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Friday August 7, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, Lou Lazzaro was on a tear up in New York State as he won a special event at the Monroe County Fairgrounds on Thursday night, Fonda on Saturday night and Utica-Rome on Sunday. Rain at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday night spoiled a clean sweep for the likable driver. Smokey Boutwell made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. Freddie Schulz finished second. Schulz finished second at Norwood on Saturday night as Bugsy Stevens ruled the roost. Eddie Flemke, driving the Greg Mills-Dave Welch 79 finished third with Leo Cleary, fourth. Bob Potter was the Modified winner at Waterford. Donnie Bunnell was the Daredevil winner. Islip ran a 100-lap double point event on Saturday. Jim Hendrickson took the win with Gary Winters, second. Fred DeSarro paid a surprise visit and finished third.



Lou Lazzaro won 3 events this week in 1969.

Guy Chartrand won at Airborne and DeSarro got lucky at Thompson. Thompson ran a 100 lapper and DeSarro was holding a commanding one-lap lead on Jerry Cook with one to go. With a tire going down, DeSarro slowed enough for Cook to unlap himself and as he took the checker, Cook was exiting turn four. One more lap and Cook would have had the win.
 


Geoff Bodine won Friday & Saturday in 1974.

Thirty-five years ago in 1974, Riverhead and Freeport rained out. Geoff  Bodine attempted a three for three sweep in New York State as he won on Friday at Utica-Rome and Saturday at Shangri-la but fell short at Fulton on Sunday as Richie Evans won the scheduled 100 lapper. Bugsy Stevens was the Stafford winner with Kenny Bouchard, second. At Waterford on Saturday night Glynn Shafer took the Modified win and Don Fowler was victorious in the Grand American late models. The only racing on Long Island for the weekend was at Islip where Jim Hendrickson took the win over Gary Winters and George Brunnhoelzl Jr. Fred DeSarro took the Sunday night win at Thompson over Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie Flemke.

Thirty years ago in 1979, The Westboro Speedway ran an open competition event on Wednesday, which saw Ronnie Bouchard take the win over Pete Schwartz, Leo Cleary and Mario "Fats" Caruso. New Egypt also ran on Wednesday and it was Richie Evans holding off Bill Park and Tony Siscone. Bouchard backed up his Westboro win with a win at Stafford on Friday night. Evans made a late race charge but settled for second. All racing on Saturday night rained out.

Twenty-five years ago in 1984, Thompson ran on Tuesday night. The event drew only 17 cars with the win going to Bob Polverari. George Murray finished second. Holland ran twin 50's on Wednesday night with Jim Spencer and Doug Hewitt taking the wins. At Stafford on Friday, Reggie Ruggiero took the win over Kenny Bouchard and Charlie Jarzombek. Ray Miller took the win at Riverside Park on Saturday while at Waterford; Bob Potter beat out Mark LaJunesse for the win. Other weekend winners included Tom Druar at Spencer, Tom Baldwin at Riverhead and Chris Young at Islip. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Darrell Waltrip won the non-stop event.

