Forty years ago in 1968, Fred DeSarro won
the season ender at the Norwood Arena.
Leo Cleary, driving for
Joe Brady sewed up the track championship. Little did anyone
know there would only be one more year of open wheeled
modified competition at the famed Massachusetts oval. At
Thompson, on Sunday, Don MacTavish took the feature win. The
Thompson win ended up being his last, as he would lose his
life in Daytona during the Permatex 300 in 1969.
Thirty five years ago, in 1973, the annual Race of Champions
was run at Trenton on the mile and a half kidney shaped
speedway. Richie Evans took the win and was followed by Eddie
Flemke and Roger Treichler.
Leo Cleary took down the 1968
Norwood Arena Championship in the Joe Brady #41.
It was also on this day that a then unknown driver by the name of
Brian Ross got a big break. Dick Armstrong had brought two Modifieds
to Trenton. Ray Hendrick drove one of them and Fred DeSarro
convinced Armstrong to put Ross in the seat. Ross put on quite a
show and was running in the top ten when he was called in for a
driver change as Hendrick had lost an engine. Armstrong should have
left well enough alone because shortly after, Hendrick blew up the
engine in the other car too. Ross, none the less, got to show his
stuff and went on to become one of the top drivers in the modified
In 1978 Ken Bouchard took down
the win at Thompson after assisting rescue crews to remove
Fred DeSarro from his wrecked race car.
Thirty years ago this week, in 1978, New
England had one of its darkest racing days as popular Fred
DeSarro went over the third turn bank at Thompson and suffered
what would end up being fatal injuries. DeSarro was warming up
the Len Boehler No.3 when, for no reason, went out of the
track. Kenny Bouchard and Bugsy Stevens were first on the
scene and assisted rescue crews. DeSarro was taken to the
Rhode Island Hospital where he laid in a coma for a month
before passing away. The races at Thompson went on and
Bouchard, who had torn the roof off of DeSarros' car earlier
in the day, took the win with a heavy heart. Ray Miller
finished second and was followed by George Summers. At
Monadnock on the same afternoon, Geoff Bodine took a 100-lap
win over Reggie Ruggiero, Punky Caron, Bob Karvonen and Allen
Twenty five years ago in 1983, the Oswego Speedway ran their season
ending 35 lap-modified event. Reggie Ruggiero took the win over
George Kent, Richie Evans and Doug Hewitt. At Waterford, Bob Potter
won the season finale. Glynn Shafer finished second with Don Bunnell,
third. Brian McCarthy was the late model winner. Alan Johnson won
the DIRT Syracuse 200.In Winston Cup action at Charlotte; Tim
Richmond took the Busch Pole with Benny Parsons on the outside.
Richard Petty took the win. A post race inspection revealed that
Petty's engine was illegal and his tires were also illegal. Petty
was not stripped of the win but was fined $35,000.
Twenty years ago in 1988, Ricky Fuller, driving the Bob Sterns U2
scored his first Modified Tour Series win as he won the modified
portion of the annual World Series at Thompson. Fuller took the lead
from Tom Bolles on a lap 26 restart and paced the field for the
remainder of the 50-lap contest. Bolles finished second and was
followed by Brian Ross, Mike Mclaughlin, Jeff Fuller and Doug Hevron.
Bob Potter was the winner of the companion SK modified event.
Fifteen years ago in 1993, Jeff Fuller was the Thompson World Series
winner. Fuller took the lead from Jan Leaty on lap 45 and held it
until pitting on lap 62 for tires and fuel. Fuller was first out of
the pits and led the rest of the125 lap distance. Mike Stefanik
started dead last in the 32-car field and finished second. Satch
Worley finished third and was followed by Leaty, Jamie Tomaino,
Ricky Fuller and Tony Ferrente. Lloyd Agor took the checker in the
SK modified 30 lapper but was disqualified due to illegal heads. Tom
Tagg got the win with Richie Gallup, second. Brett Hearne won the
Syracuse 200 and in Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Ernie Irvan
Ten years ago, in 1998, the Thompson World Series and the D.Anthony
Venditti Memorial at Seekonk were rained out. Despite rain, the DIRT
organization got their Syracuse 300 in the record books. Billy
Decker took the $50,000 win.
