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Friday May 1, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, the Norwood Arena began what was to be its last season of being the Saturday night stop for the NASCAR Modifieds. Jack Malone, Kerry's dad took the win over Eddie Flemke, Bobby Santos, Johnny Thompson, George Savory and Don McCullah. Martinsville ran their spring 100 lap modified event and it was Mr. Modified, Ray Hendrick, taking the win over Bugsy Stevens, Jimmy Hensley, Jerry Cook and Lenny Pond. Fonda also opened their NASCAR modified season with Lou Lazzaro taking the win over Rene Charland, Ron Narducci and Jerry Cook. Richard Petty was the Grandnational (Cup) winner at Martinsville and Bugsy Stevens was the Sunday afternoon winner at the Thompson Speedway.


Jack Malone was the winner at Norwood in 1969
(Photo Courtesy of Don Thomas, NorwoodArena.com)

Thirty five years ago in 1974, Richie Evans took the 150 lap Martinsville win over Harry Gant, Cook, Bob Santos and Brian Ross. Evans went to Ashboro, N.C. on Saturday night where he finished second to Paul Radford. Jerry Cook finished third and was followed by Ray Hendrick and Brian Ross. Ted Wesnoski went two for two as he won Saturday night at Islip and on Sunday at Freeport. Shangri-La opened on Saturday with Geoff Bodine beating out Maynard Troyer and Dave Nichols. At Fulton on Sunday Troyer held off Cook and Sonny Seamon for the win. Bodine and Evans rounded out the top five.

Thirty years ago in 1979, Richie Evans went two for two in the Southland as he won a 100lap modified event at Franklin County in Virginia on Saturday and a 200 lap event at Bowman-Grey in Winston-Salem, N.C. on Sunday. In the northeast, Waterford rained out but events at Westboro and Monadnock were run. Ronnie Bouchard won a 50-lap event at Westboro over Joe Howard, Deke Astle and Freddie Schulz. Bobby Fuller was the late model winner. At Monadnock, Brian Ross in the Mystic Missile won a 100 lapper over Allen Whipple, Jack Bateman and Eddie Flemke Sr.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, the Modifieds ran a 200 lapper at Martinsville and it was Mike McLaughlin taking the win over Tony Hirshman, Charlie Jarzombek and Richie Evans. Wayne Anderson took the opening night win at Islip over Bob Park and Fred Harbach and at Shangri-La it rained. Reggie Ruggerio won one at Riverside over Ray Miller and Bob Polverari. Waterford opened on Sunday with Rick Donnelly winning out over Dickie Doo Ceravolo and Marty Radwick. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Geoff Bodine realized a life long dream as he won his first Winston Cup event. New England rival, Ronnie Bouchard, finished second.

Twenty years ago in 1989, Jim Spencer won at Shangri-La over Jan Leaty. Seekonk suffered their sixth rain out and Riverhead also got washed out. Reggie Ruggerio won a mod tour at Jennerstown on Sunday and at Waterford, Bob Potter won the opener in the Ceravolo car. Monadnock also ran with Jerry Marquis taking the win over Marty Radwick.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, Tom Jensen scored his first ever win, that coming at Riverside Park on Saturday night. Doug Meservy finished second. At Riverhead, Don Howe scored his 23rd career win at the Long Island oval. Bill Park was second. Sunday was a wet and dreary day. Thompsons IceBreaker and Waterford’s opener were scheduled to go head to head. Thompson cancelled their show but Waterford tried to give it a go. Their scheduled 94 lapper was held up for five hours before getting the green. Ted Christopher lapped the entire field with the exception of Dennis Gada who finished second. Jerry Pearl finished third and was followed by Scott Spaulding and Bert Marvin. It was also Todd Ceravolos' modified debut. His efforts ended when a water hose blew and he ended his day in the turn three fence. John Steiner was the late model winner. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Dale Earnhardt took the win over Ernie Irvan and Michael Waltrip.