Twenty years ago in 1989, the Modified Tour Series was at Riverhead on Wednesday for a 201-lap event. Mike Ewanitsko used his home track advantage to set on the pole and lead all 201 laps on the tough 1/4-mile oval. Reggie Ruggerio finished second with Tony Hirschman, third. Stafford rained out on Friday. The tour headed for Oswego for a 100 lapper on Saturday, which saw Mike Stefanik take the win over Brian Ross, Mike McLaughlin and George Kent. At Waterford, Gary Dyer held off Don Bunnell and Phil Rondeau for the Modified win. Rondeau, by the way, recorded his eleventh win of the year in the late model division. At Riverside it was Stan Gregger and in regular Saturday night action at Riverhead, Rick Holmberg held off Dan Jivenelli for the win. The DIRT cars of New York State ran a special asphalt race on Sunday at Thompson. It was a no contest affair as Geoff Bodine took the win. Mike Christopher won in the SK's.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Mike Christopher beat out Tom Tagg at Thompson on Wednesday night. Stafford rained out on Friday. At Waterford on Saturday, Chris Jones held off Mark LaJunesse and Bert Marvin. Dan Avery was victorious at Riverside Park. Former Daytona 500 winner Pete Hamilton was a special guest and went out and won a special event. Mike Ewanitsko continued his dominance at Riverhead as he won the Charlie Jarzombek 76 lapper. Don Howe finished second. The mods and Busch North ran a twin bill at Thompson on Sunday. Reggie Ruggiero scored his 35th career Tour win after early leader Jeff Fuller tangled with his brother Rick, crashing out of the event on the 112th lap. Kelly Moore was the Busch North series winner. In Winston Cup action at the Brickyard 400.Rick Mast received $50,000 for his Busch Pole effort. Jeff Gordon won the event, four car lengths ahead of Brett Bodine. A bit of a family feud erupted when Brett dumped his brother Geoff
during the running of the event.

Ten years ago, in 1999, the No-Bull 100 at Stafford was rained out after 46 laps. Jeff and Jerry Pearl finished one-two at Waterford on Saturday night. The mod tour was at Riverhead for 201 laps of thrashing. Tom Cravenho took the lead from Mike Ewanitsko who had led for 178 laps and went on to record the win. Ewanitsko finished second with John Blewett III finishing third. Tim Connolly and Tony Hirschman rounded out the top five. Ted Riggott won out over Rick Miller at Riverside. In Winston Cup action at the Indianapolis Speedway, Dale Jarrett took the win over Bobby Labonte.

Five years ago in 2004, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. The night was cool but the action was hot as Donnie Lia won the 200-lap event. Lia took the lead from Riverhead regular Chris Young on lap 49 and survived seven restarts to take the win. Frank Vigliarolo Jr., another Riverhead regular finished second while Young faded to finish 19th. Former Modified Champion Wayne Anderson who now confines his racing to Riverhead finished fourth. Anderson started 22nd in the 28-car field. Rounding out the top four was Tour regular Jerry Marquis. The event drew 45 Modifieds. Tony Ferrante Jr. was the fastest of the fast as he took the Busch Pole. Ferrante drew the fourth starting spot and finished in fifth position. Jamie Tomaino and John Fortin rounded out those that finished on the lead lap. Eric Beers, Howie Brode and Tony Hirschman rounded out the top ten, one lap down. Hirschman now leads the point standings by 9 over Eddie Flemke Jr. who finished 11th. It was a rough night for many including Tom Cravenho, Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy, Mike Stefanik, Chuck Hossfeld and Nevin George who got caught up in various wrecks that slowed the action. Out of the 200 laps run, 59 of them were under caution. Among those who failed to qualify was John Blewett III. Blewett and car owner Curt Chase became embroiled in a dispute over a difference of opinion and Blewett left the speedway before qualifying. Chase did not put another driver in his car as he loaded up and went home.

The Featherlite Modifieds would take three short days off before heading for the Stafford Motor Speedway on Wednesday night for the Dodge Dealers 150. This would be the first ever mid-week visit that the tour had made to Stafford as previous events there have been run on Friday nights or on Sundays. It had also been learned that NASCAR had been talking to the Hart family that owns the New Smyrna and Orlando Speedworld speedways. Jim Hunter, Chris Boals and Ed Bennett represented the sanctioning body. Among the items that were discussed was bringing the Featherlite Modified Tour and the Busch North series to compete in Florida during Speedweeks. It has also been rumored that the Featherlite Modifieds, which were dumped in favor of the Craftsman Truck Series, may return to Martinsville. Now that the International Speedway Corporation owns the Virginia track maybe they realized that the trucks don’t draw enough to justify their huge purse. Also in the rumor mill was word that the Modifieds may pay a visit to the Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina.
 

