FLEMKE EQUALS HIS FATHER'S FEAT AT THOMPSON by Mike Twist
Veteran Racer Takes Biggest Win Yet With Mom Looking On
Back in 1977, there was plenty of buzz around the Thompson 300 Modified race. A rain shower slowed the feature, but what appeared to be clearing skies led to many pit stops under caution by several of the frontrunners. The track would not dry and eventually the event was called off early.
The path to victory lane for Flemke was an interesting one. The race was not its traditional 300 laps of uninterrupted racing. Instead, it would be made up of three 100 lap mini features. The finishes would be averaged and the racer with the lowest number would be declared the winner. With a first segment finish of second and a second segment finish of first (pay attention, there will be a quiz later), Flemke was in a good position entering the third segment. Jerry Marquis needed to finish at least two spots ahead of him, or both drivers needed to have poor runs, for someone different than one of those two drivers to win.
One driver, dangerously low on fuel, had stayed out and it was that man, Ed Flemke, who would take the win over Ron Bouchard.
Fast forward to 2004. There was still plenty of buzz in the pits at the Thompson Speedway (CT). Tire problems and a major format change kept everyone talking all weekend. Like 27 years earlier, there was a Bouchard in the field (Ron’s younger brother Kenny) and a Flemke in victory lane. This time it was Eddie, Jr. winning the race and matching the accomplishment of his now deceased father. Ironically, the winner’s car was sponsored by a chain of automobile dealerships owned by his-now brother-in-law, Ron Bouchard.
“My Dad always said that his win in the 300 was his favorite,” said Flemke. “When it meant so much to him, it obviously makes it special for me.”
Making it even more special for Flemke was the fact that his mother made a rare trip to the track to see his victory. It was the perfect ending for a great family day.
So with five laps to go when Marquis was running fifth and Flemke was in sixth, you’d have expected Flemke to hold back and ride out the final few laps. He didn’t. Flemke tried a gutsy pass on Marquis exiting turn four and got sideways. He corrected his car and held on to record the overall 300 victory.
“I knew that we were fine,“ said Flemke of his sideways trip. “I just said that I hope that nobody is behind me to turn me around the rest of the way.”
“My Mom has never seen me win before,“ said Flemke. “Not only has she seen me win now - she has seen me WIN. I’d say this is right up there as the biggest win of my career.”
“It was very thrilling,” said Mrs. Flemke. “I’m so proud of him. I wasn’t there for the races that he has won and I’ve seen him finish second before. But this is great. I’m sure that his Dad is up there smiling at him. He’s a wonderful son and I’m really happy for him.”
Once Donny Lia (#18) got around TC, he pulled away from the field.
Tom Bolles won the first segment and finished second in the final 100 lapper, but a 25th place run in the middle race dropped him to sixth in the final rundown. The other segment winner was Tony Hirschman, who overcame early problems to take the final race and finish 11th overall.
Flemke was an outspoken critic of the new format before the race and even though he won, he still didn‘t like the changes.
“I’m not a big fan of this format,” said Flemke. “But if the race went its normal way, I think we would have only beat them better. We had a great car the whole race and I think that we would have put a whole bunch of cars a lap down. We’ll take this though.”
Other drivers were even less happy with the new format and Speed 51 will have their views and plenty of more information about the race coming up this week.
The NASCAR Modified Series will return to action on Friday afternoon at the New Hampshire International Speedway. Speed 51 will also have full coverage of that event.
Flemke (#79) had a few bullets to dodge on his way to a win. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Flemke knew that he was in a position to take the overall win, but still raced hard.
“I wanted to win two of the three segments,” said Flemke. “It’s a $5,000 bonus and I wanted to also feel the win and not just back into it. We didn’t just cruise around and I think that people knew that. We were racing.”
With finishes of third, second and fifth, Marquis was second. Ted Christopher and Mike Stefanik were the only other drivers to collect three top ten finishes and took third and fourth overall respectively. Rick Fuller finished fifth.
Tony Hirschman (#48) and Tom Bolles (#76) each took checkered flags - but not an overall win. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Flemke was thrilled to join his father as a 300 winner. (Mary Hodge Photo)