Friday Aug 10, 2007

By Phil Smith                                                                                Click on Photo for Full Size                                

Sixty years ago in 1947, the Lonsdale Sports Arena, just outside of Providence, R.I. opened. Lonsdale featured a 1/3-mile high-banked speedway with the midgets as headliners. Lonsdale was also one of the first speedways to hold races for production automobiles, which was the forerunner of what we consider today as being stock cars. Lonsdale took four months to build and was dubbed the Worlds Greatest Midget Track. The chutes were 45 feet wide with a 7-foot bank. The turns were 60 feet wide with a 15-foot bank. Lonsdale ran until 1953 when the track was severely damaged by a flood, which wiped out half of the backstretch. The track was never rebuilt. The remains are still there on the banks of the Blackstone River. If in operation today, the track would be perfect for the modern modifieds as it would be comparable to a mini-Bristol.

Forty years ago in 1967, the All Star League had a scheduled stop at Riverside Park but rain prevailed. Friday night at Stafford saw Gene Bergin make it two in a row as he won the 30-lap feature. Eddie Flemke finished second with Ted Stack, Smokey Boutwell and Wild Bill Slater rounding out the top five. Ernie Gahan, like Bergin, made it two in a row as he won the Friday night 30 lapper at the Albany Saratoga Speedway. George Pendergast finished second with Bob Bruno, third. Don MacTavish and Lou Lazzaro rounded out the top five. Lee Osborne made it two in a row at Fulton and George Wagner took a victory at the Riverhead Raceway. Fonda ran a 100 lapper on Saturday night. Rene Charland made it four in a row at the Track of Champions. Bill Wimble finished second with Lou Lazzaro, third. At Utica-Rome on Sunday night, Defending NASCAR Modified Champion Ernie Gahan took the win in the scheduled 30-lap feature. Lou Lazzaro finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Bernie Miller and Rene Charland.

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, Bobby Sprague was the big winner at Seekonk on Friday night. Freddie Schulz finished second with Johnny Tripp, third. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway, Eddie Pieniezak took the win over Denis Giroux, Dave Lape and Eddie Flemke. George Summers, in the Ken Curley No.31 took a popular win at Stafford on Saturday night. Eddie Flemke finished second with Fred DeSarro, Bob Santos and Ernie Gahan rounding out the top five. Islip ran a 200-lap national championship event on Saturday night, which drew in many outsiders. Once the checker dropped and the dust settled it was Jim Hendrickson sitting in victory lane. Jerry Cook finished second with Bernie Miller, third. Fonda ran a double point event with Jack Johnson taking the win. At Utica-Rome on Sunday night, Dave Kotary held off Richie Evans, Lou Lazzaro, Jerry Cook and Denis Giroux for the win.

Thirty years ago in 1977, Bugsy Stevens made it three in a row at Stafford in Friday night modified action. Ronnie Bouchard finished second with Ray Miller, third. At Riverhead, also on Friday, Fred Harbach took the win over Wayne Anderson and Charlie Jarzombek. At Seekonk, on Saturday night, John Rosati took on the big boys and came home the winner. Henri ”Red” Barbeau finished second with Jim Wilkins, third. At Westboro, George Savory mastered the high-banked quarter mile oval. Mike Murphy finished second with Butch Walch, third. It rained at Waterford and Thompson but at Monadnock on Sunday night, Donnie Ayer beat the rain and Don Miller to take down the win. Brian Ross finished third.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, Reggie Ruggiero won a hotly contested 40 lap-Thompson 300 Pole Qualifier over Greg Sacks and Ronnie Bouchard. Ruggiero took the lead on the start from pole sitter, Ronnie Bouchard. Sacks was declared the winner after a post race inspection indicated that Ruggiero's carburetor was illegal. Ray Miller took the Friday night win at Stafford despite the fact that Ruggiero was breathing down his neck during most of the feature. Ruggiero settled for second with Greg Sacks, third. In other Friday night action, George Kent won at Spencer over Jerry Cook and Billy Griffin, John Blewett JR won a 100 lapper at Riverhead over Fred Harback and George Brunnhoelzl and at New Egypt, Richie Evans won out over Jamie Tomaino and Tony Siscone. Thirty-four Modifieds were on hand at Waterford on Saturday night. Harry Rice took the win over Randy Lajoie and Moose Hewitt. Brian McCarthy was the Super Stock winner. At Riverside Park it was Mike Stefanik over Stan Greger and at Seekonk, George Summers outran Ronnie Bouchard and Mike Murphy for the win. George Kent made it two for two on the weekend as he took the win at Shangri-La over Doug Hewitt and Richie Evans. At Islip, Wayne Anderson mastered the 1/5th mile oval.

