lotto after bringing home the signed 711 Bob Polverari door panel! Now this? Bonus score!”

“[Robert] called me to let me know that our numbers hit last night.” said an ecstatic [Scott]. “Once everyone was contacted we all agreed what we had to do with most of the money.”

“I’m just speechless.” exclaimed [El Jay].  “When [Robert and Scott] told me and brought up the idea of buying back the Park and rebuilding the track I only had a few small demands.  One, we build a ¼ midget track.  Two, we allow free camping with a designated pallet burning bonfire area.  And lastly, Eno Lirpasti should be Grand Marshall on opening night!”

“Yeah, I’m all for it (rebuilding the speedway).  We’ve got to bring back Riverside Park Speedway.  I’m already working on some new specs for the rule book.  Tire soaking will not only be legal, but encouraged.  Traction control will be legal and I’m working on a DRS spec for the Modifieds (Drag Reduction System as run in Formula One).” said [Fiorio] regarding new technical specifications. “Everyone will be able to purchase soaks for all kinds of strategies from my other new company SOAK’R’CHOKE.  We’ll have 44 different flavors, I mean mixtures to choose from.”

As stated earlier, construction has already begun.  Material from the soon to be dismantled roller coaster will be melted down and recycled for new guardrail around the facility.  The left over steel will be recycled into feature winning trophies.  The Park that is not being consumed by the reconstruction of the quarter mile asphalt oval will be opened starting mid April.  New Amusement Park hours will be Saturdays only from 3pm to 5pm, from 7pm to 8pm, and from 10:30pm to Midnight.

I asked the RIVERSIDE NATION board as to why the odd amusement park hours?  [Robert] began to explain; “We decided to open with the new amusement park hours right off the bat so everyone can get used to the new hours when the track is ready to reopen.”

“The track gates will open at 3pm and the younger crowd might want something else to do besides sit in the track’s new luxurious stadium seating and admire what sets before their eyes.” said [Robert],  “I don’t know why, but..  Uh..  What was the question? ..  Oh yeah, anyways.. Speedway intermission is usually around 7 or 7:30pm so the fans might want something to do then as well.”

“So we figure why not let them buy some ice cream, hot dogs, tacos, or German potato salad and go for a walk.”  Added [El Jay].  “Heck they may want to eat while taking a ride through the new-old ‘Pirate’s Cove’ ride or dodge someone else’s meal on the Rotor. “

[Scott] continued where [Robert] left off; “..then on average racing is over around 10:30 or 11pm. Why not wind down from the great racing action and ride some rides for about an hour or so.”

“Once the track is completed we will be open on Saturday’s only unless we have an Enduro Friday night or Sunday afternoon a few times.” added [Fiorio]. “We only give a damn about the racing anyways.  The amusement park is just a form of concessions.  You guys talk about it.  I’ve got to lay some knowledge down on my internet peeps.”

Posted immediately after [Fiorio] stepped away from the interview.
Posted immediately after [Fiorio] stepped away from the RIVERSIDE NATION  interview.
While [Fiorio] walked away from his fellow RIVERSIDE NATION board members to spread some words of wisdom on the information super highway, he managed to send me an email with a few more Modified rules. 

Examples of Modified bodies that will be mandatory for competition as per RIVERSIDE NATION. 1st Photo is [Fiorio] photo /  5 that follow are Howie Hodge photos
Examples of Modified bodies that will be mandatory for competition as per RIVERSIDE NATION. 1st Photo is [Fiorio] photo / 5 that follow are Howie Hodge photos
By [Fiorio’s] message the Modified division will be returning to new-old templates consisting of Chevette, Pinto, Vega, Bob Cat, Gremlin, Coupe and other old school body styles.  In a second email he also announced he will be diving into the role of Mod owner and will field a #44 Chevette, #44X Monza, #44XX Pinto, and #44XXX Cavalier.  I was unable to inquire whether [Fiorio] had any past experience as a car owner and at the time of this publishing have been unable to reach him.

