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Friday June 19, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969 rain washed out Friday night action at Stafford and at Albany-Saratoga. Saturday night at Norwood, Johnny Thompson in his Ford powered No.122 dusted the field. Bugsy Stevens finished second. At Fonda, Lou Lazzaro continued his hot streak to five in a row as he beat out Jerry Pennock and Ken Shoemaker for the win. Guy Chartrand made it three in a row for Ed Cloce's Hemi-Cuda at Airborne and at Islip, Island favorite Jim Hendrickson beat out Fred Harbach and Gary Winters. Bob Potter made it two in a row as he took the Modified win at the Waterford Speedbowl. Don Bunnell was the Daredevil winner. At Thompson on Sunday, Fred DeSarro held off Eddie Flemke and Bugsy Stevens for the win. Utica-Rome rained out.


Johnny Thompson was the winner in 1969 at Norwood Arena.
Photo by Bill & Dave Balser

Thirty five years ago in 1974, Ted Wesnoske mastered the tight Freeport oval as he won out over Charlie Jarzombek and Fred Harbach. At Utica-Rome, Richie Evans won a 100 lapper over Geoff Bodine and Jerry Cook. At Monadnock, Bob Santos won with John Rosati, second. Ron Bouchard was involved in an early crash and finished third, only to be disqualified because work was done on his car. Bouchard brushed the first turn wall which somehow moved the firewall enough to make the throttle hang up. Car owner Bob Johnson climbed in the car with Bouchard and kicked the firewall out enough so the throttle rod would clear. Bill Brown, who owned Monadnock at the time had a rule that stated that no work could be done on the cars once the race started and told Bouchard and Johnson after the race that they had run for nothing. Needless to say, Johnson became ballistic but to no avail as the disqualification stood. Saturday night at Stafford, Bouchard was on a tear and he blistered the field to take the win. Hop Harrington finished second and was followed by Bugs Stevens and Jerry Cook. Shangri-La and Lancaster rained out but at Islip, Charlie Siebert was the winner. Don Bunnell was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Ron Cote was the Grand American late model winner. The finish at Fulton on Sunday was the same as that at Utica on Friday as Evans made it two for two on the weekend.
 


Better known today as Keith Rocco's father, Ronnie Rocco took down the win at Plainville Stadium in 1979.

Thirty years ago in 1979, Richie Evans was the top gun in Friday night action at Stafford. Bob Vee finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Leo Cleary. At New Egypt it was Wayne Anderson over Greg Sacks and at Spencer, George Kent beat out Jerry Cook and Doug Hewitt. On Saturday, Jerry Cook got a rare win over Richie Evans at Riverside and at Seekonk, George Savory was the modified winner. Tom Baldwin beat his idol, Charlie Jarzombek to the checker at Islip. Other weekend winners were Roland LaPierre Jr. at Westboro, Mike Beebe at Waterford, Ronnie Rocco at Plainville, Maynard Troyer at Lancaster and Lou Lazzarro got his 97th career win at Fonda. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Buddy Baker ran flat out to beat Donnie Allison for the win.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, Bugsy Stevens, in the Mystic Missile, took the top spot at Stafford on Friday night. Jeff Fuller finished second with Charlie Jarzombeck, third. At Riverside it was Stan Greger taking the top spot and at Waterford a 100 lapper and a regular program were run. Bob Potter won the 100 lapper over Don Bunnell and Tom Fox. Fox, driving his family owned modified won the regular 30 lapper over Bunnell and Potter. Spencer Speedway ran on Friday and Sunday. Richie Evans won a 100 lapper on Friday night over George Kent and Doug Hewitt. Twin 75's were run on Sunday. Jim Spencer won the first event and finished second in the second event. He was later found to be running an illegal carburetor and was disqualified. Evans was awarded on win and Jan Leaty the other. Other weekend winners were Spencer at Shangri-La, Tom McCann at Riverhead, Don Howe at Islip, John Blewett Jr. at New Egypt and Punky Caron at Claremont. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Bill Elliott was both the pole sitter and the winner.

Twenty years ago in 1989, Teddy and Mikey Christopher finished one-two at Stafford on Friday night. At Thompson on Sunday it was Mikey followed by Teddy. Waterford rained out but not before Phil Rondeau would win another late model feature. Brian Schofield with a 340 ci powerplant won at Riverside over Tom Bolles while at Riverhead, it rained. At Shangri-La, Chris Amen beat out Jan Leaty and George Kent.

