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 Friday May 5, 2006

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1966 Friday night racing at the Albany Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was cancelled because of rain. Bill Wimble took the 25 lapper At Fonda on Saturday night over Lou Lazzaro and Pete Corey. Gene Bergin made the long haul from his home in Manchester, Ct to Utica – Rome where he won the Sunday night 30 lap feature. Lou Toro finished second with Jerry Cook, Dave Kotary and Don MacTavish.

Thirty five years ago in 1971, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was supposed to open on Friday night but heavy rain changed all of that. The Stafford Motor Speedway began their Saturday night season with twin 25's the regular format. Leo Cleary in the Mystic Missile won the first 25 lap feature over Hop Harrington, Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens. The second 25 lap feature saw Stevens beat out Bobby Santos and Cleary for the win. On Long Island at Islip, Cliff Tyler was the winner with Bob Park, Al DeAngelo and Gary Winters following. At the Waterford Speedbowl, Seabury Tripler, in what had to be the first Pinto bodied Modified, took the win at the shoreline oval. Dick Dunn finished second with Joe Trudeau, third. On Sunday at Thompson it was twin 25's.Bugsy Stevens took the first one over Bob Santos, Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary and Ray Miller. Hop Harrington in the former Tant/Mitchell coupe, now owned by Dick Armstrong took down the nightcap. Stevens finished second with DeSarro, third. Sunday night racing at Utica-Rome rained out.

Thirty years ago in 1976,Stafford began their regular Saturday night season on a somber note as speedway owner Jack Arute announced that the track could possibly close in three weeks if the crowds didn't pick up. Needless to say, a good crowd plus 52 Modifieds were on hand. Bugsy Stevens took the win and was followed by John Rosati, Dale Holdredge, Fred DeSarro in the Judkins 2x. It was also on this night at Stafford that the winning team of Ronnie Bouchard and car owner Bob Johnson came to an end. At the Islip Speedway on Long Island, Fred Harbach took the win over Greg Sacks. The Waterford Speedbowl opened for the season with a 50 lapper. Bob Potter took the win over Ron Bouchard who had now signed on to drive the Judkins 2x.On Sunday, Wayne Anderson took the win at New Egypt and at Thompson, Geoff Bodine, in the Armstrong No.1, took the win over George Summers, Bugsy Stevens and John Rosati.

Twenty five years ago in 1981, Ray Miller took advantage of Richie Evans' misfortune as he won the Friday night opener at Stafford. Evans had the lead with nine laps to go when his transmission went sour, causing him to slow. Miller, in hot pursuit, took the lead and the eventual win. Bugsy Stevens finished second with John Rosati, third. Evans ended up sixth. Twin 40's were on tap at Thompson on Sunday. Richie Evans and Charlie Jarzombek each shared in the glory as the both won. During the running of the second event, Evans and Mike Stefanik tangled with the end result being that Stefanik ended up on his roof. Jerry Cook was the winner at Shangri-La on Saturday and at Islip it was Fred Harbach over Don Howe and Wayne Anderson.

Twenty years ago in 1986, Stafford began their Friday night season with bone chilling temperatures. Jeff Fuller in the Jack Neusner 2x took the win. Reggie Ruggiero in the Mike Greci No.11finished second with Charlie Jarzombek, third. Mike Stefanik and George Brunnhoelzl rounded out the top five. Bo Gunning was the SK Modified winner. Bob Potter made it two in a row at Waterford after coming from an 18th starting spot. At Riverside it was Mike McLaughlin over Ted Riggott and Mike Stefanik and at Riverhead, Don Howe bested Bob Park, Tom Baldwin and Bill Park. Racing at the Shangri-La Speedway (Tioga)was snowed out. The NASCAR Modifieds were at New Egypt for a 150 lapper. Wayne Anderson took the win with Jamie Tomaino, second. Bob Park finished third. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, the entire 42 car field qualified at over 200 mph. Bill Elliott was the pole sitter with speed of 212.229 mph. Bobby Allison took the win after Elliott lost a transmission with 14 laps to go.

Fifteen years ago in 1991, the Friday night racing at Stafford was rained out. At Waterford on Saturday night, Mark LaJunnesse was awarded the win when a post race inspection revealed that Bob Potter’s engine contained illegal piston rods. Joe Tiezzi ended up second with Don Bunnell, third. Kevin Debbis was the late model winner. A newcomer by the name of Tim Connolly took the win at Shangri-la. Andy Romano finished second. At Riverside it was Jerry Marquis over Dan Avery and Rick Fuller and at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH, Dwight Jarvis held off Bruce Del for the win. It rained at Talledega on Sunday and the event was run on Monday. Harry Gant took the win. Kyle Petty suffered a broken leg after being involved in a 17 car wreck triggered by Ernie Irvan.

