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Friday May 6, 2011
 

By Phil Smith

Sixty years ago in 1951, The New London-Waterford Speedbowl ran it’s third and final race on their crushed stone surface. Taking the win was NEAR Hall of Fame inductee Don Rounds. Because of extremely dusty conditions it was determined to cover the 1/3 mile oval with asphalt.

Fifty years ago in 1961 rain interrupted the opening night program at the Norwood Arena in Norwood, MA. It was announced that Carl Merrill would hold the position of NASCAR Chief Steward. Merrill would hold that position until the track closed in the fall of 1972. Ted Stack made it two in a row in Modified competition at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Stack also won a 25 lap Bomber feature. Eddie Moody won the Bomber feature.

Forty five years ago in 1966, Friday night racing at the Albany Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was cancelled because of rain. Bill Wimble took the 25 lapper at Fonda on Saturday night over Lou Lazzaro and Pete Corey. Gene Bergin made the long haul from his home in Manchester, Ct to Utica – Rome where he won the Sunday night 30 lap feature. Lou Toro finished second with Jerry Cook, Dave Kotary and Don MacTavish. Rain washed out the features on Saturday night at the Waterford Speedbowl after qualifying had been completed. The remaining program was carried over to Sunday where Bob Potter recorded his first feature win of the year. Eddie Bunnell made it two in a row in the Bombers while Robbie Robertson was the Daredevil winner.

Forty years ago in 1971, the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY was supposed to open on Friday night but heavy rain changed all of that. The Stafford Motor Speedway began their Saturday night season with twin 25's the regular format. Leo Cleary in the Mystic Missile won the first 25-lap feature over Hop Harrington, Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens. The second 25-lap feature saw Stevens beat out Bobby Santos and Cleary for the win. On Long Island at Islip, Cliff Tyler was the winner with Bob Park, Al DeAngelo and Gary Winters following. At the Waterford Speedbowl, Seabury Tripler, in what had to be the first Pinto bodied Modified, took the win at the shoreline oval. Dick Dunn finished second with Joe Trudeau, third. Bill Sweet broke Big Mike Daignault’s stranglehold on the Sportsman Sedan division. On Sunday at Thompson it was twin 25's.Bugsy Stevens took the first one over Bob Santos, Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary and Ray Miller. Hop Harrington in the former Tant/Mitchell coupe, now owned by Dick Armstrong took down the nightcap. Stevens finished second with DeSarro, third. Sunday night racing at Utica-Rome rained out.

Thirty five years ago in 1976, Stafford began their regular Saturday night season on a somber note as speedway owner Jack Arute announced that the track could possibly close in three weeks if the crowds didn't pick up. Needless to say, a good crowd plus 52 Modifieds were on hand. Bugsy Stevens took the win and was followed by John Rosati, Dale Holdredge, and Fred DeSarro. It was also on this night at Stafford that the winning team of Ronnie Bouchard and car owner Bob Johnson came to an end. At the Islip Speedway on Long Island, Fred Harbach took the win over Greg Sacks. The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to rain for the second week in a row. On Sunday, Wayne Anderson took the win at New Egypt and at Thompson, Geoff Bodine, in the Armstrong No.1, took the win over George Summers, Bugsy Stevens and John Rosati.

Thirty years ago in 1981, Ray Miller took advantage of Richie Evans' misfortune as he won the Friday night opener at Stafford. Evans had the lead with nine laps to go when his transmission went sour, causing him to slow. Miller, in hot pursuit, took the lead and the eventual win. Bugsy Stevens finished second with John Rosati, third. Evans ended up sixth. Twin 40's were on tap at Thompson on Sunday. Richie Evans and Charlie Jarzombek each shared in the glory as the both won. During the running of the second event, Evans and Mike Stefanik tangled with the end result being that Stefanik ended up on his roof. Jerry Cook was the winner at Shangri-La on Saturday and at Islip it was Fred Harbach over Don Howe and Wayne Anderson. In Modified action at Danbury Rit Patchen unseated Bob Riley to take a 50 lap win. Randy LaJoie returned to victory lane as he scored the Sportsman win.

