“Old Man ’78” has now passed from our midst and with it went twelve months filled with many happenings in NERF’ers Land. It was definitely a year of thrills, mysteries, controversies, tragedies and oh yes, some big surprises.
The question that will be running through the heads of many racing fans, drivers, owners and promoters in the Northeast is, “What will 1979 hold for the auto racing world or more exact, for us within the coverage area of this publication?”
It’s also time, once again, for “New Year Resolutions” and a little later on in this column we’ll give you our promises for ’79.
But for now, let’s review some of the happenings that made 1978 a very interesting year in Northeast auto racing. We’ll take it item by item as listed in the first paragraph of this conglomeration of illiterature, heh, heh.
1. The battle between Richie Evans and Jerry Cook for the National NASCAR Modified Championship.
2. The head to head track duels between Geoff Bodine and Maynard Troyer.
3. The miraculous fight for life and recovery shown by the “Big O” Ollie Silva.
4. Seeing the fantastic support exhibited by competitors and fans at the “Fred DeSarro” Memorial Race.
5. Watching the weekly antics of Seymour the Clown at Stafford Motor Speedway, especially his daffynitions of the flags.
1. Why did the mighty Firestone suddenly go flat in the racing tire industry?
2. What super setup was really hidden under the rear wheel canvas of the “Big Red Machine“?
3. What kind of unearthly problem was built into the beautiful new #711 driven by Bob Polverari?
4. Whatever happened to crowd pleasing Modified chargers John Anderson and Roger Westbrook?
5. Why Riverside Park Speedway and NASCAR continues to let John Tallini handle the track’s flagging duties?
1. The Geoff Bodine bumping incidents with Ken Bouchard, George Savory, Bugs Stevens and Richie Evans.
2. The battle between Riverside Park’s NASCAR officials and Fred Felton, over his #11MA Monza known as the “Radical Racer“.
3. Eddie Flemke not running Stafford Motor Speedway after an early season conflict with the track’s NASCAR officials.
4. The refusal to let the Bugs Stevens, Ron Bouchard and Geoff Bodine Fan Clubs sell certain articles at Stafford by Mike Adeskaveg.
5. The “T-Shirt” hassle between Oval Track Design’s Fred Poteto and Riverside Park Speedway concessionaire, Shany Lorenzet.
1. The loss of Fred DeSarro, one of New England’s finest Modified chauffeurs and former National NASCAR Modified Champion.
2. The death of probably greatest Modified dirt drivers ever and super car builder Dick “Toby“ Tobias.
3. The Northeast also lost another fine Modified dirt wheel man with the passing of Mike Grbac.
4. Andy Maine wasn’t a driver, but his death left a definite void in auto racing as part of the CFA team.
5. The deaths of Formula One drivers Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, both of Sweeden, within a couple of weeks time was a shocker.
1. The No. 1 Racing Team breakup and Geoff Bodine, along with Billy Taylor, joining the Bob Johnson – Jack Beebe GN venture.
2. Personable Stan Greger winning the Riverside Park Speedway NASCAR Modified Championship in Billy Simons #9.
3. Geoff Bodine’s complete domination of Modified racing in Dick Armstrong’s Nu Style Jewelry Pinto.
4. Sonny Fleury, owner of Claremont Speedway, turning the track over to the owners and drivers to operate in 1979.
5. Stafford Motor Speedway’s PR man Mike Joy heading South for a similar job at Daytona and John McMullin taking over for him.
1978 was definitely a year of many happenings and no one can predict what the new year holds for auto racing, but here’s hoping that the next 360 some days offer us a lot of good Speedway action and a lot less tragedy.
Checkered Chatter… Fans who venture to Stafford in 1979 will treated to the “Spring Sizzler“, the “Mark’s Auto Parts 100“, “Ferrara 100“, “Winston 100“, the “200 at Stafford” and the Modified – Late Model Doubleheader plus 14 regular season racing events… Ron Bouchard has also stated that he will campaign at Seekonk Speedway in 1979 as it is rumored that D. Anthony Vendetti will up the Modified purse on top by 100 bucks… Ernie Clark has purchased Bob Polverari’s #711 Vega that brought him the 1976 and 1977 Riverside Park titles and will put 1978 Riverside “Rookie of the Year” Ed Kennedy behind the wheel… NASCAR Grand National Champion, Cale Yarborough, who collected a single season record of $530,751 for Junior Johnson’s Oldsmobile team, was selected as “Driver of the Year” by the National Motorsports Press Association… Riverside Park will not only lose a driver or two, they will also lose a faithful Bob Polverari follower as Scott Rodowicz will vacate the Park for greener pastures, Army green that is… Oh yeah! Here’s a resolution I promise ya. Here goes! I do hereby promise not to pick on anyone named Geoff Bodine or Bunky Skawski. I wish Geoff the best of luck as he joins the big boys on the Grand National circuit and Bunky doesn’t have to worry about me any longer as I’ll spend my Saturday nights at Claremont Speedway in 1979. Gee! Ain’t ya’ glad Bunky… Til we meet again, I wish everyone in NERF’ers Land a “Very Happy and Prosperous New Year.”
The biggest auto racing weekend of the year has arrived in the Northeast and boy has it arrived.
Motor racing fans from throughout New England will be able to enjoy some of the finest and longest races of the year this Labor Day weekend. If you can’t decide where you want to go after reading the following selections of racing programs, then I suggest you put your index finger above this column, close your eyes and drop point of finger on column… There! Problem solved.
Weekend racing is on with the “Riverside 200” at Riverside Park, The “Genesee 200” and “International Classic 200” at Oswego, Stafford hosts the “200 at Stafford”, the “Labor Day 7 in 1 Special” at Thompson, the “Labor Day Classic” at Albany Saratoga, Fonda hosts the “Montomery County Fair Races”, the “New York State Modified Championships” at Syracuse, the “Labor Day 78” at Plattsburg, Rolling Wheels hosts the “R.M. Etrocci Memorial” and Bear Ridge runs it’s “Labor Day Special”.
