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Strap-in

It appears the silence from the Riverside Speedway has been broken. The Caledonian-Record received this letter from the Speedway on Wednesday. It reads: "The justification for this letter is as follows: "For many years we have tried to build the field of Late Model Sportsman, but they have stayed at the same low level of cars for just about as long as we can remember. "For the past three years we have put on a concentrated effort to bring in additional cars and build the field of Late Model Sportsman. "Through the tireless efforts of Race Director Steve Poulin, the past two years, he had been able to get many Late Model Sportsman to come to Riverside Speedway and run. "However, after they came and ran, and after they told us how well they liked the Speedway, how well they liked the officials, how well they were greeted at the back gate and how well they felt they were treated. After they ran once, twice or even three or four times they just did not come back! "At times it was our thoughts that as a lot of these cars were Thunder Road cars, that the folks at Thunder Road may have mentioned to them that it was not too cool to run at Riverside Speedway and help those people out, and I guess we may have assumed that. "'However, there could be nothing further from the truth.' "All this past season three businessmen, track manager Marvin Galarneau (DA Forms Co.), race director Steve Poulin (Derby Equip. Co.) and track owner C.J. Robinson (C.J. Robinson Co. Contractors), have talked and talked and looked at each other and asked each other the same question week after week, what are we going to do? "We basically came up with the same answer, we don't know. We have been told that we have been doing everything right, everything according to protocol, but we still could not build a field of Late Model Sportsman and thus in turn put more people in the pits and in the stands. "We could see things building or should we say problems building, and the last three weeks, on and off the track, you could see that things were coming to a head. "Then in one weekend we lost two more competitors, our 1998 Champion and a second gentleman, one of the nice guys of the North County. It's no longer fun we were told, too much pressure and tension both on and off the track. "It became known to us that one or more of our competitors had a copy of our weekly score sheets. Just how this was done, we have our thoughts, but we are not in a position to publicly be able to reveal how they may have been obtained or who had them. "In 1998 we ran McCreary tires, a tire numbered 84. In 1999 we went to a tire numbered 85. The brand name on the tire got changed from McCreary to American, McCreary was bought out, the new company changed the name of the tire, however the tire stayed the same. "At the beginning of the season we established a tire rule. Steve Poulin, Director of Competition, allowed in the interest of cost that each competitor could use four of his used leftover 84's up until July 1. July 1 rolled around and the competitors claimed to still have some 84's and asked for more time to use them up. They were granted extra time to use up old rubber, not to purchase used 84's and possibly new scuffed 84's. At this point Steve, Marvin and C.J. got snookered. "On Saturday night, Aug. 14, while one of us was walking through the pits, we overheard a couple of the competitors mentioning how they had just bought some 84's. Upon further investigation by Steve he observed that every Late Model in the pits had 84's on the left side of their cars. They were told that this would not happen, that they had to run all 85's, they complied at that time. We did seem to get a lot of noise from two teams. Checking tire records, it seemed that some competitors had not bought tires for many weeks. "At this point in time, because of all these various goings on, the actual race itself, the tire situation, the lack of respect between drivers, the lack of competitors numbers growing, we started to do some investigating. "It was felt that the used 84's that were allowed at the beginning of the season could not still be on every car and in good condition three-quarters of the way though the race season. "At this point we heard of more competitors buying the 84 tire. It didn't take long to know that these tires were available at an outlet to the south of us and also on a local level, there seemed to be a garage full that could be had for [a] price. "However, the main subject was why new competitors would not come back after running only a few races, and why have we lost many of our good guys? "We, of course, had heard rumors. We had heard from other track promoters that