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 Friday July 21, 2006

By Phil Smith                                                          Click On Any Photo For Full Size Version

Forty years ago in 1966 Elton Hill was the Friday night winner at the Albany Saratoga Speedway on Friday night. Don MacTavish finished second with Jerry Cook, third. Dick Dixon and Rene Charland rounded out the top five. Ernie Gahan padded his point lead in his quest for the NASCAR National Modified Championship as he won a 107 lap event on the dirt at Fonda on Saturday night and a 30 lapper on the asphalt at the Utica Rome Speedway on Sunday night. Gahan drove the same car in both events. Following Gahan at Fonda were Jerry Cook and Bill Wimble. Wimble finished second at Utica-Rome with Eddie Flemke, Dave Kotary and Bernie Miller rounding out the top five. Billy Blum took the win at the Shangri-La Speedway.

Thirty five years ago in 1971, Lou Lazzaro took the top spot at Malta on Friday night. Maynard Forette finished second and was followed by Bernie Miller, Jerry Cook and Fred DeSarro. At the Fulton Raceway Don Diffendorf, driving the radical coach that would grace the 1972 Spring Sizzler poster, took a 60 lap win over Richie Evans, Merv Treichler, Mike Loescher and Sonny Seamon. Mike Beebe took the Saturday night win at Waterford over Don Kibbe and Art Moran. Rain washed out Stafford and Fonda on Saturday night. While the NASCAR Modified point chasers were at Utica-Rome on Sunday, a bit of modified history was made at the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine when car owner Bobby Judkins and driver Gene Bergin debuted an all new Pinto bodied Modified. Bergin won the open competition event and the winds of change in the modified division were beginning to blow. Ernie Gahan finished second. At Utica-Rome, Ron Newman took the win over Dave Lape and Lou Lazzaro. Seekonk also held an open comp event on Sunday which was won by hometown favorite George Summers. Ronnie Bouchard finished second with Fred Astle Sr, third

Thirty years ago in 1976, Fred Harbach made it two in a row at New Egypt on Thursday night. Bob Park finished second with Jerry Cook, third. A 100 lapper scheduled for Riverhead on Friday night was rained out. Geoff Bodine took the Saturday night win at Stafford over Fred DeSarro and Dick Caso but the big news was that NASCAR Chief Steward, Ed Yerrington, had been named to take over the position of General Manager and Promoter as of August 1 .Jackie Arute had been promoting the facility and had got an opportunity to pursue a career in broadcasting as an announcer for the Daytona based Motor Racing Network. Other weekend winners were Pete Fiandaca making it two in a row at Riverside Park, George Allum at Waterford and George Murray at Seekonk. Geoff Bodineís domination at Thompson came to an end when his engine was torn down in a post race inspection and was found to be 61/1000 over stroke. Second place finisher Fred DeSarro was awarded the win.

Twenty five years ago in 1981, Richie Evans scored his 299th career modified victory at Stafford on Friday night. Hot on his tail was Ronnie Bouchard, Reggie Ruggiero and Brian Ross. Evans scored No.300 at Shangri-La the following night. Other Friday night winners were Marty Radwick at Monadnock, George Kent at Spencer and John Blewett Jr. at New Egypt. Waterford ran twin features on Saturday night with Rodney Tulba and Sleepy Knapp taking the wins. George Murray ruled at Seekonk and Joe Howard at Westboro. Other Saturday night winners were Fred Harbach at Islip, Jamie Tomaino at Wall and Stan Greger at Riverside. The stage was set for a classic battle between Richie Evans and Geoff Bodine at Thompson on Sunday with an 81 lapper. Carl Pasteryak led the first four laps before being overhauled by Corky Cookman. Cookman led until lap 16 when he lost a transmission. Evans assumed the lead and appeared headed for win No.301 when his engine went up in smoke on lap 54. From then on it was Bodine all the way to the checker followed by Ray Miller, George Kent, Reggie Ruggiero and Bentley Warren. It was also at this event that a young upstart by the name of Mike Stefanik was given the opportunity of driving the Richie Evans back-up car known as the Grey Ghost. Stefanik was, at one time in contention in the top five when he fell victim to a shorted out battery.