Although the four gentleman are the sole owners, they are taking investments from supporters who will become a small percentage owner of the new Riverside Park Speedway.

The group will soon be taking applications to fill all positions at the track.  Positions range from tech inspector to announcer and everything in between.  The four did hint that the role of Promotor could already be filled as they are currently in talks with someone.  [Robert] has stated he will be the speedway’s Race Director.  [El Jay] will be assuming the Pit Steward position.  [Scott] will hold the position of Media Relations Executive, dealing with all press persons personally.  [Fiorio]?  Well although [Fiorio] sounds like he’ll certainly have his hands full, he will be taking the reins of the Public Relations position.

When RIVERSIDE NATION is prepared to reveal their true identities and have more updates regarding this subject of severe wishful thinking and bull droppings, you will find it here on NERF’ers Corner RELOADED.

Happy April Fools Day everyone and a shout out to New England Modified legend Ernie Bodreau who turns another lap today!  Happy Birthday Ernie!

– Jared

Is NASCAR Too Big For Its Britches?

This Classic NERF’ers Corner is a continuation of the Marty Radewick, Fred Felton, and Radical Racer versus NASCAR officials ordeal.  Due to the initial column on the same subject two weeks prior, Robert Echo was going on his second straight race weekend without NASCAR press credentials.  It should be noted that a couple local NASCAR sanctioned facilities decided themselves to reinstate his credentials the week after this very column was published.

Robert earned a couple of good friends in Marty and Fred during this period of investigative reporting.  It was a friendship which he enjoyed for years to come.

– Jared

–  Friday, August 11th, 1978 – SPEEDWAY SCENE  –



I just know that you have been waiting for this weeks NERF’ers Corner and the continuing saga of NASCAR and the “Radical Racer”.

Before I get back into the controversy of the “Radical Racer” I’d like to point out that Fred Felton and Marty Radewick aren’t the only ones who are upset with the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing.  It seems the list of disenchanted drivers and owners has grown beyond belief this season.

Ed Flemke Sr. in his familiar #10 at Stafford Motor Speedway 1978. Howie Hodge photo.
Ed Flemke Sr. in his familiar #10 and Dick Caso stepped away from Stafford Motor Speedway over disagreements with NASCAR officials in 1978 . Howie Hodge photo.

Eddie Flemke, Sr. and Dick Caso have both vacated Stafford Motor Speedway because of disputes with NASCAR officials.

It seems “King Richard” is being victimized by the very organization he helped build to it’s present proportions.  NASCAR’s winningest Grand National driver, Richard Petty, recently shifted from a 20 year association with Crystler, except for one year with Ford, to Chevrolet because of NASCAR’s refusal to change some rules that would have enabled his Dodge Magnum to become more competitive.

Rules right now show NASCAR leaning toward the General Motors cars.  NASCAR changed the rules for GM a couple of years ago to make them more competitive.  The 41 year old Petty, who has 185 career wins and has won more than 3 million dollars, stated;  “They wouldn’t change the rules for me even though they promised they would if the Magnum didn’t prove competitive.”

“It’s been most frustrating.” said Petty, who hasn’t visited victory lane in more than a year.  His last win came at Daytona in the 1977 Firecracker 400.  Petty added;  “I’m upset with NASCAR and most disappointed in them.”

It’s nice to be able to shit on the people who have probably been the most instrumental in helping build the organization.

Could NASCAR be at a point where they think they are the only organization around?  This is the feeling that one gets with some of the decisions that are being handed down by so called competent NASCAR officials.

"The King" Richard Petty in his 1978 Grand National (now Cup). Howie Hodge photo.
“The King” Richard Petty in his 1978 Grand National (now Cup) experienced issues with NASCAR. Howie Hodge photo.

