Looking Back: Memorable Modified Races Over The Years At Martinsville Speedway


(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Although his car is a bit the worse for wear, NASCAR Modified driver Richie Evans raises another trophy in 1981 after an obviously hard-fought victory over Geoff Bodine in the most spectacular bump-and-grind finish at the track. (Photo: ISC Images & Archives via Getty Images)

By Paul Lambert/NASCAR

Modified racing at Martinsville is filled with memorable moments. Leading up to the Modified return to the track, here are selected some of the biggest and most important races in Martinsville history.

1948: The Birth of a Jewel

In a field including NASCAR founder Bill France, Buck Baker and Tim Flock, it was Fonty Flock who won the first race at the dirt half-mile oval. While Modifieds wouldn’t race at Martinsville for 18 more years

1966: A Return to Glory

After a nearly two-decade absence, the Modifieds returned to Martinsville on April 23, 1966. Ray Hendrick took the checkered flag, the first of nine Modified victories he picked up at the track. He also earned his first grandfather clock, which the track began awarding to the race winners just two years prior.

Hendrick would go on to be the winningest driver in track history with 20 victories, and was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2007.

1970: Hendrick Sweeps

Hendrick continued his dominance at Martinsville, becoming the first driver to sweep both the Late Model feature and the Modified feature when he won both races at the Cardinal 500 on Nov. 8, 1970.

It was a banner year for the Richmond, Virginia, driver at the half-mile. He drover his Modified to a win in the Dogwood 500 on April 12, beating runner-up Fred Desarro by six laps. Just two weeks later, he picked up a 100-lap win over Jerry Cook in a NASAR Modified event.

For the November doubleheader, he won the Late Model Sportsman race from the pole in his 1965 Chevrolet Chevelle, then drove his Chevrolet Camaro to a win over runner-up Cook in the Modified race.

1981: Evans Catches Fence and Checkers

Hendrick’s final win at Martinsville came in 1975, the year after Rome, New York, legend Richie Evans earned his first win there.

Evans would win nine times at the “paperclip” but probably none more famous than on March 15, 1981.

In arguably the greatest finish in the history of both Martinsville and Modified racing, Richie Evans rode the frontstretch catchfence to the win over Geoff Bodine.

“I got him sideways off of 4,” Geoff Bodine says. “I should’ve kept spinning him out, but I let him go. That was my mistake. I was too nice a guy. I didn’t want to wreck him, I just wanted to beat him.”

1985: A Poignant Season Finale

Just four years later, Martinsville and Evans were intrinsically linked again, but for another reason.

In the first year of the NASCAR Winston Modified Tour, Evans won 12 of the first 28 races to clinch his ninth NASCAR modifified title heading into the final race of the season at Martinsville on Oct. 27, 1985.

Three days before the race, Evans crashed in practice, dying when a stuck throttle sent him into the turn-three wall.

The Tour raced on that weekend, with Johnny Bryant collecting his only career Tour win. Bryant was driving for North Carolina car owner David Riggs, and they are the last southern car owner and driver combination to win a Modified race at Martinsville.

“I still remember that win,” Bryant told the Martinsville Bulletin in 2014. “We had a good car that day and I got some breaks and was able to win a race here. He prepared a good car for me.”

1992: Four for Fuller

En route to the Tour championship that year, late-race heroics in the Hanes 150 on April 25 got Jeff Fuller his fourth win at Martinsville. Fuller led only five laps on the way to victory over Mike Stefanik — who had led 123 laps — and Jan Leaty. Satch Worley, who won a month earlier at Martinsville, finished fourth.

Fuller added to his wins in 1989, 1990 and 1991.

2000: The Reg vs. TC

In the midst of a tight championship battle between Reggie Ruggiero and Jerry Marquis, fireworks changed the course of the Goody’s Body Pain 200 in the closing laps. First Jerry Marquis spun himself trying to pass Ruggiero for third, erasing Christopher’s sizable lead and setting up a late-race dash to the checkers. Then, with 10 to go, Ruggiero made contact with Christopher going for the lead.

Christopher went into the wall, while Ruggiero went on to the win.

Marquis would finish second in the penultimate race of the year, and clinch his championship at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway by a 36-point margin over Ruggiero.

