50 Greatest Modified Drivers – Charlie Jarzombek 1942-1987
“They called him Chargin Charlie”
Charlie Jarzombek was the 1985 Stafford Motor Speedway Modified track champion. Dubbed the undisputed leader of the Long Island gang, Charlie was to Long Island what Bugsy Stevens was to New England, the most winning and most popular driver in his era. Fred Harbach was the first Long Islander to test the Stafford waters, running as a regular weekly competitor from 1967-1969.
Jarzombek, who was the King of Modified racing on Long Island, made his first appearance at Stafford for a 100-lapper on Memorial Day in 1969. Driving his radical, offset 1936 Chevy coupe, he won the hotly contested event over Fred DeSarro and Bob Santos. After numerous post race weigh-ins, he was declared legal and the winner. Ten years to the day would go by before he would win another Memorial Day 100-lapper.
A hard working family man, Charlie would confine his racing to Long Island until 1984, when he teamed up with Ernie Wilsburg to drive the car that had been vacated by Greg Sacks.
Wilsburg was not fond of the bumping and crashing at the small Long Island ovals and preferred big tracks like Stafford and Thompson. Jarzombek staged a hard fought battle with Brian Ross for the Stafford track title, losing out in the last event. The year 1985 was a different story as ‘he took no prisoners’ and won six events on his way to the Stafford championship. His hard charging style brought many fans to his corner. Mike Stefanik would win the 1986 championship as the ‘Stafford Sophomore Jinx’ bit Jarzombek on more than one occasion.
At the close of the 1986 season the Stafford management announced that they were dropping the full bore Modifieds and would upgrade the SK Modified® division to headline status.
With the full bore modifieds going on a touring status, Wilsburg and Jarzombek shifted gears and set their sights on the 1987 NASCAR National Modified title. During the winter months, a new Richie Evans design chassis was bought and a motor program was put in place. The 1987 season started at Rougemont, North Carolina where Charlie recorded a top ten. From there, it was off to Martinsville where tragedy struck.
During the early going, Jarzombek’s throttle stuck and he crashed head-on into the first turn concrete wall, sadly killing the very popular driver from Long Island.
During his career, which began in 1962, he had won at just about every track he raced at. He ran hard, giving no arguments, and asking none. He was one of the all time greatest!
By: Phil Smith