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Friday September 14, 2007

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago, in 1967, Gene Bergin made it two in a row at Stafford. Don MacTavish finished second and was followed by Fred DeSarro, Jerry Wheeler and Rene Charland. The USAC Sprinters were also on hand for the Joe Csiki Memorial. Former Eastern Bandit Dennis Zimmerman, who would go on to become a Rookie of the Year at Indianapolis, won the event. Gene Bergin finished second with Earl Halaquist, third. Zimmerman and Bergin would also be inducted into The New England Auto Racers Hall of Fame. Norwood Arena ran their annual Bay State 200, which was won by another Hall of Famer, Ralph "Hop” Harrington. The Albany Saratoga Speedway wrapped up their season with a 50 lapper, which was won by Dave Kotary. Don MacTavish finished second and was followed by Rene Charland, Bill Wimble and Eddie Flemke. Bill Wimble was named as the Modified Champion. George Pendergast was the Sportsman Champion.

Thirty-five years ago in 1972, the only modified action was in the state of New York. Islip ran a 100 lapper on Saturday night, which was won by Charlie Jarzombek. Ted Wesnoski finished second. Outsiders didn’t fare too well. Bugsy Stevens finished 10th and Jerry Cook finished 19th.

Thirty years ago, in 1977, it was Thompson 300 weekend. Stafford was scheduled to run on Friday night but fell victim to rain. Saturday night at Seekonk wasn’t much better as it was very foggy at the cement palace. John Rosati took the win over Eddie St Angelo. The Thompson 300 was run under threatening skies. George Summers won the non-qualifiers 50 lapper and after starting dead last in the 50 car starting field, almost walked off with the top prize. Bugsy Stevens was leading when the field went to caution at around the 170-lap mark. Stevens gambled on having a re-start and felt he had the equipment to march to the front. Summers was also running around in the rain and in the lead when he pitted. Enter Eddie Flemke. Fresh off his 200 at Stafford win, Flemke played a waiting game and gambled that the red flag would indicate the end of the race. Needless to say, Flemke was right as the race was called official at 182 laps. A dripping wet Flemke had pulled off the two biggest wins in New England, The 200 at Stafford and the Thompson 300. Ronnie Bouchard finished second with Maynard Troyer, Jerry Cook and Geoff Bodine following.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, the Race of Champions at Pocono was the big show for the Modifieds. Twenty three thousand fans and over 100 Modifieds were on hand for what was then, the most prestigious race to win. Greg Sacks and the Ernie Wilsburg No.5 had all but dominated just about every major event run during the season. The Race of Champions wasn’t any different. Starting fifth in the 45 car field, Sacks took the lead from Jim Spencer on lap 13 and held the point thru lap 100 when he pitted for fuel and tires. Restarting in the rear, the Long Island hot shoe made a determined march to the front and re-took the lead from Spencer on lap 160. From there on it was a Sunday drive to the finish at 250 laps. Spencer blew his engine after being passed by Richie Evans on lap 221. Evans was no match for the highflying Sacks and had to settle for second. Ray Miller finished third with Greme Bolia, fourth. George Summers rounded out the top five, one lap down. Brian Horn won the National Parts Peddler Street Stock championship. Jan Leaty finished second, Mike Scroger was third and Mike Lovetere was fourth. Also in the field was Rick Fuller who got in thru the consolation. Fuller came from 27th to the lead in six laps. Maynard Troyer was presented the Fred DeSarro award during pre-race activities. Shortly after accepting the award, Troyer announced that he was retiring from driving after the conclusion of the event. Waterford had a Saturday night event scheduled but threw in the towel because of rain. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs, Darrell Waltrip took the 500 mile win over Kyle Petty. In the preliminary Busch North event, Randy Lajoie qualified a Bob Johnson car on the outside pole and led over half the race before blowing a tire and hitting the wall.

Twenty years ago in 1987, the Race of Champions was still going strong at Pocono. Now a NASCAR sanctioned event, one hundred eight Modifieds were on hand. George Brunnhoelzl took the win over Doug Hevron, George Kent, Wayne Edwards and Roger Treichler. Brunnhoelzl took the lead from John Blewett JR. on lap 185 of the 250 lap event. Carl Erickson won the 40 lap National Parts Peddler Street Stock Championship. In Winston Cup action at Dover Downs Ricky Rudd took the win over Davey Allison.