Although USAC (United States Auto Club) has had their own division of cars equivalent to that of the NASCAR Grand National cars for many years, they have recently moved their events to the longer superspeedway tracks.  Could this mean that NASCAR had better cleanup its act and treat the competitor with a little more respect and dignity or they, the competitor, might jump to the other guy?

What would a Richard Petty or a Cale Yarborough or a David Pearson defection to USAC do to the mighty NASCAR?  This organization had better wake up and realize that they need the competitor, the competitor doesn’t need them.

The evidence of this is that two central New York tracks continue to operate after either breaking or losing their affiliation with NASCAR this season.

NEARA (North East Auto Racing Association) is the strong sanctioning body in central New York with 6 tracks under its wing while NASCAR now shows none with the departure of the Chemung Speedrome and Utica-Rome Speedway.  The latter had to be a hurting blow for NASCAR as the two top point runners, Richie Evans and Jerry Cook.  An interesting fact is that NEARA sanctions the Modifieds at 6 speedways, while NASCAR only sanctions 10 Modified tracks on a regular weekly basis in the entire United States.  These stats were taken from the National Speedway Directory, Northeast Speed and Show Directory and the 1978 NASCAR Official Record Book.

NEARA has given NASCAR more than it can handle in central New York, especially if you consider the fact that most of the tracks under NEARA now were once under the control of NASCAR.  Another couple of years could find NEARA here in New England with NASCAR on the outside looking in.

The downfall of NASCAR will come from its illegitimate rule book and wishy-washy officials who make up their own rules for lack of them from NASCAR.

Driver Marty Radewick and Fred Felton's Radical Racer Modified. Jim Snape photo.
Driver Marty Radewick and Fred Felton’s innovative Radical Racer Monza bodied asphalt Modified. Jim Snape photo.

Now to get back to the NASCAR / “Radical Racer” controversy.  A radio show on August 1st had a commentary directed toward the Felton owned and Radewick driven #11 Mass Monza bodied Modified.  It was compared to another Modified that was involved in a serious accident recently.  The car used in the comparison has been outlawed by NASCAR for sometime because of it’s right hand drive and some other things.  The Felton car hasn’t got a right hand drive and is built from the best materials money can buy.

“The man who did the commentary was definitely off base” stated Felton.

The two NASCAR inspectors involved with the ousting of the car, complained about the roll cage being too narrow.  You don’t have to be an engineer to know that a short piece of material, whether metal or wood, is stronger than a long piece.  I believe the gentleman who did the commentary should put his brain in gear before putting his mouth in motion.

The same individual asked Radewick if he’s brought his car on the night of the All Star League show at Stafford.  How ridiculous!  The car is safe for an open show at Stafford, but not for the weekly program?

People up North where Radewick captured his first victory recently, think the whole thing with NASCAR is a joke.  Boy do them Northerners sure know their stuff or is it their race cars?

NEARA Executive Director, Francis Gitchell stated;  “We would let the car run this season if this type of problem arose here, we’d then amend the rules and at the time tell the car owner that the machine would have to conform to the rules next year.”  He also added;  “It’s not right that a man who has spent that much money can’t run.”

One closing remark about NASCAR inspectors.  I asked a popular named driver recently who won’t divulge for obvious reasons, about the breaking down of an engine for NASCAR inspection when a tear down is requested.  His reply was, and I quote;  “The idiots NASCAR has for inspectors wouldn’t know what to look for if it was staring them in the face.”  Unquote.

If you, as a fan, would like to see the “Radical Racer” running at Stafford and Riverside, you can help by voicing your opinion in a letter to NASCAR – Daytona Beach, Florida 32015 – To the attention of Bill France, Jr..  With the shortage of cars at these two tracks, even one missing hurts.  It’s a chance for you, the fan, to be heard.

Geoff Bodine gets a victory smooch from the Mayor of Stafford, Seymour the Clown. Howie Hodge photo.
Geoff Bodine in victory lane gets a “victory smooch” from the Mayor of Stafford Motor Speedway, Seymour the Clown. Howie Hodge photo.

