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Friday August 21, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, the All Star League visited Islip on Wednesday for a 100-lap event. Taking the win was home track favorite Fred Harbach. Gary Winters finished second and was followed by Richie Evans, Jack Reinhard, Artie Tappen and Will Cagle. Albany Saratoga ran a 100-lap double point event on Friday, which saw Eddie Flemke clean house. Guy Chartrand finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook and Bernie Miller. Stafford was closed. Saturday night at Norwood, Johnny Thompson with his small block Ford took the win over Freddie Schulz, Fred DeSarro and Marty Bezema. Fonda ran their rained out 200 and at the checker it was Lou Lazzaro who prevailed. Kenny Shoemaker finished second and was followed by Ron Narducci and Rene Charland. Airborne Park in Plattsburg ran a 100-lap double point event and it was invader, Bugsy Stevens taking the win. At Islip Charlie Jarzombek and Fred Harbach shared the spotlight as they each won separate events. Hometown favorite Charlie Webster was the Modified feature winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Big Mike Daignault was the Daredevil winner. At Thompson on Sunday night it was Eddie Flemke over Stevens and Moose Hewitt and at Utica-Rome Jerry Pennock beat out Dave Lape for the win.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, Don Howe got the best of Charlie Jarzombek at Riverhead on Wednesday. Frank Curtiss finished third with Junior Ambrose, fourth. On that same night, the master, Eddie Flemke, gave a young driver named Reggie Ruggiero a lesson as he won a 100 lap open event at Plainville Stadium. Jim Cash finished third with Bobby Bard, fourth.


Johnny Thompson was the winner with his 289 Ford Small Block at the Norwood Arena. (John Grady Photo)

Mike Daignault was the Daredevil winner at the Speedbowl in 1969. (Dave Dykes Collection)

Friday night at Freeport, Jarzombek played second fiddle again as he finished second behind Dan MacNamara. Donnie Bunnell was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. A 200 lapper scheduled at Islip on Saturday rained out. Bugsy Stevens was king of the hill at Stafford despite the efforts of Eddie Flemke and Ronnie Bouchard. In New York State action, Dick Clark won at Utica-Rome, Merv Treichler won at Lancaster, Geoff Bodine won at Shangri-La and Richie Evans won at Fulton. In Sunday night action at Thompson, Fred DeSarro made it two in a row and at Monadnock, Kenny Bouchard was the victor.

Thirty years ago in 1979, Bill Brown sold Monadnock Speedway to Bill Davis and at Danbury, starter Ted Abbot was struck and killed while flagging a race at the historic oval. Stafford ran twin 25's on Tuesday and drew 75 modifieds. Geoff Bodine won the first 25 and was followed by Ron Bouchard, Jerry Cook and Bugsy Stevens. Cook won the nightcap with Bodine following and Leo Cleary in third spot. At New Egypt on Wednesday night, John Blewett Jr. took the win over Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. At Stafford on Friday, Ronnie Bouchard scored a popular win over Evans and Kenny Bouchard. Seekonk ran a 50 lapper on Saturday, which saw Geoff Bodine take the win over Leo Cleary and Bugsy Stevens. After two successive rain outs, Waterford got their show in and it was Rick Donnelly taking the win over Moose Hewitt and Dick Ceravolo. At Shangri-La, Richie Evans got his 44th win of the season. Jerry Cook finished second with George Kent, third. At Lancaster it was Maynard Troyer over Roger Treichler and at Thompson on Sunday, Ronnie Bouchard beat John Rosati. Also on Sunday, Brian Ross secured twin wins at Monadnock.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, Waterford ran a special 82-lap open competition event and it was local favorite Bob Potter beating out Kenny Bouchard for the win. At Stafford on Friday night, Brian Ross took a popular win over Bugsy Stevens and Charlie Jarzombek. New Egypt ran a 200 National Championship event that saw George Kent beat the heat and the competition. Bob Park finished second with Fred Harbach, third. Spencer also ran on Friday and it was now Winston Cup crew chief Doug Hewitt taking the win. In Saturday night action it was Mike McLaughlin taking a 200 lap win over Reggie Ruggiero and Richie Evans at Riverside. Ruggiero drove a car owned by Mike Grecci who was the crew chief for Andy Santarre. At Waterford it was Bob Gada Jr. over Bob Potter and at Islip it was Al Hansen in victory lane. Tony Hirschman beat out Gil Hearne for a win at Wall Stadium and at Thompson on Sunday, Art Davis was the winner. In Winston Cup action at Nashville, Geoff Bodine took the pole but ended up 22nd with a broken rear. Terry LaBonte took the win.

