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Friday April 10, 2009

By Phil Smith                                                                                                        

Forty years ago in 1969, the Stafford Speedway opened for the season with an open competition program featuring the Supermodifieds. Nolan Swift, the undisputed king of the Oswego Speedway took the win. Don Kibbe was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Wayne “Mr. Mysterious” Smith was the Daredevil winner. In NASCAR Grandnational (Cup) action at Richmond David Pearson took the win.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford was on. Taking the win was Carl" Bugsy" Stevens. Ronnie Bouchard finished second and was followed by Merv Treichler in the Garbarino Bros. Mystic Missile, Dynamite Ollie Silva and Jerry Cook. Bill Scrivener was the Modified winner at Waterford and Ron Cote scored his first of three in a row at the shoreline oval.


In 1969 Super Modified ace Nolan Swift took the Open Competition show at Stafford, pictured here in the same #10 at Oswego Speedway in 1969. (Photo courtesy of RetroRockets.org)

Thirty years ago in 1979, the action was at the Seekonk Speedway where Richie Evans showed that no matter where he went, he could adapt to and master a never before seen track. The event drew 44 cars and when all was said and done, Evans pulled into victory lane. Jerry Cook finished second and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard, Leo Cleary, Fred Astle and Ray Miller. Leo Cleary drove a car that Len Boehler pulled out of the bushes and in fact had to heat the springs to make the chassis handle. Cleary led the first 42 laps before worn tires forced him to back off. Bugsy Stevens was also an early contender until he lost a fan blade, which ultimately broke his water pump and put him out. Evans by the way had been on the road all night as he had raced and won at Hickory, N.C. the day before.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, Riverside Park ran on Saturday night and it was Stan Greger taking the win over Jim Spencer, Ray Miller and Richie Evans. At the Thompson Speedway on Sunday, Charlie Jarzombek ruled the roost as he beat out Mike McLaughlin and Evans for the win.

Twenty Years ago in 1989, the only action was at Riverside Park where Reggie Ruggiero won the 50 lap main over Stan Greger, Jerry Marquis and Bruce Dell.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Reggie Ruggiero took the top spot at the Riverside Park Speedway. Richard Savory finished second and was followed by Stan Greger and Dan Avery. During the overnight hours storm clouds moved in and washed out the Thompson IceBreaker that had been scheduled for Sunday. The event was rescheduled for May 1 which created a direct conflict with Waterford. At Bristol in the Saturday Busch Grandnational event, Mark Martin was leading under caution and mistook the white flag for the checkered flag and pitted, giving the race win to David Green. When Martin realized his mistake he returned to the racing surface and ended up eleventh. It had to be one of his most embarrassing moments as a racer. Dale Earnhardt was the Winston Cup winner over Ken Schrader and Lake Speed.

Ten years ago, in 1999, the IceBreaker at Thompson played under warm skies and a full house plus a full pit of 51 Tour Modifieds. Mike Ewanitsko took the lead just past the half way mark and held off Rick Fuller for the win. Chris Kopec finished third with Jamie Tomaino and Carl Pasteryak rounding out the top five. In the 30 lapper for the SK's, Todd Ceravolo took the lead from Billy Sharp with four to go in the 30 lapper and went on to record his first win of the season. Sharp held on to finish second with Mike Christopher, third. At Bristol, Tenn., Jason Keller was the Grand National winner.

Five years ago in 2004, the Stafford Motor Speedway got their Friday night program in the books while Waterford suffered its second rainout in a row. At Stafford Lloyd Agor passed Frank Ruocco on lap 31 of the 40 lap feature and went on to take the win in the SK Modified division. Ruocco finished second followed by Willie Hardie, Ted Christopher and Jeff Malave. A slim field of only 20 SK Modifieds was on hand. Many have wondered as to why the fields of SK Modifieds have dwindled at Stafford. The SK Modifieds had gotten out of hand cost wise plus the fact that there was much destruction at Stafford in 2003. Some car owners have sold out while others have chosen to race elsewhere or just park their cars. Ryan Posocco and Jay Stuart finished one-two in Late Model action while Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Sportsman feature and John Hurley won the Dare Stock event. James Civali who won the SK Modified portion of the Thompson Speedway Ice Breaker and finished fourth in the recent SK Modified portion of the Spring Sizzler before being disqualified for refusing tech inspection now finds himself in a select group of drivers at the Stafford Speedway that have been suspended from racing at Stafford indefinitely for actions detrimental to racing. In other words Civali was put on suspension because he drove through the pit area at high speed and almost ran an official down. In addition to Waterford being rained out the opening night festivities at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts and the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island were also cancelled due to rain.

New England Raceway developer Gene Arganese who had been in the process of proposing a domed racetrack in Plainfield, Ct. won a crucial zoning approval after a close vote by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission. The panel voted 3-2 to rezone roughly 900 acres off Interstate 395 and include the land in a recently established "resort/recreational development zone." Opponents of New England Raceway LLC's 140,000-seat racetrack plan said they would appeal the commission's decision. Arganese said he planned to move forward with the project despite the prospect of legal challenges. Six appeals had already been filed against the commission's approval last month of the new resort/recreational development zone. Consultants were slated to begin design work in the near future. He said the design process should take about five months, and he intended to bring the plans before the commission by January. Arganese's $343 million project would include the racetrack, a convention center, a 700-room hotel and 800,000-square-foot retail complex. He continues to say he hopes to attract NASCAR, Indy and CART events to the New England Raceway track, along with drag races, concerts and trade shows.

Jeff Gordon won the wreck marred Aarons 499 at the Talledega Speedway. Martin Truex was the Busch Series winner. The Busch race was also a wreck fest.

Last year, 2008, Dennis Gada, gunning for his seventh SK Modified Championship at the Waterford Speedbowl was the master of the re-start as he won the $5,000-to-win Waterford SK Modified “150”, the centerpiece of the 10-division Modified Nationals which including extra-distance events for the Speedbowl’s Late Model, Sportsman and Mini Stock divisions. The Northeastern Midget Association, Pro4 Modifieds, AllStar Race Trucks, Allison Legacy Cars and NEMA Lites were also on tap. A huge field of SK Modifieds, 34, was on hand for the event that began the 58th consecutive season of auto racing at the shoreline oval. In Saturday time trials Gada was fourth fastest behind Doug Coby, Kenny Horton and Matt Hirschman. Based on a draw among the top qualifiers Coby started on the pole with Horton, outside. Hirschman started third. Gada started eighth.

At the drop of the green Coby jumped out into the lead. His time on the point was short as Gada bolted into the top spot on lap eight and survived numerous re-starts to take the win, his 58th. The top prize of $5,000 was well earned. Kenny Horton ran second for most of the event until 19 laps to go when his tires gave out, forcing him to spin. Coby moved into second spot but lost it to Frank Ruocco on a lap 148 restart. Ruocco ended up second with Coby, third. Jimmy Blewett, who pitted for tires on lap 51 was the odds on favorite to make a run for the win but his efforts fell short as he had to settle for fourth spot at the checker. Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five.

In other weekend racing action at the shoreline oval, it was defending champion Bruce Thomas picking up right where he left off in 2007, winning the 50-lap Late Model feature. Thomas passed early leader Ron Yuhas Jr. with 29-laps remaining and seemed to be cruising to an easy victory until SK Modified regular Keith Rocco closed. His first time-ever behind the wheel of a Late Model, Rocco dogged Thomas to the finish, executing a last-ditch effort at the stripe to overtake the winner. Rounding-out the top-5 was Ron Yuhas Jr., Marc Curtis, and Ed Reed Jr. Al Stone III held off defending Sportsman champion Dwayne Dorr for the win in the 30-lap Sportsman feature. A close finish, Dorr was right on the winner’s bumper during the final circuits. Dave Trudeau, Chris Douton, and Joe Curioso completed the top-5.

Defending champion Ken Cassidy Jr. led the majority of the 30-lap Mini Stock feature, only to be passed by Randy Churchill with three circuits remaining. A restart closed the field for the final time on lap twenty-seven. Churchill nipped Cassidy at the finish by less than a fender. Chris Williams finished a close third followed by Phil Evans and Lou Bellisle. In the 25-lap Northeastern Midget Association feature, Randy Cabral got out in the lead early and cruised to a commanding victory over Joey Payne, Greg Stoehr, Adam Cantor, and, Erica Santos.

In some good news, Ron Mentus who pens a column in the auto racing trade paper Area Auto Racing News, reported that Jerry Robinson and his Waterford Speedbowl partners are nearing completion of financial and legal details to purchase the track and once and for all get it out of the hands of Terry Eames. Mentus alluded to the fact that the deadline to close the deal was April 26. He stated that Robinson felt confident that no further snags would develop. This move would put racing at the shoreline oval on solid ground. Robinson also told Mentus that the track had purchased 6,000 aluminum grandstand seats which hopefully would be erected in time for the 2009 season.

The season opening Nationals, which was not advertised in any of the local papers within a 25 mile radius, drew less than half a grandstand of fans. What a shame as the racing was great.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Jimmie Johnson gave Hendrick Motorsports its first NASCAR Sprint Cup victory of the year, winning a fuel gamble at Phoenix International Speedway in Avondale, Ariz. As leader after leader dived for the pits to take on gas in the waning laps, Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet stayed on the track and the two-time reigning Cup champion made it to the finish, beating Clint Bowyer, another fuel gambler, by 7.002 seconds.Mark Martin, 49, a part-time driver in the Dale Earnhardt Inc. No. 8, battled at the front with its former driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., for much of the 312-lap race on the mile oval. It appeared Martin had his first win since 2005 locked up after he passed Earnhardt on lap 272 and began to pull away, building leads of more than a second. With the end in sight, Martin was called into the pits on lap 301, giving up the top spot to Johnson. Denny Hamlin, who did pit, finished third, followed by Carl Edwards, Martin, Jeff
Burton and Earnhardt.

FOX and NASCAR postponed the start of the race for 15 minutes waiting for the Red Sox – Yankees baseball game to end, only to have fans miss both the final out of the game and the first lap of the race. That’s like two errors on one play.

NASCAR announced that they won't change their drug stance: The call for regular random drug testing by some of NASCAR's biggest stars apparently will not change the organization's current policy of testing only for "reasonable suspicion.” .But NASCAR president Mike Helton said the reaction by drivers to the ESPN The Magazine report that former truck and Nationwide driver Aaron Fike used heroin the same day he drove in some races was positive and showed drivers were policing themselves.

Kyle Busch won the Nationwide race: Kyle Busch beat Carl Edwards out of the pits on their final stop, then held off the defending NASCAR Nationwide Series champion for his second straight victory in Phoenix. Denny Hamlin finished third. Series leader Clint Bowyer, who fell from fifth to 13th when he was penalized late in the race for speeding on pit road, was eighth.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos from the VintageModified.com files of the late "Goober" Scheidel who started racing at the Plainville Stadium before making a name for himself on the dirt of Lebanon Valley Speedway. Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com and RacingRemembrances.net.
Click on Photo for Full Size

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

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

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