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October 12, 2012

By Phil Smith

Sixty years ago, in 1952, the Race of Champions was in its second year of existence on the one-mile circular Langhorne Speedway in Pennsylvania. Jim Delaney scored his first of three ROC victories. Hully Bunn who had won the previous year finished a distant 39th. Also in the field and finishing 58th was Ralph Moody, then from Taunton, Mass. Ray Delisle made it two in a row in Sunday action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Fifty five years ago, in 1957, Chevrolet was enjoying its first year with the 327 small block V-8. With fuel injection heads plus a four-barrel carburetor and duel exhaust, the 327 put out more horsepower per pound of engine weight than any engine that would be built for many years to come. Glenn Guthrie was the winner of the Langhorne Race of Champions. In Sportsman action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Don Collins took the 25 lap win. Mike Banning was the non-Ford winner.

Fifty years ago in 1962, Frankie Schenieder took the big one at Langhorne. Ted Stack won the season ending Modified 75 lapper at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Lou Caso was the Bomber feature winner. With 14 wins on the season to his credit, Dick Beauregard was declared the Modified Track Champion. He retired from racing on the spot. Ed Moody was declared the Bomber division champion.

Thirty five years ago, in 1977, rain washed out all racing.

Thirty years ago, in 1982, triple features for the Super Stocks at Waterford were the only action in Southern New England. Bob Gada, Al Szulczyzk and Brian McCarthy were the winners. It was also a big day for New Yorker Merv Treichler as he won the DIRT Syracuse 200.

Twenty five years ago, in 1987, rain prevailed all over the East Coast.

Twenty years ago, in 1992, the Waterford Speedbowl took center stage with a wide open competition event that saw Ted Christopher, running nitrous oxide in the North End Auto Parts No.54, lead from pole to pole to take down the win in the 50 lap event. Mark LaJunesse finished second with Lloyd Agor, Mike Gada, Mike Christopher and Richie Gallup rounding out the top six. It was also announced that the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, N. H. would have a sanction for a Winston Cup event in 1993.

Fifteen years ago, in 1997, Waterford ran twin features for the mods on Saturday night. Tucker Reynolds JR went two for two in his attempt to close in on point leader Todd Ceravolo. In Winston Cup action at Talledega, Terry Labonte took the lead with two laps to go from Ken Schrader and went on to take the win. It wasn't a good day for Jeff Gordon as he triggered a 20-car wreck after getting a flat tire. At the Thompson World Series, Mike Ewanitsko took the lead from Rick Fuller on lap 123 of the 125 lap modified tour event. Fuller had attempted to block but instead ended up spinning out. Tony Hirshman ended up second and was followed by Tim Connolly and Jamie Tomaino. Ed Flemke JR won the companion SK type modified event. For many years, the Race of Champions was run on Columbus Day weekend. Last but not least, it was 42 years ago in 1965 that Wild Bill Slater in the Connecticut Valley Rocket-V8, won the prestigious event.

Ten years ago in 2002, the Busch North Series season ender at Lime Rock and the D. Anthony Venditti Memorial at the Seekonk Speedway were rained out.

Five years ago in 2007, the Annual World Series at the Thompson Speedway closed out the 2007 season for many in New England. Forty-two NASCAR Modifieds were on hand for time trials. Part time Tour competitor Tony Ferrante provided a pleasant surprise when he set the fastest time and captured the Busch pole. Ferrante's time of 120.656 mph around the .625-mile oval beat out Tony Hirschman Jr. by .025 seconds. Don Lia, Billy Pauch Jr and Matt Hirschman rounded out the top five. Qualifying went smooth except for the fact that Jamie Tomaino slammed the first turn wall after completing his second qualifying lap. Tomaino’s time wasn’t good enough to make the starting field but he was eligible for a provisional spot, which he took.

Lenny Boehler and Bob “Frito Bandito” Santos, both deceased and NEAR Hall of Fame inductees, had to be smiling last Sunday as Bobby Santos III drove the Boehler Racing Ole Blu to victory in the NASCAR Modified portion of the World Series. Based on the re-draw after time trials Santos started second in the 150-lap event. Santos, who was in the hunt the entire race, grabbed the lead on a restart on lap 131 and went on to victory over Reggie Ruggiero, Matt Hirschman, Ted Christopher and Ronnie Silk. Sixth through tenth were Kevin Goodale, Ryan Preece, Mike Stefanik, Tony Hirschman and Renee Dupuis. Series champion Don Lia finished 28th. After dropping out with reported ignition problems. James Civali, who completed all 150 laps was disqualified by NASCAR and placed last for rough riding. A last-lap, fourth-turn crash involving Ed Flemke Jr., Billy Pauch Jr., and Doug Coby changed the complexion of the race behind Christopher. James Civali, who had contact with Flemke, initiating the crash, was parked and put to the rear of the field. Civali was later reprimanded in the NASCAR trailer. Richard Savory, son of George Savory and the driver of the Art Barry No.21 was awarded the series Rookie of the Year award.

