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Friday October 10, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

This week, we go way back. Fifty years ago in 1958, at the Race of Champions in Langhorne, Pa., Jim Delaney took the win and Dutch Hoag finished second. Langhorne was a one-mile dirt circle track.

Forty years ago in 1968, Dutch Hoag won the Race of Champions at Langhorne Pa. It was his fifth win at the historic oval that went from dirt to asphalt in 1965. The event was not NASCAR sanctioned. NASCAR sanctioned the Albany-Saratoga Speedway and a 100-lap double point event was run to keep the NASCAR drivers from going to Langhorne. Eddie Flemke took the win over Bob Bruno, Rene Charland, Ernie Gahan and Ron Narducci. Thompson also ran and it was Lou Austin taking the win.

Thirty-five years ago in 1973, it was all quiet with no racing.

Thirty Years ago in 1978, Thompson ran a 50 lapper which was won by Ray Miller. Kenny Bouchard finished second and was followed by George Summers, Bobby Clarke, Dick Dunn and Freddie Schulz. At Hickory, N.C., Geoff Bodine took the win over Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and Wayne Anderson.


Dutch Hoag was the Langhorne Winner in 1968.

Ray Miller was the winner at Thompson in 1978.

Twenty-five years ago in 1983, the Thompson World Series modified event was a 40-lap affair. George Summers, in the Art Barry No.21 led the entire distance and took the win over Bob Polverari, Richie Evans and Brian Ross. In victory lane Summers announced that he had taken his last ride and was hanging up his helmet, thus ending a brilliant and successful career that saw hundreds of wins and many track championships in New England. Charlie Savage was the SK winner with Mario"Fats"Caruso, second. Doug Hevron was the Supermodified winner.

Twenty years ago in 1988, it was all-quiet as no races were scheduled.

Fifteen years ago in 1993, the only show in town was the Busch Grand National North Series at Lime Rock and Ken Schrader was the winner.
 


Stefanik captured the Spring Sizzler in 1998, the second of his record 13 victories en route to his fourth title. (Photo Credit: Mary Hodge/NASCAR) 

Ten years ago, in 1998, Mike Stefanik sewed up the Modified Tour Series Championship when he won the Thompson World Series. Stefanik also became the first driver in the 50-year history of NASCAR to win back-to-back championships in two separate divisions. Rick Fuller finished second and was followed by Chris Kopec, Mike Ewanitsko and Tim Connolly. Connolly led the first 47 laps of the 125-lap event before Chris Kopec punted him. Ted Christopher won the 30-lap SK event over Jim Broderick, Bert Marvin, Scott Quinn and Todd Ceravolo. The Busch North Series finished out their season at Lime Rock. In true championship style, Stefanik won that one too. In Winston Cup action at Daytona Beach, Jeff Gordon won the forest fire delayed event and in Busch Grandnational action at Gateway, Dale Earnhardt Jr. took the win after late race leader Buckshot Jones broke an oil line.

Five years ago in 2003, The NASCAR Modified Tour Series was supposed to be at the Seekonk Speedway on Sunday but Mother Nature had different ideas as showers fell on the track just about all day. Because of the fact that Sunday was the last day listed on the permit that the Speedway has with the town the entire D.Anthony Venditti Memorial program has been canceled. This was the second event that the NASCAR Modified Tour Series has lost in 2003. A June event at Riverhead on Long Island was also canceled after rain-washed out the intended date. The Stafford Speedway held their first annual Invitational on Saturday.

The event drew a fair crowd but considering all the football and baseball, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. With the exception of the winner, Doug Meservy, Stafford regulars took the first six spots as Waterford Speedbowl regular Rick Young finished seventh. Following Meservy was Ted Christopher, George Bessette, Bob Santos III and John Sandberg. Attrition was high as only eleven of the 25 starters were running at the finish including five cars on the lead lap. Woody Pitkat was the Late Model winner and Mike Como was the DARE Stock winner. Alan Johnson won the DIRT Eckered 200 at Syracuse. Johnson started sixth and took the lead on lap 173 after a pit stop on lap 94. Ken Tremont finished second with Frank Cozze, third. Johnson walked out of Syracuse with $50,000 plus $30,000 in contingency awards. Sam Sessions won the PASS Big Dawg Pro Stock event at Wiscasset Speedway in Maine and walked away with $100,000. Twin features were run at Wall Township with Ken Woolley and Kevin Flockart taking the wins. The annual Lancaster Open was also run on this weekend. Zane Zeiner took the win over Siege Fidenza. Attrition was high as only 12 of the original 33 starters finished. The Winston Cup and Busch Racing Series were at Charlotte. The Busch Series event was scheduled for Friday night but fell victim to rain and was run on Saturday afternoon. Greg Biffle took the win after leading the final 38 laps. Michael Waltrip finished second. The Winston Cup event was run on Saturday night. Tony Stewart passed Ryan Newman with 15 laps to go and went on to take the win. Newman finished second and was followed by Jimmie Johnson, Bill Elliott and Jeff Gordon.

Last year, 2007, The Annual World Series at the Thompson Speedway closed out the 2007 season for many in New England. Forty-two NASCAR Modifieds were on hand for time trials. Part time Tour competitor Tony Ferrante provided a pleasant surprise when he set the fastest time and captured the Busch pole. Ferrante's time of 120.656 mph around the .625-mile oval beat out Tony Hirschman Jr. by .025 seconds. Don Lia, Billy Pauch Jr and Matt Hirschman rounded out the top five. Qualifying went smooth except for the fact that Jamie Tomaino slammed the first turn wall after completing his second qualifying lap. Tomaino’s time wasn’t good enough to make the starting field but he was eligible for a provisional spot, which he took.

