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Friday May 23, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

 
Forty five years ago in 1963 Rene Charland was well on his way to the NASCAR Sportsman Championship as he made it two in a row at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Cam Gagliardi finished second with Ed Ortiz, third.

Forty years ago, in 1968, Bugsy Stevens made it two in a row at Stafford on Friday night. Eddie Flemke, the previous week’s winner, finished second. Nathan “Smokey” Boutwell finished third with Reno Tulonen and Leo Cleary rounding out the top five. At the Albany-Saratoga Speedway Lou Lazzaro took the top spot over Don MacTavish, Jerry Cook, Rene Charland and Andy Romano. Bugs Stevens took his winning ways to Norwood on Saturday where he dusted the field. At Fonda, Ray Sitterly scored a surprise victory over Kenny Shoemaker and Ron Narducci and at Fulton, Dutch Hoag scored the first of 12 events he would win over the next three seasons. Eddie Flemke put the 2x of Bobby Judkins in victory lane at Thompson while at Utica-Rome twin features were on tap. Lou Lazzaro won the left over feature from the previous week. Sonny Seamon finished second with Ken Platt, Dick Fowler and Dick Clark rounding out the top five. Richie Evans who beat out Sonny Seamon, Andy Romano, Jerry Cook and Robbie Kotary for the top spot won the regular evening’s feature.

Thirty five years ago in 1973 Friday night racing at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. rained out. It cleared on Saturday and at Stafford Springs Eddie Flemke took the win over Fred DeSarro, Ron Bouchard and Don Flynn. At Islip, Charlie Jarzombek again bested the 1/5-mile oval, beating out Jim Hendrickson for the win. At Tioga, Eddie Pieniezak took the win over Wayne Edwards, George Kent and Jerry Cook. Rain washed out events scheduled at Pocono and Utica-Rome.

Thirty years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine was on a tear as he won three out of four for the weekend. At Stafford, he beat out Ronnie Bouchard and Leo Cleary, at Seekonk he won over Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens and at Utica-Rome he beat Jerry Cook and Richie Evans. The only downer was a blown engine at Oswego on Sunday afternoon. Other weekend winners were Jerry Cook at Riverside, Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Charlie Jarzombek at Islip, Ronnie Bouchard at Thompson and Roger Treichler at Lancaster. Maynard Troyer won the modified half of the Port City 150 at Oswego.

Twenty five years ago in 1983, rain soaked the northeast. Stafford ran on Friday night with Ronnie Bouchard taking the win over Bugsy Stevens, Bobby Vee, Kenny Bouchard and Greg Sacks. Jerry Pearl was the SK Modified winner. Marty Radwick took the victory at Riverside Park over Ray Miller and Dennis Albro. At Tioga, Richie Evans beat out Wayne Edwards. Waterford, Wall Stadium, Islip, Spencer and a special modified event at Pocono, rained out.

Twenty Years ago in 1988, Stafford rained out. At Waterford on Saturday, Ed Flemke Jr. took the win over John Jensen. At Riverhead, it was Don Howe over John Blewett Jr. and at Tioga, Tony Hirschman made it three in a row with Lee Sherwood, second. Mike Stefanik was the winner at Monadnock on Sunday.

Fifteen years ago in 1993, Steve Chowanski took the Friday night win at Stafford after the Christopher brothers tangled on the last lap. Saturday saw rain at Waterford. Jerry Marquis got his third win at Riverside and Brian Miller scored a win at Riverhead. Twin SK events were run at Thompson on Sunday. John StAngelo and Ted Christopher were the winners. Marquis made it two for two on the weekend as he won on Sunday at Monadnock. The Modified Tour Series joined the Busch Grandnational North/South divisions at Nazareth. Tim Connolly won the modified event over Doug Hevron, Jamie Tomaino, Rick Fuller and Tom Baldwin. Bob Pressley won the Busch GN event after Mike Stefanik broke a motor mount while leading. Dale Earnhardt passed Mark Martin with two to go to win the Winston at Charlotte.

Ten years ago in 1998 Memorial Day came a week early and the NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford for a 150 lapper. Mike Stefanik started second and led all 150 laps as he went non-stop. Chris Kopec finished second with John Blewett III, third. Carl Pasteryak and Ed Kennedy rounded out the top five. In SK Modified action at Stafford Bo Gunning scored his 34th career win as he out ran Chris Jones and Jim Broderick to the checker. Tucker Reynolds passed Jerry Pearl with 10 laps to go and went on to record the win at Waterford. Rick Donnelly finished second while Pearl faded to third. Eddie Flemke won a 125 lapper at Riverside Park over Bob Polverari and Todd Ceravolo and at the Riverhead Raceway it was Ken Heagy in victory lane. Waterford ran a 200 lapper on Sunday. Ted Christopher led from lap 40 to the finish only to get disqualified with an illegal transmission. Bert Marvin was awarded the win with Dennis Gada moving up to second. Charlie Pasteryak, Todd Ceravolo and Jeff Pearl rounded out the top five. Mark Martin took the lead from Jim Spencer with four laps to go and went on to win the Busch Series 300 at Charlotte. Jeff Gordon beat out Rusty Wallace to win the Winston Cup World 600 at Charlotte and Eddie Cheever won the Indy 500. Tom Carey was the Busch North Series winner at the Holland Speedway.