Fifteen years ago, in 1994, Mike Christopher took the Friday night win at Stafford over John Anderson and Bob Potter. At Waterford on Saturday, Jim Broderick went pole to pole and held off Jerry Pearl and Bob Potter for the win. Todd Ceravolo received a broken thumb after being involved in an early race accident. At Riverside, Steve Park recorded his second win and at Riverhead it was Don Howe recording his second win of the season. A dark cloud hung over Wall Stadium as starter Dave Innes was struck and killed at the Jersey shoreline track. The Modified Tour Series was at Thompson on Sunday for a 125-lap event. Rick Fuller in the Chase 77 pitted on lap 46 and took the lead from brother Jeff on lap 77 and went on to take the win. Jeff Fuller didn't pit and quickly faded to the point that he got lapped on lap 109. Reggie Ruggerio finished second and was followed by Jamie Tomaino and Wayne Anderson. Richie Gallup in the Ceravolo No.31 won the 30-lap SK event. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Rusty Wallace made it three in a row.

Ten years ago, in 1999, in one of the saddest days of racing in New England, officials of Premier Parks that owns Riverside Park Speedway informed competitors, fans and race officials that racing would come to an end at the historical speedway at the end of the 1999 season. At Stafford on Friday night, Mike Christopher took the win over Jerry Marquis and Todd Szegedy. At Waterford on Saturday night, Ted Christopher took the top spot over Bert Marvin and Jeff Pearl. In the late models, Phil Rondeau recorded his 100th late model victory. Rondeau also has two modified wins. Twin 150's for Busch North and Featherlite Modifieds. Tony Hirshman cleaned house with the all but unbeatable Cretty modified. Hirshman took the lead from John Blewett III on lap 112.Tim Connolly finished second and was followed by Mike Ewanitsko and Charlie Pasteryak. Tracy Gordon was the Busch North winner with Martin Truex and Brad Leighton rounding out the top three. In twin 35's at Riverside, Tom Jensen and Rick Miller were the winners and at Riverhead it was JR Bertuccio over Ed Brunnhoelzl Jr. Ted Christopher closed out the weekend with a win at Thompson on Sunday night. Shaun Buffinton finished second with Todd Ceravolo, third. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Bobby LaBonte took the win.

Five years ago in 2004, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series had a well-deserved week off. After seven events Eddie Flemke JR and the Roger Hill owned No.79 led the point standings. Flemke, who won the Modified Tour event at the Waterford Speedbowl on May 15 had six top five finishes and led Tony Hirschman by 27 points. Hirschman had two wins, Stafford Speedway on May 28 and Lake Erie Speedway on June 12, including five top-fives. Jerry Marquis who drove the legendary Ole Blu owned by Janice and Michael Boehler was the top money winner in the series with $27,240 in winnings. Marquis, who had two wins to his credit, the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 25 and the Riverhead 200 on June 5, was 49 points out of the lead. Had it not been for a wreck at Thompson, which placed him in the 29th finishing position, Marquis would have been close if not in front of the point standings. Ted Christopher who benefited from Marquis’ misfortune at Thompson, sat in fourth spot, 95 points down from the leader. Defending series champion Todd Szegedy who won at Nazareth on May 23 rounded out the top five. Szegedy, who was disqualified after he apparently won at Thompson on April 18, was 189 points out of the lead. Sixth through tenth were Rick Fuller, Jamie Tomaino, Chuck Hossfeld, John Blewett III and Tom Bolles. Even without the help of Television exposure, with exception of the events at Stafford, the division is the highest drawing of competitors in all of NASCAR. With the exception of the event at Lake Erie, which drew 33 cars, all Featherlite Modified Tour Series events had drawn between 40-50 cars.

The Busch North Series was at the Stafford Motor Speedway Friday night. Veteran Kelly Moore went non-stop without a tire change to record his 26th Series win. Moore jumped out from his outside pole starting spot and led all but one of the 150 laps run. Point leader Andy Santerre led lap 35 but Moore took it back as he was on a mission. Santerre ended up in second spot with Matt Kobyluck, third. Kobyluck also went non-stop. Mike Olsen and Dale Quarterly rounded out the top five. Local favorites Jerry Marquis and Mike Stefanik finished 12th and 13th Twenty-five cars were on hand.

Eric Berndt and Ted Christopher got lucky at Thompson on Thursday night. Berndt got lucky when Bo Gunning tangled with Kerry Malone on lap 24 of the 30-lap feature. Gunning and Malone went to the rear as the rain began to fall. Berndt, who was running third, inherited the lead and the eventual win as the rain intensified and the event was called official. Had they restarted Ted Christopher would not have finished, as his right rear tire was almost flat when the red and checkered flag was displayed. Todd Ceravolo, who had just got his motor back from the repair shop after breaking a camshaft, finished third. Harry Rheaume and Shawn Monahan rounded out the top five. Sean Caisse, who has had his problems qualifying for Featherlite Modified Tour Series events, finished sixth. The Thompson Late Models, Pro Stocks, Limited Sportsman and Mini Stocks will get to run their events at a later date. The speedway management announced that rain checks would be issued to those who held grandstand tickets. The rain checks are good for this week's event only.