On Thursday night the Thompson Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl went head to head. Thompson presented their regular Thursday night Thunder program while the Speedbowl presented an event labeled the Funkmaster Flex Super Series Invitational. The Waterford event drew what the Hartford Courant said was 8,000 spectators, which was awful hard to believe. Thompson had a late but rather healthy crowd for their event. Many of those at Waterford had never been there before and were drawn by the expected live entertainment. Those at Thompson were there to see the racing.

In Thursday night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway the highlight of the evening was a 75-lap contest for the Pro Stocks. Once a rough and tumble crashfest, the Thompson Pro Stocks had evolved into a highly competitive division worth watching.


Funkmaster Flex & Speedbowl owner Terry Eames packed the house at Waterford in 2004.

David Berghman took the lead on lap 54 and went on to record his sixth win of the season. Berghman did a masterful job of using the high banks to his advantage and conserved his tires so they would last to the end. Ron Smith, who led the early going, finished second. Norm Wrenn finished third. The speedway graciously altered their schedule in order to accommodate Sunoco Modified point leader Ted Christopher who was racing at Waterford. Needless to say, even with the Sunoco Mods running last, Christopher didn’t make it. Crewmember Keith Rocco took his car and started in the rear. Richard Savory led the charge of initial start. On the second re-start Bert Marvin turned into Bo Gunning causing both to hit the wall at the exit of turn 2. Todd Ceravolo took the lead on the third re-start but before he could complete a lap Savory hit Ceravolo causing him to get loose. Jeff Malave slipped by as Ceravolo gathered it in. Ceravolo pressured Malave and was able to get his nose under him for the lead on lap 26. Malave ran second for a lap until doing a bump and run which allowed him to get back into the lead and take the eventual win. Eric Berndt slipped by for second at the finish. Ceravolo finished third and in doing so, took the point lead. Kerry Malone and Adam Norton rounded out the top five. In other action, Corey Hutchings pitted while leading at Waterford, charged up the road to Thompson and proceeded to take the win in the Late Model division. Jessie Gleason was the Limited Sportsman winner and Shane Michalski was the Mini Stock winner.

At Waterford, also on Thursday, Allen Coates reaped the benefits of a crash between Ted Christopher and Phil Rondeau as he reaped a $10,000 payoff for winning the Funkmaster Flex Invitational. Woody Pitkat finished second and took home $6,000. Rondeau finished third and received $4,000. Numerous wrecks precipitated 18 caution periods.
 
Ted Christopher made it six in a row at Stafford on Friday night. The current track and regional point leader started 15th and wasted little time as he took the lead from Frank Ruocco on a restart on lap 29 of the 40 lap feature. Ruocco had nothing for Christopher as he chased him the rest of the way to the finish. Jim Civale, Shawn Tryon and Chuck Docherty rounded out the top five. Things got ugly in the Late Model feature. Tom Butler, Ryan Posocco and Mike Quintiliano were running three wide in the closing stages when Butler hit the wall. Possoco and Quintialano then went at it and on the final lap Posocco found himself in the wall. Quintiliano took the checkered flag but was disqualified to last on the lead lap for rough riding. Joe Rzeszutek was awarded the win. Eric Grant was the DARE winner.

Ron Yuhas Jr. made it two in a row in SK Modified action at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Yuhas blew away the field as he finished a considerable distance ahead of Dennis Cherette. Don Fowler finished third with Ed Reed Jr., fourth. Phil Rondeau was the Late Model winner. Jeff Paul, at 16 years of age, a veteran of the Quarter Midget ranks, won the Legends feature and Ed Gertsch tookhis fifth victory of the year in the Sportsman ranks.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were in Indiana. The Busch Series raced at the Indianapolis Raceway Park and the Nextel Cup cars were at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In Busch Series competition at the Indianapolis Raceway Park, Kyle Busch took the win over Johnny Sauter and Jason Lefler. Jeff Gordon left little doubt that he had a handle on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as he won the Brickyard 400 over Dale Jarrett.

