Friday September 15, 2006

By Phil Smith                                                          Click On Any Photo For Full Size Version

Thirty five years ago in 1971, Islip, Stafford and Oswego were still running as the season was winding down. Jim Shampine won the Oswego 200 for Modifieds. At Islip, Jim Hendrickson, in the Tony Ferrente x3, ruled the roost. Cliff Tyler finished second and was followed by Jerry Cook and Gary Winters. At Stafford on Sunday afternoon, Bugsy Stevens in the Koszela Woodchopper took the win over Fred DeSarro, Denis Giroux and Ray Miller. Howie Brown won the NESMRA Supermodified feature at Thompson over Paul Richardson and Eddie West.

Dave Humphrey beat out Len Thrall and Russ Klar to win the Midget feature. Donny Bunnell took the win at Waterford over Glynn Shafer, Bob Tetreault, Lou Toro and Mark Geer.
Thirty years ago in 1976, Charlie Jarzombek recorded his tenth victory of the season at Riverhead. Fred Sipala finished second with Wayne Anderson, third. The Thompson 300 was a non sanctioned small block Modified event. Geoff Bodine in a Dick Armstrong team car took the win over Ed Flemke, Bugsy Stevens, Ray Hendrick, Don LaJoie, SJ Evonsion, Pete Fiandaca and George Moose Hewitt.

Twenty five years ago in 1981, just about everyone was at the Pocono Raceway for the Annual Race of Champions. Ninety eight Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the 51 starting spots. Among those who did not qualify was Tom Baldwin who set an altitude record when he rode over Fred Harbach's wheel and vaulted out of the track. Geoff Bodine started on the pole with Richie Evans on the outside. A classic battle was anticipated between the two but it came to an end on lap two when the rear end in the Evans mount broke. The 250 lap contest ended up being a survival of the fittest affair. George Kent took the lead on lap 179 and went on to take the win. Jamie Tomaino passed Tony Hirschman on the final lap to finish second. Jerry Cook finished fourth. It was also on this weekend that the last ever race would be run at the Danbury Fairgrounds as the property had been sold and the speedway would give way to a shopping mall. Bill Ladya won the final event.

Twenty years ago in 1986, the Race of Champions was still at Pocono and it was the same story as in 1981 as George Kent took the win. Kent took the lead after Reggie Ruggiero pitted on lap 164 of the 250 lap contest. Geoff Bodine ended up in second spot and was followed by Jim Spencer, Ruggiero, Jan Leaty and Tony Siscone. In other weekend action, Stan Greger won at Riverside over Bob Polverari and Dan Avery.

Fifteen years ago in 1991, the Race of Champions made its final appearance at Pocono Raceway. Donald "Satch" Worley, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino took the lead from Tom Baldwin with two laps to go and went on to take the win. Baldwin broke a valve and faded to fifth in the final run down. Rick Fuller finished second and was followed by Jamie Tomaino and Greg Sacks. Mike Stefanik finished sixth and wrapped up the tour championship. In other weekend action, Jerry Marquis got his seventh win at Monadnock and it was Jim Broderick taking the win at Waterford over Ted Christopher. In Winston Cup action, Harry Gant earned the name, "MR. September" as he made it three in a row in NASCAR's elite division at Dover. Gant also won the preliminary Busch Grandnational event. On a sad note, former driver, promoter and friend of many, George Pendergast, passed away after a bout with cancer.

Ten years ago in 1996, Todd Ceravolo got his fourth win of the season at Waterford. Jim Broderick finished second with Don Fowler, third. Matt Kobyluck was the Late Model winner. Tom McCann won his seventh at Riverhead. Don Howe finished second and announced that he was retiring after 27 years of competition which saw 27 wins and three championships. Steve Park, who was at the top of his game in the Featherlite Modifieds got "THE CALL” from Dale Earnhardt Sr and announced that he would be driving a DEI entry in 1997 on the Busch Grandnational circuit of NASCAR. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Jeff Gordon took the win. Jim Spencer was fined $10 grand for trying to hit Wally Dallenbach along with Michael Waltrip and Kyle Petty who were fined for threatening.