Checkered Chatter.. “I don’t want anyone to think I’m agitator just because I’ve been ousted from Riverside.” stated Marty Radewick, referring to the Riverside Park Speedway Car Owners meeting being held at his Speed Shop this week.  The owners will try to figure out how to lower the cost of racing at the Park…  Seymour the Clown was elected Mayor of Stafford Motor Speedway for the umteenth year last week in a close battle Geoff Bodine.  At this point I would like to inject the fact that I’ve had my little off track battle with Mr. Bodine, but I do you have to give credit when due and I think Bodine has been a gentleman in contributing much of his time to this little or should I say big event.  Even though Seymour got my vote, Geoff gained some points in my book and that’s sumthin’…  Several names related to Northeastern Mods and Late Model Sportsman were in the Coca-Cola 500 field at Pocono on July 30th. Satch Worley finished 9th in the Bob Johnson Oldsmobile.  Dirt tracker Kenny Brightbill placed 23rd while Jocco Maggiocomo, Jr. took 37th in his father’s Matador. Jocco, Sr. was a star at Riverside Park in the 50’s and 60’s. Northern Late Model Sportsman star Dave Dion finished 38thin his Green Mountain Ford…  There’s an excellent write up on the late Toby Tobias in the September issue of Stock Car Racing Magazine by it’s editor, Dig Berggren. In fact, the entire magazine is filled with some fantastic reading and super six…  Anyone interested in buying a T-shirt in support Dick Taylor who drives his own #79 Modified at Riverside and Stafford can contact Marge Larocca in the back row of the section 4 from the left end of the grandstand at Riverside…  How about that National Points Race between the “Rapid Roman” and the “Cookie Monster”? As of August 4th, Richie Evans leads Jerry Cook by a mere 4 points after who knows how many races…  Well after 12 weeks of frustration with the beautiful new #711 Vega, Polverari and crew have put the car in moth balls and brought out last years Vega which looked good in its first outing last week…  Our NBC TV affiliate here in Western, Mass.  Has done it to us again by televising the Red Sox game instead of Sportsworld.  We missed the Martinsville Mods, the Spring Sizzler, and now the National Motorized Barstool Racing Championship last Saturday.  Darn it! Till next week, Keep on Track’n!

*          *          *

I hope you enjoy these classic NERF’ers Corner columns as much as I do sharing them.  If you would like to share any memories of days gone past that relate to these columns please feel free to do so in the comments area under any of the columns published.

Thank you all for visiting each and every week.

– Jared

I’m Not Sayin’. I’m Just Sayin’.. With a Little Bit of Bugsy.

RELOADED03Bugsy Stevens once gave the great New England auto racing writer, Pete Zanardi his opinion of what the upper level of auto racing consisted of.  With that, so goes this column..

“There’s the Formula One..”

Formula One kicked off it’s 2014 season this past weekend in Australia.  The new 6 cylinder twin turbo charged engines with kinetic energy system have turned the trademark sounds into more of an idling leaf blower.  Just terrible sounding engines.  I for one am a huge Formula One fan and when I tuned into Free Practice One and the teams started heading out onto the track, I had to stop myself from turning up the volume.  Not having that trademark scream of an F1 machine at full song will take some getting used to.

All these changes over the past few years on the F1 machines  keep being labeled by the FIA and Bernie Ecclestone as cost cutting rule changes to steer more manufacturers into the sport.  Kinda mixed signals there wouldn’t you say?

Bernie has said he prefers no more than 24 cars/12 teams maximum.  Of course, this is coming from the same Bernie who opened it up for 13 teams had the Peter Windsor/Ken Anderson US based team ever made it to the grid.  This is also the very same Bernie who was against more than 18 races in a season then followed it up by scheduling 20.  This cost cutting label is just a smoke and mirrors show.  The only thing that isn’t consistently changing is the fact that damn near every year the specification and regulations ARE drastically changing.

