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Friday May 13, 2011
 

By Phil Smith

Sixty years ago in 1951 the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was closed as the facility was being prepped for asphalt that would replace the crushed stone.

Fifty years ago in 1961 Mario “Fats” Caruso won the left over 50 lap opening night Modified event at the Norwood Arena. Rene Charland finished second with Wild Bill Slater in the Connecticut Valley Rocket V-8, third. Caruso came back to win the regularly scheduled 25 lapper at the Massachusetts oval. Racing at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl was canceled due to rain.

Forty five years ago in 1966 Steady Eddie Flemke continued the New England driver domination of the Albany Saratoga Speedway as he won the Friday night 30-lap feature. Dennis Zimmerman finished second with Lou Toro, Mario “Fats” Caruso and Jerry Cook rounding out the top five. At the Fonda Speedway on Saturday night Kenny Shoemaker showed one and all who was boss as he won a 101-lap feature. Bill Slater recorded his first win of the season at Norwood. Pete Hamilton started on the pole and led until lap 15 of the 30 lap feature when Slater moved into the top spot. Johnny Thompson powered his way into the second spot on the last lap as Hamilton faded to third. Rounding out the top five were Dennis Zimmerman and Bob Baccioce. Sixth through tenth were Billy Schulz, Bobby Sprague, Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro and Joe Trudeau. Lou Lazzaro finished second with Ron Narducci, third. Wild Bill Slater Fred “Fuzzy” Baer scored a popular win at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Eddie Bunnell made it three in a row in the Bombers and Fred Sentell was the Daredevil winner. At the Utica-Rome Speedway on Sunday night Eddie Flemke took the win over Bill Wimble, Richie Evans, Frank Mathalia and Ernie Gahan.

Forty years ago in 1971, Richie Evans was banned from running in NASCAR sanctioned events because of the fact that he was racing at independent New York state tracks. Malta opened for the season on Friday night. Evans hired the master, Eddie Flemke, who, despite having to pit in the parking lot, won the modified feature. Bugsy Stevens finished second and was followed by Denis Giroux, Fred DeSarro, Lou Lazzaro and Dick Fowler. That was it for the weekend as Stafford, Waterford, Islip, Thompson and Utica-Rome had rainouts.

Thirty-five years ago in 1976, Geoff Bodine in the Armstrong No.1 took the win at Stafford. Dick Caso, in the Ted Marsh 55 finished a strong second and was followed by Fred DeSarro, John Rosati and Ronnie Bouchard. Bob Potter won a 35 lapper on Saturday night and a special 50 lapper on Tuesday night at Waterford. During the Saturday Waterford event, Billy Harman incurred severe injuries when he flipped the Joe Zenga modified. At Islip it was Ricky Lutz over Don Howe and at Riverside Park, Bob Polverari took the win over Pete Fiandaca and Jap Membrino. On Sunday at Thompson, Fred DeSarro was the small block modified winner. John Rosati finished second and was followed by George Summers and Ronnie Bouchard.

Thirty years ago in 1981, Richie Evans won the Friday night feature at Stafford as 5500 chilled fans looked on. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook and Corky Cookman. Pete Fiandaca was the late model winner with Pat Chambrello taking the win in the Street Stocks. Evans made it two for two as he carried his winning ways over to Riverside on Saturday. At Islip, Charlie Jarzombek showed the way as he again mastered the 1/5-mile oval. Bill Park finished second with George Wagner, third. Billy Griffin won at Shangri-La and Allen Whipple won at Claremont. An 81-lap event scheduled for the Westboro Speedway on Sunday was rained out. Gerry Dinnen was the Modified winner and Tom Bressonthe Sportsman winner at Danbury.

