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Friday September 7, 2007

By Phil Smith                                                                             Click on Photos for Full Size                                

Forty years ago in 1967 Friday night racing at Stafford rained out. Bugsy Stevens, a regular competitor at Stafford made the right call as he and car owner Len Boehler traveled to the Albany Saratoga Speedway where Stevens finished fourth behind Don MacTavish, Ed Patnode and Guy Chartrand. At Fonda, on Saturday night, Bill Wimble took the win over Ray Sitterly and Jerry Cook. The Utica-Rome Speedway closed out their season on Sunday night with local favorite Clayton “Sonney” Seamon taking the win over Dick Fowler, Bernie Miller, Jerry Cook and Dave Kotary.

Thirty-five Years ago in 1972, Malta and Stafford ran head to head on Saturday night. Lancaster had a big open show on Sunday with qualifying on Saturday afternoon, which meant that many teams raced back and forth on the Thruway. Bugsy Stevens was the winner at Malta over Jerry Cook, Ed Pieniezak and Ron Newman. Because he chose to concentrate on the NASCAR Modified point title, Stevens elected to by-pass Lancaster in order to be in one piece for an extra point event at Utica-Rome on Sunday night. Bobby Santos was driving for Art Barry and the two decided to go for all three. Santos qualified at Lancaster on Saturday afternoon, raced to Malta where he finished sixth, raced back to Lancaster where he won the 200 lap open and then sped to Utica-Rome where he finished eighth. Richie Evans finished second to Santos at Lancaster and did it one better as he won at Utica-Rome. Fred DeSarro, Eddie Flemke, Ray Hendrick and Ernie Gahan followed Santos and Evans at Lancaster. At Utica-Rome, Lou Lazzaro, Jerry Cook, Fred DeSarro and Ollie Silva followed Evans. At Stafford, Leo Cleary in the Mystic Missile took the win over Ronnie Bouchard, Ernie Caruso and Ed Yerrington. It was a rough weekend, to say the least.

Thirty years ago in 1977, Stafford’s Friday night racing was open competition as their NASCAR season ended on Labor Day. With 33 cars on hand, Ronnie Bouchard took the win over Geoff Bodine, Ed Flemke and Bob Polverari. Saturday night was extremely busy. Seekonk ran twin features, a 50 lapper and a 35 lapper. Taking the win in the 50 was Corky Cookman over Eddie StAngelo and George Summers. StAngelo won the 50 and was followed by Ronnie Bouchard, John Rosati and Cookman. At Westboro, Freddie Schulz, in the Tom Dunn Pinto wagon, took the win over George Savory, Fats Caruso and Joe Howard. The NASCAR Modifieds ran a 150 lapper at Richmond where Maynard Troyer took the top spot. Paul Radford finished second with Ray Hendrick, Joe Thurman, Harry Gant and Jerry Cook following. Islip presented a 100-lap double point event. Charlie Jarzombek ruled the roost as he beat out Tom McCann, Geoff Bodine, Wayne Anderson and Eddie Flemke. Waterford fell victim to rain and ended their season. Moose Hewitt was declared the modified track champion. On Sunday, Fred DeSarro took the win at Thompson over Freddie Schulz, Ray Miller and John Rosati. Freeport ran a 200 lapper that saw Long Island favorite Jim Hendrickson take the win over Maynard Troyer and George Brunnhoelzl Jr. At Monadnock it was Bob Karvonen taking the win over Punky Caron and Pete Fiandaca.

Twenty-five years ago in 1982, the Thompson 300 took center stage. A huge field of 106 modifieds was on hand. Greg Sacks, who had won just about every major race in what is now considered his best season didn’t let this big one get away. After leading from lap 14 thru 134 when he pitted for fuel and tires, Sacks re-took the lead on lap 151 and led the remaining 149 laps to take the $10,000 win. Kenny Bouchard finished second with Gomer Taylor and Ray Miller on the lead lap at the finish. Doug Hewitt finished fifth, one lap down. Tony Hirshman, SJ Evonsion, George Brunnhoelzl, Dick Trayner and Dave Thomas rounded out the top ten. Dick Caso won the companion non-qualifiers event. In other weekend action, Jerry Cook won an 82 lapper at Shangri-La over Jim Spencer and Doug Hewitt and at New Egypt, John Blewett Jr won a 200 lapper over Richie Evans, Bob Polverari and Jerry Cook.