Riverside had a bad reputation in its pits. We thought that the pit situation had been cleaned up a long time ago. However, to our dismay, upon investigation and talking to several competitors, competitors both active at Riverside Speedway and competitors that had made the journey to Riverside Speedway for the past few years, we basically kept coming up with the same thing. "They were afraid both on and off the track!!! "They were afraid of bodily harm!!! "They were intimidated!!! "They were threatened!!! "They were threatened with bodily harm if they came back. It does not take a brain surgeon to figure out why we couldn't keep competitors and have the car count grow. "Each time we got into this, it came to the same two or three race teams that were driving these competitors away. "These competitors also had been quite vocal in making it known that the speedway needed them, that the speedway could not run without them, and they would do what they pleased, when they darn well pleased. "We had our one-on-one meetings, we did everything we felt we could do to control the situation. "The situation was out of control. These same people are not controllable!!! We had no alternative but to shut down the competition of the Late Model Sportsman. "The people that wanted to keep Riverside Speedway for themselves are the same people that kept the car count down, the fan count down, the back gate down and hurt Riverside Speedway. "These are the people we don't need around! "Points, trophies and point money & shy; we can't possibly believe that some of the competitors have not blatantly cheated to get where they are in the point standings, especially with the tire situation being what it was. "It is very unfortunate that some good people got caught up in this. However, they could have come forward. "The fact is, if there is ever to be Late Model competition at Riverside Speedway again, there are about three teams that cannot be involved in it. That's the drivers, their crews and the people around them. "If any Late Model competitors, their crews, or the people around them take any offensive action against the speedway, they will just lessen any chance of the Late Models returning to the speedway." The letter ended: "Yours truly, Riverside Speedway." Why shut down a whole division when there are just a few bad apples? Why not just throw out the guilty parties? Who was supposed to be keeping track of the tires? Why have a tire rule that you can't control? I've talked to a good many drivers who have gone to Riverside in the past couple years and none of them ever told me they were threatened. They did tell me they weren't happy about some of the calls, or lack of calls, made by track officials. I know of some teams and fans who didn't return because of the way the show was run. They told me the victory lane antics were ridiculous. Others have told me the cost of the ticket was way to

o much just to watch five or six car in a heat. It seems to me the Riverside management is making the Late Model class out to be the bad guys, when it appears the problems come from the way the track is run. I have a tough time believing that with only three races left in the season the management couldn't take control and if it meant tossing a few guys out, then fine, toss them out. As far as I'm concerned, this letter didn't answer a lot of questions. Will the LM get any point fund money? If there isn't any point fund, where did the cash go? Will fans who bought 50/50 tickets, thinking they were helping the LM point fund, get any cash back? As a matter of fact, I have more questions than I did before I read this latest letter from Riverside. Stay tuned, we're not done yet, I'm sure. Thunder Road 40th Anniversary Programs: I'm happy to report that the "Celebrating 40 Years of Thunder Road" programs can be purchased by mail. Send $7 to ACT, P.O. Box 294, Waterbury, VT 05676. This is a must-have for all Thunder Road fans. It has more than 200 photos and doesn't contain any advertisements. Earnhardt Crash, Part II: Can you say driver loyalty? I guess I struck a nerve with a few of the Dale Earnhardt fans. First things first. I did not write that just because you're an Earnhardt fan, you're a birdbrain. I don't dislike the No. 3, and, no I don't think he intentionally wrecked Terry Labonte. Earnhardt himself said he just wanted to rattle him. But like I said last week, he did wreck him so therefore NASCAR should have done something. I have to laugh at the few of you diehard fans who tried to tell me Earnhardt didn't mean to hit him. I didn't make that up, I heard him on TV telling the world he didn't mean to wreck him. My only complaint on the whole deal was that NASCAR chose to do nothing. Labonte made a