Ten Years ago, in 1997, the re-born Race of Champions was run at Oswego. With the exception of Tony Hirschman, Jan Leaty, Tim Arre and Ted Christopher, the event drew mostly local drivers from Lancaster and Tioga. Hirschman, driving a Leaty team car, won the 200 lap event. Leaty finished second and was followed by Arre. At one time, the ROC was 'THE" modified event but since falling on hard times a few years previous when promoters checks bounced, many competitors chose to ignore the event. Saturday night action at Waterford rained out. At Dover Downs, Buckshot Jones spun while leading with 14 laps to go and handed the Grand National victory to Joe Bessey. Randy LaJoie finished second. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Kyle Petty had the field covered until he was forced to pit for fuel with 20 laps to go. Mark Martin took the win with Dale Earnhardt coming home in second spot.

Five years ago in 2002 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at Loudon for what had to be one of the best events ever. Chuck Hossfeld, driving the Mystic Missile of Bob Garbarino, went non-stop and used a brilliant three wide pass to take the lead and the eventual win. For Hossfeld and Garbarino, 2002 almost didn’t happen. Garbarino was contemplating retiring from racing and Hossfeld was looking for a competitive ride on the western New York circuit. Less than a week before the season began the pair hooked up. Hossfeld ended up racing at tracks he never saw before but adapted with the precision of the professional that he is. Although not considered a rookie, Hossfeld had less time on Tour Series tracks than Todd Szegedy has. NASCAR determined because of the fact that Hossfeld was a competitor in the Craftsman Truck Series. Hossfeld's win was no cakewalk. Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke JR were the class of the field but late race problems for both kept them out of victory lane. Flemke was the top lap leader but a slowly deflating tire was his undoing with less than ten laps to go. Christopher tried one of his famous bottom shots but got bit, as his worn tires weren’t up to the task. Mike Stefanik, who came all the way from a 27th starting spot, finished second. In comparison to Christopher and Flemke, Stefanik’s run was a cautious one and in the end, it paid off. John Blewett III finished a strong third and Christopher recovered from his daring move to finish fourth. Rounding out the top five was Tony Hirschman. Despite his nearly flat tire, Flemke toughed it out to finish fifteenth. Geoff Bodine, who qualified on the outside pole, never mustered the necessary steam to run up front and finished 24th, the last car on the lead lap. The series point standings showed Eddie Flemke still leading by a slim margin of five points over Jerry Marquis. Mike Stefanik, who had all but conceded a repeat title until his Thompson 300 win, sat third, seventeen points behind Flemke. By virtue of his Loudon win, Chuck Hossfeld had moved to within 48 points of the leader. Fifth thru tenth were Rick Fuller, Ted Christopher, Todd Szegedy, Nevin George, John Blewett III and Jamie Tomaino. David Berghman had hoped to break into the top ten after qualifying sixth fastest but a broken transmission sidelined him after 86 laps which placed him 30th at the finish. The regular weekly racing in Southern New England saw Twin events run at Thompson last Thursday. The first event, left over from August 22, was looking to be Matty Adante’s first win until the last lap when he made contact with Stu McCarthy. McCarthy took the checker but was put to the tail of the lead lap as officials felt that he deliberately put Adante around. Eric Berndt, who has had a somewhat hard luck season, was awarded the win. Ron Yuhas JR was moved up to second spot followed by Kerry Malone and Ted Christopher, who recovered from an early spin with Bo Gunning. Bert Marvin scored his sixth win of the season as he captured the nightcap. Ted Christopher now has enough points to secure the 2002 Sunoco-SK Modified track championship. This Thursday night will be the final Thursday Night Thunder Series at Thompson. Following this Thursday’s racing program the speedway management will be making preparations for the October 6 PASS 200 Championship which is expected to draw Pro Stock competitors from all over the east coast. Stafford wrapped up its Friday night racing as Doug Coby took his third SK-Modified feature of the year at the Nutmeg oval. Bo Gunning finished second and wrapped up the 2002 SK-Modified Track Championship At Waterford, on Saturday night, Rob Janovic got his third win of the year in the Modifieds but the big story was the fact that Allen Coates, by virtue of his late model win, clinched the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series by Dodge Short Track Regional title as well as the track late model championship. The modified championship at the shoreline oval was still up in the air as Dennis Gada, who finished fifth held a slim 34 point lead over Ed Reed JR, who finished second, behind Janovic.

Last year, 2006 The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was part of what was called Modified Mania at the Thompson Speedway. Modified Mania replaced what was the Thompson 300. The 150 lap Whelen Modified event carried a posted purse of $86,753. A somewhat slim field of 39 cars was on hand to qualify for the 36 starting spots up for grabs. Donny Lia, who has somewhat of a bland season, took the Busch Pole as he toured the 5/8-mile oval in 18.793 seconds. Tony Hirschman Jr. was second fastest with a run of 18.798 seconds. The re-draw for starting positions saw Ron Silk draw the pole with Matt Hirschman drawing the outside pole. Tony Ferrente Jr., Tony Hirschman and Eric Beers drew positions three through five. Rounding out the top ten starting spots were Ron Yuhas Jr., Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero, Lia and Jerry Marquis.