Twenty years ago in 1987, the Thompson Speedway lost their entire 300 program to rain. Riverside Park was able to get their program in with Kenny Bouchard taking the win over Reggie Ruggiero, Bob Polverari and John Rosati. In Winston Cup action at Richmond, Dale Earnhardt, who started eighth, took the win.

Fifteen years ago in 1992, Monadnock closed out their season on Friday night. Jerry Marquis, in the Bob Judkins 2x, won his seventh feature and sewed up the Modified Championship at the fast ¼ mile oval. At Waterford, on Saturday night, Don Fowler went pole to pole to win the modified feature over Ricky Young, Bert Marvin, Jim Broderick and Jerry Pearl. In late model action, Tom Gaudreau went pole to pole to win his first late model feature. With their regular season over, Riverside Park ran open competition modifieds and added SK-Modifieds to their line-up. With only seven showing up, the SK’s were grouped together with the modifieds. Dan Avery took the modified feature over Jerry Marquis and Bobby Gee. Chris Jones was the first SK to finish as he came across the finish line in 11th spot. The Thompson 300 was the big show of the weekend. Rick Fuller, in the Mario Fiore 44 took the win over Doug Hevron, Tom Baldwin, Chris Aman and Jamie Tomaino, all on the lead lap. Pole sitter Steve Park, finished sixth.

Ten years ago in 1997, Dennis Gada went pole to pole to beat out Rick Donnelly and Todd Ceravolo at Waterford. Punky Caron got his 72nd career win at Monadnock and Dave Berube beat out Reggie Ruggerio at Riverside. The Thompson 300,now a Busch Grand National event saw the total domination of Mike Stefanik for the win. Stefanik, who started on the outside pole, led 290 of the 300 laps and closed to within nine points of current leader Dave Dion. Ricky Fuller finished second with Andy Santarre, third. At Richmond, Steve Park took the lead with 42 laps to go and took his third win of the year. His boss, Dale Earnhardt, who suffered a blackout the previous week at Darlington, was cleared to drive. Dale Jarrett was the eventual Winston Cup winner at Richmond and finally, Jan Opperman, who had been confined to a wheelchair since 1991, passed away.

Five years ago in 2002 The NASCAR Featherlite Modified Tour Series was at the Thompson Speedway last weekend for the annual 300, the series’ longest event. Temperatures in the 90’s made the 300 a test of man and machine Forty-four Modifieds were on hand to qualify for the forty starting spots. Tony Hirschman, on the mend since a crash at Seekonk, was the Busch Pole sitter. Mike Stefanik took advantage of Charlie Pasteryak’s miss-fortune and took the win, which was worth $16,400. It has been an up and down year for the defending series champion and he had also all but written himself off as far as being able to repeat. Because of the fact that the 300 is an endurance run, things can change in an instant. Stefanik started 10th and led three times at various stages had all but accepted to finishing second to Charlie Pasteryak when fate reared its ugly hand in Pasteryaks direction as he ran out of gas with six laps to go. It was a tough pill for Pasteryak to swallow as he and his team gambled and lost. Pasteryak had pitted on lap 211 and decided on not taking on gas. It was a decision that left him about a gallon short. That gallon of gas cost Pasteryak $14,500, the difference between first and fourteenth. The 300 paid $16,400 to win. Pasteryak, who lost two laps in the process, earned $1,900. There were only six cars on the lead lap at the finish including 65-year-old Bob Polverari, who finished sixth. Congratulations to Tony Ferrante, Jr. on his career best, since 1997 at Jennerstown, second place finish. Ferrante collected $6,405 for his efforts. L.W.Miller ended up third after a questionable confrontation with Chuck Hossfeld. Hossfeld had been running in the lead pack and possibly could have had a top five finish until he lost two laps due to the confrontation. John Blewett III finished a solid fourth with former series champion, Jamie Tomaino rounding out the top five. Sixth and the final car on the lead lap was 65 year old Bob Polverari. There were 18 caution periods for 99 laps, one lap short of a third of the posted distance. Among the casualties were Rick Fuller who took a hard shot, rear first, into the concrete on lap 48 and Jim Willis who flipped and slid down the front chute on his roof on lap 187. It appeared that Tom Cloce brushed the front chute wall and when he bounced off, Willis was there. Willis got in the air and hit the starters stand as he was going over. It could have been disastrous and chances are, Bob Slade was counting his blessings after that. Ted Christopher was among the front runners until getting bit by ignition problems. Among the others who had mechanical problems were David Berghman, Jerry Marquis and Ed Flemke Jr. Pole sitter Tony Hirschman had a legitimate shot to win the event as he was one of the faster cars. Hirschman’s car was black-flagged after numerous NASCAR officials confirmed that he was leaking fluid. Hirschman ignored the black flag to pit and NASCAR pulled his scorecard. When he finally pitted, the leaking had stopped. With gage temperatures normal, chances are it was fuel but none the less, he was leaking. It doesn’t look like John Sneade will be participating in any NASCAR events in the near future after the show he put on under the starters stand. He went somewhat postal and had to be escorted off the track and his car was removed to the pit area.