comment late last week that he was disappointed in NASCAR and he felt someone has to stand up and make a call in instances like this. He went on to say he wasn't surprised though, they haven't in the past and this time was no different. Mike Helton, NASCAR's chief operating officer, had this to say last week: "The decision not to penalize Dale Earnhardt for his bump of Terry Labonte on the final lap of last week's race at Bristol was a judgment call based on a desire to see door-to-door racing. We're convinced that the drivers would prefer to race and not be afraid in attempting to pass someone and have an accident occur and then face a penalty from that. "NASCAR is all about fender-to-fender and door-to-door racing. That plays a big role in our judgment calls. We agree that they should be able to race and not pay a penalty for that. Having said that, we're not going to let the sport get into a demolition derby and that is where the judgment of NASCAR comes into play." Helton went on to say, "As it comes to the role NASCAR has in policing the races on the track, it's a collection of judgment calls we make as the race unfolds. These calls are made by humans. We are not arrogant enough to think that our opinions or judgment calls are going to be universally accepted, but we make them as solidly as we can make them." Good ol' Mr. Helton, he said, and I repeat, "NASCAR is all about fender-to-fender and door-to-door racing. The drivers would prefer to race and not be afraid in attempting to pass someone and have an accident occur and then face a penalty from that." Did he say "attempting to pass?" Did the No. 5 have a ramp bolted to the car that ran from the trunk lid to the front bumper? That's the only way the No. 3 was going to "pass" the No. 5. Nowhere in that quote do I read anything about bumper-bumper "racing" ... Racing? From The Mail Bag: "On Bristol, even though I am an Earnhardt fan, your comments are right on. At Sears Point, Ricky Rudd tried the same trick on Davey Allison and was denied the win. It looked the same to me this time with an inconsistent ruling from NASCAR. No doubt in my mind, Terry was the winning car." Cup News: Ernie Irvan retired last week, putting his future with his wife and children ahead of winning another Cup race. I believe the doctors have told Irvan that he can't take another hard hit. Silly season is in full bloom. Everyone is waiting for Robert Yates to fill the seat of the No. 28. Speculation has Ricky Rudd in the 28 with the possibility of hiring a driver for the 10 car if he gets a sponsor. Like all silly season happenings, this can change in a heartbeat. Changes will be coming in a bunch of cars. Steve Grissom is driving the No. 9, it's not known if he will stay in that ride ... Jerry Nadeau, who's filling in for Irvan in the No. 36, will drive the No. 25 with a new sponsor in 2000 ... Wally Dallenbach is one of the many guys looking for a home. Johnny Benson will not be back in the No. 26 ... As I said before, Kenny Irwin will not be in the No. 28 come 2000. I'm hearing he'll drive the No. 42 next season ... Derrike Cope has been shown the door of the No. 30 shop. BGN driver Todd Bodine has been behind the wheel the last few weeks and may sign on for next season soon. Who will drive the No. 36? ... Joe Nemechek is leaving the No. 42 ... Rich Bickle is out of the No. 45 ... Will Ricky Craven stick it out with the No. 50, and if so will they come up with a sponsor? As of now the No. 58, currently being driven by Hut Stricklin, hasn't announced next year's plans. Cal Wells is forming a new team and he'll need a driver ... A.J. Foyt has crew chief Waddell Wilson on the payroll and also needs someone to climb through the window ... Toss in Brett Bodine, who's looking for dollars to keep his team afloat ... Stay tuned, when Rudd signs on the dotted line with Yates, the silly season dominoes will tumble quickly. BGN News: Andy Santerre, driver of the No. 47, has decided to explore options to run a limited schedule in 2000. Santerre told his crew and team owner his intentions last week, before the end of the season, to give them time to plan what they'll do. Santerre said, "I'm thankful for the opportunity George DeBidart (team owner) gave me, we've built a strong team and won the Rookie of the Year title together. We had high expectations for the 1999 season, but my broken leg interfered with those hopes. We overcame the injury and a couple missed races, stuck together, and won a couple races. But, there is a time for everything and for me, now is the time to explore other options. I wish them the best of luck." DeBidart, after hearing Santerre's announcement, held a meeting with his employees and they decided, since Santerre would not