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August 24, 2012

By Phil Smith

Sixty-Five years ago in 1947, 7500 fans watched Lloyd Christopher of Miami, Fl. win the Midget event a Avon' Ct. Cherry Park Speedway. He was followed by George Rice and Tony Bonadies. Ralph Lund hit the fence and flipped with the driver thrown on the race track. Lund lost his shoes in the wreck but walked away from the mishap.

Sixty years ago in 1952
Freddy Luchesi continued his winning streak at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won 25 lap Sportsman features on both Wednesday and Saturday nights. Ted Dean was the Wednesday night Claiming Car winner while Harold "Curley" LeMay took Claiming Car honors on Saturday night.

Fifty five years ago in 1957, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran on Thursday night instead of Wednesday in order to accommodate a guest appearance of the Lone Ranger. Moe Gherzi was the Sportsman winner and Arnie Harris was the non-Ford winner. Red Foote was the Saturday night Sportsman winner at the shoreline oval. Dick Beauregard was the non-Ford winner.

Fifty years ago in 1962, Bill Slater was the Modified winner on the dirt at the Stafford Springs Speedway on Friday night. Ernie Gahan was second followed by Sammy Beavers, Don Rounds and Rene Charland. At Riverside Park Speedway Danny Galullo was the winner of the 150-lap feature. At Plainville Stadium Hank Williams was the winner followed by Bob Vivari, Tony "Jap" Membrino, George Lombardo abd Bobby Bishop. Don Spazano won the Novice feature followed by Bob Jackson and Frank Manafort. Charlie Webster was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Bomber division feature winners were Dave Hill and Ed Moody.

Forty five years ago in 1967, the All Star League visited the tight 1/5th mile oval at Islip on Long Island. Eddie Flemke, a master of the bullrings, lived up to his reputation as he won the 100-lap event over Jerry Cook, Bill Wimble and Fred Harbach. Rain prevailed on the East Coast for the entire weekend, wiping out all racing.

Forty years ago in 1972, Fred DeSarro went two for two as he won at Seekonk on Friday night and at Stafford on Saturday night. At Seekonk, Billy Clarke finished second and at Stafford, Leo Cleary, Ernie Gahan, George Summers and Hop Harrington, rounded out the top five. Bob Santos took the Friday night win at Malta. Ron Bouchard finished second with Richie Evans, third. At Fonda, on Saturday night, Maynard Forrette beat out Harry Peek and Al Castrucci for top honors. Bill Scrivener made it two in a row at Waterford followed by Mike Beebe, Glynn Schafer, Dick Dunn and Bob Potter. Mike Daignault was the Sportsman winner. At Plainville Stadium a new name was found in the winners circle as Stan Greger registered his first victory over Bill Harris, Nick Nickerson and Bob Vivari. Ron Rocco won the Novice feature over Roger Sally, George Alkas and Earl Pelletier. Bob Stefanik was the winner of the 150-lap Mayflower Classic at Riverside Park. Ronnie Wyckoff was second followed by Bobby Bard. Modifieds from all over the East Coast converged on the Pocono Raceway for the Flight 216 modified event on the ¾ mile oval. Ninety-eight modifieds were on hand. Richie Evans won the event over Maynard Troyer and Ray Hendrick but the real story was the effort put in by Fred DeSarro and Art Barry who teamed up, just for the day. During practice, the engine in the Len Boehler No.3 spun a bearing. Without a spare engine, Boehler loaded the car and headed home. Santos, who had won Malta on Friday night, offered his ride to DeSarro. DeSarro made numerous chassis changes and even change the steering wheel. The Barry modified went and handled like it never did before and was a potential winner until slowed by a broken water pump. Sunday night action at Utica-Rome, rained out.

