Friday April 27, 2007

By Phil Smith                                                         

Forty years ago in 1967, the only racing was in New York State. Fulton Raceway ran on Saturday night with Maynard Troyer taking the win. The Fonda Speedway opened for the season with Pete Corey taking the win over Jeep Herbert and Bill Wimble. Also opening for the season was the Utica-Rome Speedway where Fran Kitchen took the win over Kenny Shoemaker, Bernie Miller, Ray Sitterly and Frank Mathalia.

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, the NASCAR Modifieds were in Martinsville for a 100 lap event which saw Bugsy Stevens take the win over Gene Bergin, Jerry Cook and Max Berrier. Islip opened for the season on Saturday night with Fred Harbach taking the win over Jim Hendrickson, George Wagner and Cliff Tyler. At Fonda, Jack Johnson dusted Lou Lazzaro and Maynard Forette for the win. Dave Lape and Harry Peek rounded out the top five. Stafford ran a 30 lapper on Sunday afternoon. Ronnie Bouchard in the Bob Johnson No.17 took the win over Leo Cleary, Bob Santos, Jerry Cook, Ray Miller and Smokey Boutwell.

Thirty years ago in 1977, Ronnie Bouchard beat out Fred DeSarro and Bob Polverari as he won the season opener at the Waterford Speedbowl. Jap Membrino won at Plainville and at Islip it was Wayne Anderson over Fred Harbach and Bill Park. Freeport was also running on Saturday night. Charlie Jarzombek took the win at the flat quarter over Gary Winters and George Brunnhoelzl. In the southland, Jerry Cook won a 200 lapper at Bowman Gray but had to settle for third at the Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, Va. On Sunday, Punky Caron took Monadnock by storm and at Thompson it was Fred DeSarro over Ronnie Bouchard, Eddie Flemke and Leo Cleary.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, The Modifieds traveled to Martinsville for a 150 lap event. Richie Evans took the win over Jim Spencer, Greg Sacks and Jamie Tomaino. Reggie Ruggiero was the winner at Riverside Park over Stan Gregger, Bob Polverari and Ray Miller. The event was marred by a crash as a result of a stuck throttle on the car driven by Dave Furoni. Furoni died as a result of injuries. Mike Stefanik was the Pro Stock winner. At Islip, John Blewett Jr. took the win over Don Howe and Bill Park and at Wall Stadium, Tony Siscone beat out Tom McCann for the win. On Sunday, Jerry Cook won an open competition event at Lancaster. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville Harry Gant ended a long string of second place finishes as he won the 250 mile event.

Twenty years ago in 1987, the Modifieds traveled to Martinsville for the Spring 150 only to have it rained out and not rescheduled. A long trip for nothing! Bruce D'Assandro scored his first ever win in an 87 lapper at Riverside Park .Mike Stefanik, Tom Bolles, Mike McLaughlin and Ed Kennedy rounded out the top five. Steve Park was the opening night winner at Riverhead as he beat Jerry Solomito to the stripe. At Shangri-La it was Ron Shepherd over Jim Spencer and at Waterford on Sunday, Rick Donnelly took the season opener over John Anderson and Dennis Gada. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Dale Earnhardt took the win. Geoff Bodine was leading the closing laps when he was spun by Kyle Petty. Bodine recovered to finish third.

Fifteen years ago in 1992, Ricky Fuller jumped the curb in a late race pass of Jan Leaty to take the lead and eventual win at Martinsville. Mike Stefanik finished second and was followed by Leaty and Satch Worley. Dennis Gada beat out Richie Gallup to win the Waterford opener. Jerry Young was the Late Model winner after Phil Rondeau broke an axle in the late going. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Mark Martin took the win and made it eight in a row for Ford products. Kyle Petty crashed and burned. First on the scene was Geoff Bodine who pulled him to safety.

Ten years ago in 1997, Todd Ceravolo took the Saturday night win at Waterford. Eric Berndt was leading the closing laps when his engine burped and he lost power. Scott Spaulding, running second at the time slowed to avoid a collision and was unintentionally tapped and spun by Ceravolo. Dennis Gada finished second with Jim Broderick, third. Tom Fox was the Late Model winner. At Riverside Park, Reggie Ruggiero recorded his 87th career win at the 1/4 mile oval over Dave Berube and Richie Gallup. At the Stafford Sizzler, Mike Stefanik recorded his third Sizzler win. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by Mike Ewanitsko, Dan Avery and Tom Baldwin. Lloyd Agor and Steve Chowanski were the winners of the twin 40 lap SK Modified features.

