Carl “Bugs” Stevens
Carl Steven Berghman (May 11, 1934) of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, raced under an assumed name to keep his new hobby from the United States Air Force and thus was born “Bugsy Stevens” – one of the outstanding asphalt Modified stock-car drivers in history.
A fairly decent baseball player, Airman Berghman was serving at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and he created his alter ego because the U.S. Military – and especially its baseball coaches – did not want its personnel to have any dangerous sidelines.
That not withstanding, “Bugs” began his career in 1957 at the old quarter-mile Pan-Am Speedway just west of San Antonio, and once out of the service he began to establish himself in 1961 as one of Modified racing’s most consistent drivers. From 1966 to 1975 he was never lower than sixth in NASCAR’s National Modified standings and that impressive run also included three-straight (1967-1969) NASCAR National Modified Championships.
Stevens won his three national titles in Lenny Boehler’s legendary No. 3 1937 Chevrolet coupe known as “Ole Blue” and he was so successful with it that when he won his first championship in 1967 he scored 10 wins and was a massive 1,261 points ahead of second-place Dom Mac Tavish. In 1968, Stevens won 29 races and had a 1,930-point advantage over runner-up Fred DeSarro. However, in 1969 the title race was a little tighter as while he again won 29 races he was only 262 points ahead of EMPA Hall of Famer Jerry Cook when all was decided.
It would be wrong to think of Stevens as only a top asphalt racer as in 1966 he won the track championship at the half-mile Stafford Motor Speedway in Stafford Springs, Connecticut, during its final dirt-track season in Sonny Kozella’s top-running 1936 Chevrolet coupe. Amazingly, he did so without a feature victory. He also won three Stafford asphalt titles to make him the only driver to ever win championships there on dirt and asphalt and his victory total of 73 main events includes 10 races of 100 laps or more, and the 1974 Spring Sizzler.
Stevens – who enjoyed a good cigar – also won championships at: Monkton Speedway (three), Seekonk Speedway (three), the Norwood Arena (two) and Westboro Speedway in Massachusetts; Albany-Saratoga in New York, Catamount Stadium in Vermont, and Thompson Int’l Speedway in Connecticut. His major victories include the: 1966 Norwood 200; 1967 NASCAR 200 on Trenton (N.J.) Speedway’s one-mile asphalt; 1969 & 1970 Thompson 300s; and, several NASCAR Nation Championship races at the half-mile Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Plus, in three NASCAR Cup Series races in 1970 – his only tries due to business and family commitments – he drove Richard Brown’s No. 36 Plymouth Superbird to sixth in the World 600 at Charlotte (N.C.) Motor Speedway, while his runs in the Dixie 500 at Atlanta (Ga.) Motor Speedway and Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway ended with engine problems.
Early on Stevens drove cars like the blue and white No. 12 1932 Ford coupe flathead Godios Sunoco entry. But the bulk of his career was spent in such first-rate Modifieds as Boehler’s No. 3s (coupes and Chevrolet Camaro), Kozella’s white No. 15 “Woodchopper Specials” (1936 Chevrolet coupe, Chevrolet Vega and Ford Pinto), Joe Brady’s Nos. 00 & 41 Ford Pintos, and, his last ride, Bob Garbarino’s Connecticut-based No. 4, the “Mystic Missile.”
There was, though, an interesting twist in 1971 as Stevens and his pal DeSarro made headlines when they switched rides – Stevens went from Boehler’s No. 3 to Kozella’s No. 15, while DeSarro went from the 15 to the 3. But, no matter, they each just kept on winning.
The driver known as Carl “Bugs” Stevens retired from Modified competition in 1987 after finishing third in his last event at Stafford Motor Speedway. He came back in 1989 to win the Pro Stock Championship at Seekonk Speedway and finally retired for good in 1991.