Lenny Boehler and Bob “Frito Bandito” Santos, both deceased and NEAR Hall of Fame inductees, had to be smiling as Bobby Santos III drove the Boehler Racing Ole Blu to victory in the NASCAR Modified portion of the World Series. Based on the re-draw after time trials Santos started second in the 150-lap event. Santos, who was in the hunt the entire race, grabbed the lead on a restart on lap 131 and went on to victory over Reggie Ruggiero, Matt Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Ronnie Silk. Sixth through tenth were Kevin Goodale, Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Renee Dupuis. Series champion Don Lia finished 28th. After dropping out with reported ignition problems. James Civali, who completed all 150 laps was disqualified by NASCAR and placed last for rough riding. A last-lap, fourth-turn crash involving Ed Flemke Jr., Billy Pauch Jr., and Doug Coby changed the complexion of the race behind Christopher. James Civali, who had contact with Flemke, initiating the crash, was parked and put to the rear of the field. Civali was later reprimanded in the NASCAR trailer. Richard Savory, son of George Savory and the driver of the Art Barry No.21 was awarded the series Rookie of the Year award.

The Thompson regular weekly divisions finished off the 2007 season in grand-style with Larry Barnett (Ltd. Sportsman), Mike Romano (Mini Stocks), and Leo Adams (TIS Modifieds) scoring victories. Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, continued his stronghold on the Outlaw Late Model laurels during the World Series. In other Outlaw action, Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor won a barnburner in the Strictlys and visiting Randy Churchill, Jr. of Niantic bested the Outlaw Mini Stocks. The Touring Series competitors established a pattern on Saturday night as both Seth Duvall of Ashford in the All-Star Truck Series and Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, in the Pro-Four Modifieds rode feature wins to 2007 championships.

The 34th Annual World Series ended a bittersweet racing season at Thompson International Speedway. In addition to Bobby Santos III those adding their names to the Thompson history books were Chris Perley of Rowley, MA, in the International Supermodified Association (ISMA); and Randy Cabral of Plymouth, MA, in the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA). Also garnering World Series glory was Jimmy Blewett of Howelll, NJ, in the Sunoco Modifieds, Jeff Connors of Ellington in Pro Stocks, and a surprise winner in the Late Models Ron Levesque, Jr. of Tiverton, RI. Ben Seitz had a run for the ages when the young driver from Pocassett, MA, scored an unprecedented fourth Northeastern Midget Association driving championship.

Jimmy Blewett made a triumphant return to the victory lane at Thompson. Blewett was greeted by a number of his fellow competitors and a standing ovation when he exited his Eddie Partridge owned TS Haulers #12 in victory lane. Blewett took over the lead before the completion of the first lap and never looked back. In the early going, Blewett and second-running Malone drove away from the rest of the pack. Blewett withstood a pair of late race restarts and persistent challenges from Malone to score the victory. Josh Steeves came home with an impressive third place finish over Bert Marvin and a returning Ted Christopher. Sixth through tenth were Tom Cravenho, Bo Gunning, Bobby Santos III, Danny Cates and Todd Ceravolo.

Dick Houlihan made his final career start at Xtra/Mart World Series at Thompson last weekend. Houlihan, who began his racing career in 1972 at the now closed Lakeville Speedway (MA), had raced at tracks all around New England, the east coast, as far west as Indiana and even in Canada. Throughout his career he has driven for many car owners including Danny Fournier, Jim McCloud, Sam Medeiros, Frank Procopio, Bill Ambrosio, Dan Andruck, John McKenna, Lenny Ellis, Greg Paquin and Wayne Darling. Along the way Dick won over 150 Features and 9 championships including 3 NASCAR Weekly Series titles, one at Thompson in 1996 and back to back titles at Seekonk in 2002 and 2003. He was also voted the Most Popular Driver at Seekonk in 2001 and 2002.

NASCAR released the final standings for the Weekly Racing Series for 2007. Four of the top ten in the final standings raced at the Thompson and Stafford Motor Speedways including runner-up Woody Pitkat who lost out to Steve Carlson by a mere six points. Carlson races at the LaCrosse Speedway in the Mid-West. Philip Morris who raced at the Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia, finished in third spot with Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. Kerry Malone, who raced at both Thompson and Stafford finished tenth in the final rundown.

Longtime motorsports executive Dennis Huth, through his company Racing Speed Associates, reached an agreement to fully acquire all rights to the American Speed Association.

In Busch Racing Series action at the Lowes Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton took the win in the Dollar General 300. Burton led the final 61 laps of the race. It was Burton's fourth win of the 2007 season. In Nextel Cup racing, Jeff Gordon staked his claim to the Nextel Cup title, winning his second straight race to widen his lead in the Chase for the championship standings. The four-time series champion led Kyle Busch on a restart with five laps to go at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but as he tried to hold off his teammate, Ryan Newman slid by both Hendrick Motorsports cars to grab the lead. Newman seemed to be headed to an easy win, but inexplicably spun while running by himself to bring out the caution. Gordon inherited the lead, but had a fuel issue that had him stressed about a pickup problem when the race resumed for a two-lap overtime finish. But Gordon's Chevrolet was flawless on the final start, and he pulled away from Clint Bowyer and Busch for his first win at the suburban Charlotte track since 1999.

This week are several vintage racing photos Courtesy of VintageModifieds.com of legendary "Wild Bill" Greco. Billy most famous for wheeling his brother George's #43 drove many cars during his long career, these are just a small portion.
 

That’s it for this week from 40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467

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

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