Five years ago in 2001, the country was still reeling from the World Trade Center tragedy. NASCAR cancelled the entire weekend schedule. The Modified and Busch North events were cancelled and the Winston Cup event was rescheduled for Thanksgiving weekend. Before a light crowd the show went on at Thompson on Thursday night. Kerry Malone took the SK Modified win over Scott Foster, Ted Christopher, Bill Anderson and Jeff Malave. Eric Berndt won the SK Modified feature at Waterford, was disqualified, had it overturned. Ron Yuhas finished second with Mark LaJuenesse, third. The Waterford drivers took up a collection for the World Trade Center victims which resulted in over $10,000. On a sad note, Lou Funk Sr passed away at the age of 76 and CART Superstar Alex Zanardi lost both legs as a result of a crash in Germany.

Last year, 2005 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway for the Annual Thompson 300. With the announcement that the 300 would return to its original format came applause from fans and competitors alike. Thirty-seven Modifieds were on hand for time trials on Saturday. Tony Hirschman, who trailed Ted Christopher by 21 points going into the event, earned his seventh Bud Pole of the year. Hirschman was in a class by himself as he toured the 5/8 mile oval in 18.962 seconds for a speed of 118.658 mph. Second fastest was Zach Sylvester who went 118.141 mph. Donnie Lia, Mike Stefanik and John Blewett III rounded out the top five. Hirschman drew eighth on the draw for starting positions while Carl Pasteryak drew the pole.

Ted Christopher maintained his lead in the Whelen Modified Tour Series standings as he added the Thompson 300 to his war chest of wins. Christopher, who now had six wins on the series for the year, took the lead with 26 laps to go. Tony Hirschman, who was the odds-on favorite to take the win, finished second. Ed Flemke Jr. turned in a strong run to finish third. Jerry Marquis and Mike Stefanik rounded out the top five. With five laps to go the event took a twist that changed the top five. Donnie Lia exhibited a little road rage as he planted Doug Coby into the front chute wall. Coby, who had taken second spot after running Lia up the track a bit. Instead of an almost positive second place finish Coby ended up 19th. NASCAR felt that Lia’s actions were deliberate and parked him with five to go which resulted in a 20th place finish. Fines and or sanctions from NASCAR could be headed Lia’s way.
The Sunoco Modifieds and the Late Models ran double features. Ronnie Silk won the Saturday night Sunoco Modified 25 lapper over Tom Cravenho, Jimmy Blewett, Keith Rocco and Jeff Malave. Woody Pitkat was the Late Model winner. Sunday’s action saw Jeff Malave rebound to take the win in the Sunoco Modifieds. Malave started fifth. Second generation driver Keith Rocco finished an impressive second with Tom Cravenho, third. Richard Savory and Ronnie Silk rounded out the top five. Charles Bailey III took the Sunday Late Model event and Ron Smith won the Pro Stock finish.

The Stafford Motor Speedway wrapped up its regular season on Friday night. Lloyd Agor went into the night’s SK Modified feature with a 24 point lead over Todd Owen. He was hoping to wrap up his first Stafford championship. Lady luck had other ideas as Agor ended up 14th and Owen ended up third behind Jeff Baral and Ted Christopher. Owen closed to within 2 points of Agor. The track title would be settled at the Car Quest Fall Final. Jeff Baral staged a spirited battle with Ted Christopher right up to the final lap of the 40-lap feature. Baral had led from lap 12. Early leader Keith Rocco fell victim to mechanical problems. Willie Hardie and Chuck Docherty rounded out the top five. Other Friday night winners were Tom Butler in the Late Models and John Hurley in the DARE Stocks.
Shawn Monahan scored his second victory of the season at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. Monahan started on the pole and led the entire distance. Rob Summers finished second and in doing so, took over the point lead. Going into the event Ron Yuhas Jr held a 22 point lead. A devastating crash in the early going put Yuhas behind the eight ball as his car was severly damaged and his night ended with a 19th place finish. Dennis Gada finished third. Other winners at the shoreline oval on Saturday night were Norm Root in the Sportsman division, Larry Goss in the Late Models, Dave Silvia in the Mini Stocks and George Whitney in the Legends Cars.

That’s about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, and R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail:

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and various other publications
 for over 3 decades.

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