Twenty years ago in 1986, New Egypt ran what was to be their last NASCAR sanctioned Modified event on Wednesday. It was a 150 lapper with George Kent taking the win over Jerry Cranmer, Jamie Tomaino and Jim Spencer. The competitors were paid by checks which ultimately bounced. Once NASCAR got wind of this, the sanction was pulled. Kent made it two for two as he won a special event at Holland on Thursday night. Stafford ran twin 25's on Friday night. John Anderson, in the Mario Fiore No.44 took the opener over Brian Ross and John Rosati. Rosati came back to win the nightcap over Mike Stefanik and Charlie Jarzombek. Saturday night at Riverside Park saw Ed Kennedy go pole to pole, non stop, to win the 50 lap main event. Dan Avery finished second. Rick Holmberg won at Riverhead and it was Jim Spencer over Jan Leaty at Shangri-La. At Thompson on Sunday, the 300 outside pole position was up for grabs. Brian Ross left no doubt that he was after the spot as he cleaned house, beating out Jim Spencer and Mike McLaughlin for the win. Other weekend winners included Leo Cleary at Seekonk and Jamie Tomaino winning the Garden State Classic at Wall Stadium over Doug French. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Tim Richmond took the win.

Fifteen years ago in 1991, Bob Georgiades, son of Johnny Georgiades, scored his first ever win as he won the SK Modified main at Stafford on Friday night Steve Chowanski finished second with Bob Potter, third. The Modified Tour was also at Stafford. Jeff Fuller was the class of the field. Despite starting last because he missed the time trials and heats Fuller had the field covered as he took the win over Steve Park, Reggie Ruggiero and Tom Baldwin. On Saturday, Bruce Del won at Riverside and Bill Park at Riverhead while rain prevailed at Waterford.

Ten years ago in 1996, Riverside Park hosted the Featherlite Modified Tour on Wednesday. Jerry Marquis, in the Art Barry No.21, took the win over Steve Park, Mike Ewanitsko and Rick Fuller. Waterford ran on Thursday because of a fireworks display was planned for New London on Saturday night. Mark LaJunesse took the win over Bob Potter and Scott Spaulding. Tom Fox, in the Al Gaudreau Late Model, won his seventh feature of the year. Stafford rained out on Friday and on Saturday; Mike Ewanitsko won the Richie Evans memorial 76 lapper at Riverhead over Chuck Steuer and Tom Baldwin. At Riverside, it was Reggie Ruggiero over Richard Savory. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Rusty Wallace took the win and at Oxford Plains, Larry Gelinas won the Oxford 250.

Five years ago in 2001 Thursday night match race between Steve Park and Michael Waltrip at Thompson drew 11,000 fans. In regular race action, Ted Christopher made it five in a row as he took the lead from Bert Marvin on lap 23 of the 30 lap SK-Modified feature. Marvin finished second with Kerry Malone, third. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series ran a 100 lap event at Loudon on Friday afternoon. Tony Hirschman passed Ted Christopher on lap 97 and held on to take the win. Christopher finished second but was moved back to last on the lead lap, 21st, when it was discovered that his crew put an illegal tire on the left front. Mike Stefanik was moved up into second. Rob Summers, Dan Avery and Chris Kopec rounded out the top five. Lloyd Agor was the Friday night winner at Stafford as Christopher, who flew in from Loudon, finished second. John Sandberg had taken the checker as the leader but was disqualified as he didn't make weight. Dennis Gada got his sixth feature at Waterford on Saturday night. Tom Fox finished second. At Riverhead, Howie Brode went pole to pole, holding off Ken Heagy for the win. In Winston Cup action at Loudon, Dale Jarrett took the win with Jeff Gordon, second. On a sad note, it was announced that long time Modified Racing supporter Sonny Richards had passed away.

Last year, 2005, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series traveled to the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH on Friday. Forty Modifieds were on hand for time trials which were supposed to be held on Thursday afternoon. Heavy rain and high winds put an end to that. High winds that topped out near 60 MPH overturned protective tents that competitors had been using to shield themselves and their equipment from the heat of the Sun. Electricity was also knocked out. When it became apparent that time trials would not be held NASCAR made the decision to base the starting lineup on the latest point standings.

