October 24, 2008
BEYOND BIONIC – Bentley
As usual, this year’s World Series
(October 17-18) at Thompson (CT) Speedway was a chilly reminder of
the winter winds to come. But also, as usual, it was a racing
extravaganza, with race cars and fans busting the chain link fences
of the sprawling facility.
divisions of every size and flavor did battle over the weekend.
When 28 of the mighty big block ISMA supermodifieds pushed off for
the feature, it was noisily clear that they were the fastest of
all. With light fuel loads the supers snarled around the 5/8 mile
oval in 16.1 seconds, top speeds at nearly 150 mph.
The race was
dominated, predictably, by Chris “the Rowley Rocket” Perley, who
continues his scarily stunning exhibitions. He has won the World
Series five of the last six years. No one has ever gone around
Thompson more quickly.
railbirds will tell you that the real show was the second place car,
Vic Miller’s #71. It was driven by the bionic Harley head, Bentley
Warren, 67 years young, 68 in December.
It’s hard to
know what more can be said about Bentley. Fifty years ago he was
flinging a flyweight bomber around the old West Peabody Speedway in
Massachusetts. Forty years ago he was second aboard the Purdy Deuce
at the Oswego Classic, after a gutsy duel with Nolan Swift and
Johnny Logan. After that it was off to Indianapolis, Silver Crown
racing, sprinters and the Little 500, midgets, stock cars, and more
supermodifieds. Lots more.
Bentley straps into the Purdy Deuce for the 1968 Oswego
(Russ Conway Collection)
seemed to slow the momentum. Not the years, not the massively
increasing speeds, not even the vicious accidents and injuries.
pace himself and his tires – even dropping back a little – for 40
laps and then blasting up through the field in the last ten warmed
the stands more than a thermos of hot toddies. BW pleased himself
too. You could tell his podium smile would fuel him fully until the
opener next spring.
After the race,
sensational young Bobby Santos III, whose car had grenaded, walked
up to the Miller #71. He mused to journalist Russ Conway, “Gosh, do
you think they’d ever give me a shot in that when Bentley retires?”
“I wouldn’t be
surprised. Ten years from now”, Russ replied.
© 2008 Lew
Boyd, Coastal 181