Five years ago in 2003, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was scheduled to be at the Stafford Speedway on Friday night but heavy rain forced the Arute family to pull the plug and reschedule to Friday, May 30. The decision to scrub the event was made around 9:00 am which saved countless competitors and fans needless travel. A very good and smart move! Waterford and Seekonk followed suit early on Saturday morning. Seekonk’s Busch North Series event at Seekonk was rescheduled to Saturday, May 31. Waterford’s holiday program would run in July. With four events in the 2003 NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series record book John Blewett III sat atop the point standings. Winless, Blewett had four top tens including two top fives. The 2002 rookie sensation Todd Szegedy sat in the second spot, one point behind Blewett. Szegedy was also winless but had four top tens including three top fives to his credit. Ted Christopher finished 32nd at Thompson in the season opener but since then had come on like gangbusters and had clawed his way to third spot, thirty five points behind the leader. Christopher had two wins to his credit including the Spring Sizzler at Stafford and the recent Service Electric 100 at Nazareth. In addition to his two wins and a DNF, Christopher had one top five and was the series money leader with $21,400 in the win column. Chuck Hossfeld led the point standings through the first three events but ran into miss-fortune at Nazareth when officials said he jumped the final restart and placed him at the tail end of the lead lap in 19th spot. Hossfeld actually crossed the finish line in 8th spot. Although he did not actually pass the car in question he was along side as they crossed the start line and officials felt that it was his intent to make a pass. A questionable call to say the least. Hossfeld, who won the season opener at Thompson, had a total of three top tens including two top fives. Even with a slip to fourth spot, Hossfeld was only 36 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five was former series champion Jerry Marquis. Marquis had four top tens including one top five and was 41 points out of first spot. Sixth through tenth were Tony Hirschman, Eric Beers, Rick Fuller, Tony Ferrante Jr. and Dave Etheridge. NASCAR’s top divisions had better luck as the big weekend at Charlotte was completed. Jimmie Johnson was declared the winner of the Winston Cup World 600 after rain caused the race to be stopped at the 414-mile mark. Matt Kenseth was second. On a sad note, it was learned that former Stafford Motor Speedway pace car driver Peter Locke had passed away at the age of 66.

Last year, 2007, The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour traveled to the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night, for the 17th annual Connecticut Classic 150. Donnie Lia, in the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile made it two in a row at the Arute family owned facility. There were 42 Modifieds on hand for the 150 lap contest. Lia started sixth and took the lead on lap 113 from Eric Beers. James Civali, who started on the pole finished second. Eddie Flemke Jr finished third with Zach Sylvester and Todd Szegedy rounding out the top five. Ted Christopher started third and was the top lap leader as he led 84 circuits. His night came to an end after he wrecked with Frank Ruocco in the third turn on lap 91. Christopher blamed Mike Stefanik for the incident. Reggie Ruggerio and John Blewett III were eliminated in a big wreck on lap 104. Defending champion and Busch Pole Sitter Tony Hirschman continues to have bad luck as he was eliminated on lap 114. Likewise for Chuck Hossfeld who lost a wheel on lap 31.

Sixth through tenth were Matt Hirschman, Jamie Tomaino, Dick Houlihan, Richard Savory and Eric Beers. Civali led the opening laps before he was passed by Ted Christopher on lap2. Christopher appeared to have the field covered up until the time he pitted on lap 86. Jimmy Blewett led laps 87 through 90 before giving way to Eric Beers who led laps 91 to 109. Lia led lap 110 before giving it back to Beers for three laps. Lia took the lead for the final time on lap 113. Six caution periods for 36 laps kept Lia’s speed at 58.568 mph.
 
Thursday Night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway began with a large field of cars, 129, including 28 Sunoco (SKtype) Modifieds. Bert Marvin started on the outside pole of the Sunoco Modified feature and went on to lead every lap to record the feature win. Tom Cravenho finished a distant second with Buddy Charette, third. Kerry Malone and Woody Pitkat followed. Sixth through tenth were John Blewett, Jimmy Blewett, Keith Rocco, Todd Ceravolo and Josh Steeves. The only drama for the Modifieds came after the second qualifying heat when Jimmy Blewett was disqualified from his heat win when his car failed to make weight. Blewett started the feature in last spot.
 