The series point standings showed Ed Flemke Jr. was still in the lead by 37 points over Jerry Marquis. Mike Stefanik’s win moved him from seventh spot to third, only 59 points behind Flemke. Ricky Fuller and Todd Szegedy rounded out the top five. Sixth thru tenth were Chuck Hossfeld, Ted Christopher, Nevin George, David Berghman and Jamie Tomaino. The regular weekly racing in Southern New England saw Ted Christopher taking his 74th career win at Stafford on Friday night. Tommy Fox got his fourth at the Waterford Speedbowl despite the fact that the two slugs that started on the front row almost destroyed the entire field. Jay Miller finished second and was followed by Don Fowler and Ron Yuhas Jr. Yuhas was the only Waterford competitor to race at Thompson on Saturday afternoon and made it in time for the Waterford event. The first of two weekend 20 lap features for the SK-Modifieds was run late Saturday afternoon with Bo Gunning taking the win over Ted Christopher and Jeff Malave. Numerous wrecks sidelined half the field. Among the bent cars was that of Ron Yuhas Jr. Yuhas headed for Waterford while his dad and crew took the mangled remains to their race shop in Groton where a new front and rear clip was installed after an all niter. Ted Christopher won the second 20 lapper, run on Sunday, over Gunning, Malave, Bert Marvin and Eric Berndt. Yuhas finished 22nd. Belated condolences went out to the family of Bunk Sampson who lost his long battle with cancer and passed away. Bunk, a dedicated former director of the NASCAR Busch North Series was laid to rest a week previous. He was perhaps one of the most sincere and fairest NASCAR Officials ever employed by the sanctioning body and while the BNS director, he put his heart and soul into what he did.

Last year, 2006, The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour headed into the eye of Hurricane Ernesto as the competitors traveled to the Martinsville Speedway on Thursday and Friday. For the most part much of the storm headed north by late Friday allowing qualifying to take place. There were 49 Modifieds on hand and when all was said and done Mike Stefanik took the Busch Pole as he toured the .525 mile speedway in 18.833 seconds which was to the tune of 100.547 MPH. Todd Szegedy was second fastest with a speed of 99.974 MPH. Rounding out the top five were Donnie Lia, Jerry Marquis and Eric Beers. Twenty cars qualified with the balance of the field to be determined by a 50-lap consolation event. The top eight redrew for starting positions with Eddie Flemke Jr. drawing the pole position with Tony Hirschman drawing the second spot. Stefanik drew the fourth starting spot.

The 50-lap consolation event was slated to start at 7:00p.m. but a heavy shower drenched the track shortly after 6:00p.m. The consi didn’t get the green until almost 9:00p.m. Kevin Goodale took the eventual win over Ron Silk.