These overhauls of regulations effect nearly every aspect of the machines.  Where does this save any team money?  Engine, aero package, chassis, body, etc. and on top of that all the developement that goes into it, all have nothing to do with lowering costs.  They supposedly have everything to do with trying to persuade more manufacturers into throwing their hat into the ring.  But what manufacturer is going to want to enter a half electric, half  6 cylinder engine that is jacked up with a pair of turbos and regulated to use only so much gas in the engine per lap?  Anybody?  Anyone?  Yeah, me either.

Formula One 2006 US Grand Prix at Indy. Jared Echo photo.
Formula One 2006 US Grand Prix at Indy. Jared Echo photo.

Looking at the issue of saving fuel by implementing electronic or kinetic energy system.  I say trash the damn things.  If Formula One wants to save fuel and cut costs, first regulate how many transport trucks can be used by each team.  Half the trucks that arrive at each event for the teams are strictly for setting up each team’s headquarters or social area for the weekend.  There’s a fuel saving idea!  Bam!  Costs cut.  Click-click, that was easy.

If Bernie is stuck on 24 cars maximum grid then what is he going to do with all these new manufacturers that he believes will be breaking down the doors to join?  For the love of the sport don’t ruin one of the keys that makes F1 unique and bring back the trademark engine screams!

The Australian Grand Prix ended with Nico Rosberg outclassing the field crossing the line 23 seconds ahead in his Mercedes.  Daniel Ricciardo had a great run and finished second only to be disqualified later that evening and Kevin Magnussen had a spectacular rookie debut as well.  But Valttari Bottas, in his Williams machine, put in the drive of the day.  A cut tire after popping the wall forced him to limp around the majority of the Australian circuit to get to his pit box.  Once he pitted and came back out he started slicing up through the field like being shot out of a cannon.  Sure he had the help of a safety car period, but the passes he made on his way back up to 5th was the stuff of champions.  The fact that it was done with a team that had been in quite a slump through the past decade made the charge even more magical.  This made me wonder if Felipe Massa didn’t beach his Williams in the first turn on the first lap, would we have seen Mercedes on the top step of the podium?

“..and the Indy cars on top. ..”

Standing at the podium during a Racearama Roast back in the early 80’s Bugsy Stevens regarded Indy Cars as the only cars where you have to put your balls on the dashboard and drive.  Enter one Kurt Busch.

When I used to watch Cup religiously, I was never a Kurt Busch fan.  I’ll even go so far to say that for once in my life I cheered for Jimmy Spencer and that was when he planted Busch’s nose sideways during an altercation one season.  But my friends I have had a change of mind about Kurt Bush the driver.

Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.
Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.

It was announced a while back that one of NASCAR’s black sheep, Kurt Busch had decided to throw his hat in the ring to attempt the double on Memorial Day.  He’s not entering the run for the Borg-Warner Trophy with just any team either.  He’s landed a ride with Andretti Motorsports.  Busch, being the first true NASCAR driver to cross over and attempt the double of the Indianapolis 500 and World 600 at Charlotte in a really, really long time, has to be one of the biggest stories to hit in 40 plus years.  The significance of it is unlike Tony Stewart, Robbie Gordon, and John Andretti who all came from the open wheeled IndyCar ranks and moved to NASCAR.  Bush is a real deal full fendered driver stepping into an IndyCar.

In the past, these doubles have been cheered by faithful fans from both sides.  After all it is the ultimate level of weekend warrior. As May approaches the story will start to boil to the top, but it hasn’t received the full dial as it should so far.  Maybe it’s the lingering effects left from the reaction by NASCAR’s Brian France in a press conference on May 25th of last year which took place a couple weeks after Busch’s testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway early last May.

