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October 19, 2012

By Phil Smith

Sixty years ago in 1952 Don Collins broke Ray Delisle's strangle hold on victory lane at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. Mike Dooley was the Claiming Car feature winner.

Fifty five years ago in 1957 the New London-Waterford Speedbowl closed out the season with a 50 lap Sportsman feature which was won by Red Foote. Benny Desrosier was the non-Ford winner. Don Collins, who won 11 features was declared the Sportsman Track Champion. Ted Stack was the non-Ford Champion.

Forty years ago, in 1972, the Modified season came to a close at Martinsville where Bobby Santos put the Art Barry No.09 in victory lane. Mike Loescher finished third and was followed by Eddie Flemke, Bernie Miller and Melvin ”Puddin” Swisher. Rounding out the top ten were Hank Thomas, Bugsy Stevens, Ray Hendrick, Leo Cleary and RE Brim. Sixty-one modifieds were on hand.

Thirty five years ago, in 1977, Thompson’s World Series fell victim to rain. The only modified action was in the Southland at the Hickory Speedway in North Carolina. Jerry Cook took the win over Paul Radford.

Thirty years ago, in 1982, Greg Sacks and the invincible Ernie Wilsburg No.5 continued their domination of the modified division as they cleaned house at the World Series at Thompson; George Kent finished second with Kenny Bouchard in third spot. Rounding out the top five were Reggie Ruggerio and George Summers. New Egypt, which was asphalt at the time also, ran with Jerry Cranmer taking the win over Wayne Anderson, John Blewett JR, Jerry Cook and Lenny Boyd. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Darrell Waltrip took the win over Ricky Rudd.

Twenty five years ago, in 1987, Reggie Ruggiero won the 50 lap modified portion of the Thompson World Series. Ruggiero was with some hot company as he had Jimmy Spencer on his bumper for most of the way. Ruggerio started sixth and took the lead from Mike Stefanik on lap 11. Spencer started tenth and bulled his way to the front. Moving into second on a lap 16 restart, Spencer used every trick in the book to no avail as Ruggerio was on top of his game and wasn’t about to be denied. Jamie Tomaino had a strong run going in third spot by the half way mark but a slowly leaking tire was his un-doing. Tomaino’s miss-fortune opened the door for Mike Mclaughlin, who moved into third. Mike Stefanik and George Kent were running fourth and fifth in the late stages but they too, ran into problems. Stefanik pitted with a flat with ten to go and Kent spun out. Jeff Fuller, who was driving for Art Barry, moved into fourth spot and remained there to the finish. Ricky Fuller rounded out the top five. Tom Baldwin finished sixth and was followed by Don Howe, Carl Pasteryak, George Kent and Doug Hevron. Bob Potter won the 35 lap SK Modified portion. Ted Christopher finished second and wrapped up the Tri-Track championship. Jerry Pearl finished third.

Twenty years ago, in 1992, the NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was in Martinsville for a 200-lap event. Jan Leaty was the pole sitter but in the end it was Mike Stefanik taking the win over Wayne Anderson. Jeff Fuller finished third and wrapped up the series championship. Doug Hevron and Mike Ewanitsko rounded out the top five. Also, on the same day, was the Octoberfest at Lee Raceway where Ted and Mike Christopher finished one-two.

