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Friday May 30, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

 
Forty five years ago in 1963 Rene Charland made it three in a row as he won the 25 lap NASCAR Sportsman feature at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Bill Wimble finished second with Jerry Cook, third. Bob Zeigler and Ken Meahl rounded out the top five.

Forty years ago, in 1968, on the Memorial Day weekend the Albany-Saratoga Speedway presented a 100-lap event. Jerry Cook rose to the occasion and took the win over Hop Harrington. At Stafford, Bugsy Stevens in the mighty No.3 of Len Boehler took the win over Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Fred Harbach and Tommy Borget. At Norwood, on Saturday night, Mr. Leo Cleary in the Joe Brady No.41 took the win. On the dirt at Fonda, Lou Lazzaro was unbeatable as he beat out Jerry Cook and Eddie Pieniezak for the win. Rain washed out activities at Thompson. At Utica-Rome, Lou Lazzaro, in the same car he ran on dirt the night before changed tires and springs and went out and won on the pavement. Paul Hamel finished second with Jerry Cook, Dick Clark and Richie Evans rounding out the top five.

Thirty five years ago on Memorial Day weekend in 1973, Albany-Saratoga started the weekend with a special 99 lap event which saw Richie Evans take the win over Eddie Pieniezak, Fred DeSarro, Sonney Seamon and Bugsy Stevens. At Stafford Speedway on Saturday, Mr. Leo Cleary was at his best as he took a hard fought win over Bobby Santos, Eddie Flemke, Freddie Schulz and DeSarro. At Islip, Jim Hendrickson won out over Junior Ambrose and Wayne Anderson. Lee Raceway ran a 100 lapper on Sunday. Freddie Schulz took the win over Jerry Cook, Jim Landry, Ed Yerrington and Santos. Stafford had a 100 lapper scheduled for Monday but rain washed it out.

Thirty Years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine made it four in a row at Stafford. Leo Cleary finished second and was followed by Mike McLaughlin, Bob Polverari and Ed Flemke. Saturday racing at Seekonk, Waterford and Riverside, rained out. On Sunday at Thompson, Fred DeSarro in Len Boehlers' Ole Blu won out over Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie Flemke. Geoff Bodine was disqualified for rough riding. In upstate N.Y., Maynard Troyer won three for the weekend as he took two at Fulton and one at Spencer. Wayne Anderson won what was to be the last NASCAR sanctioned event at Chemung as NASCAR pulled the sanction shortly after the event. At New Egypt, Geoff Bodine was again in victory lane.

Twenty five years ago in 1983, rain washed out holiday events at Stafford and Waterford. Star Speedway ran the Modifieds on Saturday night. Jeff Fuller took the win over Mike Murphy and George Murray. Stafford got to run their rained out modified 100 lapper on Sunday. Reggie Ruggiero took the win with Charlie Jarzombek, Corky Cookman and John Blewett jr. following. Other weekend winners were Richie Evans at Spencer and Oswego, Don Owe at Islip, Stan Greger won two at Riverside, Doug Hewitt at Holland and Tom Baldwin at New Egypt.

Twenty years ago in 1988, Ted Christopher went two for two as he won at Stafford on Friday and at Waterford on Saturday. Tom Tagg finished second at Stafford and Don Bundle finished second at Waterford. Mike Stefanik took a hard fought win at Riverside over Reggie Ruggerio and at Riverhead, Tom Baldwin beat out Chris Young. Tony Hirschman made it five in a row at Tioga and Brian Ross won the modified portion of Port City 150 at Oswego.

Fifteen years ago in 1993, Reggie Ruggerio was in top form as he won the modified tour event at Stafford. Tom Baldwin finished second and was followed by Ed Flemke jr. Tom Tagg was the SK modified winner. Twin features were run at Waterford. Chris Jones went pole to pole to win the first one and Ted Christopher won the nightcap. Wayne Anderson got his 21st career win at Riverhead over Don Howe and on Sunday at Oswego, Jeff Fuller won the Port City 150 over Rick Fuller, Doug Hevron and Jan Leaty. At Charlotte, Dale Earnhardt made up two laps to win the World 600. Michael Waltrip won the Grandnational 300. In Busch Grandnational North action at Holland, Brian Ross scored his first division win after Kelly Moore dumped Robbie Crouch with three laps to go and was put to the rear for rough riding.