Just think, if you catch the regular season wrap-ups at Stafford on Friday, the shows at Riverside Park or Oswego on Saturday, Oswego on Sunday and then back to Stafford for Monday, you’ll see 630 laps of main event racing plus nearly 300 laps of qualifying heats. If dat don’t saturate a racing mind, nuttin’ will.
Now on to a little bit about a whole lot of a bunch of everything. If you made any sense out of what I just said then you’ve did better than I’ve done or is that done better than I did? Oh well, who cares.
We understand that if Reggie Ruggeiro wins the Riverside Park Track Championship, instead of celebrating with champagne they’re gonna eat “Reggie Bars.” He’s done a super job this season in the “Italian Connection Car”. The Mario Fiore – Dean Nardi owned #44Chevette driven by Reggie Ruggeiro is definitely an Italian Connection, tain’t it?..
Congratulations to Geoff Bodine on winning the Stafford Track Championship and the Yankee All Star Series. Whether you like him or not, he’s got his act together and he won both titles going away. Let’s face it, you have to give credit where credit is due, right!..
Conratulations are also in store for Jerry Cook who took the Track Title at New Egypt Speedway and Jerry Marquis who captured the Figure 8 Crown at Riverside Park…
It’s good to hear that Ollie Silva is now listed in fair condition and on his way to a full recovery. I know that all NERF’ers wish nothing but the best for the “Big O” and his wife, Susan…
Mentioning Stafford Technical Inspector, Bruce Watt, in the same breath with Tech Man at Riverside Park in recent articles on the “Radical Racer” was a definite injustice. No two individuals could be that bad. My apologies, Bruce…
To Chuck Jeffries: I won’t release the secret if you if you give me your tape recorder and clip board. You can keep your pen. Yes, CJ, it’s called blackmail…
A hearty NERF’ers well done to all the fan clubs that put their thoughts and hard work into the bringing about of their part of the “Ollie Silva Fund”. The clubs involved are the Bugs Stevens, Geoff Bodine and Ron BouchardFan Clubs and with all three being involved, all three should receive credit, not just one…
Full NASCAR rules at Riverside Park next year with a 340 ci bonus. That word was given at the pre-race meeting last week and officials feel this will boost the low turnout of cars this year. There’s a lot of pros and cons on this subject and no one will know the answer until next season…
Seymour the Clown has issued a challenge rematch race with Geoff Bodine. Seymour stated last week, “Geoffrey better watch out because now I got my s#=t together!” We understand that the Mayor of Stafford Motor Speedway is looking for a couple of motorized bar stools. Might I suggest one lap around the mini-track on Pogo Sticks and I’ll furnish them…
A BIG solute to the employees of Monadnock Speedway who donated their paychecks of August 11th to the “Ollie Silva Fund”. The amount of the donation was just over $500. A great gesture by the “High Banks Bunch”…
The Fran Leamy – Peter Dupey #34 Vega has picked off a ninth and a second in the last two weeks at Riverside Park with W.J. Grez at the wheel and gang…
I wonder how Riverside Park Figure 8 runner up, Gary Orton feels about losing the title by a scant two points especially when he can look back a few weeks to when a fellow competitor put him in the wall intentionally. He finished eighth instead of second where he was running at the time and the 12 point difference between the two positions cost Orton the Championship…
I have to give an “Outstanding Performance Award” this week at Riverside Park to “Seymour the Clown” who did his famous “Climb the Fence and Explanation of the Racing Flags” routine. He got a standing “O” when he Black Flagged starter John Tallini. My “Worst Performance Award” goes to Riverside Park itself for throwing Seymour off the track during that first Red Flag. It’s another case of thinking only of money and not the fans. What else is new…
The “200 at Stafford” Monday has posted approximately $30,000 in awards of which the winner could take home better than $3,500 including contingency money. Top Southern entries are Ray Hendrick, Satch Worley, Paul Radford, Billy Middleton, Johnny Bryant and Bubba Beck. From New York and New Jersey will come Fred Harbach, Charlie Jarzombek, Wayne Anderson, Bob Park, Cliff Tyler, Gary Cretty,Roger Griffith, Maynard Troyer, Richie Evans and Jerry Cook. Don’t miss this biggie…
Congrats to Tom Rosati for wrapping up his second straight Limited Sportsman title. Rosati who will campaign exclusively on the Northern NASCAR circuit next season, has sold his car to Dick Armstrong. Ricky Armstrong will wheel the new #1 entry of the Nu-Style Jewelry Racing Team… The Stafford Banquet has been set for January 13th at the Sheraton Sturbridge on US Route 20 in Sturbridge, Mass. While the Riverside Park Banquet will be held on November 18th at the Chez Josef in Agawam, Mass…. NASCAR Executive Vice President Lin Kuchler has resigned to take the position of Executive Director of the American Motorcyclist Association. Replacing Kuchler is Bill Gazeway, who has been NASCAR’s Winston Grand National Competition Director and Bob Smith, NASCAR’s Marketing Manager. Winston Grand National Technical Director, Ray Hill will assume Gazeway’s former duties…. The “Rapid Roman” is now leading the “Cookie Monster” by 132 points in the chase for the NASCAR National Championship. Richie Evans now has 3,036 to Jerry Cook’s 2,904. Cook picked up 16 points on the current leader last week…. Modified and Late Model Sportsman drivers went into the stands for charity at the NASCAR National Championship race at Monadnock Speedway on August 20th and using their helmets collected well over $1,250 from a capacity crowd. That’s what puts auto racing drivers and fans among the greatest people in the world…. The “Radical Racer”, owned by Fred Felton and driven by
Marty Radewick, returned to Stafford two weeks ago with one change. They widened the roll bar hoops at the roof of the car about 6 to 8 inches. On the right side of the car only, while the car’s width remains the same at all other points. Felton stated, “We gave a little and NASCAR gave a little.” Felton also told me that Bruce Watt had been very understanding and helpful during the “Radical Racer” conflict…. The racing world is always saddened when tragedy strikes the sport. 42 year old C.H. Whorton of Tulsa, Oklahoma was killed a couple of weeks ago at the Tulsa Speedway when he backed his Modified onto the track after a spinout and was t-boned by another car. Our deepest sympathy to the family, relatives, and friends of C.H. Whorton.