Ten years ago, in 1999, Jerry Marquis won the Friday night opener at Stafford over Mike Christopher and Frank Wainwrite and Larry Ross. At Waterford on Saturday, Dennis Gada went pole to pole to take the win over Billy Sharp and Mark LaJunesse. The Busch North Series invaded Riverside with Tom Carey winning out over Brad Leighton and Tracy Gordon. Fifty-two of the 150-lap distance was run under caution which kept the average speed down to 36.0627 mph. At Riverhead it was Al Amarillo. Auto Racing suffered a black eye at Charlotte when suspension parts flew off a wrecked IRL car and went into the grandstand, killing three spectators and injuring 12. In Winston Cup action at Fontana, California it was a run-a-way for Jeff Gordon. Matt Kenseth was the BGN winner.

Five years ago in 2004, the Stafford Motor Speedway began their regular Dodge Weekly Racing Series on Friday night. Jeff Malave went pole to pole to win the opening night 40 lap feature. Chuck Hossfeld, in his third time out in an SK-Modified finished second. Hossfeld applied a lot of pressure to Malave in the closing laps but in the end settled for second. Jeff Baral finished third. Rounding out the top five were defending champion Kerry Malone and Chris Jones. Among the missing was Eric Berndt who lost his mom on the previous Friday. Mike Quintiliano made it two for two in Late Model competition, taking the lead with two to go. Andrew Durand was the DARE Stock feature winner. Ted Christopher, who has scored wins at Stafford and at Thompson already, added the Waterford Speedbowl to his 2004 win list on Saturday night. Christopher, who started 11th in the SK-Modified feature, took the lead when Doug Coby spun while leading with 15 laps to go.

Christopher admittedly gave him a love tap, which helped him along. Actually Christopher hit Coby before he spun and in reality intimidated Coby to enter the turn a little too hot which caused him to lose control. Ronnie Silk finished second and was followed by Ron Yuhas Jr., Dennis Gada and Tom Fox. The Late Model feature went non-stop with Mark StHilaire taking the win over Corey Hutchings. Ed Gertsch Jr. was the Limited Sportsman winner and Jeff Miller was the Mini-Stock winner. The NEMA Midgets paid a visit to the shoreline oval with Ben Seitz taking the win. In Nextel Cup action at the California Speedway Jeff Gordon made it two in a row. There was no shower of beer cans or chicken bones this week as Gordon’s win was clear-cut. He had the best car. Bobby Labonte may have had something for Gordon at the end but an empty fuel tank forced him to slow on the final lap. Jimmie Johnson finished second. The California event was a test of man and machine as the race was run in 100-degree heat. Greg Biffle was the Busch Racing Series winner on Saturday. Tony Stewart finished second.
 


Jerry Marquis, pictured here with his Pro Stock, retired from racing in 2008. (Photo from the Danny Pardi Collection)

Last year, 2008, Jerry Marquis, one of the best in the business officially announced that he had retired as a driver. In a racing career that started in a Figure 8 car in 1973 at the now closed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass, Marquis has chalked up 22 Track titles plus a NASCAR Modified Tour Series title and two NASCAR Regional Championships. Marquis’ final ride was at the Thompson Speedway in the 2007 World Series.

The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to the elements as their scheduled Friday night opener was cancelled due to rain. Racing will resume this coming Friday, May 9 featuring the 14th Annual New England Dodge Dealers 100 along with the regular bill of fare which includes the SK Modifieds and DARE Stocks.

The Waterford Speedbowl managed to avoid impending rain as they got their entire racing program in the books before the rains fell. Keith Rocco used an extremely wide car to hold off Dennis Gada for his first ever SK Modified win at the shoreline oval as an extremely sparse crowd looked on. Rather than take a chance on being “stuffed” Gada held off and settled for second. Ron Yuhas Jr finished third. Ron Silk and Rob Janovic Jr. rounded out the top five the top-5. Other feature winners were Ed Reed Jr. (Late Model), Chris “Moose” Douton (Sportsman), and, Jeff “Soup” Civardi (Mini Stock).

The True Value Modified Series made its first visit of the season to the shoreline oval. Among the missing was defending series champion Kirk Alexander who got skunked by a bad weather forecast and stayed home. David Pinkham, who had been running second in points to Alexander, took advantage of Alexander’s absence as he won the 100 lap contest which also put him in the point lead. Among the surprise entries was Jimmy Blewett. Blewett probably wished that he had stayed in New Jersey as he was the victim of a nasty wreck on lap 35. For the second week in a row the Jersey racer got airborne. Blewett rode over a wheel, flipped on his roof and hit the turn four wall. Quick action by the track’s crew removed him to safety and luckily with no injuries. Just before the half way mark, lap 42, Ed Dachenhausen and Les Hinkley tangled while fighting for the lead. Both were sent to the rear. Dwight Jarvis inherited the lead at that point. A restart on lap 78 proved his undoing as Pinkham powered into the lead and remained in the front spot for the remainder of the event. Jarvis hung on for second and was followed by Les Hinkley, Chris Pasteryak and Vinny Annarummo Jr. Ted Christopher was in the field but was never a factor as his mount suffered from fuel starvation problems.

Denny Hamlin used a late pit stop for tires to foil the strategy of Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards to win the Nationwide Series race Friday at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. Harvick and Edwards dominated most of the night, but when the sixth caution flew with 22 laps to go, Hamlin gave up his fourth-place position to go to pit road for tires. Everyone behind him followed, leaving Harvick, Edwards and No.3 Mike Bliss as the only cars to stay on the track. Hamlin passed Bliss and Edwards on lap 241, then ducked under Harvick at the start-finish line on lap 242. When another caution came out with three laps left, Kyle Busch got right up on Hamlin's bumper for a two-lap dash. Hamlin again pulled away for his sixth career victory in the series. Harvick was second, followed by Busch.

In the Richmond Sprint Cup event Denny Hamlin appeared headed toward an easy victory. Then, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed poised to snap his two-year losing streak.In the end, Clint Bowyer celebrated in Victory Lane, stealing a victory Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway that ended in wild fashion.Hamlin, the hometown favorite and pole-sitter, led a record 381 of the 400 laps in search of his first Cup victory at Richmond. Nobody came close to challenging him until a leaking right front tire allowed Earnhardt and Kyle Busch to catch him. The two drivers split Hamlin as they moved past him, with Earnhardt emerging as the leader with 18 laps to go. Hamlin's tire finally failed with eight to go, and NASCAR accused him of intentionally bringing out the caution that regrouped the field.Earnhardt and Busch staged a strong battle for the lead when the race resumed, but Busch and Earnhardt made contact in turn 3 that sent Earnhardt into the wall.

Without seeing a replay, Earnhardt guessed that it wasn't deliberate. But as his winless streak reached 72 races on the two-year anniversary of his last victory, he wondered if Busch would need security help exiting the track amid angry Earnhardt fans. Bowyer used the opportunity to slide past Earnhardt and Busch and into the front for the first time all night. Bowyer then held off Busch on a final restart to score his first Cup victory of the season, second of his career. Busch finished second, then was confronted on pit road by his former crew members at Hendrick Motorsports. Mark Martin finished a season-best third and was followed by Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards. Earnhardt finished 15th, Hamlin 24th.

Racing returned to the Rockingham Motor Speedway in North Carolina after a four-year absence and Joey Logano beat a field of Automobile Racing Club of America cars in the Carolina 500. Driving a Chevrolet that Denny Hamlin once drove in Sprint Cup competition, the 17-year-old Logano from Connecticut nearly lapped the field in his ARCA debut. Logano's team saved a set of tires in case there was a late caution on the track's notoriously abrasive racing surface. That's what happened, and Logano gave up the lead to get those tires for a restart with five laps to go. But it only took Logano about half a lap to come from fifth back to first and get the victory. NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader finished second with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a driver in Roush Fenway Racing's developmental program, third.

As for the first race since NASCAR left this track in 2004, new track owner Andy Hillenburg said he was proud to successfully stage an event just six months after completing the purchase from Speedway Motorsports Inc. Hillenburg said he sold out more than 4,000 seats in the track's suites and estimated grandstand ticket sales in the 12,000 range. "We had enough people here to pay a record purse for ARCA and pay the bills," he said.

 

This week are several vintage racing photos from noted racing photographer Gordon Reinig, the long time track photographer at Lancaster Speedway who passed away April 20th. The book Lancaster Heroes put together by John Bisci and Gordon features hundreds of Gordie's photos.  The book is available for $19.95 at Coastal 181 Publishers in the Short Track Book section.
Click on Photo for Full Size


Bill Bitterman-1988


Gordon Treicher-1969


Richie Evans-1970


Pete Hayes-1970


Thort Haag-1971

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.

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