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Friday October 16, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, the big event of the weekend was the annual Race of Champions at the Langhorne Speedway in Langhorne, Pa. Ray Hendrick and Dutch Hoag were the pole sitters. These two legends put on one of the greatest races ever seen as they ran wheel to wheel for 90 laps until Hoag lost oil pressure and had to drop out. From there on, Hendrick cruised to the 200-mile victory. Roger Treichler finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook, Chuck Boos, Merv Treichler, Guy Chartrand and Richie Evans.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, the Race of Champions had moved to Trenton and was stretched to 300 miles in the 1-1/2 mile kidney shaped oval. Fred DeSarro who had had a sub par season showed up with a tri-colored creation owned by Len Boehler and proceeded to put on one of the best all time performances at the New Jersey oval. DeSarro was in the hunt all day but it all came down to the last lap when he and long time rival Bugsy Stevens came off of turn four wheel to wheel. With the crowd on its feet, the two raced to the finish line with DeSarro winning by less than six inches. Stevens finished second with Satch Worley, third.

Thirty years ago in 1979, the Thompson World Series was on tap. A 50 lapper was run for the modifieds. Richie Evans took the win and was followed by Dave Thomas, Charlie Jarzombek, Ronnie Bouchard and Eddie StAngelo. Denny Wheeler won the Supermodified portion. Bentley Warren finished second with Doug Hevron, third. Bobby Fuller was the late model winner.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, the World Series at Thompson saw Reggie Ruggiero beat the master, Richie Evans. Brian Ross ended up third. At Wall Stadium, Doug Wolcott took the Saturday night main event over Tony Siscone and Gil Hearne.

Twenty years ago in 1989, the World Series was scheduled at Thompson, qualifying was done on Saturday and just before the Sunday features were to begin the main grandstand collapsed. Luckily only a few spectators were in their seats and only a few minor injuries incurred. Needless to say, the event was cancelled and was rescheduled to November 12.The grandstand had been in place since the speedway was built in 1939.What was left was bulldozed and carted away and a new all steel grandstand which is in place today was erected.

Fifteen years ago in 1994, the World Series at Thompson drew a record of 467 cars for nine divisions and a near record attendance of 14,000 fans. In the Modified Tour Series 125,Jan Leaty pitted early for tires and drove his way to the front to take the lead on lap 74 and the eventual win. Mike Ewanitsko finished second and was followed by Reggie Ruggerio, Tim Connolly, Satch Worley and Mike Stefanik. John Anderson was the SK winner over Tom Tagg and Bert Marvin and Tommy Fox was victorious in the Late Models.

Ten years ago, in 1999, it was a big weekend and a sad one to say the least. Riverside Park, a Saturday night institution for many ran its last events before the speedway would be destroyed to make way for more amusement park rides. Bob Polverari, a many time Park champion, scored his 38th career victory after Ed Flemke Jr. and Brad Hietella tangled with eight laps to go in the 100 lap modified feature. Chris Wenzel finished second with Flemke, third and Rob Summers, fourth. Todd Szegedy was the SK modified winner. Prior to the final event, Richie Evans, Polverari, Mike Stefanik and NASCAR Chief Steward Richard Brooks were inducted into the Riverside Park Hall of Fame. At Thompson, Rick Fuller won the rained out World Series-Featherlite Modified Tour Series 125. Fuller took the lead from Tim Connolly on lap 118.Conelly finished second and was followed by Tony Hirshman, Ed Flemke Jr. and Tom Cravenho. Hirshman was declared the 1999 series champion. Todd Szegedy carried his winning momentum from Riverside to Thompson as he won the 30 SK World Series main. Szegedy started last. Mike Christopher finished second with Chris Kopec, third. Driving a Super Modified normally driven by Mike Ordway, Ted Christopher started dead last and with the entire grandstand cheering, took the lead in the event with two laps to go and went on to victory. Bryan Wall won the Busch North Finale at Lime Rock. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Dale Earnhardt Sr. took the win.