Last Year, 2008, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour ended their mid-summer break as they moved to the Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway for the Miller Lite 140 on Saturday. 2. As part of a season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions, 1994 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titlist Wayne Anderson was honored.

Jimmy Blewett registered his third career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour when he took the checkered flag. Blewett was strong throughout the evening as he led three times for 80 laps, including the final 46. After qualifying fourth fastest, Blewett took the win in the second of two 25-lap heat races that preceded the 140-lap main. He was then able to parlay his qualifying success into running up front in the feature. After staring on the outside pole, Blewett led the first 10 circuits and swapped the lead with pole-sitter Bill Park twice in the early going. He would take his third and final lead of the night on a restart on lap 102. For the second race in a row, Ronnie Silk finished as the runner-up. With four top-10s in a row, including a win, Silk has moved up to seventh in the season points standings after a slow start. Making his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour start of the year after he captured the series title a year ago, Donny Lia finished third and was followed in the top five by Ted Christopher and Ryan Preece. The fifth place finish was the best of Preece’s young career. Ken Heagy, Mike Stefanik, Dan Jivanelli, Glenn Tyler and Eric Beers filled out the top 10. Chuck Hossfeld came home 18th in the race and suffered his first finish outside the top five this year, but will retain a 44-point lead over Christopher in the season standings.

As usual, the Riverhead event was slam-bang with lots of wrecks and extended caution periods. Of the 147 actually run, 95 were under caution. James Civali was fired on the spot during the event after he spun Rowan Pennick while under caution. NASCAR also felt it was intentional. Civali was found to be in violation of Section 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing; hitting another competitor’s car during a caution period) of the 2008 NASCAR rulebook. The violation occurred during the Aug. 2 race. As a result, Civali was suspended from the next two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events, suspended from NASCAR until Aug. 15, 2008, and placed on NASCAR probation until Dec. 31, 2008. It was announced that Woody Pitkat and Doug Coby would share the driving chores of the vacated King Modified.

The Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program got held up almost two hours because of showers but the track management and competitors persevered, getting the program in. Woody Pitkat made it two in a row in the Sunoco Modified division. Danny Fields scored the victory in an ultra-competitive 50 lap event for the Mini Stocks. Jeff Zuidema and Marc Palmisano shared Late Model victory lane in the division’s doubleheader. Mike O’Sullivan in the Pro Stocks; Larry Barnett in the Limited Sportsman; and Glenn Boss in the TIS Modifieds; turned their luck around with victories in their respective divisions.

itkat of Stafford, CT, scored his second straight victory in the Sunoco Modified division. The feature was slowed almost immediately for an opening lap incident that involved Paul Supernant. Point leader Kerry Malone had problems under the caution getting towed to pit road. Bobby Grigas led the opening three laps before giving way to the charge of Keith Rocco. Tommy Cravenho ran in the third position. Bert Marvin, Jimmy Blewett, and Woody Pitkat were making tracks to the front. For the first half of the race, Rocco had stretched out his lead over Grigas and Cravenho. Rocco’s bid at a victory ended with an incident that involved a number of cars deeper in the pack. Grigas was also collected in the melee. On the restart, Cravenho was the new leader followed by Pitkat, Marvin, and Danny Cates. Pitkat followed Cravenho for a pair of laps before taking over the top spot. Once out front, Pitkat was able to distance himself from the pack.

Blewett was involved in a heated battle with Josh Sylvester for the fifth position. A bobble by Blewett gave Sylvester some breathing room and allowed Eric Goodale to take a position away. Over the final two laps, Cates began to apply pressure on Marvin. Pitkat went on unchallenged to the checkers. Cravenho finished a solid second. Marvin maintained third at the line over Cates. Josh Sylvester completed the top five.

The Whelen All-American Series NASCAR race event at Stafford Motor Speedway saw Ted Christopher, who last won on June 13, score his 101st career win at the Connecticut oval. Christopher won the 40 lap SK Modified feature. Ryan Posocco picked up his fifth feature win of 2008 in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Earl Pelletier was a first time career winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Rob Dow scored his second feature win of 2008 in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande came up a first time career winner in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event.

