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Friday October 5, 2007

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago in 1967, Donald ”Dutch” Hoag became the first four time winner of the Race of Champions, which, at the time was run at the one mile Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Hoag was a winner at Langhorne on both the dirt and asphalt surfaces. Al Tasnady finished second with Don MacTavish, Bill Wimble and Irish Jack Murphy rounding out the top five.

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, Geoff Bodine in his Plymouth Valiant bodied modified won the Race of Champions at the Trenton New Jersey Fairgrounds. In addition to the non-conventional body, Bodine's chassis was that of an International Scout which sported independent coil-over shock suspension on all four wheels. The big surprise of the day was the run turned in by Gene Bergin who came from a dead last starting spot to finish second.

Thirty years ago in 1977, Maynard Troyer was the big winner at the Pocono Race of Champions. Troyer took the lead from Geoff Bodine in the late stages of the event. Bodine settled for second with Richie Evans, Fred DeSarro and Ronnie Bouchard rounding out the top five. Events that were scheduled at Seekonk, Thompson and Monadnock were rained out.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, Greg Sacks continued his season long domination in the modifieds as he won the 100 lap Fall Final at Stafford. Sacks took the lead from Richie Evans on lap 22. George Kent finished second with Bob Polverari, Richie Evans and Reggie Ruggerio rounding out the top five. Hector LeClair won the Busch North Series portion of the Fall Final. It was also on the same weekend that Waterford ran a special event for Strictly Stocks, which saw Brian McCarthy, take the win over Tom Fox. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Darrell Waltrip took the win.

Twenty years ago, in 1987, the entire Fall Final weekend at Stafford was rained out. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, Terry Labonte took the win over Dale Earnhardt. Pole sitter, Bill Elliott, finished third. Doug Hevron won a preliminary SMART Tour event that was run on Saturday.

Fifteen years ago, in 1992, Bob Potter won the final Saturday night SK-Modified feature at Waterford over David Gada and Moose Hewitt. Ted Christopher recovered from a crash and finished eighth and garnered enough points to secure the track championship. Jim Broderick was also a contender for the title but dropped out early with a broken rear end. C.J.Freye took the late model feature after Phil Rondeau lost a timing chain, while leading, with two laps to go. At Riverside Park, Jerry Marquis and the Bobby Judkins No.2x won their twelfth feature of the year at the Massachusetts oval. Rick Fuller settled for second. The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Stafford for the 150 lap Fall Final. Mike Stefanik had everyone covered as he won, going away. Jeff Fuller finished second with Mike Ewanitsko, Chris Amen and Satch Worley rounding out the top five. Bob Potter made it two for two on the weekend as he won the SK-Modified portion of the Fall Final. With the win, came the track championship. Mike Paquette finished second with Bob Georgiades, third. During the running of the 30-lap feature Ted Christopher and Bo Gunning were eliminated in a wreck. Officials felt that Richie Gallup had caused it and ejected him out of the race. Gallup’s car owner felt the decision was unfair and vowed that his car would never compete at Stafford again.

Ten years ago in 1997, Waterford ran a 100 lapper that was won by Jeff Pearl. Caution laps didn’t count. A total of 27 yellows were thrown and a total of 160 caution laps were run in addition to the 100 green laps .It took two hours and 45 minutes from green to checker. Todd Ceravolo finished second with Dennis Gada, third. Jim Broderick was in Flemington, N.J. during qualifying and was given a promoters option to start the event. After starting in the rear, Broderick worked his way to the front to take the lead on Lap 25.Broderick led until lap 73 when he ran out of gas and had to pit. In Modified Tour action at Flemington, Mike Stefanik scored his ninth win of the season. Stefanik took the lead from Ken Woolly on lap 209 of the 250-lap contest. Wooly finished second and was followed by Tony Hirshman, Jan Leaty and Doug French. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Geoff Bodine was the pole sitter in event that saw Dale Jarrett take the win. Jim Spencer won the All Pro 300 GN event. The re-paving of the Stafford Speedway was begun and it was announced that Don Hoenig had leased the Thompson Speedway to Brian LaForte and Gordon”Butch”Davis, both key figures at the Polar Beverage Company. Both stated that they were in it for the long haul and would bring the speedway into the 21st century.

