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May 3, 2013

By Phil Smith

Sixty years ago in 1953, Melvin "Red" Foote was the 50 lap Modified winner at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Bud Matter was the non-Ford winner.

Fifty five years ago in 1958, rain prevailed at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Fifty years ago in 1963 it rained at the Utica-Rome Speedway. It remained dry at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl where Charlie Webster took the 25 lap Modified win over Ted Stack, Tony Mordino, Ray DeLisle and Dick Watson. Walt Dombrowski, who eventually become a Modified standout, was the Bomber winner. At Riverside Park Speedway Billy Greco took the win over Ed Patnode, Danny Galullo, Jocko Maggiacomo and Jerry Humiston. On Sunday afternoon Plainville Stadium got off their Novice feature before the rain came postponing the Modified feature. Elton Hill took the win over Ronnie Wyckoff and Ernie Olson. Both Hill and Wyckoff would go on to stellar careers in the Modifieds.

Forty five years ago in 1968, Jerry Cook took the win at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway on Friday night. Dave Kotary finished second with Ron Narducci, Dave Lape and Eddie Pieniezek rounding out the top five. At Stafford, Eddie Flemke made it two in a row despite a lot of pressure from Bugsy Stevens, who finished second. Fred DeSarro finished third and was followed by Sal Dee and Lou Toro. Bugsy Stevens made it two in a row at the Norwood Arena on Saturday night. At Fonda it was Lou Lazzaro over Ed Pieniezek and Dick Clark. Sunday racing at Thompson and Utica-Rome rained out. Newt Palm, who would become one of the all time greats at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, won the 36 lap Modified feature at the shoreline oval over Charlie Webster.

Forty years ago in 1973, Modified action began on Friday at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, N.Y. Fred DeSarro took the opening night 100 lapper over Leo Cleary, Bugsy Stevens, Paul Radford and Lou Lazzaro. Ronnie Bouchard made it two in a row at Stafford on Saturday night followed by Fred DeSarro, Fred Schultz, Bob Santos and Bobby Gahan. Bugsy Stevens headed for Tioga where he won a 100 lapper and at Islip, Jim Hendrickson beat out Tom Baldwin and Charlie Jarzombek for the win. On Sunday, Lee raceway ran a 30-lap event with Bob Santos taking the win over Freddie Schulz and on Sunday night, Richie Evans won a 100-lap event at Utica-Rome. Bernie Miller finished second. At Plainville Stadium Ron Vanesse was the winner over Reggie Ruggiero, Bob Vivari, Dave Alkas and Nick Nickerson. Ronnie Rocco was the Novice winner. At Riverside Park Lou Toro was the victor over Jap Membrino, Bobby Bard, Bob Stefanik and Gary Coluri. Dick Dunn was the Modified winner at the Waterford Speedbowl. Dick Laflesh was the Late Model Grand American winner.

Thirty five years ago in 1978, Geoff Bodine won the Friday night opener at Stafford over Ron Bouchard and Bugsy Stevens. Bouchard made it three in a row at Waterford on Saturday and at Riverside, Richie Evans took a hard-earned victory over Bob Polverari and Reggie Ruggiero. George Savory made it two in a row at Westboro and at Islip; Charlie Jarzombek beat out Bill Park and Tom Baldwin. Events scheduled on Sunday at Thompson and Oswego rained out. At Monadnock, Bouchard took the checker over Bugsy Stevens and Ollie Silva. At Plainville Stadium Reggie Ruggiero was the winner with Billy Knight, Stan Gregor, Dave Alkas and Ron Rocco. Roger Salley was the Sportsman winner.

Thirty Years ago in 1983, Greg Sacks made it two in a row at Stafford. Kenny Bouchard, with a strong run in the Ted Marsh No.55 finished second with Richie Evans, third. At Riverside, Evans took the top spot over Reggie Ruggiero and at Islip, Don Howe took the top spot. Other weekend winners were Jamie Tomaino at Wall and George Kent at Tioga. In Winston Cup action at Nashville, Darrell Waltrip took the pole and the win. Ron Bouchard finished ninth and Geoff Bodine finished twentieth.

Twenty five Years ago in 1988 Friday night racing at Stafford rained out. At Waterford on Saturday, Richie Gallup got his second win of the year. At Riverside, Reggie Ruggerio picked up his third win with Mike Stefanik, second. Tony Hirschman went two for two at Tioga and at Monadnock, Stefanik and Ruggiero flip-flopped with Stefanik taking the win.