Twenty-five years ago in 1986, Stafford began their Friday night season with bone chilling temperatures. Jeff Fuller in the Jack Neusner 2x took the win. Reggie Ruggiero in the Mike Greci No.11finished second with Charlie Jarzombek, third. Mike Stefanik and George Brunnhoelzl rounded out the top five. Bo Gunning was the SK Modified winner. Bob Potter made it two in a row at Waterford after coming from an 18th starting spot. At Riverside it was Mike McLaughlin over Ted Riggott and Mike Stefanik and at Riverhead, Don Howe bested Bob Park, Tom Baldwin and Bill Park. Racing at the Shangri-La Speedway (Tioga) was snowed out. The NASCAR Modifieds were at New Egypt for a 150 lapper. Wayne Anderson took the win with Jamie Tomaino, second. Bob Park finished third. In Winston Cup action at Talladega, the entire 42 car field qualified at over 200 mph. Bill Elliott was the pole sitter with speed of 212.229 mph. Bobby Allison took the win after Elliott lost a transmission with 14 laps to go.

Twenty years ago in 1991, the Friday night racing at Stafford was rained out. At Waterford on Saturday night, Mark LaJunnesse was awarded the win when a post race inspection revealed that Bob Potter’s engine contained illegal piston rods. Joe Tiezzi ended up second with Don Bunnell, third. Kevin Debbis was the late model winner. A newcomer by the name of Tim Connolly took the win at Shangri-la. Andy Romano finished second. At Riverside it was Jerry Marquis over Dan Avery and Rick Fuller and at the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH, Dwight Jarvis held off Bruce Del for the win. It rained at Talladega on Sunday and the event was run on Monday. Harry Gant took the win. Kyle Petty suffered a broken leg after being involved in a 17-car wreck triggered by Ernie Irvan.

Fifteen years ago in 1996, rain wiped out racing at Stafford, Waterford and Riverside. It stayed dry at Riverhead where Don Howe took the win over Mike Ewanitsko, Bill Park and Tom Tillotson. The Busch North Series was at Jennerstown, Pa. Andy Santarre took the 150 lap win over Dave Dion, Robbie Crouch, Dale Shaw and Mike Stefanik. In Winston Cup action at Sears Point, Rusty Wallace passed Jeff Gordon with five laps to go and took the win. NASCAR found Wallace’s' car to be 1/4 inch too low and levied a fine of $25,000.In other news, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway filed suit against CART because they were calling their cars Indy Cars.

Ten years ago in 2001 Ted Christopher started his weekend off with a 50 lap win on Friday night at Stafford. Chuck Docherty finished second with Lloyd Agor, third. Curt Brainard and Larry Ross rounded out the top five. Willie Hardie JR who won SK Modified events at the Spring Sizzler suffered a broken collarbone as a result of a wreck. The Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Waterford Speedbowl. Reggie Ruggiero took the lead from Rob Summers on lap74 of the 200-lap contest and went on to take the win. Summers who had led from lap 1, faded to fourth at the finish. Mike Stefanik finished second with Ted Christopher, third. John Fortin rounded out the top five. Eleven cautions for 62 laps slowed the event. Dennis Gada won the regularly scheduled 35 lap SK-Modified feature over Eddie Reed JR and Ron Yuhas JR. The previously rained out Waterford Nationals 150 was also run. Eric Berndt led all 150 laps to collect the $5,000 first prize plus $3079 in lap money. Ed Reed JR finished second with Ed Dachanhausen, third. Bert Marvin and Mark LaJunesse rounded out the top five. Marvin made a swift trip to Thompson later in the day to win a 30-lap SK Modified event that was run in conjunction with the Hooters Cup Late Models. In other weekend action JR Bertuccio went pole to pole at Riverhead and Kenny Tremont got his 90th win at Lebanon Valley. In Winston Cup action at Richmond, Tony Stewart took the win. Jimmie Spencer was the Busch Grandnational winner. On a sad note, Smokey Yunick died at the age of 77.