WATCH: Looking Back: The Reg vs. TC at Martinsville in 2000

2002: Run of first-time winners begins

Between 1989-2001, Jeff Fuller (four wins), Mike Ewanitsko (four wins), Mike Stefanik (four wins) and Reggie Ruggiero (three wins) dominated, with Satch Worley and Tony Hirschman Jr.

Then along came a 28-year-old from Dushore, Pennsylvania: LW Miller.

Miller, who had four career top 10s in 69 previous career starts, qualified seventh and led the final 50 laps en route to his first — and only career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. Miller’s win began a streak of eight different winners in eight Tour races at the track.

Miller went on to win the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour championship and is currently Director of Motorsports for JR Motorsports.

2005: TC finally gets Martinsville win

After a three-year absence from Martinsville, the Tour returned to the track under the lights for the first time on Labor Day weekend. It was Christopher who beat fellow Modified legend Mike Stefanik on a Saturday night to take his only win at Martinsville.

Christopher started on the pole and led 164 laps in the Made In American Whelen 300. It was the first of three straight tour wins in 2005 for Christopher.

John Blewett III, Eric Beers and Doug Coby rounded out the top 5. Brian Loftin was the highest finishing driver of the Whelen Southern Modified Tour, in its first year.

2008: Ryan Preece Picks Up First Win In DQ

It appeared as if Burt Myers had picked up his first Whelen Modified Tour win when he crossed the finish line ahead of 17-year-old Ryan Preece in the Made In American Whelen 300, and make the North Carolina veteran the first Whelen Southern Modified Tour driver to win the combination event.

However, post-race inspection, however, would lead to a disqualification for Myers, and hand Preece his first victory on the Tour. Preece was driving the famed No. 3 ‘ole Blue.’ Preece joined Bugs Stevens in delivering a Martinsville win to Boehler Racing.

Matt Hirschman was credited with second, followed by Ruggiero, Christopher and Todd Szegedy.

Preece has gone on to win the2013 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour title and finish tour runner-up four other times en route to his current ride in the the NASCAR Cup Series.

2010: Santos adds to family legacy

The win in the 2010 Made In America Whelen 300 was special for Bobby Santos III in a number of ways.

It was Santos’ third win in the first four races of the season, along with a runner-up finish, as he drove to his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in his first full season driving for longtime Modified car owner Bob Garbarino. Santos joined Satch Worley (1992) and Donny Lia (2007) in winning at Martinsville for Garbarino.

To top it all off, Santos’ grandfather, Bobby Santos Jr., won the Cardinal Classic 250 NASCAR Modified Division event on Oct. 16, 1972.

Then 22-year-old rookie Justin Bonsignore finished second, followed by Szegedy, Stefanik and Myers.

Comments

  1. “Gary Putnam Racing
    ·
    Gary Putnam Racing Ready For Martinsville
    Concord, NC: The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour begins the 2021 racing season this Thursday (4/8/21) with a return to the historic Martinsville Speedway in Martinsville, VA and the #77 GPR/CURB Records team is ready for the action to begin.
    Taking over the driving duties for this race is short track ace Max McLaughlin who has prior success driving the #77 for GPR including a win at the 2020 North-South Shootout. If Max last name sounds familiar to modified fans, it should, as he is the son of Northeast asphalt modified legend Mike “Magic Shoes” McLaughlin. Over the past several years, Max has been busy carving out a name for himself competing in both dirt modified and pavement modified events all around the country.
    Also in this event is the GPR companion team #53 Kevin Manion Motorsports/CURB Records modified with NASCAR Cup Series driver Ryan Newman who will be in the seat for the race. Newman is no stranger to asphalt modified racing as he has done very well racing these open wheel hotrods at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when the Tour makes the annual summer stop at that track. ”

    “Tommy Baldwin Racing
    · Happy Easter everyone!!! Enjoy your day. Can’t wait for Martinsville on Thursday then the ice breaker at Thompson on the Weekend. We have some exciting news to share this week stay tuned !!!”

  2. Look for Mckennedy in the #7

  3. Don’t forget Bugsy Stevens had 7 Big Wins @ Martinsville Speedway i Believe…

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