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May 24, 2013

By Phil Smith

Sixty-five years ago in 1948, Bill Baker was the Midget Feature at Avon's Cherry Park over Buddy Chase and Rex Records also in the field was Sparky Belmont would would become a familiar name in the Modifieds in the 50's and 60's. The B Feature would see Johnny Kay take the win over Johnny Carpenter and Dick Eagan. 

Sixty years ago in 1953
, Rhode Island invader Freddie Luchesi scored a one-two punch at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl as he won on Wednesday and Saturday nights. Bob Tyson and Bob Cahoon who both began their racing at the closed Kingston Fairgrounds in RI were the non-Ford winners.

Fifty-five years ago in 1958, Ray Moran was the 25 lap Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Charlie Webster made it three in a row in non-Ford action at the Connecticut shoreline oval.

Fifty years ago in 1963 Rene Charland made it three in a row as he won the 25 lap NASCAR Sportsman feature at the Utica-Rome Speedway. Bill Wimble finished second with Jerry Cook, third. Bob Zeigler and Ken Meahl rounded out the top five. Ernie Gahan made it two in a row on the dirt at Stafford. George Janoski was second followed by Rene Charland and Johnny Georgides. Russ Betz was the Hobby feature winner. Hank Stevens scored a popular win at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl over Billy Harman and Ed Moody. Daring Dick Caso was the Bomber winner. At Riverside Park Speedway Danny Galullo was the winner of the 100 lap feature followed by Charlie Centinaro, Billy Greco, Bobby Bard and Ed Patnode. At Plainville Stadium Ray Sikorski won his second 25 lap Open Competition feature taking the win over George Lombardo, Johnny Georgiadas, Bob Vivari and Harry Bliss. In a special 50 lap Novice feature Frank Manafort took the win over Sil Sala and Dave Alkas.

Forty- five years ago, in 1968, on the Memorial Day weekend the Albany-Saratoga Speedway presented a 100-lap event. Jerry Cook rose to the occasion and took the win over Hop Harrington. At Stafford, Bugsy Stevens in the mighty No.3 of Len Boehler took the win over Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Fred Harbach and Tommy Borget. At Norwood, on Saturday night, Mr. Leo Cleary in the Joe Brady No.41 took the win. On the dirt at Fonda, Lou Lazzaro was unbeatable as he beat out Jerry Cook and Eddie Pieniezak for the win. Rain washed out activities at Thompson and at Waterford. At Utica-Rome, Lou Lazzaro, in the same car he ran on dirt the night before changed tires and springs and went out and won on the pavement. Paul Hamel finished second with Jerry Cook, Dick Clark and Richie Evans rounding out the top five.

Forty years ago on Memorial Day weekend in 1973, Albany-Saratoga started the weekend with a special 99 lap event which saw Richie Evans take the win over Eddie Pieniezak, Fred DeSarro, Sonny Seamon and Bugsy Stevens. At Stafford Speedway on Saturday, Mr. Leo Cleary was at his best as he took a hard fought win over Bobby Santos, Eddie Flemke, Freddie Schulz and DeSarro. Down the road at Waterford Gentleman Dick Watson was the 40 lap Modified winner. Big Mike Daigneault was the Grand American Late Model winner. At Islip, Jim Hendrickson won out over Junior Ambrose and Wayne Anderson. Lee Raceway ran a 100 lapper on Sunday. Freddie Schulz took the win over Jerry Cook, Jim Landry, Ed Yerrington and Santos. Stafford had a 100 lapper scheduled for Monday but rain washed it out.

Thirty five Years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine made it four in a row at Stafford. Leo Cleary finished second and was followed by Mike McLaughlin, Bob Polverari and Ed Flemke. Saturday racing at Seekonk, Waterford and Riverside, rained out. On Sunday at Thompson, Fred DeSarro in Len Boehlers' Ole Blu won out over Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie Flemke. Geoff Bodine was disqualified for rough riding. In upstate N.Y., Maynard Troyer won three for the weekend as he took two at Fulton and one at Spencer. Wayne Anderson won what was to be the last NASCAR sanctioned event at Chemung as NASCAR pulled the sanction shortly after the event. At New Egypt, Geoff Bodine was again in victory lane.

Thirty years ago in 1983, rain washed out holiday events at Stafford and Waterford. Star Speedway ran the Modifieds on Saturday night. Jeff Fuller took the win over Mike Murphy and George Murray. Stafford got to run their rained out modified 100 lapper on Sunday. Reggie Ruggiero took the win with Charlie Jarzombek, Corky Cookman and John Blewett jr. following. Other weekend winners were Richie Evans at Spencer and Oswego, Don Owe at Islip, Stan Gregger won two at Riverside, Doug Hewitt at Holland and Tom Baldwin at New Egypt.

