Friday 11-04-05

By Phil Smith
Thirty-five years ago in 1970,the season came to an end with the running of the Cardinal 500 for the NASCAR modifieds and Late Model Sportsman (Busch Grandnationals). Ray Hendrick was at the top of his game as he cleaned house as he won both 250-lap events. In the modified event, Jerry Cook finished second and was followed by Fred DeSarro, Leo Cleary, Bugsy Stevens and Bernie Miller.

Twenty-five years ago in 1980, the Stafford Speedway held their annual banquet. Honored were Richie Evans, the modified champ, Jerry Marquis, the Sportsman champ and Jim Ward, the Strictly Stock champ. Mike Stefanik was awarded Rookie of the Year in the modifieds and Dan Avery was the Rookie in the Sportsman. Most improved modified competitor was Corky Cookman. Seymour the Clown presented his own version of year end awards including a do it my way award which depicted a plaster a hand giving an obscene gesture which was presented to NASCAR representative Bob Smith. When Seymour made the presentation he remarked, "thatís what the modifieds think of Nascar". Needless to say, Smith didn't see the humor in it!

Ten years ago in 1995, Flemington promoter Paul Kuhl announced that the Race of Champions would not be welcome back at the New Jersey oval. Many of those who raced in that final event were paid with checks that bounced. The ROC has since been reborn at the Oswego Speedway but has yet to achieve the status that the previous event held.

Five years ago in 2000, the Thompson Speedway announced that the long awaited paving of the speedway surface would begin within a week if the weather was decent. Jeff Burton won the NASCAR Grandnational event at Phoenix. Steve Park finished 42nd as a result of a broken axle. Burton also won the Winston Cup event after taking the lead from Mark Martin with four laps to go.

Last year, 2004, A good number of the northeastern modified teams headed south to Concord, North Carolina for the 2nd Annual North vs. South Shootout. Forty-five modified teams were on hand. The top five in time trials were John Blewett III, Eric Beers, Nevin George, Fred Query and Ed Flemke Jr. Qualifying heat winners were Donnie Lia, Ron Silk and Jerry Marquis. Consolation winners were Reggie Ruggiero and Jim Willis. The northern modified contingent led by Donnie Lia took nine of the top ten finishing spots in the 100 lap Shoot-out. Eric Beers took the lead at the start. Southern competitor Jay Foley triggered a massive wreck on lap two that eliminated ten cars including Reggie Ruggiero and Jim Broderick. Caution laps didnít count as Beers led the restart on lap three. John Blewett III powered by and led from lap 4 to 53. A caution for debris was thrown on lap 53 with just about all lead lap cars making a mandatory pit stop. Jerry Marquis elected to short pit while just about everyone else took on right side tires. Marquis led the pack out of the pit area and once the green dropped, Marquis kept the legendary Ole Blu in the lead. The lack of new tires bit him as Lia took the lead on lap 86 and led the final 14 laps to victory. With less than ten laps to go Marquis spun from his fourth position and ended up 11th. Eric Beers ended up finishing in second spot with Nevin George, third. Bob Santos III turned in another fine run as he finished fourth. Rounding out the top five was last years winner John Blewett III. Eddie Flemke Jr. finished sixth with Doug Coby in the Mansfield CT based entry, seventh. Rounding out the top ten were Ron Silk, Freddie Query and Lisbon Connecticut paving contractor Charlie Pasteryak. Marquis slipped to 11th in the final rundown. Pre race favorite Ted Christopher had a top five car until sidelined with broken rear end gears on lap 82. Sad news came from Michael Boehler, President of Boehler Racing. Jimmy Fournier, Chief Mechanic and Tire Changer for Boehler Racing passed away on Monday, November 1. Jimmy was a trusted and loyal member of Boehler Racing since the early 1970ís. Lenny now has his main man with him!

