Friday July 13, 2007

By Phil Smith                                                                                                                

Forty years ago in 1967, Bobby Allison recorded his first ever Winston Cup (then called Grandnational) win as he won a northern tour event at Oxford Plains on a Tuesday night. . Richard Petty finished second. The All Star League visited Middletown, N Y on Wednesday where Frankie Schenieder took the win over Pete Corey. The Winston Cup Northern Tour headed for Fonda, NY for a Thursday night show where Richard Petty beat out Bobby Allison. In Friday night action at Stafford, Bugsy Stevens was the top banana as he outran Smokey Boutwell for the win. Dick Watson, Leo Cleary and Gene Bergin rounded out the top five. Ernie Gahan took the Friday night 30 lapper at the Albany Saratoga Speedway. Robbie Kotary finished second and was followed by Kenny Shoemaker, Dick Nephew and Guy Chartrand. The NASCAR Winston Cup (GN) traveled to Islip on Saturday night for a 500 lap contest on the tight 1/5 mile oval. Richard Petty won by three laps over James Hylton

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, the Seekonk regulars went on strike and track owner D. Anthony Venditti wasted little time as he secured a NASCAR sanction for Friday night. The Seekonk strikers went to Thompson where they formed the World Racing Association. At Seekonk, Freddie Schulz took the opening night feature over Ernie Gahan, Bobby Sprague, Lou Austin, Brian Ross and George Summers. At Malta, Dave Lape took the win over Jerry Cook, Bernie Miller, Lou Lazzaro and Maynard Forette. Stafford ran their rained out 150 on Saturday night with Ronnie Bouchard taking the win over Bugsy Stevens and Brian Ross. At Fonda, Jack Johnson won out over Lou Lazzaro, Kenny Shoemaker and Harry Peek. Charlie Jarzombek won at Islip and in Sunday night action at Utica-Rome, rain prevailed. Stafford ran a mid-week open event on Wednesday with Eddie Flemke taking the win over Ron Bouchard.

Thirty years ago in 1977, the Star Speedway hosted an open competition modified event on Wednesday. Ronnie Bouchard took the win over Bugsy Stevens and Dave Thomas. On the same night, New Egypt ran a 100 lap Race of Champions qualifier which was won by Wayne Anderson. Geoff Bodine finished second with Maynard Troyer, third. Friday night at Stafford saw Fred DeSarro return to victory lane. Geoff Bodine finished second with John Rosati, third. Georgie Summers turned the tables on Bugsy Stevens at Seekonk on Saturday night as he put the Frank Fedderici 77 in victory lane. At Waterford it was Glynn Shafer in the Ron Yuhas No.6 taking the top spot over Rick Donnelly and Moose Hewitt and at Westboro, it was the Shrewsbury Flash, Mario "Fats" Caruso. Geoff Bodine finished his weekend with wins at Riverside and Thompson.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, Greg Sacks returned to top form as he won the Friday night event at Stafford over Kenny Bouchard, Bugsy Stevens and Corky Cookman. Double features were on tap at Waterford on Saturday night. Mark Lajunesse won an 82 lapper over Glynn Shafer and Moose Hewitt and in the regular 35 lapper, Bob Potter added to his win total. Marty Radwick beat out Ronnie Bouchard at Riverside and at Thompson on Sunday, George Summers put the Art Barry No.21 in victory lane. Other weekend winners were Richie Evans at New Egypt, Jerry Cook at Spencer and Rick Donnelly at Seekonk.

Twenty years ago in 1987, the Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Riverhead for a Wednesday night event. Mike Ewanitsko took the win over Wayne Anderson, Bob Park and Jamie Tomaino. Wayne Dion was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Racing at Waterford on Saturday night was fogged out but not at Riverside Park where Bruce Del took the win. Tony Hirschman beat out George Kent at Shangri-La and at Riverhead, Tom McCann and Tom Baldwin sat in victory lane while Mark Tooker won his fourth in a row in the Blunderbust division. Jamie Aube walked away with $31,100 after winning the Oxford 250 over Dave Dion and at Thompson on Sunday night, Kerry Malone took the top spot over Richie Gallup and Bo Gunning.