be the full-time driver next season, it would be in the team's best interest to replace him for the rest of this season. Ward Burton will drive the No. 47 this weekend at Richmond while the team looks for a replacement. DeBidart had this to say on the sudden change, "We wish Andy all the best, we had a good couple of years together and we built a competitive race team. Andy wanted to concentrate on a limited schedule and that just didn't fit into our plans." Jeff Burton had his worst BGN finish since a ninth at Daytona last weekend. He came home a disappointing seventh. That gives him 10 Top 10s in his 10 BGN starts this season ... Buckshot Jones finished 11th, which matched his best finish of the year. Doing It In The Dirt: At a rare Friday night race at the "Home of the Coupes," Bear Ridge Speedway, there was Monza-style racing for the Pro Streets and the Sportsman Coupes. In the Pro Street class Ryan Pierson managed to snag the checkers in both segments one and three. Mike Searles won segment two. After points were added up, Searles took the overall win with Tom Mayette a close second. Third went to Pierson, followed by Matt Pike and Paul Drew. The Coupes segment one win went to Doug Titus, with Seth Bean winning segment two and Earl Maxim winning the third segment. Chris Emerson won the overall followed by Tim Claflin, Bean, Titus and Lou Cadwell. The Sportsman Modifieds had a hard time getting going with several cautions during the opening laps. The lead traded between several cars until Bob Shepard charged from third to take the lead. He would hold on for his first feature win of the season. Troy Gray took second, followed by Jack Cook, Dick Moses and Chris Donnelly. The Fast Fours put on an excellent show and went most of the race with no cautions. The end of the race saw the yellow flag out three times. Lenny Guardino, a rookie in the division, dominated the race, taking the early lead and holding on for the win. Mike Hanks worked his way up through the pack, but ran out of laps and had to settle for second. Chris Hedges was third, followed by Mike Russo and Danny Chamberlin. WMMP Round-up: In the Late Model feature, Fulton Mountain set the early pace on the outside leading the opening laps while Dennis Phelps, second place in points, fell off the pace early with mechanical problems. Point leader Sam Gooden and Bobby Brown worked through traffic to reel in Mountain midway through the 35-lap main event. Mike Buzzi, Russ Clark, and Stacy Cahoon also caught the front pack late in the race and the five-car battle for the lead eventually went to Gooden, adding to his point lead, followed by Brown, Mountain, Buzzi, Clark and Cahoon. The Super Streets feature saw Mike Clark grab an early lead and go on to win his third feature of the season. Point leader Craig Roy drove a conservative race and finished second while Jeff Tompkins held off Billy Keyser to finish third. Keyser finished fourth with Corey Mason climbing back to fifth after an early race incident. Clark's win moved him into second spot in the point standings, followed closely by Tompkins and Frankie Sweeney. In the Mini Cups, Scott Scholes worked his way to the front and held off several challengers until point leaders Roger Payne and Matt Laventure got by late in the race. As laps wound down, Laventure made a bold move to the inside around a lapped car to snatch the lead with two to go. Just behind, Scholes had a hard time fighting a loose handling car, but somehow held onto a near spin. Laventure took the checkered flag followed by Payne, Scholes, Denny Doucette and Mike Skinner in a season's-best finish in fifth. Showing his experience in style, 67-year-young Chet Stiles Jr. won the Strictly Street feature, his third of the season. Stiles battled early race leader Bernie Lantagne on the outside for 10 laps, finally taking the lead for good on lap 14 of the 20-lap show, never looking back. Bernie held on to second while points leader Randy Dockham finished in third. Doug Laleme, who had nearly destroyed his car in practice laps, made a hard charge from the rear of the field for the fourth spot, keeping him in the points hunt. Bryan Lantagne rounded out the Top 5 with a solid run. The Strictly Minis opening laps was marred with contact, yet continued without a caution, spreading the field early. Rookie Kalvin Lamotte jumped out to a huge lead, only to be reeled in by Ken Wright and Jared Ledger in the closing laps. Wright went on to take the win, his third of the season, followed by Ledger and Lamotte, both newcomers to victory lane. Bryan Mason and David Blake finished fourth and fifth, breaking Mason's winning streak at five. For more information and complete weekly results, be sure to check out the WMMP website at www.i93.com/rapid. Trivia Time: Pete Little