Fifteen years ago, in 1997, Waterford ran its final event on Saturday night. Jim Broderick took the lead on lap 26 of the 35-lap event and went on to record his fifth win of the year. Todd Ceravolo finished second and sewed up the track championship. Tucker Reynolds was third with Jeff Pearl, fourth. Ted Christopher scored an impressive win in BGNN action at Lime Rock. After starting tenth, Christopher took the lead for the final time with two laps to go. Kim Baker finished second with Dennis Doyle, third. Mike Stefanik finished ninth and became the first driver to ever win the Busch North and Modified championships in the same year. It was a very hectic weekend In addition to the Busch North Series event at Lime Rock the Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway for the World Series. The 125 lap main event was full of excitement and the crowd of over 10,000 got their money’s worth. Mike Ewanitsko, driving the Sheba Racing No.8, dove under Rick Fuller with two laps to go in an attempt to take the lead. Fuller tried to pinch him off but instead ended up spinning out after making contact. Tony Hirshman ended up in second spot with Tim Connolly, Jamie Tomaino and Ed Flemke JR rounding out the top five. Fuller, driving the Art Barry No.21 recovered to finish seventh. Ed Flemke JR was the winner of the SK-Modified feature over Mike Christopher, Ted Christopher and Scott Quinn. In Busch Grand National action at Fontana, California, Steve Park was the pole sitter with Bob Labonte on the outside. Labonte had the race won until he ran out of gas with less than ten laps to go and handed the win to Todd Bodine. Park finished second.

Ten years ago in 2002, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at Martinsville. Forty seven Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the forty starting spots. Ken Woolley Jr. took the Busch Pole with Ricky Fuller, Mike Stefanik, Chuck Hossfeld and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. L.W. Miller took the win. The racing was far from mundane. Fuller jumped out to take the lead on the start. Fred Vordermeir was the first casualty as he hit the wall on lap 15 after suffering a cut tire. Jerry Marquis, who is a contender for the tour series championship, suffered a major setback on lap 28 when his engine soured, forcing him to park it for the day. Also having engine problems which put them out were Eric Beers, Tom Baldwin and Tim Arre. Fuller led until lap 76 when Woolley mustered the required steam and took the point. Woolley led until lap 94 when fellow New Jersey competitor and former series champion Jamie Tomaino took his turn in the lead. Tomaino, having one of his best runs in quite a while, led until lap 150 when L.W. Miller took command. Miller never looked back and went on to take his first ever Modified Tour Series win. Once Miller took the lead the rest of the field turned up the wick and that’s when the action started. Todd Szegedy and Chuck Hossfeld got into a side-swiping duel when Szegedy dove under Hossfeld in turns three and four on lap 165.Szegedy drifted up as he came out of four and pinched Hossfeld into the wall. Hossfeld came off the wall and moved down on Szegedy who in turn dumped him into the wall, then spun himself and triggered a big wreck that took out David Berghman, Tony Hirschman and ultimately Ed Flemke Jr. A red flag was required to remove the wrecked cars that blocked the track. The next big incident of the day occurred on lap 190 when Ricky Fuller drilled Ted Christopher and spun him out. Christopher, far from being a happy camper was able to recover and finish ninth. Fuller finished second and was followed by Tom Cravenho, Jamie Tomaino, John Blewett III, Robbie Summers and Charlie Pasteryak.

Shortly after the completion of the event Christopher met with tour officials in the NASCAR trailer. Evidently he didn’t like what they had to say and what they did or didn’t see. Christopher left the trailer in a huff, slamming the door so hard it almost came off the hinges. The tape of the incident was available. Pictures don’t lie and NASCAR should have taken some action on this issue.

The Busch North Series couldn’t get a break as rain washed out the season finale at Lime Rock again.

Wall Stadium ran a Race of Champions Tour event on Sunday. Jimmie Blewett took the win. Ken Woolley Jr. and John Blewett III made it back from Martinsville and ended up second and third. George Kent, who previously sewed up the 2002 ROC title crossed the finish line in third spot but was disqualified after a post race inspection revealed that he had tires that had been chemically altered.

