Thirty five years ago in 1978,
Fred DeSarro was laid to rest on November 4. The following day, the
Thompson Speedway hosted a benefit race which saw all proceeds go to
Fredís kids and wife. The pit area was jammed, as was the
grandstand. The competitors raced for nothing and the entire purse
was donated. Bugsy Stevens, who had been a fierce competitor and
close friend, was driving the Joe Brady No.41 and was driving down
the backstretch on the parade lap when a ball joint broke. Stevens
swore that DeSarro had given him a message and became quite upset.
Brady's car was towed off and Stevens joined chief starter Dick
Brooks and his assistant Bob Gelinas on the starter stand. Stevens
dropped the green and the race was on. The event was scheduled for
50 laps. Geoff Bodine took an early lead and was cruising to another
win. When Brooksie waved the white flag, Bodine slowed and as the
checker waved the next time around, Bodine turned into the infield
pit area and the rest of the field followed suit. The Speedway
became so quiet that one could hear a pin drop! It was a fitting
tribute to a fallen hero and fellow competitor. Bodine was credited
with the win which happened to be his 55th which set an all time
modified record which still stands today. Richie Evans was credited
with finishing second and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard, John
Rosati, Dick Dunn, Charlie Jarzombek and Bobby Vee. It was a day,
which many of us will never forget.
Five years ago in 2008, The
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series settled into a long winterís
sleep with the exception of the upcoming Banquet of Champions, which
would be held at the Mohegan Sun Casino on Saturday, September 13.
The weekly stars of NASCAR headed for Las Vegas for the 27th annual
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series awards banquet at the Rio Hotel.
NASCAR, series sponsor Whelen Engineering and track operators
gathered to honor national champion Philip Morris, plus U.S. state,
Canadian provincial, and track champions from throughout North
Morris, of Ruckersville, Va., made history, becoming only the second
driver to win the title more than once. Morris, the champion also in
2006, joined five-time champion Larry Phillips in the seriesí very
Morris, who raced at the Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia entered 28
events and scored 14 victories. Including the wins he had 23 top
fives. Finishing second was Brian Harris who raced at the West
Liberty Raceway in Iowa. Harris had 35 top fives in 38 starts
including 20 wins. Third is Marty Ward who raced at the
Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina. Ward recorded 22 top
fives in 24 starts including 13 wins. Fourth was New Englandís own,
Keith Rocco who raced at Stafford, Waterford and Thompson. Rocco
entered 49 events and scored 32 top fives including 11 wins. Rocco
drove for three different car owners. Rounding out the top five was
Jeff Strunk who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania.
Strunk ran in only 20 events but made the best of it as he had 19
top fives which included four wins.
NASCAR also honored their state champions. Rocco, who made his
Whelen Modified Tour debut at the 2008 World Series at Thompson took
top honors as the Connecticut State Champion. Rocco was also the
2008 SK Modified Champion at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Woody
Pitkat, who, like Rocco raced at all three tracks, finished second.
Pitkat entered 29 events and recorded 13 top fives, which included
six wins. Jimmy Blewett, with 12 top fives in 25 starts, finished
third. Blewett raced at Thompson and Stafford. Doug Coby, who also
raced at all three tracks, finished fourth. Dennis Gada who won a
record seventh Modified Track Championship at the Waterford
Speedbowl, rounded out the top five. Gada, who raced only at
Waterford, scored 13 top fives in 21 starts which included three
wins. Sixth through tenth in the final NASCAR State standings are
Rob Janovic from the Waterford Speedbowl, Todd Ceravolo from the
Thompson Speedway, Jeffrey Paul from Waterford, Ted Christopher from
the Stafford Motor Speedway and Tyler Chadwick from the Waterford
At the Waterford Speedbowl the word had it that Jerry Robinsonís
lease of the shoreline oval was up as of November 1. According to
reports Mr. Robinson had removed himself and his belongings from the
facility. In the mean time competitors who raced in the season
ending Fall Finale had not been paid.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup action, Carl Edwards won for the second
straight week, squeezing a victory out of his last tank of gas. The
combination of the win by Edwards and a 15th-place finish by Jimmie
Johnson in the Dickies 500 at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth
left Edwards 106 points behind NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader
Johnson with two races remaining. Edwards dominated most of the
race, leading 199 of the first 264 laps on the 1 1/2-mile oval.