Five years ago in 2003, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series
Fall Final was supposed to go off on Saturday afternoon but rain
interrupted the event at the completion of the preliminary late
model event, which forced NASCAR and the Speedway management to use
Sunday as a rain date. This created a confliction with the Waterford
Fall Finale but because of the coming weeks schedule, NASCAR had
little choice. The PASS event scheduled for Thompson on Saturday was
also rained out and re-scheduled for Sunday. Three tracks within 50
miles of each other held races on Sunday. All three had poor crowds.
It wasnít meant to be that way but the New England weather has a
nasty habit of letting it rain at the wrong time. Plus the fact the
tracks were competing against the Winston Cup on TV, NFL Football
and the baseball playoffs. Jerry Marquis won the NASCAR Featherlite
Modified Fall Final 150 at Stafford. Marquis, who started deep in
the field, passed Tony Hirschman when he went high following a
restart on lap 134. Hirschman had attempted to go the distance
non-stop without a change of tires. Marquis pitted and had fresher
tires. Hirschman held on to finish second and was followed by Chuck
Hossfeld, Chris Kopec, Nevin George and John Blewett III. Mike
Johnson was the Busch North Series winner. Jerry McCarthy finished
second with Andy Santerre, third. Ed Flemke Jr., Ricky Fuller, Ted
Christopher and Mike Stefanik rounded out the top ten in the
Modified 150. Todd Szegedy, despite having motor problems and
finishing 17th, continued to lead the point standings by 36 points
over Chuck Hossfeld. John Blewett III sat in third, ten points
behind Hossfeld. The Stafford Speedway was able to get in their Late
Model portion of the Fall Final before the rains came on Saturday.
Tom Butler won his first feature in four years as he beat out Woody
Pitkat for the win. Ryan Posocco started 12th and finished fourth.
Ted Christopher, who ran in all three events, took his sixth win of
the year when he won the SK-Modified event. Todd Szegedy finished
second. Second generation driver Kerry Malone finished seventh and
wrapped up the 2003 SK Modified Championship. At the Waterford
Speedbowl on Sunday Dennis Gada took the lead from Jeff Pearl
following a restart and went on to record the win and the track
championship, his fifth in a row. It all came down to a restart with
two laps to go when Ron Yuhas and Gada made contact. Gada almost
went into the fence but somehow held on. Ted Christopher, who
arrived from Stafford just as the cars were called to post, finished
third. It was Gadaís 42nd win in 120 starts over the last six years.
Other Sunday winners at Waterford were Chris Burton in the Mini
Stocks, Chuck Rogers in the Sportsman, Bob Santos III in the NEMA
Midgets and Mark StHillaire in the Late Models. The Elmira New York
Savings and Loan started foreclosure action that could lead to the
auction of the Chemung Speedrome as property owner and speedway
promoter Bob Stapleton was two years behind in his payments. In
Winston Cup action at Kansas City Ryan Newman scored his eighth win.
Last year, 2007, In Whelen Modified Tour news rumor had it that Ed
Cox would retire as the Tour Director. His replacement was rumored
to be former Nextel Cup driver Chad Little. Employed by NASCAR,
Little was the sanctioning bodyís Director of Racing Development in
The Seekonk Speedway closed out their 62nd season with the Annual
D.Anthony Venditti Memorial Racing Festival. A vital part of that
event was the True Value Modified Series. Conceived and owned by
Modified racer Jack Bateman, the series had become an affordable
alternative to those who couldnít afford to travel or compete in the
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series. The Hartford Courant stated that
Bateman may be interested in selling his series. The Courant alluded
to the fact that a likely buyer might be Ben Dodge. If that came to
be it could very well be the saving grace for Modified racing in the
northeast. Behind the scenes itís a known fact that NASCAR officials
have asked Modified competitors not to support the series. A lot of
confusion and indecision has placed a dark cloud over the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour series at various times during the 2007 season.