Geoff Bodine has won 46 races so far this season to lead the Nations Modified drivers, but there are some other big winners in the Northeast. Maynard Troyer has collected 37 wins, Richie Evans has 30 wins to his credit and Punky Caron has entered victory lane 19 times. You put this bunch together and you could call them auto racing’s Fearsome Foursome…. Fred Felton told me recently that he is really happy with the job that Marty Radewick has been doing in his car. He stated, “Marty drives like a man with 20 years experience instead of only a few years.” Radewick retired the Claremont Top Ten Drivers Trophy last Saturday by winning it twice in a row for the 11 Mass Racing Team. Felton’s car won last years races with Kirby Montieth at the wheel. It’s only the first time since the trophy was instituted nine years ago that a car has won back to back…. Have you seen all those Booker T – What It Is – tee shirts? Well, with Riverside Park going full NASCAR next year, we won’t have to worry about anyone runnin’ those Fat Motors will we?…. To Becky Coit of the #6 Racing Team; I think your poem on Ollie Silva was just super and you only confirm what I said earlier in this column about racing people…. It’s beginning to look like old times at Yarrington’s Yard. August 11th saw 51 Modifieds at Stafford and the following week there were 45. Last week’s total was 35, but weather seems to hold down the number of cars as Bugsy Stevens and Bobby Vee were among the missing.
To all of the people who don’t like what I write in NERF’ers Corner, all I have to say is don’t read it and you won’t get your ulcers in an uproar. If you continue to read this column, then as the Fonz would say; A-y-y-y-e-e-e, Sit On It!…. Until next week remember; “NERF’ers Do It Trackside.
In the “Oval Dustings” section of NESS on June 28th was a letter from Diane Scott of East Lyme, Conn. which was in agreement with Dick Armstrong’s article of a week earlier.
Now here’s the shocker of this week’s “NERF’ers Corner.” I’m not going to rap this letter, but instead would like to commend her on a letter well written. One line in the letter; “Where the hell are this starter’s glasses?” gave us the initiative for this weeks column.
The line fits one flag waver to a “T”, that being the flagman of Riverside Park Speedway. This man is about as far from being a flagman as I’ve seen in New England or anywhere else for that matter. He never drops the green flag in the same place twice and seems to use the yellow flag when he needs a break.
In the next few paragraphs I will try to illustrate the problems of flags at Riverside.
A few weeks ago Mr. Flagman saw rookie Jim Tourville spin three times during the qualifying heats and the consi, but no yellow flag was thrown. After his third spin he was black flagged. A week later, young veteran Bruce D’Allesandro looped it three times but low and behold no black flag. When questioned on this, his reply was; “They were different circumstances.” Maybe so, but down on the track a spin out is just that, a spin out.
Last season with a few races to go and on a restart, there was a rookie in the front row outside with Roger Westbrook outside second row. Coming out of the fourth turn the green flag flew, but a change of heart by Mr. Flagman, for whatever reason, saw him drop the yellow almost simultaneously causing the rookie to lock up the brakes and with no where to go Westbrook was pushed into the wall. His Vega was so badly bent up that it ended up the season for the talented driver who was running 8th in points in only his second year at the wheel of a Modified. You could blame the rookie, but I think everyone involved and in attendance laid blame on poor flagmanship by Mr. Flagman.
In a recent 100 lapper, Tourville not running at speed with the leaders, was being given the passing flag while he was passing an even slower car. Two of the leaders rolled up up on his bumper with one whalloping the wall demolishing the right front half of the car. Tourville was black flagged for causing the accident. Evidently, a slower car isn’t allowed to pass. I’ve heard several drivers say they’ve been given the passing flag for three laps before anyone passed them. If Tourville was to get the black flag then why wasn’t Gig Smith given the same flag for putting Billy Knight into the wall a few weeks ago? Knight’s car was so badly damaged that he has yet to return to action as of this column.
Why doesn’t the yellow flag fly for lesser known drivers when they spin, yet it always seems to fall for the big names so they won’t be lapped by the field?
Why does one NASCAR official state that he’s never seen a certain big name rough ride as he has seen, but Mr. Flagman sees nothing?
Why are the big names allowed to run dumping fluids all over the track while the little guy gets the black flag fora small puff of smoke?
“Why”? Because Mr. Flagman needs more than glasses to cure his problem.
If you ever get a chance to visit the pits at the Park watch and see which drivers Mr. Flagman hangs around before and after the races. It sure isn’t the little guy.
Drivers have been complaining about Mr. Flagman since he came to Riverside some three years ago, but to no avail. One popular big name refuses to return to the Park in his own car because of Mr. Flagman.
When will NASCAR wake up and put someone on the flagstand that knows what he’s doing? I’m no flagman and I don’t pretend to be, but Mr. Flagman gets paid for the job he’s doing. What job? The fans are not blind and have booed Mr. Flagman on many occasions. NASCAR had better hurry up before there’s a $250,000 pileup or someone gets killed.