Twenty five years ago in 1988, Ted Christopher went two for two as he won at Stafford on Friday and at Waterford on Saturday. Tom Tagg finished second at Stafford and Don Bundle finished second at Waterford. Mike Stefanik took a hard fought win at Riverside over Reggie Ruggerio and at Riverhead, Tom Baldwin beat out Chris Young. Tony Hirschman made it five in a row at Tioga and Brian Ross won the modified portion of Port City 150 at Oswego.

Twenty years ago in 1993, Reggie Ruggerio was in top form as he won the modified tour event at Stafford. Tom Baldwin finished second and was followed by Ed Flemke jr. Tom Tagg was the SK modified winner. Twin features were run at Waterford. Chris Jones went pole to pole to win the first one and Ted Christopher won the nightcap. Wayne Anderson got his 21st career win at Riverhead over Don Howe and on Sunday at Oswego, Jeff Fuller won the Port City 150 over Rick Fuller, Doug Hevron and Jan Leaty. At Charlotte, Dale Earnhardt made up two laps to win the World 600. Michael Waltrip won the Grandnational 300. In Busch Grandnational North action at Holland, Brian Ross scored his first division win after Kelly Moore dumped Robbie Crouch with three laps to go and was put to the rear for rough riding.

Fifteen years ago in 1998, it rained at Stafford. Dennis Gada was the big winner at Waterford as he won the modified main event over Jeff Pearl and Eric Berndt. Chris Wenzel won at Riverside and John Fortin scored at Riverhead. The Modified Tour Series was at Watkins Glen. Tim Connolly started on the outside pole and passed pole sitter Mike Stefanik on the last lap to take the win. Stefanik had led the first thirty-seven of the thirty eight-lap contest. Stefanik finished second with Chris Kopec, third.

Ten years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series beat the foul weather that all but wiped out all racing on the East Coast a week ago. After getting rained out at Stafford on May 23 the series returned the following Friday night. The event drew 42 Modifieds for 31 starting spots. John Blewett III, who failed to qualify for this race last year, was the top time trialer. Because of a wreckfest during the SK-Modified feature the 150 lap Tour series event got a late start as they took the green flag shortly after 10:00 p.m. Long Islander Donnie Lia jumped out from his outside pole starting position to take the lead at the start. Lia, a rookie on the tour, cut his racing teeth at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island. Lia led the first seven laps before Blewett took command. Blewett led until lap 39 when he gave way to Todd Szegedy. Szegedy and Blewett would slug it out until Blewett’s tires would give up near the 90-lap mark of the 150-lap event. Former series champion Jerry Marquis started in tenth spot and after pitting for tires on lap 35, slowly worked his way to the front and as Blewett backed off, moved into second spot. Szegedy held off Marquis until the final lap when he got hung up behind cars about to be lapped which allowed Marquis to make his move and take the lead and victory in the event’s final seconds. Szegedy ended up second with Ed Flemke Jr., third. Flemke, who had a string of bad luck that started in Florida in February, rebounded and was back in contention as a potential winner. Ted Christopher, who won the Spring Sizzler at Stafford a few weeks earlier, finished fourth. Donnie Lia finished fifth. Seven cars were on the lead lap at the finish. Szegedy was extremely upset with Tom Bolles who did not heed the move-over flag that was displayed by the starter and felt that the Ellington, Ct. resident cost him the race. Bolles and Jamie Tomaino were the only other drivers to finish on the lead lap. Rounding out the top ten were Chuck Hossfeld, Mike Stefanik and John Blewett III. There were six caution periods for 33 laps. John Lobo Jr. won the SK Modified 50 lapper over Jim Civali and Jim Larsen. One of the many wrecks collected 14 cars. For the second week in a row rain-washed out racing at the Waterford Speedbowl. Seekonk Speedway, in Massachusetts, which was to have hosted the Busch North Series of NASCAR, was also rained out. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Ryan Newman took the pole plus the win. Jeff Gordon finished second. Newman drove the final 180 miles without power steering. Bobby Labonte finished third.