The Thompson regular weekly divisions finished off the 2007 season in grand-style with Larry Barnett (Ltd. Sportsman), Mike Romano (Mini Stocks), and Leo Adams (TIS Modifieds) scoring victories. Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI, continued his stronghold on the Outlaw Late Model laurels during the World Series. In other Outlaw action, Tim Sullivan of S. Windsor won a barnburner in the Strictlys and visiting Randy Churchill, Jr. of Niantic bested the Outlaw Mini Stocks. The Touring Series competitors established a pattern on Saturday night as both Seth Duvall of Ashford in the All-Star Truck Series and Norm Wrenn of Nashua, NH, in the Pro-Four Modifieds rode feature wins to 2007 championships.

The 34th Annual World Series ended a bittersweet racing season at Thompson International Speedway. In addition to Bobby Santos III those adding their names to the Thompson history books were Chris Perley of Rowley, MA, in the International Supermodified Association (ISMA); and Randy Cabral of Plymouth, MA, in the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA). Also garnering World Series glory was Jimmy Blewett of Howelll, NJ, in the Sunoco Modifieds, Jeff Connors of Ellington in Pro Stocks, and a surprise winner in the Late Models Ron Levesque, Jr. of Tiverton, RI. Ben Seitz had a run for the ages when the young driver from Pocassett, MA, scored an unprecedented fourth Northeastern Midget Association driving championship.

Jimmy Blewett made a triumphant return to the victory lane at Thompson. Blewett was greeted by a number of his fellow competitors and a standing ovation when he exited his Eddie Partridge owned TS Haulers #12 in victory lane. Blewett took over the lead before the completion of the first lap and never looked back. In the early going, Blewett and second-running Malone drove away from the rest of the pack. Blewett withstood a pair of late race restarts and persistent challenges from Malone to score the victory. Josh Steeves came home with an impressive third place finish over Bert Marvin and a returning Ted Christopher. Sixth through tenth were Tom Cravenho, Bo Gunning, Bobby Santos III, Danny Cates and Todd Ceravolo.

Dick Houlihan made his final career start at Xtra/Mart World Series at Thompson. Houlihan, who began his racing career in 1972 at the now closed Lakeville Speedway (MA), had raced at tracks all around New England, the east coast, as far west as Indiana and even in Canada. Throughout his career he has driven for many car owners including Danny Fournier, Jim McCloud, Sam Medeiros, Frank Procopio, Bill Ambrosio, Dan Andruck, John McKenna, Lenny Ellis, Greg Paquin and Wayne Darling. Along the way Dick won over 150 Features and 9 championships including 3 NASCAR Weekly Series titles, one at Thompson in 1996 and back to back titles at Seekonk in 2002 and 2003. He was also voted the Most Popular Driver at Seekonk in 2001 and 2002.

NASCAR released the final standings for the Weekly Racing Series for 2007. Four of the top ten in the final standings raced at the Thompson and Stafford Motor Speedways including runner-up Woody Pitkat who lost out to Steve Carlson by a mere six points. Carlson races at the LaCrosse Speedway in the Mid-West. Philip Morris who raced at the Motor Mile Speedway in Virginia, finished in third spot with Keith Rocco and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. Kerry Malone, who raced at both Thompson and Stafford finished tenth in the final rundown.

Longtime motorsports executive Dennis Huth, through his company Racing Speed Associates, reached an agreement to fully acquire all rights to the American Speed Association.

In Busch Racing Series action at the Lowes Motor Speedway, Jeff Burton took the win in the Dollar General 300. Burton led the final 61 laps of the race. It was Burton's fourth win of the 2007 season. In Nextel Cup racing, Jeff Gordon staked his claim to the Nextel Cup title, winning his second straight race to widen his lead in the Chase for the championship standings. The four-time series champion led Kyle Busch on a restart with five laps to go at Lowe's Motor Speedway, but as he tried to hold off his teammate, Ryan Newman slid by both Hendrick Motorsports cars to grab the lead. Newman seemed to be headed to an easy win, but inexplicably spun while running by himself to bring out the caution. Gordon inherited the lead, but had a fuel issue that had him stressed about a pickup problem when the race resumed for a two-lap overtime finish. But Gordon's Chevrolet was flawless on the final start, and he pulled away from Clint Bowyer and Busch for his first win at the suburban Charlotte track since 1999.

