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June 7, 2013

By Phil Smith

Sixty five years ago in 1948 the Norwood Arena in Norwood, MA opened. The Midgets were the headline division. Johnny Bernardi was the inaugural winner. At Cherry Park in Avon, Ct. Ted Tappett won his 11th feature of the 1948 season and 2nd of the season at Cherry Park over Len Duncan and George Rice. The Class B feature was won by George Flemke over Jerry Jerome and Walt Fusco.

Sixty years ago in 1953, the New London-Waterford Speedbowl staged events on Sunday, Wednesday and the following Saturday. Joe McNulty was the Sunday winner while Red Foote won on Wednesday and Cy Yates won on Saturday.

Fifty five years ago in 1958, Red Foote was the Saturday night Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Dick Beauregard was the Wednesday night Non-Ford winner while Hank Stevens won on Wednesday.

Fifty years ago in 1963 Ernie Gahan won the 25 lap NASCAR Sportsman 25 lap feature at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Bob Zeigler finished second with Jim Luke, third. New York Big Gun Pete Corey was the winner on the Dirt at Stafford. Ken Shoemaker was second followed by George Janoski, Jerry Townely and Jim Koehler. Pete Hamilton was the winner in the Hobby Division. Ted Stack was the Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl followed by Don Collins, Billy Harman and Hank Stevens. Ed Gladue was the Bomber winner. At Riverside Park Speedway Johnny Lobo was the winner with Charlie Brayton second followed by Paul Humiston, Dick Dixon and Andy Rock. Johnny Georgiades was the winner at Plainville Stadium over Jap Membrino, Kenny Orr, George Hotchkiss and Russ Faust. Pat Della Vecchia was the Novice winner over Ronnie Wyckoff.

Racing news and gossip was hard to come by. There was little or no coverage in daily papers unless there was a fatality. Many race fans and competitors got their news from either National Speed Sport News or Illustrated Speedway News.

On June 14, Len and Maude Sammons brought a new dimension to covering weekly racing news with the birth of Area Auto Racing News, which provided much needed coverage of racing in New York, New Jersey and New England. National Speed Sport News and Illustrated Speedway News are long gone. Area Auto, now under the guidance of Lenny Sammons has survived with their up to date coverage and weekly columns. A tip of the hat to Lenny and his staff!

Forty five years ago in 1968, Don Wayman was the Friday night winner at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Richie Evans finished second and was followed by Dave Gaul, Ray Sitterly and Ken Canestrary. Bugsy Stevens put the mighty No.3 of Len Boehler in victory lane at Stafford. Don MacTavish finished second with Eddie Flemke, Holly Wildler and Mario Fats Caruso rounding out the top five. Saturday night action at Norwood was rained out. The Waterford Speedbowl ran their 50 lap Spring Championship Modified 50 lapper which was won by Newt Palm. At the Fulton Raceway Bob Merz scored his first of ten features he would win in three years of competing at the track. Rene Charland was the top banana at Fonda as he beat out Ed Pieniezek for the win. Sunday action at Utica-Rome and at Thompson rained out.

Forty years ago in 1973, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N Y. ran a 100 lapper that saw Richie Evans take the win over Fred DeSarro, Jerry Cook and Bugsy Stevens. Saturday night at Stafford, there was no stopping Bugsy Stevens as he won the 30-lap feature going away. Eddie Flemke finished second and was followed by Bobby Santos and Ray Miller. Down on the Connecticut shoreline at the Waterford Speedbowl Bill Scrivener was the winner of the 30 lap Modified feature. Roger Charbonneau was the Grand American Late Model winner. It rained on Long Island, washing out a 100 lapper at Islip. Tioga ran with George Kent taking the win. Sunday at Lee, NH saw Ernie Gahan take the top spot over Jim Landry and Ed Yerrington. Evans scored his second win of the weekend on Sunday night at Utica-Rome. Sonny Seamon finished second with Jerry Cook, third.

Thirty-five years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine made it six in a row at Stafford. At Waterford, George "Moose" Hewitt took the win over Joe Tiezzi, Glynn Shafer and Jerry Pearl. At Seekonk it was George Summers and at Westboro it was Freddie Schulz. Reggie Ruggerio beat out Richie Evans and Jack LeCuyer and at Islip; Greg Sacks took the top spot over Charlie Jarzombek and Fred Harbach. On Sunday at Thompson, Ronnie Bouchard trimmed the field. Leo Cleary finished second with Bugsy Stevens third. Maynard Troyer won at Fulton and Evans won at New Egypt.