Five years ago in 2008, The Thompson Speedway hoped to begin their series of Thursday Night Thompson Thunder (TNTT) racing programs on Thursday night. Mother Nature moved in and forced the cancellation of the Speedway’s opening Thursday night race program. A consistent rain and drizzle forced the hand of the track’s management to cancel the event shortly before 12 Noon. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series and the True Value Modified Series have ended their “Spring Break”. The Whelen Modifieds made their second stop of the season at Stafford and the True Value Modifieds traveled to the Thunder Road Speedbowl in Barre, VT.

In action at the Stafford Motor Speedway, the Whelen Modified Tour Series almost got scrubbed as heavy showers caused a nearly 2-1/2 hour delay. The event, scheduled to go off at 9:00pm actually got the green at 11:30. Chuck Hossfeld, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino, ended a personal four year dry spell as he took the win in the TSI Harley-Davidson 150 at Stafford. Hossfeld, who was also the Coors Light Pole sitter, started on the pole of the event and led 39 of the first 40 laps of the event before giving way to Bob Grigas III. Grigas and a host of the race front runners pitted on lap 92 under caution which allowed Matt Hirschman to assume the lead. Hossfeld beat Hirschman back to the starting line when the event went back to green on lap 107 and never looked back. Todd Szegedy finished second and was followed by Ted Christopher, Mike Stefanik and Jimmy Blewett. Eric Beers, Ed Flemke Jr., Ryan Preece, James Civali and rookie Erick Rudolph rounded out the top 10. During post-race technical inspection, a probable illegal carburetor part was discovered on the No.19 that was driven by Blewett. The part in question will be taken back to the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, N.C., for further evaluation.

There were 37 Modifieds on hand and nine caution periods for 46 laps. Prior to the race NASCAR honored seven-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Mike Stefanik as part of the season-long celebration of 60 years of Modified champions.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Thunder Road Speedbowl in Vermont seasoned veteran Kirk Alexender did it the hard way as he came from the tail end of the starting field to win the event. Alexender methodically moved to the front and in the closing laps took the lead and the win. This was his 3rd win in the series in 4 races, with missing one race totally. Dwight Jarvis had passed Peter Jarvis with 3 laps to go to take the 2nd place finish with Jarvis settling for 3rd. 4th place through 6th were Ed Dachenhausen, Chris Pasteryak and Jack Bateman, NASCAR announced a different format for the upcoming Thursday night Whelen Modified Tour Series event at the Thompson Speedway. The New England Dodge Dealers 75 at Thompson, the fourth race on the 2008 schedule for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will take on June 19. The event would be the second of four dates for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour in 2008 that was scheduled to run under the lights. The race would run under a unique format as it would finish upon the completion of 75 green-flag laps as those run under caution will not be counted. This will be the first of four races during 2008 that would run an alternative format. Events at Chemung, Riverhead and Spencer would feature heat races prior to the feature. This race, a 150 lapper, in 2007, carried a posted purse of $86,505 The Stafford Motor Speedway finally got to host their regular Friday night racing program. The 18th Annual TSI Harley-Davidson 150 program at Stafford Motor Speedway saw Ted Christopher victorious, for the 99th time at Stafford, in the 40-lap SK Modified feature event, while Chris Matthews and Norm Sears both took down their second consecutive wins in the 20-lap SK Light and 15-lap DARE Stock feature events. Due to a rain storm in the middle of the program, the 30-lap Late Model and 20-lap Limited Late Model feature events were postponed to a later date.

The 40-lap SK Modified feature took the green flag with Wade Mattesen setting the early pace. Mattesen surrendered the lead to Brad Hietala on lap-6 with Ted Christopher also moving past Mattesen for second. On lap-10 both Hietala and Christopher spun in turn 4 to bring the caution out and put Woody Pitkat out front. Pitkat held the lead of the race from that point until lap-37 when Christopher, who had charged his way back through the field after his spin, made a power move to the inside of Pitkat in turn 3 to take the race lead. A late caution set up a green white checkered flag restart, but rain began to fall and the race was red/checkered with 39-laps complete, making Christopher a winner for the first time during the 2008 season. Pitkat was second, with Jeff Malave, Bo Gunning, and Jimmy Blewett rounding out the top-5.

The Waterford Speedbowl hosted the ISMA Supers along with their regular venue of racing. Chris Perley, of Rowley , MA . put on a stellar performance in winning the 50-lap International SuperModified Association event at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday evening, and in doing so recorded the fastest lap-ever (over 108 mph), in the 57-year history of the facility. Former Speedbowl SK champion Rob Summers set the early pace before being overtaken by Jeff Holbrook on lap twenty-one. Perley rocketed by Holbrook six circuits later, quickly distancing himself from the field. The race was red-flagged on lap thirty-six when Mike Lichty exploded a motor and slammed the wall, taking the cars of Jamie Timmons, Scott Martell and Mike Ordway with him. On the restart, Perley resumed his commanding lead, finishing several lengths ahead of Holbrook and Summers. Following was Ray Graham Jr., Bobby Bond and Dave McKnight Jr. It was the second-consecutive Speedbowl victory for Perley who won the 2007 event.

