Friday October 9, 2009

By Phil Smith

Forty years ago in 1969, the Norwood Arena, long a part of the tri-track-modified circuit in New England ran its last Modified event. The track would continue for a couple more years but would run only late models. Roland LaPierre Sr. won the final event. He was followed by Eddie Flemke, Fred DeSarro, Bugsy Stevens, Bob Melnick and Billy Schulz. Freddie Schulz was the final modified driving champion and Dick Armstrong was the final modified championship owner. An industrial park now sits on the former site of the high banked 1/4 mile speedway in Norwood, Mass. The Norwood Arena Speedway was the fastest 1/4 Mile NASCAR stock car racing track in the 1960's. The Modifieds ran their final event of the year at Stafford on Sunday. Leo Cleary, driving the Sonny Koszela No.15 took the win over Smokey Boutwell, Ed Yerrington, Bill Slater, DeSarro and Flemke. Airborne Park in Plattsburg, N.Y. ran a double point event also on Sunday. Jerry Cook took the win over Dick Fowler and Bugsy Stevens. Stevens was trying to overcome a 441 point deficit that Jerry Cook held for the NASCAR Modified Championship.

Thirty five years ago in 1974, Staffords Fall Final featured 80 lap events for the Modifieds and 80 laps for the Busch North division. Bugsy Stevens took the modified win over Richie Evans, Geoff Bodine and Jerry Cook. Bob Dragon was the late model winner.

Twenty five years ago in 1984, the Oswego Speedway closed out their season on Saturday with the Modifieds, which saw Jim Spencer take the win over Richie Evans, Brian Ross and Roger Treichler. Stafford ran their Fall Final on Sunday with Reggie Ruggiero taking the win. Richie Evans finished second and sewed up the Northeast Regional and Nascar National Modified Championship. Mike McLaughlin finished third.

Twenty years ago in 1989, the Modified Tour Series was at the Shangri-La Speedway. Jeff Fuller, driving for Art Barry, took the win. Steve Park finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller and Satch Worley. Also on tap that weekend was the Fall Finale at Waterford where Dennis Gada took the win.

Fifteen years ago in 1994,Waterford ran their Fall Finale. Todd Ceravolo took advantage of a blown engine in leader John Anderson’s modified and walked off with the season ending win. Ceravolo started on the pole and led the early going until getting passed by Anderson. Rob Janovic, driving the Mike Gada no.21 drove a very competitive race and finished second. George"Moose"Hewitt finished third and was followed by Jerry Pearl, Scott Spaulding, Phil Rondeau and Jim Broderick. Jay Stuart won the Late Model main. In Winston Cup action at Charlotte, Dale Jarrett took the win after a dominant Geoff Bodine blew a head gasket. Terry Labonte was the Grandnational winner.

Ten years ago, in 1999, the Thompson World Series and the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial at Seekonk rained out. Fifty-eight Modifieds were at Thompson with Tony Hirschman taking the pole. It was damp but not raining up in central New York State. The Race of Champions was run at Oswego with 53 entries. Chuck Hossfeld took the win over Mike Muldoon and Lee Sherwood. Ted Christopher was a pre race favorite but crashed out of the event. The big event of the weekend was the annual DIRT-Eckerd 300 K at Syracuse. Kenny Tremont took the lead from Vic Coffey on lap 115 of the 188-lap event and went on to record the biggest victory of his career. Tremont received $86,525. Ken Brightbill finished second and pocketed $31,200.Also on this weekend it was announced that NASCAR had awarded a weekly racing sanction to Claremont Speedway for 2000. RJ Reynolds announced that they were discontinuing sponsorship of NASCAR's weekly racing series because of results of tobacco litigation. Chrysler announced that they would be returning to Winston Cup racing with Ray Everham one of the key players. Michael Waltrip scored a Busch Grandnational win at Charlotte after Mike McLaughlin ran out of gas on the last lap while leading. Jeff Gordon won the rain delayed Winston Cup event that had to be run on Monday.

Five years ago in 2004, the Thompson Speedway had released their final point standings for 2004. Todd Ceravolo, with five wins included with 16 top 5’s was the Sunoco SK-type Modified Champion. Ceravolo won a close battle over Jeff Malave. Malave scored two wins included with 15 top 5’s. Ted Christopher, with four wins, ended up in third spot. Kerry Malone and Eric Berndt rounded out the top five. Corey Hutchings, with nine wins, took the Late Model Championship. Dennis Botticelo, with two wins, finished second. Ryan Posocco, with two wins, ended up in third spot. Charles Bailey III, 3 wins, and Marc Palmisano, 2 wins, rounded out the top five.

