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Friday November 3, 2006

By Phil Smith                                                          Click On Any Photo For Full Size Version

Forty years ago in 1966, Ernie Gahan won the Nascar National Modified Championship. Finishing second in his first year of NASCAR Modified competition was Carl Bugsy Stevens. Ray Hendrick finished third. Don MacTavish was the Sportsman Champion. Following MacTavish in the standings were Wild Bill Slater, Rene Charland, Ralph Earnhardt, Bill Wimble, Tiny Lund, Joe Thurman, Pete Hamilton and Andre Manny. David Pearson was the Grandnational (Nextel) Cup Champion

Thirty five years ago in 1971, NASCAR declared Jerry Cook the National Modified Champion. For the year, Cook entered 74 sanctioned events. Of those, he recorded four wins and 44 top tens, including 28 top fives. Cooks win percentage was 5%.Fred DeSarro finished second. DeSarro entered 66 events and recorded 19 wins and 31 top tens including 28 top fives. DeSarro's win percentage was 29%.Bugsy Stevens finished third in points. Stevens entered 58 events and recorded 25 wins and 33 top tens including 25 top fives. Stevens' win percentage was 43%. Richard Petty was the Grandnational (Nextel) Cup Champion.

Thirty years ago in 1976, Jerry Cook was still chasing points and was again the Nascar Modified National Champion. Among the track champions in the northeast were Fred DeSarro at Stafford and Thompson, Bobby Santos at Westboro, Geoff Bodine in the Yankee All Star League, George Murray at Seekonk, Bob Potter at Waterford, Punky Caron at Monadnock and Claremont, Fred Harbach at Islip and New Egypt, Charlie Jarzombek at Freeport and Riverhead, Richie Evans at Spencer, Maynard Troyer at Lancaster, Sonney Seamon at Shangri-La, George Kent at Fulton, Bob Polverari at Riverside, Jim Shampine at Oswego, Will Cagle on the DIRT Circuit and Jim Hendrickson at Wall Stadium. Cale Yarborough was the Winston Cup Champion.

Twenty five years ago in 1981, Richie Evans was the Nascar National Modified Champion. Evans also recorded track championships at Stafford and Thompson in addition to the World Series title at New Smyrna. Other champions of note included George "Moose" Hewitt in the Modifieds at Waterford, Harry Rice in the Superstocks, also at Waterford, Rit Patchen at Danbury, Wayne Anderson at Islip, Jerry Marquis was the Limited Sportsman Champ at Stafford, Punky Caron at Monadnock, Jeff Fuller at Westboro, George Kent at Spencer and Shangri-La, Bugsy Stevens at Seekonk, Roger Treichler at Lancaster, Stash Gregger at Riverside, John Blewett Jr at New Egypt, Doug Hevron in the Supers at Oswego, Mike Weeden at Lee and Darrell Waltrip was the Winston Cup Champion. Last but not least, Ronnie Bouchard was named NASCAR Winston Cup Rookie of the Year.

Twenty years ago in 1986, the following champions were announced. Dale Earnhardt, Winston Cup, Larry Pearson, Busch Grandnational, NASCAR Modified-Jim Spencer, NASCAR Northeast Region-George Kent. Kent also won the Shangri-La track championship. Wayne Anderson at New Egypt, Reggie Ruggiero at New Smyrna, Bob Potter at Waterford plus Perfect Circle-Waterford, Stafford and Thompson combined, Bentley Warren in the Supers and Brian Ross in the Modifieds at Oswego, Mike Stefanik at Stafford, Wayne Dion in the SK's at both Stafford and Thompson, Jan Leaty at Spencer, Ken Troyer at Lancaster, John Rosati-Modified and Tom Rosati-Pro Stock at Riverside, John Blewett Jr at Riverhead and Tom Mauser at Wall Stadium.

Fifteen years ago in 1991, Dale Earnhardt was the Winston Cup Champion and Bob Labonte was the Busch Grandnational champ. Ricky Craven was the GN North(Busch North Series)champion and Mike Stefanik was the Modified Tour Champion. Jerry Marquis was the NASCAR Northeast Regional champ plus was the track champion at Riverside Park and Monadnock. Other track champions were Mike Ewanitsko at New Smyrna, Wayne Anderson at Riverhead, Lee Sherwood at Shangri-La, and Mike Christopher in the SK's at Thompson, Bob Potter in the SK's at Stafford and Ricky Young in the SK's at Waterford.