Five years ago, in 2004, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway. It was showdown time between Tony Hirschman and Eddie Flemke Jr. for the series title. Fifty Modifieds were on hand for time trials. The Long Island gang dominated the top spots as Mike Andrews, a regular competitor at the Riverhead Raceway and Donnie Lia were the fastest. Andrews went 119.827 mph and Lia, the Bud Pole Champion for 2004, clocked in at 118.997 mph. The top six re-drew for starting spots with third fastest qualifier Tony Hirschman drawing the pole starting spot. Todd Szegedy, the 2003 series champion, drew the outside pole. Eddie Flemke was not so fortunate as he qualified in 24th spot In what had to be one of the best events ever put on by the Modified Tour Series, Mike Stefanik came from a dead last starting spot to ring down the curtain on 2004 with a convincing win. Tony Hirschman, who led the first 33 laps ended up third in the final rundown and secured his fourth Modified Tour Series Championship. Hirschman, who was in contention with Eddie Flemke JR for the title, was able to breathe easier after an incident on a lap 58 restart that ultimately eliminated Flemke from the title chase. It appeared that Ted Christopher checked up or brake checked Todd Szegedy as they exited turn two which resulted in a scramble on the back chute which saw Flemke suffer front end damage that would cause him to lose laps in the pits making repairs. Prior to that, all eyes were on the Southington, Connecticut racer as he put on a brilliant display of driving as he came from his 24th starting spot to as high as fourth. Christopher continued to lead until he hit the turn two wall on lap 82 and ended up spinning in turn four with a flat right rear tire. Szegedy assumed the lead from that point. Mike Stefanik, who pitted early in the event for a front-end adjustment, worked his way to the front and on lap 92 took the lead. Stefanik and Szegedy traded the lead back and forth until lap 97 when Stefanik was able to put a little distance on the 2003 series champion. Szegedy ran second to Stefanik until lap 123 when he brushed the wall in turn two. Chuck Hossfeld moved into second with Hirschman moving up to third. Rookie’s Zach Sylvester and Kenny Barry rounded out the top five. Barry and Sylvester ended up tied for the Rookie of the Year title. Barry was given the nod, as he was higher in the final point standings. An estimated crowd of 9,500 sat in the sun drenched grandstands.

Tony Hirschman, who was a guest on Gary Danko’s radio show during the week, hinted that he might cut back his racing schedule in 2005. Hirschman hoped to help his son, Matt, further his racing career and feels that if he still races it could alter his focus. Because of the fact that Mike Stefanik was committed to the Busch North Series at the Wall Township Speedway on Saturday Todd Ceravolo was asked to qualify his Mod Tour ride at Thompson. Congratulations to Modified Tour Series photographer Mary Hodge as she was presented the Yvonne Durocher Woman in Racing Award at the recent New England Antique Racers Awards Banquet. Mary and her husband Howie do an excellent job of covering the Modified Series tour with their pictures, which are seen in every major racing publication.

The Busch North Series traveled to the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey on Saturday to wrap up their season. On and off rain all day Saturday, on the Jersey shore forced officials to cancel the event. It would not be made up. Andy Santerre had already wrapped up the series championship.

The Dodge Weekly Racing Series at Thompson on World Series weekend provided some excellent racing. Jim Civali gave Ted Christopher some of his own medicine as he took the win in the 30 lap Sunoco SK-type Modified event. Christopher started on the pole and led just about all the event except for a brief moment when Kerry Malone led before dropping out. Civali glued himself to Christopher’s bumper and when the opportunity presented itself when the pair exited the fourth turn on the final lap Civali made his move. Christopher attempted to block but Civali held fast and the pair touched. Christopher lifted long enough to allow Civali to forge ahead and take the win. During the slow down lap Christopher vented his frustrations as he spun Civali in turn two. Eric Berndt ended up third with Bert Marvin and Tom Cravenho rounding out the top five. David Berghman capped off his championship season in the Pro Stock division with a convincing win. Starting 29th, Berghman made a superb charge to the front and took the lead in the 30 lap feature on lap 18 to record his 9th victory of the season. Other winners on Sunday were Corey Hutchings in the Late Models, Chris Perley in the Supermodifieds and Mark Buonomo in the NEMA Midgets.