Thirty Five years ago in 1977, Bugsy Stevens was the winner of the Tuesday night Modified Madness. The 50-lap event drew 44 modifieds. Geoff Bodine finished second with Charlie Jarzombeck, third. When the mods returned to Stafford on Friday night, Ronnie Bouchard had it all figured out as he won, hands down. John Rosati finished second. with Ed Flemke, third. Rosati took it up a notch as he won at Seekonk on Saturday night over Ray Lee and Leo Cleary. Joe Howard ruled Westboro despite extreme pressure exerted by George Savory and Freddie Schulz in the closing stages of the 35 lap main event. At Riverside, Geoff Bodine won a 100 lapper over Reggie Ruggiero and Bob Polverari. At Plainville Stadium George Alkas was the winner with Mark Berndt second followed by Dave Alkas, Tom Hughes and Tom Berndt. Mike Kallberg was the Pleasure Car winner.  At Thompson on Sunday night; Fred DeSarro beat out Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie Flemke.

Thirty years ago in 1982, Kenny Bouchard was awarded the Friday night win at Stafford after apparent winner Greg Sacks was disqualified with an illegal carburetor. Ray Miller finished third but he too, ran amuck with the tech inspector, and was also disqualified with an illegal carburetor. Bob Polverari ended up second with Bugsy Stevens, third. At Spencer, also on Friday, Richie Evans led Maynard Troyer, Jerry Cook and George Kent across the stripe and at New Egypt, John Blewett Jr. was the 100-lap winner. At Waterford, on Saturday night, Lightning Larry Lanphear took the win from his up front starting spot. Bob Potter finished second with Randy Lajoie, third. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggerio won a 100 lap Race of Champions qualifier. Marty Radwick finished second with Ray Miller, third. Racing on Long Island took a weekend off. The Riverhead program was cancelled because of the lack of cars and Islip was cancelled because of a fatality. Doug Hewitt beat out Jerry Cook at Shangri-La and at Seekonk, it rained. The Bouchard brothers, Ronnie and Kenny, finished one-two at Thompson on Sunday night. Reggie Ruggiero finished third with Mike McLaughlin, fourth. In Winston Cup action at Bristol, Tim Richmond was the Busch Pole sitter. Darrell Waltrip took the win.

Twenty five years ago in 1987, Jerry Pearl was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Leading the Tri-Track point series, Pearl beat out Bo Gunning and Mike Christopher. Waterford rained out on Saturday night. Evidently it was a coastal Connecticut storm as Riverside and Riverhead got their events in. At Riverside, Mike Stefanik swept a 200 lapper, which also guaranteed him a spot in the Thompson 300. Reggie Ruggerio finished second with Mike McLaughlin, third. At Riverhead, Tony Ferrente JR took the win over Wayne Anderson and Fred Harbach. Jimmy Spencer ruled the roost at Shangri-La as he took the checker over Tony Hirshman, and George Kent. In Sunday night SK-Modified action at Thompson, Mike Christopher held off brother Ted along with Bo Gunning, Bob Potter and Kerry Malone. In Winston Cup action at Bristol, Dale Earnhardt SR took the win.

Twenty years ago in 1992, Bob Potter lost the point lead at Stafford on Friday night after he wrecked on the first lap. Bo Gunning took the win over Richie Gallup, Lloyd Agor and Mike Christopher. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified tour was at Riverhead for a 200-lap event. Mike Ewanitsko took the win over Jeff Fuller, Steve Park and Satch Worley. At Waterford, Ted Christopher in the North End Auto Parts No.54 took the modified win. Twin features were run for the late models. Phil Rondeau won his 9th of the season and Jerry Young won the nite-cap.

