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Saturday, July 25 – First it is hard to believe this was the last Saturday in July. Where did the month go? Summer is more then half over and I did not even start that list of summer chores. We were staying close to home this weekend and at first I got the bright idea to clean the garage Saturday morning but Bruce pointed out there is nothing better then sleeping in on Saturday morning. I agreed, so that is just what we did. After going out for a late lunch and hitting a local antique store we went back home and did nothing until it was time to leave for our destination of the night.
There was a time back in the 80’s when I never missed a race at Bridgeport Speedway. I wrote the results story for a now defunct racing paper called Keystone Racing News and one of my best friend was married to Bruce Young, a sportsman driver who ran Bridgeport every Saturday night. I remember crossing the Delaware to get to the track on a ferry boat at first and how exciting it was when they built the Commodore Barry Bridge. Then my tastes turned to sprint car racing and there were years when I did not even see a race at the track. Now Bruce and I usually get to the track at least once or twice a year and it is usually for one of their special shows. Tonight was one of those nights’ when they were running something special so we decided to head just south of Philadelphia and cross the Commodore Barry Bridge to the Bridgeport Speedway. Ironically Bruce’s brother, Bob, never misses a race here at the 5/8 mile oval.
The ARDC midgets were on the racing card tonight but they were not going to run the big 5/8 mile. They were running the ¼ mile inner oval that hosts the micro-sprints on Friday nights. This would not be a first for the midgets on the inner oval but it would be a first for us. We arrived at 6:15 for the 7:00 start and located a seat with Bruce’s brother and then I was immediately sent off to see my good friend, Vicki Stephens, mother of ARDC midget driver, Stephanie Stevens. After catching up with Vickie I headed back to my seat by the end of warm-ups. There were technically 6 divisions on the agenda with only 4 of the divisions running qualifying heats. It was not necessary based on the car counts to run a consolation for any class. The midgets ran their three heats first and they were not that bad. They ran near flawless heats and for most of the current drivers this was the first time they ran on this track. One exception was PJ Gargiulo who ran micros here and his experience showed when he easily won the second heat. Later Bruce would speak with Stephanie’s dad in the pits who said she had a difficult time due to the lack of outside walls and finding her mark where she would backoff going into the turns.
After the midget heats the 358 sportsman ran two heats followed by the Rookie Championship Feature, which was only an 8 lap event. The modified heats were next followed by the crate sportsman heats. All qualifying was complete by 8:45 and now it was feature time. Jeff Alhum, good friend and sometimes fellow racing companion to Bruce and I is the announcer at Bridgeport and he came down during the short break to get our opinion of the night’s events to this point in the program. I mentioned the clouds that appeared to be rolling in quickly and I was told they were watching the radar. By the smile on his face I knew rain was coming quicker then the midnight arrival predicted by the weatherman.
The first feature was a 15 lap outlaw stock feature and there was some excitement in the event when Jerry Griffin rolled his car several times in turn three. Jerry was uninjured but we cannot say as much for his race car. Pat Conaway picked up their 30th career win at the drop of the checkered. ARDC was up next with a 25 lap jaunt around the ¼ mile. Customarily when Bridgeport has intermission they work on the track but to save time tonight, management worked on the turns of the 5/8 mile track while the midgets ran on the ¼ mile circuit. The midgets ran fairly well with some excitement in the closing laps. Bruce Buckwalter was leading the race when with less then two laps remaining, Garguilo stormed past him on the inside going down the backstretch. To everyone’s surprise Buckwalter was able to pass him right back and go on to pick up his second career victory with ARDC. It was a competitive event with only 4 cautions on the tight oval.
By now track maintenance was complete and the 358 sportsman were called to the post. Unfortunately during the lineup rain started to drop and by 10:00 the rain intensified and we headed toward the car. Although the cars were circling on the pace lap the race was never begun. At 10:30 the remaining classes of features were cancelled.
We actually were looking forward to the modified and sportsman features as we believed the track was going to be decent shape. This track has made a lot of improvements over the years. One big improvement is the restroom facilities. Another is the pavilion compete with picnic tables for fans to sit and eat at. Did I mention the food was really good also? They are working hard to make things fan friendly and I surely hope they continue down their current path. As for Bruce and I, we do not care for a track as big as Bridgeport; 5/8 mile, and that must be measured around the inside of the track. Although the racing was not bad, when Jeff called us on Sunday to ask if we were coming to see the double feature show next week we declined. Actually we will not be in the area next week as we are going to put on some ruby slippers and fly to Kansas. Not to see Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz but to see the Belleville Nationals for the USAC midgets. Until then stay cool as it seems like the summer heat and humidity has finally arrived.
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