The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their racing season with the Town Fair Fall Finale. With numerous track division titles on the line competition was intense to say the least. In addition to qualifying for the track’s regular divisions on Saturday features were held for All Star Truck where Chris Correll took the win. In the Legends Jeff Paul made it five out of eight for the year, Pro Four Modifieds where George Sherman took the win and two divisions of X-Cars where Brad Vogelsong and Chris Avery recorded wins.

On Sunday, the NEMA Midgets started it off with a 25-lap feature. Ben Sikes took the win after pre race favorite Bob Santos III dropped out with a smoking engine. Next out was a 50 lapper for the Mini-Stocks. Richard Brooks took the lead just past the half way mark and held off Joe Godbout for the win. Glen Colvin was awarded the division championship. Following the Minis were the Sportsman. Roger Perry became the surprise winner after the front three, Ed Gertsch, Norm Root and Keith Rocco, got tangled up in turn one with five laps to go. Gertsch and Root spun and were put to the rear. Officials felt that Rocco was guilty of rough riding and put him to the rear also. It was later learned that officials had made a bad call as Gertsch had in fact suffered a flat tire, which caused him to check up. Rocco did touch him slightly but should have not been put to the back. In a determined bid, Rocco came from the rear of the field after the restart and finished third and won his division title. Corey Hutchings had previously sewed up the Late Model division title. Hutchings put icing on the cake as he drove to a convincing win over Allen Coats and Ed Reed Jr.

Dennis Charette took the lead from Chris Pasteryak on a lap 51 restart and went on to take the win in the Modified 100. It was a game of luck and wits between Dennis Gada and Eddie Reed Jr. to see who would become the 2004 Modified Champion. Gada’s luck soured right from the start when he developed a smoky power steering leak. After repeated pit stops while the field was under caution for miscellaneous spins Gada’s crew was able to make repairs and keep their driver on the lead lap. Gada later got collected in a spin but didn’t do any damage. Reed, on the other hand, held a fair lead going into the event and only had to stay out of harm’s way and finish to garner his first title. Reeds luck began a downturn on lap 59 when his left front tire was beginning to lose air. A caution on lap 65 allowed him to pit and make a change. Restarting in the rear as the field took the green on lap 68 Reed got collected in a wreck triggered by Shawn Monahan whom bounced off of Doug Coby. The wreck all but sheared off the right front suspension and tire from Reed’s car. He somehow was able to drive to the pit area where an army was on hand to assist the Gordon Rogers crew in making repairs. Sheer determination on the part of his crew got him back in competition. In the meantime Gada had worked his way back to the front and was on Charette’s bumper at the finish. Reed was able to limp home and despite losing a lap in the closing stages finished 17th to win the division championship. Ron Yuhas Jr. finished fourth with Chris Pasteryak, fifth.

The Nextel Cup along with the Busch Racing Series were in Kansas City last weekend. Joe Nemechek took the Busch Series event over Greg Biffle. He carried his winning ways over to Sunday as he also won the Nextel Cup event over Ricky Rudd.

Ted Christopher was among the missing at Waterford. Christopher spent the weekend in Virginia at the Martinsville Speedway and at the Concord Motorsports Park in North Carolina. Christopher started dead last at Concord and took the win. At Martinsville he missed the qualifying cut.

Tim Fuller won the DIRT Eckered 200 at Syracuse. Fuller was running third on the final lap when leader Kenny Tremont ran out of gas and second place runner Matt Sheppard shredded a tire. Fuller collected $50,000 for his efforts.

Last year, 2008, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series ventured to the Chemung Speedway in western New York last weekend. The 3/8 mile track, originally built by the Bodine family drew a sparse field of only 25 cars. The Chemung event with a somewhat reduced purse consisted of time trials, two 25-lap heats and a 120 lap feature that ended up finishing under caution. Matt Hirschman, who was the fastest on the clock, won his qualifying heat and after starting on the pole led wire to wire to win his second NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour win of the season. Hirschman entered the event 89 points behind Ted Christopher in the championship chase. With Christopher’s seventh place finish, Hirschman narrowed the gap to just 55 points with only the Stafford Fall Final and Thompson World Series weekends remaining.