Fifteen Years ago in 1997, Bo Gunning was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Ted Riggott got his fifth of the year at Riverside. The Busch North Series was also at Riverside and it was Dave Dion taking the win over Mike Stefanik and Jerry Marquis. Tucker Reynolds got his fifth win at Waterford. Jim Broderick finished third behind Todd Ceravolo but was disqualified when it was discovered using an illegal carburetor. Eddie Brunnhoelzl jr. won the Fred Harbach Memorial at Riverhead. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Watkins Glen with the Trucks. Mike Stefanik took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 33 and led the final eight laps to take the win. Fuller finished second and was followed by Jan Leaty, Mike Ewanitsko, Tim Arre and Tim Connolly. Ron Fellows won the truck race. Ted Christopher finished seventh and Mike Ewanitsko finished 21st.At Bristol, Jim Spencer won the Grand National event. Steve Park finished second and sewed up the Rookie of the Year title. In the on going confrontation between Randy LaJoie and Buckshot Jones, NASCAR fined Jones $5000 for trying to ram LaJoie after the two made contact during the event. Jones missed. In the Winston Cup portion, Dale Jarrett passed Mark Martin in the closing stages of the event and took the win. Evidently there was a little confusion in a recent article concerning the date that the late Corky Cookman and Mike Hornat went out of the track and into the fourth turn grandstand at Stafford. It was on the eighth lap of a scheduled 100 lapper that John Falconi got loose as he exited turn four. Both Cookman and Hornat rode over Falconi's wheel and sailed out of the track.

Ten years ago in 2002, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Stafford on Friday night. NASCAR, because of numerous complaints, changed the qualifying procedure in hopes of leveling the playing field. In the past, those who went out early to qualify had a distinct disadvantage because of the lack of rubber and debris on the track. In order to make it fair for one and all NASCAR made the following change. Each car would take its first time trial lap and then pull in. When the entire field had their lap, the process would begin again. One must give NASCAR credit with this change. There were 43 Modifieds on hand and the jury was still out as far as the change in format for qualifying. Jerry Marquis’ pole speed held but six cars did improve their times, the second time around. Among those who didn’t make the cut were Kenny Bouchard, Wade Cole, Carl Pasteryak, Jimmy Kuhn, Jake Marosz and Tom Baldwin.
 
Friday’s NASCAR Modified Tour Series event at Stafford served as a monument to both Ted Christopher and Bugsy Stevens. Christopher took the win, his 73rd, and broke Stevens’ all time win record. Stevens, who hadn’t turned a wheel for quite some time, was on hand for the debut of his new book, The Life and Times of Bugsy Stevens. Even though he had been retired as a driver for quite a while, he is still as popular as ever. Those who followed him during the 60’s. 70’s and 80’s still follow and speak well of him. The Bug was still the Bug, very friendly and talked to everybody and most of all; he had not forgotten where he came from. Any way, Christopher didn’t qualify all that well as he started 15th. Eddie Flemke Jr. qualified fourth and by the luck of the draw, started on the pole with the Hill Enterprises No.79. Chuck Hossfeld in the Garbarino Mystic Missile started on the outside pole and jumped out to an early lead with Flemke in tow. Flemke, who in the past has made it a point of going non-stop without a stop for tires, took the lead on lap 9 and held it thru lap 63.In the mean time, Christopher, who had previously gone the 150 lap distance at Stafford had conservatively worked his way into second spot. The opportunity to lead presented it self on lap 64 and he took it. Flemke then turned up the wick a bit and he re-took the point on lap 70. Evidently, Christopher’s set-up wasn’t exact as he began to slip a little. A caution on lap 106 presented a way out for the defending National Champion as it allowed him to pit for new rubber. Maybe it was the chill in the air or maybe not as Flemke was only able to hold the lead for 43 laps when Jerry Marquis took over the top spot on lap 114. His lead was short lived as Flemke took it back on lap 121. All the while, Christopher on fresh rubber was coming to the front. With 18 laps to go, Christopher powered by and went on to make it four for four in Tour Series action at Stafford. Flemke held on for second and was followed by Marquis, Hossfeld and Rookie sensation Todd Szegedy. All tolled sixteen cars finished on the lead lap. For the second race in a row, defending Tour Series Champion Mike Stefanik had problems and was an early out. After losing an engine at Thompson, Stefanik came to Stafford where he qualified sixth. Starting third, he was never a factor and his night ended on lap 70 when he dropped out with ignition problems.