Ten years ago in 1996, rain wiped out racing at Stafford, Waterford and Riverside. It stayed dry at Riverhead where Don Howe took the win over Mike Ewanitsko, Bill Park and Tom Tillotson. The Busch North Series was at Jennerstown, Pa. Andy Santarre took the 150 lap win over Dave Dion, Robbie Crouch, Dale Shaw and Mike Stefanik. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Rusty Wallace passed Jeff Gordon with five laps to go and took the win. NASCAR found Wallace’s' car to be 1/4 inch too low and levied a fine of $25,000.In other news, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway filed suit against CART because they were calling their cars Indy Cars.

Five years ago in 2001 Ted Christopher started his weekend off with a 50 lap win on Friday night at Stafford. Chuck Docherty finished second with Lloyd Agor, third. Curt Brainard and Larry Ross rounded out the top five. Willie Hardie JR who won SK Modified events at the Spring Sizzler suffered a broken collar bone as a result of a wreck. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Waterford Speedbowl. Reggie Ruggiero took the lead from Rob Summers on lap74 of the 200 lap contest and went on to take the win. Summers who had led from lap 1, faded to fourth at the finish. Mike Stefanik finished second with Ted Christopher, third. John Fortin rounded out the top five. Eleven cautions for 62 laps slowed the event. Dennis Gada won the regularly scheduled 35 lap SK-Modified feature over Eddie Reed JR and Ron Yuhas JR. The previously rained out Waterford Nationals 150 was also run. Eric Berndt led all 150 laps to collect the $5,000 first prize plus $3079 in lap money. Ed Reed JR finished second with Ed Dachanhausen, third. Bert Marvin and Mark LaJunesse rounded out the top five. Marvin made a swift trip to Thompson later in the day to win a 30 lap SK Modified event that was run in conjunction with the Hooters Cup Late Models. In other weekend action JR Bertuccio went pole to pole at Riverhead and Kenny Tremont got his 90th win at Lebanon Valley. In Winston Cup action at Richmond, Tony Stewart took the win. Jimmie Spencer was the Busch Grandnational winner. On a sad note, Smokey Yunik died at the age of 77.

Last year, 2005, the Stafford Motor Speedway got their Friday night program in the books while Waterford suffered its second rainout in a row. At Stafford Lloyd Agor passed Frank Ruocco on lap 31 of the 40 lap feature and went on to take the win in the SK Modified division. Ruocco finished second followed by Willie Hardie, Ted Christopher and Jeff Malave. A slim field of only 20 SK Modifieds was on hand. Many have wondered as to why the fields of SK Modifieds have dwindled at Stafford. The SK Modifieds have gotten out of hand cost wise plus the fact that there was much destruction at Stafford last year. Some car owners have sold out while others have chosen to race elsewhere or just park their cars. Ryan Posocco and Jay Stuart finished one-two in Late Model action while Michael Bennett won the 20 lap Limited Sportsman feature and John Hurley won the Dare Stock event. James Civali who won the SK Modified portion of the Thompson Speedway Ice Breaker and finished fourth in the recent SK Modified portion of the Spring Sizzler before being disqualified for refusing tech inspection now finds himself in a select group of drivers at the Stafford Speedway that have been suspended from racing at Stafford indefinitely for actions detrimental to racing. In other words Civali was put on suspension because he drove through the pit area at high speed and almost ran an official down. In addition to Waterford being rained out the opening night festivities at the Seekonk Speedway in Massachusetts and the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island were also cancelled due to rain.

New England Raceway developer Gene Arganese who had been in the process of proposing a domed racetrack in Plainfield, Ct. won a crucial zoning approval after a close vote by the town's Planning and Zoning Commission. The panel voted 3-2 to rezone roughly 900 acres off Interstate 395 and include the land in a recently established "resort/recreational development zone." Opponents of New England Raceway LLC's 140,000-seat racetrack plan said they wouldl appeal the commission's decision. Arganese said he planned to move forward with the project despite the prospect of legal challenges. Six appeals had already been filed against the commission's approval of the new resort/recreational development zone. He said the design process should take about five months, and he intended to bring the plans before the commission by January. Arganese's $343 million project would include the racetrack, a convention center, a 700-room hotel and 800,000-square-foot retail complex. He continued to say he hoped to attract NASCAR, Indy and CART events to the New England Raceway track, along with drag races, concerts and trade shows.

Jeff Gordon won the wreck marred Aarons 499 at the Talledega Speedway. Martin Truex was the Busch Series winner. The Busch race was also a wreck fest.

That’s 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: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

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