Twenty Years ago, in 1993 Mike Paquette won the Friday night Winston Racing Series SK Modified feature at Stafford and was disqualified with an illegal engine. Dennis Gada was awarded the win. Jerry Pearl took the win at Waterford on Saturday after Bert Marvin tangled with Bob Potter and Ted Christopher in the late going. Ronnie Rocco finished second. Chris Young went pole to pole at Riverhead and at Riverside, Reggie Ruggerio took the victory. At Fonda Speedway in upstate N.Y., Legend Lou Lazzaro got his 110th win at the historic track. In Winston Cup news, Geoff Bodine became a car owner as he purchased Alan Kulwicki's race team.

Fifteen years ago, in 1998, Bo Gunning was the 50 lap SK-Modified winner at Stafford. It was no cakewalk as some hot company in the form of Bob Potter, Mike Ewanitsko, Ted Christopher and Eric Berndt followed. Stafford also announced the results of their 50 Greatest Drivers who would be honored during the year. Waterford, Riverside and Riverhead rained out. The Busch North Series and the Busch Grandnationals were at Loudon. Kelly Moore took the BNS victory over Tom Carey and Brad Leighton. Mike Stefanik and Ted Christopher were in the hunt during the early going but blistered tires and a pit stop kept them out of the top ten. Buckshot Jones was the Busch Grandnational winner. Tony Stewart finished second.

Ten years ago in 2003 Stafford got to beat the rain as they began their regular Friday night racing series. Scott Foster took the SK-Modified 50 lapper over Jeff Baral and Frank Ruocco. The NASCAR Busch North Series ran a 150 lapper with Curtis Truex going pole to pole. Andy Santerre finished second. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series visited the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday. It was a major milestone for Jamie Tomaino as it was his 400th Modified Tour start. Chuck Hossfeld took the Busch Pole and led the first 27 laps before blistering a tire. Waiting in the wings was Rick Fuller who took advantage of Hossfeld’s miss-handling machine. Fuller led from lap 28 to the finish. Ted Christopher finished second with Jerry Marquis, third. Todd Szegedy and Rob Summers rounded out the top five. Hossfeld hung on to finish sixth. Because of the fact that previous Mod Tour Series rainouts had shuffled the schedule, Waterford was forced to run their Nationals event on the same weekend. Dennis Gada took the win over Jeff Pearl and Ron Yuhas Jr. During the running of the event Bo Gunning was leading and appeared to have victory in sight when Ted Christopher spun him out. Gunning was so incensed that he went after Christopher and attempted to hit him head on but stopped short before contact was made. Gunning then parked it for the day. Christopher was put to the rear and worked his way back to sixth spot before cutting a tire. Christopher ended up 16th in the final rundown. In other weekend action Dave Michael won at Wall Township and JR Bertuccio made it two in a row at Riverhead. It was also announced on this weekend that Steve Park had been fired out of his Winston Cup ride at Dale Earnhardt Inc. and was replaced by Jeff Green. The Winston Cup Series was off because of Mother’s Day. The Busch Racing Series was at the Gateway Speedway where Scott Riggs took the win.

Five years ago in 2008, Jerry Marquis, one of the best in the business, officially announced that he had retired as a driver. In a racing career that started in a Figure 8 car in 1973 at the now closed Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass, Marquis had chalked up 22 Track titles plus a NASCAR Modified Tour Series title and two NASCAR Regional Championships. Marquis’ final ride was at the Thompson Speedway in the 2007 World Series.
The Stafford Motor Speedway fell victim to the elements as their scheduled Friday night opener was cancelled due to rain. Racing will resume this coming Friday, May 9 featuring the 14th Annual New England Dodge Dealers 100 along with the regular bill of fare which includes the SK Modifieds and DARE Stocks.

The Waterford Speedbowl managed to avoid impending rain as they got their entire racing program in the books before the rains fell. Keith Rocco used an extremely wide car to hold off Dennis Gada for his first ever SK Modified win at the shoreline oval as an extremely sparse crowd looked on. Rather than take a chance on being “stuffed” Gada held off and settled for second. Ron Yuhas Jr finished third. Ron Silk and Rob Janovic Jr. rounded out the top five the top-5. Other feature winners were Ed Reed Jr. (Late Model), Chris “Moose” Douton (Sportsman), and, Jeff “Soup” Civardi (Mini Stock).