Other opening night winners were Tom O’Sullivan, who won his first-ever Late Model feature, Jeff Zuidema who won the Pro Stock feature. The Limited Sportsman winner was Jess Gleason, Mini Stock winner, Mike Romano and TIS Mod winner was Tim Sullivan.While the fields of Modifieds, Late Models and Limited Sportsman were extremely healthy the Pro Stocks were dying a slow death as only 16 were on hand.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Bo Gunning ended a long dry spell as he annexed the 40 lap SK Modified victory. Jim Peterson won the 30-lap Late Model feature, Chris Matthews the 20-lap SK Light feature, Michael Nadeau the Limited Late Model feature, and Steve Berardi the 15-lap DARE Stock feature. Gunning started the event from the outside pole, but he had to work hard for the victory. Curt Brainard, searching for his first win since the 2000 season, hounded Gunning lap after lap, and nearly made several moves to the inside of Gunning for the lead. A late caution slowed the field and set up a four lap dash to the finish. Ted Christopher moved past Brainard into second on the restart, but Gunning was too strong for Christopher to overtake. Brainard came home third, with Todd Owen and Eric Berndt rounding out the top-5.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Kenny Horton scored his first career win at the shoreline oval. Dennis Gada, who is in the process of trying to annex a record setting seventh track championship finished second. Dennis Charette, who survived a trademark “Waterford Big One” finished third. A grinding crash on lap two damaged the cars of Shelly Perry, Wendell Dailey and Shawn Monahan. Monahan returned to finish sixth. Rounding out the top five following Charette were Don Fowler and Tyler Chadwick. Officials felt that Rob Janovic triggered the crash as they sent him to the rear. Janovic ended up eighth in the final tally. Tim Jordan made it three in a row in Late Model competition as he won a classic battle with Allen Coates. This division, once considered the best second division in New England is down to eleven cars and could use a shot in the arm. The ISMA Supermodifieds made a special appearance with Chris Perley taking the win over Nokie Fornoro and Rob Summers. Other Saturday night winners were Bill Gertsch in the Sportsman division and Phil Evans in the Mini-Stocks.

Other weekend winners were Pete Brittain over Jan Leaty and Tony Hirschman at the Richie Evans Memorial at Oswego, Kirk Akexander in the True Value Modified Series at Monadnock and twin events at Wall Township went to Jimmy Blewett and Justin Gumley.

Kasey Kahne raced to his first victory of the season, pulling away on a late restart to win the Busch Series race at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C. Casey Mears shored up his job security by stretching his fuel to the finish line on Sunday night to win the Coca-Cola 600, his first Nextel Cup victory. Mears, struggling through his first season at elite Hendrick Motorsports, ran strong all night at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but only took the lead when others ducked onto pit road for a splash of gas. Mears and his team gambled and pushed their Chevrolet to the finish, running out of gas moments after he took his first checkered flag. It was Hendrick's fifth straight win and the ninth in the past 10 Nextel Cup races, but came from the unlikeliest driver. J.J. Yeley finished second for the first top-five finish of his career. Kyle Petty was third, his first top five in 10 years. Reed Sorenson was fourth, and Brian Vickers was fifth in the highest finish so far for Toyota. Tony Stewart, who seemed to have the win after Jimmie Johnson gave it away in the pits, wound up sixth after figuring he was two laps short on fuel and had to make a late stop.

Dario Franchitti finally got the news he had been waiting for Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "The rain is eight blocks away," he heard over his radio. Franchitti had stayed on the track during a late caution, anticipating another round of thunderstorms - and the gamble paid off. The Scotsman, who is probably best known as actress Ashley Judd's husband, won the Indianapolis 500, arguably the world's biggest race, when it was halted by rain 34 laps from its scheduled end. Scott Dixon finished second at Indianapolis Motor Speedway while two-time winner Helio Castroneves battled back from an early mishap on pit lane to finish third.

It was announced that the Motor Racing Network, a wholly owned subsidiary of the International Speedway Corp., would move to Cabarrus County, NC and will be creating 50 jobs and investing $2.15 million over the next three years. The company, which provides NASCAR radio coverage and programming, is moving from Daytona Beach, Fla. The average weekly wage of the jobs will be $1,045 plus benefits, which is higher than the Cabarrus County average weekly wage of $594, not including benefits.

This week  are several vintage racing photos of New York's Cam Gagliardi provide by John Bisci's Turn5 Photo & Video 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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