Big Teddy Bear: Bo Gunning Warmly Recollects Special Bond With Eddie Partridge

The 2002 Stafford Speedway SK Modified championship winning team with team owner Eddie Partridge and driver Bo Gunning (Photo: Stafford Speedway)

A chance meeting at a test session at Stafford Motor Speedway in 2000 blossomed into a tight bond between longtime Modified driver Bo Gunning and NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour team owner and Riverhead Raceway owner Eddie Partridge.

On Saturday morning Gunning heard the news of the passing of Partridge and he couldn’t process it.

“My daughter said to me ‘Eddie isn’t supposed to die,” Gunning said Sunday afternoon. “And that was exactly how I felt. It’s still hard to believe. It’s a huge loss. He was a huge part of my racing career, and he was just a really great friend.

“I was in the hospital three weeks ago because I had six bypasses done. Do you know, he called every day I was in the hospital to see how I was.”

Gunning raced for about four years for Partridge in an SK Modified and on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

Gunning was helping another team with a car at a test session in 2000 at Stafford Speedway when Partridge approached him. Partridge was at the test with a Whelen Modified Tour car he was trying to get up to speed.

“Eddie was there with the first car he bought with some guys from Riverhead testing,” Gunning said. “He came over to me and said ‘Do you want to try my car?’ I said ‘Sure, I’d like to try it.’ So I went out in it and we ran good but there was a lot of issues with it and I helped them. The following weekend was the [Whelen Modified Tour] Fall Final at Stafford and he asked me if I wanted to race it. So I ran that for him and after that he said, ‘Well lets go to Martinsville next.’”

After running at Stafford and Martinsville Gunning closed out the season driving for Partridge at Thompson Speedway.

Years earlier Partridge had made an attempt himself to run part-time in the SK Modified division at Stafford.

“He had raced Stafford back in the day,” Gunning said. “One of the Sizzlers, he was on the outside pole, I was third and Kenny Bouchard was on the pole. I dove underneath Kenny at the start and Eddie hit the wall. When I went to race for him he said ‘I want to show you this video.’ He said ‘I led the Sizzler for 500 feet and then you put me in the wall.’”

Gunning ran nine Whelen Modified Tour events for Partridge in 2001. Gunning said he showed up for the Fall Final at Stafford that year and there was a second car at the track for him.

“I walked in and there was two cars sitting there,” Gunning said. “I said to the guys, ‘What’s the other car?’ and they said ‘Eddie knows you hate the [Whelen Modified] Tour and love the SK [Modifieds] so he put an SK [Modified] together for you.

“I really didn’t enjoy the [Whelen Modified] Tour. I really didn’t like that kind of racing and I liked the SK [Modified] racing and Eddie knew that, so then he put a lot into that SK [Modified] team.” 

Over the winter the decision was made to run in the SK Modified division in 2001 at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in February at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway.

Mike Wheeler, who is currently the crew chief for Bubba Wallace on the NASCAR Cup Series, was Gunning’s crew chief with the Partridge owned SK Modified organization going to Florida.

“We went to New Smyrna and we won the championship down there with the SK [Modified],” Gunning said. “With [Wheeler] it was a different kind of racing than I ever did. We ran for points. I wasn’t a points racer. And Wheels would say to me ‘You’re the fourth fastest car on the track, when you get to fourth just stay there.’ And I’d be like ‘But I can probably get to third.’ And he would be like: ‘Stay in fourth.” And I did that and we won the championship that year and it was a great thing.”

The team ran full-time in the SK Modified division at Stafford and Thompson that year and went on to win the 2002 SK Modified championship at Stafford Speedway. It was Gunning’s third SK Modified title at Stafford. The team had three wins at Stafford in 2002, including a win in the season opening event.

“We won that show and you know what, I looked over at Eddie and he was standing there with tears in his eyes,” Gunning said. “It was the best feeling in the world.”

As Partridge’s racing operation grew he wanted to run more and more events. Gunning said the travel and schedule wasn’t something he could handle and the pair went their separate ways by 2004.

Not long after Gunning said he saw the deep generosity that was a hallmark of Partridge’s personality.

“It was a bit later and I had put an [SK Modified] together myself to go racing with and I was running part-time,” Gunning said. “He called me up one day and said ‘How come you weren’t racing this week?’ And I said ‘I need a motor’. He said ‘Come down to the shop, I’ve got one sitting there.’ And he said ‘Better yet, wait a couple days because I’ll get it freshened.’

“And then I go to the track for the next race and go to the tire truck and I spent every penny I could just to get to the track. We didn’t have any tires and I didn’t have any money to buy tires. So I’m wondering if they would float me four tires. So I went up to the tire truck and asked the guy, ‘Will you float me four tires.’ And he goes ‘Why, those 12 tires over there are yours.’ I said ‘What do you mean they’re mine?’ And he said ‘Yeah, Eddie bought them for you the other night at Thompson and told us to give them to you.’

“That’s the way he was. He didn’t want anyone to know everything he did for people. But he did a lot for me over the years. I just loved the guy to death. He was like a big teddy bear.”

Gunning said he and Partridge would always chat at the track when Partridge’s team was in town for an event at Stafford or Thompson in recent years. He said they were talking at Thompson one day in 2013 and Partridge told him he was thinking about putting dirt racing standout Stewart Friesen in his Whelen Modified Tour car for the next year.

“I said to him, ‘Why don’t you put Ryan Preece in your car. He’s a local guy, he’s a good guy.’ And he did that and look what happened.

Preece has competed for Partridge since the late 2013.

“There’s not a bad thing anybody can say about Eddie,” Gunning said. “I could tell you some stories about what he did for me, but I promised him I never would. … But he bailed me out of a lot of troubles over the years. He was just a great man.”

Comments

  1. Great read Shawn!

  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNLuplLTRys

    Go to the 35 minute mark and Bo reflects on Partridge. He drifts off then back to Partridge so stay with it.

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