The main event, originally scheduled for 300 laps got the green flag at around 10:15p.m. Mike Stefanik had the dominant car but in the end, at 200 laps when the race was called, Jimmy Blewett had the Eddie Partridge No.12 in the top spot. Blewett and Partridge, who dedicated their win to the late Charlie Jarzombek, led only 20 laps. With 19 laps to go on lap 182 Blewett was following Stefanik into turn two. Stefanik drifted up slightly, which opened up a hole on the low side. Blewett went for the spot and in doing so nudged Stefanik. Ted Christopher, who ended up in second spot was also part of the controversy as he nudged Zach Sylvester out of the way. Stefanik and Sylvester finished 14th and 15th respectively. James Civali, Todd Szegedy and Doug Coby who drives the Curt Chase No.77 based in Mansfield, rounded out the top five. Coby and his crew were extremely happy as they recovered from qualifying problems, which forced them to take a provisional starting spot in the rear of the field. Just missing the top five but turning in a fine run was rookie Ron Yuhas Jr. who finished sixth. Matt Hirschman and Kevin Goodale finished seventh and eighth while southerners Tim Brown and Gene Pack rounded out the top ten.

It was close to 1:00am when the checkered flag was displayed. Fifteen of the original 43 starters were running at the end. Early leader Jerry Marquis lost a lap in the late going and ended up 16th.

Corey Hutchings had a good shot at becoming the 2006 Late Model Champion at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night until he came unglued on the 13th lap of his 25 lap feature. Hutchings, who has four victories to his credit, was battling with RJ Marcotte for fourth spot when contact was made on the backstretch, which resulted in Hutchings spinning around. Hutchings felt the contact and resulting spin was intentional. Chief Steward Richard Brooks also felt it was intentional and ordered Marcotte to restart in the rear. Marcotte refused to comply forcing Brooks to rule that even if he continued to race he would no longer be scored. Hutchings evidently didn’t get the word that the track had reacted to the situation and chose to retaliate on his own. After a pit stop Hutchings reentered the track and went after Marcotte, finally cutting him off in turn four. Hutchings then exited his car and went to Marcotte and started punching him. When all was said and done both Hutchings and Marcotte found themselves thrown out of the event and parked in the infield. Hutching is facing possibly a multi race suspension. Repeat winners were the other stories at Thompson International Speedway on Thursday night. Tommy Cravenho of Raynham, MA took down his second win of the season in the Sunoco Modifieds. Fred Astle of N. Westport, MA scored his second Pro Stock win at the Connecticut oval while TIS Modified racer Leo Oliviera also of Raynham posted his second. Dave Trudeau of Mansfield, CT. proved that the third time is a charm with his Late Model victory. New faces in victory lane included Mike Romano of Pascoag, RI, who earned a career first in the Mini Stocks and Keith DeSanctis of Monson, MA, who claimed his first triumph of the season in the Limited Sportsman nightcapper.

Cravenho scored the victory in the Sunoco Modified main event presented by Independent Truck Service. It was his second win of the season. Cravenho pocketed an additional $200 from Independent Truck Service of Shrewsbury, MA and earned himself a coveted guaranteed starting spot in the 4th Annual North-South Shootout scheduled for November 3&4, 2006 at Concord Motorsports Park in North Carolina. Through the generosity of owners Bruce & Pat Webber, tenth-place finisher Dave Nordman, 15th place finisher Brett LeBlanc, 18th place Rick D’Abate, and 20th place finisher Joe Lemay each received a $200 bonus from Independent Truck Service. Keith Rocco took the early lead from his pole starting position followed by Cravenho, co-point leaders Jeff Malave and Woody Pitkat and Todd Ceravolo. The battle for the lead got interesting at lap six with Cravenho pressuring Rocco for the top spot. Malave was stuck to the bumper of the Falmouth Ready Mix #31. The top-five of Rocco, Cravenho, Malave, Pitkat and Ceravolo entered heavy lapped traffic on lap 10.

