Thursday 9-15-05

By Phil Smith

Thirty-five years ago in 1970, Thompson ran their first and only 500 lap modified event. Forty-two cars started and after a long grind, Bugsy Stevens was first across the stripe. Bernie Miller finished second and was followed by Ed Yerrington, Fred DeSarro, Jimmy Griffin, Johnny Thompson and Bob Karvonen. Other weekend action saw Stevens take the win at Stafford over Yerrington, Jerry Cook and Leo Cleary and at Utica-Rome where Ray Sitterly took the win over Lou Lazzaro, Dave Lape and Cook who flew in from Thompson.

Thirty years ago in 1975, Ed Brunnhoelzl took the win at Islip over Jerry Cook, Fred Harbach and Greg Sacks. The modifieds ran at Watkins Glen where Merv Treichler took the win over Cook, Maynard Troyer and Bob Vee. At Thompson, Leo Cleary took the open comp win over Ronnie Bouchard and Freddie Schulz.

Twenty five years ago in 1980, Ronnie Bouchard in the Dick Armstrong No.1 took the victory in the annual Thompson 300 which saw 50 cars take the green. Bugsy Stevenís finished second and was followed by George Summers, Jerry Cook, Richie Evans and Kenny Bouchard. Jerry Pearl won the 50-lap non-qualifiers event. Marty Radwick took the win at Riverside and it was George Kent over Jerry Cook at Shangri-La. Doug French was the winner at Wall Stadium. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Darrell Waltrip took the win over Harry Gant.

Twenty years ago in 1985, the modifieds traveled to Pocono for the annual Race of Champions which drew 108 cars. Brett Bodine in the Sheri-Cup No.12 took the lead from Richie Evans on lap 187 and went on to take the win. Satch Worley finished second and was followed by Jeff Fuller, Jamie Tomaino, Jan Leaty and Evans. In other weekend action, Mike Gada took the win at Waterford over Ted Christopher and at Riverside, Ray Miller took the win over Stan Greger.

Fifteen years ago in 1990, the Race of Champions was still at Pocono and it was Mike Stefanik taking the top spot over Rick Fuller, Jan Leaty and George Brunnhoelzl. For his efforts, Stefanik received $18,950, which is a far cry from most of todayís Modified Tour payouts. Stafford regular Wade Gagner started 17th and won the 40-lap late model National Parts Peddler event. Gagner inherited the lead on lap 23 when Mike Lovetere blew his engine.

Ten years ago in 1995, the ROC had all but died .In local action at Waterford, Todd Ceravolo beat out Ricky Young and Mike Gada to take the Saturday night win. At Riverside, Brian Schofield held off Reggie Ruggiero to take the win and at Riverhead it was Tom McCann over Ed Brunnhoelzl. In Winston Cup action at Dover, the 500 took over six hours to run because of rain delays. Jeff Gordon dominated and took the win over Bobby Hamilton. Johnny Rumley was the Grand National winner.

Five years ago, in 2000,it was Winston Cup weekend at Loudon Included was the modifieds who again put on the best show of the weekend. Mike Ewanitsko took the 100 lap win with six laps to go when Ted Christopher's motor went to skipping and losing power. Reggie Ruggiero finished second and was followed by John Blewett III, Rick Fuller and Dan Avery. Christopher sputtered home in sixth spot. Andy Santarre won the Busch North Series event and in Winston Cup action, Jeff Burton led all 300 laps in one of the most boring Winston Cup events ever run as NASCAR really blew it when they mandated restrictor plates in hopes of making the race safer in the wake of two deaths those of Kenny Irwin and Adam Petty. Rob Janovic won at Waterford on Saturday night. Ron Silk finished second with Tom Fox, third. During the evenings events it was announced that track operator Terry Eames had purchased the property where the Speedbowl was located for $1.85 million. It was also this week that Wally Saleeba passed away. Wally had been a close friend and confidant of D.Anthony Venditti for many years.