Based on the point standings going into the event Ted Christopher was placed on the pole with Chuck Hossfeld, outside. Christopher led twice, the first 26 laps and more importantly the last four as he made it three wins in a row as he beat Tony Hirschman to the finish line by a bumper. With 10 laps to go in the 100 lapper Eric Beers was leading the field under caution. Doug Coby was running second with Christopher, Hirschman and Steve Whitt following. When the green came out on lap 91 Coby took the lead. Beers slipped to fourth while Christopher and Hirschman closed in on the leader. On lap 97 Christopher made his bid as he passed Coby. Coby also gave way to Hirschman who closed in on Christopherís bumper. Beers ended up third with Steve Whitt rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Rick Fuller, Chuck Hossfeld, Jerry Marquis, Mike Christopher and Nevin George. Twenty-five of the original 40 starters were running on the lead lap at the finish. Later in the day Christopher ran in the Busch North Series event which he didnít finish. Mike Stefanik took that win.

Kerry Malone made a miraculous recovery from a devastating wreck on the third of thirty laps in the Sunoco SK type Modified feature at the Thompson Speedway last Wednesday night. Malone got caught up in a wreck during a restart. His car sustained a lot of damage including a destroyed oil cooler, a broken tie rod and a pulverized rear spoiler. Because of the fact that it took a lot of time to remove the wrecked car of Richard Savory, Maloneís crew was able to remove the damaged oil cooler and replace it with a jumper hose plus replace the tie rod. Malone restarted in the rear of the field without losing a lap and clawed his way through the field to take the lead from Todd Ceravolo on lap 26. Ceravolo had inherited the lead after leaders Tom Cravenho and Bert Marvin tangled and spun on lap 24. Ceravolo finished second and was followed by Jeff Malave. Cravenho and Marvin recovered to finish fourth and fifth. Other winners at Thompson included Norm Wrenn in the Pro Stocks, Roger Larsen JR in the Mini Stocks, Charles Bailey III in the Late Models and Larry Barnett in the limited Sportsman.
 
The Stafford Speedway also ran on Wednesday night as they featured the NEMA Midgets and the ISMA Supers along with Pro Fours. Special guests included Erin Crocker, Dave Blaney, Carl Edwards and Ken Schrader along with Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice and Indy veteran Al Unser Sr. Despite the fact that Stafford and Thompson are less than 60 miles apart both tracks drew decent crowds for their mid-week events.

At Stafford on Friday night Frank Ruocco won the 40 lap SK Modified feature over Jeff Malave and Lloyd Agor. Ted Christopher made his grand entrance from Loudon in a helicopter and finished fourth. Todd Owen rounded out the top five. Among those in the field was Chris Jones who up until last Friday had been on indefinite suspension. Evidently the Stafford management has relented and forgiven Jones of all his prior sins. It has also been rumored that Bo Gunning will be back at Stafford for this Friday nightís 100 lapper. Other Friday night winners at Stafford were Tom Butler in the Late Models, Michael Bennett in the Limited Late Models and Robert Dow in the DARE Stocks.

The Waterford Speedbowl had one of its earliest nights of the season as the entire Saturday night program was completed by 9:30pm. Second generation SK Modified driver Chris Pasteryak ended a dry spell that went back to July of 2003 as he took his second career victory at the shoreline oval. Pasteryak took the lead from Ronnie Silk with 13 of the scheduled 35 laps to go. Rob Summers finished third with Frank Mucciacciaro and Dennis Gada rounding out the top five. Other Saturday night winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. in the Late Models, Ken Cassidy Jr. in the Mini Stocks, Chris Correll in the All Star Trucks and John Puglisi in the Sportsman.

Martin Truex held off a late surge by Carl Edwards to take a green-white-checkered flag in Saturday's NASCAR Busch Series New England 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway for his circuit-high fifth victory of the season. Tony Stewart led 232 of 300 laps and beat the Ford of Kurt Busch by 0.851 seconds in the New England 300 at Loudon.

Kentucky Speedway owners filed suit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., claiming NASCAR violated federal antitrust laws and illegally restricted the award of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races. Kentucky Speedway, in Sparta, Ky., also said NASCAR illegally awarded NASCAR Nextel Cup Series races to the International Speedway Corp. owned tracks. Kentucky Speedway also alleged antitrust violations relating to various restraints of trade involving the NASCAR Busch Series races and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races. The lawsuit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky in Covington. The International Speedway Corporation which is controlled by the same family that owns and controls NASCAR recently announced that they had chosen a spot outside the greater Seattle, Washington area to build a $250 million NASCAR racetrack.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail _ HYPERLINK mailto: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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