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Friday May 29, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, the Stafford Motor Speedway started the Memorial Day weekend off with a 100 lap event. Charlie Jarzombek, in one of his first off-island trips made the one to Stafford a successfull one as he won the 100 lapper in his radical off-set coupe. Fred DeSarro finished second and was followed by Bobby Santos, Jerry Cook, Bob Karvonen, Ed Yerrington Frank Faria, Moe Gherzi and Wild Bill Slater. Lou Lazzaro won at Malta and repeated at Fonda and also in the first of twin features at Utica-Rome. Rene Charland finished second to Lazzaro at both Malta and at Fonda. Thompson ran on Sunday afternoon and it was Bugsy Stevens taking the win over DeSarro Lou Austin, Fred Harbach, Smokey Boutwell and Slater.


Charlie Jarzombek took down the 100 lap win at Stafford Speedway in 1969. (John Grady Photo)

Stevens hot footed it up the Mass Pike and made it to Utica in time to run the consi. Stevens finished third in the first feature behind Lazzaro and Jerry Cook. Bernie Miller won the Utica nite cap and Stevens ended up seventh. Dick Dunn was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, Stafford ran twice on the holiday weekend. On Friday night, Bugsy Stevens put the Koszela Woodchopper in victory lane ahead of Dick Caso, Ron Bouchard and Gene Bergin. Stevens made it a two-fer as he returned on Monday to win the Holiday 100 lapper. Freddie Schulz finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Geoff Bodine and Lou Austin. At Utica-Rome on Friday, local favorite Dick Fowler took the 30 lap win over Cook, Andy Romano and Richie Evans. Jim Tyler beat out Artie Tappen at Islip on Saturday and at Shangri-La it was Maynard Troyer over Bodine and Evans. Evans got the jump on Troyer at Fulton on Sunday night as he took the win there. Dick Dunn was the winner at Waterford.
 


Leo "The Lion" Cleary took down a 1979 win at Seekonk.

Thirty years ago in 1979, a 100 lapper scheduled for Stafford, rained out. Spencer also rained out. Saturday night at Seekonk, Mr. Leo Cleary was not to be denied as he took the top spot despite constant pressure from Bugsy Stevens who finished second. George Summers ended up third with Brian Ross, fourth. At Waterford, Joe Tiezzi won out over Dale Holdredge and Moose Hewitt. At Islip, Greg Sacks beat Tom McCann and George Wagner. Other weekend winners were Richie Evans at Shangri-La Jeff Fuller at Westboro, Stan Greger at Riverside, Ron Bouchard at Thompson and Bugsy Stevens at Monadnock.

Twenty Five years ago in 1984, Stafford started the weekend off with a 100 lapper. Brian Ross was on a tear as his home built No. 73 handled to perfection as he sprinted to victory over George Brunnhoelzl, George Kent, Richie Evans and Charlie Jarzombek. Waterford had a 100 lapper scheduled for Saturday night but it rained after twenty laps. At Riverside twin events were on tap with John Rosati and Reggie Ruggiero taking the wins. Oswego ran their Port City 150 on Sunday Mike McLaughlin won the modified 75 lapper over Brian Ross and Bentley Warren won the Supermodified portion. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Harry Gant was the polesitter and Bobby Allison the winner. Ron Bouchard qualified 18th and finished third. Other weekend winners were Doug Hewitt at Spencer, George Kent at Shangri-La, Wayne Anderson at New Egypt and Tony Siscone, also at New Egypt.

Twenty years ago in 1989, Staffordís holiday program rained out as did Waterford. For the ninth time, Seekonk also fell victim to rain. At Riverside Park, Bob Polverari took the victory and at Riverhead, Steve Park and Mike Ewanitsko finished one-two. In SK modified action at Thompson on Sunday, the Christophers, Ted and Mike ran one-two to beat out Bob Potter and at Oswego; the Modified Tour series winner was Tony Hirschman. Reggie Ruggiero finished second with Tony Jankowiac, third.

Fifteen years ago in 1994 the Modified Tour Series was at Stafford for a 150 lap event. On the start, the sparks flew as pole sitter Ted Christopher found himself in the fence after being hit by Ed Flemke Jr. It didn't end there as Flemke later tangled with Tom Baldwin. Baldwin felt that it was deliberate and retaliated by ramming Flemke. The end result was that Baldwin was fined $2,000 and suspended for three events. Ricky Fuller was the eventual winner over brother Jeff, Wayne Anderson and Jan Leaty. At Waterford, Ricky Young took the top spot over Todd Ceravolo and Moose Hewitt. Chuck Stuer scored his first win at Riverhead and Stan Gregger beat out Doug Meservy and Steve Park at Riverside. Ed Kennedy made a surprise visit to Flemington on Sunday and walked off with the main event there over John Blewett.

Ten years ago in 1999 Fifty-one NASCAR Modifieds were on hand at Stafford for the Memorial Day weekend 150. Tim Connolly, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino took the lead from Ed Flemke Jr on lap 127 when he suffered a flat tire and was forced to pit. Connolly led the rest of the 150 lap distance as he went on to record the win. Carl Pasteryak finished second with Mike Ewanitsko, third. Rick Fuller and Charlie Pasteryak rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Ted Christopher, Reggie Ruggiero, Jack Bateman, Tony Hirschman and George Kent. Jerry Marquis was the SK Modified winner. At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Dennis Gada made it four in a row in Modified competition as he beat out Mike Gada and Tucker Reynolds for the win. Jeff Karns was the Late Model winner. At Riverside Park Chris Wenzel beat out Ed Spiers and Eddie Flemke Jr for the win and at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island Dan Jivenelli took the win. At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Kenny Brack, driving for AJ Foyt, took the win in the Indy 500 after Robbie Gordon ran out of gas while leading the last lap. Tony Stewart finished ninth, flew to Charlotte and finished fourth in the Cup event behind Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin. Steve Park led twice for 84 laps before crashing while trying to avoid a slowing Kyle Petty.

Five years ago in 2004 the Thompson Speedway began their regular Thursday night Thunder Series. Second generation driver Kerry Malone staged a heated battle with Bo Gunning and came out the winner. Todd Ceravolo finished third. Ted Christopher was also in the mix until his engine began belching smoke, forcing him to drop out. Christopher was credited with 19th place. Defending Sunoco Modified champion Eric Berndt finished fourth with Richard Savory rounding out the top five. Other Thursday night Thunder winners were Chuck Docherty in the Pro Stocks, Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Keith DeSantis in the Limited Sportsman and Eric Bourgeois in the Mini Stocks.

The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Stafford Motor Speedway on Friday night for the Haynes 150. The event drew 43 Modifieds and produced a surprise finish with a lot of excitement. Ted Christopher, who was the Busch Pole sitter once again, saw his hopes of a win disappear in the closing moments. Christopher, who led the first 67 laps, took the lead from Reggie Ruggiero on lap 123. Shortly after taking the two to go signal Todd Szegedy attempted a move made famous by Christopher, the bonsai bottom shot in turn one. With his left side tires in the grass and dirt Szegedy slid up into Christopher as he moved down to block. The contact caused Christopher to spin. Tony Hirschman was in the catbird seat as he jumped at the opportunity to take the lead. Szegedy managed to keep going and fell in behind Hirschman when the field returned to green on lap 161. Szegedy had the misfortune of breaking an axle on the restart, which allowed Reggie Ruggiero to move into second spot. Hirschman romped his way to the checkered flag and the win. Ruggiero finished second. Tom Cravenho ended up third. Tom Cloce and Jamie Tomaino rounded out the top five. Current point leader Eddie Flemke ended up 11th after brushing the wall. Sixth through tenth were Jerry Marquis, Jeff Malave, Dick Houlihan, Ted Christopher and Tony Papale. Szegedy was last on the lead lap in 15th spot. A total of 11 caution periods for 58 laps kept the average speed at 59.389 mph. Once the dust settled the fingers were pointing. Christopher felt that Szegedy over drove and intended in taking him out. Szegedy claimed that Hirschman hit him, forcing him into Christopher. Hirschman stated that he did hit Szegedy but it was under the starters stand and not in the first turn where he made contact with Christopher. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series continues to provide the best in competition and excitement of any NASCAR division.

The Stafford Motor Speedway management announced that the Haynes 150 would be televised as part of their NASCAR New England weekly production. NASCAR had been unable to secure TV coverage for the Featherlite Modifieds so far for this year. Thanks to the Stafford management, competitors were getting some exposure on the tube. In SK Modified competition at Stafford on Friday night it was high-speed carnage and destruction of equipment. It was survival of the fittest and the lucky. Jim Civale, who won the Nationals at Waterford survived to take the win in the 40-lap feature. It took 63 minutes to run 40 laps. Steve Chowanski finished a distant second.

The Waterford Speedbowl gave its SK-Modified division the week off. Defending champion Dennis Gada is off to a good start as he led the point standings in his quest for his sixth consecutive track title. Gada led Ed Reed Jr. by 28 points. Chris Pasteryak sat in third, four points behind Reed. Jeff Pearl and Dennis Charette rounded out the top five. Double features for the Late Models were run with Corey Hutchings and Phil Rondeau recording wins. John Puglisi won the 20 lap Sportsman feature and Glen Colvin was the Mini-Stock winner. Vin Esposito topped the Legend field and Jeff Walsh captured the X Car feature.

It looked like the proposed speedway in North Stonington, CT. was a dead issue. Connecticut developer Gene Arganese shifted his intentions at land in Plainfield, CT. for his $400 million domed ĺ mile speedway. The proposed site was next to the Plainfield Greyhound track. Located mid-way between the Waterford Speedbowl to the south and the Thompson Speedway to the north, the proposed speedway would host various touring series events, NASCAR and non- NASCAR events. In addition to the dog track the town is also hosts a Lowes distribution center. The Lowes building is equivalent to four football fields in area. Since the very beginning NASCAR had stated that there are no additional Nextel Cup dates available and even went so far as to send Arganese a letter from their legal department telling him that he should not suggest that there are available dates that could be had. In a somewhat related development New York City news radio station WINS reported that NASCAR would be coming to a Naval-Military base on Staten Island. While the Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford the Busch North Series was at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Brad Leighton took the win over Dale Quarterly.

Last year, 2008, After a one week delay because of rain the Thompson Speedway began their series of Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) racing programs. Under warm, sunny skies, 132 cars including 25 Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds were on hand. As they are noted for, the Thompson management ran true to form as the entire program was run in an efficient manner with fans in their cars and on the way home by 9:30pm. Despite soaring fuel prices the Thursday night crowd was fairly good. The new Musco Lighting System was very impressive making for a daylight type atmosphere.

In the Sunoco Modifieds, Woody Pitkat wasted little time as he jumped from his third starting position in the 30-lap feature and took the lead shortly after completing the opening lap. Pitkat had a lot of heat on his rear bumper from Keith Rocco but held fast as he took the opening night win. Rocco settled for second and was followed by Kerry Malone, Bert Marvin and Bob Grigas III. Tommy Cravenho. Josh Sylvester, Todd Ceravolo, Harry Rheaume and Josh Steeves, rounded out the top ten. Among the missing was Jimmy Blewett who is on the sidelines with a broken wrist.

For the second year in a row, Larry Barnett took the win in the Limited Sportsman divisionís marquee 50-lapper. Veteran Fred Astle, Jr cleaned house in the Pro Stocks while Jeff Zuidema made it two in a row in Late Model action. Rick Blanchard was the Mini Stock winner with R.J. Marcotte taking the victory in the TIS Modifieds.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was the scene of an epic battle for SK Modified supremacy between Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning. Christopher, who was hoping to annex his 100th career win was forced to settle for second as Gunning won his 47th feature at the Connecticut oval. Richie Pallai, Jr. led the first lap before giving way to Eric Berndt, who held the lead until lap-7 when Todd Owen took over the top spot. Owen held the lead until lap-16 when he and Berndt made contact on a restart that saw both cars spin, which handed the race lead over to Gunning. Once the race went back to green after several lap-16 restart situations, Gunning and Kenny Horton began to pull away from the field. Christopher, who had earlier been black flagged for rough riding, was back into the top-5 and was running the top-2 cars down lap by lap. Christopher took second from Horton on lap-30 and set his sights on Gunning for the final 10-laps. Several times Christopher nearly had a pass made, but couldn't complete a pass. The two cars made contact in turn 2 on lap-37, but heady driving by both competitors kept the action going. Christopher reeled Gunning in for one last try at victory, but Gunning was too strong to be overtaken. Horton finished third behind Gunning and Christopher, with Woody Pitkat and Keith Rocco rounding out the top-5. Ryan Posocco extended his record for career Late Model victories with his 29th career feature win in the Late Model feature event, Mark Bakaj took down his first career victory in the SK Light Modified feature, Rob Dow was the winner of the first of two Limited Late Model feature events, while Andrew Durand took the victory in the regularly scheduled Limited Late Model feature event, and Dan Flannery took down the DARE Stock feature event victory.