France downplayed any double happening by mentioning that drivers have found their schedules prevent that.  He went on to say that any changes in scheduling times at Charlotte to accommodate any future runs wasn’t even on the proverbial radar.  Coincidentally the other side said they would be more than willing to adjust times for the Indy 500.  So was the reaction a snub to Indy or maybe a shot at Busch who has been on NASCAR’s black list for actions in the past?  Who knows.  In France’s defense, NASCAR has been concentrating on their top series with the steady drop in attendance so his mind might have been elsewhere with those answers.

Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.
Indianapolis 500 Time Trials. Madison Echo photo.

The Indianapolis 500 is going on it’s 98th running of the greatest spectacle in auto racing.  Those in charge of the longest running auto race in North America are willing to adjust the times in order to allow doubles to exist.  France has no problems adjusting points systems and formats that completely change the landscape of a season.  He had no problem drawing further and further away from the true auto racing identity of “consistency win championships”, but is unwilling to contemplate adjusting an event by a half an hour or hour to help make the feat possible this year and for the future?  A little irony.

The Indianapolis 500 has once again reclaimed itself as the best race of May’s final Sunday.  2012 had 34 lead changes and last year’s 500 had a whopping 68 lead changes that even made Talladega stand up and say; “What the..?”

The last 2 Indy 500’s had more wheel to wheel racing than anything at Charlotte or Monaco combined could think about experiencing.  That very momentum switch has many baffled as to why France wouldn’t jump at the chance to play the give and take game with those running IndyCar.

“.. Then comes the Modifieds. Everything else is a step down.”

Though the Southern asphalt Modified season has two SWMT official races under their belt the Northeastern asphalt Modified season kicks off next weekend at the famed Waterford Speedbowl in Waterford, Connecticut.  The Blastoff includes the Valenti Modified Racing Series’ 100 lap season opener next Sunday.  Some new faces and teams have entered the series further creating a healthy pool of talent that is certain to make for a very interesting season.

The series gave a little tip of the hat towards the Tri-Track Open Series.  Add to that the Race of Champions tour combo event taking place late in the season and it’s a welcome breath of fresh air in regards to the betterment of the division.  Showing support and a good attitude for open shows can do nothing but good for the entire division as a whole.

When this happens it opens the thoughts of possible return of days of old.  It’s a no-brainer for all involved that stars from all current tours competing in these types of events, open or combo, helps promote those series just as much as much as it promotes those events.  Could this be the beginning of better days for the Modified division?  It certainly has the potential.

Bugsy Stevens was always a threat at open Modified shows. Howie Hodge photo.
Bugsy Stevens was always a threat at open Modified shows. Howie Hodge photo.

Remember the days of that guaranteed starting spots for the Race of Champions, Bud 200 and Thompson 300?  Spots were handed out everywhere regardless of series or any sanctioning body.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see the return of big championship type races again?  The return of what used to be the Bud 200 which shared the bill the same weekend of the Oswego Classic or the return of the Thompson 300 or real glory days Race of Champions event.  Sure some were still points races, but they were outsider friendly for competitors who competed weekly at other facilities.

Hopefully this “all for the division” type attitude bleeds over into the head offices of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour as well.  Improving the health of the Modified division can only improve if all facilities, promoters, teams, tours, and media drop their differences and focus more on the betterment of the Modified division.  One can only hope.   I for one am praying for it..

On February 19th Carl Steven Berghman, who every Modified fan knows as Bugsy Stevens, was deservedly honored at the Living Legends of Auto Racing banquet held in Daytona Beach, Florida.  Bugsy gave us all so many great memories in his racing career and I for one feel very fortunate to have watched the great champion race for many years.  A belated congratulations Bugsy!

Until next week’s republishing of another classic NERF’ers Corner by Robert Echo, here’s to a very successful Riverside Park Speedway Reunion at the Springfield Falcons Hockey game this Saturday and safe gathering at the watering hole to follow that up.

