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Friday April 9, 2010
 

By Phil Smith

Forty five years ago in 1965 Ray Delisle was the 30 lap Modified winner at was then called the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Savage took the Bomber main.

Forty years ago in 1970, the Stafford Speedway and the Thompson Speedway were running twin 25 lap features for the Modifieds. When the Norwood Arena decided to drop the Modifieds at the end of the 1969 season Stafford petitioned NASCAR to change their race dates from Friday to Saturday nights. NASCAR allowed Stafford to change their race night and in doing so opened up the flood gates at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway to the New Englanders who wanted to race on Friday nights. Taking the opening 25 lapper at Stafford was Carl Bugsy Stevens driving the mighty no. 3 of Len Boehler. Ralph “Hop” Harrington driving the famous Tant/Mitchell coupe that had been purchased by Richard Armstrong finished second. Fred DeSarro in the Joe Brady No. 41 finished third. Jerry Dostie and Roland LaPierre Sr rounded out the top five. Harrington won the nightcap with Stevens a close second. Billy Greco, Ted Stack and Ed Yerrington rounded out the top five. At Thompson on Sunday Stevens took the first 25 lapper and was followed by George “Moose” Hewitt, Yerrington, DeSarro and Leo Cleary who was in the Koszela Woodchopper. Hewitt took the nightcap and was followed by Yerrington, DeSarro, Stevens and Jerry Cook. The Fonda Speedway in New York was also running twin 25’s. Rene Charland won the first one and was followed by Dave Buanno, Jerry Cook, Ron Narducci and Irv Taylor. The second 25 lapper was won by Narducci with Taylor second. Wes Moody finished third with Charland, fourth. Also running this weekend was the Fulton Raceway where Lou Lazzaro beat out Richie Evans for the win and Langley Field in Virginia where Ray Hendrick won in the new Tant/Mitchell Camaro. After two consecutive rain outs the Waterford Speedbowl finally got to run their opener. Walt Dombrowski won the 30 lap Modified feature. Johnny DrLong was the Late Model Daredevil winner.

Thirty five years ago in 1975, Jack Arute had a vision that if the Modifieds switched from 15 inch wide tires to narrow ones the cars would be slower and the car owners would be spending less. His heart was in the right place but his vision was mis-guided. In the season opening Spring Sizzler Richie Evans did him one better as used eight inch rubber that was used by NASCAR’s Winston Cup division. Evans won the Sizzler with Eddie Flemke Sr, second. Freddie Schulz, Ronnie Bouchard and Fred DeSarro rounded out the top five. Racing at Fulton was called because of rain.

Thirty years ago in 1980, SJ Evonsion was the Saturday night winner at Riverside Park Doug Hevron, in the Mario Fiore No. 44 finished second with John Rosati, third. Richie Evans won the 80 lap Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Brian Ross in his home built No. 73 finished second. Hevron, who won the 50 lap non-qualifiers race came from a dead last starting position to finish third in the Sizzler. Jimmy Spencer was fourth with Reggie Ruggiero, fifth. In Winston Cup action at Darlington, Bill Eliott took the win. Ron Bouchard qualified sixth and finished 13th while Geoff Bodine qualified 11th and finished seventh.

Twenty five years ago in 1985, a banner field of 99 Modifieds was on hand for the Spring Sizzler at Stafford. Geoff Bodine, driving the Lee Allard No.99, cleaned house as he took the win over Bugsy Stevens and Charlie Jarzombek. Bobby Vee and John Rosati rounded out the top five. Among those who failed to finish was Richie Evans who broke an a-frame and placed last in the 30 car field. Leo Cleary, who had been driving for Len Boehler since Fred DeSarro had passed away, was given his walking papers as he was informed that he was replaced by Ron Bouchard. It was also announced that the Thompson Speedway had been granted a NASCAR sanction for all future events.

Twenty years ago in 1990, Jerry Marquis made it two in a row in Modified action at Riverside Park. Marquis drove the famous No. 2x of Bobby Judkins. Bob Ploverari finished second with Kenny Bouchard, third. Dick Trayner and Tom Bolles rounded out the top five. During the running of the event Ricky Summers in the Bill Simons Excavator No. 9 set an altitude record as he rode over a wheel and sailed 25 feet into the air.

Fifteen years ago in 1995, Chris Kopec picked the pole and led from start to finish at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Reggie Ruggiero finished second with Paul Corazzo, third. Tom Cravenho and Ted Riggot rounded out the top five. In NASCAR Grand National action at Hickory, NC Johnny Benson took the win after Chad Little was knocked out of the event by Kevin LePage.

Ten years ago in 2000, it was Easter weekend. Scheduled events at Riverhead, Wall and Waterford were rained out. The only activity was the fact that Mike Liberty filed suit against Bob Bahre and Bill France Jr. Liberty believed that Bahre and France had lied to him and had mislead him when he purchased the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine.