The Waterford Speedbowl ended up a victim of thunderstorms that hammered southeastern Connecticut late Saturday evening. Defending champion Bruce Thomas Jr. won the rain-shortened Late Model main event. Other feature winners were Ken Cassidy Jr. (Mini Stock) and Kevin Iannarelli (Pro-4 Modifieds). Starting from the pole, Thomas drove into the lead immediately and was never seriously challenged. Behind him, the trio of Ed Reed Jr., Tim Jordan, and Ron Yuhas Jr. battled, with Reed claiming the runner-up spot. The event was red-checkered at lap-19 due to severe weather conditions entering the area. Completing the top-5 was Jordan, Yuhas, and Joe Curioso III.. Thomasí win put him in the point lead by a mere four points.

In the Mini Stock 20-lap feature, pole sitter Chris Williams led until passed by Phil Evans with twelve laps remaining. Ken Cassidy Jr. slipped by Evans on a restart at the halfway point, going on to win by several lengths. Randy Churchill, Williams, and Mark Panaroni completed the top-5. The first win of 2008 for the defending champion, the event was a qualifier for the Four Cylinder Nationals to be held at Maine ís Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on June 27.

Taking the 25-lap Pro-4 Modified feature was Kevin Iannarelli of Maynard , Mass. Starting mid-pack he quickly worked his way to the front, winning by a wide margin. Following was 2008 Bud Nationals winner Norm Wrenn, Bob Richard Jr., Brian Vincent, and George Sherman. Sixth through tenth were Cory Cleary, Phil Laujier,. Tyler Andersen,. Dan Merservey and Robin Berghman, Berghman is the wife of chassis builder and Modified driver David Berghman as well as the daughter-in-law of three time NASCAR National Modified Champion and Mrs Carl Bugsy Stevens. Cory Cleary is the grandson of Modified great Leo Cleary. Daniel Bisignano notched the Legends Young Lions Event.

The True Value Modified Series and the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series were enjoying their second ďSpring Break of the season.

David Pinkham was the current point leader in the TVMS. Second is Kirk Alexander with Chris Pasteryak, third. Rounding out the top five is Mike Holdredge and Dwight Jarvis. Chuck Hossfeld was atop the Whelen Modified Tour Series. Ted Christopher sat in second spot and was followed by Todd Szegedy, James Civali and Rowan Pennick.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at the Dover Downs Speedway Kyle Busch led the way again, dominating the second half of the 400-mile race Sunday at the Deleware and charging to his Sprint Cup series-best fourth win of the season and 10th overall. Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle were second and third in the Best Buy 400. Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon rounded out the top five. Denny Hamlin made it nine victories for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Nationwide Series, leading all but 69 laps to win Saturday night at Dover Rookie Joey Logano, from Middletown, CT, finished sixth in his NASCAR national-level debut, running near the front of the 200-mile race with veterans such as Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and JGR teammate Hamlin. The 18-year-old Logano drove the No. 20 Toyota that entered leading the Nationwide Series in owner points and has won six races in 14 starts this season with Kyle Busch, Hamlin and Tony Stewart behind the wheel. Edwards, who started on the pole, was second. David Stremme was third and David Reutimann fourth.

It was also announced that Marcus Smith, son of billionaire track owner Bruton Smith, was selected as Humpy Wheeler's successor at Lowe's Motor Speedway and Speedway Motorsports Inc.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos taken by photographer Steve Kennedy of the Mighty Midgets of the 70's, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size


Bobby White (63) & Lee Smith (75)


Johnny Kay


Johnny Mann


Ricky Hart (14) & Don Keller (11)


Ricky Hart


Ted Luce

Thatís 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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