Friday October 20, 2006

By Phil Smith                                                          Click On Any Photo For Full Size Version

Thirty five years ago in 1971, The Race of Champions at Langhorne and the Cardinal 500 at Martinsville went head to head because of a previous rain out at Langhorne. Many of the NASCAR Modified contingents at Langhorne withdrew their entries as they were committed to the Martinsville event. Needless to say, both events went off as planned. At Langhorne, it was to be the last ever event to be held at the one mile circle track and it was Roger Treichler taking the win over Jim Shampine. Bob Merz finished third with Graeme Bolia and Lou Lazzaro rounding out the top five. Sixth through tenth were Mike Loescher, Will Cagle, Chuck Boos, Sonny Seamon and Gary Iulg. Among those who chose not to go to Martinsville were Ray Hendrick who finished 32nd, Geoff Bodine who finished 27th and Charlie Jarzombek who finished 26th. Richie Evans, who was under suspension from NASCAR, finished 28th. The Race of Champions, a fall tradition since 1951, would move to the 1-1/2 mile Trenton Fairgrounds Speedway for the 1972 event. At Martinsville, Fred DeSarro took the win over Jimmy Hensley, Denis Giroux and Jerry Cook. Sonny Hutchins was the Late Model Sportsman winner. With the NASCAR Modified season now over, Jerry Cook was declared the division champion. Finishing second in the point standings was Fred DeSarro with Bugsy Stevens, Bernie Miller and Dave Lape rounding out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Billy Harman, Dick Fowler, Denis Giroux, Billy Hensley and Lou Lazzaro.

Thirty years ago in 1976, all was quiet.

Twenty five years ago in 1981, all was quiet.

Twenty years ago in 1986, the World Series was run under blustery conditions. Wes Rosner suffered severe head injuries when his late model hit the first turn wall driverís side first. Rosner would survive but his racing career would be over. Corky Cookman started on the pole of the 50 lap modified feature and led the entire distance to record the victory. Mike Mclaughlin finished second and was followed by Jim Spencer, Jamie Tomaino, Brian Ross and Tony Jankowiac. Kerry Malone was the SK modified winner and Dick Houlihan was the Mini-Modified winner.
Fifteen years ago in 1991, the season ending World Series was on tap. For the 125 lap Featherlite Modified Tour event, Mike Stefanik took the pole. Stefanik re-drew the outside pole but proved to be no match for Rick Fuller who jumped to an early lead. Fuller held the lead until he pitted on lap 65.By the 100 lap mark, Fuller was back in the lead and went on to take the win. Reggie Ruggiero ended up in second spot and was followed by Stefanik, Tom Baldwin, George Kent, Steve Park and Wayne Anderson. Bob Potter was the SK modified winner as he beat out Tom Tagg for top honors. Other winners were Eddie St Angelo in the Pro Stocks, Bentley Warren in the Supers, Nick Fornoro in the Midgets and Chuck Docherty in the Late Models.

Ten years ago in 1996, rain played havoc with the World Series at Thompson. Promoter Don Hoenig pulled the plug and rescheduled for the following week.