Ten years ago in 1998, it rained at Stafford. Dennis Gada was the big winner at Waterford as he won the modified main event over Jeff Pearl and Eric Berndt. Chris Wenzel won at Riverside and John Fortin scored at Riverhead. The Modified Tour Series was at Watkins Glen. Tim Connolly started on the outside pole and passed pole sitter Mike Stefanik on the last lap to take the win. Stefanik had led the first thirty-seven of the thirty eight-lap contest. Stefanik finished second with Chris Kopec, third.

Five years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series beat the foul weather that all but wiped out all racing on the East Coast a week ago. After getting rained out at Stafford on May 23 the series returned the following Friday night. The event drew 42 Modifieds for 31 starting spots. John Blewett III, who failed to qualify for this race last year, was the top time trialer. Because of a wreckfest during the SK-Modified feature the 150 lap Tour series event got a late start as they took the green flag shortly after 10:00 p.m. Long Islander Donnie Lia jumped out from his outside pole starting position to take the lead at the start. Lia, a rookie on the tour, cut his racing teeth at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Lia led the first seven laps before Blewett took command. Blewett led until lap 39 when he gave way to Todd Szegedy. Szegedy and Blewett would slug it out until Blewett’s tires would give up near the 90-lap mark of the 150-lap event. Former series champion Jerry Marquis started in tenth spot and after pitting for tires on lap 35, slowly worked his way to the front and as Blewett backed off, moved into second spot. Szegedy held off Marquis until the final lap when he got hung up behind cars about to be lapped which allowed Marquis to make his move and take the lead and victory in the event’s final seconds. Szegedy ended up second with Ed Flemke Jr., third. Flemke, who had a string of bad luck that started in Florida in February, rebounded and was back in contention as a potential winner. Ted Christopher, who won the Spring Sizzler at Stafford a few weeks earlier, finished fourth. Donnie Lia finished fifth. Seven cars were on the lead lap at the finish. Szegedy was extremely upset with Tom Bolles who did not heed the move-over flag that was displayed by the starter and felt that the Ellington, Ct. resident cost him the race. Bolles and Jamie Tomaino were the only other drivers to finish on the lead lap. Rounding out the top ten were Chuck Hossfeld, Mike Stefanik and John Blewett III. There were six caution periods for 33 laps. John Lobo Jr. won the SK Modified 50 lapper over Jim Civali and Jim Larsen. One of the many wrecks collected 14 cars. For the second week in a row rain-washed out racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. Seekonk Speedway, in Massachusetts, which was to have hosted the Busch North Series of NASCAR, was also rained out. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Ryan Newman took the pole plus the win. Jeff Gordon finished second. Newman drove the final 180 miles without power steering. Bobby Labonte finished third.

Last year, 2007, the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour continued to regroup before coming alive for their “Summer Session” which began on Thursday, June 21 at the Thompson Int. Speedway. Jimmy Blewett held a slim three point lead over James Civali. Two points behind Civali was Matt Hirschman. Blewett and Civali have won, Hirschman had not. Donny Lia with two wins to his credit sat in fourth spot, thirteen points behind Hirschman. Rounding out the top five was Todd Szegedy. Sixth through tenth were Zach Sylvester, Jerry Marquis, Mike Stefanik, Ronnie Silk and Jamie Tomaino. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series continued to be strong as 52 different drivers had entered into competition in four events.