Fifteen years ago in 1992, Mike Paquette was the Friday night winner at Stafford. At Monadnock it was Jerry Marquis in the Bobby Judkins 2x over Reggie Ruggiero. Waterford staged a 40 lapper on Saturday which saw Jerry Pearl out run Harry Rice for the win. Ricky Young finished third. Lenny Fischer took the win at Riverhead while Dan Avery took top honors at Riverside. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Loudon for a 75 lapper. Reggie Ruggiero, in the Ed Cloce No.69 took the win which had a surprise crash filled ending. With three laps to go, Jan Leaty, running second, wrecked and collected Ed Flemke Jr, Charlie Pasteryak, Satch Worley, Jeff Fuller and Steve Park. Fuller and Park restarted and finished second and third, driving around on flat tires. Tom Bolles finished fourth with Ricky Fuller, in the Mario Fiore No.44, fifth.

Ten years ago in 1997, because it was Winston Cup weekend in Loudon, Stafford and Waterford adjusted their schedules. Stafford ran a 50 lapper on Tuesday night, which saw Bo Gunning take the win over Ed Flemke Jr, Jim Broderick, Mike Christopher and Bob Potter. At Waterford on Friday night, Jim Broderick took the win over Steve Chowanski, Mike Gada and Eric Berndt. Things got real nasty at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Reggie Ruggiero was leading the 50 lap event when, during a caution, he was rammed by Ted Riggott. Ruggiero returned the favor. Officials wanted to put both competitors to the rear and after a heated argument, both were parked for the night. Richie Gallup ended up taking the win over Renee Dupuis, Ed Speirs and Mike Ewanitsko. At Riverhead, Dave Kruk got his first win. At Loudon, the Featherlite Modified Touring Series went 57 laps with Tim Connolly taking the win in the Mystic Missile. Connolly took the lead from Reggie Ruggerio on lap 25. Rick Fuller finished second and was followed by Tom Cravenho, Jan Leaty, Tony Hirschman and Mike Stefanik. Jerry Marquis was the Busch North Series winner as he beat out Ricky Craven and Bob Dragon. Jeff Burton won the Winston Cup event as 88,000 spectators looked on. Dale Earnhardt Sr. finished second with Rusty Wallace, third. Ernie Irvan was made aware of the fact that he was out of the Robert Yates No.28 at season's end.

Five years ago in 2002, Doug Coby was the Friday night SK-Modified winner at Stafford. Bo Gunning finished second and was followed by Lloyd Agor and Ted Christopher. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series traveled to the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine for a 150-lap event. The event, which carried a purse of $67,775, drew 32 Modifieds. David Berghman, son of three time Modified champion Carl Bugs Stevens, scored his first ever Modified Tour win. Berghman started ninth and took the lead on lap 115. Fred Vordermeir finished second with Todd Szegedy, Ricky Fuller and Nevin George rounding out the top five. Ted Christopher, one of the pre-race favorites, was headed for the front when he rubbed wheels with Nevin George and suffered a flat tire, which cost him three laps. The Waterford Speedbowl was quiet on Saturday night as the races were cancelled because of a fireworks display in New London, Ct. Thompson, which normally runs on Thursday night, ran on Saturday night with the Busch North Series. Brad Leighton won the 150-lap event. In Sunoco-SK Modified competition Ron Yuhas JR survived 10 cautions to take the win. Yuhas took the lead from Kenny Bouchard with one lap to go. A big wreck on lap 17 collected 10 cars including those of Eric Berndt, Bo Gunning, and Eric Berndt. Chris Young took his third victory at Riverhead and Harry Reed beat out Dave Michael at Wall Township. In other weekend action, George Kent won the Race of Champions Tour event at Cayuga and Scott Robinson won the 29th Oxford 250, which paid $36,900 to win. Kevin Harvick won the Winston Cup event at the Chicagoland Speedway. Johnny Sauter won the companion Busch Racing Series event.

Last year, 2006, A few years ago Terry Eames called a press conference at the Groton Inn and Suites. Members of the media and NASCAR Officials were in attendance. He announced that he was taking control of the Waterford Speedbowl. Many who knew him in the local business community felt that he would drain the business dry, then drop it like a hot potato. He proclaimed, “I’m in it for the long haul, I’m not going anywhere”. How quick we forget! It seems that “Long Haul Eames” had hit a bump in the road and had landed face down in a ditch. In addition to owing $1.6 million, hundreds of thousands of dollars were owed to newspapers, lumberyards, police, sanitation companies and who knows whom else. All the talk of the demise of the shoreline oval had had a profound effect on the competitors. Fields of cars were down to the point where consolation events were no longer needed. No one was building cars because of the uncertainty of the future of the track .