Edwards, who inherited the lead when Greg Biffle pitted with 13 laps
remaining, beat runner-up Jeff Gordon by more than 8 seconds still
had enough gas left to do a couple of victory doughnuts. Edwards
went the final 103.5 miles on his last fill-up.
Kyle Busch won the O'Reilly Challenge Nationwide event at Texas
Motor Speedway to capture his 10th win of the season, tying him with
Sam Ard for the most wins in a season in the series, and giving Joe
Gibbs Racing it's 19th win of the year. Carl Edwards finished second
followed by Mark Martin, Joey Logano, and David Ragan. The race was
slowed by 5 cautions for 20 laps and there were 4 lead changes among
On November 4 Barak Obama became the first African-American to be
elected as the President of the United States.
Last year, 2012, The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their season
Saturday, and championships were decided in both the SK Modified and
Street Stock events. Jeff Rocco, twin brother to Keith Rocco, took
his first career victory in the 50-lap SK Modified race while Tyler
Chadwick of Ledyard secured his first ever Speedbowl title in the
division. Walt Hovey left no doubt in the Street Stocks, winning
both the race and the track championship. Also winning races
Saturday were Bruce Thomas Jr in the Late Models and Ken Cassidy Jr.
in the Mini Stocks.
Rocco was the man to beat once he made his way into the race lead.
Craig Lutz started in the pole position and led through a lap 3
restart. Lutz gave way to Kyle James while Rocco moved into second
position. Another caution on lap 5 enabled Rocco to line up
alongside James for the ensuing restart. Rocco powered past James
when racing resumed, leading lap 6. Rocco survived four more
restarts the rest of the way.
Todd Ceravolo finished out the year on a high note, finished second
to Rocco in the SK Modified race while Shawn Monahan came from the
rear to finish third. Jeff Rocco is the twin brother of two-time
track champion Keith Rocco. Chadwick began the event with a 21-point
lead over Jeff Pearl. He finished the race ninth, running a cautious
race to stay out of trouble and claim the crown.
Thomas led throughout the Late Model race, with Jeff Smith finishing
second and Dillon Moltz the champion in the division, finishing
Hovey rose to the lead on lap 24 in the Street Stocks race then
survived multiple caution flags over the remainder of the race.
Corey Hutchings was second and Chris Meyer came in third. Cassidy
resumed the final 28 laps of the Mini Stock race from a lead he held
back on October 7th when rain halted the race. Ray Christian III of
Norwich was second and Jeff Cembruch finished third. Cassidy's
victory was his 12th of the year in the division, good for the
all-time single season record in division wins.
On a sad note Auto Racing lost a true friend with the passing of
Charlie Mitchell. Charlie was well known and highly respected by his
peers for his writing in the Norwalk (CT) Hour. Charlie was the dean
of New England racing writers. The respect he had from competitors,
from promoters, from fans and, especially from other media members,
remains unparalleled. Having Charlie in the press box signified that
it was indeed an event worthy of coverage. He brought the skills he
used covering other sports to auto racing. He was one of a tiny
group that was instrumental in making our sport part of the general
media scene. In that regard, he was a revolutionary figure in New
England auto racing history.
In NASCAR Sprint Cup racing at the Martinsville Speedway, Jimmie
Johnson started from the pole and dominated the race, leading 191 of
the 500 laps en route to his seventh victory at the historic
.526-mile asphalt oval. However, the victory didnít come easy.
Jeff Gordon was attempting to work his way around Johnson when the
caution flag waved on lap 474 when Kevin Harvickís engine expired.
All of the lead-lap cars pitted under caution except championship
leader Brad Keselowski and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Johnson restarted
third behind Keselowski and Earnhardt and quickly drove his way
around both drivers, retaking the lead on lap 485. On lap 491 the
final caution flag of the day waved when Carl Edwards and Earnhardt
spun in turn two, giving second-place Kyle Busch one final shot at
The field returned to green-flag racing with five laps left and
Johnson quickly pulled into the lead with Busch in hot pursuit.
Busch gave it everything he could, but Johnson was able to hold on
for the victory.
The Nationwide Series was off for the weekend.
This week are several vintage racing
photos Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dyke's Racing
Click on Photo for Full Size
Thatís it for this week from 11 Gardner
Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes
at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: