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Friday September 21, 2007

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago, in 1967, rain washed out all racing in New England. The only action was at the Utica-Rome Speedway where a 150-lap season finale was held. Don MacTavish took the win over Jerry Cook, Bill Wimble, Sonny Seamon and Kenny Shoemaker. Wimble was crowned the Modified Track Champion and Bernie Miller was the Sportsman champion. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Richard Petty won the 500-lap event by four laps over Dick Hutcherson.

Thirty-five years ago, in 1972, the modifieds headed to Martinsville for a 100 lapper. Local favorite Paul Radford took the win over Denis Giroux, Jerry Cook, Billy Hensley and Bugsy Stevens. Stevens’ hopes of a fourth national title were going away as Cook held an 890-point lead. Jim Shampine took the season ending Oswego Modified-Sportsman 200.Eddie Flemke finished second with Mike Loescher, Roger Treichler and Geoff Bodine rounding out the top five.



Thirty years ago in 1977, a full plate of racing was to be had both in the northeast and in the south. Stafford ran an open competition 30 lapper on Friday night with Ronnie Bouchard being declared the winner after the event was stopped after 19 laps because of rain. Bugsy Stevens ended up in second with John Rosati, third. Seekonk’s 100 lap open and Islip’s All Star 300 also fell victim to rain as well as the Sunday Small Block Modified event at Thompson. In the Southland, Donald ”Satch” Worley won the fall 150 at Martinsville on Saturday afternoon. Maynard Troyer, Jerry Cook, Billy Hensley and Wayne Anderson rounded out the top 5. The modifieds headed up the road on Saturday night to the Franklin County Speedway where Geoff Bodine took the win over Paul Radford, Worley, Troyer and Cook.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, Greg Sacks continued his dream year of almost total domination of the modifieds as he won the annual Race of Champions at the Pocono International Speedway. Sacks took the lead from Jim Spencer on lap 160 of the 250-lap event. Richie Evans moved past Spencer on lap 169 and dogged Sacks to the finish. Spencer held is own in third spot until he lost an engine on lap 221. Ray Miller ended up third with Graeme Bolia fourth and George Summers rounding out the top five. During pre-race activities, driver and car builder Maynard Troyer was presented the Fred DeSarro Memorial Award. Shortly after the presentation Troyer announced that he was retiring from driving at the conclusion of the event. Brian Horn won the National Parts Peddler Street Stock Championship event. Jan Leaty finished second. Waterford’s Mike Lovetere finished fourth. Among those in the street stock event was Ricky Fuller. Although he didn’t finish in the top five in the main, Fuller was the big show in the consi as he came from a 27th starting spot to take the lead in six laps on the tricky ¾ mile oval. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Darrell Waltrip took the 500-mile win over Kyle Petty.

Twenty years ago in 1987, George Brunnhoelzl Jr. made his mark in the record books as he won the Race of Champions at Pocono. Brunnhoelzl took the lead from John Blewett Jr. on lap 185 and never looked back for the remainder of the 250-lap event. Doug Hevron finished second and was followed by George Kent, Wayne Edwards, Roger Treichler and Ron Shepherd. Peter”Buzzie”Erickson was the winner of the companion Street Stock event. Two Hundred Forty eight cars, including 108 modifieds were entered into competition. In Winston Cup action at Dover, Ricky Rudd took the win over Davey Allison.

Fifteen years ago in 1992, the entire East Coast was covered with rain.

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. Hirshman, driving a Leaty teamcar, 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 ago when promoters checks bounced, many competitors chose to ignore the event now. 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 off .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. NASCAR’s Jim Hunter said, “The short tracks and the regional tours are the backbone of NASCAR. NASCAR”s Chris Boals said that the sanctioning body was developing a strategic plan to boost these series. Boals said that just about everything was now in place and an announcement should be coming from NASCAR in the not too distant future. Evidently part of the plan was the announcement made that The National NWRS Champion, Peter Daniels, will be invited to the NYC Banquet. Also, all of the Regional Touring Series Champions (including the FMS and the BNS) will be a part of the banquet. This was announced in the Drivers Meeting at New Hampshire.