Eames announced on Monday, July 10, 2006 that he had reached an agreement with a developer to sell a portion of the track’s excess property in an effort to alleviate financial issues that have plagued the track. According to lawyers for the Washington Mutual Bank, which was owed $1.6 million, nothing was signed. Speedbowl owner Terry Eames may have a verbal agreement but nothing was cast in stone. Speaking of speedways, the Boston Globe reported that 79-year-old Bob Bahre, owner of the New Hampshire International Speedway stated that his speedway is definitely not for sale. He did allude to the fact that if and when he dies, his son Gary will sell the track before he is in the ground!

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the New Hampshire International Speedway forty-five cars strong. Practice and qualifying were held on Thursday despite rain that blanketed the area and flooded the tunnel leading into the track. The Modifieds got on the track shortly after noon. Zach Sylvester, who was the 45th car to time trial took the pole for the 100 mile event with a speed of 125.595 mph. Second fastest and taking the outside pole was Jimmy Blewett. Danny Sammonds who had a problem during the practice session and Tom Cloce who crashed and caught fire did not take time. Reggie Ruggiero, Tony Hirschman and Eric Beers rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Doug Coby in the Mansfield, CT based entry of Curt Chase, Ted Christopher, Donny Lia and Kevin Goodale.

In what should have been the most exciting race of the weekend that had 28 lead changes among 9 drivers the 100 lap Whelen Modified Tour Series turned out to be a display of confusion and indecision by NASCAR scoring. James Civali was originally declared the winner. Forty five minutes later the win was given to John Blewett III. Upon completion of the event Blewett exited the speedway to catch a plane that would take him to the Wall Township Speedway located on the New Jersey shore. Blewett ended up winning the Garden State Classic at the New Jersey oval. While Civali sat in victory lane NASCAR reviewed some pictures and decided that Blewett did in fact have the lead when the final caution of the event was waved on the final lap. Civali was leading at the conclusion of the last green flag lap, lap 99. NASCAR rules dictate that who ever is leading when the caution comes out is the race leader. A picture taken at the time of the final caution clearly showed Blewett in the lead. Blewett was well on his way to New Jersey when he got the news. Civali ended up settling for the second spot. Almost half the event was run under caution. There were seven caution periods for 47 laps.

With an estimated 44,000 fans on hand the Modifieds provided some great racing when the green flag was out. Reggie Ruggerio ended up third with Ed Flemke and Mike Stefanik rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Todd Szegedy, Ted Christopher, Jerry Marquis, Tony Stewart and Ronnie Silk. Stewart had some unkind words for Jerry Marquis during a post race encounter on pit road. Stewart, who has been arrogant at times has the attitude that anybody in his way should just move over and let him by. With the money lap in sight, Marquis wasn’t about to roll over for Tony Stewart or anyone else. It was the 9th career win for Blewett and his third at NHIS. He led a total of 17 laps in the Blewett Motorsports Chevrolet.

Twenty-nine of the original 42 starters were running at the finish. Twenty-six of them were on the lead lap. Outside pole sitter and early leader Jimmy Blewett was the first out after a tangle with Ken Barry, which resulted in his Eddie Partridge, owned mount getting consumed in a ball of fire. Blewett emerged unhurt but his car was severely trashed. Nevin George crashed on lap 23. Nextel Cup star Carl Edwards retired on lap 43 with severe front-end damage after a confrontation with the retaining wall. Donny Lia was hoping for a good showing after qualifying ninth but ended up 38th after losing an engine. Doug Coby, in the Mansfield, CT based No.77 of Curt Chase retired from the event after a hard hit on lap 66. He finished 33rd.

The Thompson Speedway fell victim to severe weather and was forced to postpone Wednesday’s Nextel Fan Appreciation Night for 24 hours. The Pro All Star Series (PASS) made their annual visit to Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night. Their regularly star-studded cast was made brighter with Kenny Wallace and Jimmy Spencer joining the field. The crowd was treated to commentating by John Roberts of SPEED TV. Cassius Clark of Farmington, ME was dialed in to take the PASS victory on Nextel Fan Appreciation Night presented by Charter Communications. In addition, five divisions of NASCAR Weekly Racing Series were also part of the festivities. Claiming victories were Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco Modifieds, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, and Shelly Perry in the Mini Stocks. The Limited Sportsman and TIS Modifieds found new winners in victory lane with Larry Barnett of Ledyard, CT and Kurt Vigeant of Oxford, MA capturing victories respectively.

