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Friday May 29, 2010
 

By Phil Smith

Fifty years ago in 1960 George Janoski and Bill Slater won the opening night NASCAR Modified features at the Stafford Springs Speedway. It was the beginning of the second year that NASCAR sanctioned races at the Connecticut oval. Slater carried his winning ways over to Saturday night at the Norwood Arena where he made it five features in a row at the fast ¼ mile oval. Local favorite Don Collins was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster was the Non-Ford winner and Newt Palm made it three in a row in the Bombers. Waterford also ran on Monday. Collins and Webster continued their win streaks as they each won twin features that were part of the Memorial Day program.

Forty five years ago in 1965 Don Wayman continued the domination of the New York drivers as he recorded the Friday night Modified win on the dirt at Stafford. Rain washed out the racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. Waterford scheduled an event for Monday which was won by Charlie Webster. Bob Potter was the Bomber winner.Irv Taylor took the win at Fonda on Saturday night. Sunday night at Utica-Rome Rene Charland scored his second win as he held off Jerry Cook and Eddie Flemke SR.

Forty years ago in 1970 Walt Dombrowski made it two in a row at the Waterford Speedbowl as he won the 36 lap Spring Modified Championship. Mike Daignault was the Late Model Daredevil winner.


Thirty five years ago in 1975, it was the first night back for the big tires at Stafford. Stafford had been running under a tire rule that mandated a narrow width which was supposed to be more economical for the car owners and provide better competition. Ronnie Bouchard in the Bob Johnson No.17 wasted little time in his run to the front and when all was said and done, came home the winner. Brian Ross finished second and was followed by Bugsy Stevens, Bob Vee and John Rosati. At Islip, Jerry Bartlet took the win over Charlie Siebert and Fred Harbach. George Kent beat out Jerry Cook and Sonney Seamon at Shangri-La in the first of twin events. Richie Evans won the nitecap over Billy Colton and Cook. Dick Dunn, in the Albert Gaudreau No.3 took the Modified win at the Waterford Speedbowl. At Fulton on Sunday, Maynard Troyer was the top dog over Evans, Mike Loescher and Cook. In open competition small block Modified action at Thompson on Sunday, Steady Eddie Flemke broke Fred DeSarro's win streak. DeSarro finished second with John Rosati, third. Because of light crowds, the Stafford management announced that they were dropping their General Admission price to $4.00 starting on June 7.Also on this weekend, the formation of the New England-Yankee All Star League was announced.

Thirty years ago in 1980, Richie Evans made it three in a row at Stafford as he continued to be unbeatable. Ronnie Bouchard finished second with Bugsy Stevens, third. Evans carried his winning ways over to Riverside Park on Saturday as he won out over Reggie Ruggiero and Ray Miller. Geoff Bodine was also on a tear as he went three for three as he won on Friday at Spencer Speedway, Saturday at Shangri-la Speedway and on Sunday at the Oswego Speedway. In other weekend action, Bugsy Stevens won at Westboro, Mike Beebe at Waterford, Charlie Jarzombek at Islip, Bruce Batchelder at Claremont, Tony Siscone at Wall and New Evergreen, Ronnie Bouchard at Monadnock and Roger Treichler at Lancaster.

Twenty five years ago in 1985, Brian Ross in his own No.73 won the Memorial Day 100 at Stafford on Friday night over Charlie Jarzombek. At Waterford two features were on tap. Rodney Tulba won the first over John Anderson and Ted Christopher, the nitecap. At Riverside Park it was Bob Polverari and at Riverhead Raceway on Long Island it was Bob Park over Wayne Anderson. And at Wall Stadium, Tony Siscone was the king of the hill. Richie Evans won twin events at Shangri-La and Doug Hewitt was victorious at Spencer. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Darrell Waltrip won both the Winston and the WC 500.Tim Richmond was the Busch Grandnational winner.