In the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, Jimmy Blewett took the early race lead from the pole position and began to pull away from the field. Blewett's lead was erased by caution on lap-19. Blewett continued to lead on the restart with Keith Rocco, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby, and Ted Christoper behind him. Christopher was the car on the charge, methodically picking his way through traffic to move into second place behind Blewett on lap-31. Christopher stalked Blewett until lap-35 when he made his move in turns 3+4 to come out with the lead. Blewett gave chase to Christopher over the final laps but was not able to get close enough to make a move as Christopher took his third feature win of the season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Christopher and Blewett was Rocco, Jeff Malave, and Frank Ruocco.

At the Waterford Speedbowl Ryan Morgan survived a host of restarts and finished with Jon Porter on his bumper en route to his first-ever Legends Car victory at the Wacky Wednesday racing program at the shoreline oval.

Keith Rocco continued to make a name for himself as he won his fifth race of the season on Saturday night at the shoreline oval as he took the checkered flag in the 35-lap SK Modified featurel. Other feature winners were Joe Curioso III (Late Model), Walt Hovey Jr. (Sportsman), Phil Evans (Mini Stock) and Greg Stoehr (Northeastern Midget Association). Rocco passed defending champion Rob Janovic Jr. with 18 laps remaining. Janovic jumped out to an early lead and was trailed by Dennis Gada before a third-turn pileup involving Gada and several other frontrunners scattered the field. Rocco pressured Janovic for several laps before getting the advantage with an outside move during the feature's final restart. Jeff Pearl, Doug Coby and Gada rounded out the top five.

Gary Danko, who had a highly regarded radio show with racing news had Waterford Speedbowl mortgage holder Rocky Arbitell on his program. Arbitell stated that the current foreclosure problems at the shoreline oval were precipitated by the fact that Terry Eames had violated the financial contract that he had with Arbitell. Arbitell further stated that he has no connection with current track operator Jerry Robinson. Like Eames, Robinson did not deserve to be called a promoter as he was rapidly gaining a reputation as being not friendly with competitors, media or fans. Robinson had, however, improved the concessions at the shoreline oval.

In NASCAR Nationwise Series racing at rainy Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Canada, Ron Fellows splashed his way to victory in the event that ended 26 laps early because of heavy rain and poor visibility. It was the first NASCAR points race run on grooved rain tires. Fellows, driving the No. 5 Chevrolet for Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s JR Motorsports, led the final seven laps. Marcos Ambrose finished third after leading a race-high 27 laps.

In Sprint Cup action, Carl Edwards won the Pennsylvania 500 at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., gambling with a pit strategy he thought would cost him the race. Edwards pitted from the lead just before rain caused a 41-minute red flag and had the driver arguing with crew chief Bob Osborne over the decision. But the plan worked as the race wound up going to completion. Edwards stretched his last tank of fuel to earn his fourth victory of the season. The race started in sunshine and it appeared Mark Martin, who took the lead from pole-winner Jimmie Johnson at the start and took control would be the one to beat. But Martin had problems on two pit stops that put him back into the pack and then dark clouds began moving in, changing some strategies.Rain began falling on lap 127 of the 200-lap event and, moments later, Edwards and several other leaders ducked onto pit road. Nineteen other drivers, led by June Pocono winner Kasey Kahne and Martin, who led a race-high 55 laps, stayed out to gain track position, waiting to see if the rain might end the race prematurely. But the racing continued and Edwards found himself back on top for good when Martin, the last of the drivers on the alternate strategy, had to finally pit on lap 187. Tony Stewart was second, almost 4 seconds behind. Johnson was third. Kevin Harvick, who crashed with Joe Nemechek on the first lap, came back to finish fourth, just ahead of David Ragan.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos of Hall of Famer, the late Dick Eagan who along with Hully Bunn was the winner of the First Race of Champions in 1951 at Langhorne Speedway 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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