Eric Beers finally got the monkey off his back as he put the mighty No.3 of Michael and Janice Boehler in victory lane. Beers pitted just before the 1/3 mark of the 150-lap event for fresh tires and did a masterful job of working his way to the front and took the lead from Ed Flemke Jr. on lap 102. Flemke faded in the later stages as he ended up fourth in the final rundown. Reggie Ruggiero ended up second with John Blewett III in third spot. Rounding out the top five were Flemke and Tony Ferrente Jr. Sixth thru tenth were Jerry Marquis, Doug Coby, Matt Hirschman, Mike Stefanik and Rick Fuller. Of the 36 starters, 26 of them were running on the lead lap at the end. For the most part it was a clean race with only 8 cautions for 38 laps slowing the field. There were four lead changes among four drivers. Matt Hirschman led from his outside pole starting spot to lap 52. Mike Stefanik, who still leads the point standings, led from lap 53 to lap 73. Stefanik currently holds a 94 point edge over Ted Christopher who finished 28th, three laps down at the finish. Matt Hirschman led again from lap 74 to lap 87 and Flemke led from lap 88 to lap 101 before giving way to Beers who led the rest of the way.

In addition to the Whelen Modifieds the True Value Modifieds, Race of Champions Modifieds, Sunoco SK type Modifieds and Pro Four Modifieds also raced at the Thompson Speedway last weekend. The support events provided numerous wrecks. Woody Pitkat won the Sunoco SK type Modified event over Jeff Malave, Tom Cravenho and Todd Ceravolo.

Woody Pitkat of Stafford, CT scored his fourth Sunoco Modified victory of the season to extend his lead another two points over race runner-up Jeff Malave. The Sunoco Modifieds went 35-strong for the 50-lap special for Sunoco Modified Mania. Steve Masse led the opening lap but a caution flew immediately when the accordion effect at the head of the field put Joe Lemay in the outside wall. On the ensuing restart, Bert Marvin was able to jump out to the lead. Masse was slow exiting turn two bunching up the pack once again to send cars at the rear of the field scattering and spinning. Marvin had to contend with Salzarulo, Malave and Cravenho on the restart. Marvin was up to the task resuming his lead with Malave in second and Keith Rocco charging into third. Malave immediately got alongside Marvin and was able to take over the top spot on lap three. Malave led Marvin, Rocco, Ceravolo and a battle for fourth between Jimmy Blewett and Ted Christopher. Blewett got by Christopher leaving him to fight off Pitkat. On lap 8, Pitkat moved into sixth while Christopher continued to backslide losing a position to Tommy Cravenho as well. The leader began to stretch his lead over Marvin. The best battle was for the third position with Rocco, Ceravolo, Blewett and Pitkat. Ceravolo got a run inside Rocco and the two made contact. Rocco held on while Blewett was able to get by both. Blewett started to chase down Marvin. Malave watched his lead evaporate when the caution flew for an incident involving Ryan Stone and David LaCroix. Under the caution, Rocco headed down pit road for a chassis adjustment. The restart order found Malave, Marvin, Blewett, Pitkat and Ceravolo inside the top five. Malave was out front with Blewett and Marvin running nerf-bar to nerf bar for second. Blewett was able to grab the runner-up position. Cravenho was also able to advance moving into the fifth position over Ceravolo. Pitkat began his run to the front taking over the third position from Marvin, taking Cravenho along for the ride. Blewett completed his charge over the second position from Malave on lap 22. The halfway marker was marred by a scary wreck that resulted in John Catania sliding down the backstretch on his roof. Catania was uninjured. Both Marvin and Christopher pitted under the caution. With Blewett back out front, Malave bobbled on the restart giving up the second spot to Pitkat. Pitkat got alongside Blewett for the lead on lap 26. The two ran side-by-side for several laps before a slide by Pitkat gave Blewett the lead. Malave made a run on Pitkat in second to no avail. The action was slowed on lap 32 when Dan LaJeunesse spun on the front stretch. Other cars were ultimately involved in the incident. Blewett handily ran out to the lead again as Pitkat and Malave resumed their battle for the second spot. Action was halted immediately for Dave Nordman and Russ Blanco. Matt Hirschman, making a rare appearance in the Sunoco Modifieds, failed to come up to speed on the ensuing restart sending cars scrambling. Rocco caught a wheel and launched into the outside wall. The car burst into flames. Rocco was able to walk away from the incident. There was a shocking development when leader Jimmy Blewett headed down pit road with mechanical woes as the rear end in his car broke. Pitkat inherited the lead with Malave in second, Cravenho in third. Ceravolo ran fourth and Earl Paulus in fifth. With ten laps remaining the top five got strung out with Pitkat stretching his lead ever-so-slightly over Malave.

