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Friday June 20, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

 
Forty five years ago in 1963 at the Utica-Rome Speedway Rene Charland picked up his fourth victory of the year at the Vernon, New York oval. Cam Gagliardi finished second with Ken Meahl, third.

Forty years ago in 1968, Kenny Shoemaker went two for two as he won on the asphalt at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday night and on the dirt at Fonda on Saturday night. Bernie Miller finished second at Albany and was followed by Richie Evans, Lou Lazzaro and Dave Lape. At Fonda, Ray Sitterly finished second with Dave Lape, third. In Friday night action at Stafford Mr. Leo Cleary put the Joe Brady 41 in victory lane. Bill Slater finished second with Bugsy Stevens, Tommy Borget and Ralph “Hop” Harrington rounding out the top five. Saturday night at Norwood saw Roland LaPierre Sr. take the win. At Thompson on Sunday, Steady Eddie Flemke in the Bob Judkins 2x took the win and in Sunday night action at Utica-Rome Dave Kotary took the win over Bill Henry, Ken Shoemaker, Dave Gaul and Dick Clark.

Thirty five years ago in 1973, twin features were run at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. Richie Evans won the opener and was followed by Bob Santos, Jerry Cook and Lou Lazzaro. Bugsy Stevens won the nightcap with Denis Giroux and Cook following. At Stafford on Saturday night, Eddie Fleece took the win with Ronnie Bouchard, second and Stevens, third. Special events at Islip and at Tioga fell victim to rain .Lee Raceway ran a double point event on Sunday. The Bugman took the victory with Dan MacNamara, second and Ernie Gahan, third.Utica-Rome closed out the weekend with twin events, which were won by Richie Evans, and Jerry Cook.

Thirty years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine went three for three on the weekend including his seventh in a row at Stafford. Bodine, in the Big Red No.1, also won events at Riverside Park and at Utica-Rome. At Waterford, Moose Hewitt beat out Dick Dunn and Mike Beebe for the win and at Seekonk, George Summers was the best of the best with Bugsy Stevens second and Corky Cookman, third. Westboro saw John Falconi over Joe Howard. Islip ran a 100 lap Race of Champions qualifier, which was won by Greg Sacks. Charlie Jarzombek finished second with Fred Harbach, third. Jarzombek also played second fiddle at Riverhead where he finished second to Wayne Anderson. At Thompson on Sunday, Ronnie Bouchard won out over Bugsy Stevens and Ray Miller.

Twenty five years ago in 1983, the week started on Tuesday at Stafford where a 50 lapper was run with Bugsy Stevens taking the win over Jamie Tomaino, Kenny Bouchard and Bob Polverari. New Egypt ran on Wednesday where Bob Park took the checker over John Blewett jr. and Tony Siscone. Back at Stafford on Friday, Kenny Bouchard won out over Bobby Eve, Corky Coachman and George Summers. Bo Gunning was the SK modified winner. Saturday at Waterford, John Hoffman took the win over Larry Lanphear and Ted Christopher. At Seekonk, Richie Evans made a surprise visit and took all the marbles. Vinnie Annarummo finished second followed by Bugsy Stevens and George Murray. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Terry Labonte was the pole sitter. Cale Yarborough took the win. Down on Long Island, George Brunnhoelzl won at Islip with Fred Harbach, second. At Riverhead, Alan Harbach was the winner with Don Howe, second.

Twenty years ago, in 1988, Stafford rained out on Friday but it stayed clear up north as Monadnock got in its program with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win. Jerry Marquis took the Saturday night win at Riverside Park. Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggerio followed. At Waterford, John Jensen took the win. Dickie Doo Ceravolo finished second with Ricky Young and Bert Marvin following. Tony Hirschman got his sixth at Tioga and at Thompson, Tom Tagg took the win. Mike Christopher finished second. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Geoff Bodine took the win but the racing world was stunned when Bobby Allison was critically injured. Allison eventually recovered but his racing career was over. It was only the beginning of tragedy for the Allison family as both Davey and Clifford would lose their lives in future years.

Fifteen years ago, in 1993, Ted and Mike Christopher finished one-two at Stafford on Friday night. The Busch Grandnational North division was also at Stafford. Mike McLaughlin took the win with Jamie Aube, second. Saturday night at Waterford, John Jensen took the checker but was disqualified after a tech inspection revealed an illegal crankshaft. Jerry Pearl, who finished second, was awarded the win. Dan Avery won at Riverside and Eddie Brunnhoelzl, at Riverhead. John Sneade won at Thompson on Sunday. Mike and Ted Christopher finished second and third but were disqualified because of illegal cylinder heads. Kerry Malone was moved from fourth to second.