Joyce and Dick Ceravolo of Groton, Ct, owners of the Team 31 SK Modified, hosted a victory party in recognition of their Sunoco Modified Track Championship at the Thompson Speedway in 2004. Guests of honor included driver Todd Ceravolo, crew chief Rick Ceravolo and their pit crew along with their wives and friends. Started by Dick Ceravolo in 1969, Team 31 had been responsible for six track championships, three at Waterford and three at Thompson.

Todd Ceravolo was five and Ricky Ceravolo was 8 when their father began his driving career and formed Team 31. From almost the beginning both spent many nights helping out in the racecar garage which was located in the basement of their house. By the time they were old enough, they had become vital parts of the team and were able to enter the pit area and work on the racecar on race days. Both had become accomplished mechanics as they had some good teachers along the way.

Todd began his racing career at the Waterford Speedbowl, driving a Late Model, in 1992. It didnít take long before the first win came, that being on July 22. He ran the Late Model again in 1993 and recorded yet another win. Richie Gallup and Ronnie Rocco had been driving the Ceravolo modifieds at Waterford and at Thompson with limited success. At the conclusion of 1993 a decision was made to cut back to one car and at the urging of Rick, put Todd in the car for the 1994 season.

His modified career started out with a bang as a water hose blew off and caused him to crash into the third turn fence. Undaunted, his crew repaired the car and made it back the following week. For the next four events he got valuable seat time and recorded consistent top fiveís including two-second place finishes. A wreck plus a broken thumb on June 18 slowed his progress but it was only a temporary setback. The first win came in his ninth start on July 16. Todd continued to record top five finishes for the balance of the year and capped off his first modified season with a 100-lap win on Columbus Day. For his efforts he was awarded the Rookie of the Year honors. In 1995 and 1996 he stepped it up as he took the checkered flag on five occasions. In 1997 he staged a season long battle with Tucker Reynolds, recording six wins and the Waterford Speedbowl Track Championship.

The 1998 season looked to be one of opportunity but as things worked out it turned into a year of disappointment. During the off season Todd was given the opportunity to drive the Pelly car, formerly driven by Reggie Ruggiero at Riverside Park. Promises were not kept and performance was dismal. By mid season Todd was back in the family car and recorded three wins. The 1999 season was a mixed bag. Running primarily at Thompson, Team 31 recorded only one win but consistency led to their first championship at the 5/8-mile oval. A happy ending to a good year turned around on September26 when Todd suffered near career ending injuries while driving the Whittle car at Waterford. Patience and determination by himself and his family brought him back to good health and when the 2000 season rolled around he was ready to go. For the next 2-1/2 years Ceravolo drove for other car owners and only recorded one win as the Team 31 cars and equipment was sold. By the end of 2002 the decision was made by Dick Ceravolo to get back in the owners role with all new equipment. Team 31 ran exclusively at Thompson starting in the spring of 2003. The effort produced three wins including nine top fives. Engine trouble in the final event put a damper on hopes for a championship. For 2004 Team 31 formulated a plan of total commitment for a track championship at Thompson. As crew chief, Ricky Ceravolo assembled a very capable and hard working crew. As owner, Dick Ceravolo provided the needed financial backing and driver Todd Ceravolo provided the determination and skill to get the job done. The total effort by all produced 15 top fives including five wins. When the season ended Todd Ceravolo and Team 31 had won the Thompson Speedway Track Championship in convincing style with a 20-point lead over Jeff Malave. As an added bonus Todd finished fourth in the New England Region of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series and was invited to Nashville, Tenn. to receive his award and hefty point fund check.

Special recognition awards were presented to Dana Gerry, engine builder Mike Petit, CD Fabrications Ė Mike Paquette, Painter Howard Clark, Bestwick Signs-Rich Bestwick, Keith Brothers of Local 547 Laborors Union and Larry Barnette Ė Spotter.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were in Phoenix, Arizona. Jamie McMurray was the Busch Series winner and Dale Earnhardt Jr. pulled out the win in the Nextel Cup

George Bush defeated John Kerry for the President of our country.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail _ HYPERLINK mailto:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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