Seventy years ago in 1941, the
Thompson Speedway suffered its first fatality as Tony Willman was
thrown out of his midget after crashing and was hit by Howard Bumpus.
This was one of the last events to be run before the start of World
Sixty years ago in 1951 the
inaugural Race of Champions was run at the one mile circular dirt
surfaced Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Pete Zanardi wrote the
following: New Englanders Hully Bunn and Dick Eagan, teammates in
cars prepared by Bob Duffy, were enjoying a successful 1951 season.
A $4,250 purse lured them to the National Sportsman Stock Car
Championship at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway on Oct. 14, 1951.
Promoted by Al Gerber and Irv Fried, it was the first of what became
the Race of Champions, for many years the premier modified/sportsman
race in the country. It was the culmination of Langhorne’s 25th
“We had wins all over the place,” recalls Bunn, “We won at Stafford
Springs (Conn.), Morristown (N.J.), Bainbridge (Ohio). Dick
definitely had more wins than I did.”
When they arrived at Langhorne, however, Eagan’s car wouldn’t fire.
“Duffy had made some changes in the motor, but never started it up
before we left,” recalls Bunn. (Bob Duffy was a racer in his own
right as he raced at Kingston RI, Stafford and at Fonda while
holding down a full time job as the Parts Manager at the John Ahr
Ford Co. in Westerly, RI). When the field took the green flag for
the scheduled 100 laps, Eagan was a spectator.
Bunn grabbed the lead from New Jersey daredevil Wally Campbell, the
polesitter, five laps in. Bill Tanner led the first three before
giving way to Campbell. Bunn got Campbell out of four and set in for
the long haul.
Duffy wanted to overhaul the engine in the familiar No. X entry
because it was “using oil,” but Bunn resisted. “Those old flathead
Fords ran the best when they were smoking,” says Bunn. “We had a
five-gallon pail filled with oil hanging in the car with a hose
going into the fill pipe. We would turn it on and off during the
Langhorne was the 43rd race of the season and the pan on the car had
never been dropped.
Bunn and Campbell battled for some 50 laps before overheating
problems got Campbell. As lap 63 began, Frankie Schneider was
second, but better than two laps behind Bunn.
In turn four Frank Holtzhauer’s car caught fire. Crashing into the
pit wall, Holtzhauer’s clothes were aflame when he exited the racer.
Pit crews saved Holtzhauer. The fire, however, reached Jack
Bellinato’s car resulting in the second yellow flag of the day.
Bunn turned the car over to Eagan. “I felt I owed him that” for the
single-file restart. A broken axle on lap 80 ended Schneider’s day.
Campbell had climbed back to third, but was four laps down.
Suddenly, out of four, an upside-down Don Black skidded into the
path of Campbell. Campbell’s car caught fire and the resulting smoke
along with the setting sun “obscured” the track. Campbell escaped
just ahead of eight cars piling into his disabled racer.
When Black arrived at the hospital, doctors were still treating
Holtzhauer’s burns. Six other drivers and a mechanic were also
injured. At that point, NASCAR officials ended the carnage with Bunn
and Eagan the winners.
Ken Marriott, Don Bailey, Pee Wee Jones and Bob Myers were second
Rain washed out a scheduled program at the New London-Waterford
Fifty five years ago in 1956
Donald "Dutch" Hoag won the 6th Annual 100 mile Race of Champions on
the dirt at the Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Hoag, from Bath,
NY, beat out Don Stumph from New Jersey. Rounding out the top five
were George Horvath, Bob Cameron and Lee Bliss. The event was
sanctioned by NASCAR. Rain washed out a scheduled program at the New
Fifty years ago in 1961,
Langhorne attracted the best there was at the time for the 11th
Annual 100 Mile National Open Race of Champions. Taking the win was
Bob Malzahn. Bob Abel was second with Dick Tobias, third. The event
carried a $12,000 purse and paid $3000 to win.
Arnie Harris was the 25 lap Modified winner at the New
London-Waterford Speedbowl. Ed Moody was the Bomber feature winner.
Forty five years ago in 1966,
Will Cagle won the 100 mile National Open, (Race of Champions) at
the Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Ray Tilley finished second
with Bill Wimble, third. Jerry Dostie and Frank Myronchuk rounded
out the top five. Bill Slater, who won the 1965 version, finished
Forty years ago in 1971, it was
all quiet as teams were getting ready to head south for the season
ender at Martinsville or the rescheduled Race of Champions at
Langhorne. The current national modified standings showed Jerry Cook
in the lead followed by Bugsy Stevens, Bernie Miller, Fred DeSarro,
Dave Lape, Dick Fowler, Billy Harman, Lou Lazzaro, Denis Giroux and
Thirty five years ago in 1976,
Geoff Bodine went two for two as he put the Dick Armstrong modified
in victory lane at Monadnock on Saturday and at Thompson on Sunday.
At Monadnock, Kenny Bouchard finished second with John Rosati, SJ
Evonsion and Punky Caron rounding out the top five. Ronnie Bouchard
in the M&H No7 finished second at Thompson. Rounding out the top
five were Bugsy Stevens, Ray Miller and Eddie Flemke.
Thirty years ago in 1981,Thompson
ran the World Series. Jamie Moore was the Supermodified winner and
Richie Evans took the modified portion. Ray Miller finished second
and was followed by John Rosati, Corky Cookman and Ronnie Bouchard.
Twenty five years ago in 1986,
Doug Hevron scored his first modified win in a 35 lap season ending
event at Oswego. Jan Leaty finished second with Mike Mclaughlin and
Billy Colton following. Brian Ross finished fourth and wrapped up
the modified championship at the Lake Ontario oval. At Syracuse,
Barefoot Bob McCready took home $66,000 after taking the win in the
Twenty years ago in 1991,
Waterford ran their final event of the year. Ted Christopher took
the checker over Jerry Pearl, Ronnie Rocco and Bert Marvin. Mike
Holdredge was the Super Stock winner and Tommy Fox scored his tenth
win of the season in the Late Models. At Syracuse, Brett Hearn made
it two in a row as he took the lead in the Eckered 200 with 12 laps
to go when Danny Johnson lost a wheel. The biggest prize in DIRT
Modified Racing was worth $107,260. Ricky Craven won the Chevy
Dealers 250 at Loudon.
Fifteen years ago in 1996, Jan
Leaty passed George Kent on lap 156 of the 200 lap Race of Champions
at Oswego and went on to take the win over Siege Fidenza, Kent, Tim
Arre, Ted Christopher and Tim Mangus. Doug Hoffman won the 25th
anniversary DIRT 300 at Syracuse and Butch Leitzinger took the lead
from Andy Santarre with seven to go in the season ending Busch North
Series event at Lime Rock. Dale Quarterly finished second when
Santarre flipped with two laps to go.
Ten years ago in 2001, the
NASCAR Featherlite Modifieds traveled to the Martinsville Speedway
for a 200 lap event. Mike Ewanitsko was virtually unbeatable as he
led the first 56 laps and the final 77 laps as he recorded an
impressive win over Rick Fuller, Jerry Marquis, John Blewett III and
Ted Christopher. Mike Stefanik was the point leader and suffered a
set back as he lost five laps as a result of having to pit under
green with a loose wheel. Stefanik ended up 21st and would go into
the final event, a week later, only 20 points ahead of Marquis and
Blewett. The event was run on Saturday as a preliminary to the
tracks Winston Cup event. Prior to the event NASCAR announced that a
three year contract with Hoosier Tires for the Modifieds had been
signed. The annual Race of Champions was run at the Oswego Speedway.
George Kent took the win over Chuck Hossfeld, Lee Sherwood, Jan
Leaty and Dave Pecko. Martinsville fell victim to rain on Sunday
which meant they would run on the next clear day which ended up
being Monday. Ricky Craven scored his first and only win on NASCAR's
elite circuit after doing the bump and grind with Dale Jarrett for
1-1/2 laps. The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their season with
their Fall Finale which was won by Ron Yuhas Jr over Dennis Gada,
Eric Berndt, Ed Reed JR and John Brouwer. It was also on this
weekend that Randy LaJoie took the Busch Grandnational win at
Memphis after Jeff Green and Jay Sauter bumped each other out of the
way with 1-1/2 laps to go.
Five years ago in 2006, The
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway for the
annual World Series. Tony Hirschman set fast time in qualifying. It
was the fourth Bud Pole Award of the season for Hirschman, the
defending series champion, and also locked up the season long 2006
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Bud Pole Award Championship. Hirschman
toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.697 seconds for an average speed of
120.340 mph. Ron Yuhas of Groton, Conn. was second fastest with a
speed of 120.077 mph. Ted Christopher of Plainville, Conn. qualified
third with a speed of 120.045 mph. Defending race winner Jerry
Marquis was fourth fastest and Waterford winner Donny Lia rounded
out the Top-5.
The Top-8 qualifiers drew for starting position. Jimmy Blewett and
Marquis made up the front row. Christopher started third while
Hirschman lined up fourth. Yuhas drew fifth flanked by Lia. There
were 42 cars on hand for time trials.
Sunday was a perfect fall day for racing.. The only thing negative
was the way that campers hogged space in the parking lot. There is
no order for them to park as they park every which way. The speedway
needs to regulate the camper parking in the future.
In what ended up being a surprise finish Reggie Ruggiero took the
checkered flag in the Whelen Modified Tour Series Xtramart 150. Ted
Christopher had taken the lead from Jimmy Blewett as they exited
turn four on the 122nd lap. One lap later Billy Pauch Jr hit the
wall in turn two, bringing out the caution. When the field went back
to green on lap146 Christopher led the charge with John Blewett III
in hot pursuit. On lap 147 as Christopher entered turn three Blewett
attempted to pass on the low side. Christopher moved down to block.
Blewett knew he was about to be pinched into the infield grass and
turned into Christopher, sending him hard into the wall. With both
cars destroyed Reggie Ruggiero, who was running third, inherited the
lead for a green – white – checkered finish on lap 158. Jimmy
Blewett ended up in second spot as he had nothing for Ruggerio at
the finish. Jerry Marquis finished third with Donny Lia and Mike
Stefanik rounding out the top five.
Jimmy Blewett led the charge at the drop of the green. Jerry Marquis
took the lead by the time the field got to turn two. The first
caution flew on lap 20 for Billy Pauch Jr who spun on the front
chute. Marquis continued to lead until lap 25 when Tony Hirschman
took the lead. The second caution flew on lap 35 when Danny Sammons
and Kenny Barry got together in turn three. The green flew on lap 40
but one lap later the caution was out again for a seven car tangle
on the front chute. Marquis retook the lead when the field went back
to green on lap 46. Hirschman faded to fourth as Reggie Ruggerio and
Ted Christopher slipped by. Two laps later the caution flew again,
this time for a 14 car tangle in turn one that brought out the red.
The field went back to green on lap 53 with Marquis leading Ruggerio,
Christopher and Jimmy Blewett. By the time the field entered turn
one Christopher had shot into the lead. Lap 55 saw the caution
waving again, this time as Bob Grigas drilled Eric Beers into the
turn four wall. Back under green at lap 60, Christopher still led
Marquis as John Blewett III moved into third. Blewett moved past
Marquis on lap 78. Christopher continued to lead as Blewett’s tires
began to wear. By lap 94 Blewett had slipped to fourth when he spun
by himself as he exited turn two. Blewett along with Christopher,
Marquis and a host of others pitted for fresh rubber on lap 96.
Richard Savory assumed the lead over Donny Lia as the field took the
green on lap 100. A three wide move by Grigas on the backstretch
triggered a wreck that collected among others, Mike Stefanik and
Tony Hirschman, which ended their bid for a possible win. Savory led
until Jimmy Blewett on lap 122, as previously mentioned, passed him.
It was the 44th career victory for Ruggiero, who drives the Atlantic
Sprinkler Chevrolet, and his first since 2004 when he won at Wall
Township , N.J. Ruggiero’s last win at Thompson occurred in 1998.
“Nobody seemed to want to win this race tonight, “ said Ruggiero. “I
was just glad we were in a position to get it at the end.”