Other feature winners were Jeff Pearl (SK Modified), Ron Yuhas Jr. (Late Model), Mark Cooper (Sportsman), and Ben Bargnesi (Mini Stock). Former champion Pearl won his first of the season, fending-off a late race charge by Rob Janovic in the 35-lap SK main event. Jay Miller, running perhaps his best race of the season led the early laps before Pearl took over with twenty-seven remaining Janovic slipped by Miller during the late stages. Rounding-out the top-5 were Jeff Paul and Ron Yuhas Jr.

Congratulations were in order to Ryan Morgan, 14-years old and a recent graduate of the quarter midget ranks, who dominated the Legends 20-lap feature at the Waterford Speedbowl on Wednesday evening. In capturing his first-ever win in the division, Morgan quickly distanced himself from the field finishing several lengths in front of Mike Alcaro. Thomas Gray, George Whitney, and Max Zachem completed the top-five. Morgan is the grandson of John “Jack” Morgan, an auto sports writer who covered the exploits of the late Fred DeSarro and Bugsy Stevens in the 70’s and 80’s .

Donny Lia became the first rookie in five years to win a Craftsman Truck Series race Saturday, using a last-lap pass to take the Ohio 250 at the Mansfield, Ohio Speedway. Lia who won the Whelen Modified Tour title in 2007, got by leader David Starr in the second turn of the 250th lap on the half-mile oval. Lia, Starr and 2006 series champion Todd Bodine ran side-by-side down the backstretch before Lia pulled his Chevrolet ahead to edge Starr by .241 of a second for his first victory in eight starts.

Kyle Busch drove a Toyota fielded by Braun Racing to victory Saturday night in the Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, snapping a six-race winning streak Gibbs' cars have had in the series.

Tony Stewart was handed his second heartbreaking defeat of the season Sunday night when a flat tire late in the Coca-Cola 600 gave Kasey Kahne the victory in NASCAR's longest race.Stewart, who lost the season-opening Daytona 500 when he was passed on the last lap by Ryan Newman, had the tire go flat with three laps to go. He was forced to pit, allowing Kahne to zip past him.He wound up a frustrating 18th and stormed into his hauler without comment. He could be seen inside the truck kicking at cabinets as crew chief Greg Zipadelli was left to answer questions. Kahne, who led just five laps all season coming into Sunday, became the sixth driver, joining Davey Allison, Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson and Darrell Waltrip, to win both the All-Star race and the 600 in this eight days of racing at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

Most of the heavyweights dropped out of contention during an event that started in the late afternoon, ended in the evening and requires both intense mental focus and luck to make it to the finish. Dale Earnhardt Jr., whose winless streak hit 74 races, Johnson, Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch all led laps but had parts failures or tire issues.Greg Biffle was second to Kahne for the second week in a row and Kyle Busch was third despite two battery changes. Jeff Gordon was fourth and was followed by Earnhardt, Jeff Burton, Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler, Carl Edwards and David Reutimann.

In a surprise move, Speedway Motorsports Inc. agreed to purchase Kentucky Speedway, opening the door for the northern Kentucky track to perhaps one day host a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event. The deal was announced this past Thursday by SMI chairman Bruton Smith could end a lengthy battle between the track's ownership group and NASCAR. The 1.5-mile oval, located in Sparta, Ky., midway between Cincinnati and Louisville, opened in 2000 and hosts several circuits a year, including the Nationwide Series and the Indy Racing League. Kentucky Speedway filed an antitrust lawsuit in 2005 against NASCAR and International Speedway Inc. The lawsuit was dismissed in January. SMI, which operates several other tracks that host Sprint Cup events including the New Hampshire Int. Speedway, could move one of those races to Kentucky Speedway.

It was also announced that H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., would retire following the running of this past Sunday's Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at the North Carolina track Wheeler began working at Lowe's Motor Speedway in 1975, was named general manager in 1976 and president in 1980.

Before the race, Wheeler, 69, received a standing ovation from the drivers. Wheeler, who had spent 33 years at the track, announced his retirement one week previous after track owner Bruton Smith declined to let him move into a part-time role.