The drivers should get a yellow flag when they come out of the pits for getting on the speedway with Mr. Flagman on the flagstand. The Flagman should get the black flag so the Park can get a flagman like Frank Sgambato who knows what he’s doing.
Till next week; “Keep on Trackin'”
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The NERF was just one of many columnists and media types that were heavily critical of certain chief starters back in the day. Over the decades, most all were written about certain incidents particular writers felt were wrong, biased or unjust.
One of the NERF’s examples was the repeated “rookie” move of immediately dropping the yellow after throwing the green. That has always been a huge “no-no”. That type of action by a flagman wrecks a ton of machinery.
Another example of the same flagman at the same facility is one evening in 1980 “Mr. Flagman” threw the green flag on 12 rows of Modifieds and as the field went through turns one and two, this flagman turned his back on the track and made numerous failed attempts to light a cigarette. During his failed attempts he glanced over his shoulder once and went back to flicking his lighter repeatedly in cupped hands. As the field headed out of turn four and flew past the flagstand, this guy still had his back to the track trying like mad to light his smoke. People in the stands were throwing up their hands at him while watching it all go down.
Being a former chief starter or “flagman”, as the NERF always referred to it, during my time in the profession, I was two short steps from being classified as a chain smoker. However, I NEVER had a smoke in my hand on the flagstand or lit one up in between races, let alone turned my back on the track to light one up under red, yellow or green flag conditions. I always waited until after practice or during intermission after the heats to partake in my terrible habit. A flagman’s job is the safety of all on the speedway grounds as soon as those cars fired up and began rolling out of the pit gate. To do anything of the sort, especially after observing the position during my young years and being trained by one of New England’s greatest flagmen, Jim Hanks, it would have been great disrespect the one who tutored me and equally cheating the very definition of the position.
In those days you didn’t have a Race Director in your ear barking out orders like the micro-managing, chatterbox, choreographers some are today. Back then the majority of a Race Director’s job was to move the show along. When the racing was going on however, they were an “extra set of eyes” helping the flagman out just as the Pit Stewart and Assistant Flagman. The chief starter was considered the highest ranking official when those race machines took to the speedway. EVERYONE’S SAFETY on the speedway grounds was the chief starter’s responsibility.
Next season will tell the story at Riverside Park Speedway as the track ventures into the land of bigger motors. The Park has never allowed engines larger than 340 cubic inches in 30 some years the Agawam oval has been in operation.
Riverside has been under the sanction of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) for the past three years after a long association with Harvey Tattersall and United Stock Car Racing Club. During the three year period with NASCAR the number of Modifieds signing into the pits each week has declined very drastically.
NASCAR officials feel that Riverside’s 340 CI motor limit has been somewhat of a factor in the short turnout of cars while many Modified owners think the rising cost in auto racing is the main culprit. Both feelings are a definite factor in the shortage of cars. Many owners of the 340 powered Modifieds feel they’re not competitive when venturing out to other tracks.
Just a few seasons ago you could find upwards of 50 Modifieds on pit road fighting it out for the 20 or 24 car starting fields while over the past eight weeks the number of cars at Riverside hasn’t reached 30. The first leg of the “Triple Crown”, a 100 lapper, saw only 26 Modifieds sign in and only 22 took the green flag in what was supposed to be a 24 car starting field.
The Park is not the only track having a problem with a shortage of Modifieds. The recent NASCAR National Championship race held at Monadnock Speedway had only 23 cars sign in with only 22 starting instead of the 24 that were advertised and that same track has fielded as few as 14 cars for a couple of their regular Friday night shows. Stafford Motor Speedway has had as few as 31 Modifieds sign in trying for 26 car starting spots on a couple of occasions. Claremont Speedway has started as few as 17 Modifieds and only eight cars showed to run the feature at Hudson Speedway on August 27th, a “Thompson 300” qualifier. Also, the Danbury Fair Racearena which generally has between 40 and 50 Mods in the pits each week under a closed sanction, has of late had as few as 32 cars sign in. So, as you can see, it’s not only Riverside that has felt the crunch with small turnouts of Modifieds.
A few of the Stafford regulars should now be entering the Park scene or will they? Remember, only two Modified tracks run on Friday nights, Stafford and Monadnock, and the turnout of cars at these two tracks has been less than impressive at times this year. Add to this the fact that there are eight ovals drawing Modifieds on Saturday nights in New England and there’s a good chance that going full NASCAR rules at Riverside may not have been the answer. There will be several Park regulars heading for other tracks such as Plainville Stadium, Westboro Speedway and Claremont.
Several long time Riverside competitors will head elsewhere to run because they feel they’ve supported Riverside for a lot of years and now have been cast aside like so much garbage. One owner spoke of meetings that were held by many of his fellow owners with the approval of Riverside’s NASCAR Racing Director, Ralph Ouderkirk. The meetings covered the 340 motor, a need for a gear rule and also some kind of tire regulation. A ballot passed out in the pits at the Park during August showed that 70% were in favor of the 340 and the gear and tire items saw 80% vote in favor of both. The owner in question stated, “Why the hell did waste our time holding meetings to try and lower the cost of racing when NASCAR and the Park were going to do what they wanted anyway?” He also added, “One owner came to Agawam all the way from West Haven on a week night and for what?”
The main cause for the shortage of Modifieds in New England is money. Racing has become very expensive over the last few years and during that time many cars have been parked. In the past five years tire costs have risen and some racing parts have doubled in price.
Two cars that won’t return for 1979 are the Czarnecki Brothers #20 Vega driven by Bob Polverari and Earl Reynolds #71 Bobcat wheeled by Bob Stefanik. Both car owners cite money as the main reason they won’t return next season.
Polverari also wheels his own #711 Vega at Stafford, and Jack Gelgut, owner of the #65 Pinto that runs at numerous tracks, both feel it’s almost impossible to lower the cost of racing.
Polverari stated, “Auto racing today is an expensive sport just like yachting.” He also added, “If you can’t afford a Modified any longer and want to stay in racing then you best think about dropping to a lower more economical class.”
Gelgut said, “A head rule would lower cost a great deal, but then how are you going to police it without tearing the heads off of every car in the pits each and every week?”
Everyone knows there are rules, such as the 340 CI motor limit that aren’t being policed or enforced now.
It seems as though the 340 engine has been one of the biggest expenses for its car owner. The number of 340’s blown this season by Riverside competitors, but not necessarily at the Park, is in excess of twenty five. If you average that out at a conservative $4,000 per engine, that’s a cool $100,000 in scrap metal. One driver-owner, Don Desrocher, has exploded four this season at the Park. The entire season’s purse at Riverside doesn’t reach the hundred thou mark and many feel that if Riverside would boost its payoff it could help to alleviate some of the cost.
If you average out a Saturday night crowd at Riverside Park at around 4,000 fans and then estimate a $2 per head average it would come to $8,000 and now let’s figure that an average of $1 is spent per fan at the beer stand and snack bars, you would then have a total of $12,000 spent by Park enthusiasts for a regular 50 lap show. Now let’s look at the other side of the coin. The Riversidepayoff for a 50 lap show is $4,900 and then add on a $1,500 sanction fee paid to NASCAR for that weeks show plus let’s figure $1,000 for employees that night and you will have a grand total of $7,400 paid out. Subtract the latter from the former and you will have an approximate profit of $4,500. Not bad for a nights work and please remember that all figures are estimated. Do you think an extra thousand or two could be thrown into the purse?
One owner told us that NASCAR is definitely structured towards the man who has a lot of money to spend on building his car and maintaining his equipment.
A survey, taken on August 26th, involving 100 Riverside fans showed they were in favor of the full NASCAR rules by a vote of 73-27.
So 1979 will show whether Riverside is right in the decision, whether NASCAR is good for Riverside, and whether the fans choice is right.
Somebody asked me last weekend, in reference to this column, whether I ever said anything nice? I told the person, sure and just to prove it, here goes. Ready?… Anything nice, anything nice, anything nice, anything nice. There I said “Anything Nice” four times and I hope that clears up the problem as to whether I can say anything nice. Yuk! Now I have to go wash my mouth out with soap.
Now on to other things of more importance… I hope.
…1977 Stafford Motor SpeedwayLimited Sportsman Champion and Rookie of the Year, Tom Rosati, is presently the leading candidate for Rookie honors on the Northern NASCAR Late Model Sportsman circuit. Rosati, who turned 18 recently, leads this years Ltd Sportsman ranks by 64 points over Jeb Balise and has recorded 10 wins in 13 starts. Rosati’s closest competition for the Rookie award on the Northern circuit is 17 year old Randy Corey. I’m sure that Southern New England hopes ride with Rosati while the Northerners are rooting for young Corey.
…While on the subject of the Northern NASCAR Late Model Sportsman, Catamount Stadium’s Multiple Sclerosis – Burger King Classic on September 9th has real fan support. Fans, for the price of one penny per ballot, can vote for their favorite LMS, Grand American or Mini Stock star. The top vote getter in the three divisions will start on the pole with the second point man starting outside the front row and so on down the line. The LMS leader as of last weekend was Bobby Dragon with Robbie Crouch in second. Rounding out the top five were Dick McCabe, Langis Caron and Tom Rosati. The Grand American leader is Bruce Jaycox while Jay Yantz is in second. Harry Gammell is the top man in Mini Stocks with Steve Mishkit running right behind.
…Richie Evans has increased his lead to 32 points over defending champion and cross-town rival Jerry Cook, as of August 12th, in the battle for the National NASCAR Modified Point Championship. The “Rapid Roman” now has 2,715 points to the “Cookie Monster’s” 2,673. It is a good bet that Rome, NY will be able to boast of having the top two Modified runners in the country. Wayne Anderson is presently third in the points race followed by Geoff Bodine, Fred Harbach, Paul Radford, Billy Middleton, Johnny Johnson and Melvin Swisher. Others well known to New England that are listed in the NASCAR points battle are: Gary Cretty (14), Satch Worley (15), Bob Park (18), Brian Ross (21), Charlie Jarzombek (22), Maynard Troyer (24), Ron Bouchard (27), Bugs Stevens (29), Greg Sacks (33), George Kent (34) and Roger Griffith (35).
…Here’s my pick for “Rookie of the Year” and “Most Improved Driver” at both Stafford Motor Speedway and Riverside Park Speedway, The Rookie at Stafford should be Ray McTeague while Most Improved honors should go to Dave Monaco. Frank Mich is a slight favorite for Rookie of the Year at Riverside while Jim Whipple should get the Most Improved award hands down.
…Speaking of Riverside Park, at the pre-race drivers meeting on August 5th, it was revealed that plans were underway for a third division of cars for the 1979 season at the quarter-mile oval. I wonder if officials have a feeling that the Modifieds are going to become an extinct breed, which they are, and want another division to pick up the slack as a main event class if this happens. My guess would be a Late Model Sportsman division, but you could see a Limited Sportsman or Street Stock class. Right now only the Grand Mucky-Muck knows…
…You talk about top Limited Sportsman drivers, well Stafford Motor Speedway has Tom Rosati, Jeb Balise, Bud Peckham and Jim McCallum plus many others, but Stafford doesn’t have Diane Teel. Langley Speedway in Hampton, Virginia can boast of having Mrs. Teel, the only woman driver in the division at the track. She is presently leading the Limited Sportsman class, has two feature wins to her credit, has finished 10 of the divisions 13 races in the top five and all 13 in the top ten. According to NASCAR, she is the first woman to win a NASCAR feature anywhere in any division. She’s also recognized as the first female NASCAR driver to lead a class this far into the season. All those Stafford Ltd. shoes had better watch out or Mrs. Teel may just come North and show ’em how a lady does it…
…Cale Yarborough leads the NASCAR Grand National point race with 2,982 points over second place man Dave Marcis who has 2,824. Rounding out the top ten are Benny Parsons-2,801, Bobby Allison-2,579, Darrell Waltrip-2,568, Richard Petty-2,515, Lenny Pond-2,391, Buddy Arrington-2,328, Richard Childress-2,278 and Dick Brooks-2,245.