s before he got to victory lane ... Other drivers who won in their rookie season are Ron Bouchard, 1981, Morgan Shepherd, 1981, Dale Earnhardt, 1979 and Earl Ross, in 1974. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has out-qualified his Dad in all four races he's entered this season ... Stewart has eight Top 10s in the last nine races. ACT LMS Update: Tom Curley announced at Airborne Raceway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. last Sunday that tire softener will not be allowed in 2000. I have spoken to a good many of the drivers during the summer and most of them weren't happy about running it anyway. It turned out to be a real art and either you had it figured out or you didn't. The few teams that had it figured out spent a lot, and I repeat a lot, of hours applying this crap to their tires. I, as a fan, am happy to see it go. Winning is now back into the hands of the chassis and the drivers. Curley also said that the rules should be out by Thanksgiving and there won't be a lot of changes coming. I feel it's the ol' if it ain't broke don't fix it. Spec motors are on their way and one may be run at the Milk Bowl next weekend. Teams will be allowed to use up the motors they have, but next season may be the last. Although I'm not 100 percent sure, maybe the spec motors are two years off. It will be interesting to see how they plan on running the $5,000 spec motor against the big-dollar motors until everyone has to run a spec motor. My guess is it will include some sort of weight break. The schedules for the 2000 season should also be out before Christmas. I'm waiting to see how many LMS Series races there will be and where they'll be run. Andy Santerre Speaks About His Departure: Santerre said he did not leave the No. 47 by choice. He said team owner George DeBidart asked him to leave following the Darlington race. Santerre said he didn't feel the team's super speedway program was up to speed. "When we didn't qualify for Michigan, George asked me what the problem was and that's probably where a lot of this started. I told him I wasn't comfortable running down (into) the corner there. The car would move around on me and I just didn't feel comfortable." Santerre said he has already had other owners contact him about next season. If a Grand National Series team doesn't work out, he said he would consider returning to the Busch North Series. Worth Mentioning Again: I'm happy to report that the "Celebrating 40 Years of Thunder Road" programs can be purchased by mail. Send $7 to ACT, P.O. Box 294, Waterbury VT 05676. This is a must-have for all Thunder Road fans. It has more than 200 photos and doesn't contain any advertisements. Cup Racing On Local Radio: WYKR 101.3-FM out of Woodsville, N.H. and their sister station WTWN 1100-AM from Wells River have been broadcasting Winston Cup racing all year long. They are one of the few, if not the only ones, that broadcast the races live around the St. J. area. They don't pre-empt it for a silly baseball game. That brings up a thought: Are relief pitchers really athletes? Heck, I heard the other day one of the local stations is going to carry pro football this fall. Am I to believe there are more Patriots fans around than racing fans? Gee, I must hang with the wrong crowd. WYKR also does a lot of the Busch races on Saturday. If you don't have a ticket to the Cup race at NHIS Sunday, you probably should clean out the garage. If you do that, then tune into either 101.3-FM or 1100-AM and enjoy the show. Thunder Road's Dave Moody works part time for MRN radio and will be up on the billboard going into Turn 3 to bring you all the action. Bear Ridge Round-up: The Modified Division ran three segments last week. In the first segment, it was a green-to-checkers race with all the hot shoes taking off early as the line-up was done by time trial. The only casualty was Gary Siemons, who was doing quite well until he over drove and did a swing into the infield. The second segment saw everyone jockeying for position with two cautions. It was Siemons coming back for that win followed by Jerry Isham, Gene Pierson Jr. and Troy Gray. In the third and final segment, Bryan King took off, but Gray was winding his way to the front. Gray, Jack Cook and Bob Shepard went three wide through Turns 3 & amp; 4 giving the fans quite a show. As the laps dwindled down, it was Shepard passing King for the lead. The battle for third was heating up with Pierson, Gray and Tim Churchill all duking it out. After the points had all been calculated, it was Pierson Jr. taking the total points and the win followed by Gray in second with Shepard holding onto third, Siemons in fourth and King fifth. In