50 Greatest Modified Drivers – George Summers 1935-2019
“Loved and Respected by All”
George Summers has two Stafford Modified feature wins to his credit plus many top finishes over an eleven year span that ran from 1972 to 1983. His ability and his personality have earned him a spot on the list of the 50 Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time. Compared to many, he was a late bloomer in the NASCAR Modifieds at Stafford Motor Speedway as he spent most of his early and prime years at Lonsdale, Seekonk, Norwood, and Westboro.
Summers began his racing career at the age of 16 in 1952, but it wasn’t until 1960 at Seekonk that he hit full stride. Son of former American League umpire Al Summers, the Upton, Massachusetts driver provided Bugsy Stevens and Ronnie Bouchard their stiffest competition. In addition to a track championship at Seekonk in 1967, Summers finished second to Bouchard in 1968, 1969, 1970, and 1971. George always ran to win and has close to 100 feature wins at the track they call the “Cement Palace”.
Summers was content to call Seekonk home until a drivers strike in 1972 changed his mind. D. Anthony Venditti, the owner of Seekonk Speedway, would not tolerate a strike and closed the doors of the speedway. The striking drivers formed their own group named “The World Racing Association”, and leased the then idle Thompson Speedway. Summers was a close friend of Venditti, as well as many of the striking drivers, and chose not to join the others at Thompson. It was then that Summers and car owner Ken Curley came to Stafford. Bouchard chose the same route. After a few weeks, Stafford rookie George Summers found Victory Lane. In the meantime, Venditti, at the urging of Dick Armstrong, signed a sanction with NASCAR and re-opened Seekonk. Summers returned to racing at his old haunt, but had taken a liking to Stafford and continued to race there. Summers raced at Seekonk until Venditti dropped the Modifieds and went with Pro Stocks as his lead division. Summers’ best year there was 1974. He entered twenty-four races and won 16 for and incredible 66% winning average. He also broke Bugsy Stevens’ record of six wins in a row.
It was in the twilight of his career that Summers, at the urge of Armstrong, joined with car owner Art Barry. Summers continued to run at Stafford and traveled with Barry to places like Martinsville, Pocono, and Oxford, as well as Thompson. Summers and Barry made money together and his second win at Stafford came on June 19, 1981. By 1983, then in his late 40s, Summers decided that the ‘83 season would be his last. No one knew about his plan except his wife and Barry.
Thompson Speedway closed out the season with their annual World Series in October. Summers started near the front and ran like a bear, beating the likes of old rivals Stevens, Bouchard, and Leo Cleary, as well as the then “King Pin” Richie Evans. In Victory Lane, with his family around him and tears in his eyes, he publicly announced his retirement as a driver, and thus a very successful 31-year career was over. Without a doubt, Summers is one of the 50 Greatest Modified Drivers of All-time at Stafford.
By: Phil Smith