Friday 10-14-05

By Phil Smith

Fifty-five years ago, in 1950, Ralph Moody won a scheduled modified race at Thompson.

Thirty-five years ago in 1970, the NASCAR modifieds were at Beltsville, Maryland for a 200-lap event. Jerry Cook took the win over Eddie Flemke and Billy Hensley. At Thompson, Jerry Dostie, in the Ted Marsh 55, held off Leo Cleary and Lou Austin for that win. Dick Armstrong bought the famous Tant/Mitchell No.11 that was formerly driven by Ray Hendrick. With Hop Harrington at the wheel, a solid fourth place finish was recorded. Rounding out the top eight were Lou Toro, Joey Kay, Bob Vee and George Moose Hewitt.

Thirty years ago in 1975, it was all quiet with the modifieds as they were getting ready for the annual Cardinal 500 in Martinsville.

Twenty-five years ago in 1980, the World Series at Thompson drew 53 modifieds. It was on this date that the late Richie Evans gave Mike Stefanik his big break as he put him in the seat of his back-up experimental-straight axle modified known as the grey ghost. After starting in the rear, the then young driver worked his way to the front and was running second behind Ronnie Bouchard when he was forced out with broken valve springs three quarters of the way through the 50 lap event. Evans had taken the lead at the start but also had bad luck as he was forced to pit with a flat tire on lap 33, giving way to Bouchard. Bouchard led until lap 44 when he was passed by Greg Sacks in the Cal Smalles No.41. Sacks went on to take the win and was followed by Bouchard, John Rosati, Bob Vee, Evans, Ray Miller, Moose Hewitt and Kenny Bouchard. Mike Benevides who today is a successful CPA was the late model winner and Warren Coniam won the Supermodified portion. Ronnie Bouchard won a special 15-lap
match race.
Twenty years ago in 1985, Oswego closed out their season on Saturday night with a 30 lap modified feature. Richie Evans took the win and little did anyone know that this would be the last, as the popular champion would lose his life in two weeks at Martinsville. Mike McLaughlin finished second.

Fifteen years ago in 1990,the modifieds had the week off as they were getting ready for the World Series at Thompson.

Ten years ago in 1995, Mike Stefanik scored his 32nd Modified tour win at the World Series at Thompson. Stefanik took the lead from Ed Flemke JR on lap 94 of the 125-lap event. Flemke finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggiero, Steve Park, Tony Hirschman and Jamie Tomaino. Bo Gunning won the SK 30 lapper over Bob Potter. The weekend was darkened when Harry Kourafas JR lost his life after being hit broadside during the running of the mini-stock feature. In DIRT action at Syracuse, Brett Hearne won his 5th classic at the historic mile. Mark Martin made a clean sweep at Charlotte as he won the Busch Grandnational and Winston Cup events. Dale Earnhardt did not qualify for the Winston Cup event but took a provisional and ended up in second spot.

Five years ago, in 2000, the Race of Champions, scheduled for the weekend at the Oswego Speedway, was cancelled on Thursday because of a forecast of rain and snow. It never rained! Seekonk ran the D.Anthony Venditti Memorial and added the SK Modifieds as an after thought. Only 11 SK's showed and the race distance was reduced from 50 laps to 25 laps. Ted Christopher started on the outside pole and went on to take the win over Ron Yuhas JR, Roger Godin and Dan Dailey. Vinnie Annarummo beat out Rick Martin and Wayne Dion to win the DAV main event. In victory lane he announced his retirement from racing. At the DIRT Classic at Syracuse, Billy Decker took the lead at the mid point and went on to take the win over Steve Paine, Ken Brightbill and Bud Christian. Deckers winning check was worth $50,000.00.In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Bob Labonte passed Jerremy Mayfield with ten laps to go to take the win. In Busch Grandnational action, Matt Kenseth took the lead and eventual win when Joe Nemechek ran out of gas with two laps to go. Ed Flemke JR made a surprise visit to the New River Speedway in Virginia and walked off with the victory in the Hills Enterprises No.79.

Last year, 2004, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway. It was showdown time between Tony Hirschman and Eddie Flemke Jr. for the series title. Fifty modifieds were on hand for time trials. The Long Island gang dominated the top spots as Mike Andrews, a regular competitor at the Riverhead Raceway and Donnie Lia were the fastest. Andrews went 119.827 mph and Lia, the Bud Pole Champion for 2004, clocked in at 118.997 mph. The top six re-drew for starting spots with third fastest qualifier Tony Hirschman drawing the pole starting spot. Todd Szegedy, the 2003 series champion, drew the outside pole. Eddie Flemke was not so fortunate as he qualified in 24th spot