Twenty-five years ago in 1986, Mike Mclaughlin in the Sheri-Cup No.12 beat out Dave Reszendes at Stafford on Friday night. Jeff Fuller finished third. Richie Gallup was the SK Modified winner. At Waterford on Saturday night, Bob Potter made it three in a row. Mark Lajunesse finished second. Jimmy Lloyd continued his strangle hold on the Super Stock division as he made it three in a row. Dan Avery got his first win at Riverside on Saturday while at Seekonk; Mr. Leo Cleary gave the kids a driving lesson as he took the victory. At Riverhead it was Fred Harbach over Bill Park and John Blewett jr and at Shangri La, Tony Hirschman dusted George Kent and Doug Hevron. In Winston Cup action at Atlanta, Bill Elliott ran away and hid as he won "The Winston". Dale Earnhardt finished second.

Twenty years ago in 1991, Steve Chowanski was the Friday night SK Modified winner at Stafford. Bob Potter, Willie Hardie, Rick Fuller and Pat Chambrello followed. Saturday night at Waterford the races were halted after Bob Potter, who was driving the Ceravolo No.31, sailed out of the track and almost thru the scoreboard. Extensive damage was done to the fence and wall. Jan Leaty scored a major win for Hoosier Tires as he won the Goodyear dominated Featherlite Modified Tour at Nazareth. Jamie Tomaino finished second and was followed by Mike Stefanik, Jeff Fuller and Bob Park. Charlie Pasteryak won at Riverside and ageless veteran Gil Hearne scored his 100th victory at Wall Stadium. Other weekend winners were Fred Harbach at Riverhead, Rusty Ball at Monadnock and Ron Shepherd at Shangri-La.

Fifteen years ago in 1996, rain washed out everything except Stafford on Friday night. Bob Potter started on the outside pole of the SK modified 50 lapper and led for 45 laps until being pushed out of the way by Mike Ewanitsko who went on to take the win. Potter finished second and was followed by Bo Gunning and Ted Christopher. On a sad note, legendary Winston Cup crew chief Harry Hyde passed away. The Busch Grandnationals and the Busch North Series were scheduled to run at Loudon on Sunday but they too, gave way to rain.

Ten years ago in 2001. Chuck Docherty took the Friday night win at Stafford over Ted Christopher and Lloyd Agor. Female driver, Renee Dupuis saw her season cut short as she suffered severe and painful foot injuries after a crash. The modified event at Waterford on Saturday night went pole to pole, non-stop. Dennis Gada took the lead from John Brouwer on lap 17 of the 35 lap feature and never looked back. Eric Berndt finished second with Ed Dachenhausen, third. Brouwer faded to fourth in the final run-down. JR. Bertuccio made it two in a row at Riverhead and at Loudon; Ted Christopher took the lead with four laps to go after Tom Carey cut a tire down in the Busch North Series event at the one mile oval. Following Christopher at the finish were Martin Truex, Mike Johnson and Brad Leighton. Carey, who pitted under green, lost two laps and finished 14th. Team Racing Auto Circuit (TRAC) was announced and would debut in 2003 at non-International Speedway Corporation tracks. On a sad note, legendary modified car owner Len Boehler passed away after a long battle with Cancer.

Five years ago in 2006, The Stafford Motor Speedway made a wise decision when they cancelled the races on Friday. The National Weather Service predicted upwards of four inches of rain for the state of Connecticut. Rain it did, for five days straight.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night the weatherman stopped Dwayne Dorr at four in a row when no one else in the Sportsman division could. The Speedbowl management canceled last Saturday nights races after the infield and parts of the track were under water. Defending Waterford Speedbowl Late Model Champion Mark St. Hillaire would have a few weeks to collect his thoughts and cool his jets as Speedbowl Race Director Steve Harraka suspended him from racing in the first four events following his May 6 tantrum when he deliberately rammed the car of Jay Lozyniak while the field was under caution. Hilaire was also fined $70 and 24 championship points which would eliminate him from defending his title. Lozyniak was placed on probation for two months for speeding in the pits.

It was cold and damp on Long Island but the rain held off long enough for the Riverhead Raceway to get their program in. Howie Brode took the win over Sal Accardi Jr. At the Wall Township Speedway Kevin Flockhart beat out John Blewett III for the win.

Under the lights at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina Denny Hamlin won the Busch Series event and Greg Biffle was the Nextel Cup winner.