Thursday Night Thunder at the Thompson Speedway was canceled when Thunder Showers descended upon the speedway shortly after qualifying was completed.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night Woody Pitkat won the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Scott Cook, the 30-lap Late Model feature, Brit Andersen, the 20-lap SK Light feature, Sean Foster the Limited Late Model feature, and Carla Botticello the 15-lap DARE Stock feature. The 40-lap SK Modified feature saw Woody Pitkat and Zach Sylvester duel for much of the race, with Pitkat having to hold off Ted Christopher to take his first win of the 2007 season. Sylvester took the lead at the drop of the green, and set the early pace. Pitkat settled into second, but moved past Sylvester on lap-6 to take over the lead. Pitkat then held the lead until lap-20 when Sylvester moved back out front. Sylvester then held the lead until lap-33, when Pitkat moved back by Sylvester to take the lead back. Ted Christopher followed Pitkat by Sylvester to move into second. Christopher hounded the bumper of Pitkat, but was unable to make a pass for the win. Rounding out the top-5 behind Pitkat and Sylvester was Todd Owen, Sylvester, and Ryan Posocco.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Jeff Pearl scored his 25th career win at the shoreline oval. Other feature winners were Bruce Thomas Jr. (Late Model), Jack Aquilina (Sportsman), Joe Godbout III (Mini Stock), and Chris Bakaj (Legends).

Pearl passed early leader Frank Mucciacciaro Jr. on the ninth lap. With the victory, Pearl earned a guaranteed starting spot for this Saturday’s True Value Modified Tour 100 at the Speedbowl. Diego Monahan, Dennis Charette, Ron Janovic Jr., and Frank Ruocco (subbing for Jimmy Horton), rounded-out the top-5. Sixth through tenth were Zach Sylvester in a new entry owned by Dick Ceravolo, Shawn Monahan, Wendell Dailey, Mucciacciaro and Jay Miller.

In Late Model action, it was Bruce Thomas Jr. collecting his 3rd feature victory of the season. After a long intense side-by-side battle with multi-time champion Allen Coates that resulted in one of the closest finishes in Speedbowl history, Following Thomas and Coates was Tony Macrino, Ernie Bertrand, and Larry Goss.

Les Hinckley, Windsor Locks, CT; scored his second win of the season Sunday afternoon, June 3, at Canaan Fair Speedway, Canaan, NH; capturing the “Canaan 100” for modified race cars, his seventh career win with the True Value Modified Racing Series. The second generation driver captured the same event last spring at the Granite State oval. “I’ve always loved this place, we came here year’s ago with the pro stock, won an open comp show, love to come back,” Hinckley said, after being chased to the finish by point leader Kirk Alexander, Hinckley, who started the race 15th out of 28 racers, took the lead from Louie Mechalides; at lap 50, and was never headed. Mechalides pursued Hinckley until lap 90 when he yielded the second spot to Alexander. Alexander gave chase to Hinckley but was unable to get close enough to contest for the win. Lou Mechalides, Dwight Jarvis and Andy Seuss rounded out the top five.

There were 450 people in the stands at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. And it’s not just the front gate that was dwindling. Car counts were down, as well. Only the Blunderbusts and Modifieds had full fields. There were 16 cars for a double-point Charger race, 12 cars for the Late Model race, and 10 cars for the Figure Eights
.
Carl Edwards, who passed Matt Kenseth with 13 laps left in the Busch Series Dover 200, extended his overall points lead and won for the third time this season. He popped his head out of the window, pumped his fist to the crowd and nailed his trademark backflip, making a clean landing on the concrete. The Nextel Cup race scheduled for Sunday was run on Monday. Martin Truex Jr became a first time winner as he took the checkered flag in the rescheduled event.

NASCAR Vice Chairman William C. France, whose leadership helped turn a family-owned company into a national phenomenon, died at 1:00pm on June 4, 2007 at his home in Daytona Beach, Fla. at the age of 74. France served as NASCAR’s president from 1972-2000, taking over from his father, NASCAR founder William H.G. “Big Bill” France. In 2000, France, known as “Bill Jr.”, became NASCAR’s CEO and the chairman of the newly created NASCAR Board of Directors.

This week are several vintage racing photos of Connecticut's Denny Zimmerman who went on to become the 1971 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year, 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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