Thirty years ago in 1983, Brett Bodine was the Friday night winner at Stafford. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Brian Ross and Kenny Bouchard. At Waterford on Saturday, Donnie Fowler held off Dale Holdredge to take the win. Ted Christopher finished third. Reggie Ruggiero was the main man at Riverside as he beat out Jack LeCuyer and SJ Evonsion. The SKs ran at Seekonk with local favorite Eddie StAngelo taking the win over Kerry Malone and Richie Gallup. Other weekend winners were George Kent at Tioga, Richie Evans at Spencer, Tony Siscone at New Egypt, Bill Park at Islip and George Brunnhoelzl at Riverhead. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Darrell Waltrip was the pole sitter and Bobby Allison was the race winner.

Twenty-five years ago in 1988, Stafford ran twin SK modified events. Jeff Barry and Bo Gunning took the wins. Reggie Ruggerio took the win at Riverside with Charlie Pasteryak a close second. Ted Christopher won at Waterford and at Tioga, Rod Spaulding took the win over newcomer, Tim Connolly. Eddie Brunnhoelzl beat out Fred Harbach at Riverhead.

Twenty years ago in 1993, Ted Christopher recorded his 26th career win at Stafford. Bo Gunning finished second with John Anderson third and Bob Potter, fourth. At Waterford, Bert Marvin beat out Jim Broderick and Tom Jensen for the win. At Riverside Park, Reggie Ruggerio took yet another win as he led Stan Gregger and Chris Kopec across the stripe. Thompson ran a non-tour-modified event, which drew only 22 cars and a light crowd. Ruggerio took the win over Carl Pasteryak, Jan Leaty, Tom Baldwin and Tony Forente. In Winston Cup action at Pocono, Ken Schrader took the pole and Kyle Petty, the win. Jeff and Ward Burton finished one-two at Myrtle Beach. In Busch Grandnational North competition at Jennerstown, Dick McCabe was the winner over Jeff Barry and Mike McLaughlin.

Fifteen years ago in 1998 rain played havoc in the northeast the entire weekend. Mike Stefanik flew to Jennerstown Penn. after the Beech Ridge Busch North event rained out. Needless to say, Stefanik continued his domination in the Modifieds as he won the event over Mike Ewanitsko, Reggie Ruggiero and Tim Connolly. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Mark Martin took the win over Dale Jarrett.

Ten years ago in 2003, the Thompson Speedway began their summer series, Thursday night Thunder. Rain and showers were in Connecticut all day but the speedway management held fast and the event was run. Being in the right place at the right time was a definite factor for Ron Yuhas Jr. Yuhas was running second to Bobby Santos III when the third generation racer spun in turn four on lap 22 of the scheduled 30 lap feature. Santos and Yuhas tangled but officials felt it was a racing accident and didn’t penalize Santos. Three laps later, the skies opened up and the event was declared completed with Yuhas the winner. Twenty-eight Sunoco SK type modifieds went to post with Todd Ceravolo on the pole and Santos on the outside pole. Ceravolo jumped out to an early lead, opening up a wide margin on Santos. Ted Christopher, who started fifth, began his march to the front and by lap 12 had moved into second spot. Bo Gunning, who started deep in the field, also moved into the top five. The complexion of the event took a drastic change during a caution period on lap 14 when Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning got together and ended up in the turn two wall and out for the night. Ceravolo continued to lead until lap 16 when he spun in turn four. Officials felt that Ceravolo got help from Bert Marvin and place the pair in the rear for the re-start. Santos assumed the lead at that point. With all the scrambling at the end, Jeff Malave ended up second with Matty Adanti, third. Ceravolo recovered from his spin and finished fourth. John Brouwer Jr. finished fifth with Bert Marvin, sixth.

Other opening night winners included Jeff Connors in the Pro Stocks, Woody Pitkat in the Late Models, Glenn Boss in the Limited Sportsman and Andy Publicover in the Mini Stocks.