Last year, 2004, The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, New Hampshire for the weekend. Forty-one cars were on hand for the second of two events at the one-mile oval. Ted Christopher, who won the July race took the pole with a speed of 128.173 mph. Taking the outside pole was Reggie Ruggiero at 126.990 mph. Rounding out the top five were Todd Szegedy, Tony Hirschman and Donnie Lia. Mike Christopher, runner-up to his brother in July qualified 24th. Steve Park in the Joe Brady No.00 qualified 19th.

Rain on Friday and Saturday forced NASCAR to re-schedule the event to Monday. Those who stayed more than got their moneyís worth as once again the Modifieds were the best show of the weekend. Ted Christopher made it two for two at Loudon in 2004 as he drove to a convincing almost full straightaway win. Because of Monday being a workday only about 6,000 fans were on hand. Five cautions before the half way mark slowed the early going. The first caution came on lap 3 when Richie Gallup hit the backstretch wall. The second caution flew for Fred Vordermeir when he spun on the front stretch. Caution 3 was for Nevin George who spun while running fifth. George also brought out the fourth caution when he hit the inside wall in turn four on lap 27. The fifth and final caution was for Ron Silk who lost an engine. Christopherís only challenge came from Mike Stefanik on lap 22 when he made a strong charge but was unable to out power Christopher. Stefanik later spun and was never a factor after that. Todd Szegedy finished second and was followed by Tony Hirschman, Donnie Lia, Tom Cloce and Chuck Hossfeld. Eric Beers, Zack Sylvester, Ken Barry and Doug Coby rounded out the top 10.

NASCAR officially announced that Whelen Industries would be the title sponsor of the Modified Tour Series in 2005. NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter officially welcomed the lighting manufacturer and indicated that itís a good bet that the modifieds will get more television time in 2005 and hinted that the modifieds could very well be returning to Martinsville. The 2005 schedule is usually announced at the awards banquet in November. Present title sponsor Featherlite Trailers will remain involved in the series as they will sponsor the Most Improved Driver award and a year ending award of $3,000 to the driver that wins the most races.

The Busch North Series may be losing another competitor in the near future but thatís a good thing as Ryan Moore, the 21year old son of Kelly Moore has signed a driver development contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Moore, who will still compete in the Busch North Series when his schedule permits, will do testing and a limited Busch Series schedule in 2005.

Busch North scribe Alan Claffie stated that a meeting was held with series owners and drivers at Loudon where they were told a new series title sponsor is expected to be announced soon plus short track purses will be doubled in 2005. Point moneys will be paid out three or four times a year and professionally installed car bodies will no longer be needed as individual body panels will no longer be blended to one another. A fifteen-race schedule is almost complete and Claffie alluded to the fact that Seekonk, Waterford and Beech Ridge in Maine will not be on the schedule. On the other hand itís a good bet that the series will visit Richmond and Martinsville. Like the Modifieds on Friday, the Busch North Series scheduled for Saturday was rained out and re-scheduled for Monday.

The Dodge Weekly Racing Thursday night Thunder at Thompson fell victim to heavy mist that blanketed the Connecticut area most of the day. The cancellation solidified current Sunoco Modified point leader Todd Ceravolo a hefty payday in the NASCAR New England Regional Dodge Racing Series. Point leaders, as of September 19, will gather in Nashville, Tenn. later in the year for awards distribution. Ted Christopher, the point leader at Stafford was the apparent winner of the series title. Dick Wolf, who races at Lee USA in New Hampshire has closed dramatically in recent weeks and had got the attention of NASCAR. It seems that the Speedway has been "helping" Wolf with his title attempt. Wolf finished third on September 10 and was basically out of the title hope. Then, it seems Lee Officials disqualified the first and second place finishers and elevated Wolf to the No.1 spot which may have displaced Christopher from the standings lead. NASCAR did not release the standings as of Thursday as those in charge want to investigate what happened at Lee and make sure everything is on the up and up. In the past it didnít take a rocket scientist to figure out when a track was helping their guy out. Itís a big deal to be the track where the champion comes from and track operators have been known to show a little favoritism at times if their guy needed it. Hopefully NASCAR will straighten this situation out. In addition to Christopher, Ceravolo and Wolf, Jeff Struck who raced at the Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania, Aaron Fellows who raced at the Twin State Speedway in Claremont, NH, Vinnie Annarummo who raced at Seekonk Speedway in Mass, Eddie Reed who raced at Waterford, Bob Gahan who raced at the Star Speedway in New Hampshire and Bub Bilodeau who raced at the Beech Ridge Speedway in Maine are in the top tier of the New England Regional standings.