Twenty years ago in 1989, Tom Tagg was the Friday night SK modified winner at Stafford. At Monadnock they were still running Modifieds and Reggie Ruggiero took the win. Waterford rained out on Saturday but on Sunday it cleared as Thompson hosted the Modifieds. Mike Stefanik won out over Reggie Ruggiero and Doug Hevron. Ruggiero won the companion SK event.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Thompson’s Wednesday show rained out. In Friday night action at Stafford, Bob Potter held off Mike Paquette. Rick Fuller was the winner of the Pro Stock 100.Saturday night at Waterford, Scott Spaulding got his first ever Modified win as he beat out Mike Gada and Jerry Pearl. Riverhead ran a Race of Champions qualifier, which was won by Tom McCann, and at Riverside, Dan Avery took the win. The Modified Tour Series was at Loudon. The scheduled 100-lap event was called after 23 laps due to rain. Steve Park was awarded the win with Reggie Ruggiero second and Ed Flemke Jr., third. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Ernie Irvan was severely injured after a cut tire forced him to crash at high speed into the wall. After a long recovery period, Irvan survived to race and win again.

Ten years ago, in 1999, Willie Hardie won the postponed NO-Bull 100 at Stafford. Jerry Marquis finished second. Ted Christopher won the regular Friday night SK 50 lapper. Earlier in the day, Christopher qualified on the outside pole for a Grandnational event at Michigan but had his time disallowed because of illegal shocks. Mike Gada went pole to pole at Waterford on Saturday night to win out over Ron Yuhas Jr. Riverside and Riverhead rained out. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the Grandnational and Bob Labonte was the Winston Cup winner at Michigan. Last but not least, Kenny Tremont got his 13th win of the year at Lebanon Valley as he charged from third to first on the last lap.
 


Tommy Baldwin was laid to rest in 2004. (Howie Hodge Photo)

Five years ago in 2004, with heavy hearts the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour headed back to Stafford on Wednesday after Tom Baldwin had been laid to rest. Services were held at the Lucia and Orlando Funeral Home in Patchogue on Long Island. National Speed Sport correspondent Gary London reported that thousands came to the wake and funeral of the popular Long Island driver. After only three days off the tour returned to Thompson on Sunday to continue the event that was halted due to the Tom Baldwin accident. The infield light poles in turns one and three had been moved outside the track. The concrete blocks that protected them were also gone.

At Stafford, a fitting tribute was presented in honor of Tom Baldwin. Video clips of his highlights in Stafford events were shown and on the parade laps of the main event seventh place starting spot was left open in his honor.

