Jack Arute, Sr. was involved in his
family’s road construction company when, in 1969, Bill Slater
approached him with a proposal to purchase the Stafford Speedway,
which was scheduled to close permanently on July 11th. Not only did
Arute reopen the track on that date, but his driver, Ed Flemke, Sr.,
took down the first feature win, in a car Arute co-owned with Ray
and Rich Garuti.
Arute quickly set about making
changes at the facility, including the addition of new grandstands
and safety aprons on the track’s corners. He increased purses, and,
probably most importantly, began lobbying NASCAR for rules changes.
“NASCAR had become disenchanted with the modifieds”, Jack remembers.
While Arute had been a long-time
supporter of the pre-war coupe bodied modifieds, he saw the writing
on the wall when Bob Judkins debuted the pinto-bodied 2x, with
driver Gene Bergin. When NASCAR refused to approve the new body
style, Arute had a series of conversations with Bill France, Sr,
finally traveling down to Daytona Beach to get his point across.
By the mid 1970s, Arute saw the
Modified division running into trouble. Costs were spiraling upward,
and car counts were shrinking. Jack saw a need for a more affordable
“entry level” form of modified. Seeing the pinto, vega, and gremlin
bodied modifieds parked in garages and barns, unable to compete
against the high powered, high dollar NASCAR modifieds, Arute
started a new series at Stafford, known as the SK modifieds.
Jack Arute’s objectives were to
keep the modifieds as a viable division, and to take auto racing at
the Stafford Motor Speedway to a new level. Drivers like Pete
Hamilton, Ron Bouchard, Jimmy Spencer, the Bodine brothers, had made
Stafford their home. NEAR Hall of Famers Richie Evans, Bugs Stevens,
Fred DeSarro, and Ed Flemke were regular weekly competitors at the ˝