Five years ago in 2005, The Waterford Speedbowl began its 55th consecutive year of staging auto races. Despite the cool night a good crowd was on hand. Ron Yuhas Jr figured he had a tenth place car until Shawn Monahan triggered a massive wreck that eliminated nine of the front runners. Yuhas ended up with the victory with Chris Pasteryak ending up second. Jeff Pearl finished third. Allen Coates won the Late Model feature. Danny Field edged Richard Brooks to take the win in the Mini-Stocks and Len Beebe just nipped Jeff Paul for the Legends feature. Norman Root was the Sportsman winner.

The Whelen Modified Tour opener at the Thompson Speedway provided a surprise ending and almost a new winner. Zack Sylvester was well on his way to victory until a stalled car on lap 146 of the 150 lap Modified main event bunched the field. It ended up being a green- white checkered situation. Sylvester led the restart with Chuck Hossfelt and Ted Christopher in tow. Hossfeld got under Sylvester going into turn one and about the same time Ted Christopher dove underneath both of them to take the lead. On the final lap Sylvester got by Hossfeld and raced wheel to wheel to the finish line with Christopher It looked like Sylvester nipped him by six inches. NASCAR officials saw it differently and awarded the win to Christopher. Hossfeld ended up third with Mike Stefanik, fourth. Rick Fuller rounded out the top five. Ten caution periods kept the event to a bunch of short sprints. The longest green flag period was from lap 108 to lap 146.

Kenny Bouchard led the initial start but was quickly overhauled by Eddie Flemke. Flemke led until lap 8 when Donnie Lia passed him. Two laps later, Ted Christopher took the lead. The first caution came on lap 12 when Tony Ferrente and Chris Kopec spun in turn two, collecting Tom Cloce, Kenny Barry and Tom Bolles. Christopher continued to lead as the second caution waved on lap 21 for a six-car tangle in turn one. The third caution flew on lap 29 for a 13-car melee. Christopher and Hossfeld swapped the lead until lap55 when many of the leaders pitted after Howie Brode and Eric Beers tangled in turn four. Beers went head long into the fourth turn wall and suffered shoulder injuries. Despite the many front runners pitting for tires Christopher elected to stay out. Christopher finally pitted for tires on lap 105. Tony Hirschman, who took the lead on lap 76, paced the field until his tires wore out as Sylvester powered by on lap 134. Christopher made a determined charge and until the final caution when he was running third.

In Whelen Modified Tour Series news, the car counts and spectators continued to be great. There were 46 Modifieds on hand and there weren’t too many empty seats as a crowd estimate of 10,000 was announced. Had it not been for the LaJoie seat and the exceptional workmanship on the Boehler No.3 Eric Beers could have suffered serious injury when he made hard impact into the turn four wall. In other Ice Breaker action James Civali won the twin Sunoco Modified SK type events. Dennis Botticello won the Saturday night 20 lap Late Model event and Charles Bailey III won the Sunday event. Joe Lemay was the Pro Stock winner and Glen Boss, the Sportsman winner. Jeff Gordon made up three laps to win the Advance Auto Parts 500 at Martinsville.

Last year, 2009 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour began its 25th anniversary year at the Thompson Speedway ICEBREAKER last weekend. This year’s event marked the 107th time that the WMT has raced at Thompson since the formation of the Tour in 1985. An outstanding field of competitors attempted to qualify on Saturday afternoon for a starting spot in the 150-lap main event which was run on Sunday. The WMT was joined by Thompson’s “Super 6” NASCAR Whelen All American Series divisions in this two-day racing spectacle that has ushered in the beginning of the auto racing season in New England for well over 40 years.

Thirty five NASCAR Whelen Modifieds were on hand for practice and qualifying at Thompson. Jimmy Blewett made himself the pre-race favorite as he was the fastest in pre-time trial practice. Blewett toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.612 seconds, 120.890 mph. Also up to speed and in contention were Doug Coby, Jamie Tomaino, Todd Szegedy and Reggie Ruggiero.