Railroading of the Radical Racer

When Robert Echo caught wind of team owner Fred Felton and driver Marty Radewick being singled out by a group of tech inspectors he refused to stand by and watch.  Much like his colleagues back then who filled the pages of auto racing news papers, Robert Echo didn’t just report the news nor did he step over to bypass the real issues for fear of rocking the boat.  He wasn’t afraid of the heat.  He welcomed it.

After this story published in New England Speedway Scene, Robert Echo’s press credentials were suspended by the sanctioning body.  Did this stop him?  No.  It had the exact opposite effect on his writing.  His reaction to the suspension of his press credentials;  “They want to take my press pass, fine by me.  They can have them.  I’m a fan.  I have no problems paying to get in every week like my fellow racing fans.  It won’t stop me from writing.  It won’t stop me from sticking up for what’s right.  Anyone who allows something like this to effect the way they write is just working for their press pass.”

Robert Echo had the stones to stick his neck out for what was right in the sport he loved and never thought twice about the consequences that might follow.  He cared about the fans, the teams and the speedways.  So rather than stand by the wayside and watch a team get “railroaded”, as he put it, he chose to fight for their cause by investigating the issues surrounding them.


– Jared

Friday, July 28th, 1978 – SPEEDWAY SCENE


Somebody told me recently that we should change the name of this column to “Controversy Corner” and so in keeping with the weekly trend of this little corner in NESS, here we go again!

Can you tell me what Fred Felton, Marty Radewick, railroading and NASCAR (National Association fro Stock Car Auto Racing) have in common?

Marty Radewick crouches beside Fred Felton's 11MA Monzo bodied 'Radical Racer' Modified in the pit area at Claremont Speedway in Claremont, NH. - Jim Snape photo.
Talented asphalt Modified driver Marty Radewick with Fred Felton’s 11MA Monzo bodied ‘Radical Racer’ Modified in the pit area at Claremont Speedway in Claremont, NH. – Jim Snape photo.

Well, car owner Felton and driver Radewick are being railroaded out of two Southern New England speedways by a couple NASCAR technical inspectors.

Frank “Bunky” Skawski of Riverside Park Speedway and Bruce Watt of Stafford Motor Speedway have joined forces to keep Radewick, Felton and the No. 11M Monza bodied Modified, which has become known as the “Radical Racer”, out of those two tracks.

Neither inspector has been able to give a straight answer as to why the car will not be allowed to compete at the two facilities except that they feel the car’s roll cage is too narrow therefor making it a supermodified. They will also tell you that it is probably the most well-constructed and safetest race car to enter the pits at either track.

Doesn’t make much sense does it?

The funniest thing, if there is one, about the whole situation is that no where in the NASCAR Rule Book does it say how wide the the roll cage has to be. It sates the size and thickness of the material that can be used in the construction of the cage. It also states that there has to be at least four bars on each side of the car plus additional bracing added at specified areas in the roll cage. The Felton built Modified has all of these required bars and then some. (See photo inserts)

Robert Echo photo 1978.
From the pages of Speedway Scene 7/28/78. Robert Echo photo.

In a telephone conversation with Skawski on July 20th, I was told that it states in the rule book that the roll bars can be no farther than 4 inches from the body at any point. I replied that I’d read the complete Modified section of the rule book plus the roll bar paragraph in each of the other seven divisions included in the book. Mr. Skawski then told me that if I wanted to take a ride to his house he would be glad to show me the 4 inch rule.

I took the 10 mile trip to the Skawski residence where he told me he had the page marked so he could show me. He tried to pass off the four bars on each side of the car as the 4 inch rule. I pointed this out and he replied it was somewhere in the book which he would show me. As of this time I have still not been shown the rule.

Robert Echo photo 1978.
From the pages of Speedway Scene 7/28/78. Robert Echo photo.

Ralph Ouderkirk, racing director at Riverside Park Speedway, said the roll bars must follow the configuration of the car’s body, but again it doesn’t state this in the rule book. Ouderkirk then added we should look at the picture in the back of the rule book. All fine and dandy, except that Felton didn’t build a Grand National car, as pictured in the rear of the book. He built a Modified by the NASCAR Rule Book or to the way it reads.