Last year, 2011, in NASCAR weekly racing action at Thompson, the regular season finally was wrapped up with championships settled in all racing divisions. Earning championships for the 2011 season were Keith Rocco in the Sunoco Modifieds, Larry Gelinas Super Late Models and Tommy O’Sullivan in the Late Models. Chris “Moose” Douton was crowned the Limited Sportsman champ for 2011; Cam McDermott reigned in the TIS Modifieds; and Danny Field, Deep River, CT, earned top-honors in the Mini Stock division.

For Rocco, it was a matter of survival as Ryan Preece was breathing down his neck going into the final event. If Preece were to win, Rocco needed to finish 12th or better to become champ. Rocco started fifth in the 30 lap feature. Preece started seventh. Rocco took the lead in turn four on lap two from Rick Fuller. By lap seven, Preece had the lead and Rocco was fading fast, almost to the point where he almost got the black flag for not running at a competitive speed. In the end, Rocco finished 12th, four laps down. Preece did his best but in the end he fell short by six points in his quest for the title. Preece had taken the lead from Rocco on lap seven and was headed for the win until Woody Pitkat got him in traffic in the fourth turn of the final lap. Pitkat took the win, his fourth in the car since taking the seat vacated by Ted Christopher. Preece beat out Danny Cates for the runner-up spot. Todd Ceravolo, in a team car to Preece, finished fourth. Rounding out the top five was Ricky Shawn.

Other winners were Derek Ramstrom (Super Late Models), Marc Palmisano (Late Models), Larry Barnett (Limited Sportsman) and Travis Jurcik, (Mini Stocks) scoring feature victories.

A bit of excitement developed during the running of the Limited Sportsman feature. On the opening laps Joe Coates and Jason Chicolas tangled on the backstretch going into turn three. Coats lost his temper and commenced to proceed to continually ram the Chicolas machine. Both competitors were parked for the night. Coats parked his car on the infield pit road and as Chicolas drove by on his way to the pit area Coats threw his helmet at him. Speedway officials attempted to calm the situation but Coats would have nothing of that as he gave the officials the single finger salute, then from atop pit wall, proceeded to drop his pants and Moon the officials and the crowd. The Speedway management and NASCAR Suspended Coats indefinitely.

At the Waterford Speedbowl the two day Fall Finale wrapped up the 2011 racing season. Over 200 cars brought some serious revenue to the shoreline oval on Saturday. Keith Rocco added another victory to his yearly total as he took the fin in the 50 lap SK Modified portion of the Finale. Rocco, who now has 27 victories to his credit took the lead on lap 10 after starting in the 12th position. Rocco also won the Late Model 50 lapper at the shoreline oval. Rocco passed Bruce Thomas Jr. with six laps remaining and led the rest of the way to win the 50-lap Late Model feature. In the Modified event, Tyler Chadwick was second and Rob Janovic Jr, third. Rounding out the top five was Ryan Preece and Nicole Morgillo.

A bit of controversy erupted before the start of racing at the Speedbowl on Sunday. Race Director Scott Tapley threw out Todd Ceravolo after he was allegedly threatened with physical violence. To back up a bit, Ceravolo missed the pit party and was told he would have to start in the rear instead of starting 15th. When told this, Ceravolo tried to explain that he had been home sick with the flu and had just got out of bed before noon. Tapley's response to Ceravolo's explanation was, "Too Bad". With this sarcasam, Ceravolo became rightfully irate, especially when a double standard existed. Bubby Brouwer also missed the pit party but he was allowed to start on the pole of the event in which he competed and also the track treated Ceravolo unfairly when they black flagged him for not having a transponder in a practice session but looked the other way when one of their top regular runners ran all day without a transponder. Ceravolo stated that Tapley never had a drivers meeting on Saturday and never announced that there would be a penalty if one missed the pit party. It just seems that every time a non-regular shows up to race at Waterford, officials go out of their way to make their lives miserable.

Other Sunday winners at the Speedbowl were Al Stone in the Street Stocks and Glenn Colvin in the Mini Stocks. Paul French won the 25-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Light Modified feature and Dave Garbo Jr. won the day’s 25-lap Legends Cars feature.

Race winners on Saturday included Shawn Thibeault who recorded his first career Speedbowl victory in the Outlaw Stock feature, John Kelly who scored his first career win in the Northeast Mini Stock Tour race and Andy Lindemann who nailed the win in the New England Truck Series feature. Rounding out the winners were Emily Packard in the Allison Legacy North Racing Series, Frank Alessio in the Super X-Cars, Brad Voglesong in X-Car action and Cory Dimatteo in the Bandoleros race.