Blewett might have been the fastest one in practice but Ted Christopher was the fastest when it counted. Christopher won the Coors Light Pole in qualifying for Icebreaker 2009 With a lap of 18.642 seconds (120.890 MPH), Christopher earned his 19th career WMT pole and his eighth career pole at Thompson. Doug Coby qualified second. There were a few surprises in qualifying including Glenn Reen, Jamie Tomaino and Rowan Pennink who rounded out the top-five. After the redraw, Coby and Pennink ended up on the front row while Tomaino, who would make his record-setting 500th career start would go third. Christopher picked the fourth position followed by Mike Stefanik and Reen.
Christopher began his title defense the way he ended it, with a win at Thompson. Once the green flag was displayed to start the 150 lapper Christopher wasted little time in showing what he had as he took the lead from Doug Coby on lap 10. Jamie Tomaino, who was making his 500th start, was quite stout in the early going as he wrestled the lead from Christopher on lap 41 and held it until a restart on lap 58 when he gave way to Mike Stefanik. A caution on lap 48 when John Busch spun out in turn two opened the door for pit stops by Christopher along with Don Lia, Ron Silk, Jimmy Blewett and Rowan Pennick. Stefanik and Tomaino had elected to remain on the track. By lap 62 Lia had worked his way back to 4th spot and had Christopher and Silk in tow. Four laps later Lia was third. Tomaino retook the lead on lap 67. Stefanik began to fade with obvious worn tires. Tomaino was able to hold on until lap 74 when his tires went south as Christopher stormed by Lia to take the lead. By lap 120 Christopher continued to lead as Ronnie Silk had moved him into the second spot. For all intents and purposes Silks run for the front ended a few laps later when Jimmy Blewett roughed him up and almost planted him in the first turn wall. Blewett also roughed up Lia before he passed him for the second spot. A caution on lap 133 for a Reggie Ruggeri spin set the stage for some late race excitement. With Blewett on the outside and Christopher on the inside they led the field to a restart on lap137. As Christopher entered turn three Blewett made a bottom shot and in the process moved him up to take the lead. Christopher returned the favor in turn four as he retook the lead. A Woody Pitkat spin on lap 148 precipitated a Green – White – Checkered finish. The field restarted for the final time on lap 152, single file. Despite the fact that Blewett beat and banged on the back of Christopher the defending champion never gave the aggressor the opportunity for another bottom shot as he scored an impressive win. Blewett, reluctantly settled for the runner-up spot with Lia, third. Ryan Preece and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Silk, Stefanik, Coby, Penneck and Bob Grigas.

For his efforts Christopher pocketed $8,800. He also received the first commemorative Tissot wrist watch, which will be presented by NASCAR and tour sponsor Whelen Engineering to each of the 14 race winners throughout the 25th anniversary season. The win was Christopher’s eighth at Thompson and his third in the track’s Icebreaker. He also won the traditional season-opener, which hosted the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s first race in 1985, in 2004 and 2005. Christopher also moved into sole possession of fourth-place on the tour’s all-time win list with his 32nd victory. He trails only Mike Stefanik (69), Reggie Ruggiero (44) and Tony Hirschman (35).

In Saturday night Sunoco Modified action at Thompson Keith Rocco scored his first win of the 2009 season in a fiercely competitive opener. As Rocco crossed the line to take down the victory, contact between Tom Cravenho and Ted Christopher sent Christopher head-on into the turn four wall. Christopher took a hard hit but walked away from the incident. Todd Ceravolo finished a strong second over Eric Goodale, Rowan Pennink, and Zach Sylvester. After post-race technical inspection, Goodale was stripped of his third-place finish; moving Pennink and Sylvester up a position and Jimmy Blewett inside the top five.

Defending division champion Jeff Zuidema of North Brookfield, CT, led wire-to-wire to win the first of two Late Model main events scheduled for the weekend.

Todd Ceravolo earned a hard-fought victory among a strong field of Sunoco Modifieds on Sunday afternoon. Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, kicked- off a new era in full-fendered racing at Thompson Speedway with the first-ever Super Late Model victory. Jeff Zuidema of N. Brookfield, CT, went two-for-two in Late Model competition on Icebreaker weekend winning both ends of the double-header. Joe Arena of Bristol, CT, turned in a dominating performance to score the victory in the season-opener for the Limited Sportsman division. Chuck Rogers of Quaker Hill, CT, scored his first-ever winner at the Thompson Speedway in the Mini Stocks. Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT picked up where he left off winning TIS Modified features.

Ceravolo jumped out to the early lead of the main event followed by Keith Rocco. On the final lap, Bert Marvin got up alongside Ceravolo but could not muster up enough momentum to make the pass. Ceravolo rolled into victory lane for his first win of the season. Marvin had to settle for second followed by Rocco. Woody Pitkat had a strong run to finish fourth. Cravenho completed the top five.

The Waterford Speedbowl tried to open for the season but a forecast of rain and possible snow put a damper on action at the shoreline oval.

The True Value Modified Racing Series reports that a record 53 teams had secured numbers and paid fee’s to compete in 2009. Series founder Jack Bateman structured a 16 race schedule in response and additional prize money would be paid.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Jeff Gordon ended a 47-race winless drought, the longest of his career as he beat Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson to win the Samsung 500 at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth. It was the 17th Cup race at Texas, the track where Gordon has his only two last-place finishes in his 552 career starts. One of the 43rd-place finishes came last spring before he was runner-up to Carl Edwards in the fall race after winning the pole.Gordon won by 0.542 of a second over Johnson with an average speed of 146.372 mph. Middletown CT native Joey Logano, who started 10th, finished 30th. A strong rumor had his ride in jeopardy.

Kyle Busch won his third consecutive Nationwide race in Texas with another dominating performance, leading a race-record 178 of 200 laps to win the O'Reilly 300 even though he insisted it wasn't as easy as it looked. Busch finished 1.447 seconds ahead of Tony Stewart, who made a late charge from seventh with four new tires after a caution on lap 188. Brad Keselowski, forced to start 42nd in a backup car, finished third.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos which we will call when they were young, courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size



Billy Harman



Denny Zimmerman


Ray Miller


Reggie Ruggiero

Bob Potter

Bill Slater

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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