Twenty years ago in 1990, the modified tour was at the Stafford Motor Speedway for a 100 lapper which turned into a yawner as Jeff Fuller went pole to pole in an event that saw hardly any passing. Rick Fuller finished second with Tom Bolles, third. At Waterford on Saturday night, Harry Rice beat out Jim Broderick for the win and at Riverside Park it was Reggie Ruggiero over Jerry Marquis. At Riverhead it rained and at Shangri-La, Jan Leaty went pole to pole to win out over Tony Hirschman and George Kent. The Oswego Speedway ran the Richie Evans 100 for the Modifieds without a NASCAR sanction and the car count reflected NASCAR's drawing power as only 19 cars were on hand. With many of the top guns missing, it was a good show that saw five different leaders before Jan Leaty took the checker. Chip Graves finished second with Lee Sherwood, third. At Monadnock, also on Sunday, Mike Stefanik won out over Tom Bolles.

Fifteen years ago in 1995, the Featherlite Modifieds were at Stafford for a 150 lapper. Mike Stefanik took the lead on lap 72 and never looked back. Charlie Pasteryak finished a strong second and was followed by Satch Worley, Mike Ewanitsko and Rick Fuller. Bob Potter took the 50 lap SK event after Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke Jr tangled with six laps to go. At Waterford on Saturday night, Bert Marvin passed Moose Hewitt at the half way mark of the 35 lap feature and went on to take the win. Bob Potter ended up third with Jim Broderick, third. Ted Riggot took the win at Riverside Park and Ed Brunnhoelzl won out over Don Howe at Riverhead. George Kent won at Tioga and at Seekonk, veteran retired driver Tex Barry passed away after suffering a heart attack shortly after his son won the Pro Stock feature there. In other action, Bentley Warren won the Little 500 at Anderson, Indiana and a Supermodified event at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Ten years ago in 2000, Eddie Flemke Jr used an early pit stop to his advantage as he brought the Hill Enterprises No.79 home in the top spot at the Featherlite Modified Tour 150 at Stafford. Flemke pitted on lap 59 and when the rest of the field stopped on lap 85 he found himself in the lead which he never gave up. Tim Connolly finished second and was followed by Tony Hirschman, LW Miller, Chris Kopec and Ted Christopher. Christopher overcame being put to the rear during the early going of the SK modified 50 lapper and took the lead in that event with one to go. At Waterford on Saturday, Jeff Pearl beat out Ed Reed Jr for the win and in SK Mod action at Thompson on Sunday; Christopher won out over Todd Ceravolo and Bert Marvin. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Matt Kenseth took the win. Jeff Burton was the GN winner. Five pit crew members were injured during a pre-race pyro show. In Daytona Beach, a group of blacks picketed NASCAR headquarters when the sanctioning body refused an entry of a black driver In all fairness to NASCAR the driver in question was very slow in a practice session at Martinsville and wasn't even close to being competitive. They made the right decision!

Five years ago in 2005 the Whelen Modified Tour traveled to Stafford on Friday night only to get rained on. Forty-one Modifieds were on hand. Donnie Lia was the Busch Pole fastest qualifier as he toured the half-mile oval in 18.25 seconds. Tony Hirschman was second fastest with Chuck Hossfeld, third. Nevin George and Eric Beers rounded out the top five. The event was rescheduled for Sunday, July 3.In some good news it was learned that Mike Ewanitsko would be returning to the Whelen Modified Tour Series wars at Stafford on August 2 or at Thompson on August 18. Ewanitsko was scheduled to be driving for Ed Whelen. Ewanitsko was forced out of competition because of vision problems caused by sugar diabetes. With his problems behind him he felt he was ready to rejoin the tour.