Five years ago in 2002, Ken Wooley was the Busch Pole sitter for the Spring Sizzler. Tony Hirschman was the outside pole sitter. The event, which drew 48 Modifieds was rained out and re-scheduled for the following week. The SK-Modifieds got to run on Saturday and when all was said and done, Doug Coby took the 40-lap win over Chuck Docherty and Lloyd Agor. Numerous wrecks and spins forced the race to go 52 laps before the checker dropped. In other Saturday night action Ron Yuhas Jr. passed Rob Janovic on lap 24 of the 35 lap feature at Waterford and went on to take the win. Janovic finished second and was followed by Ed Reed Jr., Tom Fox and Dennis Gada. In Winston Cup action at Fontana, California, Jimmie Johnson scored his first win. Scott Riggs was the Busch Series winner. Other weekend winners included Tom Arre at Wall Township, Chris Young at Riverhead, Brett Hearn made it two in a row at Lebanon Valley and TJ Potrzebowski won the Race of Champions Tour Richie Evans Memorial at Tioga.

Last year, 2006, all roads led to Jack Aruteís Stafford Motor Speedway for the 35th annual Spring Sizzler. The weather was sunny and breezy, a big difference from the original Sizzler in 1972 when it was cold and dismal. Forty-eight NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand for qualifying. Donny Lia. set fast time in qualifying to earn his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award of the season. Lia circled the Ĺ mile Stafford Motor Speedway in 18.600 seconds for an average speed of 96.774. It was the 9th career Bud Pole Award for Lia and his second consecutive for the Sizzler. Defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Tony Hirschman was second fastest with a speed of 96.753 mph in the Kamco Supply Chevrolet. Former champion Todd Szegedy was third fastest with a speed of 96.370 mph. Eddie Flemke and Mike Stefanik of rounded out the Top-5 in qualifying. The Top-10 qualifiers drew for starting position. Chuck Hossfeld picked the pole and was joined on the front row by John Blewett, III. Mike Andrews picked third. Lia drew the fourth starting position and Szegedy drew 5th. Stefanik, Flemke and Hirschman started 8th, 9th and 10th respectively. Chris Pasteryak was the highest qualifying rookie as he qualified 11th. Rookie Danny Sammons was 12th.

Among those who failed to qualify were Richard Savory, Ron Silk, Carl Pasteryak, Joe Mongeau, Dennis Cherette, Eric Berndt, Jon McKennedy, Jim Storace, Wade Cole, Tom Cloce, Ken Heagy, Anthony Seseley, Glenn Tyler and Jake Marosz.

Whelen Modified Tour Series car owner Curt Chase of Mansfield, CT calls the Stafford Motor Speedway his home track. On Saturday after his driver Doug Coby qualified 29th Chase remained optimistic. Chase gave Coby his marching orders, which were to save his tires and stay out of trouble. Coby did his job as he drove to his first career Whelen Modified Tour win. One of the best crowds in many years was on hand. Coby led the final 62 laps and held off a late race challenge from Donny Lia. Coby pitted once, on lap 74 under caution. He was in the third spot on a lap 139 restart and when the two cars in front of him driven by Zach Sylvester and Tony Hirschman made contact. Coby, in the right place at the right time, took over the top spot. Eric Beers driving the legendary Ole Blu of Janice and Michael Boehler finished third. Current series point leader Mike Stefanik was fourth with Rob Summers rounding out the top five. Coby also won the Powerade Power Move of the Race Award. Matt Hirschman earned the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award and James Civali was the highest finishing Sunoco Rookie for the second consecutive event.

