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Friday September 28, 2007

By Phil Smith                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago in 1967, the season was slowly but surely winding down. The only action was at Stafford where Gene Bergin made it three in a row and locked up the first asphalt modified championship by taking a hard fought win over Dick Watson and Bob Melnick. Rounding out the top five were Fred Harbach and Jerry Wheeler. Bill Slater was crowned the Sportsman Champion. The midgets also ran at Stafford that weekend with Lou Fray taking the win over George Monson. The only other action was the All-Star League which ran on the dirt at the 1-1/8 mile Nazareth Speedway. Frankie Schnieder took the win over Will Cagle, Dick Havens, Sonny Hutchins and Lee Hendrickson.


Thirty-five years ago in 1972, it was all quiet as many of the modified teams in he northeast were making preparations for the following week’s Race of Champions at the Trenton Fairgrounds in New Jersey.

Thirty years ago in 1977, for the second week in a row, rain washed out the 300 lap All Star event at Islip as well as a scheduled 100 lapper at Seekonk and a 30 lap event at Thompson.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, the NASCAR Modifieds visited the Oxford Plains Speedway in Maine for a 100-lap event. The third mile oval provided some hot competition but when all was said and done, Richie Evans sat in victory lane. George Kent finished second and was followed by Dave Thomas, Bob Park, Jerry Cook, Brian Ross, George Murray and Mike McLaughlin. Waterford ran a 50 lapper for the Modifieds, which saw Glynn Shafer take the top spot over Dickie Doo Ceravolo and Randy LaJoie. Brian McCarthy won the Super Stock event. On Saturday night at the Shangri-La Speedway, Jim Spencer took the win with Richie Evans, second and Jerry Cook, third. In Winston Cup action at North Wilkesboro, N.C., Darrell Waltrip won both the pole and the race

Twenty years ago in 1987, Mike McLaughlin scored a convincing win as he won the Annual Thompson 300. Doug Hevron finished second with Brian Ross, George Kent and Dave Reszendes rounding out the top five. Ted Christopher won the 50 lap SK-Modified event over Ronnie Rocco and Bob Potter. In Winston Cup action at Martinsville, Darrell Waltrip took the win with Dale Earnhardt finishing in second spot.

Fifteen years ago in 1992, rain again washed out the entire weekend of racing.

Ten years ago in 1997, Jim Broderick won his fourth of the season at Waterford on Saturday night. Don Fowler finished second with Mark LaJunesse, third. At the Fall Final 300 at Stafford, Tim Connolly took the lead on the final lap and scored a popular win. Jerry Marquis finished second and was followed by Rick Fuller, Tony Hirshman and Ed Flemke jr. Ricky Fuller drew the pole and led the first 149 laps. Reggie Ruggiero led from lap 150 to173 before giving way to Jan Leaty who led from lap 174 to 186.Fuller led again from 187 to 235 when he pitted for tires. Connolly assumed the point and led the way until lap 237 when he gave way to Marquis. During the last five laps, Connolly charged to the front from fourth spot. In SK modified action, Bill Sharp went pole to pole, crossed the line first and was disqualified because of illegal cylinder heads Mike Christopher was awarded the win with Bob Potter, second. Winston Cup action at Martinsville was rained out and the event was run on Monday. Rusty Wallace was leading with 20 laps to go when NASCAR said he jumped a restart and black-flagged him in for a stop and go which handed the win to Jeff Burton. Dale Earnhardt finished second. Wallace was later fined for swearing on TV and was fined $5,000 which he paid in pennies (500,000).