Ben Dodge had the experience and the ability to make the True Value
Modified Series the top racing division in the northeast. In
addition to his promoting skills Dodge was also a former Modified
car owner who understands the ins and outs of being a car owner.
Although they wonít go public because of possible retaliation from
NASCAR many of the prominent drivers and car owners felt the time is
right for a change.
Vinnie Annarummo of Swansea, Mass. passed Kirk Alexander of of
Swanzey, N.H with just three laps remaining to win the D. Anthony
Venditti Memorial Festival of Racing True Value Modified Series 100
lap event at Seekonk Speedway. Alexanderís second place finish
clinched the 2007 series point championship. It was the third win at
Seekonk this season for Annarummo and a hard fought victory. After
starting the event in third he was placed to the rear of the field
following a lap 2 accident with Andy Seuss. Annarummo methodically
worked his way back to the front to take the lead on lap 81.
Alexander then retook the lead on lap 86 and held off the challenges
of Annarummo for the next 11 laps before the final pass for the
win.The 2007 True Value Modified Series Championship is the third
for Alexander in the last four years. He also is the series leader
in career wins. Les Hinckley, who entered the event 14 points behind
Alexander, suffered suspension failure and finished 25th.
Alexanderís 56-point margin with one race remaining mathematically
eliminates Hinckley who is assured of second place in the standings.
Dick Houlihan, Chris Pasteryak and Rob Goodenough rounded out the
Top-5 at Seekonk.
The New England Antique Racers announced
their choices for inductees for the Class of 2008 Hall of
Fame. Drivers include Dave Alkas,
Dave Darveau, Dick Batcholder and the late Howie Brown, car
owners Joe Brady and the late Mike Scrivani Sr. along with
media members Dr. Dick Berggren and writer Pete Zanardi will
be inducted at the LaRenaissance Banquet Hall in East Windsor,
CT on Sunday, January 27th. Still to be announced are the
three selections from the Veterans Committee and the Jack
Ratta Memorial Media Award winners.
The Busch Series had the weekend off. NASCAR announced that
Nationwide Insurance would become title sponsor of the NASCAR
Nationwide Series, replacing Anheuser-Buschís Busch brand at
the start of the 2008 season.
Last year it was announced that
Dave Alkas would be one of the inductees into the New England
Auto Racers Hall of Fame.
Nationwide Insurance would also become the official auto, home and
life insurance provider of NASCAR. In Nextel Cup action at Talledega
Jeff Gordon agreed to turn parade laps for much of the race before
surging past Jimmie Johnson on the final lap and holding off his
teammate to become the career victory leader at restrictor-plate
tracks. He parlayed his decision into his 12th career plate win and
fifth victory this season, and moved back on top of the points
standings. He led Johnson by nine points with six races remaining in
the Chase for the championship. Dave Blaney was third in the best
finish this year for a Toyota driver. Title contender Denny Hamlin
was fourth and was followed by Ryan Newman, who was leading late in
his Dodge, and Mears.
Vic Coffey was unbeatable Sunday afternoon at the New York State
Fairgrounds' one-mile track as he scored his second victory in the
Rite Aid 200 DIRT modified race. Coffey led the final 46 laps to
collect over $50,000 in prize money. Chasing Coffey's Sweeteners
Plus modified to the finish was Tim Fuller, the point leader in the
chase for the Mr. DIRT national modified championship.
This week are several vintage
racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection
Booker T. Jones
Lou Funk, Jr.
Thatís it for this week from
40 Clark St. Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467