The Stafford Motor Speedway hosted an automotive Flea Market over the weekend.

The final point standings for 2004 at the Waterford Speedbowl were made official. Eddie Reed JR. was officially the SK Modified Champion. Reed had three wins to his credit. Dennis Gada, who was a five-time champion, finished second, 16 points back. Ron Yuhas JR, with two wins finished third with Chris Pasteryak and Rob Janovic rounding out the top five. Corey Hutchings was by far the class of the Late Model field as he won six events on his way to the title. Hutchings, also the Late Model champion at Thompson, beat Allen Coates by 46 points. Coates had five feature wins to his credit. Mark St.Hilaire, with two wins, ended up third. Former division champion Phil Rondeau, three wins and Carl Erickson round out the top five. Second generation driver Keith Rocco won the Sportsman division championship on the final lap of the final feature. Rocco, the son of Ronnie Rocco, beat Ed Gertsch by eight points. Rocco had three wins while Gertsch had six wins to his credit. Dwayne Conant, Norm Root and Roger Perry rounded out the top five. Glenn Colvin, with three wins, is the Mini Stock Champion. Colvin beat Tim Jordan by 22 points. Richard Brooks was the top feature winner with five victories and finished third in the final standings. Joe Bavalocco and Bill Leonard rounded out the top five. Michael Pepe, with two wins, is the Legends Champion. Pepe outdistanced Silas Hiscock JR by 50 points. Sixteen year old Jeffrey Paul ran in only eight events but he won six of them which placed him third in the final standings. Jim Ahern and Silas Hiscock Sr rounded out the top five.

The Nextel Cup and the Busch Racing Series divisions of NASCAR were at the Lowes Motor Speedway in Charlotte, NC. Mike Bliss made a dramatic three wide pass in the closing stages to take the lead and eventual win on Friday night’s Busch Series event and on Saturday night Hendrick Motorsports teammates Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon finished one-two. Casey Kahne had them covered until a blown out tire forced him into the wall and out of the event.

Last year, 2008, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series returned to the Stafford Motor Speedway to make up the rained out Fall Final. Just prior to the weekend it was learned that Speedway announcer Deane Mercier had passed away.

Mike Stefanik led a banner field of Modifieds as he captured the Coors Lite Pole award as he turned in the fast time in qualifying for the CARQUEST Fall Final. Stefanik toured the Stafford oval in18.158 seconds (99.130mph). It was the first pole for Stefanik since 2006 at the Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. In the process he tied Tony Hirschman for the series’ all-time lead with 41 career poles, and extended his own record for poles at Stafford to 15. Eric Beers was the second-fastest qualifier at 18.168 seconds (99.075 mph) and started in the third row following the redraw. Rob Summers was third fastest at 18.316 seconds (98.275 mph). Series points leader Ted Christopher who seventh in time trials when he was clocked at 18.355 seconds (98.066 mph). After the redraw Christopher started alongside Stefanik in the front row on Sunday. Californian Brian Ickler was the pole sitter for the companion NASCAR Camping World Series East event. Mike Olsen, Kevin Swindell, Ted Christopher and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top five. Series champion Matt Kobyluck was sixth fastest.

Stefanik capped off a dominating weekend by reaching Victory Lane in the CARQUEST Fall Final for the eighth time in his illustrious career. Stefanik used the front row starting position to his advantage as he led 129 of the 150 laps in what was Stafford’s last race of the year. The win was Stefanik's eighth in the Fall Final, Stafford 's traditional season-ending race. It was also his 20th all-time win at track and the 69th in his career overall. All three totals are NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour records.