Forty-six modifieds were on hand for the Dodge Dealers 150. Donnie Lia was the Busch pole sitter. Nevin George drew the pole starting position and John Blewett III drew the outside pole. Lia drew seventh. Nevin George took the lead at the start and led through lap 54. John Blewett III took the lead on a re-start but his position at the point lasted only one lap as George took it back on lap 56. Todd Szegedy, who didn’t pit for tires, took the lead on lap 81 when George developed problems and ended up dropping out with a bad clutch. Szegedy led the remaining laps and crossed the finish line 1.14 seconds ahead of current series point leader Tony Hirschman. Eric Beers, Mike Stefanik and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top five. Tom Bolles, who lives in nearby Ellington, finished a respectable sixth, just ahead of leading Rookie candidate Ken Barry. Barry’s teammate Sean Caisse resigned his ride prior to the event and is looking to pursue a racing career elsewhere. Rounding out the top ten were Donnie Lia, Chuck Hossfeld and Doug Coby. Hossfelds car owner, Bob Garbarino, stated that he was extremely hurt by recent action taken by Stafford owner Jack Arute. When Hossfeld quit his Friday night SK Modified ride Arute became enraged as he felt that Garbarino had cost him one of his top weekly drivers. Arute instructed his announcing team not to mention Garbarino’s name or his business, The Mystic River Marina. Garbarino had supported the speedway since it was initially paved in 1967. Ted Christopher and Reggie Ruggiero, two of the pre-race favorites, failed to finish. Ruggiero, who started 18th, dropped out with suspension problems after completing 45 laps. Christopher, who started 22nd, lasted until lap 52 when he broke an axle. Tony Hirschman stretched his point lead to 55 over Ed Flemke Jr. Flemke finished on the lead lap in 13th spot. Flemke was running in third spot on the final lap when he spun as a result of a tire going flat. Jerry Marquis, who finished a distant 23rd after completing only 91 laps because of an early tangle with Ruggiero and Christopher, lost a little ground but still maintained third spot. Christopher and Lia rounded out the top five.

The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour returned to Thompson on Sunday to complete the Bud Racing 150 that had been halted when Tom Baldwin had his unfortunate accident. Not returning to re-start the event were Bobby Santos III, Sean Caisse, Ronnie Silk and Ken Wooley. Caisse, who was the Busch Pole sitter, had announced that he had quit the Art Barry No.21. Prior to the start of the event speedway announcer Russ Dowd paid an emotional tribute to the fallen Baldwin, one that left more than one with damp eyes. Ted Christopher, who was leading when the event was stopped on August 19 when the field took the green on lap 14. Shortly after Donnie Lia took the lead on lap 41, John Blewett III developed overheating problems with his Sheba No.8 and parked it on lap 44. Blewett, by the way, had won the Garden State Classic at the Wall Township Speedway on Saturday night. At just about the same time Tom Cravenho parked the Eddie Partridge No. 12 when it developed an oil leak. Lia led the field until he pitted on lap 81and handed the lead to Kenny Bouchard as the field completed the fourth of six caution periods. Bouchard's lead lasted one lap as a determined Tony Hirschman bolted into the lead on lap 83. Doug Coby posed a potential threat but couldn’t compete with the former series champion who went on to take the eventual win. Coby and Eddie Flemke Jr. slugged it out for second spot until five laps remained and he ran out of gas, stopped and brought out the sixth and final caution. With a green-white-checkered finish Hirschman out powered Flemke for the win. Jimmy Kuhn finished a career best third with Ted Christopher fourth and Rick Fuller, fifth. Rounding out the top twelve on the lead lap were Dave Etheridge, Jerry Marquis, Eric Beers, Jeff Malave, Jamie Tomaino, Charlie Pasteryak and Renee Dupuis. Hirschman now leads Flemke by 65 points. Roy Smith won the Pro Stock event that had also been postponed from August 19.

In Thursday night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway Kerry Malone won one for the Tiger. Malone, who was a close friend of Tom Baldwin, won the 75 lap Sunoco Modified event and in victory lane dedicated his win to the fallen competitor. Jeff Malave ended up in second spot with Todd Ceravolo, third. Bo Gunning and Kelly McDougal rounded out the top five. Ted Christopher was a late contender until being spun out by Adam Norton. Norton was put to the rear for his actions. Christopher recovered to finish seventh while Norton played it cool to finish ninth. Jeff Zuidema was the Pro Stock winner. Point leader David Berghman was collected in a wreck while running third and finished out of the top 10. Other Thursday night winners were Dennis Botticello in the Late Models, Glenn Boss in the Limited Sportsman and Todd Henshaw in the Mini Stocks.