There were11 cautions for 56 laps. Twenty of the original 33 starters were running in the lead lap at the finish. There were seven lead changes among eight drivers. It was Chuck Hossfeld jumping out front on the initial green and for the first 43 laps, the race was being run liked they were all double parked on the street but as the old saying goes, cautions breed cautions and that never was more true than Sunday at Stafford. John Blewett, III took over the lead on lap 22 before the yellow fever hit the track, as there were five cautions, all within 36 laps and for mostly minor spins. On lap 52, Todd Szegedy, former series champion took over the lead from Blewett but just as he did, Jamie Tomaino spun. As the track clicked off lap 60, it was Szegedy setting the pace with Blewett second, with Stefanik third, Eric Beers fourth and tour champion, Tony Hirschman fifth. On lap 70 a caution flew for Zack Sylvester and it was a chance for both Coby and Lia to duck into the pit area tires and adjustments and with Stafford a tricky track to pass on, the early pitting played out later down the road. Mike Stefanik then moved into second and began applying pressure to Szegedy for the lead but Ted Christopher, the master at Stafford passed Stefanik and soon set his sights on Szegedy before passing him on lap 87. On lap 93, another caution slowed the field and many of the front cars all pitted but Christopher and Szegedy stayed on the track hoping to pit later and have fresher tires at the end. On lap 100, the caution again flew as the field hit the halfway point in the feature and the top five cars were TC, Szegedy, Reggie Ruggiero, Ken Barry and Rick Fuller. On lap 106, Reggie Ruggiero in the Dick Barney owned #41 showed he hasn't lost anything behind the wheel despite being a part timer on the tour recently. He dispatched Szegedy for second with Fuller taking third as Szegedy settled into fourth with Matt Hirschman moving into the fifth spot. Another caution flew on lap 116 when Mike Stefanik, getting impatient with cars in front of him made it three wide in turn one trying to get around but it caused the cars of Hossfeld and Blewett to become locked together and spin in turn one. On lap 117, when pit road opened up, Christopher, Ruggiero, Szegedy, James Civali, Barry and Blewett all pitted. Ruggiero's crew lost him a lap on pit road when they had trouble with a right front tire. That surrendered the lead over to Rick Fuller in the Joe Brady owned/Polar Beverages Chevrolet. On lap 130 with Fuller still setting the pace, it was Zack Sylvester second with Tony Hirschman third, Doug Coby fourth and fifth to Matt Hirschman. Another caution flew on lap 134 for another simple spin but it was the 'Lucky Dog' for Ruggiero as he was able to get back on the lead lap. Zack Sylvester and Tony Hirschman were on the front row for the restart but as the duo hit turn one, Sylvester rode Tony up the track and Hirschman spun and as Sylvester was trying to correct himself, Coby sneaked by for the lead. The final caution of the day flew on lap 145 as Kirk Alexander brought out the caution as he stopped in turn three. At lap 150, the top five were Coby, Lia, Rob Summers, Eric Beers and Matt Hirschman. Mike Stefanik was now on the move up to seventh on the track and he was clearly the quickest car on the track. Stefanik moved to sixth on lap 158 and then just four laps later passed the younger Hirschman for fifth. On lap 174, Eric Beers got by Rob Summers for third and Stefanik took the opening to get by Summers also for fourth. In the mean time, Coby was beginning to stretch his advantage just slightly over Lia but as they clicked off lap 190, the leaders were beginning to encounter lapped traffic. On lap 196, they caught the last car and Steve Whitt, who has run up front in the past didn't give Coby and Lia any room and that allowed not only Lia a chance at Coby but for Beers and Stefanik to close in and challenge. But it wasn't to be and Coby finally got the monkey off his back and cruised to win the Spring Sizzler. Coby earned $7,600 for the win. Sixth through tenth was Ted Christopher, James Civali, the highest finishing rookie for the second straight race, Matt Hirschman, Tony Hirschman and Danny Sammons in his first top ten finish. Ted Christopher was the SK Modified winner. Keith Rocco finished second with Frank Ruocco, third. Woody Pitkat was able to overtake Todd Owen for fourth. Pitkat was the Late Model winner.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night the temperatures took a dive but that didnít hold back defending SK Modified Champion Rob Summers as he was able to record his first feature win of the year at the shoreline oval. Earlier in the day Summers qualified 28th for the Stafford Sizzler. Frank Mucciacciaro Jr. was the early leader until lap 20 when Summers made an outside move to take the lead. Dennis Gada moved into the second spot in the late going but couldnít muster the required power to overcome Summers and settled for the runner-up spot. Chris Pasteryak, who qualified 11th at Stafford wound up third with Tommy Fox and Shawn Monahan rounding out the top five. Other Saturday night winners at the Speedbowl were Larry Goss in the Late Models and Dwayne Door making it three in a row in the Sportsman division.

A proposed speedway in metro New York took a few steps backward when a public hearing for the proposed NASCAR track was canceled after 700 disorderly people mobbed the entrance to the school where the hearing was to be held. Police were called to step in to quell the near riot and cancelled the meeting. It also appeared that the proposed domed speedway in Plainfield, CT was dying a slow death.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.

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