This week kicks off the 51st running of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. We decided to take a look at 10 of the best moments in the history of the event.
Oh, to Be 13: Speed51.com witnessed two upstart 13 year olds win Pro Late Model races during the World Series at New Smyrna. The first was Logan Ruffin who got hot and won three times in 2008 before winning the overall championship. A year later, Stephen Nasse went to victory lane and had strong runs and finished high in the points.
Stewart at the World Series: It was considered one of the most controversial Speedweeks of all time. Tony Stewart ran the World Series in a Modified and had run-ins or altercations several times during the week, his biggest with Ted Christopher.
“Jackie Stewart, or whatever his name thought he was king out there. He has a lot to learn before he’s ever the King of this palace.” – Tom Baldwin
“Ted Christopher has wrecked everyone down here this week at least once,” – Tony Stewart
“You can move me out of the way a little, but don’t hook me before I get into the turn. I guess that’s the way of drive.” – Ted Christopher
The Best Race Ever?: The 2009 Richie Evans Memorial 100 might be considered the best race ever run during the Smyrna World Series. Ted Christopher and Ron Silk had raced each other hard all weekend and the 100-lap race on Friday night would be no different. TC entered the night with two wins and Silk had already taken one. The two drivers locked themselves into the top two spots and began to trade the lead almost every lap. Half the crowd in the grandstands would stand and shake their fist in excitement, then almost immediately they would sit and the other half would stand and do the same like mechanical orchestra with each lead change.
The final 10 laps were the telling tail of the race. After four swaps and a roaring crowd, Christopher got the top spot and held off Silk late to win the race. After the show, the media struggled to figure out the official number of lead changes. Our final count was 15, but they pulled so many slide jobs within a lap that it could have been double that with unofficial changes.
That night it was called a great race, a few weeks later it was the best in a long time, and by the end of the season it was was up for discussion as one of the best ever. The race won a 51 award for the “Best Race of the Year” and now it’s a part of history. Those who who were there that night will tell you how good it was.
Sweep: In a top series no driver had ever swept all the races. Jason Boyd changed that in 2002 when he won all nine nights of action in the Limited Late Model class. Boyd was one of the winningest drivers in the class, but in 2002 he was on top of his game having come from the middle of the pack several times thanks to draws and qualifying.
Tossing the Top Five: It was Super Bowl Sunday and the track was running features an hour early to allow fans to get out and watch the game. After the checkered flag flew on Jeff Choquette there was a hum in the air as the tech team looked over the top half of the field. A few minutes later, a meeting among the top five with tech director Rick Brooks led to the top five all being tossed for using tire softener which was outlawed the same year. Lonnie Sommerville was the winner and BJ McLeod would be the champion of the week after several teams were tossed for the same reason.
TC’s Big Night: In 2005 Ted Christopher had a perfect night. The only thing he didn’t win was the 50-50 raffle and we can imagine that it was because he didn’t buy a ticket. TC won both the Tour-Type Modified race and the Super Late Model race on the same night. In the past several drivers have won in multiple divisions, but never on the same night. Since this feat was done it still has not been duplicated. Link to story: http://www.speed51archives.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Most people don’t know who Frank Wood is when it comes to Super Late Models and we can understand why. Wood never won a Super Late Model race during Speedweeks during the years he ran. In 1989 he had one top five run and nine total top 10’s. During that time Junior Hanley, Joe Shear and Butch Miller took down victories. On the final night five drivers were tossed from the race including Hanley and Shear who had a total of seven wins. The others in the point battle had trouble and the DQ’s left Frank Wood as the most unlikely of series champions.
At the top of Their Game: One can argue that any year during the early heyday was the best year of racing, but 1978 for Super Late Models sticks out like a sore thumb to us. Winners for the week included Bob Senneker, Dick Trickle, Junior Hanley, Dick Anderson, Mike Eddy and John Anderson. Most of those names would go on to bigger and better things. Also in the mix that week were Joe Shear, David Rogers, Jody Ridley, Mike Miller and Mark Martin.
When the dust settled Mark Martin got the best of Dick Trickle by nine points to win the title without a single race victory. There were many great years ahead, but ’78 was one year that we would love to go back in time to watch and see how it all shook out.
Richie and Greg: Richie Evans will always be the Modified king and at New Smyrna it was no different. He won over 50% of the races he ran at Smyrna Speedweeks in the Modified class and won the championship six times; however, during one stretch run in the 80’s he had an equal at New Smyrna. Greg Sacks entered New Smyrna as an underdog as Evans had won three championships in a row.
Sacks kicked things off by winning the first three nights over Evans. On night four Evans got back to victory lane, but Sacks took the next two wins in the series. Rainouts set up double features for the final night where Sacks took race one and finished second to Evans in the last race to dethrone the Modified King. Evans would return in 1983 to win five of the eight races. Sacks returned to win twice, but Evans reclaimed his title, but for one moment in time Sacks was better then Evans at his palace.
Junior Makes a Statement: Junior Hanley always had New Smyrna figured out. The Canadian driver won 47 times over four decades and he was at his best in 1990 and 1991. In 1990 Hanley won the title with seven wins. The next year he managed to grab seven more wins, but lost the title. The fact he won 14 of 17 starts is a remarkable stat for anyone in any class.
-By Elgin Traylor, Speed51.com Southeast Correspondent – Twitter: @ElginTraylor
-Photo credit: Jim Jones