Five years ago in 2007, when NEAR announced their choices for induction into the Hall of Fame, class of 2008, two unique individuals appeared on the list. Pete Zanardi and Dr. Dick Berggren are two New England natives who have dedicated their lives and careers to auto racing. Zanardi, a retired sports writer was one of the first to cover weekly racing and give recognition to competitors in the print media. He wrote about many in national publications and he mentored many including yours truly. He was responsible for setting up the original public relations department when Jack Arute bought the Stafford Speedway. His biggest accomplishment could very well be the effort he put in to save the Waterford Speedbowl from extinction. Berggren began his career as a race driver at Stafford. He also took a lot of pictures and after a short driving career the camera won out. During his early years his photos were published in the now defunct Cavalcade of Auto Racing that was owned by Jim Moffat. The photos led to printed stories. He received a doctorates degree which should have led to a teaching career but auto racing won out as Berggren expanded his racing and eventually became the editor of the now defunct Stock Car Racing Magazine. Along the way he teamed up with racing buddies Bruce Cohen and Lew Boyd and conceived the original Spring Sizzler at Stafford. He also became a broadcaster as a pit reporter of televised NASCAR Busch Series and Nextel Cup Racing, a labor of love he continues to do. He also fulfilled a life long dream of owning his own magazine, Dick Berggren’s Speedway Illustrated which is distributed nationally each month. Most of all, despite all the fame and notoriety both Zanardi and Berggren have been loyal to their roots in auto racing in New England.

The wheels were still turning at some tracks. Matt Hirschman won a special event staged at the All Star Speedway in Epping, NH. It was also the weekend for the annual Octoberfest at the Lee USA Speedway in Lee, NH. Andy Seuss won the True Value Modified Series event there after Kirk Alexander suffered a flat tire while leading with three laps to go. Mike Douglas ended up in second spot with Chris Pasteryak, third. Down in the south land Bad Boy James Civali drove the Hills Enterprises No.79 to a convincing win at the Franklin County Speedway in Callaway, VA.

It was announced that Modified stock cars would return to Vermont in 2008, as the True Value Modified Racing Series would make its debut at Barre’s Thunder Road Int’l Speedbowl during the 46th Annual Mekkelsen RV Memorial Day Classic, Sunday, May 25. TVMRS founder and competitor Jack Bateman of Canaan, NH tested his car at the high-banked ¼-mile oval and made the agreement with Thunder Road Promoter Tom Curley to bring the touring series to “The Nation’s Site of Excitement” for a 100-lap event as part of a doubleheader with the American-Canadian Tour (ACT) Thunder Road Late Models. The last official Modified race at Thunder Road was in June 1965, won by former National Champion Dick Nephew of Mooers Forks, NY. Canadian legend Jean-Paul Cabana won the Memorial Day Classic in 1965 at the wheel of a Modified car, as well.

The France family, which owns the International Speedway Corporation and Pennsylvania International Raceway, Inc. (PIR), an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary, terminated its agreement with NZSW, LLC for the sale of 158 acres on which Nazareth Speedway is located. The land was to be sold to NZSW, LLC for approximately $19 million. PIR intends to retain the approximately $2 million in non-refundable deposits as the agreement was terminated in accordance with its terms as a result of a default by NZSW, LLC. Nazareth Speedway suspended major motorsports event operations after the completion of the track's 2004 events and its results of operations are presented as discontinued operations in the Registrant's consolidated financial statements. The property continued to be marketed and a sale was expected to occur in fiscal 2008. Needless to say, it didn't.

In Nextel Cup action Jimmie Johnson made the pass he didn't allow Jeff Gordon to make in the spring, sneaking inside Jeff Gordon with 44 laps to go and held on to win at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia for his series-high seventh victory of the year. The Hendrick Motorsports teammates who have dominated the Nextel Cup series all season did it again in the Subway 500 at the tricky track where their superiority is most apparent, and Johnson got some unexpected late help from Ryan Newman to tighten the Chase. Newman challenged Gordon for second with nine laps to go, getting increasingly more physical, and finally passed him on the inside on the 494th circuit as Johnson opened a lead of nearly 2 seconds. He then had to withstand a two-lap overtime sprint to the finish, with Gordon lurking third and ready to take advantage if the leaders faltered. They didn't, and Johnson held on through one lap before the race-record 21st caution came out. Johnson gained in the Chase with four races left, cutting Gordon's lead to 53 points.

