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Friday October 17, 2008

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago in 1968, A Sunday afternoon modified event scheduled by the Lee Raceway in New Hampshire was rained out.

Thirty five years ago in 1973,the Northeast racing season had ended and race teams were getting ready for their annual trip to Martinsville.

Thirty years ago in 1978 ,the modifieds ran a special event at Kingsport, Tenn. Ronnie Bouchard, driving the Bobby Judkins No.2x took the win over Richie Evans, Jerry Cook and Harry Gant. Gant drove the famous William Mason No.45.The only action in New England was at Waterford where Bugsy Stevens in the Brady Bunch No.41 won a 100 lap open competition event which drew 60 modifieds. Dick Dunn in the Albert Gaudreau No.3 finished second and was followed by Eddie Flemke and Bruce "Gomer" Taylor.
 

Twenty five years ago in 1983 was another off weekend.

Twenty years ago in 1988, the modified tour was at Rougemont, N.C. Ricky Fuller took the win over Tom Baldwin, Jamie Tomaino, Jeff Fuller, Mike Stefanik, Brian Ross and Mike Ewanitsko. It was at this event that Rod Spaulding was involved in an accident that saw him recieve severe head injuries. It was also announced that the Arute Family had sold the Stafford Speedway to Dan Avery for $2.5million. Avery withdrew the offer a week later.

Fifteen years ago, the Race of Champions was held at Flemington, N.J. Billy Pauch, driving the Mario Fiore No.44 started 43rd and avoided numerous wrecks and took the win in the 200 lap event. Jeff Fuller finished second and was followed by Tony Siscone, Mike Ewanitsko, Reggie Ruggerio and Steve Park.


In 1988 Tommy Baldwin finished behind Ricky Fuller at Rougemont, N.C. (Photo from the Danny Pardi Collection)

In the Triple A-sk type feature, Ted Christopher came back after being involved in a 20 car wreck, then took the lead from Tom Tagg with10 laps to go and went on to score the win. Taggs distributer broke. Eric Beers finished second.In the National Parts Peddler Street Stock event, Tom Fox,who crossed the finish line second was awarded the win after apparent winner Shannon Connor was disqualified. At Rockingham, N.C., Mark Martin won the Grand National event. Jim Spencer and a crew member were suspended for the rest of the year for fighting with Joe Bessey's crew. In Winston Cup action, Rusty Wallace took the win.

Ten years ago, in 1998, Flemington ran a mod tour 250 which was won by Ed Flemke Jr.who took the lead from Mike Stefanik with three laps to go.Stefanik hung on for second and was followed by Mike Ewanitsko, Reggie Ruggiero, Tony Hirschman, Jamie Tomaino and Tim Connolly.

Five years ago in 2003 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway with a field of 49 modifieds on hand. Because of steady rain, the previous week that showed no sign of letting up, the event was postponed to this Saturday afternoon. All qualifying took place a week ago with Tony Hirshman taking the pole with a run around the 5/8 mile oval to the tune of 120.501 mph. Doug Coby was second fastest with series point leader Todd Szegedy, third. Hirshman was also the lucky guy on the draw for starting positions as he pulled the pole starting spot. Jimmy Kuhn pulled second spot with John Blewett III pulling third. Chuck Hossfeld and Szegedy rounded out the first five starting positions. Sixth through tenth starters are Doug Coby, Eddie Flemke Jr., Jerry Marquis, Carl Pasteryak and Tony Ferrante Jr. Once the World Series was postponed it was a mass charge to leave the speedway grounds. A major traffic jam developed when the hitch on Jamie Tomaino’s tow rig broke and it was nothing but gridlock until the road was opened up. A huge field of 64 SK Modifies were on hand at Because of the large field a “B” feature was run for non-qualifiers, which was won by Tom Cravenho. Other Saturday winners were Richard Savory in the Pro Four Modifieds, Chuck Docherty in the Pro Stocks, Rick Gentes in the Outlaw Late Models, Shawn Monahan won his seventh Limited Sportsman feature, Jim Silvia in the Outlaw Strictly Stocks, Joe Godbout in the Mini Stock feature and Mike Veins in the Outlaw Mini Stocks. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Jeff Gordon started on the pole and led 311 of 500 laps to take the win. It was Gordon’s 63rd win. Jimmie Johnson finished second. Bobby Hamilton Jr. won the Busch Series Sam’s Town 300 at the Memphis Speedway.
 


It was announced that Dr. Dick Berggren would be inducted into the New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame. Pictured here during his racing days.
(Photo from the R.A. Silvia Collection)

Last year, 2007 when NEAR announced their choices for induction into the Hall of Fame, class of 2008, two unique individuals appeared on the list. Pete Zanardi and Dr. Dick Berggren are two New England natives who have dedicated their lives and careers to auto racing. Zanardi, a retired sports writer was one of the first to cover weekly racing and give recognition to competitors in the print media. He wrote about many in national publications and he mentored many including yours truly. He was responsible for setting up the original public relations department when Jack Arute bought the Stafford Speedway.

His biggest accomplishment could very well be the effort he put in to save the Waterford Speedbowl from extinction.