Rocco diced his way through traffic while Malave was not as lucky. A sliding lapped car of Rick D’Abate got out of shape, clipping the left front of Malave. After getting through the pack of slower cars, the running order was Rocco, Cravenho, Pitkat, Lemay, Ceravolo then Malave. A spin by fifth-running Lemay spun to bring out the caution on lap 13. Rocco was reported to be leaking fluid while Malave headed to pit road. Rocco’s car never leaked a drop until he shut it off on pit road but yet was not given his spot back by officials. It was hinted that Rocco, the fastest car in the field, was the victim of a false report. On the restart Cravenho was the new leader. Ceravolo had a great run on the restart and after a quick battle with Pitkat took over the second spot. Woody was not done. He held strong on the outside for several laps before falling back in line behind Ceravolo. Buddy Charette was having a great race in the fourth spot.
There was a little bumper tag between Pitkat and Ceravolo as they raced for second. Lemay, Rocco, and Malave were gingerly working their way through traffic. By the time the caution flew on lap 21 for a spin by John Catania all three were back inside the top ten. Lemay was back to seventh, Malave back to ninth and Rocco in tenth. With Cravenho back out front, Pitkat got the edge on Ceravolo on the restart. Ceravolo took chase in third while getting heavy pressure from Charette. Stephen Masse spun on the front stretch from the sixth position to send the field scattering. Masse made a right hand turn which litterly drilled Lemay into the concrete. Also collected in the melee was Rocco. Malave barely escaped the incident. This restart pitted Pitkat to the outside of Cravenho. Malave had rocketed into the fourth spot after he rode Charette almost into the backstretch wall on the restart. Malave got a run on Ceravolo but could not make the pass stick. Charette fought back on the outside. Over the final two laps, Cravenho, Pitkat, Ceravolo and Malave ran under a blanket. In a last effort, Pitkat got low but could not make the pass. Cravenho held on for the win over Pitkat. Ceravolo finished third over Malave and Charette. Pitkat took sole position of the Sunoco Modified point lead with his runner-up finish.

The Stafford Springs Motor Speedway beat the onslaught of the remains of Hurricane Ernesto as their September Series of Friday night racing went off as planned. Eric Berndt drove to his third SK Modified® feature win of the 2006 season, Scott Foster, Jr. won his first Late Model feature win of the 2006 season, Brit Andersen won his fourth SK Light Modified feature win of the 2006 season, Kevin Gambacorta scored his second Ltd. Late Model feature win of the 2006 season, and Jim Brice was a first time winner in the DARE Stock feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature, Eric Berndt, of Rocky Hill, drove to his third feature win of the 2006 season. Berndt took the lead from Rowan Pennink on lap-3 and led the rest of the way to pick up the win. Berndt had to deal with a number of restart situations, and he fended off challenges from Todd Owen, Bo Gunning, and then Willie Hardie in the process. Gunning and Hardie swapped the second position several times over the second half of the race, with Gunning taking the spot at the checkered flag. Jeff Malave finished third, with Frank Ruocco and Hardie rounding out the top-5. Among those in the SK Modified field was Waterford Speedbowl Rookie sensation Jeffrey Paul and New England driving legend Bob Potter. Paul, who was making his Stafford debut, finished a respectable 12th. Potter, who recently turned 65, finished 23rd.In the chase for the SK Modified championship; Frank Ruocco holds a 20-point lead over Todd Owen, 518-498. Woody Pitkat is tied for third with Jeff Malave, 36 points behind, and Eric Berndt is fifth, 38 points behind. In the 30-lap Late Model feature, Scott Foster, Jr., of Ellington, drove to his first feature win of the 2006 season with an unusual move to take the lead. Rick Lanagan took the lead at the drop of the green flag from the second starting position, and he led the first 15 laps of the race. A caution came out with 15 laps complete, and on the restart, Foster moved around Lanagan for the lead, taking to the high groove, a path normally not traveled when passing for the lead. Foster then held off challenges from Woody Pitkat and Jim Peterson to take the checkered flag. Peterson finished second behind Foster, with Tom Fearn, Ryan Posocco, and Tom Butler rounding out the top-5. Pitkat, who entered the race as the points leader, had contact with another car late in the race and had to pit for a fresh tire. Pitkat finished 12th.

Impending rain from what was Hurricane Ernesto prevailed at the Waterford Speedbowl on Saturday night. The entire program has been postponed until Saturday, October 7. Racing at the Riverhead Raceway on Long Island and at Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey was also rained out.

Kasey Kahne scored a double at the California Speedway as he won both the Busch Series event and 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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