The True Value Modified Series made its first visit of the season to the shoreline oval. Among the missing was defending series champion Kirk Alexander who got skunked by a bad weather forecast and stayed home. David Pinkham, who had been running second in points to Alexander, took advantage of Alexander’s absence as he won the 100 lap contest which also put him in the point lead. Among the surprise entries was Jimmy Blewett. Blewett probably wished that he had stayed in New Jersey as he was the victim of a nasty wreck on lap 35. For the second week in a row the Jersey racer got airborne. Blewett rode over a wheel, flipped on his roof and hit the turn four wall. Quick action by the track’s crew removed him to safety and luckily with no injuries. Just before the half way mark, lap 42, Ed Dachenhausen and Les Hinkley tangled while fighting for the lead. Both were sent to the rear. Dwight Jarvis inherited the lead at that point. A restart on lap 78 proved his undoing as Pinkham powered into the lead and remained in the front spot for the remainder of the event. Jarvis hung on for second and was followed by Les Hinkley, Chris Pasteryak and Vinny Annarummo Jr. Ted Christopher was in the field but was never a factor as his mount suffered from fuel starvation problems.

Denny Hamlin used a late pit stop for tires to foil the strategy of Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards to win the Nationwide Series race Friday at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway. In the Richmond Sprint Cup event Denny Hamlin appeared headed toward an easy victory. Then, Dale Earnhardt Jr. seemed poised to snap his two-year losing streak.In the end, Clint Bowyer celebrated in Victory Lane, stealing a victory Saturday night at Richmond International Raceway that ended in wild fashion. Hamlin, the hometown favorite and pole-sitter, led a record 381 of the 400 laps in search of his first Cup victory at Richmond. Nobody came close to challenging him until a leaking right front tire allowed Earnhardt and Kyle Busch to catch him. The two drivers split Hamlin as they moved past him, with Earnhardt emerging as the leader with 18 laps to go. Hamlin's tire finally failed with eight to go, and NASCAR accused him of intentionally bringing out the caution that regrouped the field. Earnhardt and Busch staged a strong battle for the lead when the race resumed, but Busch and Earnhardt made contact in turn 3 that sent Earnhardt into the wall. Without seeing a replay, Earnhardt guessed that it wasn't deliberate. But as his winless streak reached 72 races on the two-year anniversary of his last victory, he wondered if Busch would need security help exiting the track amid angry Earnhardt fans. Bowyer used the opportunity to slide past Earnhardt and Busch and into the front for the first time all night. Bowyer then held off Busch on a final restart to score his first Cup victory of the season, second of his career. Busch finished second, then was confronted on pit road by his former crew members at Hendrick Motorsports. Mark Martin finished a season-best third and was followed by Tony Stewart, Martin Truex Jr. and Carl Edwards. Earnhardt finished 15th, Hamlin 24th.

Racing returned to the Rockingham Motor Speedway in North Carolina after a four-year absence and Joey Logano beat a field of Automobile Racing Club of America cars in the Carolina 500. Driving a Chevrolet that Denny Hamlin once drove in Sprint Cup competition, the 17-year-old Logano from Connecticut nearly lapped the field in his ARCA debut. Logano's team saved a set of tires in case there was a late caution on the track's notoriously abrasive racing surface. That's what happened, and Logano gave up the lead to get those tires for a restart with five laps to go. But it only took Logano about half a lap to come from fifth back to first and get the victory. NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader finished second with Ricky Stenhouse Jr., a driver in Roush Fenway Racing's developmental program, third.

As for the first race since NASCAR left this track in 2004, new track owner Andy Hillenburg said he was proud to successfully stage an event just six months after completing the purchase from Speedway Motorsports Inc. Hillenburg said he sold out more than 4,000 seats in the track's suites and estimated grandstand ticket sales in the 12,000 range. "We had enough people here to pay a record purse for ARCA and pay the bills," he said.

Last year, 2012, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series went "Up Country" to the Monadnock Speedway in Winchester, NH. Thanks to the efforts of Ted Hebert and Teddy Bear Pools & Spa $5000 in extra money was added to the WMT purse. This money was paid out to the drivers from positions 12 to 26. Last place paid out $810.

Ryan Preece led from pole to pole to win the 175 lap event at the New Hampshire oval. Preece withstood 10 restarts to take the win where his grandfather, Bobby Judkins had fielded winning mounts at the track in years past. It took an extreme amount of concentration on the part of Preece as he was repeatedly pressured and dogged by runner-up Doug Coby and Ted Christopher. Coby, who started second was kind of the meat in the sandwich as he had third place starter Todd Szegedy on his bumper for a good part of the distance. Ted Christopher had moved into the second spot on lap 13 but was later spun to the infield after contact from Coby. Justin Bonsignore put on the drive of the night as he came from a 14th starting spot to finish fourth. Likewise for Donnie Lia who started 17th, lost a lap at one point and rallied to make up his lap and finish sixth behind point leader Ron Silk. Rounding out the top ten were Mike Stefanik, Eric Beers and Keith Rocco. Rocco also put on a tremendous drive, rebounding from a late race pit stop to finish 10th. Rounding out those who finished on the lead lap were Jamie Tomaino, Christopher, Andy Seuss and Jimmy Blewett. Blewett actually finished sixth but was placed at the tail of the lead lap after he dumped Seuss on the final lap.

