2002 Year in Review

Eric Berndt earned over $8,000 after winning the 2002 Bud Modified Nationals event (John Driscoll photo)  

For the 4th consecutive year, SK Modified Dennis Gada would lead his division in both championship points and total wins.  This season he earned the championship by a slim 6 points over rival Ed Reed Jr, winning 6 times including the season ending Town Fair Tire 100.  His 4 titles in a row equaled the record set by Modified legend Dick Dunn in the Peg Gaudreau #3 during the mid 1970’s.  2-time former Late Model Champion Tom Fox won 5 times, Ron Yuhas Jr won the 100 lap LM portion of the Pepsi 300 and the season began with Eric Berndt winning the Budwieser Modified Nationals SK 150 for the second consecutive year.  His 2002 winner’s purse was over $8,000 – at the time, the single highest SK Modified payout in Speedbowl history.

2002_Allen_Coates_LM_Champ (Driscoll)
Allen Coates won his 3rd Late Model
Championship in 5 years in 2002
(John Driscoll photo)

Allen Coates won his 3rd Late Model track title (and 4th overall point championship) at the Speedbowl.  Corey Hutchings, who tied Coates for most wins with 6, finished 18 points behind in the final point standings.  Hutchings also won the season opening 50 lapper.  Veteran Paul Heard, who last won in the 1984, won the 100 lap LM portion of the Pepsi 300 and Mark St. Hiliare won the season ending Town Fair Tire 100.

For the 3rd consecutive year, the NASCAR Modified track lap record was broken – this time by Tony Hirschman Jr‘s 13.654 qualifying effort for the Waterford 150.  Dave Berghman and 1992 SK Modified Champion Ted Christopher won the NASCAR Modifieds 150 lappers.  Future Nextel Cup Series star Martin Truex Jr set a record fast time (14.980) for the NASCAR Busch North Series during time trials for the Waterford 150 in July.  The race was won by series standout Kelly Moore.  

Bobby Santos III won the Boston Louie Memorial NEMA event in August after Randy Cabral was disqualified for being his car being too wide.  The NEMA midgets, Pro4 Modifieds and All-Star Race Trucks accounted for 11 of the touring series events, producing 11 different feature winners. All 3 series were at the Budweiser Modified Nationals & the Town Fair Tire Finale.   Ryan Possoco seemed to have captured back-to-back ARTS features, but he was stripped of his win in the September race when he failed post-race technical inspection, giving the victory to Chris Hammond.

2002_Adam_smith_SS_Champ (Driscoll)
Adam Smith was the 2002 Sportsman Champion (John Driscoll photo)

Moose Douton became the Sportsmen’s all-time career wins leader when his division leading five victories gave him 17 overall – one better than previous record holder Ken Cassidy.  Douton’s victories included the season opening 30-lapper.  Ed Gertsch Jr won 4 times, including the 50-lap Sportsman portion of the Pepsi 300, while Tommy Silva won the season-ending Finale 50 in dramatic fashion over Jason Molonson & Dave Zemke.  In all, there were 14 different winners in the division during the season.  After the final point tally, it was Adam Smith who won the 2002 Sportsman championship by 8 points over Joe Mancini Jr.  Smith won 3 races over 2 seasons (2001-02) and then quietly disappeared from weekly competition after his 2002 title.

For the fourth time since it’s inception, former Modified ace Dick Watson won the Heroes of the Bowl race during Nostalgia Weekend – this season behind Joe Mancini Jr‘s #74 machine. Watson previous won in 1993, 1995 and 2000.  The exhibition, which pitted former Speedbowl greats behind the wheel of current Sportsman cars, remained widely popular with the fans.  The 2002 edition turned out to be the last one of it’s kind however:  although scheduled for 2003, Nostalgia Weekend was cancelled due to rain. It was then discontinued.

Mini Stock champion Brandon Plemons dominated the division with 8 feature wins – the 2nd most ever in the division for a single season behind Dan Darnstaedt‘s record 11 in 1995.  Plemons finished 150 points ahead of runner-up Darnstaedt in the final point standings. Dave Trudeau, nephew of 1971 Modified Champion Joe Trudeau, who won 3 times and finished 3rd in the final point standings.  2-time Champion Jeff Miller won the 30 lapper during opening weekend.  Darnstaedt won the 50 lap portion of the Pepsi 300 and Phil Evans won the Finale 50.

2002_Plemons_MS_Champ (Driscoll)
Brandon Plemons won his first Speedbowl championship in 2002 (John Driscoll photo)

Legend Car ace Chris Pasteryak won the Overall Legend Car Championship in 2002, which combined points from the Saturday and Wednesday series.  He beat Len Beebe Jr by a single point in the only year a combined point Overall Champion was crowned.  Pasteryak earned the Saturday title as well while Beebe took the Wednesday crown.  Pasteryak’s 8 overall victories tied him with Brandon Plemons for the most at the track during the season.  Beebe won a total of 7 times while Shaun Buffington won 6 times overall, including the National Qualifier in July.  

Michael Richards Jr won his first ever track title when he was crowned the 2002 Super X-car Champion from the Wild N’ Wacky Wednesday series.  He won 2 features during the season.  Kenny Jones and Ken Holbrook finished tied atop the final X-car standings, but Jones was declared champion via the wins tie-breaker (5-3).  Other than the back-to-back features won by John Cafazzo in the middle of the season, Jones and Holbrook won all the features in the 4-cylinder enduro-type division.


Segment on Dennis Gada’s 5 straight SK Modified Championships driving Harry Wyant’s #3