Jim Civale became the second repeat winner in SK Modified action at Stafford Friday night. Civale took a lot of heat from Steve Chowanski over the final two laps of the 40-lap feature but managed to hold on for the win. Chowanski settled for second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Jeff Baral and Kerry Malone. Craig Collins was the Late Model winner and Dan King took the win in the Dare Stocks. Eddie Reed Jr. became the first repeat SK Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Dennis Cherette was the early leader until Dennis Gada put the bumper to him on lap 16 of the 35-lap feature. Gada, who stated that he made a mistake and accidentally hit Cherertte, was sent to the rear as officials felt he was rough riding. Ron Yuhas Jr. ended up second Ted Christopher, Ronnie Silk and Rob Janovic rounding out the top five. Roger Brown was the winner of the American-Canadian Tour 100 over second-generation driver Brent Dragon. Dragon is the son of NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Harmon “Beaver” Dragon. Jay Stuart was the Late Model winner and Bill Leonard was the Mini Stock winner.

Despite the fact that Gene Arganase was told by NASCAR that there were no Nextel Cup dates available he continually said he was confident that the Nextel Cup cars would come to his proposed domed speedway in Plainfield, Connecticut. Speaking of NASCAR, it had been let out that ABC/ESPN was targeting a takeover of the NBC/TNT half of the Television package, which would expire in 2006. ESPN laid the groundwork of how four-hour recasts were to be covered. It also looked like yellow flag finishes of Busch Series and Nextel Cup events may become a thing of the past in the not so distant future. The Nextel Cup division of NASCAR was at the Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. Jeff Gordon was the Busch Pole Sitter and Ryan Newnan was the winner. Kasey Kahne again finished second. Kyle Busch was the winner of the Busch Series event at Sparta, Kentucky on Saturday night.

Last year, 2008, the Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program went off as planned under sunny and warm skies. The Late Models took center stage with Marc Palmisano of Hadley, MA, taking a dominant win in the 50 lap extra-distance race for the division. It was a career night for some of the younger generation as teenagers Derek Ramstrom and Jay Sundeen scored their first career wins. Ramstrom of Worcester, MA, earned a dominating win in the Pro Stocks and Sundeen of Douglas, MA, was best in the Limited Sportsman division.

Keith Rocco of Wallingford scored a hard-fought victory in the Sunoco Modifieds and Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor rebounded with a TIS Modified victory. Scott Michalski of South Killingly took top honors in the Mini Stock main event.

Former divisional champion Palmisano was back in top form as he turned in a commanding performance to win the 50-lap Late Model main event. The strong field of competitors ran the distance with a single caution flag. Jeff Zuidema settled for second and was followed by Rick Gentes.

Rocco continued his hot streak in open-wheel competition in Connecticut short track racing with his first Sunoco Modified win at Thompson. It was Rocco’s third overall win on the 2008 season. Rocco had to work hard for the victory through a number of restarts and some stiff competition for the top spot. Bobby Grigas III led the opening lap before the caution flew for a single car incident. On the restart, Todd Ceravolo rocketed into the top spot. Rocco had worked his way into the second position before the caution flew again for a spin by Bert Marvin. The restart pitted Rocco against Ceravolo. After a single lap of green, Rocco was the new leader. Woody Pitkat had moved into the third position by lap 10 while Danny Cates ran in fourth. Grigas was having his hands full with Jimmy Blewett as Kerry Malone watched. At the halfway marker, Rocco began to stretch his lead over Ceravolo while Pitkat was making headway toward the lead pack. The caution flew for a spin by Anthony Burr to slow the action. The outside groove was the sweet spot on the restart with Ceravolo retaking the lead. Rocco looked poised to make a bid at the lead when the caution flew once again for an incident that involved Rookie Josh Sylvester, Harry Rheaume, Josh Steeves, and Geoff Gernhard. On the resulting restart, Ceravolo got a good jump but Rocco would take command of the event. Almost immediately, the caution flew when Pitkat went hard into the turn four wall. Cates bolted into the lead after contact between the leaders Ceravolo and Rocco. Bobby Grigas followed through and into the second position. Cravenho moved into the third spot but quickly lost the position to a rebounding Rocco. Ceravolo, who had a flat tire, spun on the backstretch to bring out the caution. Cates took the lead on the restart but less than a lap later Rocco reclaimed the top spot. Contact between third running Grigas and Kerry Malone, sent Grigas spinning.