Scott Dixon, who was born in Australia but raised in New Zealand, won the 92nd Indianapolis 500 on Sunday in a day of spins, hot tempers and stout open-wheel racing. Pole-sitter Dixon, 27, gave team owner Chip Ganassi his third Indy 500 victory. Juan Pablo Montoya won for Ganassi in 2000 and Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989. Panther Racing's Vitor Meira finished second to Dixon, with Marco Andretti placing third. Helio Castroneves, a two-time winner, was fourth. Fan favorite Danica Patrick, who struggled for speed much of the day, collided with Ryan Briscoe as the pair was exiting the pits on lap 171 and was knocked out of the race. She finished 22nd, her worst performance at Indy in four starts. A fuming Patrick searched for Briscoe down pit lane afterward but was ushered away by security and track officials before she reached Briscoe's pit box.

Last year, 2012, The Whelen Modified Tour Series headed to the Stafford Motor Speedway for the 22nd ANNUAL TSI HARLEY-DAVIDSON 125. Doug Coby followed his Spring Sizzler win with another win at the nutmeg oval. Coby slipped past Bobby Santos eight laps from the finish to win the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 and became the first driver with more than one win this season.

Coby, who was making his 118th Mod Tour start, started fifth but had to pit on Lap 27 under caution for a flat right front tire. He charged back and chased down Santos, who had won the pole and led the race from the drop of the green. Coby closed in on the leader with 10 laps to go and on his second attempt slipped by for the lead. After taking on fresh rubber Coby flew through the field and was in the top five with 50 to go. Santos tried to go the entire 125-lap distance without changing tires, and paid the price with seven laps to go. At the finish Santos had faded to second and was followed by Ron Silk, Todd Szegedy and Rowan Pennink. Sixth through tenth were Keith Rocco, Ted Christopher, Woody Pitkat, Jimmy Blewett and Justin Bonsignore.

There were 5 cautions for 21 laps. The first yellow flew on lap 24 flew for Ed Flemke who spun after exiting turn four. The second caution was for Gary McDonald who spun in turn two on lap 32. Richie Pallai was responsible for cautions on lap 58 and 78. The final caution was for Jamie Tomaino who spun and intentionally brought out the caution. Twenty one of the twenty six starters were on the lead lap at the finishers. Among those who failed to finish was Mike Stefanik who retired with engine trouble.

Following the Stafford event the Whelen Modified Tour Series went on Spring Break for four weeks before heading to the Waterford Speedbowl on June 23.

Regular Friday night racing at Stafford saw Michael Gervias, Jr. taking the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event. Also securing wins Tom Fearn in the 30-lap Late Model feature, Dylan Kopec in the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature, D.J. Burnham in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Kyle Casagrande in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature.

For Gervais, it was his first career win in any division at Stafford, Fearn won for the first time since the 2009 season, Kopec was a winner for the third time in 4 SK Light races this season, Burnham ended Josh Wood’s winning streak at three races, and Casagrande became the all-time winningest DARE Stock driver in Stafford history with his 13th career victory.

In the SK Modified feature there was extremly good racing for 14 laps until a fluid dump sent Keith Rocco into the wall and Ryan Preece spinning.

At the Waterford Speedbowl torrential rain washed out the entire racing program.

In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina, Tim Brown got his third victory in the month of May with a win in the first of two 25-lap races for the featured Modified Division. And Michael Clifton won the second race.

At the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island, With the time restraint curfew in affect, the race was called on lap fifteen giving the 89x of Chris McGuire his first victory in the modified division.

Brad Keselowski collected his first NASCAR Nationwide Series victory of the season at the Charlotte Motor Speedway as Sprint Cup Series regulars dominated the History 300.

Pit strategy made the difference with 57 laps remaining when Keselowski’s crew chief Jeremy Billins called for the Penske Racing Dodge driver to remain on the race track. Keselowski made his fuel last and held off Denny Hamlin by .838 seconds to earn his 18th Nationwide Series victory and his second triumph at the 1.5-mile superspeedway.

Kasey Kahne put his rough start to the 2012 season behind him by winning his third Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. With less than 30 laps to go it looked as if Denny Hamlin was chasing Kahne down, closing to within a few car lengths. Kahne, driving the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet, seemingly turned on the afterburners at that point. He pulled away from Hamlin and cruised to victory, winning by more than four seconds.

This week are several Vintage photos, Courtesy of Tom Ormsby SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Sparky Belmont


Fred Luchesi


Johnny Georgidas

T
Sil Sila

Dick Watson

Leo Cleary

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.

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

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