In what had to be one of the best events ever put on by the Modified Tour Series, Mike Stefanik came from a dead last starting spot to ring down the curtain on 2004 with a convincing win. Tony Hirschman, who led the first 33 laps ended up third in the final rundown and secured his fourth Modified Tour Series Championship. Hirschman, who was in contention with Eddie Flemke JR for the title, was able to breathe easier after an incident on a lap 58 restart that ultimately eliminated Flemke from the title chase. It appeared that Ted Christopher checked up or brake checked Todd Szegedy as they exited turn two which resulted in a scramble on the back chute which saw Flemke suffer front end damage that would cause him to lose laps in the pits making repairs. Prior to that all eyes were on the Southington, Connecticut racer as he put on a brilliant display of driving as he came from his 24th starting spot to as high as fourth. Christopher continued to lead until he hit the turn two wall on lap 82 and ended up spinning in turn four with a flat right rear tire. Szegedy assumed the lead from that point. Mike Stefanik, who pitted early in the event for a front-end adjustment, worked his way to the front and on lap 92 took the lead. Stefanik and Szegedy traded the lead back and forth until lap 97 when Stefanik was able to put a little distance on the 2003 series champion. Szegedy ran second to Stefanik until lap 123 when he brushed the wall in turn two. Chuck Hossfeld moved into second with Hirschman moving up to third. Rookie’s Zach Sylvester and Kenny Barry rounded out the top five. Barry and Sylvester ended up tied for the Rookie of the Year title. Barry was given the nod, as he was higher in the final point standings. An estimated crowd of 9,500 sat in the sun drenched grandstands.

Tony Hirschman, who was a guest on Gary Danko’s radio show during the week, hinted that he might cut back his racing schedule in 2005. Hirschman hoped to help his son, Matt, further his racing career and feels that if he still races it could alter his focus. Because of the fact that Mike Stefanik was committed to the Busch North Series at the Wall Township Speedway on Saturday Todd Ceravolo was asked to qualify his Mod Tour ride at Thompson. Congratulations to Modified Tour Series photographer Mary Hodge as she was presented the Yvonne Durocher Woman in Racing Award at the recent New England Antique Racers Awards Banquet. Mary and her husband Howie do an excellent job of covering the Modified Series tour with their pictures, which are seen in every major racing publication.

The Busch North Series traveled to the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey on Saturday to wrap up their season. On and off rain all day Saturday on the Jersey shore forced officials to cancel the event. It would not be made up. Andy Santerre had already wrapped up the series championship.

The Dodge Weekly Racing Series at Thompson on World Series weekend provided some excellent racing. Jim Civali gave Ted Christopher some of his own medicine as he took the win in the 30 lap Sunoco SK-type Modified event. Christopher started on the pole and led just about all the event except for a brief moment when Kerry Malone led before dropping out. Civali glued himself to Christopher’s bumper and when the opportunity presented itself when the pair exited the fourth turn on the final lap Civali made his move. Christopher attempted to block but Civali held fast and the pair touched. Christopher lifted long enough to allow Civali to forge ahead and take the win. During the slow down lap Christopher vented his frustrations as he spun Civali in turn two. Eric Berndt ended up third with Bert Marvin and Tom Cravenho rounding out the top five. David Berghman capped off his championship season in the Pro Stock division with a convincing win. Starting 29th, Berghman made a superb charge to the front and took the lead in the 30 lap feature on lap 18 to record his 9th victory of the season. Other winners on Sunday were Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Chris Perley in the Supermodifieds and Mark Buonomo in the NEMA Midgets.

The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted an automotive Flea Market over the weekend.

The final point standings for 2004 at the Waterford Speedbowl were made official. Eddie Reed JR. was officially the SK Modified Champion. Reed had three wins to his credit. Dennis Gada, who was a five-time champion, finished second, 16 points back. Ron Yuhas JR, with two wins finished third with Chris Pasteryak and Rob Janovic rounding out the top five. Corey Hutchings was by far the class of the Late Model field as he won six events on his way to the title. Hutchings, also the Late Model champion at Thompson, beat Allen Coates by 46 points. Coates had five feature wins to his credit. Mark St.Hilaire, with two wins, ended up third. Former division champion Phil Rondeau, three wins and Carl Erickson round out the top five. Second generation driver Keith Rocco won the Sportsman division championship on the final lap of the final feature. Rocco, the son of Ronnie Rocco, beat Ed Gertsch by eight points. Rocco had three wins while Gertsch had six wins to his credit. Dwayne Conant, Norm Root and Roger Perry rounded out the top five. Glenn Colvin, with three wins, is the Mini Stock Champion. Colvin beat Tim Jordan by 22 points. Richard Brooks was the top feature winner with five victories and finished third in the final standings. Joe Bavalocco and Bill Leonard round out the top five. Michael Pepe, with two wins, is the Legends Champion. Pepe outdistanced Silas Hiscock JR by 50 points. Sixteen year old Jeffrey Paul ran in only eight events but he won six of them which placed him third in the final standings. Jim Ahern and Silas Hiscock Sr rounded out the top five.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Mike Bliss made a dramatic three wide pass in the closing stages to take the lead and eventual win on Friday night’s Busch Series event and on Saturday night Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished one-two. Casey Kahne had them covered until a blown out tire forced him into the wall and out of the event.

That’s 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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