The northern New England based True Value Modified Series finished under a yellow-checker after a massive wreck on a restart with two laps to go. Kirk Alexander took the eventual win over Les Hinkley, Jon McKennedy and Dwight Jarvis. Earl Paules won the Race of Champions Modified Tour event over Matt Hirschman and Eric Beers.

The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway hosted round two of its September Series on Friday night. Two more Friday night events remain before the season CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend, scheduled for September 30th and October 1st. Willie Hardie drove to his second SK Modified feature win in the last three weeks, Tom Fearn won his first Late Model feature win of the 2006 season, Chris Matthews won his fourth SK Light Modified feature of the 2006 season, Paul Conte scored his firsts career Ltd. Late Model feature win, and Norm Sears picked up his first DARE Stock feature win of the 2006 season.

In the 40-lap SK Modified feature, Willie Hardie, of Stafford Springs, battled with Lloyd Agor for several laps before taking the lead on lap-25. Once Hardie was in the lead, he was never headed as he picked up his second win in the last three weeks to put himself in the thick of the SK Modified championship race. Curt Brainard led the first 11 laps before giving up the lead to Agor on lap-12. Agor then led until lap-25, when Hardie took over. Rounding out the top-5 behind Hardie was Agor, Jeff Baral, Chris Jones, and Eric Berndt. It was a bad night to be a points leader, as Woody Pitkat, Todd Owen, and Frank Ruocco all experienced difficulties during the race, relegating them to poor finishes and tightening the championship battle. Pitkat only completed 8 laps before retiring, Ruocco lost a radiator in an accident and lost 5 laps before getting back on track to finish 17th, and Owen finished 18th after his crew had to repair a broken driveshaft. In the chase for the SK Modified championship, Frank Ruocco holds a 14-point lead over Eric Berndt, 536-522. Willie Hardie is third, 16 points behind, Todd Owen is fourth, 22 points behind, and Jeff Malave is fifth, 28 points behind.

The Waterford Speedbowl fell victim to a mid-evening shower and was able to complete only part of their program before track management was forced to call a halt to the racing and pull the plug around 9pm after thundershowers moved in. The Sportsman completed their first scheduled event with Billy Gertsch winning followed by Dwayne Dorr and Ed Puleo. The Legends completed their feature with Michael Gervais winning. The Modified feature had 12 laps completed when the rains came. Tom Fox was leading over Shawn Monahan, Dennis Gada, and Jeff Pearl.

It looked like there would be racing at the Waterford Speedbowl at least until June of 2007 as Terry Eames was given an extension to the foreclosure proceedings that were impending on the property in which the Speedbowl is located. Eames claimed that Harvey Industries, a supplier of windows and doors, was looking to purchase eight of the Speedbowl’s 38.75 acres. Eames at the time had $1.6 million in debt hanging over his head. In a somewhat related matter, driver Ken Voite’s Defective Premises suit against Eames was scheduled for pre-trial conference on January 18th of 2007. There was a movement underway to buy Eames out which was stalled at the time.

Eames should be proud of himself as he had guided the Speedbowl to almost certain extinction. If not for the efforts of Bill Roth and Pete Zanardi the shoreline oval would not have made it through 2006. It’s amazing the shoreline oval still drew a decent crowd without spending a nickel on advertising. All competitors and fans could hope for at that time was that someone would be able to buy Eames out and keep the facility in its present state.

In a prepared statement Eames stated that Harvey Industries would submit their plan for town approval very soon. They had already had numerous favorable meetings with town staff, as Eames claims he had. He also alluded to the fact that the use they intend is legal in the zone the property is in which he indicated the process should be very fairly simple from then on in. Eames also stated that Harvey Industries had already spent considerable amounts to do testing and design work and he had a sales agreement with them secured with a large deposit. Eames feels that the town of Waterford was very thorough in their land use decisions and the time the judge allowed before foreclosure would be long enough to get everything in place for the transaction to take place. In addition he stated that he had already started to line up new financing to replace Washington Mutual who,at the time, owned the mortgage on the property and had had dozens of offers to help out with financial assistance since the foreclosure became public.

NASCAR suspended Kevin Grubb indefinitely because he refused to submit to a random drug test following the Busch Series race at Richmond International Speedway. Kevin Harvick was the Nextel Cup winner at Richmond.

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: smithpe_97_97@yahoo.com

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

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