Christopher was credited with 19th position after the lap 148
accident, effectively ending his hopes for his first NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour Championship. Mike Stefanik of Coventry , R.I.
finished fifth in the race and now leads Christopher by 148 points.
Stefanik needs to earn at least a last place finish in the final
race of the year at Stafford Springs , Conn. on Oct. 28 to secure
his seventh career title.
In other Sunday action at Thompson, Todd Ceravolo scored a
convincing win over Jimmy Blewett, Jeff Malave, Zach Sylvester and
Woody Pitkat in the Sunoco SK type Modifieds. David Berghman beat
out Fred Astle Jr for the 50 lap Pro Stock win. A scarey moment
occurred on lap 29 when Scott Rotherford went up and over another
competitor and slid on his roof into the turn one wall and catching
fire. Ben Dodge Jr, special assistant to track owner Don Hoenig, ran
to the accident and pulled Rotherford to safety as fire engulfed the
entire car. Ben Seitz won the NEMA Midget 25 lapper and Nokie
Fornoro won the 50 lap ISMA Supermodified event after early leader
Chris Perley dropped out. Sixty five year old Bentley Warren
Norwich, Conn. Native Bob Potter was selected to the New England
Auto Racers Hall of Fame. Potter, who has 140 feature wins to his
credit, is a five time Modified Track Champion at the Waterford
Speedbowl and a five time Modified Track Champion at the Stafford
Motor Speedway. He was also the 1988 Duel Track (Thompson –
Stafford) Champion. A model of consistency, he ran a streak of 37
straight top-six finishes at Stafford in 1994-95. Potter joined an
elite group that includes Richie Evans, Bugsy Stevens, Fred DeSarro,
Eddie Flemke, Gene Bergin and Wild Bill Slater to name a few. Also
to be inducted along with Potter were Supermodified great Bentley
Warren, Busch East competitor Dave Dion, Canadian Jean Paul Cabana,
John Rosati, car owner and former owner of the Westboro, Mass.
Speedway John Falconi Sr, car builder/crew chief Bob Johnson and
former Northeastern Midget Association president John McCarthy. The
10th anniversary inductees represented over a thousand victories and
Last year, 2010, In action on
the Connecticut shoreline the Waterford Speedbowl the Fall Finale
wrapped up the 2010 season with two days of qualifying and racing.
Qualifying for the Budweiser Modified Nationals and ACT-150 events
was completed. Ted Christopher took the Bud Pole Award for the
$5,000 to win SK Modified® race setting a fast lap of 14.061 seconds
in time trials. Five feature events were also completed on the day
with Wayne Coury Jr. found the winner’s circle in the Outlaw Stock
race while Allen Coates was the winner of the Trucks in competition
for the race. Speedbowl Mini Stock champion Ken Cassidy Jr. took the
checkered flag in the Outlaw Mini Stock feature. Wild ‘n Wacky
Wednesday champions Charles Beal and Dan D’addario took down wins in
the Super X and X-Car features, while Nick Sweet from was the
Allison Legacy Series race winner.
In Budweiser Modified National time trials, Christopher tied the
previous division record lap to take the $500.00 bonus. He bested
Shawn Solomito, Jeff Rocco, 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series
national champion Keith Rocco and defending event winner Ron Yuhas
Jr. The top-20 cars were qualified by time with 2004 track champion
Ed Reed Jr. winning the consolation race. Reed was qualifying the
car for fellow racer Justin Gaydosh who will start scratch in the
event. Seven-time track champion Dennis Gada took a past champion’s
provisional to enter the 150-lap race which would start all 27 cars
that were on hand.
ACT Tour Late Model qualifying was also complete, setting the stage
for their 150-lap season ending event. Speedbowl regular Joe Curioso,
series leader Brian Hoar, and veteran racer Jean-Paul Cyr were the
qualifying event winners.
Ron Yuhas Jr saved the best for last as scored a convincing victory
in the Fall Finale on Sunday. Keith Rocco finished second with Diego
Monahan, third and Jeff Pearl, fourth. Ted Christopher rounded out
the top five.