Five years ago in 2002 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series and the Busch North Series were at Stafford for the Fall Final-Twin 150s. Both Touring series were well represented with 48 Featherlite Modifieds and 34 Busch North cars in the pit area. Chuck Hossfeld, fresh of his recent win at Loudon was the Busch Pole Sitter as he toured the half-mile oval in 18.369 seconds. Mike Johnson was the Busch North Series pole sitter. His time was 20.004. The big surprise of the day was the fact that Ted Christopher failed to qualify his Busch North Series entry. A capacity crowd was on hand. Chuck Hossfeld and car owner Bob Garbarino made the decision to go non-stop. Mike Stefanik and car owner Art Barry decided to do it with one stop with the hopes of fresh rubber giving them the edge at the finish. Needless to say, Stefanik and Barry made the right call, as they were able to over power Hossfeld on lap 91. Stefanik pitted relatively early on lap 59 and passed many of those ahead of him when they pitted on lap 84. With the exception of a brief moment when Hossfeld took the lead back from lap 126 to 128 Stefanik remained in control. Stefanik’s win coupled with Ed Flemke’s misfortune; put the defending Featherlite Modified Tour Series champion in the point lead. David Berghman had the big steam at the end but had to settle for second spot in the final order. Hossfeld held on to finish third with Jerry Marquis and Ted Christopher rounding out the top five. Flemke had his hopes dashed on lap 92 when his car suffered terminal damage after a confrontation with Joey Caraccia. Flemke was very upset over the fact that he was taken out of the event and possibly out of the championship picture.

The series point standings showed Mike Stefanik in the lead by 8 points over Jerry Marquis. Chuck Hossfeld sat in third spot, 44 points behind the leader. Rounding out the top five were Ted Christopher and Ed Flemke. Sixth through tenth were Rick Fuller, Todd Szegedy, Nevin George, David Berghman and Jamie Tomaino.

Last year, 2006, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Waterford Speedbowl. On and off rain on Saturday plus fog and rain on Sunday forced NASCAR and the Waterford Speedbowl management to announce the cancellation of the event. The Town Fair Tire Finale, including Sunday’s Whelan Modified Tour Volunteer Fire Department 150 was rescheduled for Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7-8.

The Thompson Speedway was the scene of fever pitch competition despite the fact that temperatures took a dive once the sun went down. Bert Marvin of Waterford, CT was declared the winner in the Sunoco Modified division. Les Rose, Jr. of E. Wareham, MA won the Pro Stock battle but Jeff Zuidema of N. Brookfield, MA won the war as he clinched the divisional championship. A pair of “Most Popular Drivers” scored victories with Marc Palmisano of Hadley, MA taking Late Model honors and Larry Barnett of Ledyard, CT claiming the Limited Sportsman feature win. Scott Michalski of S. Killingly, CT was tops in the Mini Stocks and Kurt Vigeant in the TIS Modifieds.
Bert Marvin of Waterford, CT crossed the line second at the conclusion of the Sunoco Modified feature event but came home with the victory. In post race technical inspection, apparent winner Jimmy Blewett of Howell, NJ was disqualified for an illegal transmission. Blewetts car, owned by Eddie Partridge was using a racing type transmission that is illegal at Thompson but is considered ok at other tracks. Marvin bested a strong field of 26-Modifieds that included two drivers vying for the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series regional championship-Jeff Malave and Woody Pitkat. A mere six points separated Woody Pitkat and Jeff Malave atop the Sunoco Modified point standings; however, a dismal night for Malave gave Pitkat some breathing room entering the final Thursday night that would feature double features for the division.

Marvin and Keith Rocco brought the field to green; however, the action was short-lived when on lap one the action was slowed for an incident that resulted in front-end damage on point leader Pitkat’s machine. Pitkat was slammed broadside by another competitor as he entered turn one. He made a remarkable save and was able to keep his car from hitting the wall. Suffering a flat left front tire, Pitkat was able to continue after service from his pit crew, rejoining the field in the 23rd position.