The Waterford Speedbowl finally got a break from the weatherman, as they were able to complete a Saturday night program. Dennis Gada ended a yearlong dry spell as he held of Ted Christopher to record his 47th career win at the shoreline oval. Christopher attempted to rattle Gada with a few love taps with his bumper but it was all for naught. Christopher settled for second and was followed by Ron Yuhas jr, Rob Janovic and Jay Miller. John Puglisi won the 20-lap Sportsman feature, which went pole to pole without a caution. Bill Gertsch Jr. was second and Joe Curioso was third. Phil Evans picked up his second Mini Stock win of the year in the 20-lap feature. Evans started 12th, passed Bill Leonard for the lead with eight laps to go. Leonard finished second, followed by Joe Godbout. Moose Douton led every lap in winning the 30-lap Late Model feature. Defending division champion Corey Hutchings, making his first start of the season, was second. Mark St. Hilaire was third, followed by Charles Bailey III and Allen Coates. Lou Ciccone dominated the 50-lap International Supermodified Association (ISMA) feature. The main buzz around the Speedbowl was still the possible sale of the property in which the track is located. There were people out there that wanted to buy the track and keep it in its present form. Track PR man Pete Zanardi alluded to the fact that no track is safe forever from being sold and added that the closing of the track was a premature conclusion as it has been stated that racing would continue through 2005 and quite possibly 2006.

In other racing, Kirk Alexander came from a dead last starting spot to win the True Value Modified Series event at the Seekonk Speedway and Tom Rogers and JR Bertuccio shared victory lane at the Riverhead Raceway. Jimmie Johnson won the World 600 Nextel Cup event and Kyle Busch won the Busch 300. Dan Weldon won the Indianapolis 500. Female driver Danica Patrick almost won it as she finished fourth.

Last year, 2009, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, after the completion of the first two, of 14 events, had been on “Spring Break” since the Spring Sizzler at Stafford on April 26. Friday it was back to Stafford for the TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON CONNECTICUT CLASSIC 100. Thirty-three Modifieds were on hand for the event. During a somewhat heated drivers meeting NASCAR did its best to alienate two of its top drivers when they questioned a restart policy. They, Mike Stefanik and Ed Flemke, were told to take it “off line”. George Silbermann, managing director of NASCAR’s racing series was at Stafford for all of the action and one must wonder why he wasn’t at the driver’s meeting to get the first hand knowledge of what dialog is missing between the officials and competitors A year or two from now NASCAR will wonder where the cars and loyalty went. In other words the Whelen Modified Tours outspoken drivers were told in so many words if you don’t like the way the races are run that’s just tough!

Jimmy Blewett was able to slow down Ted Christopher’s dominant start to the 2009 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season when he took home the checkered flag in the TSI Harley-Davidson Classic Friday night at Stafford Motor Speedway. Blewett went pole to pole.

Christopher had won the first two races of the season, and earned his third-consecutive Coors Light Pole Award earlier on Friday, but Blewett started on the front row on the redraw and led flag-to-flag for his fifth career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory. Blewett survived six restarts during the race, including a green-white-checker finish, but would not be denied his second career win at the Connecticut half-mile. Todd Szegedy (No. 2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford) ran up front the majority of the race with Blewett, and tried once to go around on the outside late in the race, but Blewett never relinquished the lead. Szegedy settled for a third place finish when Christopher got past him on the white flag lap.

Mike Stefanik and Reggie Ruggiero rounded out the top five finishers in the 100-lap event. Chris Pasteryak, Rowan Pennink, Woody Pitkat, Doug Coby and Ryan Preece brought home the top 10.

The Stafford Motor Speedway weekly feature winners were Ted Christopher in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Michael Bennett in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Tommy Membrino, Jr. in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Tony Membrino, Jr. in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

The 40-lap SK Modified® feature took the green flag with Curt Brainard taking the early lead. Brainard had Matt Gallo all over his back bumper looking to move to the front. After several laps of trying both the high and low grooves, Gallo was able to make a move into the lead on lap-6. Gallo's pass brought Frank Ruocco past Brainard and Ruocco moved by Gallo on lap-9 to move to the front.

Ted Christopher was behind Ruocco and the middle stages of the race saw some great racing between the top-2 as Christopher was searching for a way around Ruocco. Christopher was finally able to make a move to the inside of Ruocco on lap-28 and take the lead for the first time. The field was slowed by the caution with 30 laps complete.

