Friday March 31, 2006

By Phil Smith
Thirty five years ago in 1971, Thompson opened their season with Modifieds and Supers running together. Bobby Santos in the Joe Brady No.41 took the 50 lap win. Lou Austin finished second. Howie Brown, in a Supermodified, finished third. The Supers were very unreliable as most failed to finish. Rene Charland finished fourth and was followed by Bob Karvonen, Ernie Gahan and Billy Schulz. Jerry Glaude won the open competition opener at the Waterford Speedbowl. George Summers finished second and was followed by Joe Trudeau and Walt Dombrowski.
Thirty years ago in 1976, it was all quiet.
Twenty five years ago in 1981, The Thompson Speedway opened the season with Dick Williams as the promoter, under warm 70 degree skies. With over 12,000 fans on hand, Richie Evans followed up his Martinsville win with another win. George Kent finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens and Kenny Bouchard. Because of the huge crowd, Williams added $3,000 to the race purse and paid every non qualifier $50.00. Jeff Fuller was the late model winner and was followed by Ron Cote and Pete Fiandaca. In the south at Bristol, Ronnie Bouchard qualified third behind Darrell Waltrip and Dale Earnhardt. Bouchard ran in the top five until losing an engine at the half way mark. In Busch Grandnational action, Geoff Bodine went two for two as he won at Langley Field on Saturday and at South Boston, on Sunday. Both were 200 lap events.
Twenty years ago in 1986, Riverside Park opened for the season. Mike Stefanik took the 100 lap win as 10,280 race hungry fans looked on. Stan Greger finished second with Bob Polverari, third.
Fifteen years ago in 1991, Riverside began their season with a 100 lapper that went non stop with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win. Charlie Pasteryak finished second and was followed by Jerry Marquis, Stan Greger and Rick Fuller.
Ten years ago in 1996, Chris Kopec made it two for two at Riverside as he beat out Dave Berube and Reggie Ruggiero for the win. Thompson saw the Modified Tour on hand for a 125 lap event. Steve Park took the win after coming back from a pit stop for tires on lap 59.Park took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 98.Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Bruce Del. Todd Ceravolo went pole to pole to win the 35 lapper for the SK's. On a sad note, Fred DeSarro Sr. passed away after suffering congestive heart failure.
Five years ago in 2001, the Featherlite Modifieds were off. Kevin Harvick led 114 laps of the Texas Grandnational 200 to take the win. Dale Earnhardt Jr was the Winston Cup pole sitter but it was Dale Jarrett and Steve Park who finished one-two.
Last year, 2005, with the advent of the Southern Modified Tour coming under the NASCAR blanket the NASCAR Modified season actually started on March 26 at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, North Carolina. Ted Christopher, driving the Roger and Sandra Hill No.79 took the win. Christopher, who took the role of the Hired Gun, was the fourth leader of the event. Jay Foley, a southerner, led the opening green until being overtaken by Long Islander JR. Bertuccio on lap 26. Bertuccio led until lap 37 when he was passed by another southerner, Jay Hedgecock. Hedgecock was hoping to annex a win but fell victim to engine problems after completing lap 65. Christopher, who was running second at the time, inherited the lead and never looked back as he romped to take the victory. Foley ended up second with Jamie Tomaino, third. Junior Miller and Frank Flemming rounded out the top five. There were six cautions for 27 laps.
Hillís Enterprises, in a surprise announcement, released Eddie Flemke JR as their driver. Flemke has been the teamís driver since 1998 and recorded 13 wins. Car owners Roger and Sandra Hill stated that the driver change does not affect the team's plans for this season, as they will once again run the full Whelen Modified Tour schedule and compete for the championship. They will also compete in select Southern Modified Tour events when the schedule allows. A deal was struck with Mike Christopher on Saturday afternoon.
Tony Hirschman announced that he would defend his title. At the end of the 2004 season Hirschman hinted that he would be backing off a bit so as to assist his son Matt who drives Modifieds in New York State. Just six months after announcing its title sponsorship of the legendary NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, Whelen Engineering expanded its involvement with NASCARís open-wheeled racing division. Whelen, an emergency signal and lighting manufacturer based in Chester, Conn., signed a multi-year agreement to become title sponsor of the all-new NASCAR Southern Modified Tour, now known as the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour.
The Plainfield Connecticut Planning and Zoning Commission approved an application that would allow dozens of large-scale projects, including a domed stadium for auto racing. In a 4-1 vote, the commission approved the application by New England Raceway LLC and Connecticut Yankee Greyhound Racing Inc. Developer Eugene Arganese said he would submit plans to build a 140,000-seat domed auto racetrack after the commission acted on a second application that would incorporate 1,153 acres of residential and commercial property in the new C5 Resort/Recreational Development District. The commission postponed deciding on whether to amend the town's zoning map in the area near Exits 87 and 88 off of Interstate 395 until its April 12 meeting. The Asbury Park Press in New Jersey broke the story that two developers who want to build roughly 250 homes to replace the Wall Township Speedway are under contract to purchase the 55-year-old raceway. Town officials said it would be highly unlikely that the project is approved.
Rookie Reed Sorenson raced to his first NASCAR Busch Series victory beating Kenny Wallace by a whopping 14.417 seconds in the Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway. The Nextel Cup Series was off as it was Easter weekend.

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:

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