Last year, 2010, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series returned to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler which had been rained out on April 25. The main event, 200 laps/100 miles carried a race purse of $88,142. Under bright and sunny skies with temperatures in the mid-80's, Stafford Motor Speedway hosted the completion of "The Greatest Race in the History of Spring", the 39th Annual CARQUEST Tech-Net Spring Sizzler.
Ted Christopher took the lead from Jimmy Blewett on lap 146 and then held on through a green-white-checker finish to earn his 10th career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour victory at Stafford. The event concluded with a multi-car accident on the front stretch after the leaders had taken the white flag, which made the race official, and secured Christopher his fifth Whelen Modified Tour win in the Spring Sizzler. His five wins in the event are now a record as he entered the day tied with Mike Stefanik at four.

Christopher was followed across the line by Coors Light Pole Award winner Bobby Santos and Stefanik. Santos led the first 54 laps of the race before he was spun by lap traffic. Rowan Pennink, Todd Szegedy, James Civali, Chuck Hossfeld, Eric Berndt, Erick Rudolph and Justin Bonsignore rounded out the top 10 finishers in the race, which featured 10 lead changes among nine drivers. Fifteen of the original 32 starters finished on the lead lap. Among those who ran into problems was Ryan Preece.Preece, who was one of the pre-race favorites lost numerous laps after hitting the wall. Jimmy Blewett made a move to take the lead causing Mike Stefanik to check up. Preece hit Stefanik and hit the wall.
 
In addition to the Sizzler, Keith Rocco was the kingpin in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature and Dillon Moltz took top honors in the 30-lap Late Model feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Keith Rocco led the field to the green flag with Ted Christopher, Frank Ruocco, Jeff Malave, and Woody Pitkat behind him in the top-5. The top-5 quickly settled into single file racing, but that single file was eliminated when the caution came out with 4 laps complete for a spin by Brit Andersen.

There were several attempts at the next restart with Curt Brainard, then Matt Gallo, and then Joe Allegro, Jr., Adam Skowyra, and Glenn Griswold each bringing the caution back out for spins. Rocco continued to lead back under green with Christopher and Malave behind him. Tom Bolles made a power move to go from 7th to 4th on the restart, while Eric Berndt rounded out the top-5.

The action was slowed again with 8 laps complete for a spin by Chris Jones. Rocco again took the lead on the restart, but a 5 car accident involving Glenn Griswold, Jones, Keith Carzello, Michael Gervais, Jr., and Matt Gallo brought the yellow back out one lap after the restart. The next restart saw Christopher power by Rocco to take the lead on lap-11. Berndt moved into third behind Rocco, with Kurt Lenahan moving into fourth and Malave was fifth. The top-5 then ran in line until the next caution came out with 16 laps complete for a multicar incident between Dan Avery, Kirk Zervas, Mark Bakaj, and Bolles.

Christopher took the lead on the restart, but he would lose it to Rocco three laps later on lap-19. Berndt continued to run in third place, with Lenahan and Malave behind him. The running order remained the same until lap-25 when Christopher's car dropped off the pace and he came to pit road and was finished for the race. At the same time that Christopher's car gave up, Frank Ruocco also had engine troubles that brought him to pit road and ended his day. Rocco was the leader with Berndt now up to second. Lenahan was up to third, with Malave and Brit Andersen making up the new top-5. Rocco was building a large lead over Berndt, who was building a large gap back to Malave, Lenahan, and Andersen.

Rocco's large lead was erased with 34 laps complete as a piece of sheet metal debris brought out the yellow flag. On the restart, Rocco powered into the lead with Malave moving past Berndt for second. Lenahan continued in fourth with Andersen in fifth. Rocco again pulled away from his closest pursuers and he cruised to victory in the first SK Modified® feature event of the 2010 season. Malave came home in second, with Berndt, Lenahan, and Andersen rounding out the top-5 at the checkered flag.

In addition to the postponed Sizzler program which was run on Saturday the Stafford Motor Speedway began their Friday night season with a special program for their support classes. Frank Cardile took the checkered flag in the 30-lap SK Light Modified feature, Dan Flannery won the 25-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande won the 20-lap DARE Stock feature.