Five years ago in 2006, the Stafford Motor Speedway began their regular Friday night schedule. In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Jeff Baral, took the lead from Kurt Lenahan on lap-4, and from there he held off the charge of Willie Hardie to take the checkered flag. The race went green from lap-5 to 40, and Baral and Hardie slowly pulled away from the field to wage a two-car battle for the win. Ted Christopher finished third, with Eric Berndt and Frank Ruocco rounding out the top-5. In the 30-lap Late Model feature, Woody Pitkat and Ryan Posocco took turns swapping the lead over the final two laps of the race with Pitkat emerging as the winner. A late caution set up a three-lap sprint to the finish. Pitkat was the leader on the initial restart, but as the white flag was displayed to the field, Posocco made a charge into the lead in turns 1+2. Pitkat moved back to the inside of Posocco in turns 3+4, and as they headed towards the checkered flag, the cars touched slightly, which loosened Posocco up enough to give Pitkat enough of a margin to take the checkered flag first. Todd Owen, Jim Peterson, and Wayne Coury, Jr. rounded out the top-5. Other Friday night winners were Duke Place in the SK Lights, Andrew Durand in the Limited Late Models and Stacey Botticello in the DARE Stocks.

At the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night Rob Janovic Jr. beat back a late challenge from Tommy Fox and went on to capture the 35-lap SK-Modified feature, the fourth winner in as many starts. Janovic took over with 28 laps remaining and then survived a couple restarts, the last with eight remaining. Fox took up the challenge following a restart with 18 laps remaining. Ron Yuhas Jr. finished third and was followed by Diego Monahan and John Brouwer Jr. In the Late Model division a bit of road rage handed Jay Stewart a victory. Stuart took command on a lap 13 restart and then romped to victory. The road rage occured when Jay Lozyniak and Mark St. Hilaire, battling for the lead spun, tangled in the front stretch. St Hillaire was so incensed that he deliberately drove his car into that of Lozyniaks. On the green, Stuart got away from Bruce Thomas Jr. and had a seven-car length lead inside of four laps. Thomas got second back from Duane Noll in the final laps. It is expected that track officials will impose a penalty on St. Hillaire. Other Saturday night winners at the shoreline oval were Dwayne Dorr making it four in a row in the Sportsman division, Jeff Civardi in the Mini Stocks and Chris Bakaj in the Legends.
 
The Riverhead Raceway on Long Island opened for the season on Saturday night. Veteran Chris Young held off 59 year old and the previous years track champion Bill Park in the 35 lap Modified feature. Great runs by JR Bertuccio as he was passing guys on the outside and also third generation driver Eddie Brunnhoelzl III who finished 6th and also did some outstanding side by side racing.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series was in the middle of a three week break before resuming on Memorial Day weekend at Stafford. After two events Mike Stefanik who won the season opener at the Thompson Speedway and finished fourth in the Spring Sizzler at Stafford led the point standings with a 30-point edge over Ted Christopher. Christopher had a fourth at Thompson and a sixth at Stafford. Rookie James Civali sat in third spot. Civali had a sixth at Thompson and a seventh at Stafford and was 44 points out of the lead. Doug Coby who won the Sizzler and finished 16th at Thompson after being collected in a wreck, sat in fourth spot. Rounding out the top five was defending series champion Tony Hirschman. A fifth at Thompson and a ninth at Stafford had the former title holder 47 points in arrears. Sixth through tenth were Reggie Ruggiero, Chuck Hossfeld, Donnie Lia,, Eric Beers and Dick Houlihan.

The Waterford Speedbowl announced that they had added a second Whelen Modified Tour Series date to their schedule. In addition to their previously announced date of Saturday, July 22, the shoreline oval would run the Whelen Modifieds on Sunday, September 24 in conjunction with the already scheduled Town Fair Tire Fall Finale. The addition brought the series total events to 17.

Two New York state speedways were in the process of changing hands. Long Island racer John White purchased the Spencer Speedway in Williamson, NY and the Chemung Speedrome in Chemung, NY.