The race marked the return of Jerry Marquis after a six year retirement. Marquis who retired from driving in 2007 drove the Ralph Solhem No. 0. Marquis completed 134 laps before being forced to park it with suspension problems. Among the missing was Rowan Pennink who was attending his sisters wedding. Woody Pitkat was also absent. Jon McKennedy took over the controls of the Hillbilly Racing No. 79 after Daniel Hemric felt that it would be in his best interests if he contained his racing to the southland. McKennedy qualified fourth and was headed for a decent finish before a brush with the wall ended his night, pacing him in 24th finishing spot.

The Stafford Motor Speedway finally began their Friday night racing series after a one week delay because of rain. J.J. Hill was the winner of the extra distance 40-lap Late Model feature, Eric Berndt got around Ted Christopher on a green white checkered restart to pick up his first win of the 2012 in the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Dylan Kopec was the winner of the 20-lap SK Light Modified feature for the second consecutive week, Josh Wood also won for the second consecutive week in the 20-lap Limited Late Model feature, and Albert Saunders drove to victory in the 15-lap DARE Stock feature with a late race pass on Austin Bessette.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Berndt took the lead from Ted Christopher in the closing moments of the race and went on to score the victory. Rounding out the top-5 behind Berndt and Christopher was Dave Gervais, Ryan Preece Preece, and Todd Owen.

At the Waterford Speedbowl, Keith Rocco did not continue his winning streak as he was over 100 miles away competing in a Whelen Modified Tour event at the Monadnock Speedway in New Hampshire.

Tyler Chadwick took the checkered flag in the SK Modified® feature, his second on the year, while defending Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model champion Jeff Smith returned to the winner’s circle for the first time in 2012. Chris Meyer became the first repeat winner of the season in the Street Stocks and Ken Cassidy Jr. won again in the Mini Stocks, giving him six on the year.

A special 60th anniversary event for the Northeastern Midget Association was also run. The Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) is one of the nation’s oldest racing series, with roots at Waterford going back to its beginning. Greg Stoehr of Bridgewater, MA took home the prestigious win in the night’s NEMA Midget feature while Brandon Igo of Bondsville, MA won the companion NEMA Lite race.

In the SK Modified feature Chadwick took the lead from Joe Perry on lap 20 and never looked back. Perry faded in the closing moments. Nicole Morgillo eventually grabbed second from Perry on lap-29 to score her best career finish. Kyle James rallied from an early race spin to drive back up to an impressive third place at the checkered flag. Perry faded to fourth, while Joe Gada ran with the leaders all night and took fifth.

In Modified action at Bowman-Gray in North Carolina, Jonathan Brown said that he practiced at Bowman Gray Stadium all day on Saturday. Brown held off John Smith for his first win since leaving the Melvin "Puddin'" Swisher team. Michael Clifton was third, Danny Bohn was fourth and Jason Myers fifth. Burt Myers, who started the race in the points lead, finished sixth.

Brown passed Smith when the race restarted on Lap 86 and led the rest of the way.

Tom Rogers was the winner of twin 30 Modified features at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island.

In Valenti Modified Racing news it had been learned that series founder Jack Bateman had retired from driving and had selected Todd Owen as his replacement. The decision ends a 46 year driving career. Bateman would focus on his race team and the VMRS he started 9 years previous.

Dirt tracker Brett Hearn recorded his 100th career win at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. Hearn had a win streak of four in a row going when he hit the century mark at the Malta, NY oval.

In NASCAR Sprint Cup action at Darlington, Jimmie Johnson broke free on a restart three laps from the end to give Hendrick Motorsports its 200th Sprint Cup victory. Denny Hamlin was second, followed by Stewart and Kyle Busch. Danica Patrick, still trying to cut the mustard as a top division driver, lasted until the end of her second Sprint Cup race, finishing six laps behind Johnson in 31st. Joey Logano wrecked leader Elliott Sadler five laps from the end, then broke free during a green-white-checkered finish at Darlington Raceway for his second straight Nationwide Series victory.

On a sad note, Carroll Shelby, known in the motorsports world as the father of the Shelby Cobra and many other high-end automobiles, died in Dallas at the age of 89. He had been hospitalized for pneumonia.

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


Dick Dunn


Lou Toro


Bob Santos

T
Elton Hill

Lou Lazzaro

Melvin "Red" Foote

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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