The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at the Lake Erie Speedway in Pennsylvania on Saturday night. Todd Szegedy, in his sophomore season on the tour, got redemption for being snookered at Stafford on the last lap as he took the victory at the variable banked 3/8 mile oval. John Blewett III finished second with Eric Beers, Chuck Hossfeld and Ricky Fuller rounding out the top five. Jamie Tomaino started on the pole by luck of the draw. Ted Christopher was eliminated on lap two after a confrontation with Tony Hirschman. Tomaino led until a lap eight re-start when Eric Beers out powered him to take the lead. Beers held the point until Szegedy took command on lap 62. Close behind Beers at the time was Jerry Marquis who settled in, in second spot. Marquis held the spot until lap 100 when he dropped out with suspension problems. From then on it was Blewett casing Szegedy to the finish. Donnie Lia was the pole sitter and after drawing tenth, ended up 14th, one lap down. He had a strong run going until he tangled with Ed Flemke Jr and was put to the rear for rough riding after spinning Flemke out. Flemke, who started ninth, had a confrontation with officials over his pit road speed and ended up losing a lap. Flemke finished fifteenth. According to various reports the speedway did well as the grandstands were over 2/3 full.

For the fourth week in a row, rain washed out racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. Not since 1978 had the Speedbowl had this many rainouts.

The Labor Day weekend tradition at the Darlington Raceway came to an end as NASCAR announced that they had approved the request of the International Speedway Corporation to move the Labor Day Winston Cup date to the California Speedway. Darlington would still have two dates, as the speedway took a date formerly held by the Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina. In Winston Cup action at Michigan, Bob Labonte was the Busch Pole sitter. Kurt Busch took the lead from Jeff Gordon with 24 laps to go and went on to record his third win of the year. Bobby Labonte finished second and Jeff Gordon faded to third. It was announced that Jeff and Brooke Gordon had reached a divorce settlement rather than go to trial. Brooke got a reported $15.2 million.

Thompson Speedway owner Don Hoenig, on his way to get a fireworks permit, was involved in an accident, which destroyed his pace car.

Five years ago in 2008, the Thompson Speedway’s Thursday Night Thunder program was cancelled due to wet conditions. The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to fog on Friday night.

The Waterford Speedbowl raced under clear skies and provided southeastern Connecticut race fans a full program of racing. The main event of the evening was a 100 lap American Canadian Tour contest that was won by tour regular Scott Payea. Waterford regular Bruce Thomas led the early going but in the end had to settle for second. Former Busch North Series regular Brad Leighton finished third with Ron Yuhas Jr and Nichloas Sweet rounding out the top five. Doug Coby was the SK Modified winner. Tyler Chadwick finished second and was followed by Dennis Gada, Jeff Paul, and Keith Rocco.

Other feature winners were Mark Hudson (Late Model), Brandon Plemons (Sportsman), and Lou Bellisle (Mini Stock).

The True Value Modified Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series were enjoying their second “Spring Break of the season.

In a somewhat racing related manner, James Galante, a major Connecticut trash hauler at the center of a sweeping federal corruption probe of mob influence in the industry pleaded guilty on June 3 and agreed to surrender dozens of businesses worth more than $100 million. The New London Day reported that Galante of Danbury entered guilty pleas to racketeering conspiracy, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and wire fraud conspiracy. He faced 70 to 87 months in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. Galante sponsored and owned Ted Christopher’s racing endeavors from 1995 until June of 2006 when the Galante/Christopher race shop was raided by the feds who confiscated five complete Modified Type cars plus another one in the process of being built. One of the cars was a four-time winner at Loudon.

A 17 page indictment stated that Galante is "knowingly and willingly turning over to the U.S. Government": "Six racing cars, marked with numbers 01 thru 06, on the front frame rails and one 1997 53 foot Featherlie Trailer." Galante agreed to take all steps as requested by the United States to pass clear title to all of the assets listed over to the United States Government.".

In NASCAR Nextel Cup competition at the Pocono Raceway, Kasey Kahne started from the pole, overcame an early pit road penalty that dropped him to 38th and led a race-high 69 of the 200 laps in his Dodge as he went on to take the win. Brian Vickers was second for his best finish since joining Red Bull Racing and Denny Hamlin was third to give Toyota two cars in the top three. Dale Earnhardt Jr. was fourth and appeared winded after racing more than four hours in temperatures that hovered around 90 degrees. Kyle Busch finished last, but became the first driver to compete in all three of NASCAR's national series at three racetracks on the same weekend. Brad Keselowski raced to his first Nationwide Series victory Saturday night, passing Clint Bowyer with six laps to go and easily holding off his closest rivals in the Federated Auto Parts 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. Joey Logano won the pole during the day, but finished 31st after a crash on lap 89. He led the first 60 laps and 64 overall. David Stremme rallied to finish second, followed by David Reutimann and Bowyer.