The Modified Racing Series 100 lapper at the Monadnock Speedway was won by Dwight Jarvis. Jacob Dore finished second and was followed by Jim Boniface, Rowin Pennink and Sean Bodreau. Pennick had raced at Stafford in the afternoon where he finished fourth in the Spring Sizzler. One of the best runs of the day was turned in by Pennick. Pennink, who started 24th in the field, was involved in a lap 36 tangle that forced him to start last again. He made a late race charge that led to his fourth place finish.

With the Spring Sizzler in the history books the Whelen Modified Tour Series goes on a four week "Spring Break" before returning to Stafford on May 28 for a 150 lapper. The Bob Valenti Modified Racing Series, which also ran last Saturday at the Monadnock Speedway also goes on "Spring Break" until heading to the Albany-Saratoga Speedway on May 21 for a make-up event.

Long Island driver Johnny Bush has become the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver to run it full-time in 2010. In fact, it is because of the SPEC that Bush even makes it to the track this year. The SPEC engine was developed in a cooperative effort between NASCAR and engine builder Carl Wegner of Wegner Motorsports as an economical alternative for race teams. The engine is assembled using “spec”ific components that produce a robust engine package. The recipe for the SPEC engine uses components from many of the best automotive aftermarket companies – names that are recognizable from the contingency sponsor decals on the race cars like Edelbrock, JE Pistons, Comp Cams, Holley and CV Products.

The New London Day reported that Dillon Moltz had won the inaugural Richard Petty's Driver Search. As the winner of the competition Moltz will get the chance to qualify for the ARCA Racing Series event June 5 at Pocono Raceway in a fully-funded ride from the Richard Petty's Driver Search program. A graduate of the Quarter Midget ranks, Moltz has become one of the top runners in the Late Model division at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

Keith Rocco scored a one-two punch on Saturday. In addition to his Stafford win, he made a heated trip to the Connecticut shoreline where he dusted the SK Modified field at the Waterford Speedbowl. Other winners at the Speedbowl were Tim Jordan (30-lap Late Model), Al Stone III (25-lap Street Stock), Sean Caron (25-lap Mini Stock) and Chris Lomartire (15-lap Bandoleros)

It was Rocco's second straight feature win at the Speedbowl and his fourth victory overall. Rocco passed leader Tom Abele Jr. with three laps remaining. Abele finished second, followed by Ron Yuhas Jr. in third, Jeffrey Paul in fourth and Jeff Pearl in fifth. Early leader Todd Ceravolo dropped out with mechanical problems.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC finally got their season going after a rain-out for their opening event. Tim Brown, one of the stars of the "MadHouse" TV series took the 200 lap win in front of a packed house at the 17,000-seat stadium. Lee Jeffreys finished second ahead of Brian Loftin. and Junior Miller fourth. Burt Myers, who challenged Brown after changing tires, settled for sixth.

The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island opened for the season. Chuck Steuer looked like a man of a mission, winning the Modified feature.

Dirt track super-star Brett Hearn scored his 775th career victory at Accord, NY. Hearn began his racing career in 1976.

Brad Keselowski raced to his second straight NASCAR Nationwide Series victory, dominating all night and then rallying from fourth in a green-white-checker finish Friday at Richmond International Raceway. In Sprint Cup Series racing Kyle Busch became the latest driver to deny Jeff Gordon a victory, passing him after the final restart Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway for his first win of the season. For Busch, it snapped a 21-race losing streak, his longest since joining Joe Gibbs Racing in 2008.

In some sad news, Busch Sport Scene Publisher George Campbell announced that 2010 will be his final year publishing the popular auto racing newsprint publication. The publication debuted in 1999 and plans are underway to make 2010 the final year

This week are several vintage racing photos Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dyke's Racing ThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Eddie Flemke, Sr.


Gil Hearne


Fred DeSarro-Bruce Cohen-Len Boehler


Mario "Fats" Caruso

George Lombardo

Jocko Maggoacomo

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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