Five years ago in 2002 The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their 2002 season with the running of the Fall Finale last Sunday. Dennis Gada did what he had to do as he jumped out front on lap 22 and never looked back as he had a relatively easy time of winning the scheduled 100 lapper and the track’s SK-Modified Championship, his fourth in a row. Gada’s track title tied the record previously held by Dick Dunn who won the championship from 1972 to 1975. Gada drove for Harry Wyatt who, in addition to Gada’s championships, has two others when Jim Broderick drove his car. Dunn, who is now retired from driving, drove for Albert and Margaret Gaudreau. Gada’s closest challenger for the title was Ed Reed Jr. Reed started nine spots behind Gada in the 100 lapper and got as close as third in the closing laps. Ron Yuhas Jr. finished second. Tom Fox and Stafford Speedway Track Champion Bo Gunning rounded out the top five. It was perhaps, one of the smoothest extra distance events ever run at the shoreline oval. One of the best displays of driving skills was that of mini-stock competitor Richard Brooks Jr. Brooks got dumped into the front stretch wall in the early going and after pitting and re-starting in the rear, finished a close second behind race winner Brandon Plemons. The late model 100 was rough and tumble and ended when Mark St Hillaire drilled Cory Hutchings on the final lap as they exited turn four. Allen Coates, who had previously won the Dodge Weekly Racing Short Track title finished fifth and wrapped up the track title. Tom Silva won the 50-lap sportsman race and Randy Cabal won the NEMA Midget 25 lapped. Second generation Sportsman driver Keith Rocco showed a lot of potential as he ran with the front-runners during most of the event. Rocco is the son of Modified great Ronnie Rocco. Also impressive was Bob Santos III who came from a dead last starting spot in the NEMA main to be in a position to contend when his motor soured.

Last year, 2006, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Stafford Motor Speedway. Thirty-eight cars were on hand hoping to qualify for the 150 lap Fall Final. Todd Szegedy took the Busch Pole with a time of 18.091-second lap around the half mile oval. Donny Lia was second fastest with a time of 18.190 seconds. Rounding out the top five were Tony Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Chuck Hossfeld. In the redraw for starting positions Szegedy drew the pole with Hirschman drawing the outside pole. Heavy monsoon type rain forced NASCAR and the Arute family to postpone the Fall Final to Saturday, October 28.

The Thompson Speedway closed out their Thursday Night Thunder Series. Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT. turned his rookie Sunoco Modified season into a track championship and ultimately the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series Region Four Championship. Along with the glory will come a check for $25,000. Mini Stocker Shelly Perry of Ashaway, RI wrote quite a story of her own on Thursday night. Perry became the first female champion in the 66-year history of the Thompson International Speedway. Both the Sunoco Modified and Late Model divisional championships were decided with a pair of 20-lappers. Marc Palmisano of Hadley, MA swept Late Model twins to erase a thirty-two-point deficit in a single night to steal the championship. Joe Lemay of Millville, MA and Tommy Cravenho of Raynham, MA shared Sunoco Modified victories. Pro Stock checkers flew for Fred Astle, Jr. of N. Westport, MA. Jeff Zuidema had already secured the 2006 Pro Stock championship. In support division action, Ed Puleo of Branford was the Limited Sportsman feature winner, Brad Caddick ran to the Mini Stock checkers and Kurt Vigeant won back-to-back TIS Modified honors. Titles went to Larry Barnett in the Limited Sportsman division and Roger Larson, Jr. in the TIS Modifieds.

Joe Lemay of Millville, MA saved the best for last in the opening twin event for the Sunoco Modifieds. He ran strong throughout the 20-lap feature but poured it on in the closing lap. Lemay hounded early leader Jeff Malave and made the winning move on the final lap. The first SK Modified feature was led to green by Buddy Charette followed by Keith Rocco. Malave quickly moved into the third position on the start. Malave drove into the lead to complete lap two. Rocco followed Malave into the runner-up spot as Charette faded. Pitkat ran comfortably just outside the top-five. Lemay got around Rocco to take over the runner-up spot. Jimmy Blewett and Tommy Cravenho followed through as well. With Malave handily up front and Joe Lemay solidly in second the battling was for the third spot between Blewett, Cravenho, and Bert Marvin. Blewett was able to maintain his position as the trio ran under a blanket. Lemay, who had been slowing reeling in Malave, came on strong as the laps began to wind down. With only five laps remaining Lemay caught Malave. He made a bid on the lead briefly on lap 16 but settled back in line. There was a scary moment for point-leader Pitkat when third-running Blewett dropped off the pace nearly collecting Pitkat and Cravenho. Pitkat was able to maneuver his way through and into third place. Cravenho avoided any major contact as well. On lap 17, the first caution of event flew when Stephen Masse stalled in turn two-saving Blewett. On the restart, Malave was able to maintain his lead over Lemay. Pitkat sat in third followed closely by Cravenho while a fully recovered Blewett pressured Marvin for the fifth spot. On the final lap Lemay dove to the underneath entering turn three to steal the lead away from Malave and ultimately the win. It was the second win of the season for Lemay. Malave chopped a mere two points of Pitkat’s point lead as the two ran under the checkers second and third respectively. Cravenho and Marvin rounded out the top five. The Sunoco Modified divisional championship was decided with second 20 lap feature that went non-stop. The drivers went heads-up to start the nightcap. Malave led the opening lap from his second –place-starting position. Lemay dropped back on the initial start; leaving Malave to battle Cravenho and Blewett. Cravenho grabbed the top-spot from Malave on lap four. Blewett started to pressure Malave for second on lap five. Rocco ran third followed by Pitkat inside the top-five. The top three of Cravenho, Malave and Blewett ran nose to tail. Malave peeked out of line in turn two on lap eight looking for the lead but settled back into second. He made the same move on Cravenho in turn four and made the pass stick. At the halfway marker, Malave led Cravenho, Blewett, Rocco and Pitkat. Blewett got along-side Cravenho to complete lap 11 but could not make the pass stick. On the same lap Cravenho got a good run on Malave. With Malave out front it was a three-car battle for the top spot. Double-file lapped traffic changed the complexion of the race for Malave, who got caught on the outside, losing positions to both Cravenho and Blewett. Rocco dogged Malave for the third spot. At the end of 20-laps, Cravenho had run to his third feature win of the season in the green-to-checker finale. Blewett came home second followed by Malave and Keith Rocco. Pitkat cashed in on his fifth-place finish to become the champ.