Last year, 2011, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series wrapped up their 2011 season at the Thompson Speedway. Ron Silk came into the event with a 59 point lead over Todd Szegedy. Thirty four cars made up the car count. The seat in the Flamingo Motorsports No.16 was still warm after the exit of Mike Stefanik when Ryan Preece strapped in. Preece wasted little time as he adjusted to his new ride in short order as he garnered the pole position for the season ending World Series 150. Preece toured the 5/8 mile oval on 18.634 seconds. Second fastest was Doug Coby who had a time of 18.655 seconds. Stefanik drove the car he normally drives in Modified Racing Series events and qualified17th at 18.901 seconds. Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy and Bobby Santos rounded out the top five. Point leader Ron Silk qualified 8th fastest. The only casualty was Matt Hirschman who slammed the wall during qualifying. Hirschman was allowed to take a provisional spot.

The World Series drew a total of 273 cars including 34 Whelen Tour Modifieds, 16 Sunoco (SK type) Modifieds, 28 Supers, 22 Super Late Models and 25 Midgets.

The Whelen Modified Tour Series provided some intense drama during the running of the event which didn't see the championship finalized until the final moments of the event. The drama began on lap 52 when Silk and Tony Ferrante Jr spun and crashed into the first turn wall after hitting some oil that leaked out of the car of Timmy Solomito. While Ferrente suffered the most damage and had to be double hooked to the infield Silk was able to drive away with quite a bit of damage to his left front suspension. Once in his pit box the Eddie Partridge led crew went to work to repair the damage only to have to stop as the field went under a red flag while the oil was cleaned up that was spilled. After a short period the field went back under caution and work resumed on the Silk machine. When Silk finally re-entered the competition on lap 62 he was 10 laps down to the leader, Szegedy and it was thought that all was lost as far as the championship was concerned.

Needless to say, Silk and the Partridge team kept digging and because of numerous cautions were awarded free passes under the rules which got them within three laps in arrears of Szegedy. Szegedy still had the title in hand until lap 148 when he got collected when Ken Heagy and Woody Pitkat tangled between turns three and four and collected Szegedy, shearing off his right front wheel which was the deciding factor. Silk finished 16th four laps down with 2,443 points with a 76 point cushion over Szegedy, who finished 25th. Both competitors were deserving of the title but it just wasn't in the cards for Szegedy, the 2003 champion, to win it. Congratulations to Silk along with his car owners, Eddie and Connie Partridge and their entire race team. Silk and the No. 6 T.S. Haulers/Calverton Tree Farm Chevrolet team will be honored as part of the NASCAR Night of Champions Touring Awards Gala on Dec. 10 in Charlotte, N.C.

Glen Reen scored somewhat of an upset as he took the win in a wild event that saw a season-high 16 cautions and the maximum three green-white-checker events attempts for his first career victory. Reen took the lead on lap 142 from Justin Bonsignore and watched in his mirror as his competition was eliminated. Pole sitter Ryan Preece, who had recently taken over the seat of the Flamingo Motorsports entry that was formerly driven by Mike Stefanik, was on cruise control for the first 36 laps, was eliminated in a wreck on lap 145 when he broke a tie rod. Stefanik, who finished ninth in a new tour ride, was running fourth on lap 155 when he went for an opening on the backstretch and triggered a wreck that eliminated Justin Bonsignore and Ted Christopher who were running second and third. Stefanik said, "the 51 moved up and I filled up the hole between him and Christopher". "Once I got in there", he added, "they didn't give me any room". Doug Coby and Daniel Hemric who were running second and third behind Reen on a lap 160 restart got together shortly after taking the green. Hemric, from Kanapolis, NC, was driving the Roger Hill No.79 and found himself in the turn one wall and Coby spun. NASCAR Control felt that Coby was over aggressive and placed him one lap down. It was later clarified that NASCAR did not penalize him for over aggression as he was the one who was taken out by the 79 on that late restart. "I was penalized for passing cars under caution to attempt to get my second place spot back", he said. Brian Vance, the Tour Race Director, afterwards acknowledged that the one lap penalty was more a result of his frustration with all of the drivers for how the race was ending, and acknowledged that it may in fact have been inconsistent with other calls he made that day with regards to other drivers who were incorrectly lined up on the racetrack. On the final restart for a green-white-checker finish Reen watched in amazement as Tom Rogers and Bobby Santos went at it as they almost wrecked. In a gut move, going into turn three on the final lap, Santos sunk the Mystic Missile in deep and took over the second spot behind Reen. Rogers, who had gotten roughed up a bit by Santos, finished fifth. Matt Hirschman brought Ole Blu home in third while Chuck Hossfeld finished fourth. Sixth through tenth were Keith Rocco, Reic Beers, Patrick Emerling, Stefanik and Eric Goodale.