Twin 40 lap SK Modified features were on the racing card at Stafford Friday night. Steve Chowanski went pole to pole to win the opening feature while Chris Jones won the nightcap after finishing second to Chowanski in the first event. Chuck Docherty finished second in the opening event and was followed by Ted Christopher and Todd Owen. Christopher finished second to Jones who withstood some horrendous pressure. Woody Pitkat finished third with Frank Ruocco and Todd Owen rounding out the top five. Ryan Posocco, who had won the Late Model event at Stafford on Wednesday, came back to make it two for two in Late Model Competition. Vince Gambacorta finished second in the DARE Stock event and was awarded the win after apparent winner Scott Hitchcock was disqualified.

Jeff Pearl won his third SK Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Pearl had to hold of an overheating Dennis Gada. Tom Fox finished third. Carl Errickson won the Late Model feature and Richard Brooks; son of Thompson Speedway Chief Steward Dick Brooks, won the Mini-Stock feature. Other winners were John Mainetti in the X-modifieds and James Trenary in the Legends Cars.

John Blewett III won the 100 lap Garden State Classic at the Wall Township Speedway.

The Nextel Cup Cars and the Busch Racing Series were in Bristol; Tenn. Dale Earnhardt Jr. scored a clean sweep as he won both events at the ultra-fast half-mile speedway.

Last year, 2008, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour invaded the Thompson Speedway. Rain cancelled qualifying, which led to a start based on current point standings. All 33 cars on hand started the event.

Point leader Chuck Hossfeld led the opening laps before giving way to Todd Szegedy. An incident on lap 4 involved Eddie Flemke, Ryan Preece, Glenn Tyler, Kevin Goodale, Ricky Fuller, and Woody Pitkat. Preece and Tyler got the worst of it as they both suffered suspension damage. The pack ran single-file as the laps began to mount. Szegedy continued to lead with Hossfeld and Ted Christopher. The racing was finally slowed when the second caution flew on lap 42 for a spin by Jimmy Blewett. Blewett’s mount suffered from a broken panhard bracket mount. During the early stages of the event several front runners had encountered problems. After losing the top spot to Christopher, Szegedy encountered mechanical troubles under an early race caution necessitating a push to pit road and behind the wall. Szegedy was able to continue several laps down.

Ronnie Silk, who had worked his way to the second spot, found himself at the spinning end of a confrontation with Eddie Flemke. The field was able to miss Silk. Flemke received a penalty to the tail end of the longest line for his actions. During a caution period at lap 55 a host of cars headed to pit road for service. When things sorted out, Silk was leading with Bobby Grigas, who short-pitted, in second. Grigas capitalized on the restart; moving past Silk and into the lead. Hirschman followed through. Contact between business partners Flemke and Reggie Ruggiero necessitated another caution.

Back under green, Grigas continued to lead Hirschman. Lap-after-lap, Hirschman dogged Grigas. Early leader, Christopher, faltered while Stefanik was coming on strong. The veteran started to show his prowess after the century mark; joining Grigas and Hirschman. Silk meanwhile was fully recovered from his earlier incident to apply pressure to Stefanik. A bid for the third spot was slowed when Christopher, his tires worn, spun to bring out the caution. On the lap 112 restart, Hirschman took over the lead from Grigas with Silk following through in second. Bobby Santos was also able to motor by and into third. Silk’s march to the front was completed when he took the lead on lap 116. At lap 120, Christopher was back to eighth.

Contact between Hossfeld and Stefanik sent the Mystic Missile sliding. Both drivers were able to continue, barely missing a beat. The eleventh caution of the event flew; however, for a spin by Wade Cole on the other end of the speedway.

A handful of green flag laps led to a ruckus that began after bumper tag near the front of the pack. Hirschman was the aggressor on the lap 139 restart taking over the lead from Silk. Santos continued to run in third followed by a hard-charging Christopher. Silk was not done as he raced his way back by Hirschman and into the lead. The front five ran nose to tail as they took the white and checkered flags. With two laps remaining, Pitkat ended up against the turn four wall.