The regular weekly racing in Southern New England was slowly but surely coming to a halt. Thompson ran their final Thursday night Thunder series, which turned into a slugfest between Bo Gunning and Ted Christopher. Gunning had taken the lead from Christopher on lap 14 and was holding the former National Champion at bay until the final lap. Christopher made a move to the bottom and the two came together. Gunning went on to take the win as Christopher gathered it back up to finish second. Christopher claims the move was deliberate, Gunning, on the other hand said, “That’s racing”. Tom Fox finished third. Stafford was idle on Friday night. Tom Fox got a definite gift at Waterford on Saturday night. Dennis Charette had led a good part of the event with Fox on the outside. With 12 laps to go, Fox got a little wiggly in turn four and the next thing you know, both were in the fence. Both were able to drive away. Charette pitted and Fox took a position at the head of the field. Fox definitely lost foreword motion and should have re-started in the rear. It is common practice that when one causes the caution, which he did, and when one loses foreword motion, which he did, the car in question goes to the rear. Ed Reed Jr. finished second and closed the gap to 28 points behind Dennis Gada who is looking to win the championship. Gada had his problems and had to pit with a broken tie rod but made a remarkable recovery as he came from the back to nip Ron Yuhas Jr. at the finish line and record a fourth place finish. Mark Lajunesse finished third as he too, received a gift from officials. During the closing laps Ron Silk was attempting to pass Lajunesse on the outside in turn two when Silk felt that Lajunesse rode him up and he hit the wall. With obvious right side damage, Silk managed to make the next re-start and dumped Lajunesse into the infield as a pay back. Silk was black flagged and bounced for the night and Lajunesse was given his spot back.

Last year, 2006, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the New Hampshire International Speedway last weekend for a 100-mile event that was run on Friday. Forty-one cars were on hand for time trials. Showers forced NASCAR to cancel qualifying and set the starting field based on car owner point standings. Mike Stefanik was given the pole starting position. Earlier before the rains came a practice session gave a preview of things to come. Todd Szegedy was the fastest as he toured the 1-mile oval to the tune of 128.398 MPH. Second fastest at 128.363 MPH was Tony Hirschman. Rounding out the top five by speed were Donny Lia, Eddie Flemke Jr. and Mike Stefanik.

Because of the fact that John Blewett III chose to run for the track championship at the Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey he was forced to start 21st as he has only run a partial schedule on the tour. When he does compete in tour races he is fast, very fast. He left little doubt last Friday as he completed a clean sweep of both Whelen Modified Tour Series events at Loudon. At least this time he could celebrate. When he won the July event, he was on his way to New Jersey when he got the word that NASCAR, in its haste to complete the event under caution, had made a mistake and declared James Civali the winner. When Blewett took the checkered flag the field had been under green since lap 68 and there was no question who the winner actually was. He was flat out running! Jerry Marquis finished a close second but in the end couldn’t a pass by Blewett. Civali, who was still licking his wounds from July, finished a solid third ahead of Mike Stefanik and Todd Szegedy who rounded out the top five.

The race was slowed by only two cautions for 11 laps. The first caution was for Doug Coby who came to a stop on the front stretch on lap 48. The second caution came on lap 61 when Reggie Ruggiero, Szegedy and Chuck Hossfeld were collected in a wreck in turn four. Ruggerio got the worst of it and was done for the day. Twenty-one of the original 21 starters finished on the lead lap. As always, the Whelen Modified Tour Series event at Loudon was the best of the weekend. There were 17 official lead changes among 7 drivers. Szegedy led the most laps, 33, but it was Blewett who got the big check, $13,000 after he led only the final eight laps. Sixth through tenth were Ted Christopher, Eddie Flemke Jr., Zach Sylvester, Eric Beers and Tony Hirschman. Blewett’s younger brother Jimmy finished 11th.
Blewett backed up his Loudon win with a convincing win at his home track, Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey, on Saturday night.

