Stafford Springs, CT — When the green flag falls on the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler on May 1st this year, it will mark the start of the 40th edition of “The Greatest Race In The History of Spring.” The CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler is the longest continuous running event on the Whelen Modified Tour calendar and the Sizzler has had some of the biggest and best names in modified racing find their way to CARQUEST Victory Lane.
The Spring Sizzler was born in 1972 with Dr. Dick Berggren, Lew Boyd, and Bruce Cohen putting the race together at a time when all the prestigious events were held in the fall. Their new idea for a major race in the springtime was an overwhelming success with over 100 cars in the paddock area and an overflow crowd of 11,500 packing the Stafford grandstands. Jack Arute purchased the rights to the race from Berggren, Boyd, and Cohen after that inaugural Sizzler and it has been the showcase event of the Stafford schedule every year since.
As part of the celebration of 40 years of the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler, Stafford Speedway is inviting drivers who took part in the Inaugural Spring Sizzler to take part in a special pre-race. One of those drivers is Bob Potter, who after placing ninth in that inaugural Sizzler, would go on to record 5 Stafford SK Modified® track championships, a record that stood until 2007 when Ted Christopher recorded his sixth Stafford track championship. Driving for Roger Bonville in the #110 Coupe, Potter recalls the grand spectacle that was and continues to be the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler.
“The Spring Sizzler was one sensational race, I can tell you that,” said Potter. “I had never seen so many cars in the pits as there was for that race, it was like a Race of Champions event. It was a short race and the purse money was out of sight. There were cars from all up and down the east coast, so you were going up against the best of the best. That first race was run what you brought, so there were dirt cars, asphalt cars, fuel injected cars, there were a lot of different cars. The crowd was also huge for that race, there were so many people there, I remember people sitting on the banks and I think they eventually had to start turning people away at the gate.”
With so many cars on hand, there was an extra premium placed on qualifying through one of the four heat races. If a driver couldn’t get qualified through their heat race, there were two last chance consi races to get into the field.
“Qualifying was very tough,” said Potter. “With the cars and the drivers that were on hand, you really had to have everything going right for you to get qualified. We had been pretty good at Waterford and between Waterford and Stafford there wasn’t much that we had to change on the car, so we felt like we were pretty prepared when we showed up at the track. We had a big block and a small block engine, and we decided that we needed all the power we could get, so we came with our big block to Stafford. It was a huge accomplishment for us to make the show.”
Potter finished the race in 9th place, just behind Bob Santos in the #09 Coupe, which earned him $450 of the then record $15,000 purse that was offered for the race.
“I remember it was a short race and there weren’t a lot of cautions,” said Potter. “I think I followed Bobby Santos around the track for half of the race. It was an all out race with no pit stops to change tires or anything like that. Those guys really stuck their necks out with the purse they offered to us. And it wasn’t just the money, there was a ton of contingency. I don’t think that there was anyone who went home without something. There were rocker arms, camshafts, intakes, clutches, carburetors, shocks, springs, and other parts that were part of the contingency. I remember we got a set of rocker arms along with our purse. There weren’t any unhappy owners or drivers that day, everyone went home with something.”
The race was 80 laps long and the race was completed in just under 30 minutes with Fred DeSarro coming home as the winner in the Len Boehler owned “Ole Blue” #3. Ed Flemke had dominated the race, taking the lead from pole winner Bobby on lap-7 and he held the lead until lap-71 when his water pump failed and dropped him out of the race after it looked like he had victory well within his grasp. DeSarro led the final 9 laps to take the checkered flag and a winner’s check of $2,250. Flemke made up for his Sizzler disappointment one year later as he took the Bob Judkins #2x to victory with DeSarro right behind him. The Boehler owned car would not return to CARQUEST Victory Lane in the CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler until 2004 with Jerry Marquis as the driver.
Further tracing the pedigree of CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler champions, there have been 22 different winners in 39 races with 8 drivers winning the race multiple times. Of the 22 CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler winners, 9 have won a Whelen Modified Tour championship. Ted Christopher leads all drivers with 6 career Sizzler wins, Mike Stefanik has won the Sizzler 4 times, while Maynard Troyer, Richie Evans, and Rick Fuller each have 3 wins, and Greg Sacks, Reggie Ruggiero, and Mike Ewanitsko have each won twice. Those who have won the Sizzler once include: Fred DeSarro, Ed Flemke, Bugsy Stevens, Geoff Bodine, Bob Polverari, Jimmy Spencer, Brian Ross, Jeff Fuller, Jan Leaty, John Blewett, III, Jerry Marquis, Tony Hirschman, Doug Coby, and Donny Lia. Christopher will try to add to his hefty Sizzler win total and break a tie he currently holds with Troyer as the only drivers to win the Sizzler three years in a row.
The 40th Annual CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler gets underway Friday, April 29 with a practice session for Stafford’s weekly divisions. The practice session will be open to the public at no charge. The run for the Coors Light Pole position gets underway on Saturday, April 30 with time trials for the Whelen Modified Tour cars, along with heat and consolation races for Stafford’s weekly divisions. In the 31 Spring Sizzler events run since 1980, the fast qualifier has gone on to win the race 7 times. Saturday will conclude with feature events for the SK Light, Limited Late Model, and DARE Stock divisions. The Sizzler concludes on Sunday, May 1 with the CARQUEST Belts and Hose Pit Party followed by Stafford’s SK Modifieds® and Late Models joining the Whelen Modified Tour in feature action.
Tickets for the “Greatest Race in the History of Spring” are on sale now at the Speedway Box Office. Tickets are priced at $35.00 for adult general admission tickets, $5.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $38.00 for all ages. As always, Stafford Motor Speedway offers free parking with overnight parking available.
For more information on the 40th annual CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler®, or to order tickets, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.
Sources: Scott Running/Stafford Motor Speedway PR