…The first turn wall at Stafford Motor Speedway is definitely New England’s answer to the Rock of Gibralter. The wall, like its counterpart, has never moved, not that some haven’t tried over the years. Those who have tried the durability of the wall this season and have come away losers are Leo Cleary, Eddie Flemke, Lou Tabone, Jack Bateman, Moose Hewitt, Brian Ross, Bob Polverari and Doug Zigadio. There have been other’s who’ve tried the wall and I’m sure there will be more. No matter who tests the Stafford Rock of Gibralter, we all know who will come out the winner, don’t we?
…This Sunday at 6pm Monadnock Speedway will host the “New England Classic 100” which has been sanctioned by NASCAR as a National Championship event. The track has posted $9,265 in awards with the winner taking home as much as $1,550 and 175 points towards the NASCAR National Modified Point Championsip. Present point leader, Richie Evans and defending point champion, Jerry Cook along with Wayne Anderson, Geoff Bodine and Fred Harbach are expected to appear. Southern drivers who could put in a possible appearance are Paul Radford, Satch Worley and Jimmy Hensley. Other chauffeurs who may be on hand are Maynard Troyer, Ron and Ken Bouchard, Brian Ross, Gary Cretty, Bob Park, Bugs Stevens, George Kent, Ray Miller and Bob Polverari. Don’t miss this show as it is one of only two National Modified Championship shows in New England. This is a must see show…
…Stafford Motor Speedway has to head the list for having one of the best weekly racing programs around, even though there has been a shortage of Modifieds. Three divisions of racing always fill the program, but what really makes the Friday nights at Stafford’s so special is a little man in a funny suite with red hair, a big red nose and a miniature replica of a Gremlin Modified. I’m talking about a clown named Seymour who puts on one hell of a show for the young and old alike. If you haven’t seen Seymour explain the racing flags and what occurs with starter Frank Sgambato following, then you’ve really missed sumthin’. If you haven’t seen Modifieds, the Limited Sportsman, the Street Stocks and especially Seymour, the mayor of the speedway, then you’ve missed probably the finest show in New England or anywhere else for that matter.
…We’d like to send out a belated pat on the back to some first time winners from a couple weeks ago. Heavy pats to Pete Fiandaca, who beat some of the best at Seekonk Speedway and to Stan Greger, who won his first ever at Riverside Park Speedway after three straight second place finishes. We also send out a hearty pat to Lenny Pond, who captured his first checkered flag in the Grand National ranks after many years of trying. He took the win in the “Talladega 500” by a scant foot over Donnie Allison…
…The Northern NASCAR Late Model Sportsman point race shows Bobby Dragon out front with 532 points and Robbie Crouch is in close pursuit with 508. Rounding out the top ten are Claude Aubin-494, Dick McCabe-488, Langis Caron-464, Beaver Dragon-456, Stub Fadden-410, Jean Paul Cabana-352, Hector LeClair-346 and Tom Rosati-330.
…Add the scorers to the list of officials at Riverside Park Speedway who continue to show their ignorance. They let the fifth place car move up two positions putting him ahead of the fourth place car on a twentieth lap restart and then tried to rectify their mistake on a lap 46 restart. Who knows what might have happened in the 26 lap period if the restart had right, but now we’ll never know. This is nothing new as it seems that all the officials at the Park including the NASCAR Officials, Flagman and Scorers have been terrible. Three teams, including the one that took the checkered flag, still all lay claim to the “500” title. After watching last Saturday’s fiasco it makes one wonder who really won the “500”.
The Fred Felton “Radical Racer” was not allowed to unload last Saturday at Riverside Park Speedway because it’s not built in accordance with an unwritten rule, which we’ve covered before. A rule which is written in the Park’s Rule Book or whatever is the 340 CI Motorlimit. So why were three cars allowed to run with motors larger than 340 CI. I wonder how track regulars Gary Davilli, Ted Chalmers, Frank Minch, Roland Bombadier and Mike Hornat feel about not qualifying because three cars with motors above the limit were allowed to make the starting field. If that’s not enough, what about the guys who took home less money because they finished behind the illegal cars? Evidently, rules mean nothing at Riverside, written ones that is.
CRAZY FEATURE AT RIVERSIDE PARK SPEEDWAY ENDS WITH RUGGIERO VICTORY
– FRIDAY, JUNE 23RD, 1978 –
Hey NERF’ers! I was going to junk the subject we’ve been on the past few weeks, but I couldn’t do that now after viewing the final lap finish of the Riverside Park Speedway 50 lapper this past Saturday night.
What’s the old saying..? “When the shoe fits, wear it!” Well, in the case of what happened at Riverside the line would go like this. “When the shoe fits, Ouch!”
With the white flag ready to fly for the final lap, the Czarnecki Bros. Vega, driven by defending three-time Park champion Bob Polverari, belched up a motor between turn three and four, sending cars every which way out of the third turn in the fluids dumped on the track. Former three-time champion Bob Stefanik rode the wall sideways almost ending upside down in the Earl Reynold’sBobcat. Former track champ S.J. Evonsion in the Connally-Hosmer Chevette and Charlie Glazier in the Eddie Oles Vega also exited via the same accident as did 1976 Rookie of the Year, Marty Radewick in the Fred Felton Monza.
