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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As part of the season-long celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions, three-time NASCAR Modified titlist Bugs Stevens will be honored at the Xtra Mart World Series on Sunday, Oct. 19 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
Stevens, of Rehoboth, Mass., became the first driver to earn three championships in the NASCAR Modified division, and he did it in consecutive years from 1967-69. NASCAR will also recognize the accomplishments of deceased champions Fred DeSarro (1970) and Bill Widenhouse (1955).
Stevens piloted the No. 3 “Ole Blue” Modified for car owner Len Boehler to each of his titles. In 1967 he took the checkered flag 10 times and finished 1,261 points ahead of fellow Massachusetts native Don MacTavish for his first NASCAR Modified crown. His second championship in 1968 was a dominating effort that featured 29 victories and a 1,930-point margin in the national title chase against Fred DeSarro. Stevens’ third title in a row came in 1969 as he passed Jerry Cook late in the season and finished 262 points ahead of the future series champion on the strength of 20 wins.
“1968 was a big year, we won a lot of races,” Stevens said. “We blew everybody away by a couple thousand points, but we worked hard at it.”
In addition to his NASCAR Modified national titles Stevens also compiled four track championships at Stafford (Conn.), three at Seekonk (Mass.), two at Norwood (Mass.) and one each at Albany-Saratoga (N.Y.), Catamount (Vt.) and Thompson. He is a member of the inaugural class of the New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame and was named to the "NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10" list in 2003.
Also to be recognized at the Xtra Mart World Series is 1970 NASCAR Modified Champion, the late Fred DeSarro of Hope Valley, R.I.
DeSarro captured the 1970 title in the “Woodchopper” for owner Sonny Koszela as he finished 808 points ahead of Cook. His national championship title run included 25 wins and 54 top fives in 78 starts. That season he also won the track title at Albany-Saratoga.
Although he captured only one national NASCAR Modified title, DeSarro went on to become track champion at Thompson four years in a row from 1974-77. He also piloted “Ole Blue” for Boehler after Stevens had previously moved on from the team.
“He [DeSarro] was a good buddy of mine,” Stevens said. “I had the best of times with Freddy. Everybody thought we were big competitors. After I got out of the car everybody thought we hated each other, but we had a hell of a time with each other.”
Like his buddy Stevens, DeSarro was also an inductee in the first class New England Antique Racers Hall of Fame in 1998 and was named to the "NASCAR Modified All-Time Top 10" list.
“He was an excellent driver, one of the best,” Stevens said. “He could have driven anywhere.”
DeSarro passed away from injuries suffered during a racing accident in 1978.
The final driver to be recognized as part of NASCAR’s season-long program will be 1955 titlist Widenhouse. From Midland, N.C., Widenhouse won the eighth championship in the series’ young history at the time after he registered top-20 national title finishes in 1950, 1951 and 1954.
Widenhouse made his last Modified start in 1956 at the Daytona beach-road course. He made a total of 31 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (then known as Grand National Division) starts before he retired from racing in 1963. He passed away in 1995 at the age of 66.
The 2008 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship will be on the line as the Xtra Mart World Series at Thompson with be the 16th and final race on the schedule. Practice and qualifying will take place on Saturday, Oct. 19 with the race on Sunday. For ticket information please visit Thompson’s official Web site.