Berggren began his career as a race driver at Stafford. He also took a lot of pictures and after a short driving career the camera won out. During his early years his photos were published in the now defunct Cavalcade of Auto Racing that was owned by Jim Moffat. The photos led to printed stories. He received a doctorates degree which should have led to a teaching career but auto racing won out as Berggren expanded his racing and eventually became the editor of the now defunct Stock Car Racing Magazine. Along the way he teamed up with racing buddies Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd and conceived the original Spring Sizzler at Stafford. He also became a broadcaster as a pit reporter of televised NASCAR Busch Series and Nextel Cup Racing, a labor of love he continues to do. He also fulfilled a life long dream of owning his own magazine, Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated which is distributed nationally each month. Most of all, despite all the fame and notoriety both Zanardi and Berggren have been loyal to their roots in auto racing in New England.

The wheels were still turning at some tracks. Matt Hirschman won a special event staged at the All Star Speedway in Epping, NH. It was also the weekend for the annual Octoberfest at the Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH. Andy Seuss won the True Value Modified Series event there after Kirk Alexander suffered a flat tire while leading with three laps to go. Mike Douglas ended up in second spot with Chris Pasteryak, third. Down in the south land Bad Boy James Civali drove the Hills Enterprises No.79 to a convincing win at the Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, VA.

It was announced that Modified stock cars would return to Vermont in 2008, as the True Value Modified Racing Series would make its debut at Barre’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl during the 46th Annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, Sunday, May 25. TVMRS founder and competitor Jack Bateman of Canaan, NH tested his car at the high-banked ¼-mile oval and made the agreement with Thunder Road Promoter Tom Curley to bring the touring series to “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” for a 100-lap event as part of a doubleheader with the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Thunder Road Late Models. The last official Modified race at Thunder Road was in June 1965, won by former National Champion Dick Nephew of Mooers Forks, NY. Canadian legend Jean-Paul Cabana won the Memorial Day Classic in 1965 at the wheel of a Modified car, as well.

With the 2007 Stafford Motor Speedway season concluded, the speedway announced it would honor its 2007 track champions at its 38th annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony on Friday, November 16, 2007 at the La Renaissance Banquet Facility in East Windsor. Headlining the night's festivities, Ted Christopher will be recognized as the 2007 SK Modified® Champion, which is his sixth overall Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified® track championship. Corey Hutchings will be honored as the 2007 Late Model Champion, which he achieved in his rookie campaign at Stafford. Chris Matthews, who missed out on racing for the inaugural SK Light championship last season because he was on his honeymoon, drove to the 2007 SK Light Championship in dominating fashion this season, clinching the championship with two races remaining. Sean Foster drove to four feature victories and eight top-4 finishes in the final 9 races this season and will be recognized as the 2007 Limited Late Model Champion, and Norm Sears put together an amazing stretch during the second half of the 2007 season with seven podium finishes in the final eight races to win his second consecutive DARE Stock Championship. Stafford Motor Speedway Most Popular Driver candidates include Woody Pitkat, Ted Christohper, and Frank Ruocco from the SK Modified® division, Woody Pitkat, Scott Foster, Jr., and Scott Cook from the Late Model division, Chris Matthews, Glen Reen, and Heather DesRochers from the SK Light division, Andrew Durand, Sean Foster, and Joey Ferrigno from the Limited Late Model division, and Dan Flannery, Bill Dunn, and Matt Chiarizio from the DARE Stock division. The Most Popular Driver winners were voted upon by the fans, who submitted Most Popular Driver Ballots from the PitStopper Magazine to the Speedway Office throughout the 2007 season. Reliable Welding and Speed Rookie of the Year honors will go to Wade Mattesen from the SK Modified® division, Corey Hutchings from the Late Model division, Josh Sylvester from the SK Light division, and David Capriati from the Limited Late Model division.

Tickets for the 38th annual Stafford Motor Speedway Champions Awards Ceremony were priced at $45.00.

The France family, which owns the International Speedway Corporation and Pennsylvania International Raceway, Inc. (PIR), an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, terminated its agreement with NZSW, LLC for the sale of 158 acres on which Nazareth Speedway is located. The land was to be sold to NZSW, LLC for approximately $19 million. PIR intends to retain the approximately $2 million in non-refundable deposits as the agreement was terminated in accordance with its terms as a result of a default by NZSW, LLC. Nazareth Speedway suspended major motorsports event operations after the completion of the track's 2004 events and its results of operations are presented as discontinued operations in the Registrant's consolidated financial statements. The property continues to be marketed and a sale is expected to occur in fiscal 2008.

In Nextel Cup action Jimmie Johnson made the pass he didn't allow Jeff Gordon to make in the spring, sneaking inside Jeff Gordon with 44 laps to go and held on to win at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia for his series-high seventh victory of the year. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates who have dominated the Nextel Cup series all season did it again in the Subway 500 at the tricky track where their superiority is most apparent, and Johnson got some unexpected late help from Ryan Newman to tighten the Chase. Newman challenged Gordon for second with nine laps to go, getting increasingly more physical, and finally passed him on the inside on the 494th circuit as Johnson opened a lead of nearly 2 seconds. He then had to withstand a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, with Gordon lurking third and ready to take advantage if the leaders faltered. They didn't, and Johnson held on through one lap before the race-record 21st caution came out. Johnson gained in the Chase with four races left, cutting Gordon's lead to 53 points.

This week are several vintage racing photos Courtesy of VintageModifieds.com of Hully Bunn, the winner of the first Race of Champions at Langhorne Speedway in 1951.
 

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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