Last year, 2012, Thursday night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway was literally Thunder and Lightning as a pop-up storm drenched the speedway late in the afternoon. Once the storm passed it was a beautiful night for racing. The track played host to a first time winner in the Thompson Lite Modifieds, Troy Talman and a crowd pleasing door-to-door battle in the Mini-Stock division which saw Mike Veins winning out over Chad Baxter and Scott Sundeen took the win in the Limited Sportsman. Ryan Preece held off Keith Rocco for the Sunoco Modified win while Mike Scorzelli took the checkers in the Late Models. John Lowinski was the Thompson Modified winner.

Preece took the lead at lap 10 and never looked back despite Rocco’s bumper in his rear view mirror. Kerry Malone took over the lead at the drop of the green flag with Ted Christopher closing in on his bumper. Preece made it a three-way battle when he dove to the bottom of Christopher for second. Christopher shut the door on his challenges, and made his own bid on Malone out front at lap two. Christopher took the lead with Preece in tow relegating Malone to the third position. Preece was all over Christopher as Keith Rocco made his way into contention. On lap seven, Rocco dropped to the bottom and drove by Malone for the third position with Todd Ceravolo following. As the race approached lap 10, Preece got up alongside Christopher in a tight battle that lasted until turn four when Christopher went high. Preece was able to drive to the lead with Rocco taking over second and Christopher recovering for third. Rocco closed in to Preece’s bumper and dove low in turn four of lap 23 in a challenge for the lead. Preece wasn’t about to give it up that easy, however, and closed the door on his challenge. Rocco kept the pressure on and tapped Preece’s bumper through the turns - constantly reminding Preece he was there. Preece was not intimidated, however, and held the lead until the checkers dropped. Christopher ended up third and was followed by Ceravolo, Malone and John Catania. Dennis Perry recorded another fine run as he brought his Butch Perry Mount home in seventh.

More showers ruled the racing world on Friday as the SK Modified 100 ended up being postponed to Friday, June 29. Regular Friday night racing at Stafford saw Harry Wheeler get awarded the SK Light feature win after Bob Charland was placed to the rear for spinning out leader Joey Ferrigno. With six laps remaining the clouds opened up and that was that!

At the Waterford Speedbowl Jeff Pearl beat out Rob Janovic Jr. by less than a car length to win the SK Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. It was the first time in three weeks the Whelen All-American Series was back in action following two straight weeks of rainouts.

Pearl took the lead from Diego Monahan on 1ap 14 of the SK Modified feature. He held off Janovic and Keith Rocco over two restarts before holding off Janovic at the finish. Rocco wound up third. Tyler Chadwick and Kyle James rounded out the top five.

Other feature winners were Waterford's Dillon Moltz in the Late Model race (his third of the year), Salem's Corey Hutchings in the Street Stocks (his second of the year) and Lisbon's Ken Cassidy Jr., who won his eighth Mini Stock feature of 2012.

Lou Cicconi won the 50-lap International Supermodified Association feature, a race that was reschedule after being washed out on May 26.

In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina twin 25's were the main attraction of the night. Dean Ward and Brent Elliott went pole to pole in their respective events and recorded wins.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, it had been a long time since an "outsider" won a weekly Modified event at the east end oval. Ryan Preece and Ted Christopher changed all that as they finished one-two there on Saturday night. Preece, who has been a regular there this year started on the pole and led every lap. Preece drove a car formerly driven by Bill Park. Christopher has also been a regular at Riverhead driving a car owned by Wayne Anderson.

The Valenti Modified Racing Series visited the Seekonk Speedway on Saturday night. The event drew 29 cars. Louie Mechalides took the lead on the first lap and went on to lead the entire 100 lap distance. Mechalides' only serious challenge came on lap 10 from Les Hinkley who ran side by side with the eventual winner for a short time. Hinkley eventually fade to fourth as Jon McKennedy moved into second. McKennedy had nothing for Mechalides and had to be content with the runner-up spot at the finish. Tommy Barrett finished third with Hinkley fourth and Rowan Pennink, fifth. Sixth through tenth were Joey Jarvis, Chris Pasteryak, Mike Holdredge, Norm Wrenn and Rob Goodenough. Todd Szegedy finished eleventh.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing, Joey Logano overtook Mark Martin with four laps left and drove away to earn his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Pocono Raceway. Tony Stewart chased the lead pair home in third. Jimmie Johnson, who received two pit road speeding penalties earlier in the day, rallied to finish fourth ahead of Denny Hamlin in fifth.

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


Len Duncan


Danny Galullo


Pete Corey

T
Ray DeLisle

Reino Tulonen

Andy Rock

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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