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Craig Murto: Frank Sagi tribute a huge success

Hagerstown (Maryland) Speedway’s night of racing in tribute to former track announcer Frank Sagi was a huge success.

The 2nd annual Frank Sagi Tribute featured attendance by nearly 100 former drivers and car owners, all signing autographs for fans and reflecting on their careers. The featured special guest was Buddy Armel, a five-time Hagerstown Speedway champion with 80 feature wins.

And after each of those feature wins, he was interviewed by  Sagi, the “voice of Hagerstown Speedway.”

Sagi died in 2012 at the age of 78. He was the announcer at Hagerstown for 39 years, and also announced at dozens of tracks up and down the East Coast and hosted a racing radio show during his career. He is in the halls of fame of Hagerstown Speedway, the Auto Racing Club of Hagerstown, and the York County Racing Club.

The race attracted a great crowd for a Sunday evening, and all in attendance were appreciative of the efforts of Alan Sagi to put the event together. Applause could be heard over the roar of the 800 horsepower engines when Sagi, driving for Jim Bernheisel, raced his way into the feature event in the last-chance qualifier.

In the 25-lap Super Late Model feature, Kyle Hardy powered past Gary Stuhler, who was driving the Bare Racing No.30, to take the lead coming off of Turn 2 while Andy Anderson quickly moved into second from his fourth starting spot.

Hardy raced away from Anderson until reaching traffic on the 11th lap as Anderson closed to within five car lengths of Hardy’s lead. But a caution on Lap 19 for the stopped car of longtime racer Roger Jenkins changed the course of the race.

Hardy chose the outside on the restart and that was his undoing as Anderson found grip down low in the Bland Racing No.41, and sped to the lead. Once out front, Anderson drove away over the final six laps to grab the win.

Craig Parrill won the Pure Stock feature, just as he did in last year’s inaugural event. The Modified race was won by Rick Hulson.

It was great to see a lot of people I hadn’t seen in quite a while. Roy Deese Jr., Brad Omps, Gary Stuhler, Jim Bernheisel, Booper Bare, Lisa Plessinger, Frank Plessinger, Jack Bland and Alan Sagi all made me feel welcome. It was good to meet Booper Bare’s talented racing son Tyler, and it was great to bench race with Hagerstown Speedway’s PR guru Brett Rose.

Watching dirt Super Late Models on TV does not do them justice. The words “organized chaos” are often thrown about when it comes to various forms of racing, but it’s true about this form of the sport. The cars are as powerful as NASCAR Cup cars, and when watching them up close in the corner during practice it became evident that as smooth as some of the racers make it look, it’s actually a violent ride inside those cars. And it’s thrilling to watch.

A lot of NASCAR fans were thrilled to see Chase Elliott win his first race in the Cup Series at Watkins Glen, New York, just like his father. Elliott’s first win came on a road course after nine second-place finishes.

But fans cannot be thrilled by the news that NASCAR CEO Brian France was arrested in the Hamptons, charged with DUI and possession of Oxycodone, according to a news release from the Sag Harbor Village (New York) Police Department, which made the arrest Sunday evening.

If NASCAR’s own policy is upheld, France, 56, the grandson of NASCAR founder Bill France and son of Bill France Jr., will be suspended and forced to go through a drug recovery program, as well as be subjected to random drug tests in the future if reinstated.

The France family does not comment about the structure of its ownership of NASCAR, but it is believed that Jim France (brother of the late Bill France Jr.) and Lesa France Kennedy (Brian’s sister), own the majority of the company. Kennedy runs International Speedway Corp., the family’s publicly traded track-ownership company.

The sport continues to search for long-term sponsorship. This may be the time for Brian France to make his exit. Drivers and teams recently have been critical that he rarely attends a race, and after this arrest he certainly isn’t the face you want representing the “wholesome” sport of NASCAR.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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