FITCHBURG, MA.—Ronnie Bouchard sometimes finds it hard to
believe that he has been out of racing 26 years and for the driver who won on a
regular basis (over 350 wins) in his driving career, the former modified ace and
Sprint Cup driver was recently inducted into the EMPA Hall of Fame .
Unfortunately snow in the northeast kept Ron from attending but he was thrilled
with the honor.
“When they told me of the induction I was thrilled, it has been 26 years since I
raced and to have people remember it and remember me after all these years, is
very special.” Ron said from one of his automobile businesses.
“I have been inducted into the Seekonk Speedway Hall of the Fame, the New
England Auto Racing Hall of Fame and now the EMPA (Eastern Motorsports Press
Association) Hall of Fame. I still get autograph requests in the mail to sign
“I have to say, I have a lot of trophies that I have won that are in my car
dealerships but the trophy for the EMPA Hall of Fame if one of the nicest I have
While he may find it hard to believe that he hung up his
helmet over 26 years ago, many race fans still relive his many wins and
championships in and around New England, it was that success that led him to
a road south racing in the then Winston Cup series.
Bouchard is now busy running 6 car dealerships, 5 of them near his home of
Fitchburg and one in Tennessee. He has a KIA, Nissan, Honda, Toyota,
Dodge-Chrysler and Acura dealerships to tend to.
Bouchard just recently turned 66 but to see him he hardly seems a day over
Bouchard joked when he mentioned the time out of racing and, according to
him it seems just as hard that he has been in the dealership business about
Early in his career at Seekonk Speedway.
Johnny Mercury Photo
“I don’t know where the time goes.” Ron said. “It seems
nowhere near the 26 years out of racing but it has been.”
Bouchard, retired from what is now the Sprint Cup circuit right around the time
he turned 40.
Bouchard can still be seen now and then at New Hampshire Motor Speedway when he
ventures to see some old friends.
“I like to see some of the old gang, but there aren’t a lot of them left
anymore.” Ronnie Joked.
Mark Martin and Richard Petty are just a couple of former competitors he goes to
When I asked if he goes to see any modified races, he said no.
“I went a couple times and couldn’t stand it. There were wrecks all the time.”
Ron said. “One of the biggest problems is all these kids on the tour. Daddy has
a lot of money and they buy the best of everything but they can’t race because
they never learned how to race.”
“Nowadays, if you can’t get around someone, you just dump them. That’s what
racing has become.”
“These kids don’t run at a local race track. It is there that you build a fan
base, talk with the media and get involved with the track. Not now, they seem to
think that they don’t need too. Besides, at a local race track is where you
learn to communicate with your crew chief and others.”
Bouchard and I talked about the modified tour and Bouchard said a lot of the
problem is with NASCAR.
“If they can’t make money at it, they don’t want to bother with it. It’s really
is a shame.”
Bouchard, who was the 1981 Rookie of the Year, almost never went to NASCAR’s
“I remember getting a call from Bob Johnson, crew chief, and telling me to get
down here. He wanted me to race the car owned by Jack Beebe but at the time, I
was making over $100,000 a year racing modifieds and working for my father’s
“I remember Eddie Flemke, Sr. (Also his father in law) saying, ‘you have to take
the chance, you might never get another one. Paula, my wife, also kept pushing
me to do it.”
Bouchard won only once in his seven plus years on the circuit and his one win
was a memorable one, passing both Darrell Waltrip and Terry LaBonte on the final
lap to the Talladega 500.
“If it wasn’t for Buddy Baker and Ricky Rudd, I never would have won the race.
That was the first time I went there and although I loved to go fast, I wasn’t
too sure what the draft was all about. Buddy gave me different scenarios of what
to do if there was this many laps left and what to do if there was this many
“With about 10 laps to go, I went by both Darrell and Terry but Darrell wasn’t
about to let me pass him and he runs me into the grass and I lose the draft, but
Ricky Rudd, who was running laps down, got on my bumper and pushed me all the
way back to them.”
Running third on the final lap, as Waltrip and LaBonte battled side by side,
Bouchard snuck underneath and the three cars finished the race in the dead heat
but Bouchard was declared the winner in one of NASCAR’s closest races.
“One of the funny stories, that with three laps to go, the video goes out on the
TV, my father’s watching the race, thinks his TV finally broke and he throws it
out the window.” Ronnie said laughing. Little did he know CBS lost their video
Well the video went out but not the sound so Ronnie’s father never got to know
that his son won the race.
The next weekend, Brent Musburger is over by the car with a big box and tells
Bouchard that CBS owes his father a new TV and to make sure he got it.
Bouchard, always thankful to the people who helped carve his career, was asked
by Anthony Vendetti, the promoter and owner of Seekonk Speedway, where Ron was a
five time track champion, if he could come and race there the following weekend
and naturally, Ron said yes.
“Well, I get there and there are 100 TV’s all around the track. They were going
to show the last 10 laps of the race and that was the first time I saw the
finish, was at Seekonk one week later.”
Ron's mentor George Summers leads Ronnie's #35 at Seekonk.
Johnny Mercury Photo
When I asked Ronnie who was a major help when he broke
into the modifieds, two names jumped out of his mouth, George Summers and
Today, Bouchard is still very close friends with both of his mentors and has
stayed at Summers home in Florida and plays golf with Summers.
“I remember my first time at Seekonk, I asked who the local hot dog was and
they pointed to the red-head, (Summers) and said if you are going to win
here, you’re going to have to beat him.”
“At Stafford, Bugsy was the one I looked to as I also looked to Eddie Flemke.
I remember one race at Stafford, when I got going, I’d stay on the outside
and go by everyone.
I mean, I would knock the wall down if I needed to. Well, one
time, I am into third, then second and now Eddie is in front of me and as hard
as I tried to get by him on the outside I couldn’t do it. Finally, I began to
fall back and I think I fell back to third or so, after the race, Eddie comes
over to me and says ‘sometimes you don’t outrun the rabbit.’ I burned off my
Ronnie, who later married Flemke’s daughter, Paula, said they slowly became
friends but that Eddie was a big help.
“Eddie helped everyone. Look at the help he was to Richie Evans, Pete Hamilton
and Denny Zimmerman in moving their careers.”
Bouchard and Paula were great friends with Dale Earnhardt, Sr and his wife,
Teresa and enjoyed each other’s company. Bouchard, along with Russ Conway,
started what was called the Race of Champions, where Bouchard, Earnhardt, Tim
Richmond, Richard Petty and a few of the other Cup stars would come at play at
tracks like Stafford, Thompson and Star running mid-week shows before the Cup’s
Bouchard still looks up to Richard Petty, not only for what he accomplished but
what he has meant to the sport.
“I remember my first race at Bristol, I dropped out after like 350 laps and I am
whipped. The race is over and there is Richard, after finishing the race is
sitting in a chair, signing autographs until everyone had one. I mentioned to
one of the crew members saying get me a chair, if he can do it, so can I.”
Bouchard is still involved in racing a little bit as he sponsors his brother in
law, Eddie Flemke, Jr. on the modified tour but for the most part, his days in
the fast lane are fading but he wouldn’t have changed anything about it.