NASCAR released the New England Regional standings late last Friday. Going into the final weekend of the point season Christopher continues to lead Wolf with Jeff Strunk, third and Todd Ceravolo fourth. Eddie Reed JR was officially placed in the seventh spot. The NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series also recognizes each trackís designated second division. Taking top honors in the New England Region Short Track division is Corey Hutchings who represents the Thompson Speedway. In twenty starts, Hutchings recorded 17 top fiveís including nine wins. Ryan Posocco, who represents the Stafford Speedway, was the runner-up with six wins in 18 starts.

The Stafford Motor Speedway was quiet on Friday night. Championships in all three NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series divisions had been settled. Ted Christopher with eight wins in 18 starts is the 2004 SK Modified Champion. In addition to being the top winner Christopher was the most consistent with18 top 10s. Christopher actually ran in 19 events but was disqualified on May 14, after finishing third, as his car weighed in with too much left side weight. During mid season from July 2 to August 6 Christopher was on a tear as he won five in a row, bring his lifetime feature win total at Stafford to 79. During the final weeks of competition Christopher has become unhappy with the way track officials have treated him and has made it known that he will not participate in the speedwayís awards banquet. Finishing a distant second to Christopher is Todd Owen. Ryan Posocco, with five wins has a lock on the Late Model championship and Kevin Gambacorta with one win is the DARE Stock champion. The speedway published their official ruling on the September 10 actions of Chris Jones. Jones is now under indefinite suspension and is not allowed on speedway property.

Heavy rain at the Waterford Speedbowl forced the track management to pull the plug on Saturday nightís races. Eddie Reed Jr. and car owner Flash Gordon Rogers were extremely happy with the rain-out as it locked them into a first tier finishing spot in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series, New England Region and a healthy payday at seasons end. Reed led defending SK Modified champion Dennis Gada by 12 points. As he does at Thompson, Corey Hutchings led the Late Model standings at Waterford. In addition to his nine wins at Thompson, Hutchings has five at Waterford.

The Nextel Cup division of NASCAR was at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH this past weekend. The Busch Series had a week off. Qualifying was rained out and points set the field. Jeff Gordon was given the pole starting position and Jimmie Johnson, the outside pole. Kurt Busch took the win after leading half the event. Matt Kenseth finished second with Dale Earnhardt Jr., third.

Chris Economaki, editor of National Speed Sport, reported that NASCAR and the people within have donated generously to the political campaign of President George Busch. Five members of the France family that owns and controls NASCAR and the International Speedway Corporation had each donated the maximum allowed $2,000. NASCAR President Mike Helton sprung for $1,000 plus $500 to the Republican National Committee. On the competitive side, Teresa Earnhardt gave $2,000 to Bush. Darrell Waltrip and Dale Jarrett also gave. Three members of the Hendrick family gave $4,000 to Democratic candidate John Edwards.

On a sad note, Ray DeLisle, a former competitor at the Waterford Speedbowl in the 50ís and 60ís, passed away.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 or days at 860-433-5250.E-mail _ HYPERLINK mailto:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene for over 3 decades.
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