Ten years ago in 1996, Tony Hirschman was crowned the Featherlite Modified Champion. Following Hirschman were Steve Park, Ricky Fuller, Jan Leaty, Mike Stefanik, Tim Connolly, Jerry Marquis and Ed Flemke Jr. Taking track championships were Tom Baldwin at New Smyrna, Doug Diderio at Oswego, Ted Christopher at Stafford, Dave Berube at Riverside, Jim Broderick at Waterford, Chuck Steuer at Riverhead, Siege Fidenza at Lancaster, Dave Dion in the Busch North Series and Randy Lajoie made it two in a row in the Busch South Series.

Five years ago in 1991, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series held their awards banquet where Mike Stefanik and Art Barry were officially crowned series champions. During the evening, a 19-race schedule for 2002 was announced as well as a general increase in race purses. NASCAR stated that there was a TV package in the works. The First Annual Len Boehler Dedication to Modified Racing Award was presented to Bob Garbarino who has built and owned Modifieds since the mid-60s. Ted Christopher received the Gatorade Front Runner Award, Ricky Miller, the Rookie of the Year Award and David Berghman, most improved.

Last year, 2005, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series was at the Thompson Speedway for the previously postponed World Series. They were joined by the Busch North Series. The big news on Saturday morning was that it wasnít raining. Temperatures were in the low 30ís but it didnít seem to hold anyone back as 40 Whelen Modifieds, 40 Sunoco SK type Modifieds and 35 Busch North cars helped jam the already bulging pit area.
In what was to be a long day of qualifying turned into another day of waiting and frustration as rain and snow hit the speedway in mid afternoon. At least the qualifying was completed for the Modifieds, Busch North and Sunoco Mods. Jerry Marquis in the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino captured his first Busch Pole of the year. Second generation driver Matt Hirschman was second fastest. Rounding out the top five were Don Lia, Zach Sylvester and Doug Coby. The top eight redrew for starting spots. Tony Hirschman drew the pole with his son, Matt, drawing the outside pole. Marquis drew eighth. Sean Caisse captured the Busch North pole. Sunoco Modified heats were won by Jeff Malave and Kerry Malone.

All the rain and snow disappeared during the Saturday overnight. Sunday was absolutely beautiful with temperatures in the high 60ís. Ted Christopher was looking to wrap up his first Whelen Modified Tour Championship; Tony Hirschman was looking to wrap up his fifth championship. Christopher will have to wait another year while Hirschman celebrates. Christopherís efforts came to an end on lap 10 when he took a hard shot into the wall between turns one and two after going up and over Donnie Lia. Hirschman ran near the front for most of the 125 laps and in the end finished a conservative 12th. Jerry Marquis was the eventual winner with Chuck Hossfeld, second. Doug Coby finished third with Mike Christopher and Charlie Pasteryak rounding out the top five.
It was a brutal weekend on racecars. Mike Christopher wrecked the Hills Enterprises No.79 big time in practice. David Hillsí crew did yeomanís duty and the end result was a fourth. Chuck Hossfeld wrecked the No.50 wrecked in qualifying. Crew Chief Phil Moran and his crew did their work and Hossfeld rewarded their efforts with a runner-up finish. The 90, 12 and 3 were cradled off of the track. The 75 (Carl Pasteryak), 59 (Matt Hirschman), 13 (Ted Christopher), 10 (Ed Flemke Jr.) and 99 (Jamie Tomaino) all received major damage although the 99 and 10 teams did amazing jobs getting their cars back on the track. Kenny Barry was under the 12 of Jimmy Blewett in the second turn when he (21) wiggled and hit the 12 sending him into the wall. Donnie Lia had a fast car and hit the 79 in the rear and spun him out. That is when the Lia was held in the pits. Mike Christopher drove like a man possessed and came on hard to finish a fine 4th.
 
Jeff Malave was the Sunoco SK Modified winner. Ronnie Silk finished second with Keith Rocco, third.


The Arute family that operates the Stafford Motorspeedway deserves a big tip of the hat as they have announced that Stafford would become the first weekly short track to install the SAFER barrier wall protection. Steel and foam construction will reduce the impact of crashes better than concrete. The speedway was looking to cover a 140 foot stretch of wall in turn 1 with the barrier. It's an area where a pit entrance creates a stretch with a longer run than normal up to the wall and has long been pointed to by drivers as needing some sort of redesign. Upstate New York driver Tony Jankowiac lost his life there and Canadian Denis Giroux suffered long term injuries after hitting the wall in that area. The Safer Barrier project had been in the works at Stafford since February and hopefully when the 2006 season begins it would become a reality.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail: 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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