Five years ago in 2001, the Thompson Speedway closed out the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series with the running of the $65,068 World Series 125. One of the biggest crowds in the history of the speedway were on hand as 550 race cars including 55 Modifieds and 16,000 fans which forced the speedway management to close the parking lots one hour before the noon time start. It was a season end showdown for championship honors between Mike Stefanik and Jerry Marquis. Ted Christopher, in his last ride in the Gary Cretty No.25 took the lead from Stefanik on lap 65 and ran away with the event. Stefanik, with Marquis all over him at the end, finished second and wrapped up the division championship, his fifth, which was the first ever for car owner Art Barry. Charlie Pasteryak finished fourth with Tony Hirschman, fifth. The Sunoco-SK Modifieds provided their usual crashing and banging with a surprise ending. Coming off the fourth turn on the final lap, Kerry Malone held a slight lead. Ron Yuhas JR made a gut move to the outside and as the two headed for the stripe Malone attempted to block. Yuhas didnít lift and the two came together just before the finish line. With Yuhas riding the wall, he and Malone crossed the line together and the race was declared a dead heat. Chuck Docherty ended up third with Ed Flemke JR and Wayne Bellefleur rounding out the top five. At the drivers meeting it was announced that NASCAR would be mandating head and neck restraints for their major divisions and it was only a matter of time when they would be come mandatory at all NASCAR events. In other weekend action, Danny Johnson walked off with $20,000 after winning the DIRT Eastern States 200 at Middletown, N.Y. In Winston Cup action at Talledega Dale Earnhardt JR passed Bobby Labonte on the last lap to take the win. Labonte bumped with Bobby Hamilton who hit the wall and triggered a 16-car wreck. Tony Stewart ended up second.

Last year, 2005 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour series was at the Thompson Speedway for the annual World Series. The track opened on Friday in order to allow competitors entrance to the pit area. There was also supposed to be a practice session to the non-touring divisions but rain put a damper on that. It looked promising until Friday night when a knock out punch in the form of five more inches of rain was delivered. With the speedway under water, the Thompson Speedway management and NASCAR had no choice but to postpone the event October 21-23. The rescheduling created a conflict with the Waterford Speedbowl who had already rescheduled their season ending Fall Finale. Chances were, Waterford would not change again and the two speedways would go head to head. Thanks to the efforts of the Speedbowl Management team of Bill Roth and Pete Zanardi a plan has been worked out with NASCARís Ed Cox and the Fall Finale was once again scheduled for the weekend of October 28-29-30. Plans include coordination of race day schedules and a unique gas incentive supported by Xtra Mart convenience stores. If all goes according to plan, competitors who are intent on racing at both the Speedbowlís Town Fair Tire Finale and Thompson will be able to do so. On the 29th, qualifying heats for the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series divisions are slated to be completed at Waterford in time for racers to make the 50-mile trek to Thompson for their features. Also, racers who run the Speedbowl heats, compete at Thompson later that day and return to the Speedbowl to race on Sunday the 30th will be given fuel coupons redeemable at any Xtra Mart store. Xtra Mart and the Speedbowl to minimize the increased fuel expense brought on by high prices at the pump and the commute between two tracks created this program.

In some sad news, Anthony "Beebe" Zalenski passed away early Tuesday morning, October 11. He was 89 years old Mr. Zalenski worked for many years as a diesel mechanic at Palmer Motor Coach in Palmer, Mass. Later he owned his own speed shop. His real passion was auto racing, first with sports cars and then with stock cars. His famous M-6 coupe driven by many of the top drivers of the day was a frequent winner at tracks throughout the Northeast. In 1967, with Gene Bergin driving, they combined for 17 victories and reigned as modified champions at the Stafford Motor Speedway. In recent years, Mr. Zalenski was associated with the Flamingo Motor Sports Race Team. Eleven years ago, at the age of 78, Beebe built the engines that propelled Chris Kopec to the Riverside Park Track Championship.

Speedway Motorsports, Inc. declared a cash dividend of $0.32 per share of common stock. The annual dividend was payable on Nov. 21, 2005 to shareholders of record as of Nov. 8, 2005. This was the fourth consecutive year that Speedway Motorsports had paid a cash dividend to its stockholders and the fourth year the dividend increased over the prior year. The Board of Directors of the motorsports entertainment company unanimously decided to declare the dividend after reviewing the market for the Company's stock, current business conditions and future prospects of the Company.

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

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.

Web Design Copyright © 2005 & - All Rights Reserved
Opinions expressed in The Looking Back Column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of and the contents are the sole responsibility of the author.
For permission to reproduce any part of Looking Back contact Phil Smith @
 Looking Back is Copyright © 2005 Phil Smith