The regular weekly racing also started last Thursday at Thompson where rain prevailed and washed out the regularly scheduled SK-Modified event. The Pro Stocks had a scheduled 75 lapper but the event was red-checkered after 39 laps when the clouds opened up. Norm Wrenn took the win. According to NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks, 145 cars were on hand.

In SK-Modified action at Stafford on Friday night, Brad Hietala ended a long dry spell. Hitala previously won at Stafford in 1983. Since then it’s been a rough road. In 1985 he almost paid the ultimate price when female driver Gilda Berti planted him in the wall. Hietala suffered severe head injuries, which almost ended his racing career and his life. What made the win even sweeter is the fact that he built his car himself in a day where the majority of the cars on the track in competition come from major chassis builders. Donnie Travaglin came all the way from the rear to finish second with Jay Miller recording a third. Series point leader Bo Gunning finished 10th.

At Waterford, Ed Reed Jr. and Dennis Gada kissed and made up and are no longer mad at each other. Reed beat Gada out for the win. Reed admitted that he jumped the last three re-starts and was surprised that officials said nothing. The big story of the night was the fact that third generation driver, sixteen year old Bobby Santos III won the Boston Louie Memorial NEMA Midget event.

Last year, 2011, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour took a week off before heading south to the Bristol Motor Speedway. Kevin Rice reported in trade publication Area Auto Racing News that 2008 series champion Ted Christopher and car owner Ed Whelan had split following a dismal finish at Loudon. Evidently there had been a lot of friction between Christopher and crew chief Brad Lafountaine. It all boiled over after Christopher dropped at the recent Loudon event with rear end problems in the car. The bickering and hard feelings got so bad that Whelan just pulled the plug and parked the car. He split with his Sunoco Modified car owner at the Thompson Speedway earlier this year citing car and motor preparation were not up to his standards. Woody Pitkat took over the ride and became an instant winner. Christopher did not secure another ride at Thompson.

Based on what crew chief Brad Lafountain stated at Thompson it was just "Teddy being Teddy" "The broken u-joint was a result of Christopher running over something on the track" stated the noted crew chief. "There is a crease in the bell housing and in the transmission case as a result of something he ran over on the track" he added.

In Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Mike Stefanik triumphed over the competition and Thompson International Speedway beat the weather for an action-packed night of racing action. With weather and Ryan Preece bearing down, Stefanik of Coventry, RI, was flawless to score the victory in the Tour-Type Modified Special. Stefanik had to hold off another Thompson winner to visit victory lane. Preece jumped out of his winning Sunoco Modified to run second to Stefanik in the event. The Sunoco Modified victory earlier in the evening was Preece’s third at Thompson in 2011.

In other racing action, Mike O’Sullivan of Springfield, MA, handily took the win in the Super Late Models. Chris Douton of Waterford, CT, extended his point lead with a Limited Sportsman victory. Glenn Boss of Danielson, CT, continued his hot-streak in the TIS Modifieds with a division-leading five victories. Another point leader, Danny Field, also tacked on points with his victory in the Mini Stocks.

The ten cars on hand for the Sunoco Modified feature provided quite a bit of excitement. Joe Allegro started on the pole and jumped out to lead at the drop of the green. Shortly after Allegro completed the first lap Danny Cates shot by in turn two. Allegro faded as Woody Pitkat moved in on Cates' bumper on lap two. Keith Rocco, who was waiting in the wings, took the lead on lap 5 with Cates and Pitkat in tow. By lap 20 Ryan Preece moved into contention as he raced side by side with Rocco. On lap 22 Preece dive bombed into turn one, brushed Rocco who spun. Said Preece, "I didn't mean to hit him, the car lost foreward bite and got away from me". Evidently Rocco was also having mechanical problems as he pitted and then retired after taking a couple of laps. Preece went on to take the win over Cates, Pitkat and Allegro.

The open competition Tour Type event drew 20 cars. Mike Stefanik took the lead after a spirited battle with Ryan Preece. Stefanik took the lead on a restart on lap 20 of the 40 lap contest. Preece ended up second with Kenny Barry, third. Tom Bolles and Steven Reed rounded out the top five.

The Stafford Motor Speedway headlined its second division and Woody Pitkat was the big winner of the night, capturing the Late Model 100 checkered flag for his third win of the 2011 season. In other NASCAR Whelen All-American Series feature racing action, Keith Rocco scored his 8th win of the 2011 season in the SK Modified® feature, Kyle Spencer picked up his first career win in a spectacular finish in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, George Nocera, Jr. picked up his fourth win of the 2011 season in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Don Wood scored his fourth win of the 2011 season in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

Rocco and Ryan Preece played a game of cat and mouse until the final lap of the 40 lapper. Coming off the fourth corner on the final lap Rocco got the edge as he beat Preece to the finish line for his23rd win in 46 starts at Connecticut tracks in 2011. Preece finished second, with Eric Berndt right behind him in third. Dave Gervais finished fourth with Todd Owen rounding out the top-5.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Glenn Pressel III scored his second career victory in the SK Modifieds®, Rich Staskowski picked up his second win of the year in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models and Josh Galvin won for the third time in the Street Stocks. A popular win went to rookie Garrett Denton as the teenager won his first career feature event in the Mini Stocks. Rounding out the winners were Paul French who won his third SK Light Modified race of the year and Paul Kusheba who took the victory in the night’s Legends Cars feature.

Pressel started on the outside pole and led the entire 35 lap distance. Rob Janovic and Jeff Pearl finished second and third, while Keith Rocco rallied back to fourth position after an early race spin. Doug Coby beat out Tyler Chadwick in the final laps for fifth.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Seekonk Speedway for a 100 lapper on Saturday night. The event, which drew 19 cars was won by Les Hinkley who took the lead from Dwight Jarvis on lap 79. Jarvis finished second and was followed by Chris Pasteryak, Joey Jarvis and Norm Wrenn. Sixth through tenth were Mike Holdridge, Jimmy Kuhn, Jr., Joe Doucette, Jack Bateman and Rowan Pennink.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, John Fortin returned to victory lane for the second time this year, with a Modified win and closed the gap on points leader Justin Bonsignore.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem, NC wrapped up it's season with the Carolina Farm Credit 150. Jonathan Brown won the battle as Burt Myers played it smart and won the Modified Track Championship, his second straight and fifth overall, after finishing 12th.

Kyle Busch won his 23rd race on NASCAR's Sprint Cup circuit, pulling even with brother Kurt in career victories. Marcos Ambrose a victory and finally paid up. Marcos Ambrose took the lead on a restart with nine laps to go and held off crowd favorite Alex Tagliani to take the checkered flag in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Canada.

Special Happy Birthday wishes went out to Mrs. Irene Venditti who had turned 92. Considered by many as the First Lady of Auto Racing, Mrs Venditti and her late husband, D.Anthony Venditti had operated the Seekonk Speedway since 1946.

NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Billy Harman stated that former driver Dick Caso was still in very serious condition as a result of being run over while riding a moped. Harman stated that he was in an induced coma as a result to relieve brain swelling from a scull fracture. In addition to head injuries the former driver suffered a broken foot and broken ribs.

On a sad note, Jim Costello, former race starter and partner of Walt Faulkner passed away at the age of 91. He was co-founder, secretary and treasurer of the New England Sports Association as well as Atlantic Auto Racing. Costello and Faulkner along with Bill Welch and John Falconi Sr promoted the Thompson Speedway in the early 1960's as well as the Westboro Speedway. Costello was also a Rhode Island State Senator. While in the State Senate Jim also served on the Finance Committee, the Corporations Committee and the Committee on Health, Education and Welfare. While finding time for all those public activities, he was also owner and president of Warwick Ford on Post Road in Warwick, RI where he was president for 20 years from 1958 to 1978.

This week are several Vintage photos, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Fred Luchesi


Eddie Flemke, Sr.


George Alkas

T
Bob Stefanik

Fred Harbach

Stan Greger

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.

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

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