Sixty five years ago racing
history was made in Rhode Island. Noted writer Pete Zanardi tells it
best: Lonsdale Arena, a relatively short-lived high-banked
third-mile oval just outside Providence, Rhode Island, hosted one of
the of the most important events in stock-car racing history on Oct.
The late Bill Tuthill, the man who organized it, believed “it was
the most significant stock-car race ever run.” The race, Tuthill
said some 35 years later, “opened the way into the sport for
everybody, and without it a lot of tracks that were built for
midgets would have gone out of business.” Tuthill was a “midget
guy,” part of the huge success the sport enjoyed. Still, he saw
signs of trouble ahead. “Big money,” was taking over. He decided to
see if stock cars, running with some success on the dirt in the
South, could run on small asphalt midget tracks. Lonsdale, with its
high banks and 34,000 seats, was the place to do it. Tuthill paid a
young radio guy in Pawtucket, R.I., named Chris Schenkel (who went
to national fame) $25 a week to help out and the Providence Journal
didn’t hurt, especially when Rhode Island native Sammy Packard
became the first entry.
When it became apparent Packard was the only entry, Tuthill called
Bill France. France got involved and made the race part of his
National Championship Stock Car circuit.
Buddy Shuman, the so-called “King of the Asphalt” signed on first
and soon others followed. Race-day fans (an announced crowd of 9,000
paid $1.20 each) saw the likes of Fonty Flock, Red Byron and Junior
Samples, all from the deep South, and Tommy Bradshaw, Tommy Coates
and Pepper Cunningham, the latter New Jersey racers. Johnny Brunner,
who went on to a long relationship with NASCAR, was the flagman.
Byron won the pole with an 18.5 second run on Saturday with Samples
and Shuman posting identical 19.1 runs for second fastest. Shuman
beat Byron in the first heat,with Samples and Cunningham also
winning heats. “Pickles” Bicklehaupt won the consi and Long Islander
Bill Frick won the “New England Championship” race. Flock jumped to
an early lead and never gave it up in the 30-lap headliner, claiming
$625 from the $3,500 purse. He also gained momentum toward the 1947
NCSCC championship. Shuman, Samples, Byron and Bradshaw followed at
the checkered flag.
“I remember being very surprised [learning the] crowd figure. I
suspected it then and I still suspect that figure. I believe we had
more people,” Tuthill told this reporter in 1980.
France and Tuthill split the $1,100 profit.
Lonsdale Sports Arena was a high-banked 1/3 mile high-banked paved
oval located two miles north of Pawtucket, Rhode Island on Mendon
Road in Cumberland, Rhode Island, on the banks of the Blackstone
River. The track operated from 1947 to 1956. Ironically, its
location near the river would prove a key factor in its ultimate
demise. The Stop & Shop plaza now occupies where Lonsdale was.
The Lonsdale Arena hosted racing until 1956 when the nearby
Blackstone River overflowed its banks and carried away much of the
backstretch and third turn. The track was never rebuilt. The Wall
Stadium, in New Jersey, is patterned after now gone Lonsdale Arena.
Sixty years ago in 1952 Jim Holt
won the season ending 50 lap Sportsman feature at the New
London-Waterford Speedbowl. Big Butch Caswell was the Claiming Car
Thirty five years ago, in 1977,
the Monadnock Speedway hosted a 100 lap, open-competition event.
Dynamite Ollie Silva was the class of the field as he cleaned house
on this cool fall day. Ray Miller finished second with Reggie
Ruggiero, Bugsy Stevens and John Rosati rounding out the top five.
Little did anyone know, Silva’s racing career would come to an end
the following year at the Winchester, New Hampshire track when his
car flew off the back stretch and hit a tree. The NASCAR Modifieds
ran a special event at Kingsport, Tenn. Ronnie Bouchard took the win
over Jerry Cook, Paul Radford, Wayne Anderson, Roger Hill and Bob
Thirty years ago, in 1982, It
was all-quiet on the racing front. The Winston Cup division of
NASCAR had a scheduled event at Rockingham, North Carolina but
because of rain, had to be postponed to the end of the month which
would conflict with the season ending Cardinal 500 at Martinsville.
Twenty five years ago, in 1987,
the NASCAR Modifieds were in Rougemont, North Carolina. Jeff Fuller,
driving the Art Barry No.21 took the win over Bugsy Stevens, Jim
Spencer, Mike Mclaughlin, Dave Reszendes, Jay Hedgecock and Tom
Baldwin. The Waterford Speedbowl ran their season ender with Bob
Potter taking a 100 lap win over Dickie Doo Ceravolo, Ronnie Rocco,
John Anderson, Dale Holdredge and Jerry Pearl. C.J. Freye was the
Late Model winner.
Twenty Years ago, in 1992, it
was all quiet as teams were making preparations for the season
ending World Series.
Fifteen years ago, in 1997,
Waterford's final program was rained out. Todd Ceravolo was declared
the Modified track champion. At the Lee Octoberfest, Tucker Reynolds
won the modified portion. Ted Christopher finished second and was
followed by Charlie Pasteryak, David Berghman and Jeff Pearl. At
Rockingham, N.C., Mark Martin scored his 32nd Grand National win and
broke the record that had previously been held by Jack Ingram.
Martin took the lead from Ricky Craven on lap 184 of the 197-lap
grind. Dick Trickle finished second with Craven, third. Randy LaJoie
finished 20th on the lead lap and sewed up the division
championship. It was also on this weekend last year that Bob
O'Rourke, long time Nascar Track Steward on Long Island, died after
a long bout with cancer.
Ten years ago in 2002, The
NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway last
weekend for the season ending World Series. Heavy rain washed out
qualifying which had to be re-scheduled to Sunday. Ted Christopher
was the fastest of the fifty-two Modifieds on hand. The top ten
re-drew for starting spots with Jerry Marquis picking the pole and
Charlie Pasteryak, the outside pole. Marquis led the start. The
first of only two yellows occurred on lap four when Bo Gunning
became the first casualty when he wrecked in turn four. Marqius led
the re-start. Christopher, who started third, moved into second spot
with John Blewett III in third spot. The second yellow occurred on
lap seven when a mass tangle unfolded in turn four, which collected
nine cars. Martinsville winner L.W Miller ended up in the wall with
heavy front-end damage. Also in the mix was Ricky Fuller who
sustained front end and nerf bar damage. Fuller had been second in
points behind Mike Stefanik and had been the center of attention as
many thought that a confrontation with Ted Christopher was in the
making. Marquis again led the restart but held on for only one lap
before being overtaken by Ted Christopher. Christopher’s time on the
point was short as Blewett powered by one lap later and never looked
back. Running at a torrid pace, Blewett lapped all but the top six
when he took the checkered flag. Chuck Hossfeld, who got within
striking distance a few times, has to settle for second. Christopher
ended up third and was followed by Charlie Pasteryak, Nevin George
and Marquis, in the lead lap. Rounding out the top ten were Ed
Flemke Jr, Chris Kopec, Mike Stefanik and Zach Sylvester. Stefanik,
who complained about a bouncing tire, garnered enough points to
secure his sixth Featherlite Modified Tour Series Title.
The Busch North Series finally dodged the raindrops enough to finish
their season at Lime Rock where Dennis Doyle got his first win. Andy
Santerre garnered enough points to take the title by nine points
over Matt Kobyluck. The event, which had been delayed and shortened
by rain, was stopped 10 minutes before the track’s noise curfew took
The World Series at Thompson drew a total of 653 racecars. It was a
marathon session on Sunday that started at noon and lasted 11-1/2
hours when the final event was run. All things considered with the
amounts of cars and divisions the speedway management did an
outstanding job of keeping the show rolling. High attrition for the
supers was evident as 13 of the original 30 starters completed the
50-lap contest. Russ Wood took the win and recorded his sixth ISMA
championship. Bo Gunning won the SK/Sunoco Modified 25 lapper that
saw 40 cars start. Pre-race favorite Ted Christopher lost an engine.
Five years ago in 2007, NASCAR
finally got around to updating the Whelen Modified Tour Series point
standings. Donnie Lia ended the season in the top spot despite the
fact that he dropped out of the season ending World Series at
Thompson with a blown engine. Lia had sewed up the title after the
Stafford event. In 16 events Lia scored 13 top tens, which included
six wins. His season winning total is $83,800. Todd Szegedy ended up
in second spot, 180 points behind. Szegedy, in 16 events, scored 11
top tens, which included two wins which brought his season totals to
$60,225. Although winless Matt Hirschman used consistency in order
to finish up third in the final standings. In 16 events the
second-generation racer recorded 11 top tens which included five top
fives. Ronnie Silk with one win and Ted Christopher with one win
rounded out the top five. Sixth through tenth were James Civali with
three wins, Mike Stefanik with one win, Jimmy Blewett with one win,
Jamie Tomaino and Eddie Flemke JR.