the Sportsman Coupes feature event, it was Tim Claflin taking the win as well as the Semifeature for the night, followed by Mike McGinley in second, Neil Hayward third with Doug Titus fourth and Chris Emerson in fifth. The Pro Streets went from green to checkers with Mike Searles taking the win and the point lead followed by Ryan Pierson, Tom Mayette, Scott Senecal and Paul Drew rounding out the top five. The Fast Fours also had their Monza-style racing with 23 cars all doing their best to take home a coveted trophy. It was Chris Hedges taking the win with Dan Chamberlin second, Mike Hanks third, Chris McKinstry fourth and Kip Gendron fifth. WMMP Wrap-up: With one point-counting event left on the schedule, next Saturday night's championships are going to be races to remember. Winners this past weekend included Mike Buzzi, Frankie Sweeney, Joe Merrill, Jerard Ledger, Randy Dockham and Dan Rooney. In one of the most exciting LMS events of the year, Mike Buzzi took to the outside with six laps remaining from his fourth spot, and raced home to victory passing Bobby Brown with two laps to go to secure the win. Brown took over the top spot from early race leader Fulton Mountain at the midway point, then surrendered it to newcomer Stacy Cahoon, who appeared to be on his way to a win. On lap 20, the lapped traffic split in front of Cahoon and Brown made a bold move in traffic to once again take over the top spot. All the while this was happening, Sam Gooden and Buzzi were edging toward the front. On lap 29, Buzzi polished off Gooden to move into third and went to work on Cahoon. They ran side by side until lap 32 when Buzzi sneaked by. One lap later, Brown slipped up coming off Turn 2 and this was all the break Buzzi needed to cruise on by. The final two laps were a dogfight for the top three as Gooden went to the outside to knock off Cahoon and Brown to capture second spot and add to his point lead. Brown settled for third followed by a hard-charging Russ Clark and Cahoon. The win was the first ever for Mike Buzzi at WMMP. The Super Streets once again put on a great show. Corey Mason picked up the win, but after tech inspection the win was awarded to Frankie Sweeney. Following Sweeney was Billy Keyser, Dave Corliss, Mike Clark and Jeff Tompkins. Point leader Randy Dockham scored his first victory of 1999 in the Strictly Stock feature as he grabbed the top spot with four laps remaining to seal the win. Following Dockham home was Charlie Wishart, Tom Keith, Doug Laleme and Tom Hebert. Jerard Ledger picked up his first-ever White Mountain feature win as he lead all 20 laps of the Strictly Mini feature, withstanding heavy pressure from runner-up Ken Wright and third place finisher Bryan Mason. Ken Marier and Richard Shifflett were fourth and fifth. In a division where the points championship will go right down to the last lap, Joe Merrill won the Mini-Cup main event. Merrill led the final 13 laps on his way to winning for the first time in '99. Second place went to Roger Payne who was second in points coming into the event by just six points. Third went to points leader Matt Laventure, followed by Dan Camire and Darryl Taggart. The Dwarf Cars made their final appearance of the season and Dan Rooney scored the win over Skip Trudeau, Jerry Nelson, Lenny Pevna and Wade Atteberry. Rules are now available for the season ending Open Competition show on Sept. 25-26, also for the curtain closing Enduros for four cylinder and big cars on Oct. 2. These rules may be obtained by contacting the speedway at 603-745-6727. Trivia Time: Dwayne Keach, driver of the No. 07 LMS car at Thunder Road, correctly named Ronnie Marvin as the "Bethlehem Bombshell." Dwayne, I'll bring your shirt to the Milk Bowl next weekend. Ernie Irvan's last Cup win came at Michigan Speedway. If you sent me that answer, you may be wearing a Strap In! shirt soon. Check back next week to see whose name came out of the hat. This Week's Question: NHIS is running a Cup race this weekend. They haven't always had two Cup dates. Name the track that was bought, then shut down so NHIS could use the date for this race. Send your name, address and shirt size to me at either R. Bigelow, 294 Hillside Dr., St. Johnsbury, VT 05819 or biggy@hcr.net. It won't be long and you'll be out snowblowing your driveway, wishing you

were at a race track. Pick a track, any track, and go this weekend. Heck, if you do it right, you can go to two but remember: "If you're not having fun stay home and don't bother those of us who are."

Talk back to Big Bigelow by snail-mail at: R. Bigelow, 294 Hillside Dr., St. Johnsbury VT 05819 or e-mail at biggy@hcr.net.

Copyright 1998

The Caledonian-Record

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