The Thompson Speedway was forced to cancel their regular Thursday Night Thunder program when rain blanketed the area. With the season rapidly winding down only two more Thursday dates remain to fill out the schedule. The intensity of the points battles is lead by the Sunoco Modified division with a mere six points separating Woody Pitkat and Jeff Malave. Not only is the Thompson championship the goal of both, but the NASCAR Division IV title is also a huge part of the equation. The final two races in this division are bound to be of high interest to both competitors and fans. Tom Cravenho, Todd Ceravolo and Bert Marvin round out the top five in the point standings.

Close points races exist in the remaining five NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series divisions. Jeff Zuidema leads Jeff Connors by fifty-four points in the Pro Stock division and Steve Landry had a thirty point advantage over Corey Hutchings in the Late Models. Hutchings was under suspension for fighting and wouldl not be allowed to race this week. Thirty six points is the advantage that Roger Larson, Jr. had over Tim Sullivan in the Thompson Modified division while Limited Sportsman driver Larry Barnett held thirty eight point bulge over second place Scott Sundeen. The largest points spread is in the Mini Stocks. Shelly Perry maintained a sixty two-point advantage over Scott Michalski. Perry had the miss-fortune of breaking her wrist at the recent Modified Mania event. It was doubtful at this time as to weather she would be able to race for the balance of the season. If she can maintain her point lead she can become the first female driving champion at the northeast Connecticut oval.

The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway made the right call when they canceled Friday’s NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series racing card. With the forecast calling for intermittent rain throughout the entire day and evening, the speedway pulled the plug shortly before 9:00am. The Waterford Speedbowl closed out their regular Saturday night season this past week. Tom Fox and Diego Monahan topped a slate of 12 different winners. The Speedbowl crowned two champions as well. Tim Jordan and Danny Field clinched the Late Model and Mini Stock championships respectively and Dennis Gada was all but assured of his sixth SK crown headed into the weekend’s Finale. Rescheduled rainouts resulted in the marathon racing session. In addition to Fox and Monahan, the win list included Allen Coates and Larry Goss in the Late Models; Greg Butler Jr. and Al Stone III in the Sportsman and Joe Godbout III and Phil Evans in the Mini Stocks. It was the first-even win for Butler and the first of the season for Stone. Dan Valentine of the Faith Church Ministries of New Milford scored a convincing win in the Faster Pastor race. Curtis D’Addario Sr., a nine-time Wild n’ Wacky Wednesday winner, added another X-Car feature Saturday night, edging Mark Caise at the checkered. Jordan, the first-ever rookie to win the Late Model title, did it the hard way with a couple of 15th place finishes, the second in Jay Lozyniak’s regular ride. The consistent Field scored a third and a second. Gada needs only to start Sunday’s 100-lap SK feature to capture his record-tying sixth crown following a fifth and second. Bob Potter currently holds the record. A seventh and a third put Joe Curioso III back into the Sportsman point lead but by a scant four points over Dwayne Dorr heading into the Finale.

Fox grabbed the lead at the start and won the resumption of the SK-feature stopped after 12 laps on Sept.9. Gada made a determined outside bid following a restart with 16 laps left but drifted back to fifth at the checkered. Shawn Monahan ended up second and was followed by Chris Pasteryak and Rob Janovic. Diego Monahan held back Gada for most of the second half of the second SK race and claimed his third win of the season. Jeff Pearl, Chris Pasteryak and Mark Pane rounded out the top five.

It was announced that long time public relations director Pete Zanardi would retire from his post at the shoreline oval at seasons end. Considered one of the best in the business as both a PR Man and a writer Zanardi has been a mentor to many of us in the writing game including yours truly. Zanardi’s efforts as well as those of Bill Roth have kept the Speedbowl afloat during the last few difficult years.

In other weekend racing, Bentley Warren passed Chris Perley and Dave Mcknight to win the Bud Super Nationals at Oswego, TJ Potrzebowski won the 56th annual Race of Champions and Kevin Harvick beat out Tony Stewart in the Nextel Cup event at Loudon. Ted Christopher got a late start and an early finish. Scheduled to drive the Kirk Shelmerdine entry, Christopher started the race after seven laps were run as his spotter was stuck in an elevator. He finished dead last in 41st spot.

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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