Marvin led Rocco and a charging Jimmy Blewett on the restart. Blewett drove by Rocco and into the second position. Malave passed Buddy Charette for fourth and a single lap later took third from Rocco. Ricky Shawn led the second group of cars that included Tommy Cravenho and Todd Ceravolo. By lap 10, Pitkat was solidly into the top-ten. Pitkat passed Charette on lap 11. Meanwhile, Shawn had fallen to the challenges of Cravenho and Ceravolo. Rocco had slipped by to the fifth position. The leader, Marvin, hit heavy lapped traffic by the halfway marker. Malave began to pressure Blewett for the second spot. Exiting turn four of lap 18, Malave was second. Blewett tried in vain to catch Malave but got out of shape, in the process falling into the clutches of Cravenho. Pitkat was pressuring Rocco for seventh when the caution flew on lap 21 for a spin by Charette.The restart pitted Marvin and Malave followed by Blewett and Cravenho in row two. Marvin got a great restart to retain his spot at the head of the pack. Blewett gave Malave a run but had to settle in for third. Contact between Cravenho and Ceravolo from third and fourth sent cars scattering. Pitkat managed to maneuver his way through the mess. Ceravolo and Dan LaJeunesse sustained heavy damage. Evidently LaJeunesse doesn’t see past his hood and his spotter wasn’t paying attention. LaJunesse was running wide open when he hit Ceravolo on the driver’s side. The impact broke the car’s rear end and sheared off the left front suspension assembly. The top-five for the restart were Marvin, Malave, Blewett, Pitkat and Rocco. Again it was Marvin getting the edge. Contact between Malave and Blewett sent Malave into the marbles and losing two spots, one to Blewett and rival Pitkat. Blewett drove by Marvin for the lead on lap 23. The caution flew on lap 25 for a spin by Pitkat. Malave was sent to the tail for his involvement in the incident. Blewett led the charge to the restart flag with Marvin in tow. Keith Rocco drilled Ricky Shawn who was in third spot and subsequently sent Shawn spinning. Both Malave and Pitkat were involved in the incident. Malave headed to pit road with heavy right front damage. Pitkat was able to continue. Malave was out for the night. Blewett sailed out to the lead on the restart with five laps remaining. Marvin had his hands full with Rocco while Charette had to contend with Pitkat. Over the final laps, Blewett stretch his lead apparently coming home with his third win of the season. Marvin was able to turn his dismal luck around with a runner-up finish turned feature victory. Rocco was credited with a second-place finish over Charette, Pitkat, and Brian Tagg inside the top-five. Pitkat was named Sunoco Modified “Most Popular Driver”.

The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway closed out their Friday night Dodge Racing Series with all division championships yet to be decided. Frank Ruocco maintained his SK Modified points lead with his first feature win of the 2006 season, Mark Lewis picked up his first career win in the Late Model feature, but it will be a two-man race for the championship as Woody Pitkat and Jim Peterson are tied for the points lead. Brit Andersen was the winner of the SK Light feature, which propelled him into a 4-way tie with Chris Matthews, Richie Pallai, Jr., and Shelly Perry for the points lead heading into the CARQUEST Fall Final. Andrew Durand was the winner of the Limited Late Model feature event, but Kevin Gambacorta will head into the CARQUEST Fall Final with a 10-point lead over George Nocera, Jr. Jeff Jolly collected his second DARE Stock feature win of the 2006 season, but Norm Sears' third place finish gives him a 50-point lead, meaning that he only has to start the DARE Stock feature during CARQUEST Fall Final Weekend to become the track champion.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, SK Modified® points leader Frank Ruocco, of Cheshire, chose the best time to pick up his first feature victory of the 2006 season. Ruocco quickly worked his way into second place, and then bided his time behind Chris Jones before taking the lead for the first time on lap-22. Ruocco had to contend with a hard charging Willie Hardie in the closing laps, but Ruocco was able to hold Hardie off to the checkered flag. Hardie finished second, with Woody Pitkat, Jones, and Ted Christopher rounding out the top-5. Ruocco held an 18-point lead over Willie Hardie, 586-568. Both Eric Berndt and Todd Owen were 50 points behind. All other drivers were eliminated from championship contention.
 
In other weekend racing John Blewett III sewed up the track title at the Wall Township Speedway and David Darling sewed up the Pro Stock title at Seekonk.

Clint Boyer won the Busch Series event at Dover Downs while Jeff Burton won the Nextel Cup event.

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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