The race went into overtime, with a green, white, checker, single-file restart at lap 152. An uneventful final two laps gave Silk his third career win. Hirschman settled for second over Santos and Christopher and Stefanik.

Many tongues were still wagging over the last lap incident at Stafford between Ryan Preece and Todd Szegedy. Szegedy roughed up Preece to get the lead as they both apparently over-drove a bit going into the first turn. When the pair made contact NASCAR Director Chad Little felt that Preece had deliberately hit Szegedy. After watching a video produced on the Stafford website it appears that Szegedy was just as much at fault in the incident. Little, who is getting to be known as the “Invisible Man” made himself scarce after the call and was unavailable for comment. Preece and Boehler Racing took a lot of abuse after the event, which was uncalled for.

Thursday night Thunder Racing at Thompson came very close to being washed out as torrential rain pelted the speedway in mid-afternoon. Keith Rocco cleaned house in the Sunoco Modifieds. In other Whelen All-American Series racing, Lady Luck was finally on the side of George Bessette scored his first Pro Stock feature win of the 2008 season. It was the fifth win for Late Model ace Jeff Zuidema and Ernie Larose scored a popular win in Limited Sportsman division. Brian Sullivan took over the ride for his brother Tim in the family-owned TIS Modified to score the victory in only his second start. Scott Michalski led his racing family with a Mini Stock feature win.

Rocco looked like he was shot out of a cannon rocketing out from his fifth starting position to take the lead before the completion of the lap one restart. The second generation had the entire field covered as he survived numerous restarts throughout the 30 lap feature. On lap 25, Tom Cravenho moved to the inside groove to take the lead from Rocco. On lap 27, Rocco slid to the inside groove to retake his lead. Rocco never looked back as he ran to the finish in the No. 1 spot. Cravenho settled for second. Todd Ceravolo was able to take the third position from Danny Cates. Bob Grigas edged out Kevin Goodale to finish fifth.

The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to rain on Friday night. Ted Christopher led Keith Rocco by 6 points. Curt Brainard sat in third spot, 78 points behind the leader. Kenny Horton and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top five. Rocco suffered a setback on August 8 when he was a victim of overaggressive driving by New Jersey racer Steven Reed. Reed was serving a one race suspension.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, the shoreline oval enjoyed one of its biggest crowds in a long time with their Racing Against Cancer Night, which brought in the International Super Modified Association along with the True Value Modified Series and the Northeastern Midget Association to compliment the tracks SK Modifieds. Lou Cicconi scored the 50-lap International Super Modified Association feature while Chris Pasteryak scored his first ever-open wheeled Modified win as he won the 100 lap True Value Modified Series event. Other feature winners were Randy Cabral (Northeastern Midget Association), and Ron Yuhas Jr. (SK Modifieds).

Opening with a bang, the 50-lap International Super Modified Association endured a pair of serious crashes before the first lap was completed. After getting underway, it was Dave Shullick Jr, executing a daring outside maneuver to snare the lead passing several cars. Out-front until the nineteenth circuit, Shullick was then overtaken by Mike Ordway Jr. Cicconi was the leader when the second red-flag occurred on lap forty-eight, setting the stage for a 2-lap dash for the checkers. Cicconi got the bite on the restart, prevailing by a comfortable margin over Mike Lichty, Chris Perley, Mike Ordway Jr., and Bobby Santos III.

Kirk Alexander led until just beyond halfway of the True Value 100 when Chris Pasteryak bolted into the top-spot after a restart. The two engaged in a see-saw battle for the lead following the numerous cautions that plagued the second-half of the event, Pasteryak getting the advantage each time. Shelly Perry pounded the first-turn wall on lap-96, evaporating the huge lead that Pasteryak had amassed. The final restart saw the popular second-generation racer again forge-ahead, finishing several lengths ahead of Alexander and Jeff Malave in scoring his first-ever victory in True Value Modified Series competition. Completing the top-5 was Dwight Jarvis and Ted Christopher.