Ten years ago, in 1998, rain washed out the entire program that had been scheduled at Stafford. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour visited the Riverhead Raceway on Saturday night. Mike Ewanitsko was the fastest qualifier and after starting sixth took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 56 and went on to score the win. Stefanik finished second and was followed by Jan Leaty, Ed Flemke Jr. and Charlie Pasteryak. Rain washed out action at Riverside Park and at Thompson on Sunday; Ted Christopher took the win over Frankie Cardile. The big news of the week was the announcement that NEXTEL, a provider of wireless communications in the United States, would become the title sponsor of what was called the Winston Cup division of NASCAR. NEXTEL is expected spend between $70 – 90 million a year over the next ten years. Once rumors broke early in the week, NEXTEL stock took off. Starting the week at 14.90, NEXTEL closed out the week at 17.78. RJ Reynolds/Winston finished out the year as the sponsor of NASCAR’s elite division. During the 2002 season, RJR Winston got $160 million worth of media exposure. RJ Reynolds has been involved with NASCAR racing for 33 years. In a somewhat related matter, NASCAR’s versions of Ken and Barbie, (Brooke and Jeff Gordon) have reached a divorce settlement that gives Brooke Gordon at least $15 million. She has waived alimony and will get the proceeds from the sale of two pieces of real estate including the couple’s ocean front home in Highland Beach, Florida. Round Two of Thursday night Thunder at Thompson beat the weather on Thursday night. Jeff Malave went from pole to pole to win his second Sunoco-SK Modified feature of the year at the 5/8-mile oval. Bert Marvin finished second with Eric Berndt, third. Heavy drama unfolded on a lap three re-start. With Malave leading and Bob Drown running second, heavy hitters Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning were in hot pursuit. As Christopher was about to make a move, Drown moved up to protect his spot. Christopher momentarily lifted and was hit accidentally by Gunning. Christopher and Gunning spun at high speed on to the infield grass and struck a concrete barrier protecting a light pole. The impact saw Christopher’s car go up in the air and come down on its roof. With his fuel pump sheared off and gas leaking out Christopher became trapped and could not unbuckle himself to exit the car. Gunning was able to exit his car and went to Christopher’s aid and pulling him out of the car, as flames were about to erupt into an inferno. In the past there had been a lot of bad history between the two. Although not what you would consider friends, Gunning put his feelings aside and went to the aide of a fellow competitor. Had it not been for Gunning’s quick actions, the former NASCAR Weekly Racing Champion could have suffered serious burns or even worse. Chuck Docherty was the Pro Stock winner and Woody Pitkat repeated in the Late Models. Norm Ashline was the Limited Sportsman winner and Eric Bourgeois was the Mini Stock winner. Speedway owner and promoter Don Hoenig is up and about after a bad accident the previous week. Hoenig was T-Boned in the driver’s side door while on his way to secure Fireworks permits for the track.

The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at the Seekonk Speedway on Saturday. Rain forced postponement. NASCAR and the Seekonk management were working on a new date. For the fifth week in a row rain-washed out racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. During the 1978 season, when Dick Williams operated the track it rained seven Saturdays in a row. Williams finally ran an event on Wednesday, just to get a race in. Waterford is not alone, Seekonk in Massachusetts lost four out of six events, Stafford lost three out of 10 and Riverhead, on Long Island, lost five out of nine.Todd Szegedy was leading John Blewett III by 45 points in the chase for the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series championship. Chuck Hossfeld sat in third. Rounding out the top five were Jerry Marquis and Ted Christopher. At the Stafford Speedway on Friday night; Bo Gunning passed Jeff Baral on lap 43 of the scheduled 50 lap SK-Modified feature and went on to secure his first win of the season. Gunning was the defending modified track champion. Ron Silk, Kerry Malone and Frank Ruocco rounded out the top five. Ted Christopher, still very sore from his accident at Thompson, brought out a back-up car and finished 11th. Woody Pitkat was the late model winner. The Busch North Series was the main attraction at Stafford on Friday night Tom Carey took the win over Martin Truex and Kelly Moore. Carey made the pass for the lead and the eventual win on lap 137 of the 150-lap event. In Winston Cup action at Sonoma, California, Boris Said took the pole and it was Robbie Gordon took the win.

Five years ago in 2002, Thompson pulled the plug on its Thursday night races after 1-1/2 inches of rain fell on the speedway. Ted Christopher recorded his 60th and 61st career wins at Stafford as he took the Friday night SK Modified Twin Bill features. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series traveled to Riverhead for a 200 lapper. Ted Christopher survived to take the win over Jerry Marquis, John Blewett III, Chuck Hossfeld and David Berghman. It was a wild night to say the least. JR Bertuccio was running second to Rick Fuller when a bold move saw Bertuccio hit Fuller and took him out. Bertuccio also backed up over Jeff Fuller. NASCAR officials parked the Long Island hot shoe and had him suspended for two weeks with a fine of $1,000. The suspension effectively cost Bertuccio a shot at the NASCAR Regional and National Championship titles. At Waterford, Dennis Gada won out over Ron Yuhas Jr. and at Wall Township, Mike Carpenter took the win. Waterford’s night didn’t go without incident as officials parked John Brouwer Jr. after they felt that he intentionally backed over Jeff Pearl. Brouwer left the Speedbowl in a very hot mood and swore he would never return. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Dale Jarrett took the win after Ricky Rudd suffered a flat tire with four laps to go. Mark Martin finished second. In other weekend action, Mike Johnson won the Busch North Series event at Beech Ridge over Matt Kobyluck, Jack Sprague won his first ever Busch Series event at Nashville, Ken Tremont scored his 99th career win at Lebanon Valley and dirt tracker Jimmy Horton got his 100th win at Bridgeport, Pa.

Last year, 2006, The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour got back into action on Thursday night at the Thompson Speedway with the Charter Cable, Internet, Telephone 150. This was the second of five Whelen Modified tour events. There were 38 Modifieds on hand to qualify for the 35 starting spots. Second-generation driver Richard Savory, driving the Art Barry No. 21 was the Busch Pole sitter. Second fastest was Don Lia in the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile. The re-draw for starting spots saw Ryan Preece picking the pole position with James Civali picking the outside pole. Lia ended up winning the rain-shortened event after taking the lead on lap 34. Rain began to fall as the field completed lap 80 of the 150-lap distance. The field circled the 5/8-mile oval under caution for 20 more laps when the event was finally called. Among those who were hoping to restart the event was Ted Christopher who felt that he had something for the leader. Christopher, who was scheduled to start ninth, started scratch after suffering a flat tire just prior to the event. Christopher drove a determined race and was in the process of putting himself into position to challenge the leader when the skies opened up. Christopher was forced to settle for the runner-up spot in the final rundown. Bobby Santos III, driving the Boehler family entry finished third in his best effort to date. Former champions Tony Hirschman and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Pole sitter Civali and Eddie Flemke led the early going as they swapped the lead numerous times in a brilliant exhibition of high speed driving. Civali ended up 7th and Flemke, 19th.

Woody Pitkat’s debut in the series started with a bang as he hit the wall in final practice. The Roger Hill crew was able to make repairs and Pitkat was afforded a starting spot because of an owner’s provisional. In spite of all his pre-race trouble Pitkat drove to a solid 10th place finish.

Among those on hand to take in the event and mingle with old friends were NEAR Hall of Fame driving legends Leo Cleary, Billy Harman, Ronnie Bouchard and George Summers.
 
The True Value Modified Series continued to attract competitors from the Whelen Modified Tour Series including former series champion Mike Stefanik. The True Value Series ran a 100 lap event at the ¼ mile Seekonk Speedway on Saturday night. Taking the win was local favorite Vinnie Annarummo. Louie Mechalides started 24th on the field and finished second. Stefanik got as high as seventh until spinning out shortly after the halfway mark. Also in the field but finishing out of the top ten was Ted Christopher.

In regular Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Jimmy “Showtime” Blewett jumped out at the start of the 30 lap Sunoco Modified 30 lapper and proceeded to go pole to pole to win the event. Tom Cravenho finished second with Keith Rocco, third. Kerry Malone and John Blewett rounded out the top five. In other Whelen All-American Series competition George Bessette was victorious in the Pro Stock division while Larry Barnett took top honors in the Limited Sportsman division. It was a night for repeats as three of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions featured back-to-back winners. Marc Jenison won the the Late Models, Mike Romano, the Mini Stocks and Tim Sullivan, TIS Modifieds.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Stafford Motor Speedway, rain prevailed.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl defending SK Modified champion Dennis Gada used the outside groove to pass early leader Jay Miller with four laps remaining in capturing his second feature race of the season. The event marked the 52nd SK Modified victory of the 6-time champions career. Zach Sylvester, driving a car owned by Dick Ceravolo and Miller completed the top-three.

Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Dwayne Dorr (Sportsman), Danny Field (Mini Stock), Randy Cabral (Northeastern Midget Association).

Other weekend winners were Chris Young at Riverhead, after it was determined that apparent winner Ken Heagy had altered his tires. Ken Woolley won the Sunoco Race of Champions Dart Asphalt Modified Tour race Saturday night at the Wall Township Speedway.

In Nextel Cup racing Juan Pablo Montoya used his well-honed road-racing skill to save his tires, stretch his fuel to the limit, and win the Toyota/Save Mart 350 at the Infinion Raceway for his first NASCAR Nextel Cup victory. In Busch Series action at the Milwaukee Mile Denny Hamlin proved you don't necessarily have to be around for the green flag to take the checkered flag. And Aric Almirola sulked away from what will go down in the record books as his first career NASCAR Busch Series victory. After missing the start of the race because his helicopter couldn't find a place to land, Hamlin rallied to take the checkered flag in a wacky AT&T 250 at the Milwaukee Mile. But because Almirola, a substitute driver, started the race in Hamlin's car, NASCAR officially will credit Almirola with the victory, points and prize money. In Victory Lane, Hamlin said it wasn't his decision to kick Almirola out of the car. According to NASCAR officials, it was the first time a relief driver had won a race a Busch series race since Jack Ingram turned his car over to Harry Gant at Darlington Raceway on April 13, 1985.

 This week are several vintage racing photos of Hall of Famer Leo "The Lion" Cleary Courtesy of VintageModifieds.com

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. 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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