In other World Series action at Thompson on Sunday, Chris Perley turned in a dominating performance in the International Super Modifed Association (ISMA) 50-lapper to score the victory. Russ Stoehr scored top honors in the Northeastern Midget Association (NEMA) ranks. In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action, Ryan Preece outlasted the field in a rough-and-tumble Sunoco Modified feature. Derek Ramstrom scored his sixth Super Late Model race to cap off the 2011 season at Thompson and Corey Hutchings survived numerous restarts in the Late Model main event to score the win.

Following a full day of practice and qualifying at Thompson on Saturday, ten (10) feature events were run. In Thompson regular weekly divisions it was Scott Sundeen scoring the victory in the Limited Sportsman division; Cam McDermott in the TIS Modifieds; and Chad Baxter in the Mini Stocks. Scoring Outlaw division victories were Rick Gentes (Late Models), Mike O’Sullivan (Street Stocks) and Richard Fournier (Mini Stocks). Frank Cardile capitalized in the Sunoco Lite Main event to score the victory. Jason Lafayette opened up the World Series feature festivities with a victory in the N.E. Trucks Series. Andy Lindeman led green-to-checker to win the companion Truck Series Shootout. Dan Meservey, Jr. earned the victory in the Harry Kourafas Memorial event for the Pro-Four Modifieds.

Down in the south land, Tim Brown ended his year-long NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour winless streak with a victory he called one of his biggest of his career. The Cana, Va., veteran scored his seventh career win Thursday night in the UNOH Southern Slam 150 on the quarter-mile on the front stretch at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. It was Brown's first trip to Victory Lane since Sept. 4, 2010 at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va.

Brown took the lead from George Brunnhoelzl on a Lap 123 restart and led the rest of the way.

Brunnhoelzl, the points leader, finished second on a day in which he won the Coors Light Pole Award and led a race-high 124 laps. Brunnhoelzl will take a 150-point lead over Andy Seuss, who finished fourth, into the season finale on Oct. 22 at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C. Defending race winner Burt Myers finished third and his brother, Jason, was fifth. There were 18 cars that went to post in the 150 lap event.

After a short reincarnation as an asphalt track, it was announced that the Albany-Saratoga Speedway in Malta, NY would go back to being a dirt track as it would be run by Lebanon Valley promoter Howard Commander. He had secured a leasing deal with the Richards family while they continued to pursue the sale of the track.

On a sad note, veteran driver Dan Wheldon, who won the Indianapolis 500 for the second time in 2011, died from injuries suffered Sunday when his car was entangled in a horrific, 15-car wreck early in the IndyCar series' season-ending race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The Englishman was 33.

Matt Kenseth won the Sprint Cup event held at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards was the Nationwide Series winner.

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


Danny Galullo


Melvin "Red" Foote


Lou Toro

T
Marty Bezema

Paul Radford

Ron Narducci

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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