On the lap-30 restart, the cars of Chris Jones and Ruocco came together in turn 1 while battling for second place, with Ruocco spinning and collecting the cars of Brad Hietala and Dave Salzarulo. Jones was sent to the rear of the field for rough riding by NASCAR officials. This put Brainard back alongside Christopher for the restart. Several late cautions kept the field in close contact, but Christopher was up to the task on each restart and he held off Brainard at the checkered flag for his first SK Modified® feature victory of the 2009 season. Rounding out the top-5 behind Christopher and Brainard was Gallo, Wade Mattesen, and Mark Bakaj.

After being penalized the previous week for allegedly jumping a restart Christopher swore up and down that he would not return to Stafford. Evidently someone gave him an attitude adjustment as he knuckled under and was back in the SK Modified lineup like nothing ever happened.

From the way it sounded the Race of Champions Series event run at the Oswego Speedway in upstate New York was far better than the Whelen Modified Tour Series at Stafford. Ted Christopher took advantage of Bill Putney’s locked up wheel with only three laps remaining of the 75 lap Richie Evans Memorial Port City 150. Christopher driving a car prepared and owned by Terry Zacharias of Candor, NY knew the last three laps were going to be tough. As defending RoC Champion Matt Hirschman of Northampton, Pa. was now in second and Matt who was undefeated at Oswego in 2008 was looking to keep his streak intact. Following another yellow on lap 72 a three-lap shootout was set and everyone in attendance knew it was going to be an exciting finish. Christopher, a multi time NASCAR National Modified Champion used plenty of different driving strategies to keep Hirschman at bay. However entering turn three on the final lap Hirschman got on the outside of Christopher and the two exited turn four side by side with the crowd standing on their feet. Christopher moved up the track just a hair but left Hirschman enough room to stay alongside of him. As the two drivers drag raced to the start finish line Christopher in his Ron Hutter powered Troyer chassis car had just enough to hold off Hirschman by inches for the $2,800 win. Jan Leaty of Williamson, NY who started 11th ended up in third with Eric Beers of Northampton, Pa. in fourth after starting 21st and Erick Rudolph of Ransomville, NY finishing fifth after starting 16th.

The Waterford Speedbowl managed to avoid the numerous showers that hit Connecticut on Saturday night. Groton native Ron Yuhas Jr. nearly won the Waterford Speedbowl’s opening Saturday night event in April before Keith Rocco stole the win by mere inches, but on Saturday night Yuhas would not be denied going on to win the 35-lap SK Modified main event. Ohio native Dave Shullick Jr. won the 50-lap ISMA SuperModified special in a caution filled event, Bruce Thomas Jr. the Late Model event, Josh Galvin in the Street Stocks, and Bill Leonard was the Mini Stock winner.

The SK Modifieds were first up with their 35-lap main event. Corey Hutchings jumped to the lead over Jeff Pearl on the initial green, and the field would stretch out over an extended period of green flag racing. Hutchings would pull a straightaway lead over the competition as laps clicked away. By halfway, Ron Yuhas Jr. and Keith Rocco were asserting themselves working through traffic. Yuhas jumped to the outside lane to move his way through the top five and into the top three. The event’s first caution flew on lap 28 when Jeff Paul, running second, went up in smoke in turn three ending his strong run to that point. Paul turned in the event’s fastest lap. On the restart the action heated up with Yuhas looking outside Hutchings. Meanwhile, Rocco applied pressure to both Hutchings and Yuhas from third place. The entertaining action would be interrupted by caution when Justin Gaydosh spun on the backstretch with four laps to go. Yuhas battled his way into the lead in the outside lane on the restart, overcoming Hutchings with three laps remaining. The event’s final caution waved with two laps remaining setting up a green-white-checkered finish and a restart rematch with Hutchings outside Yuhas. Hutchings could not muster the steam from the outside, and would tuck into second behind Yuhas who would go on to win by a car length. Rocco took an impressive third, Tyler Chadwick ran a good race for fourth, and Rob Janovic Jr. rallied to finish fifth at the stripe.