The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway was supposed to close out their season with the Fall Final but Mother Nature ruled the roost, putting the season ender on hold until October 28. The sun shone bright on Saturday, which allowed a full day of preliminary action. The 20-lap Ltd. Late Model feature took the green flag with Corky Hinze taking the lead ahead of Mike Sweeney, Ed Charette, Michael Chaves, and Joey Ferrigno. Back in the pack, the race for the championship was on between George Nocera, Jr. and Kevin Gambacorta. With 7 laps complete, Nocera's championship bid looked to take a disastrous turn as he spun in turn 2 to bring out a caution. On the restart, Nocera drove through the frontstretch grass, but was able to keep going. Up front, Hinze continued to hold the lead, with Andrew Durand moving into second. A caution for a multi-car spin with 10-laps complete slowed the action. Durand powered around Hinze for the lead on the restart, with Bill Davis moving into third. A spin by Pete Cayer brought the caution out with 13 laps complete. Under the caution, Durand had a flat right front tire, which brought him to pit road and ended his race. Hinze was back out front as the race resumed, with Davis on his heels. Joey Ferrigno moved into third, but a near spin on lap-17 sent him back through the field as Nocera took over the third position after his early race troubles. With Nocera third, Kevin Gambacorta was 10th, one position short of where he needed to be for the championship. But on the last lap of the race, Gambacorta picked up the position that he needed, and he clinched the championship by 2 points as Hinze scored his first career feature win. Davis finished second, with Nocera, Charlie Newman, and Rob Dow rounding out the top-5. When the green flag flew on the final DARE Stock feature event of the 2006 season, Norm Sears, of Manchester, became the 2006 DARE Stock track champion. Duane Provost took the early race lead ahead of Jeff Hubbell, with Rob Lawrence, Vince Gambacorta, and Tom Stirk in tow.

The SK Modified 21 Means 21 feature took the green with Lloyd Agor taking the lead ahead of Kirk Zervas and Bo Gunning. Gunning quickly worked his way around Zervas for second, and set his sights on Agor and the lead of the race. Gunning made a pass for the lead on lap-8, but as he took the lead, the caution came out, putting Agor back out front. Gunning made the pass for the lead on lap-9 in the same fashion that he took the lead from Agor previously. Gunning had to hold off the field on two separate restart situations, but he went unchallenged to the checkered flag. Shawn Monahan finished second, with Rowan Pennink, Agor, and Tom Rogers, Jr. rounding out the top-5. The Late Model 16 feature took the green flag with Jay Stuart sertting the early pace ahead of Scott Foster, Jr., Chuck Docherty, and Mike O'Sullivan. The race ran green to checkered and Stuart went unchallenged as he pulled away from the field to cruise to victory. Foster finished second, with Docherty, O'Sullivan, and Patrick Townsend rounding out the top-5.

In other weekend action Ruckersville, Va’s Phillip Morris sewed up the 2006 NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series National Championship after winning the 100 lap NASCAR Late Model Stock feature at Caraway Speedway. Kevin Harvick's victory in a caution-filled Yellow Transportation 300 at the Kansas City Speedway also made him the first Busch driver to win seven races in a season since Dale Earnhardt Jr. did it en route to the 1998 title. Harvick had five victories when he won the title in 2001. Tony Stewart ran out of gas on the last lap of the Nextel Cup event but still managed to coast to victory at the Kansas City Speedway. Ruben Pardo won the season ending Busch East event at Lime Rock. Mike Olsen took the series championship.

That’s 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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