The accident brought out John Tallini’s caution flag setting the stage for the final two-lap charge to the checkers.
Reggie Ruggiero in the Fiore-Nardi Chevette was in the lead followed by Richie Evans in the Gene DeWitt Pinto and guess who was in third? It was none other than our controversial buddy, Geoff Bodine, in the Dick Armstrong Nu-Style Jewelry Pinto.
The restart saw Ruggiero, Evans and Bodine head into turns one and two and on the back stretch the “Bellingham Bullet” got by the “Rapid Roman“. Bodine then moved in on Ruggiero’s bumper to bring about another controversial finish in the life of Geoff Bodine. Going into the third turn Bodine rode to the outside trying to overtake Ruggiero and all of a sudden sparks flew leaving Bodine sitting backwards between turns three and four. Evans and Jerry Cook, in the Hollebrand Trucking Pinto, rode past Bodine for second and third while Bodine straightened it out for fourth spot.
The controversy arises again. Was Bodine rough riding? Did Ruggiero stuff him in the wall trying to stop him?
I always sit near the fourth turn at the Park because that’s where the action seems to be.
Ruggiero was running the groove all night and going into the fourth turn he definitely rode high with Bodine on the outside. Whether by accident or on purpose Ruggiero was in the lead at the time and until he gets a passing flag the track is his. Bodine has stated on a couple of occasions, since all the incidents have happened over the past few weeks, that the man in the lead has the track right-of-way.
Once again asking different drivers and people you get umpteen different views. Ruggiero fans have their opinions, Bodine fans have theirs and all the other fans have a couple hundred more. So who knows? The best answer came from the humorous Evans who was trailing the accident. After being asked what happened, he replied, “I didn’t see anything. Remember I’m the guy who didn’t see Eddie Flemke sitting in the middle of the track at Stafford last night.”
If the man in the lead has the track right-of-way then why was Bodine so upset after the incident? Why did he turn around after the start-finish line and shake a finger at Ruggiero? Seems as though the shoe was on the other foot at Riverside and someone didn’t like the way it fit.
One of the head NASCAR officials stated, “I’ve never seen Bodine bumping like he did tonight. This kind of action is uncalled for and something is going to have to be done about it.”
He was referring to Bodine riding over Evonsion early in the race, belting Radewick, causing him and Polverari to spin and twice bumping rookie Jim Tourville in the Susies’ Auto Parts Coupe.
Oh well! The controversy continues and I suppose all the Bodine supporters will write in tellin’ us how good Bodine is and how rotten I am and just think, I didn’t even mention those you know, T-shirts..
A couple Polverari fans are looking for the address of the “Maynard Troyer Fan Club“. I wonder if they are jumping ship or do they hope to be a part of the Troyer clan when he invades New England in hopes of halting the “Bodine Express” at Stafford Motor Speedway in a couple of weeks. Anyone who has the address, drop us a line as there must be more fans out there who would like to be part of following the shiny #6 from New York.
The “Bugsy Stevens Fan Club” has their new look T-shirts now on sale at Stafford and Seekonk Speedway. If you’re a Bugsy Stevens fan, make sure you get your new T-shirt and support the Bugman. If you haven’t got your Bugsy Stevens Fan Club membership then send a $3.00 check or money order to: Bugsy Stevens Fan Club, (address withheld), Providence, R.I. 02914. For your $3 you will receive an autographed photo of the Bugman, a membership card, a newsletter and a bumper sticker. The Fan Club always has plenty of pictures of Bugs in the different cars he wheels and will also take special request photos for fans. Now that’s a real fan club.
Send in your fan club news, announcements or photos to NERF’ers Corner, c/o Robert Echo, (address withheld).
Are you wondering why we missed the September 8th edition of this noozpaper? Well, we drove a better part of the night from up Canada way to make it back for the 200 at Stafford on Labor Day and when we got home after the race, I just couldn’t keep the ol’ eyeballs open long enough to pen a column. We finally got NERF’ers Corner written the next day and sent it out, but it arrived at NESS Headquarters too late for print. I won’t blame the U.S. Postal Service for not getting’ it there on time. It was the fault of the Number One NERF, me!
The 1978 200 at Stafford may be labeled as the Big Fix of the Century by many and that’s just what I did, but after having a talk with head starter Frank Sgambato about the yellow flag that conveniently fell with race leader Geoff Bodine badly in need of fuel, Sgambato stated, “I don’t know how long that nerf bar was laying in the first turn. One of the cars went high ending it into what I thought was a dangerous spot on the track.” he added, “You can’t worry about what the fans are going to think. My first concern is the safety of all the drivers on the track.”
Mr. Sgambato has never shown partiality toward any driver and if you were to ask anyone of them about him, you would get nothing but praise about the man many feel is the best flagman on the entire East Coast. Don’t get me wrong, Sgambato makes mistakes, but again I think every one of us has made one or two on our own jobs. Right!
Rumor Has it that a real New England Modified and Late Model Sportsman Champion could be crowned in 1979. The individual behind the venture told me that things are still in the planning stages. He has hopes of awarding both trophies and monies in both divisions. Points would begin with the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway and concludes with the Thompson 300 at the same track. Only races run within the six states in New England would count towards the title. Gee! Just think, no more mythical champions. Great idea, huh!
Remember Stan “The Man” Musial of St. Louis Cardinal’s fame? Well, now there’s another Stan “The Man”, and his last name is Gregor. He is the 1978 Riverside Park Speedway Track Champion. Gregor was the most consistent runner this season collecting one feature win and many second place finishes. The thing that’s really impressive about this young man is the fact he is always humble in victory or defeat, has nothing but praise for his fellow competitors and his car owner. He’s not a bragger like one Park driver who was stating three weeks before the season ended that he had the title all wrapped up. One must remember that the game is not over until the final out and a track championship isn’t won until the final checkered flag falls. Congratulation Stan, on a super year by a super guy and a pat on the back for owner Billy Simons and crew for the outstanding job they did on the big white #9 Pinto.
Congratulations are also in store for the Czarnecki Brothers, who wrapped up another top five finish with their #20 Vega driven by three time Riverside Park Speedway Champion Bob Polverari. He was trying for his fourth straight, but fell short by an eyelash or should we say eight points. The remarkable thing about the Czarnecki Brothers, Joe and Paul, is that they have never finished out of the top ten since they built their first Modified back in 1962, add to that fact they’ve never finished below third in the last nine years, have three track titles to their name and have won the Riverside 500 Team Race a record six times. The sad thing is, they won’t be returning in ’79 as the high cost of racing has taken yet another quality Modified from an already too short of a field of cars at the Park.
Richie Evans’ lead has been cut to just 99 over the Cookie Monster in the chase for the NASCAR National Modified Point Championship. The Rapid Roman has 3,709 points to defending champion, Jerry Cook’s 3,610. Bob Pressley leads Butch Lindley by 76 points in the Late Model Sportsman version of the National Championship. Pressely has 5,765 points to Lindley’s 5,689. The NASCAR Grand National Points Race shows Cale Yarborough pulling away from the rest of the field in his quest for a third straight title. He has a 298 point lead over his nearest competitor as he leads Benny Parsons, 3,532 to 3,244. Dave Marcis is third with 3,197 followed by Darrell Waltrip – 3,083 and Bobby Allison – 3,001. Yarborough is the leading money winner with $337,030 followed by Waltrip with $244,605.
My apologies to Jim Whipple and Frank Minch, who should have got the Most Improved Driver and Rookie of the Year honors respectively at Riverside Park Speedway. Evidently my voicing an opinion in NERF’ers Corner a few weeks ago as to who I thought should be the recipients put the jinx on these two chauffeurs. Riverside officials are mad at me for lashing at them on the “Radical Racer” and maybe they think they can get back at me by not naming the two drivers in question. You can’t bother me guys only Whipple and Minch. Bruce D’Allessandro, named Most Improved, did a fine job this season, but not that much better than last year. Whipple, who didn’t make a feature in 1977, qualified for every one this year until engine problems beset him late in the season. Ed Kennedy, given Rookie of the Year honors, ran about half of the shows while Minch didn’t miss a week, showed improvement every week and didn’t get in the other drivers way. Dell and Kennedy are both super individuals and I’m happy for them, but fair’s fair. It’s another screwgie by Park officials.
Pit Pasta … Jim Whipple Sr. has put up for sale the No. 96 Racing Team’s two Vega bodied Modifieds driven by Jim Jr. at Riverside Park. One car carries a $2,800 price tag while the other is $2,000. Both are minus motor and transmissions. Give them a call and ask for Jim or… Jim… Rumor out of the No. 96 Racing Team camp is that they’ll debut a brand new Morrisino Chassis for 1979 possibly with AMC Pacer body on it. With those big windows the Pacers have, Whip Jr. must be planning to put on some weight… Earl Reynolds has his beautiful No. 71 Bobcat bodied Modified, chauffeured by Bobby Stefanik at Riverside Park on the selling block. $6,000 will take away the Richie Evans built Modified, that has captured six Park Features the llast two years, minus motor. If you’re interested call Earl after 5 pm… Quote of the season comes from Warren Bren, owner and driver of the No. 66 Vega that only saw action once this year. He stated recently, “Auto racing is a rich man’s game and a poor man’s fun!” How right you iz… Stopped in to see Stafford Street Stock driver Don Harris at his work last week. He had told me, after demolishing his No. 69 AMC at the tail end of the season, that he was going to find him a car that would get him up in this world. When I arrived at AAMCO Transmission, where Harris puts in his time, I found him sitting in a new car some seven feet in the air atop a hydraulic lift. Ah Don! I didn’t realize this is what you meant. Hogswageled again… The No. 10 Pinto bodied Modified, owned by Bill Pelly and driven by W.J. Grez is for sale. Pelly is asking $2,800 for this Lindblad Chassis Modified. Call Bill after 6 pm…. Geoff Bodine wrapped up win No. 50 in the Thompson 300 and his third tri-century victory in four starts at the Connecticut oval. He won in 1975, ’76 and now in ’78. It was great that he won his 5oth in New England and not down South or at Pocono. Congratulations Geoff… The Rosner buit Bob Beauchemin No. 26 Pinto bodied Modified that ran Riverside Park with Gary Davilli at the wheel is for sale. Beauchemin is asking $4,500 for the car minus engine. Call him… How about Thompson assistant starter Bob Gelinas sprinting toward the first turn to pick up some debris on the track and then all the way back to the starter’s stand without collapsing. With that much speed Bob could beat out the whole Patriots back field…
Dell Cushing, driver of the No. 18 Vega bodied Modified, and owner John Royka feel they were ripped off by not getting the win in the Non-Qualifiers race at the Thompson 300. Involved in an accident on the 25th lap, Cushing pitted for a tire and returned under yellow only to be marked 2 laps down by the track’s scorers. I feel they made a big mistake, and we all make mistakes, but this one cost this racing team at least $1,200… In the Non-Qualifiers race, Stan Gregor blew an engine, Pete Fiandaca ran out of gas as did Rusty Ball. All were leaders at the time of their departure from the event. Tough luck for some tough competitors. Till next week: “Keep on Trackin’.