Rocco took command on the restart leaving Cates to defend his position over Cravenho and Malone. A pair of cautions could not deter the fast-running Rocco, who continued to lead. Cates was hanging tough in second while Malone clearly had a fast car. Slicing and dicing on a restart found Jimmy Blewett running through the dust of the infield to move into the third spot. Blewett had his hands full with an ill-handling racecar and fell back as quickly as he had moved forward. With a pair of laps remaining, Rocco had checked out. The Wallingford, CT driver raced unchallenged to the checkers. Cates had a strong performance to finish second. Malone, Grigas, and Blewett rounded out the top 5. As usual, the Thompson management kept the program moving and had the sizeable crowd on its way home when the final checkered flag dropped at 9:20pm. There were 124 cars in the pit area including 23 Sunoco Modifieds. The Pro Stocks, once a strong division at Thompson, were dying a slow death as only 13 were on hand.

The Stafford Motor Speedway and Ted Christopher celebrated a major milestone as the multi-time track champion won the 35th Annual Coors Light SK Modified 100 which also happened to be Christopher’s 100th career win at the nutmeg state oval. Other feature winners included Michael Bennett and Dillon Moltz from the Late Model division, Alan Provost in the SK Light feature, Sean Foster in the Limited Late Model feature, and Bill Dunn in the DARE Stock feature.

The 35th Annual Coors Light SK Modified 100 took the green with Doug Coby leading the first three laps before giving way to Todd Owen on lap-4. While Owen was pacing the field, Ted Christopher was quickly working his way through the field from his 7th place starting position. He took second place from Curt Brainard on lap-19 and closed in on Owen's bumper by lap-30. Christopher hounded Owen's back bumper, but couldn't make a pass stick. The first caution of the race came out with 38-laps complete, which gave Christopher all the opportunity he needed as he took to the outside groove on the restart and passed Owen for the lead. The race took on another long green flag run with Christohper, Chris Jones, and Woody Pitkat making up the top-3 cars. The race ran green to lap-89 with the top-3 cars remaining the same. Pitkat got by Jones on the restart and he applied immediate pressure to Christopher in a battle for the race lead. Much like Christopher did earlier in the race to Owen, Pitkat was all over the back bumper of Christopher. Pitkat tried several times to make a run for the lead in the corners, but couldn't make a pass stick and Christopher had just enough car to keep in front of Pitkat for a one car length victory, the 100th career feature win for Christopher at Stafford Motor Speedway. Pitkat finished second, with Tom Bolles, Keith Rocco, and Frank Ruocco rounding out the top-5.

In victory lane, it was announced that to commemorate Christopher's 100 career victories at Stafford, Section A of the main grandstand would be named after Christopher, placing him with other modified greats that adorn each section of Stafford's main grandstand. Christopher was also presented a commemorative plaque, recognizing his 100 career wins. From go-karts in church parking lots to Sprint Cup cars on Superspeedways, Christopher has done it all. The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain.

Despite threatening skies the True Value Modified Series got their 100 lapper in the record books at Seekonk. Taking the win was hometown favorite Vinnie Annarummo of Swansee, MA. Chris Pasteryak of Lisbon, CT finished a strong second and was followed by Jon McKennedy, Les Hinkley and Dave Pinkham.

Congratulations were in order to Middletown CT native Joey Logano who, in only his third career start, won the NASCAR Nationwide Series Meijer 300 at the Kentucky Speedway. Logano became the youngest driver to win in NASCAR Nationwide Series history at 18 years and 21 days. Logano won the pole for the 300-miler, his second in as many weeks, and led 76 of the 200 laps, second only to Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Kyle Busch. Busch led a race-high 85 laps.

Logano took the lead from Busch on Lap 147, passing him on the outside of Turn 4. On Lap 164, Busch's charge to reclaim the position ended after he lost control of his Toyota on the backstretch, spinning and slamming the outside retaining wall. Following Busch's wreck, the race was Logano's to lose. With the race running green flag to the finish thereafter, Logano crossed the finish line 2.259 seconds over second place Scott Wimmer. Race attendance was a track-record 73,195. It was the eighth straight sellout at the facility in which Speedway Motorsports Inc. agreed to purchase earlier this year.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. ended his 76-race winless string Sunday, coasting to victory at Michigan International Speedway under a caution flag with little but fumes left in his gas tank. Kasey Kahne, coming off a victory the previous week in Pocono, finished second. Matt Kenseth finished third, followed by Brian Vickers, Tony Stewart and two-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos from the collection of the late Danny Pardi, courtesy of the SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size


Bobby Turner


Dick Dunn


Jerry Pearl


Bones Stevens


Todd Bodine


Jerry Dostie

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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