Randy Cabral notched a popular victory in the 25-lap NEMA Midget feature, his third of 2008 at the Speedbowl. Passing Mike Keeler for the lead with fourteen remaining, Cabral simply checked-out from the competition during an extremely fast-moving event that incurred only one caution period. Following Cabral was Keeler, Joey Payne, Greg Stoehr, and William Wall.

In the evening’s 35-lap SK Modified feature, pole-sitter Shawn Monahan immediately took the lead before yielding to an outside-move by Ron Yuhas Jr. with twenty-three circuits remaining. Shortly after, Monahan was eliminated for the night after the lapped-car of Kevin Orlando jacked-up the leaders resulting in the first caution. At the green it was again Yuhas, followed by Dennis Gada and defending champion Ron Janovic Jr. Within a few laps the caution again waved when Matt Gallo slammed the third-turn barrier with bone-jarring force. Next to fall victim to the wreckers was past-champion Todd Ceravolo, punted by Rob Summers after getting out-of-shape and spinning. Yuhas dominated the closing laps, finishing a comfortable margin ahead of Janovic, Gada, Doug Coby, and Keith Rocco.

Carl Edwards took the lead in the pits, then drove away for his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. It was his 16th overall series win. The reigning series champion was trailing fellow Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart when the leaders drove onto pit road under a caution flag on lap 93. Edwards, driving a Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, came out in front and easily led to the end of the 125-lap race on the 2-mile oval. Edwards, who led a race-high 71 laps on the way to his third Nationwide victory of the season, was nearly 3.5 seconds ahead of runner-up Brian Vickers before Danny Efland crashed at the start of the last lap. The race finished under caution. Tony Stewart wound up third, followed by Mark Martin, Greg Biffle, Mike Bliss and 18-year-old rookie Joey Logano of Middletown. Joe Gibbs Racing got caught in an ugly way Saturday following the CarFax 250 at Michigan International Speedway. Stewart, making his last Nationwide start for Gibbs, drove the No. 20, and 18-year-old rookie Joey Logano was seventh in the No. 18. The two Gibbs Nationwide Series teams, which have dominated competition in the division this season, weren't working in the gray area, they weren't bending the rules, they weren't finding holes in the rulebook, they were caught cheating. NASCAR inspectors discovered magnets on the gas pedals of the Gibbs No. 18 car and No. 20 car before the cars were set to be tested on a NASCAR dynamometer, which measures horsepower. The magnets essentially served as stops, not allowing the gas pedal to be depressed all the way for the test, which would have altered the results to show the cars with lower horsepower than they actually had. It was an action team owner Joe Gibbs said: "Goes against everything we stand for as an organization."

Joey Logano, who finished seventh in the No. 18 car and Tony Stewart, who was driving the No. 20 car, were penalized 150 championship points and place on probation until Dec. 31, 2008. Car owner Joe Gibbs was also penalized 150 points for each car in the owner’s standings. No. 20 team crew chief Dave Rogers and No. 18 team crew chief Jason Ratcliff were each fined $50,000 and indefinitely suspended from NASCAR. Also, from the No. 18 team, car chief Dorian Thorsen engine tuner Michael Johnson and crew member Toby Bigelow were suspended indefinitely from NASCAR. From the No. 20 team, car chief Richard Bray and engine tuner Dan Bajek were suspended indefinitely. NASCAR also put both teams, in their entirety, on probation until Dec. 31, 2008.

Carl Edwards completed a weekend sweep at Michigan International Speedway beating NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Kyle Busch off pit road on their last stops and driving off for his fifth Cup win of the season and second in the last three races. David Ragan held on to finish third, followed by Greg Biffle and Matt Kenseth.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos of the Tommy Baldwin from the Danny Pardi Collection, courtesy of the SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
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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