Early in the season, Mr. Skawski gave Felton a check list of 4 things he had to correct and a period of three weeks to do them in. They were completed in the specified time. Later Ouderkirk added a couple of things he wanted done and they too were finished by the next racing program. The car then ran for a couple of weeks after that at the Park up until the time they had problems with their 340 ci engine. For three or four weeks they went north to run Claremont Speedway with a 356 ci mill, which is legal at Riverside.

Robert Echo photo 1978.
From the pages of Speedway Scene 7/28/78. Robert Echo photo.

Upon returning to the Park on July 15th, they were told not to unload the care by Mr. Skawaski because they wouldn’t be allowed to run with a Supermodified roll cage. It was at this time they found out that the NASCAR people at Stafford had contacted Skawaski and told him that since Radewick wasn’t allowed to run at Stafford he shouldn’t be allowed to run at the Agawam, Mass. Oval. It’s nice to know Stafford now runs the racing program at Riverside Park.

An irate Radewick, the 24 year old Riverside Park Speedway Rookie of the Year, stated; “They are insulting my intelligence. I wouldn’t get in the car if I thought it was unsafe.”

Robert Echo photo 1978.
From the pages of Speedway Scene 7/28/78. Robert Echo photo.

Felton added this comment; “My conscience wouldn’t allow me to put anyone in the car if I thought there was the slightest chance he should be hurt because of the construction of it.”

Two Modified car builders, including Richie Evans, stated they felt the car was as safe as any Modified they’d seen at either speedway.

In my phone conversation with Mr. Skawski, he first stated he didn’t give Felton a check list and moments later admitted he had. He also said that none of the other drivers and owners were jealous of the car, but later referred to thirty Riverside Park Car owners that were on his back about the “Radical Racer”. When I brought up that there were many rules in the NASCAR Rule Book that were not being adhered to, he stated he didn’t give a damn about them and he still wasn’t going to let Radewick run at the Park.

Robert Echo photo 1978. From Speedway Scene 7/28/78.
From the pages of Speedway Scene 7/28/78. Robert Echo photo.

Ouderkirk, in a phone conversation on July 20th, told Radewick that Skawaski had told him that if everything on the checklist was completed he could run. In a return call Skawski moments after the Ouderkirk conversation, Skawski denied ever saying such a thing.

Sounds like a whole lot of double talk and run around being handed out by what are supposed to be qualified NASCAR officials.

To add to all of this, Skawski told me that both Riverside and Stafford had a serious shortage of Modifieds, but that he wished Felton would take his car and run somewhere else.

Watt stated; “I’m afraid that others, in seeing the Felton car, will take the role cage to extremes.” he’s most likely right, but why should they penalize Felton and Radewick now? Change the rule over the coming winter and state that the roll cage can be no narrower than so many inches. That would keep this problem from arising again.

Robert Echo photo 1978.
From the pages of Speedway Scene 7/28/78. Robert Echo photo.

 It’s not right that two tech inspectors can bend the rules in their favor just because. “They don’t like the car” is no reason. It is not right because there are rules in black and white in the NASCAR Rule Book that are not being enforced at either track.

How would you like to spend 15,000 hard earned dollars to build a Modified to the way the NASCAR Rule Book reads only to find out that you can’t run it because some guy working for NASCAR, who thinks he’s a genius, doesn’t like the car. By the way, the Modified section in the NASCAR Rule Book is only nine (9) pages long in a book that measures 4” x 9”. “Ya gotta be kiddin’!” How can you build anything as complex as the Modified today with only nine pages of rules, regulations and specifications to go by in a book that leans almost entirely towards the Grand National division?

There will probably be more on this in weeks to come, but in the meantime what we’d like to know is this; “Has NASCAR gone into the railroad business?”

*        *        *

Next week comes a new RELOADED.  Until then, take care everyone!

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