In Modified Racing Series action at the D. Anthony Venditti Classic at the Seekonk Speedway Mike Holdridge started 22nd in a 29 car field, took the lead on lap 65, and went on to win the Valenti Modified Racing Series, 100-lap, “DAV Fall Classic” race. The win was the second of the season for the second-generation driver. Holdridge also becomes the eighth different driver to win the eighth annual event.

Pole-sitter Russ Hersey, led the field to green and the first six-laps until passed by veteran Kenny Barry. Barry quickly became the class of the field leading laps 7 through 64 holding off the challenges of Les Hinckley, Rowan Pennink, and Holdridge. When Holdridge took the top spot, Barry chased the winner to the finish, Jon McKennedyfinished third, Jimmy Kuhn, fourth, and Dwight Jarvis, fifth. Sixth through tenth were: Max Zachem, Hinckley, Chris Pasteryak, Timmy Jordan and Joe Doucette.

In Super Dirt action at the Syracuse NY Fairgrounds, Canadian Stewart Friesen made it back-to-back wins in the SEF 200 on Sunday and in the process denied Billy Decker’s bid to become the first driver to sweep the modified races at Super DIRT Week. Decker had won five out of five events heading into Sunday’s feature but had to settle for second after giving Friesen all he could handle late in the 200-mile race.

The victory was worth $50,000, but not in the end. After a long post-race inspection, Friesen’s team was fined $25,000 for having an illegal fuel system. He retained the victory. Ted Christopher had attempted to qualify for the event but fell short after being involved in a qualifying heat crash.

In Sprint Cup action at Kansas City Jimmie Johnson led 197 laps in one of the most dominant performances the track has ever seen. The victory was the 55th for Johnson, moving him into a tie with Rusty Wallace for the eighth on the career list, and the 199th for team owner Rick Hendrick. Brad Keselowski dominated the Nationwide Series race at Kansas City as he led all but 27 laps on his way to victory.

The Concord (NH) Monitor reported that The New Hampshire Motor Speedway is vowing to appeal a jury verdict that ordered it to pay almost $1 million to the sports radio network that used to broadcast its major NASCAR events. At the heart of the lawsuit, whose trial lasted five days in Merrimack County NH Superior Court last week, is who had the right to broadcast NASCAR events at the Loudon-based speedway.

The report, which was printed in the Monitor on Oct 4 stated that in Sept. 2000, the speedway, under the management of then-President Gary Bahre, entered into a perpetual contract agreement that gave Motor Racing Network Inc., a Florida-based company, exclusive rights to broadcast all NASCAR events, including time trials, practice runs and races.

In exchange, the track received 25 percent of all the gross advertising revenue Motor Racing Network received from the broadcasts and rebroadcasts of NASCAR events at the speedway. The parties were each required to give three years notice to terminate the contract.

But in January 2008, shortly after former owner Bob Bahre agreed to sell the track, his son Gary Bahre sent a letter to Motor Racing Network saying his company wished to end the contract immediately, calling the three-year termination notice "unconscionable."

After Motor Racing Network refused, New Hampshire Motor Speedway sued, claiming the contract was void and unenforceable because it was "illusory, lacks mutuality of obligation, and is not supported by consideration," according to the suit. Motor Racing Network, which paid about $750,000 to the speedway over the eight year relationship, countersued, saying the breach of contract would cause, among other things, damage to the network's reputation.

Over the three years of legal maneuvering, a judge found the agreement to be unenforceable. However, the court allowed Motor Radio Network to take their case to a jury and argue that the speedway had broken underlying promises made to them - promises which the network reasonably believed would be honored and therefore made business decisions around, said David Cole, one of several attorneys representing the network.

The Monitor stated that on Friday, Oct 7, 12 jurors agreed and awarded the network $993,724 - the amount of money the network said it would have made had it been allowed to broadcast seven races over three more years. While the speedway does not have to pay attorney fees, it does have to pay for costs such as depositions. Once those are added in, the judgment is likely to exceed $1 million. Once Motor Racing Network was out, Performance Radio Network, which is owned by the speedway's parent company, Speedway Motorsports, began broadcasting the track's NASCAR events. It was a move Cole said showed the speedway broke the contract purely for financial gain, not because Motor Racing Network had done its job poorly.

Motor Racing Network, which claims to be the largest independent sports radio network in the country with almost 650 stations, is owned by International Speedway Corp., a Florida-based company that owns a dozen racetracks around the country.

Molly A.K. Connors was the reporter of record that covered the proceedings for the Monitor.

That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

This week are several Vintage photos, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size


Tony Mordino


Johnny "King" Cambino


Jerry Humiston

T
Parker Bohn

Nathan "Smokey" Boutwell

Sonny Seamon

That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, 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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