Twenty years ago in 1987, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Riverhead for a 151 lapper on Wednesday night. Rain postponed the event to Thursday night. Mike Ewanitsko slipped by Bob Park on lap 132 and went on to record the win. Tom Baldwin led the early going until he got caught up in a wreck, which had been triggered by a blown engine in the Don Howe car. Park finished second and was followed by Mike Stefanik, Bill Park and Jim Spencer. Ed Flemke JR was the SK-Modified winner at Stafford on Friday night but the big story was that NASCAR Chief Steward, Leo Waters, resigned after a dispute with General Manager Ed Yerrington. What happened was that Waters had suspended and fined Bo Gunning for a rough riding incident the previous week. During the week, Gunning appealed to Yerrington who, in turn, over-ruled Waters. Needless to say, Yerrington never told Waters of his decision. Waters felt that Yerrington had made a fool out of him and quit on the spot and would never return. Saturday night at Waterford, Moose Hewitt beat out Jerry Pearl and Ronnie Rocco. At Riverside it was Dan Avery over Stan Gregger and at Riverhead, Bill Park beat out Tom Baldwin and Eddie Brunnhoelzl. In other weekend activity, Lee Sherwood took the win at Tioga and rain prevailed at Thompson on Sunday
Fifteen years ago in 1992, Mike Christopher was the Wednesday night winner at Thompson. Tom Tagg finished second. Bo Gunning put the S&S 33 in victory lane at Stafford on Friday night. Richie Gallup finished second with Ronnie Rocco, third. Ricky Fuller went two for two as he put the Mario Fiore No.44 in the winners circle at Monadnock on Friday and at Riverside on Saturday. At Waterford on Saturday night, Ted Christopher drove the North End Auto Parts No.54 to victory lane over Jerry Pearl. In late model action, Phil Rondeau scored his eighth win of the season. Mike Ewanitsko won the Charlie Jarzombek Memorial at Riverhead and Tony Siscone won his fifth of the season at Wall.

Ten years ago in 1997, Steve Chowanski was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Todd Ceravolo won his sixth of the year at Waterford on Saturday night. Don Fowler finished second with Eric Berndt, third. John Brouwer was the late model winner. Ted Christopher made it three in a row at Riverside and backed it up with a Busch North Series win at Watkins Glen. In the BNS event, Christopher started third and had to pit on the first lap when his shifter jammed. Restarting in the rear, Christopher marched to the front and took the lead with 27 laps to go. Kim Baker finished second with Martin Truex, third. Pole sitter Mike Stefanik led the first two laps before losing a transmission.The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Riverhead for a 201-lap event. Mike Ewanitsko took the lead on lap 60 and managed to weave his way through the lapped traffic to take the win over Mike Stefanik, Tom Cravenho and Tim Connolly. In Winston Cup action at Watkins Glen, Jeff Gordon scored his first ever road course win. Geoff Bodine finished second with Rusty Wallace, third. In other news, NASCAR announced that the Las Vegas Speedway would have a Winston Cup date in 1998. Dave Blaney won $1 million in a sprinter at Eldora Speedway in Ohio and Danny Johnson won $17,500 in the Mr.DIRT USA event at the Lebanon Valley Speedway.

Five years ago in 1992, the racing weekend started on Thursday at Thompson where an elated John Brouwer Jr. won his first feature at the 5/8-mile oval amid some tough customers. Brouwer, who left the Waterford Speedbowl after an early season dispute with track officials, made Thompson his new home. In fact, it was probably a good career move especially if Brouwer has a design to move up to one of NASCAR’s touring divisions. Brouwer took the lead on lap five of the 30 lap main event and led the rest of the way to take the victory over Bobby Santos III. Ted Christopher fought with an ill handling car and finished third. Bo Gunning and Tom Tagg finished fourth and fifth after recovering from a first lap jingle with Eric Berndt. Defending track champion Bert Marvin finished sixth. Stafford ran a 150 lapper for the SK-Modifieds on Friday night. With $3,500 and valuable track points on the line, Bo Gunning was hoping to pad his point lead and get car owner Eddie Partridge his first track championship. Gunning seemed to have the race well in hand until a lap 86 restart when Lloyd Agor booted him. The spin and eventual wreck also collected Ted Christopher and Jeff Baral. Ron Silk, who had been running second, took the lead and went on to record his first Stafford win. Eric Berndt, who has had a miserable season, got the monkey off his back as he came home in second spot. Doug Coby, Lloyd Agor and Mike Holdredge rounded out the top five. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was represented by Ed Flemke Jr. who finished seventh and rookie sensation Todd Szegedy who finished 33rd. Gunning ended up 23rd and Christopher finished out the night in 24th spot. There were ten cautions 109 of the scheduled 150 laps run under green. The regular Saturday night racing program saw Dennis Gada score his fifth win of the season. It was also a milestone for car owner Harry Wyatt as it was his 50th win at the shoreline oval. It looked like tech inspector Everett Marvin was not fooling around as he made extensive checks looking for traction control devices. Marvin even had those checked remove their body tin. All those checked were legal. Ed Reed JR finished second.

Last year, 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night. Somewhere up in the heavens the late Jack Arute had an ear-to-ear smile. His track was packed with fans, the pits were jammed with Modifieds and the New England Dodge Dealers 150 was one of the best Modified races in many moons. James Civali, who has nothing but the highest respect for the elder Arute, took the win after battling side by side and nose to tail with Reggie Ruggiero. Despite a night that had a hint of fall in the air the action was hot and heavy. A last lap desperation move by Ruggerio took him out of the runner-up spot and placed him ninth in the final rundown. Ruggerio felt that Civali was using too much track and put the bumper to the rear of the Don King owned mount. Ruggerio then spun to the infield and opened up the second spot to Kenny Barry who went on to record his best ever finish. Ditto for Chris Pasteryak and Matt Hirschman who finished third and fourth. Mike Stefanik rounded out the top five.
There were 41 NASCAR Whelen Modifieds on hand for the third of four events scheduled for the Stafford Speedway in 2006. Tony Hirschman, who was the Busch Pole sitter, led the first 72 laps of the event when he appeared to take himself out of the event after “playing games” on a restart with Civali. Hirschman ended up 21st. Sixth through tenth in the final rundown were Todd Szegedy, Ed Flemke, Zach Sylvester, Ruggiero and Tom Bolles. Based on the fact that Ted Christopher finished in 22nd spot, Mike Stefanik was able to stretch his point lead to 101.

Ken Horton won the SK Modified event over Chris Jones and Ted Christopher. Jim Peterson picked up his second Late Model feature win of 2006, Brit Andersen was a winner for the third consecutive week in the SK Light feature, Rob Dow took his first career Limited Late Model feature win, and Raymond Grassetti took his first DARE Stock feature win of the 2006 season.

The Thompson Speedway fell victim to rain. Before the rains came Jeff Malave and Jimmy Blewett took down heat race wins. Other qualifying heat races winners included Kurt Vigeant in the TIS Modifieds and Mike Romano in the Mini Stocks. Ed Puleo and Kevin Bowe shared qualifying victories in the Limited Sportsman division.

It was a big night of racing at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday. Rob Janovic Jr. became the first three-time SK-Modified winner in the first SK-Modified feature, a make-up from a previous rainout. Janovic started on the outside pole and led every lap of the non-stop event. Point leader Dennis Gada took second with 11 laps to go and finished less than a car length behind. Diego Monahan was third. Shawn Monahan and Tommy Fox rounded out the top five.
Diego Monahan won for the second time in second 35-lap SK-Modified feature. Monahan held off Janovic and Gada for 17 laps in what was clearly the most exciting battle of the season. Monahan, who led the entire race, won a guaranteed spot in the heralded North South Shootout race in North Carolina in November. Chris Pasteryak and Shawn Monahan rounded out the top five. Last weeks SK Modified winner Jeff Paul recorded a 10th and a sixth.
Tim Jordan passed six cars on the outside including Glenn Colvin for the lead with eight left en route to his fifth Late Model victory. Mark St. Hilaire nipped Colvin for third with Dave Zemke and Larry Goss following.

Dwayne Dorr took over on lap 12, survived a restart with four laps remaining and went on to grab his ninth Sportsman feature of the season. Dorr and eventual runner-up Billy Gertsch Jr.ran side-by-side for several laps on either side of a mid-race restart. Point leader Richard Staskowski was third.

Chris Willliams won the Mini Stock race which was red checkered at the midpoint. Officials stopped the race after the 10th caution. The red/checkered ended a Williams/Bill Leonard battle.

Mark Bakaj beat back brother Chris on two restarts over the final five laps and went on to win the Legends feature. Jason Palmer, Michael Gervais Jr. and Aaron Drake completed the top five. Kevin Harvick passed Tony Stewart on the front straightaway with three laps to go Sunday at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International and stole a caution-plagued Nextel Cup race that had seemed to belong to pole-sitter Kurt Busch from the start. Kurt Busch held off Robby Gordon in a stirring last-lap duel Saturday to win the Busch Series Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.

That’s 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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