There were 20 Modifieds on hand. Tough luck reared its ugly head when Todd Ceravolo and Keith Rocco made contact which ended up with Ceravolo’s car sustaining severe damage. Car owner Dickie Doo Ceravolo said it will be a few weeks before the car returns to action.

The True Value Modified Series was at the Thunder Road Speedway in Barre, Vermont. Steve Masse won his first ever True Value event. Rowan Pennick finished second with Kirk Alexander, third. Ed Dachenhausen and Jack Bateman rounded out the top five. Chris Pasteryak led from the start until lap 87 when he had issues and began to fade. The race, plagued by 12 caution periods and one red flag to clear the track from damaged cars, slowed the pace of the feature race, the third event of a 15 race schedule. Nine of those caution periods came between laps 70 and 80.

Like their fellow NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series competitors the TVMS would go back on Spring Break. The next event for the TVMRS will be the Granite State Harley-Davidson 100, Friday night, June 5, at Twin State Speedway, Claremont, NH. At 7 PM.

The Thompson Speedway came alive on Thursday night with what had to be some of the best open wheeled Modified racing seen in quite a while. Keith Rocco of Wallingford, CT, scored the feature win in a dramatic finish for the Speedway’s premier division. It was the second win for Rocco at Thompson after his victory back in April on Icebreaker Saturday. In the early going Kerry Malone got the edge on pole sitter Ted Christopher before the caution flew for a pile-up exiting turn two. Danny Cates was sent spinning from the fifth position and several drivers took evasive action. Only the #36 of Tim Sullivan headed down pit road for service. He was able to rejoin the field. On the restart it was Malone moving out to a five-car length advantage over Jimmy Blewett. It was action-packed for the third spot as Josh Sylvester had his hands full with Christopher and Woody Pitkat. Keith Rocco, who was involved in the lap three caution, had worked his way back inside the top-ten by lap eight. With 10-laps down, Blewett and company had caught Malone. Blewett made a power move exiting turn two to take over the lead. Sylvester and Christopher followed through. Christopher made quick work of Sylvester to move into second. A single-lap later the caution flew for a spin by Dana Young. Under the caution, Malone gave up the fourth spot to head to pit road for adjustments. An incident that involved Harry Rheaume, Tim Sullivan, Dave LaCroix and Andy Gasper brought out the caution again on lap 16. The cars of Rheaume and Sullivan sustained heavy damage.

Back under green, Christopher was all but pushing leader Blewett while Sylvester, Pitkat and Rocco where locked in a heavy battle for third. Sparks flew when Christopher made a bid for the lead. Contact between the lead duo ended with Christopher stopped on the front stretch with a flat tire; necessitating the caution. Todd Ceravolo pitted from the fifth position under the caution. Ceravolo parked his car after it was determined that his mount had sustained suspension damage that could not be repaired. Pitkat looked like he was shot out of a cannon on the restart giving Blewett a run for the lead. Sylvester stood his ground. Pitkat slipped back to third behind Sylvester. Rocco was now fourth followed by Marvin, who had worked his way back into contention after being involved in the first caution. On lap 23, Rocco muscled his way passed both Pitkat and Sylvester and into the second spot. The young gun had five laps to chase down Blewett. It didn’t even take one as Rocco caught Blewett. In turn three, Rocco made a dive bomb move under Blewett. The car drifted up allowing Blewett to maintain his lead. The cat-and-mouse continued over the final two laps.

On the white flag lap, Rocco ran Blewett up toward the wall in turn one. Coming to the checkers, Rocco drifted high pushing Blewett toward the wall once again in turn three. Sylvester saw a glimmer of light in the middle while Pitkat looked low. All four cars had a shot at the victory. Slight contact with Sylvester slowed Rocco but not enough to derail the run to the victory. Blewett barely edged out Pitkat for second. Sylvester settled for fourth. Marvin completed the top-five.

Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, a winner during the Icebreaker in April, continued his winning ways in the Super Late Models while Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI edged out fan favorite Jeff Zuidema to earn the Late Model checkers. Scott Sundeen of Douglas, MA, in Limited Sportsman; Brian Sullivan of S. Windsor, CT in the TIS Modifieds; and Tim Taylor of Wauregan, CT in the Mini Stocks also visited victory lane on the opening Thursday night.

Mike Bliss raced to his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory since 2004, catching a break to claim the rain-shortened event at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Bliss, who started from the back of the field, took the lead because he was in the right position when the caution flag came out with 39 laps to go. The caution put Bliss ahead of series points leader Kyle Busch, who clearly had the car to beat most of the night. It looked as if Busch would get lucky when rain halted the race a few laps later and got him back near Bliss' bumper. But more showers came, and NASCAR officials called the Carquest Auto Parts 300 with 30 laps to go and Bliss still out front. Brendan Gaughan was second, followed by Busch, Brian Vickers and Joey Logano.

Helio Castroneves won the Indianapolis 500. The winner pulled away over the final laps to beat Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick, who eclipsed her historic fourth-place finish as a rookie in 2005 by crossing the strip of bricks in third - the highest finish ever for a female driver.

NASCAR's longest race of the season spilled into a second day Sunday night when the Coca-Cola 600 at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC was postponed by rain for the first time in 50 years. Bruton Smith, the outspoken, multimillionaire chairman of Speedway Motorsports Inc., ripped NASCAR for choosing not to disclose the banned substance involved in driver Jeremy Mayfield's suspension, for dropping record penalties on underfunded driver Carl Long and for the kind of racing created with the Car of Tomorrow. Smith also criticized two former Kentucky Speedway owners who refused to drop an antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR. Their decision has delayed the track from getting a Sprint Cup race.

NASCAR declared David Reutimann the winner when an ominous weather forecast indicated it would be impossible to run the Coca Cola 600 to its conclusion. The drivers had figured that out a day earlier, when the race was postponed and carried over to Memorial Day for the first time in its 50-year history. With intermittent showers spraying the track all day Monday, the race was one of strategy, as every driver simply tried to be in front when the event was finally washed out. Reutimann gave it his best shot when, running 14th, he and crew chief Rodney Childers decided not to join the parade of cars following leader Kyle Busch down pit road during a caution for rain 22 laps past the halfway point.

The race had reached the point where if it was stopped again for rain, it was official, and the Michael Waltrip Racing team prayed the end was soon. Reutimann claimed the lead, with pole-sitter Ryan Newman and Robby Gordon following him to the front as the rest of the field went to pit road for fuel and fresh tires. He didn't lead a single lap under green-flag racing, but was out front for five laps under caution before NASCAR called the cars back to pit road for the third rain stoppage. Most drivers headed to their motorhomes to wait out the rain. Not Reutimann. He was joined at his car by his 68-year-old father, Buzzie, a racer with one career NASCAR start who still tears it up in dirt track events at East Bay Raceway near Tampa, Fla. The two didn't bother with an umbrella as they stood in a steady drizzle for just over 2 hours. Newman finished second and Gordon was third. Gordon might have a problem, though. NASCAR confiscated his real axle housing following post-race inspection for further evaluation. Carl Edwards, who had changed into street clothes by the time the race was called, finished fourth, followed by Brian Vickers and Busch.

This week are several vintage racing photos from Norwood Arena, courtesy of Don Thomas of NorwoodArena.com. Norwood Arena is having there annual reunion on Sunday June 6th. at Bezema Buick-GMC at 402 Providence Hwy. (US Rt. 1) in Norwood, MA.
Click on Photo for Full Size




Marty Bezema



George Summers


Ed Flemke


Don MacTavish

Leo Cleary

George Pendergast

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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