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Saturday, April 5 – It was one of those early April days. It looked like rain in the morning and was dreary. The skies cleared up and the temperatures climbed in the afternoon to the mid 50’s. Bruce had to stay home in the morning to perform some kind of computer test for work and the next thing we knew it was after 12:00 and we still did not decide where we were going for the night’s racing event. Now we both are big sprint cars fans and love the racing at Lincoln Speedway but for some reason we got lazy and did not want to make the two and one half hour plus drive to the Pigeon Hills of south Central Pennsylvania. We narrowed it down between Grandview and Bridgeport, Grandview being a 45 minute drive and Bridgeport one and one half hours. We finally decided upon Bridgeport, a track we had not visited at all in 2007 and set out around 1:30. Of course we made a side trip through Quakertown on our way to the Turnpike and visited two antique stores, a major weakness of mine, then at John’s Plain and Fancy diner.
Finally around 4:00 we set sail for the real destination of Bridgeport Speedway and pulled into the parking lot at 5:15. By this time the sun was starting to go down and you could feel it was going to be a chilly night. We grabbed all of the winter gear and headed for the gate. Both of Bruce’s brothers would be here. Bob, his oldest brother, is a diehard Bridgeport supporter and never misses a show here. His other brother, Glenn is on the pit crew of Ricky Rutt who is driving a big block modified this year at the fast 5/8 mile.
As I mentioned earlier Bruce and I did not see a race at Bridgeport in 2007 but it was not always like that for me. Back in the late 70’s, yes I know some of you reading this were not even born then, I covered Bridgeport for the long defunct Keystone Racing News out of Reading, PA. Every week I made the trek to Bridgeport Speedway and was so excited when they opened up the Commander Barry Bridge eliminating the ferry ride you had to take across the Delaware River. I remember when Doug Hoffman won his first sportsman feature in the 60 Over. Yes, it was a long time ago. Now close to 30 years later the track at first glance looks the same but a lot has changed. There is a large pavilion with picnic tables and benches where you can sit to eat and the new restrooms are nicer then the restrooms in the office building I work in. All the concessions are different and the wooden grandstand seats have all been replaced with aluminum. One thing has not changed, the track is big.
Seventy five cars took part in the qualifying heats in three divisions that all look alike. There were 31 358 modifieds, 40 big block modifieds and 24 sportsman Crate engine modifieds. All of the qualifying, 9 heats and 3 consolations, was complete by 8:40. At 9:15 the 20 lap 358 feature got underway and as soon as it started it came to a halt. A major pileup on the homestretch sent two cars flipping and when the dust settled there were 7 cars left in disrepair. There was a 25 minute delay to clear the scene and luckily no one was injured. The race was restarted and the caution would wave two more times before the checkered fell on Jesse Hill. The big block modifieds ran a 30 lap feature and it was not until lap 21 that the caution waved. Rick Laubach was never challenged for the win but the battle for second literally went down to the end with Mike Iles besting Richie Pratt Jr. on the final circuit. It was 10:20 and we decided to forgo the sportsman race as it was getting colder by the minute.
One of the neat things Bridgeport does is having the top three finishers in each feature park their cars in the large area behind the grandstand after their race. This way the fans can get up close to the cars and their favorite drivers. As we walked out many fans were gathered around the cars. The little kids were in awe of these warriors who drove these massive pieces of machinery, hats off to Bridgeport for cultivating the future fans of tomorrow.
I am not the big modified fan I once was as a child and then young adult but I must admit I enjoyed myself.
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