In True Value Modified Series action Windsor Locks, CT, racer Les Hinckley started outside front row Saturday night, shot into the lead at the drop of the green flag and led 92 of the scheduled 100 laps of the Chappy’s Concessions 100 presented by Northeast Waste Services and Bly Machine at the Canaan Fair Motorsports Complex, Canaan, NH, on a night that saw thirty seven modified racers from throughout the northeast travel to the ‘Upper Valley” of New Hampshire, a fifty minute late start because of rain, several persistent showers, six caution flags, a race shortened by track curfew, and high winds that created wind chills in the upper 30’s. Because of the rain delays the 100 lap race went green at 10:56pm; four minutes shy of a town ordinance that prohibits a race from starting beyond 11:00pm. Hinckley set a fast pace early on, was chased by rookie Bobby Grigas III, Marshfield, Ma, in his strongest run yet, holding down the number two spot until lap 34 when a support bar broke forcing the young driver to the sidelines. Danbury, Ct., hot shoe Ed Dachenhausen moved to the runner-up spot and chased the race leader to the finish while Ascutney, VT, veteran Dwight Jarvis, a two time winner at Canaan in 2004 turned in another solid run and finished third. Chris Wenzel, Holyoke, Ma, ran a strong race to finish fourth while Gary Casella, Saugus, Ma, rounded out the top five.

In Nextel Cup action at Richmond Dale Earnhardt JR took the win over Denny Hamlin. Kevin Harvick won the companion Busch Series event.

Last year, 2010 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series descended upon the Stafford Motor Speedway for the annual Spring Sizzler. The main event, 200 laps/100 miles carried a race purse of $88,142. Thirty six Modifieds took time for the 33 available starting spots. Bobby Santos III continued the momentum from the Thompson Ice Breaker as he set a new track record with the Bob Garbarino Mystic Missile. Santos toured the 1/2 mile oval in 17.965 seconds (100.195 mph) which surpassed Matt Hirschman’s three-year-old record of 18.009 (99.950). Second fastest was Rowan Pennick with a time of 18.009. Third through fifth were Erick Rudolph, George Brunnhoelzl, III and Ron Silk. Rounding out the top ten fastest were Ted Christopher, Jimmy Blewett, Jamie Tomaino, Eric Berndt and Doug Coby. The top ten re-drew for starting spots. It was Santos again as he pulled the pill with the number one on it. Coby pulled the No. 2 pill.

As forecasted, rain moved into the Connecticut area in the wee hours of Sunday morning causing NASCAR and the Stafford management to postpone the Sizzler to Saturday, May 1, with a rain date of Sunday, May 2.

The weekend at Stafford wasn't a total loss. Three feature events for Stafford's support divisions were run on Saturday. Ted Cain went home a first time winner in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, Kevin Gambacorta outlasted defending track champion Andrew Durand to take the first Limited Late Model victory of the season, and Tony Membrino, Jr. wired the field to take the checkered flag in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature event.

The Waterford Speedbowl beat the weather as the completed their entire racing program on Saturday night. Keith Rocco continues to rule the roost as he now has three out of four victories in the SK Modified division at the shoreline oval. Norm Sears was a first time winner in the Street Stocks and Chris Williams won for the first time in nearly a year in the Mini Stocks. Howard Payne was the victor in the Trucks and it was Anthony Flannery taking the win for the Legends Cars.

The Bowman-Gray Stadium in Winston-Salem NC had hoped to begin their 62nd season but like Connecticut on Sunday, it rained in North Carolina on Saturday night. Light rain began about an hour before race time in what was shaping up to be a packed house at the 17,000-seat stadium, judging from the number of early-arriving fans and overflowing parking lots. The Madhouse television series, which aired on the History Channel during the off season, created huge interest in the racing at the North Carolina oval. Qualifying for the season opening Tucson 200 was held on Friday night. Defending Track Champion Tim Brown was the top qualifier. Second fastest was Lee Jeffreys with Burt Myers, third.

Rain hampered the NASCAR weekend in Talladega canceling qualifying for both the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series and the Saturday Nationwide Series event which was eventually run on Sunday. Kevin Harvick used a last-second pass of Jamie McMurray to snap a 115-race winless streak in the Sprint Cup event and Brad Keselowski was the Nationwide Series winner.

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


Bob Potter


Leo Cleary


Lou Toro


Ron Bouchard

Bob Santos

Ted Stack

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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