In other action at the shoreline oval Joey Polewarcyk Jr cleaned
house as he lapped all but the top five finishers of the original 28
starters. Brian Hoar of Williston, Vt. finished second with Glen
Luce of Turner, Me, third. Shawn Monahan was the apparent winner of
the Street Stock feature but was disqualified when he refused tech
inspection, handing victory to Al Stone III. Dana Dimatteo recorded
his first career win at the Speedbowl in the 25-lap Legends Cars
The strategy for the Yuhas-piloted, Murphy owned #4 prevailed in the
end. “I kind of sat back once we got back up to third. Keith and
Teddy were going back and forth, so I just saved my stuff to put
myself in contention for the end.”
Rocco had winning on his agenda headed into the event, so second was
a little bittersweet for the national champion. “Yuhas came in for
tires. If we were all on the same playing field, we would have been
the car to beat. But that’s the risk you take when you’re up front
and don’t come in.” The second generation racer enjoyed his run with
Christopher. “That was fun. I was just having fun there trying not
to use up all my car battling, but it was a good show for the fans”.
There were 17 cautions that slowed the 150 lap event. The "Big
Wreck" occurred with 60 laps to go when Todd Ceravolo made contact
with the backstretch wall and collected a group of cars.
The best move of the day for Yuhas, however, came with 60 laps
While there was Thunder along the shore at Waterford the D.Anthony
Venditti Classic was taking place at the Seekonk Speedway in
Massachusetts. The Modified Racing Series was on hand, 35 cars
strong. Qualifying heats were won by Jon McKennedy, Richard Savory
and Lou Mechalides. Jon McKennedy won the 100 lap contest and was
followed by Todd Annarummo, Steve Masse, Ken Barry and Dave Berghman.
Les Hinckley, Ryan Preece, Max Zachem, Jack Bateman and Louie
Mechalides rounded out the top ten.
McKennedy held off the constant challenges of Savary for the first
70 laps. Annarummo, moved to second on a restart following a red
flag situation due to a severe glare problem caused by bright
sunshine that created a safety hazard for competitors. When the race
resumed, Annarummo pressured McKennedy to the finish but was unable
to get by the race leader.
Dave Darling took the lead of the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial Pro
Stock race coming off turn 4 of the eighth lap and held the lead
position for the remainder of the hundred circuits of Seekonk
Speedway’s one-third mile bullring. He had started third, behind
polesitter Russ Hersey. Hersey nabbed the lead off the green flag
from Ryan Vanasse (who started the outside pole) and led through the
first eight laps. Hersey clung to Darling’s rear bumper for the
remainder of the race, providing a difficult affair for the winner.
Darling’s margin of victory was just a half-second over Hersey.
The New York State based DIRT Modifieds had their big weekend at the
one mile track at the Syracuse Fairgrounds. Billy Decker dominated
the Salute to the Troops 150, the feature event Saturday. He won the
race for 358-modifieds for the third year in a row and now has a
total of 23 wins including qualifiers during Super DIRT Week. Decker
started on the pole, led 87 of 150 laps.
Stewart Friesen became the first Canadian driver to win the
big-block feature during Super DIRT Week on Sunday as he held off
hard-charging Jimmy Phelps for the victory in the SEF 200. Friesen,
27. of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, won the race on speed and fuel
economy, managing to go 132 laps on a tank of gas, which is
unprecedented at the Syracuse Mile. Phelps finished second followed
by Jimmy Horton, Kenny Tremont Jr., Ryan Godown, Vic Coffey, J.R.
Heffner, Danny Johnson, Rick Laubach and Keith Flach. The win was
Kyle Busch thanked his crew members after his record-extending 12th
Nationwide Series victory of the year at the Auto Club Speedway in
Fontana, CA. Kevin Harvick might be ready to fire all of his. Busch
took advantage of two bumbling stops by Harvick's crew and rallied
from a pit-road miscue of his own Saturday to win for the fourth
time in his last five starts at the California track Tony Stewart
was the Sprint Cup winner.
This week are several vintage racing
photos Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dyke's Racing
Click on Photo for Full Size
That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner
Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes
at 401-596-5467. E-Mail is: