Modified Racing Legend Bugsy Stevens Passes 

Bugsy Stevens (Photo: Howie Hodge)

Bugsy Stevens, one of the most legendary and popular Modified drivers of all time, passed away Monday. 

Stevens, a native of Rehoboth, Mass., turned 90 on May 11. 

Stevens’ real name was Carl Steven Berghman. He began using the alias “Bugs Stevens” when he was competing in races at Pan American Speedway in San Antonio, Texas in 1957 while stationed there with the Air Force. 

“I had to do that when I was in the service,” Stevens told the Daytona Beach News-Journal in 2013. “I was in the Air Force and the commanding officer of the base called me in and said ‘Do you want to lose a stripe or play with race cars?’ They didn’t want me racing.” 

When he returned to New England and continued his racing career the alias stayed with him while he built up one of the greatest resumes in the history of short track racing. 

Stevens was part of the first induction class of the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame in 1998. 

“He will forever be remembered as a fan favorite who always had time for people, especially kids,” longtime motorsports journalist Bones Bourcier posted on May 11 on Facebook in celebrating Stevens’ milestone birthday. “And when the races were done for the night and it was time for fun, he could certainly show you how to find it. To this day, the only thing he loves more than a good laugh is getting one out of others. He was, and he remains, one of racing’s great characters and one of my favorite human beings.” 

When asked about Stevens’ popularity in the Northeast in 2013, longtime motorsports announcer Jack Arute told the Daytona Beach News-Journal: “He overshadowed Richard Petty. He was idolized by his fans. His exploits on the track were just part of their idolization. He was one of them. He owned a salvage yard. He was a common man.”

Stevens teamed up with legendary car builder and team owner Lenny Boehler and they went on to win three consecutive NASCAR Modified championships from 1967-69. They also won Modified track championships at Thompson Speedway (1966, 1968, 1969), Norwood (Mass.) Arena (1966), Stafford Speedway (1966, 1968) and Catamount Stadium in Milton, Vt. (1967-1968).

In 1970 Stevens made three starts in the NASCAR Grand National division (what is currently the NASCAR Cup Series). In his first start in the division he finished sixth in the World 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He also made starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Darlington Raceway that year. 

Stevens made the move to drive for Modified team owner Sonny Koszela in 1970. He won a championship at Stafford in 1971 and followed up with another title at the track in 1974, when he won 13 events, including the Spring Sizzler. 

Other highlights for Stevens in the Koszela ride including winning a 500-lap event at Thompson, three Dogwood Classics (1972, 1974, 1975) and a Cardinal Classic (1977) at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, the 1972 Modified title at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. and the 1977 Modified title at Seekonk (Mass.) Speedway. 

Driving for team owner Joe Brady, Stevens won Modified championships at Westboro (Mass.) Speedway (1980) and Seekonk (1981). 

The current NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was formed in 1985 and Stevens made 45 starts with the series from 1985-1987, driving the Mystic Missile for team owner Bob Garbarino. Stevens also won the 1989 Pro Stock championship at Seekonk. 

At the time of his retirement in the early 1990’s he was the winningest driver at Stafford Speedway with 72 career victories. He now sits fifth on the all-time win list at Stafford. He also had 42 career victories at Thompson Speedway. 

Bugsy Stevens (Photo: NEAR/NASCAR Collection)
Bugsy Stevens in the Lenny Boehler owned Ole Blue (Photo: NEAR/John Grady)


  1. Sharpie Fan says


  2. Bugs was one of the friendliest drivers. Always took time for his fans. He will be missed. Condolences to his family

  3. Dave Baribeault says

    A long time ago a shy little boy, stood by the popcorn stand at Stafford while his hero was across the way, talking to the fans. My father pushed me over to him, saying, “He’s not going to bite you.” After knowing him all these years, you never knew what he would do. It was a wild podcast with Kyle and Paul, I wish I could have been there. I’ve sat with him at banquets, watched him race, today we lost one of the best personalities this sport has ever had.

  4. Suitcase Jake says

    Bugs was one of my Heros down at Seekonk and all His travels up & down the coast…Him & Lenny were just winning everything for quite awhile.. Bugs you will forever be remembered as much for your Wins as your fun personality and pranks … Seymor the Clown and fun times all around…You were a SHOWMAN !!! RIP .. Now you and Richie can get after it again with Freddie and the rest ….You were the Best of Southern NE I ever saw ….
    Sad day for us all…

  5. Nils Lindstedt says

    I will never forget when his son Dave drove my car He knew we weren’t a big money team. Without me asking he baught 4 tires for me. RIP

  6. Much like Dave’s story, my father brought me to the pits after a race in the early 80’s at Stafford and said “go shake his hand!” Years later when Mr.Boucier’s biography came out, Bugsy was kind enough to sign a copy I surprised my father with. Thanks, Bugsy for all you did for the fans and the sport. Rest in peace.

  7. Tony Leckey says

    This is one of those days you knew was coming but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier. Watching Bugsy race as a kid was unforgettable and I will never forget the finish between he and Freddy at the 1974 Race Of Champions. He was simply dominant at Stafford in the late 60’s and in the 70’s. Even better was getting to know Bugsy personally as a young official at Stafford and on the Modified Tour. Some of the best laughs I ever experienced in racing were thanks to Bugs. RIP my friend.

  8. BOBBY WEAVER says

    Bugsy drove me around DAYTONA SPEEDWAY at 180mph in a 1968 CHEVY CAMARO. He was test driving the car for CHEVROLET.

  9. Watching Bugsy at Norwood Arena as a kid, is what hooked me on modified racing.
    And he and Lenny together, were just so formidable. The shot through the modified racing world when he and Freddie swapped rides, had a lot of doubters. And yet, Bugsy proved he could win in any decent race car.
    A true grass roots racer, and larger than life personality.
    Thanks Bugs, you gave this kid so much enjoyment and memories.
    My condolences to Carl’s entire family and friends. RiP

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