Matt Hirschman came home second to Stefanik. With the runner-up finish, Hirschman trailed series leader Ted Christopher by just 35 points with one race remaining on the schedule. Christopher finished sixth. Chuck Hossfeld was third, while Todd Szegedy and Eric Beers rounded out the top five finishers. The rest of the top 10 consisted of Christopher, Rowan Pennink, Anthony Sesely, Glenn Tyler and Kevin Goodale. It was the best finish of the season for Sesely and Tyler.

There were five caution flags for 27 laps. For the most part the race was wreck free with only a few minor spins. Ted Christopher held a 35 point lead over Matt Hirschman going into the final event. Todd Szegedy sat in third, over 143 points out of the lead. Chuck Hossfeld was fourth with Stefanik rounding out the top five. Prior to the race NASCAR legend Bobby Allison was honored for his 1964 and 1965 NASCAR Modified division titles as part of the celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions.

Woody Pitkat won the battle but it was Keith Rocco who won the war in the SK Modifieds. Rocco finished second to Pitkat and beat out Ted Christopher for his first Stafford Track Championship. Peyton Sellers won the slam-bang NASCAR Camping World Series East event. In lat Model action, Ryan Posocco took the lead from Scott Cook on lap 11 and led the rest of the way to win the 30-lap Late Model feature. It was the seventh victory in 17 starts this year for Posocco, the division's all-time winningest driver. Posocco had already sewed up the Stafford Late Model title.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Seekonk Speedway last weekend twenty six Modifieds were on hand for the annual D.Anthony Venditti Memorial event. Three qualifying heats were run with Chris Pasteryak, Kevin Iannarelli and Todd Annarummo taking the wins. Chris Pasteryak went pole to pole to win the 100 lap contest. Todd Annarummo finished second and was followed by Dwight Jarvis, Les Hinckley and Mike Holdridge. Prior to the start of the event Kirby Monteith, who died this past week was honored by his fellow drivers. They had a moment of silence and the front row at the start had an open spot for him.

Jeff Burton used three gas-only pit stops to pull off a Sprint Cup victory in Concord, N.C., that catapulted him into championship contention. Burton culminated savvy pit strategy on a final stop, going into the pits with the lead and taking fuel only to make sure he was still out front on the restart with 34 laps to go at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Jimmy Johnson staged a brief battle for the lead, but Burton held steady to snap a 25-race winless streak. Kasey Kahne, who swept the May races at the track, finished second and was followed by Kurt Busch. Kyle Busch returned to his familiar spot in the Nationwide Series on Friday night, cruising to a win in the soggy, wreck-filled Dollar General 300. The victory was the ninth for the 23-year-old Busch in NASCAR's second-tier series. He has won eight Cup races and three more in the Craftsman Truck Series. The busy Busch's 70th race of the season followed a familiar script for Joe Gibbs Racing, whose teams had won 18 of the 31 Nationwide races. Busch started 16th, but his superior No. 18 Toyota was on display early. He quickly moved to the front and led 137 of the 200 laps. Busch pulled away from Jeff Burton on a restart with three laps to go, despite taking just two tires on his final pit stop. Burton held on to finish second and Brian Vickers was third. Point leader Clint Bowyer finished fourth and Carl Edwards was fifth.
 

This week are several vintage racing photos from the late racing photographer Peter Lawlor, courtesy of the SpeedwayLineReport.com & VintageModifieds.com.
Click on Photo for Full Size


Bobby Allison at Thompson, 1982


Ed Flemke, Sr. at Wall Stadium, 1982


Charlie J at Waterford 1981


Bob Polverari, 1982

Wally Dallenbach, Sr. & Jr., New Egypt, 1981

Tony Siscone at Pocono, 1981

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: 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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