The 75-lapper for the Pro All Star Series was a day later then originally planned but the event was worth the wait. Cassius Clark continued his domination of the Touring Series with his fourth victory. Johnny Clark took the lead in the opening laps before relinquishing the lead to Wallace. Ben Rowe then took his turn at the head of the field taking over the point from Wallace on lap 25. C. Clark made his way into the runner-up spot before hunting down Wallace. Rowe and C. Clark waged a tremendous battle for the lead at the halfway marker. Rowe had the spot but was dogged lap after lap by C. Clark while Wallace and Spencer ran third and fourth. While battling for the lead Rowe and C. Clark made contact. Rowe cut down a tire ending with impact in the wall. Once out front, Clark set sail. In the late stages of the event, Spencer took the runner-up spot from Wallace. The dominating performance was made even special by beating the likes of Wallace and Spencer. J. Clark and Travis Benjamin rounded out the top five.

Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT turned in a dominating performance to win his second Sunoco Modified feature event of the 2006 season at Thompson. Buddy Charette, who continues to get stronger week after week, led the field to the green over Joe Lemay and Pitkat. Action was halted on lap two when the caution flew when point leader Jeff Malave and Keith Rocco spun on the backstretch. On the restart, Lemay was able to get alongside Charette before the second caution flew almost immediately when Tommy Cravenho spun in turn two while running in fifth. Henry Stampfl had nowhere to go making hard contact with Cravenho’s Falmouth Ready Mix #31. Under the caution, Lemay brought his race car down pit road with a flat right rear tire. Charette relinquished his lead to Pitkat on the lap two restart. One lap later, Marvin moved into second. By lap 10, the front two had checked out on the rest of the field. Pitkat held a half straightway lead on Marvin, who in turn had half straight on Charette. By lap four, Jimmy Blewett, who had started scratch on the field after arriving at Thompson late after qualifying for the Whelen Modified Tour event at NHIS, had moved into sixth. Malave had worked his way back up to the seventh position by lap seven. On lap 12, Blewett caught Ceravolo. With the duo of Pitkat and Marvin out front, the likes of Charette, Ricky Shawn, Ceravolo and Blewett ran in a tight pack. Ceravolo had the crowd on their feet on lap 14 when went around Shawn in turn two and under Charette between turns three and four. A caution on lap 19 bunched up the field for a restart. Back under green Pitkat led the freight train that included Marvin, Ceravolo, Charette, Blewett, Shawn, Malave, and Rocco. The first car to step out of line was Blewett. He made the pass stick to take away the fourth position from Charette. Over the closing laps, Pitkat stretched his lead, leaving Marvin and Ceravolo to fight for second. Ceravolo closed but could not make any serious challenge to Marvin. Pitkat soared to the victory over Marvin, Ceravolo, Blewett and Charette. Ricky Shawn held on for sixth over Malave, Rocco, Lemay, and Dan LaJeunesse.

The Stafford Motor Speedway ran on Tuesday night, July 11th. On tap was the 3rd annual CARQUEST Extreme Wednesday program at Stafford Motor Speedway. 1989 Nextel Cup Champion Rusty Wallace bested an all-star field of drivers to win the 15-lap CARQUEST Clash, Chris Perley continued his dominant season in the ISMA Supermodified division by winning the 50-lap feature, Bobby Santos, III was the winner of the 25-lap NEMA Midget feature, and Jeff Zuidema was the winner of the 20-lap Pro-4 Modified feature event.

Stafford’s week continued on Friday night when Bo Gunning ended a long dry spell as he recorded his 45th career win. Gunning, who started on the outside pole, jumped out to an early lead and in the closing stages held off Frank Ruocco to take the win in the SK Modified 40 lapper. Willie Hardie finished third followed by Zach Sylvester and Jeff Malave. Woody Pitkat, who finished sixth in the SK event, won the 30 lap Late Model event, his fourth of the year.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, some new sticky stuff was applied to the asphalt in order to make the cars handle better and hopefully eliminate many of the wrecks that have plagued the shoreline oval this year. They also bounced Jay Stewart for the rest of the year. The sticky stuff did its job and no one missed Stewart. The entire six feature race program was run in two hours and 10 minutes.

Bruce Thomas Jr. and Tim Jordan were the twin Late Model winners while Dennis Gada recorded his 48th career victory in the SK Modifieds. Dexter Dorr took his eighth victory in the Sportsman division and Phil Evans beat out Dave Silvia for top honors in the Mini Stocks. Mark Bakaj was the 20-lap Legends feature winner.

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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