Todd Szegedy dogged Hirschman for most of the event but settled for a runner-up finish and held up his spot in third in the season standings. Mike Stefanik finished third. Chuck Hossfeld, Ronnie Silk, Erick Rudolph, Christopher, Bobby Grigas III, Rowan Pennink and Woody Pitkat rounded out the top 10 finishers.

At the Waterford Speedbowl it was good news and bad news. The good news was that competitors received their checks that had been held back. The bad news was that they were told not to cash them until Monday. One competitor thought he would pull a fast one and attempted to cash his check at the bank where the check was issued. He was told there were insufficient funds in the account to cover the check.

The shoreline oval ran their season ending Fall Finale, a two day event, last weekend On Saturday three SK Modified qualifying heats were run. Taking the wins were Shawn Monahan, Dennis Gada and Jeff Paul. In other Saturday action Jason Palmer won the 25-lap Legends Town Fair Tire Finale feature while it was Shaun Buffington scoring the 2008 Saturday Night Legends championship. Other feature winners were Norm Wrenn (Pro-4 Modifieds), Todd Bertrand (NEMA Lites), Glenn Boss (N.E Sport Modifieds), Corey Hutchings (Outlaw Stocks), David Flammia Jr. (X-Modified),Steve Barrett (Super-X Cars), Buddy Strede (X-Cars), Kathy Civardi (Women On Wheels Super-X), and Stephanie Bennett (Women On Wheels X-Car).

Sunday dawned in typical Waterford fashion. It was raining cats and dogs. Shortly before noon a strange thing happened, the rain stopped and the sun came out. It was too late; the cards of the fans had been dealt. Apparently many of them had made other plans as the vintage grandstand at the shoreline oval was all but empty when racing finally started. Because of the adverse weather the scheduled pit party was cancelled. The actual racing started about two hours late with Ken Cassidy coming from a dead last start to win the Mini Stock event. Randy Cabral won the NEMA Midget event and Brandon Plemmonds won the 50 lap Sportsman event. Things were looking up, the SK Modifieds were on the track for a tire heating session when the red flag was displayed bringing everything to a screeching halt. Evidently a bad accident on nearby Route 85 deemed it necessary for the Speedbowl’s ambulance to leave. Per state law, once the ambulance leaves the property all racing stops. After a little over a half hour an ambulance appeared and racing resumed. The 100 lap Modified event was a typical Waterford slam-bang event with survival of the fittest the order of the day. Diego Monahan led a large portion of the race untilbe dislodged by Keith Rocco and Rob Janovic. Both had a war of their own when on a late race restart Rocco didn’t go which resulted in Tyler Chadwick and Monahan hitting the front stretch wall. To make matters worse, at ten after nine, the fog started rolling in. At 9:20pm fans and competitors breathed a sigh of relief when the checkered flag was dropped on the event. Keith Rocco took the win and was followed by Rob Janovic, Ron Yuhas JR and Dennis Gada. For Gada it was monumental as he was now in a league of his own as he is the only seven time champion in Speedbowl history.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Lee USA Speedway Jon McKennedy took the win over Jimmy Kuhn, Les Hinkley, Ed Dachenhausen and Mike Holdredge.

In Sprint Cup action, Tony Stewart ended his winless season at Talladega Superspeedway when NASCAR ruled Regan Smith's last-lap pass was illegal. Smith was in second and trailed Stewart for the final three laps around Talladega. The rookie made one desperate attempt for his first career victory by ducking inside the two-time champion to attempt a pass. Stewart blocked him, and Smith went below the yellow out-of-bounds line. After he beat Stewart to the finish, NASCAR reviewed the move, a driver is allowed to pass if officials believe he was forced under the line, and declared it illegal. The ruling gave Stewart his first win of the season and snapped a 43-race winless streak dating to Watkins Glen last year. It also was his first career Cup win at Talladega, which has taunted him for 10 years as he finished second a maddening six times. Paul Menard was a career-high second and was followed by rookie David Ragan and Chase drivers Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. Smith was dropped all the way to 18th. The race had a NASCAR-record 31 lead changes.

This week are several vintage racing photos from the Danny Pardi Collection, courtesy of the &
Click on Photo for Full Size

Lenny Cleaves

Rock Ludorf

Ron Wilson

Phil Spiak

R.C. Robbins

Wendell Kilcollins

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

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

Web Design Copyright © 2002-2009 & - All Rights Reserved
Opinions expressed in The Looking Back Column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of and the contents are the sole responsibility of the author.
For permission to reproduce any part of Looking Back contact Phil Smith @
 Looking Back is Copyright © 2002-2009 Phil Smith