Jimmie Johnson won the wreck marred Nextel Cup event at the Atlanta
Motor Speedway. Carl Edwards, who had not been a factor most of the
race, wound up second He was followed by Reed Sorenson, Matt Kenseth,
Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer. David Reutimann dominated a
crash-filled race and survived a green-white-checker finish at
Memphis to win the Sam's Town 250 for his first career Busch Series
win. Mike Bliss finished second followed by David Ragan Marcos
Ambrose, Jason Leffler, Scott Wimmer, Jamie McMurray, Jason Keller,
Brad Keselowski, and Brian Keselowski. Points leader Carl Edwards
was caught in a spin on the last lap and finished 25th.
Last year, 2011, the NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour Series had wrapped up their 2011 season.
Congratulations to Ron Silk and the Eddie and Connie Partridge led
TS Haulers Race Team. Silks season point total was 2443 while
runner-up, Todd Szegedy amassed 2367 points. Eric Beers ended up in
the third spot followed by Rowan Pennink and Doug Coby. Sixth
through tenth were Matt Hirschman, Justin Bonsignore, Bobby Santos,
Ted Christopher and Erick Rudolph. Fifty seven different drivers
were in competition during the season. Fourteen different drivers
ran all 16 events. Ted Christopher was the top winner with four
victories to his credit. Silk and Szegedy each won three while Coby,
Bonsignore and Santos had one each. Other winners were Mike Stefanik,
Glen Reen and Ryan Newman.
Many race teams were taking a wait and see attitude before making
plans for 2012. Lenny Sammons, Publisher and Editor of Area Auto
Racing News got an interesting answer from car owner Bob Garbarino
when asked about his plans for 2012. He stated that he was not
making a decision about next year until he saw a schedule. Sammons
quoted Garbarino, " I don't buy green bananas anymore" he said,
alluding to the fact about making a decision when the schedule is
unknown. Ryan Preece was all set for 2012 as it had been announced
that he would drive the Flamingo Motorsports entry that was vacated
by Mike Stefanik.
Doug Coby and Daniel Hemric were running second and third behind
Glen Reen on a lap 160 restart in the recent World Series NASCAR
Whelen Modified Tour Series event at the Thompson Speedway and 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. Based on what was heard on a scanner it was
assumed that NASCAR Control felt that Coby was overaggressive and
placed him one lap down. Coby stated that NASCAR did not penalize
him for over aggression. "I was the one who was taken out by the 79
on that late restart and I was penalized for passing cars under
caution to attempt to get my second place spot back", he said. He
added, "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".
The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Lee USA Speedway in
Lee New Hampshire last weekend, 32 cars strong. Qualifying heat race
winners were Ken Barry, Chris Pasteryak and Mike Holdredge.
Rowan Pennink took the season ending win over Les Hinckley, Norm
Wrenn, Rob Goodenough and Matt Hirschman. Chris Pasteryak finished
ninth and has won his second VMRS Championship.
The NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour wrapped up their 2012
season at the Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, NC. There were 15 cars
on hand. George Brunnhoelzl III started from the outside of the
front row and led every lap en route to winning the Caraway 150
Brunnhoelzl took the lead from his pole-sitter and Ideal Racing
teammate Andy Seuss on the first lap and was never threatened as he
picked up his fifth win of the season and 11th of his career. Burt
Myers picked up his best finish of the season in second place with
rookie Daniel Hemric finishing with his first-ever top-three finish.
Andy Seuss was fourth and Brian Loftin completed the top five. Jason
Myers completed his most consistent season on the tour with a
sixth-place finish with Tim Brown rebounding from a spin to finish
seventh. 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Austin Pack was eighth with
Brandon Ward ninth and L.W. Miller completing the top 10.
Brunnhoelzl entered the night with a comfortable lead in the point
standings only needing to take the green flag to wrap up the series
championship. Seuss finished second in the final point standings.
Clint Bowyer hung teammate Jeff Burton out to dry on the last lap of
Sunday's Talladega race, pulling around him when the checkered flag
was in sight to pick up his first win of the season and the 100th in
the Sprint Cup Series for Richard Childress Racing.
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly
R.I.02891.Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.E-Mail
This week are several
Vintage photos, Courtesy of SpeedwayLineReport.com & Dave Dykes RacingThroughTime.com
Click on Photo for Full Size
That’s it for this week from 11 Gardner
Drive, Westerly RI 02891. Ring my chimes